Copy by William Bradford in the notebook among his papers in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Filling the first half of this eighty-five page notebook is “Father Bombo’s Pilgrimage to Mecca in Arabia, Volume II,” by Hugh H. Brackenridge and Philip Freneau. This is printed in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, LXVI (1942), 461–78. The doggerel in the remainder of the notebook bears the general title, “Satires against the Tories. Written in the last War between the Whigs & Cliosophian[s] in which the former obtained a compleat Victory.” Each of the last three of these nineteen satires is attributed by Bradford to JM. These three are not known to exist in their original form and no reference to them has been found in any letter by or to JM. Ashbel Green, College of New Jersey, ’83, and a member of the American Whig Society, stated that “a considerable number of the pieces written by the Whigs [for a pre-Revolution paper war] was preserved and held in great estimation by the Society, while I was a member of the College” (quoted in Jacob N. Beam, American Whig Society of Princeton University, p. 61). The records, probably the source of Bradford’s copy, apparently were burned in the Nassau Hall fire of 1802.
Interpolated between the title and the text of the first of JM’s poems is the statement: “The hand writing is of Mr. Bradford’s of whom Mr. Maddison, the name given at the end, was an early friend, J W W.” These are most probably the initials of John William Wallace, a kinsman of Bradford, who in 1881 gave Bradford’s papers to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Madison’s later recollections of his membership in the Whig Society were always happy ones. Writing to it, for example, on 20 January 1827, he expressed the wish that “the Whig Society in amicable competition with its Cliosophic Rival may continue to receive & reflect the lights which will best prepare its members for a useful life, which alone can promise a happy one” (Princeton University Library).
[June 1771–April 1772]1
The rising sun his beams had shed
And each affrighted star had fled
When tuneful Spring in rural lays
Began to mourn his doleful case
New-englands sons4 around him came
And many a wanton ruddy dame
Who view’d him nigh a purling stream
Rais’d on a stump to sing his dream.
That very dream in which they say
His soul broke loose from mortal clay
And sought the muses dome on high
Resolv’d with all his art to try
To steal a spark of wit from thence
A scourge for whiggish impudence.
But hear the very words he spoke
As from his quivering lips they broke
“Hail gentle shepherds of the grove
Your flocks about this mead may rove
While you attend my mournful tale
And echo sounds it thro’ the vale
Soon as the lamp of day was gone
And evening shades oerspread the lawn
Tir’d with the business of the day
Down on the tender grass I lay.
When sleep had clos’d my slumbering eyes
I spurn’d the earth & peirc’d the skies
Thro’ unknown tracts of air I flew
And pas’d by worlds of various hue
Beseeching every thing to tell
The place on which the Muses dwell.
At length, when coasting thro’ the spheres
Apollo’s song invades my ears
With all the sweet harmonious nine
Whose warbling notes in concert join.
Then by degrees their domes I spy’d
Which blaz’d around on every side
Straight to apollo’s hall I went
Half dead with fear, my breath quite spent
Hoping somehow to lurk beneath
And rob him of a laurel wreath
And then a poet laureat rise
The dread of whigs of every size
But while I walk’d about the hall
apollo with the muses all
Came rushing in upon the thief
I cry’d in vain for some relief
The god of day provok’d to find
A villain of so base a mind
Seiz’d on a cudgel rough & great
& mash’d my jaws & crazy pate
Euterpe then a dishclout brought
With grease & boiling water fraught
And well [beswitched?]5 my sides & back
Which lost its hide at every whack
Urania threw a chamber pot
Which from beneath her bed she brought
And struck my eyes & ears & nose
Repeating it with lusty blows.
In such a pickle then I stood
Trickling on every side with blood
When Clio, ever grateful muse
Sprinkled my head with healing dews
Then took me to her private room
And straight an Eunuch out I come
My voice to render more melodious
A recompence for sufferings odious
She brought me to the earth again
And quel’d the Tumults of my brain
Softly wispering in my ear
While she dropt the parting tear
[‘]Dear friend accept this last behest
Conceal thy folly in thy breast
Forbear to write & only sing
And future sons shall talk of Spring
But mark me well if e’er you try
In poetry with Whigs to vie
Your nature’s bounds you then will pass
And be transformed into an ass[’]
Then brother shepherds pity Spring
Who dares not write but only sing—[”]
—When thus he finished his complaint
He quit the stump & off he went
But soon forgot what Clio said
And wrote an ode & then essay’d
to sing an hymn & lo! he bray’d
And now he stands an ass confess[ed]
Of every scribbling fool, the Jest
Whereas a certain mongrel race
of tawney hide & grizly face
Have dar’d to prostitute my name
To raise the scribbling fools to fame
I hereby send this Proclamat[io]n
To every land & every nation
Declaring it my full intention
To free the world from this convention
And as a sanction to my word
I’ll drive the dogs with fire & sword
Hedlong down to Pluto’s coast
There in boiling flames to roast
And then their bodies I’ll resign
To gnawing worms & hungry swine
Or to manure the farmers field
For much of dung their trunks will yeild
Very like it in their nature
As sprung from every filthy creature
But first selecting from McOrkle6
And every other stinking mortal
Whateer may be of use to those
From whom the wicked wretches rose
The poet Laureat head who scoops
May make a drum for yankey troops7
B’ing quite as empty & as sounding
His skull full thick to bear the pounding
When tan’d will make a side of leather
Just fit to cloath McOrkle bum10
Which now becomes a battering ram
And plac’d before a city wall
Will ward of[f]11 many a whizzing ball
And by its monstrous stench may save
Ten thousand yankes from the grave.
