The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

II. The Early Drama, 1756–1860

§ 4. The Revolutionary Satirists

During the Revolution a number of political satires were written, none of them, however, in strict dramatic form. The most important are The Adulateur (1773) and The Group (1775), by Mrs. Mercy Warren, of Boston, The Fall of British Tyranny (1776), by John Leacock, and the anonymous farce The Blockheads (1776), which has been attributed to Mrs. Warren, but which internal evidence indicates is not by her. They paint the Tory officeholders and the British soldiers in very unflattering colours, but in no worse hues than the satirists on the loyalist side portray their enemies in such products as The Americans Roused in a Cure for the Spleen (1775?) or The Battle of Brooklyn (1776). There is no conclusive evidence that any of these were acted, though on the title page of The Group it is represented “as lately Acted, and to be Reacted, to the Wonder of all Superior Intelligences Nigh Head Quarters at Amboyne.” The literary quality is not remarkable in any event, although Mrs. Warren at times writes a blank verse of considerable distinction, but their chief interest lies in their close relation to the great conflict they represent.

The authority of Congress, except when ratified by action of the several states, did not extend beyond a recommendation to discontinue plays, but with the exception of a brief season in 1778 at the Southwark Theatre in Philadelphia, the activities of the Baltimore Company which began in 1781, and the later ventures of Ryan’s Company in New York, the wishes of Congress were generally respected. With the coming of peace, the feeling against plays began to lessen. Lewis Hallam, the younger, returned to Philadelphia in 1784, and when he was coldly received there took to New York the reorganized American Company that was to be so closely associated with the history of the drama in that city. From the point of view of the production of dramatic writing, however, nothing is worthy of record until 1787.