Cause and Defect: Peter Oliver’s Subjunctive Loyalism

Cause and Defect: Peter Oliver’s Subjunctive Loyalism rachel trocchio   University of California, Berkeley Cause and Defect Peter Oliver’s Subjunctive Loyalism One of the piquancies of reading Peter Oliver’s 1781 Origin and Progress of the American Rebellion lies in its manner of insisting that at any number of points the Revolution could have been averted, or staunched. “It is much to be deplored,” Oliver laments at the outset, “that the Springs of the English Government too often lost of their Elasticity; which, perhaps, had they have been in many Cases wound up, would have had Force enough to have prevented the present Rebellion” (26). Hardly have we gone past the gate—the “Porch,” as Oliver figures his introduction (9)—than we are presented with these weltering conjugations of the verb to be: had they have been; would have had; elsewhere it may or it must; otherwise I hope or I promise. These phrases, I will suggest, ask us to entertain an alternate history, in which the mechanisms of British imperial power were effectively discharged, and the Revolution was cut off at the root. Reality being what it is, or was, such cognitive play cannot endure. Oliver did not, after all, claim to write a fiction but a http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Early American Literature University of North Carolina Press

Cause and Defect: Peter Oliver’s Subjunctive Loyalism

Early American Literature, Volume 52 (3) – Oct 31, 2017

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The University of North Carolina Press.
ISSN
1534-147X
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Abstract

rachel trocchio   University of California, Berkeley Cause and Defect Peter Oliver’s Subjunctive Loyalism One of the piquancies of reading Peter Oliver’s 1781 Origin and Progress of the American Rebellion lies in its manner of insisting that at any number of points the Revolution could have been averted, or staunched. “It is much to be deplored,” Oliver laments at the outset, “that the Springs of the English Government too often lost of their Elasticity; which, perhaps, had they have been in many Cases wound up, would have had Force enough to have prevented the present Rebellion” (26). Hardly have we gone past the gate—the “Porch,” as Oliver figures his introduction (9)—than we are presented with these weltering conjugations of the verb to be: had they have been; would have had; elsewhere it may or it must; otherwise I hope or I promise. These phrases, I will suggest, ask us to entertain an alternate history, in which the mechanisms of British imperial power were effectively discharged, and the Revolution was cut off at the root. Reality being what it is, or was, such cognitive play cannot endure. Oliver did not, after all, claim to write a fiction but a

Journal

Early American LiteratureUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Oct 31, 2017

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