Captain Andrew Jaggery, head of the Seahawk, is nothing if not a gentleman – on the outside. His dress is smart, his manner is impeccable, and he likes to take his tea in a timely fashion. For Charlotte, he symbolizes the regulated world of law and order that she knows from her father. From the outset, then, Charlotte (always a Daddy's girl) trusts the captain implicitly (3.13). Every fiber in her being tells her that she should be on his side. Charlotte writes: "It was to him I owed my allegiance – by custom – by habit – by law" (9.61).
The problem is, though, that the more Charlotte sees of Captain Jaggery's rules and order, the more she realizes that the guy is cruel, merciless, and abusive. He is, more or less, a tyrant who wields his authority with an iron fist in a velvet glove.
But challenging Captain Jaggery is no easy task. Why? Well, because he's an authority figure, and he stands for all kinds of different authority. Want to talk about them? OK, here we go:
The first thing Charlotte notices about Captain Jaggery's cabin is that he's a gentleman, and as such, has amazing taste in home furnishings:
The walls were richly paneled and hung with miniatures and pretty pastoral prints of dear England. On the back wall – the stern of the ship – there was a row of windows, below which stood a handsome stuffed sofa. A high bed was built into the port side. A desk with neatly stacked charts and nautical instruments in velvet boxes faced it on the starboard wall. (5.6)
This description goes on for way more lines, but from only this section we can tell that Charlotte is very impressed by the captain, his fine quarters, and the money it took to acquire all of it. Jaggery may be near the top of the class food chain, but does that necessarily mean he's a good person?
On Charlotte's first visit to Captain Jaggery's cabin, he shows her a picture of his daughter, Victoria. It's all very moving: "His eyes lingered on the picture in a most affecting way" (5.31). Captain Jaggery is a father, and the novel wants us to know this. Charlotte even compares him to her father, like constantly [e.g., "You remind me of my father," I said, blushing yet again. (5.48)]. In this sense, Jaggery is a patriarchal figure since he's the head of a family – and the head of the "family" of the Seahawk. On a side note: notice too that his daughter's picture is also where Captain Jaggery hides the key to the gun cabinet (11.11). Does this suggest that perhaps his image as a family man is just a façade that hides a more violent nature?
Captain Jaggery is also known for reading and carrying around a Bible. Charlotte describes one such instance as follows:
"To complete this elegant picture, Captain Jaggery sat upon one of a pair of armchairs in the fine full dress, an open book on his knee. It was, in fact, the Bible." (5.8)
The captain also instructs Charlotte to read moral tracks to the men and to "preach the gospel" to them (5.37). We should definitely take note of his handling of the Bible in the courtroom scene in Chapter 18. How does Captain Jaggery use the Bible to bully the crew into testifying against Charlotte or not speaking up for her at all?
Captain Jaggery, we might also point out, is almost always talking about profit margins. (How do you think he can afford all these nice things in his cabin? They come at a price.) Jaggery himself says the following: "A ship like the Seahawk […] is not designed for comfort, but for commerce, for making money" (5.22). The captain is concerned not with the welfare of his men, but rather with making money. Remember how he drives the Seahawk into the hurricane, just so they can make better time? Mr. Hollybrass tells him that there is "no profit to be found at the bottom of the sea" (15.8) and soon winds up dead. In this sense, Captain Jaggery is an extreme capitalist, and he's endangering his workers big time.
Chapter 18 is one of the most disconcerting in the novel, and it's set in a makeshift courtroom. Captain Jaggery plays the part of a prosecuting lawyer and a merciless judge, banging around his gun as a gavel. With his argument about Charlotte's "unnatural" behavior (18.135), the captain manages to bully Charlotte – and the crew – into silence. In this sense, Captain Jaggery is the head of a corrupt judicial system that can be used to convict the innocent, and moreover, a system that ensures that Charlotte is powerless and unable to speak for herself. The captain's intimidation tactics with the crew and his confusing logic with Charlotte ensure that she's found guilty despite the fact that she is utterly innocent.
History is filled with abusive tyrants, though there's one in particular that fits Jaggery's description most accurately. Luke Collingwood was the captain of an eighteenth-century slave ship, The Zong. In 1781, he threw the bodies of 132 sick slaves into the ocean in order to collect the insurance money from their deaths. He, like Jaggery, valued profit over human life and because of this committed terrible acts of cruelty. J.M.W. Turner's powerful painting "The Slave Ship" (1840) depicts the incident. For a glimpse of the horrible scene, see "Images." (For reference and further reading see: Anne K. Mellor and Richard E. Matlak, "Slavery, The Slave Trade, and Abolition in Britain," British Literature: 1780-1830, 53.)