My Genealogy Hound

Tombstone and Grave of James Otis, Boston, Massachusetts, photo

James Otis, Tombstone and Grave, Boston, Massachusetts, photo

A photo view of the tombstone and grave of James Otis, Jr., an important but often overlooked patriot during the years leading up to the American Revolution. The grave of Otis is located in the Old Granary Burial Ground on Tremont Street, next to Park Street Church, Boston, Massachusetts.

In February, 1761, Otis passionately spoke, laying out a strong argument against the British Writs of Assistance as he forcefully argued against the abusive policy for several hours. The writs were among the most hated of all of the British policies in their dealings with the American Colonies. These writs (warrants) allowed for the search of any home for any reason (or no reason at all) and without any advance notice. While his arguments were unsuccessful in ending the policy, his words strongly influenced many others of the moral and legal arguments for ending the policy. Among those who were greatly moved was John Adams who stated that "Otis was a flame of fire . . ." and considered Otis's arguments instrumental in bringing him fully to the necessity of the revolutionary cause. Otis was also known for introducing the phase "Taxation without representation is tyranny" into the common language of the day.

James Otis is also notable for his views concerning racial equality. He was a strong believer, long before it became popular to say, that all races were equal and deserving of liberty. One of his published writings from 1764 entitled Rights of the British Colonies contained this passage: "The colonists are by the law of nature free born, as indeed all men are, white or black."

In many families of the time, loyalties were often divided between those who favored the patriot cause while others were Tories or loyalists in favor of British rule. Ben Franklin had a son, William, who strongly supported the British cause and eventually left for England never to return and never to reconcile with his father. Likewise, the Otis family was divided. While James Otis was a patriot, his wife Ruth was a loyalist. The two daughters were equally divided. The elder daughter, Elizabeth, married a British Captain and moved with him to England, never to return. The younger daughter, Mary, married Benjamin Lincoln, the son of the noted Revolutionary War General Benjamin Lincoln. It was General Lincoln who accepted the sword of surrender, at the formal surrender of the British Army led by Cornwallis at Yorktown.

The latter years of James Otis ended rather sadly. In the late 1760's, while Otis was in his mid to late 40's, it became apparent that he was having mental difficulties of some kind. His undefined and steadily increasing mental instability removed him from much of the activity of the years of the Revolutionary War in the mid to late 1770's. He is remembered as one who played a key role in influencing John Adams and others and played an important part in laying out the early moral arguments that eventually led to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War.

James Otis, Jr., died suddenly on May 23, 1783 at Andover, Massachusetts after being struck by lightning. He was 58 years old.

The Old Granary Burial Ground of Boston is the same cemetery that contains not only the grave of James Otis, but also that of Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and those of the Boston Massacre as well as many other noted individuals and patriots of the Revolutionary War period.

View additional Revolutionary War related historic photos, images, and vintage postcards

Additional Graves and Tombstones: Famous, Infamous and Otherwise

View additional Massachusetts historic photos, images and vintage postcards

View additional historic photos, images and vintage postcards for other topics and locations

Use the links at the top right of this page to search or browse thousands of family biographies, vintage maps, historic photographs, and vintage postcards.

Follow My Genealogy Hound on Facebook: Follow me on Facebook