As aforementioned, Hazelrod seems to locate Rapatio’s greatness – and his admiration thereof – in the latter’s evident aspiration after the moral impunity of godly power. The Governor of Servia, his Lord Chief Justice accordingly attests, is, “An elevated genius, / That scorns the dust, and towers above the star [.]” By grasping at a power beyond humanity, he thus also attempts to remove himself from ordinary moral considerations. In so doing, Hazelrod further declares, Rapatio has made himself both the envy of the human race and an object worthy of fervent emulation. “Here like a mighty deity you sit,” he says of Rapatio, “Enthroned in state, nor envy Jove his thunder.” Noting the mention of the Roman deity Jove – or Jupiter, equivalent to the Greek Zeus – and the notion of being enthroned, the image of Caesar Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD), first Emperor of Rome, as the seated Jupiter comes to mind. Such depictions were not uncommon during the early empire, and – along with his status as chief priest of the Roman religion and Divi filius, or son of the divine – served to solidify the claim of Julius Caesar’s heir and successor to heavenly sanction. Without necessarily claiming that this is the specific association that Hazelrod – and in turn, Warren – wished to summon, the parallels describe an uncanny similarity. Rapatio, his Lord Chief Justice claims, aspires to wield the power of a god, and makes known his success in this endeavor by the manner in which he scorns or casts aside the trappings of human sentimentality. In so doing – in behaving inhumanly in order to become inhuman – the Governor of Servia takes on the aspect of a deity in Hazelrod’s eyes. He does not “envy Jove his thunder” because he has no reason to be jealous of his equal – i.e. a fellow god. And so deified and “enthroned in state,” Rapatio no longer needs moral justification for his actions. He is – like Augustus before the Roman Senate – above such mortal concerns.
Seemingly compelled to the point of unabashed valorization by these elevated or godlike qualities in Rapatio, Hazelrod next asserts that the Governor of Servia cannot be gazed upon with anything like indifference or apathy. Rather, when confronted by the greatness which Rapatio purportedly embodies, individuals and entire peoples alike must render forth their esteem. “While awed by thee,” Hazelrod thus avows,
The distant nations gaze.
And thousands yield their tribute of amaze.
Meanwhile at humble distance I pursue,
And grow illustrious as I copy you.
On one hand, the Lord Chief Justice here declares that, owing to the quality of his rule over Servia, Rapatio is owed tribute by the nations of the world. The recurrent parallel to ancient Rome – and in particular the practice of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire to seek tribute from the various states they held in formal submission – one more suggests Hazelrod’s equation of Rapatio to the demi-godly Augustus and his imperial successors. On the other hand, as a personal admission, Hazelrod marks the Governor of Servia as a model by which one might “grow illustrious” in imitation. While this might appear to place Hazelrod’s esteem for Rapatio in the same category as that of Dupe or P___P, it bears noting that emulation – while certainly a form of flattery – is not quite the same as adulation. Dupe and P___p grovel and bow and scrape because they seek some scrap of the power Rapatio has accrued. Hazelrod conversely desires to acquire power by repeating what he believes to be Rapatio’s successful course of action. He pays tribute out of honest admiration, therefore, rather than simply in pursuit of reward. While this would seem to paint Hazelrod as being less outwardly obsequious than certain other of Rapatio’s supporters, it also indicates the comparatively greater depth of his iniquity.
The next – and final – appearance of the Lord Chief Justice of Servia emphatically serves to confirm this impression. Attending the dejected E___r in prison at the opening of Act V, Scene II, Hazelrod offers comfort in the form of a chilling enumeration of the character and intentions of Rapatio’s erstwhile underlings. First, however, he slings a casual barb at the people responsible for seeing E___r jailed. “What, lost to grief!” he cries,
Dejected! Can it be!
Can the poor verdict of some half-formed peasants,
Unmeaning dull machines, thus damp your courage.
Were it not clear already, Warren here seeks to drive home the impression that Hazelrod’s perspective on humanity stands in fundamental opposition to that of either the Servian Patriots or their real-world counterparts in Massachusetts. Whereas Brutus wept to see his fellow citizen cut down in the streets, lamented in Act II, Scene IV, “To see a brother / Fall by a brother’s hand [,]” and remarked upon the same occasion that the stars that burned above seemed to weep in kind, the Lord Chief Justice feels no such sense of compassion or fellowship. To him, the common people of Servia are “half-formed peasants” and “unmeaning dull machines” not worthy of the name of brother. They are something less than he, it seems, and so unworthy of consideration as anything more than an obstacle or a nuisance. Even the stars, in which Brutus sees sympathy, Hazelrod hopes to “tower above” in the manner he attributes to his benefactor Rapatio. He thus further aspires to remove himself from the bonds of human fellowship, and expresses surprise that E___r is unable to do the same.
