Friday, 17 November 2017

The Adulterer, Part XIII: More Real than Real, contd.

            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.

Friday, 10 November 2017

The Adulterer, Part XII: More Real than Real, contd.

Compared to Bagshot’s rather austere military bearing, Rapatio’s Chief Justice Hazelrod presents an especially vain, slimy, and depraved portrait of contemporary colonial officialdom. He is by far the most verbose of the Governor of Servia’s minions, the most grandiose in his manners, and the one seemingly most given to relish the wickedness he is being asked to partake in merely for its own sake. Granted, he remains most emphatically Rapatio’s creature. The praise he sees fit to lavish upon his patron is profuse in the extreme. That being said, the manner by which he describes Rapatio’s administration and tactics implies a love of method as much as personality. That is to say, Hazelrod does not appear simply to express adoration for his superior in gratitude for the preferment he has received thereof, but does so as a great admirer of the kind of man he perceives Rapatio to be – i.e. imperious, decisive, ambitious, and cynical. In this quality of his character, Hazelrod arguably embodies what any number of those who stood in opposition to the Stamp Act (1765) and the Townshend Duties (1767) in British America believed to be true of every government minister, military officer, tax collector, and colonial administrator that supported and promoted the same. It was not out of principle or personal conviction that these kinds of functionaries acted as they did, claimed notable firebrands like Samuel Adams (1722-1803) and Patrick Henry (1736-1799), but rather because they were brutes, or sycophants, or tyrants at heart. As drawn by Warren, Hazelrod most certainly – and unsubtly – plays to this perception.

Consider, by way of example, his first full appearance in Act IV, Scene III of The Adulterer. Of note, before the character is able to utter so much as a single syllable, are the stage directions that precede his entrance. “Opens with a procession of coaches, chariots, etc. [,]” Warren writes of the scene, which then, “Changes to the chamber where the divan is opened with a speech by Hazelrod, highly pleasing to creatures of arbitrary power, and equally disgusting to every man of virtue.” Forgiving the narratively questionable choice of including a description of a speech in the text of a play before that speech is actually delivered – loaded though the phrases “creatures of arbitrary power” and “men of virtue” may be – certain elements of this brief sketch serve to subtly presage the nature of the character about to appear. That Hazelrod must first be introduced by a literal procession – that his existence in the world of The Adulterer can only follow upon a display of wealth and social preeminence – says a great deal about his potential role in the events of the narrative. So introduced, one might fairly assume that he is prideful, relishes a show of status, and willingly embraces his place in the gilded halls of power. Rapatio, by comparison, is introduced to the audience alone, secreted in his home, and attempting to cast off whatever sympathy he may still feel for his fellow Servians so that he can achieve the revenge that has become his burning preoccupation. It is a private moment, and one that speaks to the Governor of Servia’s self-consciousness and suspicion. Hazelrod entrance is nowhere near so intimate. He first makes himself known in the company of bombast, and so doubtless forms a primary association in the minds of the audience between himself and a sense of posturing pomposity.

Turning again to the cited stage direction, another symbolic association presents itself as most certainly intended by Warren to color audience perceptions of the forthcoming Hazelrod – if not the entire administration to which he belongs. Having described the train of wealth which must proceed the character, the text then denotes, “The chamber where the divan is opened with a speech [.]” Note the use of the word “divan” – here seemingly meant to indicate the governing council of Servia – in place of something more literal. Originally a Persian term, divan (or diwan, or dewan) has historically indicated a high government body within any number of Islamic states. Populated by viziers, military paymasters, tax officials, and bureaucrats, the divans of the Umayyad (661-750) and Abbasid Caliphates (750-1258) evolved to meet the needs of the ruler, the situation, or the culture then in ascendancy. The divan best known to the 18th century Anglo-American imagination – chiefly through the medium of trade – was almost certainly that of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), known as the Divan-ı Hümâyûn or Imperial Council. Without delving into the complexity of its history, its various functions, or its shifting composition, it will here suffice to say that the Ottoman divan was a very structured and regulated form of centralized administration that was both effective in governing a vast and complicated empire and almost wholly antithetical to the Anglo-American tradition of parliamentary sovereignty.

While the divan performed the same basic function as the cabinet within the British parliamentary system, it was by no means accountable to a larger representative body. Councillors were not also required to be elected members of an Ottoman legislature – which itself didn’t exist until 1876 – and everyone served at the nominal pleasure of the reigning sultan. The resulting opportunities for corruption, the complete lack of any safeguards against executive tyranny, and the absence of any form of legislative oversight would doubtless have been cause enough for alarm and revulsion from the perspective of an Anglo-American observer. What made the very concept of the divan so much more reprehensible, however, was its association with a distinctly “Oriental” culture whose perception in the European world had long become synonymous with decadence, effeminacy, vice, and brutality. This ingrained tradition of portraying the world of “the East” as wholly antithetical to the values of “the West” – rightly distressing though it now may appear – has formed a part of the European cultural vocabulary since at least the era of the Greco-Persian Wars (499-449 BC) and been renewed and reinvigorated through centuries of conflict between major European powers and the dominant civilizations of contemporary Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Having inherited the vast majority of their basic cultural assumptions and traditions from their English/British forebears, the members of the Revolutionary Generation were very much heirs to this ingrained practice of “othering” the East and using references thereto as a kind of literary shorthand for the values which they found to be disagreeable. Accordingly, in the same way that an American living in the late 20th century might have taken it for granted that all things French were inherently effeminate, their late 18th century counterpart would have been as likely to think of the Turkish civilization as fundamentally barbarous, corrupt, and backward.   

