Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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PAXTON, Charles, British commissioner, born in 1704; died in Norfolk county, England, in March, 1788. He was commissioner of customs in Boston, and, as the disputes with the crown and its agents increased, made frequent visits to London to complain of resistance to acts of parliament. He possessed "as much of the friendship of Charles Townsend as a selfish client may obtain from an intriguing patron," and was in the counsels of that minister when his plans relating to the colonies were devised and presented to the house of commons. John Adams says that he was "the essence of customs, taxation, and revenue," and that he appeared at one time "to have been governor, lieutenant-governor, secretary, and chief justice." As head of the board of commissioners in 1760, he directed his deputy in Salem to the courts for writs of assistance, under which the officers of the revenue were to have authority to enter and search all places that they should suspect contained smuggled goods. In 1769 Paxton and his associates were posted in the "Boston Gazette" by James Otis, and this card brought on an altercation in State street with Robinson, another commissioner, which resulted in injuries that deprived Otis of his reason. On one of the anniversaries of the gunpowder plot Paxton's effigy was hanged between those of the devil and the pope and labelled "Every man's ser-rant, but no man's friend." Paxton and his fellow-commissioners at one time seized one of John Hancock's vessels for smuggling wine, and a mob then forced them to flee to Castle William. Paxton was subsequently hanged again in effigy on the " Liberty-tree." Paxton was one of the writers of the "Hutchinson Letters." (See FRANKLIN BENJAMIN.) In 1776 he and his family went with the British army to Halifax, and in July of that year to England. He had been proscribed in Massachusetts, and his estate was confiscated. He then lived in obscurity, and died on the estate of William Burch, one of his fellow-commissioners.
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