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Here ended the correspondence, except that it might be said to be continued for about five minutes longer by the hearty laugh, that I bestowed on this correct and polite billet.
It is something truly singular, that Mr. Bradford should threaten me with a prosecution for not writing, just at the moment that others threatened me with a prosecution for writing. It seemed a little difficult to set both at open defiance, yet this was done, by continuing to write, and by employing another bookseller.
Indeed, these booksellers in general, are a cruel race. They imagine that the soul and body of every author that falls into their hands, is their exclusive property. They have adopted the birdcatcher's maxim : “ a bird that can sing, and wont sing, ought to be made sing.” Whenever their devils are out of employment, the drudging goblin of an author, must sharpen up his pen, and never think of repose, till he is relieved by the arrival of a more profiiable job. Then the wretch may remain as undisturbed as a sleep-mouse in winter, while the stupid dolt whom he has clad and fattened, receives the applause.
I now come to the assertion, that I am, or hare been, in the pay of the British government.
In the first place, the democrats swear, that I have been “frequently visited by a certain Agent," meaning I suppose, Mr. Bond: to this I answer, that it is an abominable lie. I never saw Mr. Bond but three times in my life, and then I had business with him, as the interpreter of Frenchmen, who wanted certificates from him, in order to secure their property in the conquered colonies. I never in my life spoke to, corresponded with, or even saw, to my knowledge, either of the British Ministers, or any one of their retinue. Mr. Bradford once told me, that Mr. Allen, the father-in-law of
Mr. Hammond, said he was acquainted with me. If this gentleman did really say so, he joked ; for he never saw me in his life, that I know of.
A little while after the New Year's Gift was published, an attack was made in the Argus of New York, on the supposed author of it; in consequence of which, this supposed author, or some one in his behalf, took occasion to observe in Mr. Claypoole's paper, that it was uncandid to attribute to a gentleman of irreproachable character, what was well known to be the work of a deinocrat. I had a great mind to say, at that time, what 1 shall now say; and that is, that let this gentleman be who he will, I think myself as good as he, and of as good a character too; and that, as to the dishonour attached to the publication, I am willing to take it all to myself.
It is hard to prove a negative ; it is what no man is expected to do ; yet, I think I can prove, that the accusation of my being in British pay, is not supported by one single fact, or the least shadow of probability.
When a foreign government hires a writer, it takes care that his labours shall be distributed, whether the readers are all willing to pay for them or not. This we daily see verified in the distribution of certain blasphemous gazettes, which, though kicked from the door with disdain, flies in at the window. Now, has this ever been the case with the works of Peter Porcupine? Were they ever thrusted upon people in spite of their remonstrances ? Can Mr. Bradford say, that thousands of these pamphlets have ever been paid for by any agent of Great Britain ? Can he say, that I have ever distributed any of them? No; he can say no such thing. They had, at first, to encounter every difficulty, and they have made their way, supported by public approbation, and by that alone. Mr. Bradford, if
he is candid enough to repeat what he told me, will say, that the British Consul, when he purchased half a dozen of them, insisted upon having them at the wholesale price! Did this look like a desire to encourage thein ? Besides, those who know any thing of Mr. Bradford, will never believe, that he would have lent his aid to a British Agent's publications ; for, of all the Americans I have yet conversed with, he seems to entertain the greatest degree of rancour against that nation.
I have every reason to believe, that the British Consul was far from approving of some, at least, of my publications. I happened to be in a bookseller's shop, unseen by him, when he had the goodness to say, that I was a "wild fellow.” On which I shall only observe, that when the King bestows on me about five hundred pounds sterling a year, perhaps, I may become a tame fellow, and hear my master, my countrymen, my friends, and my parents, belied and execrated, without saying one single word in their defence.
Had the Minister of Great Britain employed me to write, can it be supposed that he would not furnish me with the means of living well, without becoming the retailer of my own works? Can it be supposed, that he would have suffered me ever to appear on the scene? It must be a very poor king that he serves, if he could not afford me more than I can get by keeping a book-shop. An ambassador from a king of the gypsies, could not have acted a meaner part. What! where was all the “ gold of Pitt?” That gold which tempted, according to the democrats, an American Envoy to sell his country, and two-thirds of the Senate to ratify the bargain: that gold which, according to the Convention of France, has made one half of that nation cut the throats of the other half; that potent gold could not keep Peter Porcupine from
standing behind a counter, to sell a pen-knife, or a quire of paper !
Must it not be evident, too, that the keeping of a shop would take up a great part of my time? Time that was hardly worth a paying for at all, if it was not of higher value than the profits on a few pamphlets. Every one knows that the Censor has been delayed, on account of my entering on business; would the Minister of Great Britain have suffered this, had I been in his pay? No; I repeat, that it is downright stupidity to suppose, that he would ever have suffered me to appear at all, had he even felt in the least interested in the fate of my works, or the effect they might produce. He must be sensible, that, seeing the unconquerable prejudices existing in this country, my being known to be an Englishman, would operate weightily against whatever I might advance. I saw this very plainly myself ; but, as I had a living to get, and as I had determined on this line of business, such a consideration was not to awe me into idleness, or make me forego any other advantages that I had reason to hope I should enjoy.
The notion of my being in British pay, arose from my having now-and-then taken upon me, to attempt a defence of the character of that nation, and of the intentions of its government towards the United States. But, have I ever teazed my readers with this, except when the subject necessarily demanded it? And if I have given way to my indignation, when a hypocritical political divine attempted to degrade my country, or when its vile calumniators called it " an insular Bastile,” what have I done more than every good man in my place would have done? What have I done more than my duty; than obeyed the feelings of my heart? When a man hears his country reviled, does it
require that he should be paid for speaking in its defence ?
Besides, had my works been intended to introduce British influence, they would have assumed a more conciliating tone. The author would have flattered the people of this country, even in their excesses; he would have endeavoured to gain over the enemies of Britain by smooth and soothing language; he would have “ stooped to conquer;" he would not, as I have done, rendered them hatred for hatred, and scorn for scorn.
My writings, the first pamphlet excepted, have had no other object than that of keeping alive an attachment to the constitution of the United States, and the inestimable man who is at the head of the government, and to paint in their true colours those who are the enemies of both; to warn the people, of all ranks and descriptions, of the danger of admitting among them the anarchical and blasphemous principles of the French revolutionists, principles as opposite to those of liberty as hell is to heaven. If, therefore, I have written at the instance of
agent must most certainly deserve the thanks of all the real friends of America. But, say some of the half democrats, what right have you to meddle with the defence of our government at all ?--The sane right that you have to exact my obedience to it, and my contribution towards its support.
Several Englishmen, not so long in the country as I had been, served in the militia against the western rebels, and, had I been called on, I must have served too. Surely a man has a right to defend with his pen, that which he
may be compelled to defend with a musquet.
As to the real, bloody, cut-throats, they carry their notion of excluding me from the use of the press still further. “ While," says one of them,