Mercy Otis Warren

Portrait by John Singleton Copley, 1763

OTHER IMAGES

QUICK FACTS
BORN:
14 September 1728 in Barnstable, Massachusetts
  DIED:
19 October 1814 in Plymouth, Massachusetts
Buried at Old Burial Hill in Plymouth with her husband, James.

AUTHOR OF

Plays

  • The Adulateur, 1772
  • The Defeat, 1772
  • The Group, 1775

History

  • The Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, Interspersed with Biographical, Political and Moral Observations (3 volumes), 1805

Mercy Otis Warren, American writer, sister of James Otis, was born in Barnstable, Massachussets in 1728. She married James Warren (1726—1808) of Plymouth, a college friend of her brother, in 1754. Her literary inclinations were fostered by both these men and she began writing poems, dramas, and essays.

Because her husband took a leading part in events leading up to, during, and after the American Revolution — as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1766—74) and its speaker (1776—77; 1787—88), as well as a member (1774—1775) and president (1775) of the Provincial Congress — Warren was keenly interested in following its progress.

Her gift of satire was used in her political dramas, The Adulator (1773) and The Group (1775). Abigail Adams, a close friend of Warren’s, approved and encouraged her efforts — as did her husband, John Adams.

Warren’s tragedies The Sack of Rome and The Ladies of Castile, were included in her Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous (1790), dedicated to General Washington. Apart from their historical interest, her poems and dramas are not generally read today. In 1805 she published The Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, a history of the revolution that included personal criticism of John Adams — which he took issue with and bitterly resented.

Surviving her husband by nearly six years, Mercy Otis Warren died on 19 October 1814 at the age of 86.

ADAPTED FROM:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.

Racial prejudice worked to perpetuate American slavery, even if it was not essential to sustain the institution. Slavery, serfdom, and peonage had existed elsewhere without racial connotations. Indeed, bondage had been so historically ubiquitous one might well ask why, by the 1760’s, it had come to trouble so many white Americans so much. The answer lies in part — and this part help explain why people like Mason did not act more aggressively on their concerns — in the reservations many whites felt about living alongside members of a supposedly inferior race, whether slave or free. The problem was inherent in American slavery, and emancipation, by undermining white control, would only make it worse.

Jeff Broadwater
George Mason: Forgotten Founder (2006)