Thomas Cushing

March 24, 1725–February 28, 1788

Thomas Cushing was a delegate from Massachusetts to the First Continental Congress and signed the Articles of Association, which set up the Continental Association. He was also elected to the Second Continental Congress and signed the Olive Branch Petition, but did not sign the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Cushing, Illustration

Thomas Cushing was friends with Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and served in the First and Second Continental Congress. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Biography of Thomas Cushing

Thomas Cushing was a merchant, lawyer, and politician from Massachusetts who rose to prominence during the American Revolution. Cushing’s father owned a counting house, where Samuel Adams worked. It was there that Adams and Cushing met and became friends. Cushing was also close friends with John Hancock. In 1761, Cushing was elected to the Massachusetts Assembly and later served as Speaker of the House. Because of his role as Speaker, his name was attached to the documents produced by the legislature and British officials viewed him as a leader of the Patriot movement in Boston. In 1772, he opposed the Committees of Correspondence. Afterward, he was elected to represent Massachusetts as a delegate to the First Continental Congress. British General Thomas Gage intended to arrest Cushing and send him to Britain to stand trial for treason. He was elected as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, but he opposed the Declaration of Independence. After the American Revolutionary War, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts and was a member of the Massachusetts convention that ratified the United States Constitution in February 1788.

John Hancock, Portrait, Copley

Cushing was close friends with John Hancock, who became a leading figure in the Patriot movement in Boston. Image Source: Wikipedia.

5 Quick Facts About Thomas Cushing

  1. Thomas Cushing III was born on March 24, 1725, in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was Thomas Cushing and his mother was Mary Bromfield.
  2. Cushing entered politics in 1753 when he was elected as a Boston Selectman. In 1761, he was elected to the Massachusetts General Court — or Massachusetts Legislature. Cushing was named Speaker of the House in 1766 when Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to accept James Otis, who had been elected by the people, as speaker.
  3. Although Cushing did not support the Declaration of Independence, he did help the American cause by helping procure ships for the Continental Navy and supplies for Massachusetts troops.
  4. In 1780, Cushing was chosen as the first Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. He had run for election, but none of the candidates received the majority of votes needed to win, so the choice was left to the Massachusetts Assembly. The Assembly’s first two choices, James Bowdoin and James Warren declined the position. It was offered to Cushing. He accepted and served in that role for most of the rest of his life. He served as Lieutenant Governor to John Hancock, from 1780–1785 and 1787–1788, and James Bowdoin from 1785–1786.
  5. On February 28, 1788, he died in Boston. He is buried at the Granary Burying Ground.

Thomas Cushing and the American Revolution

Hutchinson Letters Affair

As Speaker of the House, Cushing dealt with Benjamin Franklin, who was the colony’s agent in London. In 1772. Franklin sent him private letters that Hutchinson had written which suggested the rights of colonists should be restricted. The Hutchinson Letters Affair contributed to the strained relationship between government officials and the people of Massachusetts.

Opening Prayer at the First Continental Congress

According to John Adams, Cushing made a motion that the First Continental Congress should begin its session on Wednesday, September 7, 1774, with a prayer. Although it was opposed by some members, because of the religious diversity of the group, it was approved. Samuel Adams nominated Reverend Jacob Duché, who did, in fact, open the meeting with a prayer.

First Continental Congress, Opening Prayer

This illustration depicts Reverend Jacob Duché saying the Opening Prayer at the First Continental Congress. Image Source:  New York Public Library Digital Images.

Signer of the Continental Association

On October 20, 1774, Cushing, John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Robert Treat Paine were four of the 53 delegates to the First Continental Congress that agreed to impose a trade boycott against British merchants. The colonies put the boycott in an effort to force King George III and Parliament to repeal the Coercive Acts. The delegates signed the Articles of Association, which set up the Continental Association, an organization that was responsible for enforcing compliance with the boycott throughout the colonies. It was the first time that all 13 Original Colonies agreed to a unified boycott against Britain.

Signer of the Olive Branch Petition

On July 5, 1775, the Second Continental Congress approved a letter written by John Dickinson, a delegate from Pennsylvania who pushed for reconciliation with Britain, not revolution. On July 8, 48 of the delegates, including Cushing, signed the letter, which is known as the Olive Branch Petition, and it was sent to London. King George III refused the letter in light of the armed conflict that started on April 19 with the Battle of Lexington. Soon after, the King issued the Proclamation of Rebellion and authorized British officials to “suppress such rebellion, and bring the traitors to justice.”

Thomas Cushing and Shays’ Rebellion

Cushing was the Lieutenant Governor to Governor James Bowdoin when Shays’ Rebellion took place in Western Massachusetts.

Significance of Thomas Cushing

Thomas Cushing is important to the history of the United States because he signed the Articles of Association, signed the Olive Branch Petition, and served in the First and Second Continental Congress. Although he was a reluctant participant in the movement toward independence, he did contribute to the cause as a merchant and politician.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Thomas Cushing
  • Date March 24, 1725–February 28, 1788
  • Author
  • Keywords Thomas Cushing, American Revolution, Hutchinson Letters Affair, First Continental Congress, Continental Association, Second Continental Congress, Olive Branch Petition
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date April 16, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 11, 2023