James Otis, Sr.

James Otis, Sr.
James Otis, Sr. by John Singleton Copley
Personal details
Born 1702
Barnstable, Massachusetts
Spouse(s) Mary Allyne
Children James Otis, Jr., Samuel Allyne Otis, Mercy Otis Warren
Residence Barnstable, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Lawyer
Profession Politician
Military service
Allegiance Province of Massachusetts Bay
Service/branch Massachusetts militia
Rank Colonel

James Otis, Sr. (1702–1778) was a prominent lawyer in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. His sons James Otis, Jr. and Samuel Allyne Otis also rose to prominence, as did his daughter Mercy Otis Warren. He was often called "Colonel James" because of his militia rank and also to distinguish between him and his famous son.



Born in Barnstable, Massachusetts, Otis became the undisputed head of the bar in the colony. As a result of his distinguished service, in 1748 Colonel James was appointed Attorney General of the province. Later, in 1762, like his father John (a judge, representative to the Massachusetts Bay General Court, and member of the Council of Massachusetts), he was elected to the Council. Otis expected to be appointed Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, but the position went to Thomas Hutchinson instead, creating enmity between the Otis and Hutchinson families.

As his son James Otis, Jr. rose to prominence, both played a role in passing legislation against the British writs of assistance. His son, however, played a more crucial role in igniting the idea of revolution in the colonies.



  • Samuel Eliot Morison, Harrison Gray Otis, 1765-1848: The Urbane Federalist, 1913. Rev. ed. (2 vols in 1), Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1969.
  • Wroth, L. Kinvin and Hiller B. Zobel, eds. Legal Papers of John Adams. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1965.

External links

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