Butterworth Stavely

Butterworth Stavely is a fictional character in Mark Twain's 1879 story "The Great Revolution in Pitcairn". He is an American adventurer and filibuster who instigates a coup d'état and has himself crowned Butterworth I, Emperor of Pitcairn's Island.

Butterworth Stavely
Created byMark Twain

Twain based his story on one sentence in a naval report by Admiral Algernon Frederick Rous de Horsey: "One stranger, an American, has settled on the island – a doubtful acquisition", which probably referred to Peter Butler, a survivor of the 1875 Khandeish shipwreck.[1] The story was probably also inspired by the life of Joshua Hill, a real-life American dictator of Pitcairn in the 1830s.[2]

Stavely rises to political power by exploiting the internal divisions and suspicions surrounding a lawsuit between Thursday October Christian II and Elizabeth Mills Young waged over a trespassing chicken. His machinations lead to the impeachment of the chief magistrate James Russell Nickoy, Stavely's election as magistrate, a revolt against the "galling English yoke", and his coronation as emperor.

Stavely's cynical manipulation of the easily corruptible islanders has been interpreted as an indictment of Western imperialism and the cultural tyranny of American missionaries.[3]

See also


  1. Brown, Robert (c. 1879). The countries of the world. Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. p. 79. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  2. Gidmark, Jill B. (2001). Encyclopedia of American literature of the sea and Great Lakes. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 359. ISBN 0-313-30148-4. Retrieved January 19, 2010.
  3. LeMaster, J. R.; James D. Wilson (1993). The Mark Twain Encyclopedia. New York and London: Garland Publishing. pp. 340–341. ISBN 0-8240-7212-X. Retrieved January 2, 2010.

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