|Inscribed to the Memory of
Charles Brockden Brown
|The Origin and Object of this Book
One winter night I was called to the bedside of a dying friend. I found him sitting up in his death-couch, pale
and trembling yet unawed by the gathering shadows of the tomb. His white hairs fell over his clammy brow, his
dark grey eye, glared with the unnatural light, which, heralds the approach of death. Old K— had been a
singular man. He had been a profound lawyer, without fame or judgeship. In quiet he pursued his dreamy way,
deriving sufficient from his profession, to support him in decency and honor. In a city, where no man has a
friend, that has not money to back him the good old lawyer had been my friend. He was one of those old-
fashioned lawyers who delight to bury themselves among their books, who love the law for its theory, and not
for its trick and craft and despicable chicanery. Old K— had been my friend, and now I sat by his bedside in his
"Death is coming," he said with a calm smile, "but I dread him not. My accounts with God are settled; my face
is clammy with the death-sweat, but I have no fear. When I am gone, you will find in yonder desk, a large
pacquet, inscribed with your name. This pacquet, contains the records of my experience as a private councillor
and a lawyer, for the last thirty years. You are young and friendless, but you have a pen, which will prove your
best friend. I bequeath these Papers to you; they may be made serviceable to yourself and to the world—"
In a faint voice, I asked the good old lawyer, concerning the nature of these records.
"They contain a full and terrible development of the Secret Life of Philadelphia. In that pacquet, you will find,
records of crimes, that never came to trial, murders that have never been divulged; there you will discover the
results of secret examinations, held by official personages, in relation to atrocities almost too horrible for
"Then," said I, "Philadelphia is not so pure as it looks?"
"Alas, alas, that I should have to say it," said the old man with an expression of deep sorrow, "But whenever I
behold its regular streets and formal look, I think of The Whited Sepulchre, without all purity, within, all
rottenness and dead men's bones. Have you courage, to write a book from those papers?"
"Aye, courage, for the day has come, when a man dare not speak a plain truth, without all the pitiful things of
this world, rising up against him, with adder's tongues and treacherous hands. Write a book, with all your heart
bent on some good object, and for every word you write, you will find a low-bred calumniator, eager to befoul
you with his slanders. Have you courage, to write a book from the materials, which I leave you, which shall be
devoted to these objects: To defend the sanctity of female honor; to show how miserable and corrupt is that
Pseudo-Christianity which tramples on every principle ever preached or practised by the Saviour Jesus; to lay
bare vice in high places, and strip gilded crimes of their tinsel. Have you courage for this?"
I could only take the old man's hand, within my own, and murmur faintly, "I'll try!"
"Have you courage, to lift the cover from the Whited Sepulchre, and while the world is crying honor to its
outward purity, to show the festering corruption that rankles in its depths? Then those records are yours!"
I sat beside the deathbed of the old man all night long. His last hours were past in calm converse, full of hope
and trust in God. Near the break of day, he died. God bless him! He was my friend, when I had nothing but an
orphan's gratitude, to tender in return for his friendship. He was a lawyer, and honest; a Christian and yet no
bigot; a philosopher and yet no sceptic.
After his funeral, I received the pacquet of papers, inscribed with my name, and endorsed, REVELATIONS
OF THE SECRET LIFE OF PHILADELPHIA, being the records of thirty years practice as a councillor,
by * * * K—.
The present book is founded upon those portions of the Revelations, more intimately connected with the
With the same sincerity; with which I have written this Book of the Quaker City, I now give it to my
countrymen, as an illustration of the life, mystery and crime of Philadelphia.