Betsy Ross Flag - Network Design

Protocols of Liberty: Communication, Innovation, and teh American Revolution [Book Banner from Title Page Image] Betsy Ross Flag - Network Design
William Warner [Author Name]
The University of Chicago Press [Publisher Name]
Overview [Link]
Introduction [Link]
Chapter 1 [Link]
Chapter 2 [Link]
Chapter 3 [Link]
Chapter 4 [Link]
Chapter 5 [Link]
Chapter 6 [Link]
Conclusion [Link]

The Circulation of “Copies of Letters Sent to Great Britain
By his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, the Hon. Andrew Oliver….”

LINKS: Post -- Circulation -- Emergence of the Post -- Accounting System

What came to be called the “Hutchinson’s letters affair” began innocently enough. Between 1767 and 1769, Thomas Hutchinson, like other Royal officials in the America, regularly corresponded with an important Member of Parliament, Sir Thomas Whately, who was then the semi-official leader of the opposition. The Governor reported on the political turmoil surrounding the enforcement of the Townshend Acts and offered his candid opinion on how to address challenges to Royal authority in Massachusetts. Three years later the 18 letters underwent the migration described in the chart to the right: from private to public, from a routine private official report to public scandal, from old news to new. Now Hutchinson’s words were interpreted by Whigs to show that the Governor had betrayed the liberties of the citizens of Massachusetts so as to curry favor with those in power in Whitehall. In June 1773, the House of Representatives formally petitioned the King for removal of Governor Hutchinson.

The leaker at the center of this scandal, the person who triggered the new crisis in Massachusetts, by delivering private letters to public eyes for which they was never intended, was none other than the Deputy Post Master General for the American colonies, Benjamin Franklin. After he was forced by events to reveal his role in the exposure of the Governor’s private correspondence, Franklin offered a defense that would be used by many future leakers of sensitive public information: “They were not of the nature of ‘private letters between friends’: They were written by public officials to persons in public station, on public affairs, and intended to procure public measures.” (Franklin Papers 1974, 20: 515) The Ministry did not buy Franklin’s argument and fired him.

The Circulation of  “Copies of Letters Sent to Great Britain by his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, the Hon. Andrew Oliver…"
Back to Top