Curiously, in spite of this rather unsympathetic introduction – and the cited sentiments which would seem to corroborate his sense of detachment – Hazelrod next attempts to lift the spirits of E___r by assuring him that he has not been abandoned by his comrades. “Rouse up my friend,” he assures the prisoner, “For friend I still will call thee [.]” The encouragements that follow, however, are hardly the stuff of sitcom schmaltz. True to form, Hazelrod describes the men whom E___r can count on to back him in language seemingly calculated to curl the hair of Brutus and his Patriot brethren. First, he notes, there is, “Decrepit Meagre / In whom a passion for revenge is virtue [,]” and close behind him, “Cautious Limput / whose soul never knew one generous sentiment, / Which gives a sanction to humanity [.]” Together, Hazelrod asserts, these men work, “To crush the friends of freedom, extirpate / The dear remains of virtue, and like Nero, / At one dread blow to massacre his millions.” Recalling that the Lord Chief Justice hopes to comfort his ally with these words – that he offers them in reassurance of the quality of E___r’s cohorts and their intentions – the scene takes on a ghoulish aspect indeed. And while the notion that a man steeped in corruption and avarice would trumpet the iniquities of his comrades – their lust for revenge, or lack of generosity – might seem a tad cartoonish, Warren’s intention was most definitely sincere.
By placing an admiring reference to Roman Emperor Nero (37-68) in Hazelrod’s attempt at a morale-boosting speech, the author of The Adulterer sought to color the institutional opposition to the Servian Patriots as being in favor of tyranny and against the ethos of Classical Republicanism. More recent attempts at rehabilitation aside, Nero has long been considered one of the worst emperors in the history of the ancient Roman civilization. Commonly depicted as wasteful, corrupt, and decadent, the image of Nero playing the fiddle while the Great Fire (64) ravaged the city of Rome accordingly remains an enduring one for critics of unchecked autocracy. For people like Warren and her allies within the increasingly organized resistance to perceived British misrule in late 18th century America, this was doubly the case. Influenced and inspired by those who valorized particular figures from within the history of ancient Rome – like the aforementioned Joseph Addison, or the various English/British political commentators who adopted distinctly Roman pseudonyms – Americans who found the actions of Parliament in the 1760s and 1770s to be particularly distasteful or alarming were quick to adopt the vocabulary and personas of Roman antiquity as symbols of political and philosophical allegiance. Accordingly, Warren chose to name her protagonists in The Adulterer after the assassins of one of history’s most famous tyrants. And likewise, she tarred her antagonists with labels like Caesar (Act IV, Scene I; Act IV, Scene II) or Nero (Act I, Scene II; Act II, Scene III; Act IV, Scene I; Act IV, Scene II; Act V, Scene I) after some of antiquity’s most notorious despots.
Hazelrod’s further description to E___r of the sentiments and intentions of his compatriots gives yet more reason for Warren’s intended audience to recoil in abject horror. “When S___r bled,” he first recalls – a reference to Christopher Seider, the previously-mentioned victim of E___r’s real-world counterpart Ebenezer Richardson – “We snuffed the rich perfume, the groans of youth. / Gods! they were music to our ears [.]” More damning yet than the allusion Brutus earlier made to a ruffian who “thirsts for freemen’s blood,” Hazelrod here rapturously admits his savor of the scents and sounds of innocent bloodshed. His subsequent pledge of what E___r should expect upon his release is no less ghastly. “You therefore / Shall one day leave this dismal tenement,” he avows,
Again with pleasing scenes of blood and carnage,
To glut our vengeance – yes – by heaven we swear,
You shall be free whatever pangs it cost us,
We’ll laugh at all the howls of patriotism.
Should virtue check, should conscience whisper terror,
And lash our troubled minds, we’ll brave it all.
It is strange, upon reflection, that Hazelrod should manifest concern for the workings of virtue or conscience upon his party’s villainous plans. It is Rapatio, after all, whom Warren depicts as having to occasionally grapple with the better angels of his nature. Hazelrod is comparatively free of any such qualms, rather seeming to exalt in the suffering and the cruelty that have lately become commonplace in Rapatio’s Servia.
