Leacock, John (pen name Dick Rifle)

1729 – 1802

Dramatic Works

The Fall of British Tyranny, or American Liberty Triumphant. The First Campaign. (1776)

The Fall of British Tyranny, or American Liberty Triumphant. The First Campaign.  (1776)

Production & Reception History

unknown, but reference to “real life” enactment: “as lately planned at the Royal Theatrum Pandemonium, at St. James’s”

Print & Publication History

“Providence: Printed by J. Douglass M’Dougall, on the West Side of the Great Bridge” [1776]. 66 pp.

“Philadelphia: Printed by STYNER and CIST, in Second-Street, near Arch-Street. MDCCLXXVI.” [1776]. 66 pp.

“Philadelphia, Printed: New England, Boston: Re-Printed by John Gill, and Powars and Willis, in Queen-Street” [1776], 71 pp.

Genre & Structure

  • a “tragi-comedy,” political satire in 5 acts (with scene divisions)
  • “propaganda play” (Patriot)
  • a song with 21 stanzas (to the tune of “The hounds are all out”) is interspersed in the third act
  • Prefatory material
    • dedication by Dick Rifle
    • preface that espouses Common Sense
    • speech by the Goddess of Liberty
    • prologue “spoken by Mr. Peter Buckstail”
    • epilogue “spoken by Mr. Freeman”

Gender Relevance

features a scene with Clarissa (who is not listed in the Dramatis Personae, and who is most likely the wife of Gen. Joseph Warren), a Boston wife who mourns the death of her husband and son after the battle of Bunker’s Hill; weeping woman stereotype;

Key Words & Themes

propaganda, Revolutionary War, British Parliament, Battle of Lexington and Concord, Battle of Bunker’s Hill, slave revolt

Additional Information

propaganda against the British that is very ambitious in scope, set on both sides of the Atlantic; attacks on the British are combined with depiction of American heroism; scenes set in the English Parliament, which detail British colonial politics; reference to the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker’s Hill; reference to a slave uprising which was ostensible incited by the British (slaves depicted as naïve dupes); features the death of General Montgomery;


Early American Imprints, Series 1, nos. 14855 (Providence), xxxxx (Boston), and xxxxx (Philadelphia)

Evans Early American Imprint Collection, http://name.umdl.umich.edu/N11731.0001.001 (Boston), and http://name.umdl.umich.edu/N11730.0001.001 (Philadelphia)

Secondary Sources

Bryan, Mark Evans. “The Rhetoric of Race and Slavery in an American Patriot Drama: John Leacock’s The Fall of British Tyranny.” Journal of American Drama and Theatre 12.3 (2000): 41-54.

Brown, Jared. The Theatre in America During the Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Print. 18-19.

Detsi-Diamanti, Zoe. “Language of Assent: Republican Rhetoric and Metaphors of National Redemption in American Revolutionary Drama.” American Drama 13.1 (2004): 1-30.

Gibbs, Jenna M. “Slavery, Liberty, and Revolution in John Leacock’s Pro-Patriot Tragicomedy, The Fall of British Tyranny; or American Liberty Triumphant (1776)” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 31.2 (2008): 241-258.

Richardson, Gary A. American Drama from the Colonial Period through World War I: A Critical History. New York: Twayne, 1993. 37-41.

Saxon, Theresa. American Theatre: History, Context, Form. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011. 101-102.

Shaffer, Jason. Performing Patriotism: National Identity in the Colonial and Revolutionary American Theater. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. 142-152.

Strand, Ginger. “The Many Deaths of Montgomery: Audiences and Pamphlet Plays of the Revolution.” American Literary History 9.1 (1997): 1-20.

Wilmer, S. E. Theatre, Society and the Nation: Staging American Identities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 47-51.