Affiliate Link

Obadiah Plainman Defends the Meaner Sort

To the Author of the Letter in the last Pennsylvania Gazette.


On my first hearing of the Outcry that was raised against the Paragraph, that related to the shutting up of the Concert Room, &c. I immediately called for the Gazette; but, tho’ I read the Article over and over with the greatest Attention, I was not able to discover in it the least injurious Reflection on the Characters of the Gentlemen concerned. My ill Success, I then attributed to my Stupidity, and concluded that the Abuse, tho’ I could not see it, must nevertheless be very perspicuous to the BETTER SORT, otherwise, they would not have made so loud a Complaint against it, as it is publickly known they did, since it was in the publick Street.

I comforted myself with the Hopes, that, on the Appearance of your Letter, the Mist would have been dispelled from my Eyes. But, I can’t help declaring, that, notwithstanding all the Assistance you have furnished me with, the Injury complained of, still remains to me as great a Secret as ever.

You tell us the Paragraph manifestly carries in it an Insinuation, that the Persons concerned in the Concert declin’d meeting, as thinking it inconsistent with the Doctrine of the Christian Religion. But, with Submission, I think the Paragraph manifestly insinuates the quite contrary. It mentions, that the Gentlemen concerned in the Concert, &c. caused the Door to be broke open, which was the strongest Evidence that could be given of their Dislike to the Principles on which it had been shut up. Therefore, tho’ it immediately follows, that no Company came the last Assembly Night, it was most unnatural to suppose they should so suddenly have changed their Sentiments, and declined their Diversions on any religious Consideration.

Let us admit for Argument’s Sake (which, otherwise, can by no Means be admitted) that the Words are guilty of the Insinuation, which you are so fond it should be thought they are. Yet, how does it appear that the Characters of the Gentlemen are injured by it? You tell us, They think so. But, is that a Reason to induce Us to believe it is really so? Since you have appealed to the Mob as Judges of this IMPORTANT Controversy, I must inform you, that the Assertion (and much less, the Belief) of any Man, never passes for Argument at Our impartial Tribunal. For my own Part (I speak with an humble Deference to the rest of my Brethren) I cannot conceive how any Person’s Reputation can be prejudiced, tho’ it should be reported, that he has left off making of Legs, or cutting of Capers.

Perhaps you will object, that it is not the Fact, but the Motive, which is controverted; That you admit the Company did not meet; but deny, they declined meeting, for the Reason, which, as you pretend, is insinuated in the Gazette. If this be the true State of the Question, we unanimously pronounce the Accusation to be groundless. In Matters of such a Nature, no Man can judge of your Thoughts but yourself: Therefore, your Denial of the Charge was a sufficient, and indeed the onlyproper Defence you could make.

But you were not contented to stop here, but must needs tell us incoherent Stories of Mr. Whitefield and Mr. Seward, and, under Pretence of a Vindication, foist into the News-Paper Invectives against those two Gentlemen. You might with equal Propriety have entertained Us with the History of Romulus and Remus, and entituled it “an Argument to prove, that you did not think Dancing, or idle Capering an unchristian Diversion.”

I hope, Sir, from what I have said, you are now convinced, that you have brought before Us a most ridiculous Complaint against an imaginary Abuse, and consequently you have been all this Time doing nothing more than beating the Air, and fighting without an Adversary.

In the next Place, I am to reprimand you, Sir, for your disrespectful Behaviour to Us, whom you had chosen for your Judges. We take Notice, that you have ranked yourself under the Denomination of the BETTER SORT of People, which is an Expression always made use of in Contradistinction to the meaner Sorti.e. the Mob, or the Rabble. Tho’ We are not displeased with such Appellations when bestowed on Us by our Friends, yet We have ever regarded them as Terms of outrageous Reproach, when applied to Us by our Enemies; for in this (and so it is in many other Cases) the Words are to receive their Construction from the known Mind of the Speaker: YourDemosthenes’ and Ciceroes, your Sidneys and Trenchards never approached Us but with Reverence: The High and Mighty MobThe Majesty of the RabbleThe Honour and Dignity of the PopulaceOr such like Terms of Respect, were frequent in their Orations; and what a high Opinion they entertained of the Accuracy of Our Judgment, appears from those elaborate Compositions they addressed to Us.

They never took upon them to make a Difference of Persons, but as they were distinguished by their Virtues or their Vices. But now our present Scriblers expect our Applause for reviling us to our Faces. They consider us as a stupid Herd, in whom the Light of Reason is extinguished. Hence every impertinent Babler thinks himself qualified to harangue us, without Style, Argument or Justness of Sentiment. Your gross Deficiency in the two latter Particulars I have already given Instances of; and as to your Skill in Language you have furnished Us with the following notable Example: You affirm That Mr. Whitefield’s Tenets are mischievous: Therefore, on that Supposition, it is impossible they should be contemptible; yet, with the same Breath you assure Us, that you have them in the utmost Contempt. This is the merriest Gibberish I ever met with. Surely, you have not published it as a Sample of the Stile of those polite Folks, who by their own Authority, “contrary to Law and Justice, without any previous Application to or Consent first had” of their Fellow-Citizens, have usurped the Title of the BETTER SORT.

Under these gentle Reprehensions We now dismiss you, hoping you will make a proper Use of them, when you shall judge it convenient to appeal to Us again.

I am, On Behalf of myself and the Rest of my
Brethren of the
 Meaner Sort,
Yours, &c.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, May 15, 1740