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title:“Peter Prejudice: The New Breeches”
date written:1788-4-15

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:29 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Aug. 10, 2022, 9:20 p.m. UTC

"Peter Prejudice: The New Breeches." Philadelphia Federal Gazette 1788-04-15 : . Rpt. in The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 17. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1995. 126-30. Print.
Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress

Peter Prejudice: The New Breeches (April 15, 1788)

Mr. Editor, I some time since sent a pair of old breeches to a taylor, in order to have them patched; as the breaches, both in front and rear, were very numerous I was obliged to purchase a considerable quantity of cloth wherewith to mend them-Well sir, what do you think the taylor has had the assurance to do? Why, after detaining my breeches upwards of four months, he has presumed to return them unpatched, and has also sent a new pair along with them, and a message, "That upon examining the old pair he had found them so rotten that they were not worth mending, nor could it be easily done, that he had also found that the cloth sent for that purpose was sufficient to make an entire new pair, much better than the old ones had ever been, which he had done accordingly, and hoped for my approbation of his conduct." He added moreover "that if upon trial they should happen to pinch me in any part, he had left a sufficient space for outlets at every seam."
Oh height of insult! said I on receiving this arrogant message, what has this fellow done! A conspiracy! A conspiracy! As sure as I'm alive the traitor, his journeymen, and apprentices have meditated the ruin of my old breeches, and conspired against the liberty of my thighs, knees, and loins, which they have insidiously attempted to confine and cramp by palming this "gilded trap" the new breeches on me, "Curse on the villains!" they have conspired to lay restraints upon my free-born members, which are utterly incompatible with our republican form of government!1 Here indignation choked my utterance - My dearly beloved - spouse and my little children were all gather'd about me by this time, to know the cause of my anger. It was, however, a considerable while before the boiling madness of my rage was sufficiently calmed for me to give them the information they desired; but my heat being somewhat allayed, I at length deigned to answer their interrogatories.
Well my dear (said my sweet partner) I think you are under many obligations to our good neighbour the taylor, who has rendered you very important services on former occasions; and has certainly consulted your interest in this business; for my part, I highly approve of his conduct, and am well pleased that he has made you these pretty new small clothes, (for she does not like to say breeches) to hide your nakedness, and defend you from the inclemency of the weather. Sure you know how you have been laughed at, wherever you went, this longtime past on account of your old pair, which the neighbours all say, are no better than an Indian's breech-clout; I protest my own modesty has been often put to the blush by the holes in that plaguy old pair-My lovely tormentor was about to proceed in her condemnation of the old pair, and her praises of the new-Hold! hold! said I, let us reason the matter fairly. In the first place, he has disobeyed my orders, which were only that he should repair the old breeches. But has he not made a new pair much preferable to the old? By no means, I replied, these cursed new breeches would utterly ruin me; they are calculated to enslave my thighs, to confine my waist, and totally to destroy the liberty of my knees, by buttoning tightly around them, they will also render a considerable part of my hose totally useless by buckling below my knees; nor is this all, they will imprison my femoral parts nor suffer them to enjoy fresh air as the old ones do; to be brief they are too long and too short, too strait and too wide, they would Pinch me in all parts, and fit me in none.
Methinks you reason very strangely, my love (replied my solicitous advocate for the new breeches, who was now joined by all the children,)your argument, against being under the restraint and confine2ment of clothes, is only calculated for a circle of savages, and can never have any weight among civilized and social beings; your objection to the want of breaches in the new pair, for admission of fresh air, is an excellent argument in their favour, and shews that they are well calculated to skreen you from the inclemency of the seasons; your concluding objections are so inconsistent and contradictory, that they fall to the ground without any comment. Further, continued she, if they have faults you know the taylor says they can be easily amended; would not you do well therefore to put them on, in order to ascertain their faults truly, and I shall have no objection to the necessary alterations being made in them.
No, no, said I, "don't think to catch old birds with chaff" I'm determined never to draw them on, unless the amendments shall have been first made. Here again I was replied to-How in the name of goodness, said she, can you undertake to have amendments made, before you know that the parts you would wish to have amended are indeed faulty! By such preposterous doings you might spoil their best parts; but would have no tolerable chance of amending even one fault; therefore, I beg you may first try them on, that you may be enabled to discover their faults with precision. Do papa, do try on your new breeches, exclaimed the children with one voice.
Hush! hush! said I once more, I believe the woman and the children are all crazy! Do you think I am fool enough to be gulled thus! If I should put them on, how shall I be able to get them off again?3 I have no security that they will not cling to my skin, tear away my flesh, break my bones, and boil my marrow, like Hercules's poisoned shirt, which insidiously destroyed him. And all this must be born, without the liberty of even remonstrating against the tyranny of these accursed"consolidating" breeches. I say consolidating; for they are evidently calculated to supersede the use of every other garment; or at least to"melt them all down into one" general garment; and the taylor certainly intended this to be the case. Do they not already exhibit a specimen of their despotism, by being framed so as to "lord it over" a considerable part of my stockings and shirt? And is it not more than probable, that they would, very speedily, encroach upon the prerogative of all my clothes; nay, that they would even extend their sway to my head, and, by closing my mouth, prevent me from expostulating against my "cruel taskmasters?" With these over my face, for a mask,I should appear no less ridiculous, than a modern fine lady with her head in a calash, or in a fashionable bonnet.
Here the whole family burst into laughter, and the dispute ended for that time. I have reason to expect another attack on the same score shortly; for my wife is exceedingly fond of the new breeches, and is supported by all my neighbours in her controversies with me on this subject. As I am nearly exhausted, I will be much obliged to any of your correspondents who will be so condescending as to favour me with a fresh supply of arguments, sufficient to repel those of my spouse in our next rencountre.

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