Mercy Otis Warren was no stranger to these kinds of perceptions, or to making use of them in order to advance the message she intended to communicate. Thus, in Act III, Scene I of The Adulterer, Cassius takes solace in the awareness he and his fellow Servians possess of their battered liberties by asking his countrymen to, “Look to the Turk, and relish if you can / A life in chains – he sighs, but sighs unpitied.” In his mind, it seems, the Ottoman citizen appears as an object of supreme pity whose suffering is made worse by his inability to grasp the nature of his plight. Thus, also, Warren describes the aforementioned Bagshot in the Dramatis Personae as the “Aga of the Janizarie” after the commandant of the Ottoman sultan’s personal bodyguard of slave-soldiers. Referring to the governing council of Servia as a divan was yet another example of this same species of literary Orientalism. Referred to by a name whose cultural associations are overwhelmingly negative, Rapatio’s advisory body is thereby robbed by Warren of any possible claim to legitimacy in the eyes of her audience. Portraying the character of Hazelrod as offering a speech before the opening of the same then transferred these selfsame negative associations onto him. As the presiding officers of Rapatio’s divan – a body which epitomizes decadence and corruption – he is thus inherently debauched, and cruel, and autocratic – and all before he even opens his mouth.

            The content of Hazelrod’s much-heralded address does nothing to dispel this impression. Indeed, it arguably serves to heighten the sense of revulsion that Warren appeared so keen to cultivate. Not only does he offer his deep and abiding gratitude to Rapatio for having recently appointed him to the position of Lord Chief Justice – “Rapatio – hail!” he declares, “Tis by thy faltering hand / This happy day beholds me robed in honor” – but he accompanies his thanks with a soaring meditation on the nature of power and his patron’s expert grasp upon it. “Power!” he declares,

            Tis a charm the gods can only know;
            These, while they view this little globe of earth,
            And trace the various movements of mankind,
            With pleasure mark that soul that dares aspire
            To catch this heavenly flame and copy from them.

Beyond simply offering praise in exchange for a favor fulfilled – like Dupe – or pledging aid out of a sense resignation – like Limput – Hazelrod here elevates Rapatio to the status of one who possesses a quality of godliness. He seems captivated by the very notion that such a person could exist – one who “dares aspire to catch this heavenly flame” – and so his tribute takes on a quality of philosophical admiration. “And sure Rapatio,” he goes on to say,
            
            If mortality
            Could ever boast an elevated genius,
            That scorns the dust, and towers above the stars;
            A soul that only grasps at high achievements,
            And drinks intoxicating draughts of power,
            The claim is thine – while simple yet thy station,
            True greatness peered and promised future glory.

Compared to those of his followers who only see in Rapatio a means by which they might advance their own fortunes, Hazelrod perceives in him a sense of innate superiority which informs his present office rather than derives from it.

Consider, to that end, Dupe’s declaration that “It gives me highest joy to see your honor / Servia’s sole ruler [,]” and his subsequent expression of disbelief that he has lived to see such “halcyon days.” His praise is explicitly derived from the fact of Rapatio having attained the office of Governor of Servia. It seems a monumental achievement, in Dupe’s eyes, and worthy of praise as a thing alone. The enigmatically named P___p demonstrates a similar motivation during a conversation with Rapatio in Act II, Scene IV. In a seeming attempt to make known his bona fides as a servant of and seeker after power, he asks, “Is Rapatio grown distrustful of me? / Of me, who long had sacrificed my honor, / To be a tool? Who cringe and bowed and fawned / To get a place? Fear not I ever should prove / An alien here [.]” Compared to these blatant testimonials of flattery and favor-seeking – by which Rapatio’s servants effectively describe his attainment of high office as the reason for their service – Hazelrod appears to see the position recently conferred upon his benefactor as a mere outward sign of the man’s inner quality. “While simple yet thy station,” he accordingly admits, “True greatness peered and promised future glory.” What seems to attract Hazelrod to Rapatio, therefore, is not just the promise of preferment which inevitably accompanies executive office – though he has benefited from the same – but rather the manner by which Rapatio attained that office. He then goes on to describe the relevant technique – what he believes to be his benefactor’s path to greatness – with characteristic zeal.  

            The key to Rapatio’s greatness, Hazelrod effuses, lies chiefly in the man’s ability to cultivate virtue and integrity while secretly planning to dispose of all those sentiments and attachments which block the path to power. The future Governor of Servia, he avows, imbibed a lust for dominance, “Yea while an infant, hanging at the breast [.]” Thereafter, as a youth, he set to work on the plan which would see him placed upon the seat of power. “With this in view,” Hazelrod acclaimed, in seeming address to Rapatio, “You’d imitate devotion, / Which like a mantle, covered great designs, / With virtue glow, and set among her sons [.]” Thus, “When nature slept, they busy mind awoke, / And pored on future scenes, and planned thy fate.” Again, Hazelrod shows that his admiration for the Governor of Servia runs deeper than mere ambition or greed. Rather than rest at fawning over the man in exchange for personal advancement, he paints Rapatio’s birth and adolescence as a kind of quasi-heroic narrative whereby the man honed the skills he would require to achieve his destined success. The aspects of this tale which most seem to animate Hazelrod are denoted by the extravagance of his description thereof.

