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Speaker Series: LECTURE + COMMUNITY CONVERSATION
The Child Independence Is Born: James Otis and Writs of Assistance, a lecture by Professor of Rhetoric James Farrell, PhD, University of New Hampshire
Presented in partnership with Old North Church.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Old North Church
193 Salem St.
Boston, MA 02113
Many years after the American Revolution, John Adams reflected on the 1761 speech by James Otis against writs of assistance. “Otis demonstrated the illegality, the unconstitutionality, the iniquity and inhumanity of that writ in so clear a manner, that every man appeared to me to go away ready to take up arms against it,” Adams wrote. “Then and there,” he said, “the child Independence was born.” This presentation will offer a reexamination of the writs of assistance speech by James Otis, testing Adams’s claim about its importance. Did the Revolution begin with the writs of assistance trial? To answer that question, we will review the purpose and function of writs of assistance within the political, legal, and economic environment of colonial Massachusetts, and discuss the constitutional dispute over writs of assistance in the 1761 trial. With a more complete understanding of Otis’s speech, what can we conclude about his influence on colonial opposition to British rule, and about his impact on American legal development in the areas of constitutional protection against unreasonable search, and with regard to the practice of judicial review of legislative action?
Afterwards, join us for a reception and Community Conversation with the speaker and Assistant Clinical Professor of Law Christina A. Miller (Suffolk University)for an intimate discussion about the parallels between the writs of assistance and the parameters of search and seizure law as it is developing in the modern world.
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The Ford Hall Forum is the nation’s oldest continuously operating free public lecture series. Its mission is to foster an informed and effective citizenry and to promote freedom of speech through the public presentation of lectures, debates and discussions.
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