|Author's Preface to the 1849 Edition
My Publishers ask me to write a Preface for this new Edition of the Quaker City. What shall I say? Shall I at
this time enter into a full explanation of the motives which induced me to write this Work? Shall I tell how it has
been praised—how abused—how it has on the one hand been cited as a Work of great merit, and on the
other, how it has been denounced as the most immoral work of the age?
The reader will spare me the task. The Quaker City has passed through many Editions in America, as well as in
London. It has also been translated and numerous editions of it have been published in Germany, and a beautiful
edition in four volumes, is now before me, bearing the imprint of Otto Wigand, Leipsic, as Publisher, and the
name of Frederick Gerstaker, as the Author.
Taking all these facts into consideration, it seems but just that I should say a word for myself on this occasion.
The motive which impelled me to write this Work may be stated in a few words.
I was the only Protector of an Orphan Sister. I was fearful that I might be taken away by death, leaving her
alone in the world. I knew too well that law of society which makes a virtue of the dishonor of a poor girl, while
it justly holds the seduction of a rich man s child as an infamous crime. These thoughts impressed me deeply. I
determined to write a book, founded upon the following idea:
That the seduction of a poor and innocent girl, is a deed altogether as criminal as deliberate murder. It is
worse than the murder of the body, for it is the assassination of the soul. If the murderer deserves death
by the gallows, then the assassin of chastity and maidenhood is worthy of death by the hands of any
man, and in any place.
This was the first idea of the Work. It embodies a sophism, but it is a sophism that errs on the right side. But as I
progressed in my task, other ideas were added to the original thought. Secluded in my room, having no
familiarity with the vices of a large city, save from my studentship in the office of an Attorney-General—the
Confessional of our Protestant communities—I determined to write a book which should describe all the phases
of a corrupt social system, as manifested in the city of Philadelphia. The results of my labors was this book,
which has been more attacked, and more read, than any work of American fiction ever published.
And now, I can say with truth, that whatever faults may be discovered in this Work, that my motive in its
composition was honest, was pure, was as Destitute of any idea of sensualism, as certain of the persons who
have attacked it without reading a single page, are of candor, of a moral life, or a heart capable of generous
To the young man and young woman who may read this book when I am dead, I have a word to say :
Would to God that the evils recorded in these pages, were not based upon facts. Would to God that the
experience of my life had not impressed me so vividly with the colossal vices and the terrible deformities,
presented in the social system of this Large City, in the Nineteenth Century. You will read this work when the
hand which pens this line is dust. If you discover one word in its pages, that has a tendency to develop one
impure thought, I beseech you reject that word. If you discover a chapter, a page, or a line, that conflicts with
the great idea of Human Brotherhood, promulgated by the Redeemer, I ask you with all my soul, reject that
chapter, that passage, that line. At the same time remember the idea which impelled me to produce the book.
Remember that my life from the age of sixteen up to twenty-five was one perpetual battle with hardship and
difficulty, such as do not often fall to the lot of a young man such as rarely is recorded in the experience of
childhood or manhood. Take the book with all its faults and all its virtues. Judge it as you yourself would wish
to be judged. Do not wrest a line from these pages, for the Encouragement of a bad thought or a bad deed.