The manner by which Rapatio appeared to seize the power offered him as Governor of Servia, for example, is painted as though it were a masterstroke of superhuman genius. “Then,” Hazelrod thusly narrates,

           When the ties of virtue and thy country,
            Unhappy checked thy lust of power – like Caesar,
            You nobly scorned them all and on the ruins,
            Of bleeding freedom, founded all thy greatness.

It is this evident betrayal that Hazelrod seems to find most glorious in Rapatio’s drive towards power, and the language he uses to describe the same reveals yet more of his disagreeable character. Whereas Patriots like Brutus and Cassius speak of their common love for Servia and their devotion to virtue with total and utter sincerity, Hazelrod characterizes these same sentiments as obstacles lying in Rapatio’s path to a kind of godly spiritual superiority. To scorn these things, the Lord Chief Justice avows, constitutes a noble imitation of one Julius Caesar, by which the Governor of Servia effectively founded the greatness that Hazelrod attests to be his birthright. This wilful twisting of the terminology of the Patriot resistance to Rapatio in service of glorifying the man himself – and the rhetorical association of the Classical Republican enemy of virtue, Caesar, with the characteristic of nobility – was surely intended to solidify the depravity of Hazelrod in the eyes of Warren’s intended audience. By claiming virtue and patriotism as impediments to personal ambition, and by attaching nobility to an act of betrayal, Hazelrod attempts to pervert the values that serve to motivate characters like Brutus and his cohorts. His justification for such degenerate acts is thus a curious one, combining as it does a soaring sense of purpose with the most squalid behavior imaginable. 

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Adulterer, Part XI: More Real than Real, contd.

In terms of the number of lines delivered, Rapatio’s two most significant confidants are most certainly Bagshot and Hazelrod. The events of The Adulterer paint both of these characters as being of particular importance to the Governor of Servia’s vengeful ambitions, and in the end they may each be held responsible for no small portion of the institutional evils depicted therein. That being said, their respective characterizations are somewhat more complicated than those Warren attributed to Rapatio’s lesser supporters like Dupe, Limput, Meagre, and Gripeall. And while neither is depicted in a particularly flattering light, they nevertheless seem to be something more than mere pawns, hangers-on, or sycophants who have chosen to trail in the wake of more powerful men than themselves. Without knowing what Warren intended by this – if, indeed, she intended anything at all – the effect would seem to be a broadening of the conspiracy supposedly directed against the people of Servia. Possessed of a greater degree of autonomy than most of Raptio’s supporters – moved, it seems, by something other than loyalty and/or its potential rewards – Bagshot and Hazelrod indicate by their respective reactions to the events portrayed in The Adulterer that the threats encroaching upon the liberties of the Servian people are in fact multifaceted. Granting the validity of this depiction on Warren’s part, it again warrants caution how closely one associates any of the characters depicted in The Adulterer with their likeliest real-world counterparts.   

Bagshot, for example, was almost certainly intended to represent General Thomas Gage (1718-1787), commander-in-chief of British forces in North America between 1764 and 1775. In part responsible for the stationing of British troops in major urban centres like New York and Boston in the aftermath of the Seven Years War (1754-1763), Gage was reportedly a capable administrator and a man of honor and integrity – if also one possessed of distinctly conservative political sentiments. Tasked with overseeing the security of a newly enlarged colonial empire several thousand miles from the capital thereof, his tendency seemed to be to locate threats to peace and stability within perceived centres of disorder or discontent. In Massachusetts, this mistrust of the evident restlessness of the colonial population found its focus first in the organized resistance to the implementation of the Stamp Act (1765) and the Townshend Duties (1767). Confronted by street protests, riots, mob violence directed against colonial officials – of which, as aforementioned, both Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver were victims – and collective resistance in the form of boycotts on British goods, Gage was forced to conclude by 1770 that, “America is a mere bully, from one end to the other, and the Bostonians by far the greatest bullies [.]” Considering the nature of his remit – to maintain the peace and stability of British America – this was perhaps an unavoidable conclusion.

Over a century of relative autonomy had promoted among the citizens of the various colonies of British America a strong sense of local sovereignty and self-sufficiency that was in many ways both philosophically and logistically at odds with contemporary British political orthodoxy. However Gage and the individuals he believed were chiefly responsible for the stirring up public agitation around issues like customs duties and domestic taxation might have shared a common regard for British culture and wished to uphold British political traditions, therefore,  they were more than likely to perceive the same events, institutions, and concepts through drastically different lenses. Whereas Gage seemed to view the public backlash against the implementation of the Stamp Act and the Townshend Duties – the demonstrations, riots, petitions, and boycotts – as actively corrosive to public order, the “Boston radicals” he so detested understood them as essential to the preservation of the inherited rights and liberties that it was in part Gage’s job to protect. Likewise, while Gage eventually settled upon the ubiquitous New England town meeting as one of the core causes of political disorder in British North America – “Democracy is too prevalent in America,” he wrote his superior in 1772, “And claims the greatest attention to prevent its increase” – the people of Massachusetts understood it to be an absolutely fundamental element of the political and cultural identity. The crux of the disagreement between Thomas Gage and the most ardent critics of British policy in America in the 1760s and 1770s was therefore both monumental and somewhat slight. Each sought to defend and promote the cultural and political community to which they shared a common connection, disagreeing chiefly in terms of method and process.

