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[419] law, granted writs of assistance, whenever the officers
chap. XVIII.} 1761.
of the revenue applied for them.1

But Otis was borne onward by a spirit which mastered him, and increased in vigor as the storm rose. Gifted with a delicately sensitive and most sympathetic nature, his soul was agitated in the popular tempest as certainly as the gold leaf in the electrometer flutters at the passing by of the thundercloud. He led the van of American patriots. Yet impassioned rather than cautious, disinterested and incapable of cold calculation, now foaming with rage, now desponding without hope, he was often like one who, as he rushes into battle, forgets his shield. Excitable and indulging in vehement personal criminations, he yet had not a drop of rancor in his breast, and, when the fit of passion had passed away, was mild and easy to be entreated. His impulses were always for liberty, and full of confidence; yet his understanding, in moments of depression, would often shrink back from his own inspirations. He never met an excited audience, but his mind caught and increased the contagion, and rushed onward with fervid and impetuous eloquence; but when quieted by retirement, and away from the crowd, he could be soothed into a yielding inconsistency. Thus he toiled and suffered, an uncertain leader of a party, yet thrilling and informing the multitude; not steadfast in conduct, yet by flashes of sagacity lighting the people along their perilous way; the man of the American protest, not destined to enjoy his country's triumph. He that will study closely the remarkable union

1 Bernard to Shelburne, 22 Dec., 1766.

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Shelburne (1)
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