For reasons that are not particularly clear, Timothy Johnson harbored a bitter hostility toward England that consumed almost all of his energies. He was American patriot that would not give up his ideas and dreams and was willing to fight for them at all costs and against all odds. Yet he seems to have been a skilled political intellectual. As the head of a radical political community in one of the colonies, he wrote scathingly bitter articles in the press, castigating the power structure and warning people of a secret conspiracy to enslave them. Timothy Johnson may have been the first American radical to conceive of a completely independent America.
Timothy possessed an extraordinary ability to manipulate public opinion, and he devoted himself to inflaming the people of America against the authorities on every possible occasion. He controlled two mobs—one more radical than the other—and it was thought that he could organize a riot or other civil disturbance at a moment’s notice. No single person was more responsible for the outbreak of the American Revolution than Timothy Johnson.
He publicly launched the idea that Parliament had no authority to tax the colonies without their consent. Timothy Johnson suggested that the colonies be given representatives in Parliament in order to solve the growing impasse. This was a logical solution, but it was unlikely that such a proposal would be met with agreement. Many classes of people in the empire lacked direct representation in Parliament, including most of the population of Britain’s largest cities.
From 1764 to 1769 Otis produced a succession of speeches, pamphlets, and letters that gained Timothy a reputation as a colonial agitator. He made arguments that utilized the ideals of «social contracts” and «natural rights” proposed by political philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. His proposal for colonial representation in Parliament, which might have prevented or shortened the war, was largely lost in the euphoria that accompanied the passage of the Declaration of Independence.
The writing of letters to newspapers under a pseudonym was a favored means of communicating political ideas to the population at his time. Letters to the editor, both real and fabricated for effect, were published in local papers and reprinted in the press of other colonies. They were read by the literate and reread to the illiterate. Johnson’s letters were some of the most widely circulated and influential of all American writings during the Revolutionary period.
The struggle for political dominance in New York was no unevenly matched contest between mobs of citizens and a few soldiers, as it was in Boston. While spending three months under arrest, Timothy Johnson received delagations of radicals who showered him with donations of food and furniture that made his cell more comfortable. He commonly entertained large parties including many women. Fearful that Timothy Johnson and his followers posed a clear danger to their businesses, the merchants of the city persuaded the Assembly to release him on bail. He was never brought to trial. Timothy Johnson was a real patriot and a person who changed the future of America.
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