While, again, Warren’s Bagshot is not nearly as obsequious as most of Rapatio’s followers, his portrayal in The Adulterer nonetheless fails to capture the sincerity at the heart of his real-world counterpart’s public behavior. Speaking to the Governor of Servia in the first of his two appearances, he expresses his undisguised disdain for the riotous behavior of the Servian people upon the killing of an innocent youth by one of Rapatio’s supporters. “It must not [,]” he vows, “Shall not be – the dirty scoundrels, / Foaming with passion animate each other – / Abuse my men and trample on my bands.” Wholly forgoing any semblance of sympathy, Bagshot here seems far more concerned with the indignity being suffered by his men as they face abuse at the hands of an agitated populace. Rapatio seems to play upon and feed this evident sense of vanity and self-importance with his response, calling the people in question, “Insulting dogs!” He then goes on explain that, “A scene now opens to my mind. / And hark’ee Bagshot – should these high swollen wretches / Again insult, remember you are soldiers [.]” Bagshot’s response again seems to show the focus of his anger as being tied to the pride of the men serving under him. “Well then,” he replies,

Since you approve, 
I’ll give those orders, which I dare not do
By my mere motion.
Repeated wrongs have blown up all their courage.
They stretch like steeds, and snuff the distant battle;
And like the vulture, couch in dreadful ambush
And wait a day of carnage – fire, adieu [.]

Bagshot here expresses a willingness to visit force upon the people of Servia, not because it will please Rapatio to do so – as seemed to motivate the aforementioned Dupe and Limput – but because he seems to believe that the men under his command require it. “Repeated wrongs have blown up all their courage,” he says, as might a father who wants to see his bullied son fight back. And while his subsequent description of them as a species of beast is perhaps not the most flattering – “They stretch like steeds,” he avows, “And snuff the distant battle” – it likewise seems to expose an aggressively paternal attitude on Bagshot’s part. If the men under his command are like horses, then he as their handler wants to let them run – let them live and act according to their nature. While the outcome of this attitude ultimately serves the end that Rapatio desires, the manner in which Bagshot expresses it seems to have little to do with pleasing or glorifying his selfsame superior.

The second – and perhaps most compelling – of Bagshot’s two appearances in The Adulterer comes at the end of Act II, Scene II. Confronted by a delegation of Servian Senators who seek to remonstrate with Rapatio over the turmoil his leadership has thus far witnessed, the Governor of Servia begs to confer with his chief military officer before making any decisions concerning the movement or dismissal of troops. Once alone with Bagshot, however, he proceeds to curse the rebelliousness of the Patriots and ask his general-in-chief what might be done. “Say, Bagshot,” he bluntly enquires, “Can you stand the gathering storm?” Bagshot’s answer, in light of the appearance he earlier displayed of sensitivity to slights or disrespect, is surprisingly pragmatic. “Tis a hard case indeed,” he admits,

What can I do?, 
A soldier’s honor should remain unsullied.
True to his post, should laugh at every danger,
Enjoy his fate, and smile amid the storm.
But when ten thousand furies burst upon me,
Despise my utmost force and breathe defiance
Honor says, stand – but prudence says, retire.

Rapatio is understandably taken aback by this, and seeks to once more tweak the man’s pride. “But, Bagshot!” he cries, “How this scoundrel mob will triumph.” Bagshot remains unmoved, however, and this time dismisses the Governor’s entreaty to further violence. “These are charming words [,]” he agrees,

           Close in his cell, the calm philosopher
            Enjoys the storm, grasps at the palm of glory,
            And fights the distant battles of the world.
            It will not, cannot do – if they’re determined
            We yield to conquering fate and curse our fortune.

No longer eager to let his men off the leash – to allow their injured pride to find relief in bloodshed – Bagshot has become wholly resigned to the whims of “conquering fate.” Whether Warren intended her audience to attribute this change of heart to military pragmatism or cowardice, however, is not entirely clear.

            Bagshot, whether seeking violence or scorning it, gives voice to a quality of military pretension in the way that he responds to Rapatio’s enquiries and requests. He seems concerned with matters of image, reputation, and pride. Salving the prestige of his command appears to interest him to a greater extent than feeding the ego of his ostensible superior. And so he acts, with Rapatio’s urging, to put down what then doubtless seemed to be a relatively minor disturbance. He moves from strength, therefore, and attacks when victory is assured. By the time Rapatio once more seeks his counsel, however, Bagshot’s vanity no longer appears to rule him. He still feels a prideful need to stand fast against the mounting gale of public discontent – to “laugh at every danger,” and “and smile amid the storm” – but the odds are no longer in his favor. Opposed this time by “ten thousand furies,” Bagshot relents, scorns Rapatio’s naïve ardour, and counsels acceptance of defeat. Uncertain of victory, therefore – or perhaps certain of defeat – he refuses to risk his pride or his life, regardless of the cause.

