It was quite an insignificant looking sheet, but no sooner did the American eagle catch sight of it, than he swooned and fell off his perch. Democratic roosters straightened out their necks and ran screaming with terror. Whig coons scampered up trees and barked furiously. The world was falling and every one had “heard it, saw it, and felt it.”
It appeared that on some inauspicious morning each one of three-fourths of the secular editors from Maine to Georgia had gone to his office suspecting nothing, when from some corner of his exchange list there sprang upon him such a horror as he had little thought to see.
A woman had started a political paper! A woman! Could he believe his eyes? A woman! Instantly he sprang to his feet and clutched his pantaloons, shouted to the assistant editor, when he, too, read and grasped frantically at his cassimeres, called to the reporters and pressmen and typos and devils, who all rushed in, heard the news, seized their nether garments and joined the general chorus, “My breeches! oh, my breeches!” Here was a woman resolved to steal their pantaloons, their trousers, and when these were gone they might cry “Ye have taken away my gods, and what have I more?” The imminence of the peril called for prompt action, and with one accord they shouted, “On to the breach, in defense of our breeches! Repel the invader or fill the trenches with our noble dead.”
“That woman shall not have my pantaloons,” cried the editor of the big city daily; “nor my pantaloons” said the editor of the dignified weekly; “nor my pantaloons,” said he who issued manifestos but once a month; “nor mine,” “nor mine,” “nor mine,” chimed in the small fry of the country towns.
Even the religious press could not get past the tailor shop, and “pantaloons” was the watchword all along the line. George D. Prentiss took up the cry, and gave the world a two-third column leader on it, stating explicitly, “She is a man all but the pantaloons.” I wrote to him asking a copy of the article, but received no answer, when I replied in rhyme to suit his case:
Perhaps you have been
Horsewhipping Sal or Lizzie,
Stealing some poor man’s baby,
Selling its mother, may-be.
You say—and you are witty—
That I—and, tis a pity—
Of manhood lack but dress;
But you lack manliness,
A body clean and new,
A soul within it, too.
Nature must change her plan
Ere you can be a man.
This turned the tide of battle. One editor said, “Brother George, beware of sister Jane.” Another, “Prentiss has found his match.” He made no reply, and it was not long until I thought the pantaloon argument was dropped forever.
There was, however, a bright side to the reception of the Visiter. Horace Greeley gave it respectful recognition, so did N.P. Willis and Gen. Morris in the Home Journal. Henry Peterson’s Saturday Evening Post, Godey’s Lady’s Book, Graham’s and Sargeant’s magazines, and the anti-slavery papers, one and all, gave it pleasant greeting, while there were other editors who did not, in view of this innovation, forget that they were American gentlemen.