• Today's Daily Devotion
Insanity
James Otis had become a colonial celebrity by 1769. His opposition to the Writs of Assistance and then to the Stamp Act, along with his mentorship of Samuel Adams and John ...

Insanity

James Otis had become a colonial celebrity by 1769. His opposition to the Writs of Assistance and then to the Stamp Act, along with his mentorship of Samuel Adams and John Adams, had forever changed Boston. “[James] Otis’ power was so magnetic that a Boston town meeting, upon his mere entering, would break out into shouts and clapping,” a friend wrote about Otis’s magnetism.

Although always fiery, Otis’s temper became less controlled over time. His friends noticed that his eccentric ways became more exaggerated. The patriot was paranoid. One day in September 1769 Otis placed an advertisement in the Boston Gazette. In it he protested four customs commissioners. Otis believed they had “assailed his character” and “formed a confederacy of villainy.” The advertisement was a public sign of his weakness. It seemed the great opponent of the Writs of Assistance was losing his mind.

On the evening of the following day, Mr. Otis went into a coffee-house where John Robinson, one of the commissioners whom he had lampooned, was sitting. On entering the room, Mr. Otis was attacked by Robinson who struck him with his cane. Otis struck back. There was a battle. Those who were present were Robinson’s friends. The fight became a melee,” recounted Otis historian John Ridpath.

The fight left Otis bleeding, exhausted, and critically wounded in the head. “On the morrow, Boston was aflame with excitement. Otis was seriously injured; in fact he never recovered from the effects of the assault,” Ridpath wrote.

“During the sessions of the Assembly, in the years 1770 and 1771, James Otis retained his membership, but the mental disease which afflicted him began to grow worse, and he participated only at intervals (and eccentrically) in the business of legislation,” noted Ridpath.

Although Otis had been showing signs of mental illness, his head injury exaggerated his condition. The people of Boston honored Otis at a town meeting, expressing their “ardent wishes” for his recovery. But it was not meant to be.

“From this time forth the usefulness of James Otis was virtually at an end. In the immortal drama on which the curtain was rising the drama of Liberty and Independence he was destined to take no part. The pre-revolutionist in eclipse must give place to the Revolutionaries,” Ridpath wrote.

But Ridpath was wrong. Even the insane Otis would prove his life still had purpose. Although his flame had dwindled to a flicker, he would do something he had never done before. Thanks to those who bore his weakness by sheltering him, James Otis would soon fire a musket in battle to protect his homeland.

Prayer

Give me grace for those who are weak around me. Thank you for reminding me that purpose does not end with illness or even insanity.

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves”

(Romans 15:1).


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