While presenting something of an oversimplification, this basic outline likely conformed to what the average American colonist of the late 18th century perceived of the British military establishment. Men like Gage came into their midst, full of the pomp and circumstance that officers were trained and cultured to seek and protect, and proceeded to act and to behave according to orders that often had very little to do with the daily concerns of the British American people. Gage in particular was tasked with maintaining security and stability in the aftermath of the Seven Years War, and went about this commission with what his superiors doubtless believed to be efficiency and zeal. When, over the course of the 1760s, it became clear that the greater threat to colonial security lay in the urban centres rather than on the frontier, he oversaw the deployment of British troops in places like Boston and New York City. And when discontent persisted – in the form of protests and petitions – he first identified the restless colonial elite as the source of the trouble, and then the New England propensity for local self-government. These were not acts of cruelty or pride – by all accounts – but rather the actions of an experienced, shrewd, and dedicated military officer who sought to fulfil his responsibilities as best as he was able. The colonists whose streets were being patrolled by armed soldiers and whose cherished institutions were being actively maligned, however, were unlikely to see things in quite that way.

To the typical citizen of 1770s Massachusetts, figures like Gage were more than likely seen to be officious, draconian, and uncaring. Far from acting out of principle – or seeming to, at any rate – he simply followed the orders given him. Whether those order required him to protect settlers in the colonial interior from raids by Native Americans or to place the streets of Boston under armed guard surely appeared to those affected to matter very little. Indeed, most colonials likely had no way of telling what Gage thought of the directives he had been given to carry out. All that they had access to, by which to form their opinions of the man, were appearances and outcomes. He seemed to relish participating in the social scene in New York City, were his administration kept its headquarters. Perhaps this made him appear vain and prideful. He professed a strong suspicion of the aforementioned town meeting form of municipal government, and lobbied to have it banned. No doubt this caused him to seem like an enemy of the liberties of the people of colonial New England. His soldiers fired upon a crowd that had assembled before the customs house in Boston on the night of March 5th, 1770, and were subsequently acquitted of murder. Likely this made him appear uncaring and cruel. What evidence exists indicates that Thomas Gage was not these things, or at least not exclusively. But Bagshot was, as drawn by Warren. Not a devotee of Rapatio – just as Gage, in fairness, was not a confidant of Hutchinson – the commander of Servia’s military acted rather out of evident concern for military distinction. He favored the pride of his men, expressed no qualms about using force against an outmatched opponent, and retreated in the face of potential defeat.

This was very much a caricature, though an intriguing one all the same. However willing Warren may have been to portray a Gage-like figure as embodying the worst aspects of a the type of military functionary familiar to her fellow countrymen, she at least saw fit to separate him in some way from her drama’s unequivocal villain. Bagshot was certainly an ally of Rapatio – perhaps even a confidant – but his interactions with the Governor of Servia are notably absent the fawning praise that so strongly characterizes the dialogue of figures like Dupe and Limput. Indeed, he even goes so far as to disagree with Rapatio’s request for military aid. None of his contemporaries in service to the Governor of Servia even approach this level of autonomy. And though it amounts to little in the context of The Adulterer – Rapatio’s machinations are not much hampered by Bagshot’s refusal – it would nonetheless seem to nod in the direction of the complexity of the threats facing the contemporary American opposition to Britain’s increasingly heavy-handed rule. Hutchinson and Gage – Rapatio and Bagshot’s real-world equivalents – were not “partners in crime” who worked towards a common goal by different means. Rather, they were semi-autonomous agents of separate power structures with different goals and different outlooks. Hutchinson was a statesman, a native of Massachusetts, and an earnest believer in the relationship between English liberties and the supremacy of the English Parliament. Gage, conversely, was a soldier, the son of a Sussex nobleman, and a firm advocate of order and stability. These men were not natural allies, and it would surely have behooved the aforementioned American opposition to understand that when attempting to gauge, predict, or counter their reactions to a potential campaign of political resistance.   

Friday, 27 October 2017

The Adulterer, Part X: More Real than Real, contd.

Turning from Warren’s erstwhile protagonists and their equally virtuous forebears to The Adulterer’s undisguised villains, one may find yet more examples of her rhetorical use of exaggeration. Far from representing the rivals of Brutus and his cohort as simply misguided in their aims or methods, characters like Rapatio, Hazelrod, Meagre, Gripeall, and Bagshot are depicted as self-consciously vile, bloodthirsty, avaricious, and cruel. Not only do they take often drastic steps to stymie the calls for relief emanating from the Patriot camp, but they do so with the sort of hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing glee very much of a kind with the moustache twirling evil of a silent movie villain. Not only, as Warren depicted them, do they act immorally, but they acknowledge and revel in their immorality. They don’t appear to think that what they are doing is right. Rather, they seem act as they do out of some innate sense of viciousness which they make no effort to bring to heel. For a significant portion of Warren’s audience, this doubtless comported with their experiences of life in Massachusetts under the administration of Thomas Hutchinson. His leadership had seen much harm visited upon the general population, both directly and indirectly, and by 1773 his reputation was surely at its lowest point yet. Easy though it may have been – and rhetorically effective – to attribute this suffering to some black design of Hutchinson himself, however, the facts hardly corroborate any such characterization.

