Among the chief purposes of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts is the publication of documents related to the history of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies. One of the most important unpublished sources from that period has been the correspondence of Thomas Hutchinson, royal governor of Massachusetts from 1771 to 1774. As Clifford Shipton observed in 1956, “The correspondence of Thomas Hutchinson . . . still lies in manuscript, while that of his chief critics has been available in print for many years.”1 In both 1951 and 1954, the National Historical Publications Commission recommended publication of the Hutchinson letters, but no edition has been published until now. It is hard to explain why such an important historical source, focusing on a key place and moment in the birth of the American nation, was never before published, except for the fact that Hutchinson picked the wrong side in the Revolutionary conflict. Had Hutchinson been a patriot, his papers would presumably have found their way into print long before the beginning of the twenty-first century.

    While the bulk of Hutchinson’s American papers—his three volumes of correspondence located in the Massachusetts Archives—have never been printed, the letters are hardly unknown. Nearly every scholar writing about pre-Revolutionary Boston has had occasion to consult them. They have long been available on microfilm, but thorough use of the collection was exceedingly cumbersome until transcripts were prepared by Malcolm Freiberg, editor of publications at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and Catherine Barton Mayo in the late 1950s. Since 1957, these transcriptions, housed at the Massachusetts Historical Society, are the form in which most scholars have consulted Hutchinson’s correspondence, and those transcripts are the foundation of this edition.

    Before his retirement as editor of publications at the Massachusetts Historical Society, Freiberg prepared revised transcriptions of the letters included in volumes 25, 26, and 27 of the Massachusetts Archives and annotated approximately 200 of them. Although this edition includes many additional letters transcribed by others, I want to be absolutely clear how great a debt this edition owes to Freiberg and Mayo. Their transcriptions have been checked against the originals (and even a few changes made here and there), but the basic transcription of the Massachusetts Archives material is their work. It is to them, therefore, that scholars owe their principal thanks.

    When I became editor of publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts in 1990, the Committee on Publications had the pleasant task of casting about for things to do, and no project seemed more worthy than finally bringing Hutchinson’s correspondence into print. At the time, Bernard Bailyn presciently asked whether I was willing to devote the rest of my scholarly career to the project, and I naïvely said yes, little knowing what it would entail. And thus, with neither staff nor office, I began work on The Correspondence of Thomas Hutchinson. That the project has taken so long is not because of any lack of support from the Colonial Society, which has generously underwritten it throughout, but rather because I (like most scholars) have been fully employed at other tasks.

    There are approximately 1,600 Hutchinson letters included in volumes 25–27 of the Massachusetts Archives. The search for additional letters began when Bailyn kindly contributed card files he had developed while researching The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (1974), still the leading Hutchinson biography. In the early days of the project, Richard Bradley helped me collate Bailyn’s files with the Massachusetts Archives material, which enabled us to identify another 239 letters not in volumes 25, 26, or 27 of the Massachusetts Archives. Soon after, Elizabeth Dubrulle began her long association with the Hutchinson project by searching for additional Hutchinson manuscripts. Thanks to her efforts, including a sojourn in England, the collection grew to its present size of nearly 2,200 items. Additional research into Hutchinson letters located in Great Britain was conducted by Dr. Andrew Lewis, an independent researcher. The calendar of the Hutchinson correspondence that accompanies each of these volumes thus constitutes the most complete record to date of his letters.

    The search for Hutchinson’s papers outside the Massachusetts Archives required the help of librarians throughout North America and Great Britain, and I would like to acknowledge gratefully the generous assistance of the following institutions: American Philosophical Society; Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; Boston Athenæum; Boston Public Library; Boston University Libraries; British Library; William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan; Columbia University Library; Connecticut Historical Society; Dartmouth College Library; Haverford College Library; Houghton Library, Harvard University; Huntington Library, San Marino, California; Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Maine Historical Society; Massachusetts Historical Society; Maryland Historical Society; Morristown National Historic Park; National Archives of the United Kingdom (formerly the Public Record Office), Kew, England; National Library of Scotland; New-York Historical Society; New York Public Library; New York State Library; Nova Scotia Archives; Parliamentary Archives, London, England; Rhode Island Historical Society; Rhode Island State Archives; Royal Society, London, England; Sheffield Archives, England; South Carolina Historical Society; and Staffordshire Record Office, England.

    My work with this project has been largely confined to the task of selecting which letters from so rich a collection would ultimately find their way into print, checking the transcriptions against the originals and microfilm copies, and annotating the letters. Fashions change in documentary editing, and although Freiberg provided footnotes for many of the letters in this first volume, our styles proved so dissonant that I have rewritten his notes, even though my path was certainly made much easier by Freiberg’s initial research.

    I am grateful to my colleagues in the classics department at Groton School, particularly Andres Reyes and Warren Myers, for translations of the Latin quotations used by Hutchinson.

    I am indebted to Linda Baumgarten, Curator of Textiles & Costumes, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, for her assistance in annotating Hutchinson’s inventory of goods taken from his home in the Stamp Act riots.

    The following persons were especially helpful: Bernard Bailyn, Adams University Professor and James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, emeritus, at Harvard University who provided wise guidance and encouraging advice; John Catanzariti, former senior research historian and editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson at Princeton University read the draft manuscript in its entirety and offered many helpful suggestions, as did the late Pauline Maier, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of American History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Colin Nicolson of the University of Stirling in Scotland and editor of The Papers of Francis Bernard. Hobson Woodward of the Adams Papers read a late version of the manuscript and helped bring the efforts of neophytes into greater conformity with the general practice of documentary editors. Without the careful reading of such sage advisors, many more errors would have found their way into print. Those that remain are entirely my responsibility.

    John W. Tyler

    87 Mount Vernon Street

    Boston, Massachusetts