Abstract: Permanently exiled from his beloved Massachusetts to spend the rest of his life as an alien in the English nation whose authority he had tried to uphold, Thomas Hutchinson, the historian and last civilian royal governor of Massachusetts, seems to embody the image of the Loyalists of the American Revolution as "losers." Paralyzed by his conservative ideology and his dual loyalties to America and Britain, Hutchinson has seemed for modern scholars to epitomize the tragic fate of the many Loyalists marginalized by their attachment to an outmoded imperial structure at a time when the modern nation-state appeared to be in the process of supplanting earlier imperial forms. Yet Hutchinson's work as a historian suggests that the Loyalist historians were more versatile and in tune with the prevailing intellectual currents of their time than the image of them as losers has assumed. Grappling with the same issues that engaged the leading Enlightenment historians of his time—namely, how to integrate their ideal of philosophical history with the classical tradition of exemplary history and their commitment to antiquarian scholarship—Hutchinson used the footnotes in his History of Massachusetts-Bay to bring together these different genres of historical writing. As he did so, Hutchinson expressed an impartial and cosmopolitan outlook that enabled him at once to transcend and to mediate between his colonial and imperial loyalties. Thus, the apparent colorlessness and incoherence of Hutchinson's history were actually the product of his effort to negotiate between both his colonial and imperial loyalties and conflicting definitions of history as a discipline.
Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Dec 29, 2013