The passage cited above attests to this in no uncertain terms. The Lord Chief Justice finds “scenes of blood and carnage” to be pleasing, relishes the thought of laughing at “the howls of patriotism” drawn from his suffering countrymen, and swears to “glut his vengeance” by “whatever pangs it cost us [.]” The horror inherent in its more obvious implications aside, this dark pledge presents a particularly interesting contrast to that affirmed by Brutus, Cassius, Junius, and Portius at the end of Act I, Scene I. Therein, the assembled Patriots swear to see their homeland liberated, “E’er we’ll be slaves, / We’ll pour our choicest blood. No terms shall move us.” Whereas these men were willing to suffer injury and death for the love they bear their country, Hazelrod attests that he and his fellow conspirators are prepared to endure the “pangs” of virtue and conscience in pursuit of their plot to see Servia wholly bound to Rapatio’s will. The difference in goals, and in the extent of personal harm they are willing to suffer – i.e. death vs. guilt – could not be more vast. The result would seem to be a reinforcement of Warren’s evident desire to portray Hazelrod in particular among Rapatio’s supporters as a dark, twisted inversion of the virtuous Patriot ideal. He is malicious where they are compassionate, he laughs when they weep, and he seeks vengeance where they seek justice. He is, in essence the embodiment of a particular kind of evil which Warren and certain of her countrymen perceived as working to destroy the liberty of the American people from within the institutions of the British Empire. Neither an opportunist like Dupe nor a military functionary like Bagshot, he was rather a sadist whose primary motivation seemed to be nothing less than the furtherance of human suffering.
Compelling though this portrait may have been, however – and emotionally resonant among those who bore witness to events like the death of Christopher Seider or to the Boston Massacre – it represents yet another wilful exaggeration of the events and personalities of contemporary British America. Based on his relation to certain other characters in The Adulterer – Limput/Andrew Oliver being Rapatio/Thomas Hutchinson’s brother-in-law, and Hazelrod in turn being the brother of Limput – the Lord Chief Justice of Servia was most likely based on Peter Oliver (1713-1791), brother to the aforementioned Andrew and Chief Justice of the Province of Massachusetts Bay between 1772 and 1775. Like his brother, Peter attended Harvard, began his career in shipping, and benefited from their family’s wealth and connections throughout his life in Massachusetts public affairs. Unlike Andrew, however, he chose to pursue the law rather than politics, and perhaps as a result proved himself a somewhat more conservative advocate of Britain’s colonial administration. Appointed a justice of the peace in 1744, he next became a justice of the Court of Common Pleas – the provincial trials court – in 1747, and then a justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature – the highest court in the colony – in 1756. It was soon after this penultimate career achievement, however, that controversy began to crowd upon what had otherwise proven a steady upward trajectory.
Indeed, the aftermath of the Seven Years War (1754-1763) proved a tumultuous era for many public officials in British America, seemingly forced as they were to choose between supporting the prerogatives they and their countrymen had traditionally enjoyed and affirming a formerly uncontroversial sense of loyalty to their benefactors in the contemporary British government. Some, like Benjamin Franklin – agent to the British Crown on behalf of Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the 1750s and 1760s – spoke out against the evident erosion of American liberties threatened by legislation like the Stamp Act (1765) and the Townshend Duties (1767), both in written essays and in testimony before Parliament. Others, like Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson or his deputy Andrew Oliver, were similarly distressed, though they chose to confine their displeasure to private missives while manifesting outward support of Parliament’s claim to legislate for British America. Peter Oliver might fairly be placed in a third category, as a colonial official who believed that his fellow colonists were in fact obliged to contribute a greater share to British defence spending in North America, who correspondingly supported the implementation and collection of new taxes, and who endorsed stronger preventatives measures and penalties against the circumvention of such tariffs via smuggling. This position understandably led to a decline in Justice Oliver’s reputation among the citizens of Massachusetts who had increasingly come to conceive of the ongoing contest between American and British sovereignty as a matter of fundamental moral significance. In consequence, he was not infrequently threatened by the anti-Stamp Act pressure group known as the Sons of Liberty, made to refuse his seat in the Supreme Court of Judicature, and generally painted as a corrupt and avaricious supporter of contemporary British tax policy.
While the early 1770s heralded what would arguably prove to be the crowning achievement of Peter Oliver’s public career, they also witnessed a particularly damning personal indictment against him in the eyes of his critics and brought forth his ultimate professional downfall. The former – his appointment by Thomas Hutchinson as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature in 1772 – came on the heels of what doubtless appeared to his fellow officers of the Crown as a very successful officiation of the trials that followed the Boston Massacre of March, 1770. One of three judges presiding, Oliver’s reputation was understandably burnished by the successful acquittal of the accused British sentries on the charge of murder, and his resultant elevation made him the single most powerful judicial authority in colonial Massachusetts. Unfortunately, this personal and professional triumph quite soon brought about a significant public reversal. Annoyed by what he considered to be the pitiful salary afforded colonial jurists – one hundred twenty pounds yearly as an associate justice, one hundred fifty as chief – Oliver often threatened to resign unless his pay was increased. Personal pique happened to finally coincide with official policy in 1772 when the British government determined to increase the pay of colonial justices in hopes of engendering loyalty at a time of heightened political and social turmoil.
