Item of the Day: [Peter] Porcupine’s Last Will and Testament (1797)

In: Porcupine’s Political Censor, for March 1797. Philadelphia: Published by William Cobbett, opposite Christ’s Church, Where all letter to the Publisher are desired to be addressed, post paid, [1797].


SINCE I took up the calling that I new follow, I have received about forty threatening letters; some talk of fisticuff, others of kicks, but far the greater part menace me with out-right murder. Several friends (whom by the bye I sincerely thank) have called to caution me against the lurking cut-throats; and it seems to be the persuasion of every one, that my brains are to be knocked out the first time I venture from home in the dark.

Under these terrific circumstances, it is impossible that Death should not stare me in the face: I have therefore got myself into as good a state of preparation as my sinful profession will, I am afraid, admit of; and as to my worldly affairs, I have settled them in the following Will, which I publish, in order that my dear friends, the Legatees, may, if they think themselves injured or neglected, have an opportunity of complaining before it be too late.

In the name of Fun, Amen. I Peter Porcupine, Pamphleteer and News-Monger, being (as yet) found both in body and in mind, do, this fifteenth day of April, in the Year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven, make, declare, and publish, this my Last Will and Testament, in manner, form, and substance following; to wit:

IN PRIMIS, I LEAVE to Doctor Michael Lieb, a member of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, to be by him dissected (if he knows how to do it) in presence of the Rump of the Democratic Society. In it they will find a heart that held them in abhorrence, that never palpitated at their threats, and that, to its last beat, bade them defiance. But my chief motive for making this bequest is, that my spirit may look down with contempt on their cannibal-like triumph over a breathless corps.

Item, As I make no doubt that the above said Doctor Lieb (and some other Doctors that I could mention) would like very well to skin me, I request that they, or one of them, may do it, and that the said Lieb’s father may tan my skin; after which I desire my Executors to have seven copies of my Works complete, bound in it, one copy to be presented to the five Sultans of France, one to each of their Divans, one to the governor of Pennsylvania, to citizens Maddison , Giles, and Gallatine one each, and the remaining one to the Democratic Society of Philadelphia, to be carefully preserved among their archieves [sic].

Item, To the Mayor, Aldermen and Councils of the City of Philadelphia, I bequeath all the sturdy young hucksters, who infest the market, and who to maintain their bastards, tax the honest inhabitants many thousand pounds annually. I request them to take them into their worshipful keeping; to chasten their bodies for the good of their souls; and moreover, to keep a sharp look-out after their gallants: and remind the latter of the old proverb: Touch pot, touch penny.

Item, To T —– J—–son, Philosopher, I leave a curious Norway Spider, with a hundred legs and nine pair of eyes; likewise the first black cut-throat general he can catch hold of, to be stead alive, in order to determine with more certainty the real cause of the dark colour of his skin: and should the said T—-s J—–son survive Banneker the Almanack-maker;I request he will get the brains of said Philomath carefully dissected, to satisfy the world in what respects they differ from those of a white man.

Item, To the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, I will and bequeath a correct copy of Thornton’s plan for abolishing the use of the English language; and for introducing in its stead a republican one, the representative characters of which bear a strong resemblance to pot-hooks and hangers; and for the discovery of which plan, the said society did, in the year 1793, grant to the said language maker 500 dollars premium. –It is my earnest desire, that the copy of this valuable performance, which I hereby present, may be shown to all the travelling literati, as a proof of the ingenuity of the author and of the wisdom of the society.

Item, to Doctor Benjamin Rush, I will and bequeath a copy of the Censor for January, 1797; but, upon the express condition, that he does not in any wise or guise, either at the time of my death, or six months after, pretend to speak, write or publish an eulogium on me, my calling or character, either literary, military, civil, or political.

Item, To my dear fellow labourer Noah Webster, “gentleman citizen” Esq. and News-man, I will and bequeath a prognosticating barometer of curious construction and great utility, by which, at a single glance, the said Noah will be able to discern the exact state that the public mind will be in the ensuing year, and will thereby be enabled to trim by degrees and not expose himself to detection, as he now does by his sudden lee-shore tacks. I likewise bequeath to the said “gentleman citizen,” six Spanish milled dollars, to be expended on a new plate of his portrait at the head of his spelling-book, that which graces it at present being so ugly that it scares the children from their lessons; but this legacy is to be paid him only upon condition that he leave out the title of “Squire” at the bottom of said picture, which is extremely odious in an American school-book, and must inevitably tend to corrupt the political principles of the republican babies that behold it. And I do most earnestly desire, exhort and conjure the said “Squire-news-man,” to change the title of his paper, The Minerva, for that of The Political Centaur. . . .

Peter Porcupine





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Filed under 1790's, Political Commentary, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Satire

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