stretch of ambition is to compass money enough, by any
This whimsical dialogue put all the company, including Molineux, in a good humor, and they passed the rest of the evening very pleasantly.
One of the few fragments in Otis' handwriting now extant, is a memorandum made during the two years of transient sanity just preceding his tragic death. Returning one Sunday from public worship, he wrote: "I have this day attended divine service, and heard a sensible discourse; and thanks be to God, I now enjoy the greatest of all blessings, mens sana in copore sano" (a sound mind in a sound body). But this gleam of reason was as transient as others that had preceded, and with Bowen we willingly draw a veil over the sad record of this most terrible misfortune of our hero. "To be among men, and yet not of them; to preserve the outward form and lineaments of a human being, while the spirit within is wanting, or is transformed into a wreck of what it has been; is surely one of the most impressive and affecting instances of the ills to which mortality is exposed. It enforces with melancholy earnestness the moral lesson, that the only objects of the affections are the character and the intellect; and when these are destroyed, we look upon the external shape and features only as on the tomb in which the mortal remains of a friend repose. We even long for the closing of the scene, and think it would be far better if the now tenantless and ruined house were levelled with the ground."
A nice sense of honor was perhaps the second most striking point in Otis's energetic and strongly-marked character. Called by reason of his fame as an advocate to the management of suits even at a distance from home, and receiving the largest fees ever given to an advocate in the province, he yet disdained to suffer the success of any of his cases to rest on any petty arts or undue evasions. Conscious of possessing eminent abilities and sufficient learning he undertook to advocate no cause that he did not truly and fully believe in. His ardent pleading and the fairness of his dealing before the courts was the result of his firm belief in the justice of his cause. Nothing but truth could give him this firmness; but plain truth and clear evidence can be beat down by no ability in handling the quirks and substitutes of the law.
It was from this source as from no other that Otis drew his power as a pleader. He was as John Adams records concerning his speech on the "Writs of Assistance," "a flame of fire," but he was a flame of fire set burning to consume the dross of injustice and to purify and rescue the gold of liberty and fair-dealing. Thomas Hutchinson, before whom Otis often pleaded and whose testimony is of the greatest weight when we remember that Otis was his political opponent, has said that he never knew fairer or more noble conduct in a pleader than in Otis; that he always disdained to take advantage of any clerical error or similar inadvertence, but passed over minor points, and defended his causes solely on their broad and substantial foundations. In this regard Otis seems to satisfy Emerson's definition of a great man, when in his essay on the "Uses of Great Men" the latter declares: "I count him a great man who inhabits a higher sphere of thought, into which other men rise with labor and difficulty; he has but to open his eyes to see things in a true light, and in large relations; whilst they must make painful corrections, and keep a vigilant eye on many sources of error."
Indeed, it can be said of Otis as Coleridge said of O'Connell, "See how triumphant in debate and action he is. And why? Because he asserts a broad principle, acts up to it, rests his body upon it, and has faith in it." The world is upheld, as Emerson says, by the veracity of good men; and so the great power of Otis as an advocate before the civil bar in the minor cases of his career, and as an advocate of the people in the larger court in the great case of his life, for the liberty of opposing arbitrary power by speaking and writing the truth, arose almost entirely from his absolute integrity and fairmindedness. Clarendon's portrait of Falkland applies equally as well to Otis, --"He was so severe an adorer of the truth that he could as easily have given himself leave to steal as to dissemble." In short, Otis acted aright, and feared not the consequences, and thus became a power in the community because of his personal character.
The great popularity that he immediately acquired he used for no sinister or selfish ends. He stooped to none of the arts of the demagogue; he was never carried away by a blind spirit of faction. He opposed the arbitrary design of the English ministry with great spirit and firmness, though with some indiscretion; but he was no advocate of turbulent dissensions or causeless revolt. He allowed himself to be ruled by the greater moderation and prudence of his associates, while he inspired them with his own resistless energy and determination.
No imputation can justly be thrown on the sincerity of his patriotism, although the attempt was made by some of his contemporaries.
When in 1764, Otis, as chairman of a committee of the Assembly appointed to consider the status of the Sugar Act, favored the commission of Hutchinson as a special agent of the Colony to go to England and present the claims of the colonists, he was accused of inconsistency in opinion and action, and of dereliction of duty as the acknowledged leader of the patriotic party. Combined with the extraordinary appointment of Hutchinson, which however never took effect owing to the opposition of Governor Bernard, Otis was also charged with a too absolute recognition of the supremacy of Parliament in his pamphlet on the Rights of the Colonies. As his father had recently received a judicial appointment, of no great importance, however, some persons went so far as to suspect Otis's fidelity to the cause, among whom was John Adams, as we see from his diary quoted elsewhere in this paper. People talked of a compromise in which he was supposed to be engaged for gradually withdrawing all resistance to the proceedings of the ministry.