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AN INFAMOUS LETTER,
MR. JOHN OLDDEN,
THREATENING DESTRUCTION TO HIS HOUSE, AND VIOLENCE TO
THE PERSON OF HIS TENANT, WILLIAM COBBETT,
REMARKS ON THE SAME
In the Spring of the year 1796, I took a house in Second Street, Philadelphia, for the purpose of carrying on the bookselling business, which I looked upon as being at once a means of getting money, and of propagating writings against the French. I went into my house in May, but the shop could not be gotten ready for some time; and, from one delay and another, I was prevented from opening till the second week in July.
Till I took this house, I had remained almost entirely unknown, as a writer. A few persons did, indeed, know that I was the person, who had assumed the name of Peter PORCUPINE; but the fact was by no means a matter of notoriety. The moment, however, that I had taken a lease of a large house, the transaction became a topic of public conversation, and the eyes of the Democrats and the French, who still lorded it over the city, and who owed me a mutual grudge, were fixed upon me.
I thought my situation somewhat perilous. Such truths as I had published, no man had dared to utter, in the United States, since the rebellion. I knew that these truths had mortally offended the leading men amongst the Democrats, who could, at any time, muster a mob quite sufficient to destroy my house, and to murder me. I had not a friend, to whom I could look with any reasonable hope of receiving efficient support; and, as to the law, I had seen too much of republican justice, to expect any thing but persecution from that quarter. In short, there were, in Philadelphia, about ten
thousand persons, all of whom would have rejoiced to see 'me murdered ; and there might; probably, be two thousand, who would have been very sorry for it; but not above fifiy of whom would have stirred an inch to save me.
As the time approached for opening my shop, my friends grew more anxious for my safety. It was recommended to me, to be cautious how I exposed, at my window, any thing that might provoke the people ; and, above all, not to put up any aristocratical portraits, which would certainly cause my windows to be demolished.
I saw the danger ; but also saw, that I must, at once, set all danger at defiance, or live in everlasting subjection to the prejudices and caprice of the democratical mob. I resolved on the former ; and, as my shop was to open on a Monday morning, I employed myself all day on Sunday, in preparing an exhibition, that I thought would put the courage and the power of my enemies to the test. I put up in my windows, which were very large, all the portraits that I had in my possession of kings, queens, princes, and nobles. I had all the English Ministry; several of the Bishops and Judges; the most fąmous Admirals; and, in short, every picture that I thought likely to excite rage in the enemies of Great Britain.
Early on the Monday morning, I took down my shutters. Such a sight had not been seen in Philadelphia for twenty years. Never since the beginning of the rebellion, had any one dared to hoist at his window the portrait of George the Third.
In order to make the test as perfect as possible, I had put up some of the “worthies of the Revolution,” and had found out fit companions for then. I had coupled Franklin and Marat together ; and, in another place, M Kean and Ankerstrom.—The folļowing tract records some amongst the consequences.
On the nineteenth instant, Mr. Elmslie, partner of Mr. John Oldden, called on me with the infamous letter, which, without further preface, I shall lay before the reader.
" To Mr. John Olden Merchant,
** Chesnut Street,
" À certain William Cobbett alias « Peter Porcupine, I am informed is your
tenant. “ This daring scoundrell, not satisfied with having 65 repeatedly traduced the people of this country, “ vilified the most eminent and patriotic characters
among us and grosly abused our allies the French,
in his detestable productions, has now the asto“nishing effrontery to expose those very publica« tions at his window for sale, as well as certain
prints indicative of the prowess of our enemies “ the British and the disgrace of the French. Cal" culating largely upon the moderation or rather “ pucellanimity of our citizens; this puppy supposes * he may even insults us with impunity. But he o will e'er long find himself dreadfully mistaken. “ 'Tho his miserable publications have not been “ hitherto considered worthy of notice, the late