Least Famous in the Family - Secretary to Congress Samuel Allyne Otis

Least Famous in the Family - Secretary to Congress Samuel Allyne Otis

Yesterday we discussed Charles Thomson's failed attempt to secure the position of first Secret to Congress. 

We pick up with the man who won that job...Samuel Allyne Otis. 

Otis was not only the first Secretary to Congress but still holds the record as such. 

Samuel Allyne Otis

Samuel Allyne Otis grew up with Revolutionary ideals. 

His older brother, James Otis, was 15 years Samuel's senior and early on rallied against British taxation. James is one of several Founders credited with coining the phrase 'no taxation without representation' and was a leading member of the Stamp Act Congress

These ideas undoubtedly had an effect on Samuel. 


Establishing himself as a Patriot in his own right, Samuel Otis spent two years representing Massachusetts in the Continental Congress. 

Upon returning home, Otis received election to the State Assembly where he served two years as Speaker. 

Mercy Otis Warren

During this time, Otis' sister, Mercy Otis Warren, disagreed with her brother over the new Constitution. 

Mercy, one of the first truly American female writers, had established herself as a play and pamphlet author. 

She also became a staunch Anti-Federalist. Samuel, however, supported the new government. 

Secretary of Congress

Soon after the Federal Government began it's opening session, they needed a Secretary of Congress to keep things organized. 

Vice President John Adams promoted Otis for the job over Charles Thomson.

Thomson had the position for the entire duration of the Continental Congress but, due to some political mistakes at the time, was defeated by Otis in a close vote. 

Public Servant

Samuel Otis would continue as Secretary of Congress for 25 years through the first four presidential administrations. 

Allegedly, he never missed a day of work. 

When Thomas Jefferson came into office, Samuel feared daily for his job. Apparently, being supported by someone's political rival is not great for government jobs. 

However, Jefferson never removed Otis. Having worked together while Jefferson was Secretary of State seems to have given Thomas a certain respect for Samuel. 

The Legacy: Harrison Gray Otis

At the time of his death in 1814, Samuel had passed the family torch to his son, Harrison Gray Otis

Harrison had already been a Congressman and a leading member of the dying Federalist Party.

Though he faced a setback as a member of the doomed Hartford Convention, Harrison would go on to represent Massachusetts in the United States Senate.

Want to read about more Founders from Massachusetts?

Here you go:

Artemas Ward -The First Commander-in-Chief

Apothecary General of the Continental Army - Andrew Craigie

Stephen Higginson Throws Shade at John Hancock

Samuel Allyne Otis does not have a biography, but his sister Mercy Otis Warren does!

‘A Woman’s Dilemma’ sheds light on this interesting Revolutionary Family.

Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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