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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0001-0006-0009

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1771-07-25 - 1771-07-26

July 25. and 26. Thursday and Fryday.

Both these Days spent in the Tryal of Mr. Otis's Case vs. Mr. Robinson.1
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1. On 4 Sept. 1769 James Otis had published in the Boston Gazette a card denouncing the Commissioners of Customs in Boston for their abuse of “all true North-Americans, in a manner that is not to be endured.” He was referring to statements by the Commissioners in their memorials and other papers that had recently made their way back to Boston and were soon to be published in Letters to the Ministry from Governor Bernard . . ., Boston, 1769. To this he added another communication saying among other things that if Commissioner John Robinson “misrepresents me, I have a natural right . . . to break his head.” See entries of 2 and 3 Sept. 1769, above. It was Otis' head that got broken, in a fracas with Robinson and his friends at the British Coffee House in the evening of 5 Sept.; see Boston Gazette, 11 Sept. 1769.
Otis promptly engaged three lawyers— JA , S. S. Blowers, and Samuel Fitch— and sued for £3,000 damages. His case came up in the January sitting of the Suffolk Inferior Court but was continued from term to term until July 1771, when (as JA reports in the next entry) the jury awarded him £2,000. Both parties appealed to the Superior Court, Robinson through his father-in-law and attorney, James Boutineau, he himself having long since left Boston for London. The appeals were also continued. But at length in the August term of 1772, Otis in a long statement accepted Robinson's apology in open court in lieu of damages, and required only that Robinson's attorney pay £112 11s. 8d. for “the common costs of court,” Otis' medical expenses, and his lawyers' fees in the amount of £30 each. (This statement is printed in full in Tudor, James Otis , p. 504–506, from Suffolk County Court House, Early Court Files, &c., No. 102135, where other relevant papers will be found.)
In JA 's docket of Superior Court actions for this term (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184) appears the following:
Otis vs. Robinson [and] Robinson vs. Otis
recd. a genteel Fee in these Cases from Mr. Otis in full.”