Old State House

Boston
MA

Portrait by Artist to Come

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Built in 1713, the Old State House was the seat of Massachusetts government in the 18th century — until it was replaced by the new State House in 1798. It is the oldest surviving public building in Boston and one of the most important public buildings still standing from the original 13 colonies.

Led by Samuel Adams, the freely elected representatives frequently clashed with Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson, whose Council Chamber was also on the second floor of the Old State House (as were the judicial courts). Men like James Otis, John Hancock, and John Adams debated there the future of the North American colonies.

Just outside the building, five men were killed by British soldiers in what would be known as the Boston Massacre.

Two floors of exhibitions tell the story that the Old State House, and Boston, played in the American Revolution.

Part of the Freedom Trail™.

[Thomas Jefferson] was undoubtedly complicated. He mingled the loftiest visions with astute backroom politicking. He spared himself nothing and was a compulsive shopper, yet he extolled the simple yeoman farmer who was free from the lures of the marketplace. He hated obsessive money-making, the proliferating banks, and the liberal capitalistic world that emerged in the Northern states in the early nineteenth century, but no one in American did more to bring that about. Although he kept the most tidy and meticulous accounts of his daily transactions, he never added up his profits and losses. He thought public debts were the curse of a healthy state, yet his private debts kept mounting as he borrowed and borrowed again to meet his rising expenditures. He was a sophisticated man of the world who loved no place better than his remote mountaintop home in Virginia. This slaveholding aristocrat ended up becoming the most important apostle for liberty and democracy in American history.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)