The James Otis Pre-Revolutionist

Author: John Clark Ridpath

The Ancestors of James Otis.

Carlyle says: "I never knew a clever man who came out of entirely stupid people." James Otis’s great qualities "were an inheritance, not an accident, and inheritance from the best blood of old England." Many years ago, when George Ticknor of Boston was a guest of Lady Holland, at the famous Holland House, in London, her ladyship remarked to him, in her not very engaging way:

"I understand, Mr. Ticknor, that Massachusetts was settled by convicts."

"Indeed," said Mr. Ticknor, "I thought I was somewhat familiar with the history of my State, but I was not aware that what you say was the case."

"But," he continued, "I do now remember that some of your ladyship’s ancestors settled in Boston, for there is a monument to one of them in King’s Chapel."

James Otis inherited that sturdy New England pride which puts manhood above dukedoms and coronets.

"A king may make a belted knight, A marquis, duke and a’ that, But an honest man’s aboon his might."

From a race of the true kings of men he was descended, who conquered out of the jaws of the wilderness the priceless inheritance of American privilege and freedom. And while kings at home were trying to crush out the liberties of their subjects, or were dallying with wantons in the palaces built out of the unrequited toil of the long-suffering and downtrodden people, these men of iron were the pioneers of American civilization, at a time, which Holmes so graphically describes:

"When the crows came cawing through the air To pluck the Pilgrim’s corn, And bears came snuffing round the door Wherever a babe was born; And rattlesnakes were bigger round Than the butt of the old ram’s horn The deacon blew at meeting time, On every Sabbath morn."


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Chicago: John Clark Ridpath, "The Ancestors of James Otis.," The James Otis Pre-Revolutionist, ed. Conway, Moncure Daniel, 1832-1907 in The James Otis Pre-Revolutionist Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2024,

MLA: Ridpath, John Clark. "The Ancestors of James Otis." The James Otis Pre-Revolutionist, edited by Conway, Moncure Daniel, 1832-1907, in The James Otis Pre-Revolutionist, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Ridpath, JC, 'The Ancestors of James Otis.' in The James Otis Pre-Revolutionist, ed. . cited in , The James Otis Pre-Revolutionist. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2024, from