By the terms of the subsequent proposal, justices in British America were to draw a salary of two hundred pounds directly from the Crown in addition to that which they already received from the relevant colonial legislature. The public response to this scheme was understandably heated, given the appearance that the Crown was attempting to purchase the obedience of the colonial judiciary. Doubtless sensitive to this perception – both in terms of the damage it would do to the integrity of their office and to their ability to hear cases in an orderly fashion – nearly every justice in contemporary Massachusetts refused the offer when it was made to them. Chief Justice Oliver, however, did not. Public outrage shifted accordingly, and soon enough the provincial assembly was fielding calls for his impeachment. While Governor Hutchinson managed to forestall this particular outcome for a time, the toxicity attached to Oliver’s name and reputation soon enough became so severe as to spur jurors to refuse being seated while he presided in court. By the time The Adulterer was published in 1773, Peter Oliver was safely among the most reviled officers of the contemporary government of Massachusetts. His stated views were fundamentally at odds with those of the colony’s increasingly radical political opposition, his personal and professional connections to similarly despised figures like Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver were impossible to deny, and whatever professional capital he had accrued during his career as a jurist had essentially been spent on a fit of personal avarice.
Fitting though these circumstances would seem to have made Justice Oliver as a model for Warren’s vile jurist Hazelrod, certain elements of his life and career ought to be considered before one too readily equates the man with his doppelganger. On the subject of his political views, for instance, it bears remembering that the issues which most animated the supporters and detractors of contemporary British policy in America were almost wholly absent obvious resolutions. Easy though it may now be to commend the Sons of Liberty, the legislative opponents of Governor Hutchinson’s attempts to enforce the policies handed down by Parliament, or the eventual supporters of the Continental Congress for taking what appears to be a strong moral stand against unchecked authority, the implications of the topic at hand – i.e. whether political sovereignty ultimately emanated from the people or from Parliament – were far from unambiguous. However powerful rallying cries like “No Taxation without Representation” proved to be, therefore, Hutchinson was perhaps more accurate in his assessment of the subject at hand when he confessed to a British correspondent in the late 1760s that there seemed to be no solution to the mounting crisis in the Thirteen Colonies, “But what will produce as great an evil as that which it may remove [.]” Attempting to integrate the various colonies into the political structure of Britain proper by allowing the citizens of the former to directly elect Members of Parliament presented logistical hurdles which were either insurmountable or intolerable under the material circumstances of the late 18th century. At the same time, permitting the colonies to nullify or otherwise ignore any British legislation with which they took issue flew in the face of the hard-won concept of Parliamentary supremacy which had largely served to stabilize Britain after its tumultuous 17th century. Thereby lacking any solution whose outcome could be demonstrated to be mutually beneficial – the “right answer,” as it were – where a person came down on the great questions of the day was accordingly more a matter of taste and temperament than competence or intention.
That is to say, it would seem misguided to attribute either undue malice or preternatural wisdom to those who respectively espoused resistance to Parliament and the Crown or offered their support to the same. The ultimate outcome of the Anglo-American crisis – the separation of the Thirteen Colonies from the British Empire – makes these kinds of judgements all too easy to apply, and the subsequent valorization of the Founding Generation has led to an unthinking dehumanization of those who determined to reject what they perceived as being tantamount to insurrection. In point of fact, no one involved in the events leading up to the American Revolution possessed a monopoly on moral rectitude. When confronted by what essentially amounted to a choice between bolstering the existence of the British Empire and heralding its downfall, the relevant figures on either side of the issues at hand simply did what they felt was right. Franklin, the sceptical rationalist, sought to vocally and forcefully decry the abuses which he perceived to be taking place within the framework of the Anglo-American relationship without much seeming concern for his reputation. Hutchinson, torn between loyalty to his native Massachusetts and the Crown he had pledged to serve, attempted to split the difference between his private views and public obligations by upholding the policies of Parliament while attempting to engage his fellow citizens in a thorough and public debate on the subject. Peter Oliver was substantially more conservative than either of these men – in his temperament, and in his conception of the relationship between Britain and its American colonies – and so responded to the crisis of the 1760s and 1770s by positively affirming prerogative of the Crown and by decrying the immorality he perceived in certain of the positions adopted by those who stood in opposition to the same.
