[Rutland, Vt. n. p.], 1816. Second edition. 8vo, unbound original self-wrappers (stitching perished but the title page—which appears to have been the only leaf loosened—neatly re-attached along the gutter), 12 pages, untrimmed. A bit browned and worn; a very good copy. Item #16726
An uncommon account of a curious attempt at extortion: beginning on August 5, 1796, Abraham Morhouse began to receive letters from a self-styled prophet of God, who wrote that he had been commanded by the Lord to order Morhouse to take “the exact sum of two thousand pounds, current lawful money, truly told, and bear it hence to the bridge across the stream, near the old potash works adjacent to town; cross the bridge, and turn to the right hand, and place the same down at the bottom of the bridge, in plain open view.” As the days drew on and Morhouse quite sensibly refused to make payment, the letters became increasingly threatening (“I tell thee that if thou now refusest to comply with what my Lord and master hath sent me unto thee to demand, in this extraordinary way and manner, that thou shalt so sure as thy soul liveth, before many days, be convinced of his power; for the one half of thy body, and the one half of thy limbs, and thy joints shall become as dead flesh whilst thou art alive: Wounds shall be grievous and past cure in thy secret parts; works shall gnaw thy flesh”) until the erstwhile prophet was taken up and clapped into jail—at which point his correspondence to Morhouse takes on a rather more servile and flattering cast, until after four days of incarceration Morhouse has asked the local magistrates for clemency and sent along a little money to help the scoundrel out, as “the consequences to his family may be serious, by deranging his pecuniary affairs, which I fear are already in a state of embarrassment.” Morhouse himself appears to have been something of a scoundrel; DeWitt Clinton wrote that he was “a complete villain, who was pardoned when under sentence of death,” and indeed he moved to Louisiana and became (among other things) a bigamist; he apparently died in 1812 and the reasons for the republication of this account remain something of a mystery. There do not appear to be any extant 18th century editions (despite references in Sabin, etc.) and the 1802 Bennington edition is noted at UVM only on OCLC. Sabin 105630; Shaw & Shoemaker 39883; Gilman, page 343.