Mather Byles

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Born: 26 Mar 1706, Boston, Massachusetts

Died: 5 July 1788, Boston, Massachusetts


American pastor and poet. His sermons were very well received, and several of them were published. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Byles was outspoken in his advocacy of the royal cause, and after the British evacuation of Boston his connection with his church (Hollis Street Church, Boston) was dissolved. Byles remained in Boston, however, and subsequently (1777) was arrested, tried and sentenced to deportation. This sentence was later changed to imprisonment in his own house. He called the sentry stationed outside the house his "Observe-a-Tory". He was soon released, but never resumed his pastorate. He is known for saying "Which is better - to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?" (Wikipedia)

View the Wikipedia article on Mather Byles.

Settings of text by Mather Byles


  • 1744 – Poems on Various Occasions
  • 1755 – Divine power and anger displayed in earthquakes: A sermon occasioned by the late earthquake, in New-England, November 18. 1755. Boston, Massachusetts: S. Kneeland. 31 pp.


  • Eaton, Arthur. 1914. The Famous Mather Byles, the Noted Boston Tory Preacher, Poet, and Wit, 1707-1788. Boston, Massachusetts: W. A. Butterfield. 258 pp.

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