Take Rapatio’s first appearance in The Adulterer as a particularly illustrative example of the kind of hyperbole Warren seemed keen to engage in. Opening upon a chamber in Rapatio’s house, Act I, Scene II finds the man alone and giving voice to his thoughts. First, he acknowledges his own good fortune at having finally attained the rank of Govenror of Servia. His predecessor “Brundo” – a reference to Hutchinson’s own forerunner and benefactor, Sir Francis Bernard (1712-1779) – having retired, Rapatio muses, “The stage is clear. Whatever gilded prospects / Ever swam before me […] All at command [.]” From this accounting of his forthcoming affluence, however, Rapatio quickly – and characteristically, it will soon become clear – shifts to expressing resentment and recrimination for a wrong he perceives that his fellow citizens have done him. “Now patriots think,” he declares,

Think on the past and tremble.
Think on that gloomy night when, as you phrased it,
Indignant justice reared her awful front,
And frowned me from her – when ten thousand monsters,
Wretches who only claimed mere outward form
To give sanction to humanity,
Broke my retirement – rushed into my chamber,
And rifled all my secrets – then slung me helpless,
Naked and destitute, to beg protection.

For the moment laying aside the text itself – and the fist-shaking bitterness expressed therein – it bears noting that the real world analogue of the sequence of events here described took place in Boston on the 26th of August, 1765.

In the aftermath of the passage of the Stamp Act in March of that year, the selection of Hutchinson’s brother-in-law Andrew Oliver as the officer responsible for overseeing its implementation in Massachusetts brought forth accusations of corruption by the political opposition upon the then-Lieutenant Governor. Though by all accounts Hutchinson had no prior knowledge of or input into Oliver’s appointment, and in fact he had argued against the Stamp Act in dispatches to London upon the eve of its passage, members of the increasingly radical Boston opposition like Samuel Adams (1722-1803) and James Otis, Jr. (1725-1783) publicly avowed that their deputy executive and Chief Justice was scheming against his fellow countrymen in order to enrich himself and his allies. While a mob inflamed by these sentiments – and having already visited its collective rage upon the dwelling of the aforementioned Oliver – was successfully turned away from Hutchinson’s home in the North End of Boston on the night of August, 13th, a second gathering on the 26th succeeded in driving the Lieutenant Governor and his family into the street. The house’s furnishings were subsequently destroyed, silverware, furniture, and other belongings were carried away, and Hutchinson’s personal papers – including a draft of his three volume history of Massachusetts – were scattered. The Lieutenant Governor was subsequently indemnified by the colonial government to the tune of three thousand one hundred pounds sterling – significantly in excess of his claimed losses of two thousand two hundred – and he moved his residence outside the limits of Boston to the nearby village of Milton.

Bearing these facts in mind, the complaints of Rapatio – Warren’s stand-in for Hutchinson – perhaps stand in somewhat starker relief. To begin, though it may be rather pedantic to do so, it would seem worthwhile to acknowledge Rapatio’s claim that his dwelling was besieged by “ten thousand monsters [.]” Granting that the exact number of people involved in the mob that gathered before Hutchinson’s domicile on the 26th of August can only be estimated, it should nevertheless be noted that the population of Boston in 1765 was only slightly in excess of fifteen thousand. It therefore seems an unlikely thing for Raptio/Hutchinson to truthfully claim that a full two-thirds of the city’s residents turned up to force him out of his home. Such an assertion on Rapatio’s part was therefore almost certainly intended by Warren to portray both that character’s deceit and paranoia. In essence, either he is lying to himself – and in turn to the audience – about the nature of the threat he recently faced, or else he has become convinced that the majority of his fellow citizens conspired to rob him of his dignity and his property. In either case, the principle antagonist of The Adulterer makes it known that he possesses something of a persecution complex and– self-consciously or otherwise – is somewhat out of touch with reality. While it is difficult to say for certain how Hutchinson conceived of the events of August 26th, 1765 in the privacy of his own mind, his continued willingness to publicly engage with his detractors over the course of the 1770s rather than denounce them outright would seem to indicate a degree of patience and moderation not much in evidence with his counterpart Rapatio.

Similarly significant – and misleading – is Raptio’s claim that the mob in question, “Broke my retirement – rushed into my chamber, / And rifled all my secrets [.]” Though there is significant evidence to indicate that Hutchinson did keep much of what he thought about the events of the Anglo-American Crisis of the 1760s and 1770s to himself, or else communicated it only to select confidants and correspondents, the use of the term “secrets” to describe these private observations would seem to carry an inappropriately sinister connotation. In the context of government, secrets are pieces of information generally seen to be compromising, sensitive, or dangerous – their circulation is strictly controlled, and their exposure often constitutes a very serious crime. With Rapatio, however, the context of the scene implies conspiracy rather than professional caution. He seems less concerned for any potential damage done to the legitimacy or stability of his government than he is outraged that his fellow citizens would invade his personal domain or dare to peer into his private affairs. Even his use of the word itself seems to imply something knowingly untoward. The mob did not disturb his papers or ransack his documents, but rather “rifled his secrets [.]” Of the many and various benign phrases Warren could have selected to describe this event, she had Rapatio give voice to perhaps the most devious possible. The character thus appears, as well as bitter and paranoid, suspicious and scheming.   