To claims by the Grenville Ministry that the recent war in North America had been draining, that preserving a colonial empire from across a vast ocean was a costly proposition, and that the people who stood to benefit directly from the relevant defensive measures ought to be made to pay for a larger share of the same, Oliver responded in the affirmative. This position was perhaps not the most popular among his fellow countrymen, but it was hardly an unreasonable one. Just so, when confronted with repeated colonial attempts to circumvent British tariffs via an increasing reliance on smuggling, Oliver again appeared to side against his neighbors by supporting policies designed to crack down on such wanton disregard for customs enforcement. In his mind, evidence attests, this was not just a matter of loyalty. Oliver believed that smuggling was dishonorable and immoral, that it bred licentiousness and vice, and that it had no place in the contemporary British Empire. Bearing witness to the enthusiasm with which his countrymen embraced such tactics in an attempt to spite the British tax policies whose legitimacy they questioned was an offence to his personal sensibilities and his conception of what it meant to be a subject of the British Crown. While this may have likewise rendered him an object of resentment among his fellow citizens in Massachusetts – and while it may make him appear rather stuffy or fastidious by the standards of the 21st century – it most certainly did not make him evil, cruel, or malicious.
Indeed, the historical record can be read to make Peter Oliver appear sympathetic in a way that Warren’s portrayal of Hazelrod could not possibly admit. Whereas, for example, the Lord Chief Justice of Servia explicitly avows that he owes his position to the beneficence of Rapatio – and makes no mention of his own fitness for the job – Oliver’s elevation to the highest post in the Massachusetts judiciary formed the capstone of a career in public service stretching back decades. Furthermore, the event which appeared to seal his position at the head of the Superior Court of Judicature – presiding over the trials that followed the Boston Massacre – hardly qualifies as an unambiguous example of corruption or favoritism. Granting that Hutchinson’s appointment of Oliver followed upon a verdict that doubtless pleased him – i.e. the acquittal of the accused British sentries – contemporary accounts attest to the even-handedness of Oliver’s conduct throughout the relevant proceedings. Rather than offering a reward for services rendered – as the radical opposition claimed – Governor Hutchinson may therefore simply have been determined to elevate the person he believed most qualified by experience and temperament to lead the judiciary of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. This isn’t to say that favoritism couldn’t possible have figured into Hutchinson’s decision to elevate Oliver, only that it cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Furthermore, compared to Hazelrod’s fixation upon the gloriously lofty disdain with which his benefactor Rapatio treated their fellow Servians, Chief Justice Oliver’s concerns were decidedly mundane and material. His willingness to grasp an offer of increased pay despite the controversy surrounding its source, for example, hardly indicates a man of particularly abstract motivations. The choice may have been impolitic, or foolish, or even improper given the nature of his office, but it could hardly have been easier to comprehend. Far from seeming to relish the thought of betraying his countrymen while grasping at power, Oliver simply wanted more money than he was already receiving for his services. Greed, of course, is not a very attractive characteristic, but it isn’t as though the man had no cause to be concerned about his financial future. During the height of the controversy surrounding the implementation of the Stamp Act, the Sons of Liberty managed to pressure Oliver’s creditors into refusing to finance the iron works he’d purchased in Middleborough in 1744. He was thereafter forced to mortgage his properties in order to remain solvent. Combined with the aforementioned efforts by this same political pressure group to prevent Oliver from taking his seat on the Superior Court in 1765, it should come as little surprise that he at times feared the outcome of the mounting crisis in British America and sought to make arrangements for his own security.
Bearing this in mind, his welcoming attitude towards the British troops that arrived in Boston in 1768 ought to be understood as possessing a personal as well as ideological rationale. Granting his disdain for smuggling and resulting support of measures aimed at curbing its frequency in Massachusetts, Oliver surely took even greater solace in the notion that the presence of British military personnel in the capital would once again allow him to live his life and see to his responsibilities – be they public or private – out from under the threat of organized intimidation. Once again, this would seem to place Peter Oliver at a great distance from his literary counterpart Hazelrod. The latter, in offering comfort to a man who had earlier killed an innocent child, referred to the spilled blood and pained cries of the slain as “rich perfume,” and “music to our ears,” offered yet more “pleasing scenes of blood and carnage,” and promised – “by heaven we swear” – that vengeance was at hand. The former, by all accounts that survive, did no such thing, seeming rather to be concerned with personal financial security, public morality, and the obligations owed by a people for their defence. These hardly seem the interests of an aspiring despot. Peter Oliver, therefore, must not have been one, Warren’s portrayal of his counterpart Hazelrod notwithstanding.