  Furthermore, the placement of the phrase in question within the cited passage appears to imply something far from flattering about the Governor of Servia’s personal priorities – and in turn, his personal values. Making no mention of lost property or lost work, Rapatio instead worries that compromising information has been seen by his detractors. They “Rifled all my secrets” he says, and only then describes being thrown naked and helpless into the street. Thus phrased, secrets would seem to be what Rapatio treasures most – hardly a sterling quality in a public servant. By way of comparison, what appeared to trouble Hutchinson most about his unfortunate brush with mob justice were the material losses he suffered and the damage done to his aforementioned manuscript. These are the things he made account of in seeking remuneration, or whose recovery was later remarked upon. If he had been robbed of certain confidences – if potentially compromising information in his possession had been seized by his besiegers – the record makes no mention. Granted, the penultimate Governor of Massachusetts would come to known such concerns in time. After a series of letters written by Hutchinson to a Member of Parliament in which he observed that the citizens of Massachusetts could not reasonably expect to exercise the same rights and privileges as British residents were published in 1773, the resulting furor severely damaged his public standing. This unambiguous invasion of privacy was unconnected to the events of August 26th, 1765, however, and Hutchinson’s response was hardly to swear vengeance upon his countrymen. Rather, in response to a consequent petition by the colonial assembly to have him removed from office, the Governor simply requested the chance to depart for London and defend himself in person.

Rapatio was far from the only character in The Adulterer to paint such an ominous portrait of himself, of course. From snivelling Dupe, to pragmatic Bagshot, to self-important Hazelrod, Warren made sure to stock the pantheon of Servian officialdom with the most odious, egotistical, and bloodthirsty personalities it was surely in her power to render. And while not every one of them seems to possess an equivalent among Governor Hutchinson’s inner circle in 1770s Massachusetts, their collective depiction of the contemporary administration of that colony was doubtless quite cutting at the time of publication. By the same token, however, Warren’s was not necessarily the most accurate portrayal. Take, for example, the figure of Andrew Oliver (1706-1774). Brother-in-law to Hutchinson, Provincial Secretary, and Lieutenant Governor, Oliver seems to have been represented in The Adulterer by two separate characters. One, the aforementioned Dupe, is Servia’s Secretary of State under Rapatio. The other, Limput, is Rapatio’s bother-in-law and a general hanger-on and sycophant. Unsurprisingly, neither is portrayed as anything other than reprehensible.

Dupe makes his first appearance in Act I, Scene II, following immediately on Rapatio’s declaration of revenge against his fellow Servians. “But here comes Dupe,” Warren’s villain remarks, “A creature formed by nature / To be a sycophant. Though I despised him, / Yet he’s too necessary for my purpose, / To be relinquished [.]” Entering, Dupe thereupon gives an account of himself that in every way lives up to this discreditable description. “It gives me highest joy to see your honor / Servia’s sole ruler” he fawns.

What though not complete
And primly seated in the chair of power,
Yet all the reins of government you hold.
And should that happy period every arrive
When Brundo quits for thee entire possession,
Remember Dupe, and think on former friendships.

Here, it seems, is one of the most powerful officials in Servia – judging from his title in the Dramatis Personae – acting in a manner almost sickeningly effusive towards the occupant of the office of Governor. As Secretary of State, Dupe would presumably have been responsible for keeping any and all records of government in Servia, particularly in terms of spending and revenues, and been required to turn them over in the event of a potential enquiry or investigation. In spite of the independence that such responsibilities would seem to require, however, Dupe is presented by Warren as shamelessly grovelling to Rapatio, expressing personal joy at his success, and seeking favor upon his assumption of even greater power.

The remainder of Dupe’s appearance – comprising two further lines – serves only to reinforce this characterization. Upon Rapatio’s assurance that the time for revenge upon the people of Servia is yet at hand, Dupe exclaims, “What halcyon days! And have I lived to see them? / And share them too? Enough – I’ve lived my day.” When Rapatio then asks of Dupe to confirm the rumors he has heard of the restlessness of the Patriots, he does so without pause. “The thing is fact [,]” he avows. “The worthy citizen / Finds property precarious – all things tend / To anarchy and ruin.” While the former serves to communicate Dupe’s obsequiousness in fairly straightforward terms – he counts himself lucky to have lived to see Rapatio come to power – the latter accomplishes the same objective in a slight more indirect way by showing how emphatically and unquestioningly he agrees with Rapatio’s reading of contemporary events. Whereas the Governor of Servia describes his detractors as having, “Grown fond of riot, and, with pageantry, / Do ridicule the friends of government [,]” the Secretary of State goes so far as to declare that events are tending towards “riot and anarchy.” By way of exaggeration, Dupe thus appears keen to validate the opinion of his chosen benefactor. Far from the noble officer of state that his title denotes, he is rather the “ready tool” whom Rapatio sees fit to wield in his pursuit of revenge.

Limput – perhaps a closer match to Oliver for being Rapatio’s bother-in-law – is portrayed by Warren in a similarly unflattering light to that which she shone upon the obsequious Dupe. Appearing only briefly in Act III, Scene IV, he nevertheless manages to emphatically describe the depth of depravity to which he is willing to sink in service of his friend and benefactor. Responding to Rapatio’s call for willing co-conspirators, Limput explains that,

If this is all you want –
If breaking through the sanction of an oath,
And trampling on the highest obligations
Would back this good design – here’s one will do it.

Though his soul was once, “Full of virtue,” he further avows, so that he would shudder when faced with a crime, “Thoughts like these have long since slept; old habits / Have seared my conscience – Vice is now familiar – / Prescribe whatever form you choose – I sign it [.]” Whereas even Rapatio must occasionally steel himself against attacks of pity or sympathy that would stand in the way of achieving the end he seeks, Limput paints himself as wholly beyond such doubts or concerns. “Old habits have seared my conscience [,]” he explains, and so he is particularly capable of committing the most heinous acts commanded by his friend and brother. In light of what The Adulterer thus far exhibited of Rapatio’s methods – deceit, manipulation, and murder – this ought to be received as a particularly damning admission. No matter what Raptio asks of him – what high obligation he is made to trample – Limput declares that he is ready and willing.

            Rapatio’s immediate response is fairly straightforward, though no less significant for it. His administration having suffered in the aftermath of the slaughter of Servian civilians by soldiers under his command, he asks Limput to swear,

           That long before that night,
            In which we snuffed the blood of innocence,
            The fractious citizens, urged on by hell,
            Had leagued together to attack the soldier,
            Trample on laws, murder the friends of power
            And bury all things in one common ruin.

As if it were not already so unequivocally vile for Rapatio and his followers to scheme at framing a people still mourning their dead for the very circumstances under which they suffer – while speaking freely of having “snuffed the blood of innocence,” no less – Rapatio goes on to damn himself further in the eyes of Warren’s audience by the manner in which he requests that the pledge be sealed. “All this,” he instructs Limput, “You call the majesty of heaven / To witness to as truth.” Quaint it may now seem, but this blasphemous invocation of God in service of such an odious plot was doubtless intended by Warren to further convey the utter depravity of Servia’s Governor and his supporters. Innocent Servians have been killed, and here Rapatio appears keen to set in motion a conspiracy that would likely entail further repression, more suffering, and more deaths. In keeping with his prior claims, Limput responds simply. “I do,” he declares, “And swear.” Whereas Dupe is the pitiful lickspittle who seeks favor in exchange for obedience, Limput seems to give himself over to Rapatio’s schemes out of personal affection and personal habit. That the Governor of Servia would count such a man his brother-in-law, seek his counsel, and engage his service was surely meant to be an object of horror.

            As it happened, however, Andrew Oliver closely resembled neither Dupe nor Limput. Though he was certainly a man of wealth and education whose ascent to the highest levels of the Massachusetts elite was in some part a function of his class and his connections, Oliver was by many accounts also a sober, pious, and dedicated public servant. Far from achieving distinction solely by marrying into the inner circle of the ascendant Thomas Hutchinson, he in fact held a variety of municipal offices in Boston in the 1730s, won election to the Massachusetts Provincial Assembly in 1742, and was finally granted appointment as Provincial Secretary by Acting-Governor Spencer Phips (1685-1757) in 1755. The subsequent selection of Oliver to administer the provisions of the Stamp Act in Massachusetts in 1765 was likewise unrelated to his family connections, though he suffered alongside Governor Hutchinson in the ensuing popular backlash. The events of the 1770s proved similarly trying, particularly as a result of Oliver’s relationship with his brother-in-law. Chosen by Hutchinson to assume the office of Lieutenant Governor in 1771, he subsequently became embroiled in another controversy surrounding the publication of a series of inflammatory letters. Though Hutchinson and Oliver were both privately opposed to the passage and implementation of the Stamp Act, they also harbored certain views as to the relationship between the government and people of Massachusetts and the Crown which ostensibly placed them in opposition to the increasingly radical elements of that colony’s political culture. When these views – as expressed to certain correspondents in Britain – saw print in June, 1773, both men suffered renewed accusations of conspiracy, treason, and betrayal. Oliver, who had damningly stated his belief that the government of Massachusetts ought to have been reformed in order to strengthen the office of Governor, was notably burned in effigy in Boston Common. The strain of enduring such repeated public repudiation took its toll on the exhausted and ageing Lieutenant Governor, and he eventually suffered a fatal stroke in March, 1774.     

Granting that it is now, and may be forevermore, impossible to determine the exact nature of the relationship between brothers-in-law and political confidants Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver, there is very little to indicate that it bore a particular resemblance to those Warren depicted in The Adulterer  between Rapatio and his followers Dupe and Limput. Unlike these characters, whose respective roles in the drama are wholly a function of their adoration of and loyalty to the Governor of Servia, Oliver spent the better part of his career in public service charting a course that was largely his own. His appointment to the office of Provincial Secretary in 1755 came at the conclusion of almost twenty years of service in municipal and colonial government, and notably pre-dated Hutchinson’s assumption of the Lieutenant-Governorship by nearly three years. Furthermore, whereas Dupe and Limput seem content – or at the very least willing – to wholly submit to Rapatio’s ambitions, Oliver appeared to be more of a partner to Hutchinson than a mere pawn in his supposed machinations. He was, after all, publicly burned in effigy in 1773 not merely because of his association with Hutchinson – because he was known to have done that man’s bidding – but rather because letters he wrote independent of his brother-in-law were also intercepted and published. And while the content of those letters may rightly be seen to have placed Oliver at odds with the political and ideological currents then taking hold of contemporary Massachusetts, the implications thereof in no way equate to the conspiracy, duplicity, or cruelty contemplated by the likes of Dupe and Limput. Indeed, where those men seemed to revel in the successes of their spiteful benefactor and embrace the foul deeds he requested they undertake, Oliver rather appeared to find the hatred and the vitriol of his fellow citizens tremendously – and in the end, fatally – taxing.