Great Allen12 founder of the crew
If right I guess must keep a stew
The lecherous rascal there will find
A place just suited to his mind
May whore & pimp & drink & swear
Nor more the garb of christians wear
And free Nassau from such a pest
A dunce a fool an ass at best.
A poem against the Tories.
Of late our muse keen satire drew
And humourous thoughts in vollies flew
Because we took our foes for men
Who might deserve a decent pen
A gross mistake with brutes we fight
And [goblins?]13 from the realms of night
With lice collected from the beds
Where Spring & Craig14 lay down their heads
Sometimes a goat steps on the pump
Which animates old Warford’s15 trunk
Sometimes a poisonous toad appears
Which Eckley’s yellow carcuss bears
And then to grace us with a bull
Forsooth they show McOrkles skull
And that the Ass may not escape
He takes the poet Laureat’s shape
The screetch owl too comes in the train
Which leap’d from Alexander’s16 brain
Just as he scratch’d his grisly head
Which people say is made of lead.
Come noble whigs, disdain these sons
Of screech owls, monkeys, & baboons
Keep up you[r] minds to humourous themes
And verdant meads & flowing streams
Untill this tribe of dunces find
The baseness of their grovelling mind
And skulk within their dens together
Where each ones stench will kill his brother;
1. Among his fellow Whigs were JM’s close friends, William Bradford, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, and Philip Freneau. The Whigs and their rivals, the Cliosophians, lampooned each other in verse. At least occasionally, after advance notice had been given the entire student body, these outrageous rhymes were read in the Prayer Hall of the College (Jacob N. Beam, American Whig Society, pp. 59–65). Although the Whigs customarily reproached the Cliosophians by calling them “Tories,” their rivalry had no evident political connotation whatsoever. Judging from the Whigs’ frequent references to the humble origins of the Cliosophians, there may have been a social cleavage between the two societies. In this “last war,” the Clios’ “poetic shots,” to which the Whigs were evidently replying, have not been found. See Beam, American Whig Society, pp. 43–58, for a general account of the “war.”
To determine when JM wrote these verses hinges upon dating “the last war.” Another Whig participant, Philip Vickers Fithian, identified an anti-Cliosophian satire of his own as “A Piece written at the Time of a paper-Contention between the Whigg, & Tory Societies, at Nassau-hall. Read June 22. Anno 1771” (John R. Williams, ed., Philip Vickers Fithian, I, 13–15). If this was “the last war” for which JM wrote his doggerel, it too can be dated June 1771. Since the members of the faculty objected to the distraction from study occasioned by the “paper wars,” they hardly would have sanctioned an additional outbreak between June and September 1771, when five of the participants were graduated. On the other hand, because three (JM, Brackenridge, and Samuel Spring), and perhaps Freneau also, remained in Princeton until April 1772, the “war” to which JM contributed his doggerel may have occurred between September 1771 and April 1772. Nothing is known of the movements of John Black, the other class of 1771 participant, during the months following his graduation. Fithian’s reference to a “paper-Contention” rather than the “last war,” and his mention of opponents different from those ridiculed by JM and his comrades-in-arms, also suggest that different episodes were involved. Furthermore, according to a Cliosophian membership list (cited in Beam, American Whig Society, pp. 21–22, 45), one of the Clios lampooned in “the last war” did not join the society until 12 February 1772. If this date is correct, “the last war” took place in the final month or two before JM left Princeton in April 1772. But since the Clio in question, Robert Archibald, is probably the same person whom Fithian refers to as “Richd. Archibald” in his June 1771 satire, the date of Archibald’s initiation must be deemed uncertain. Hence it seems impossible to fix the time of “the last war” more definitely than between June 1771 and April 1772.
On the score of their style, the first ten Whig poems in Bradford’s copybook have been ascribed to Brackenridge by his and Freneau’s biographers. By appending “H. B.” to the tenth, Bradford possibly intended to signify that his friend also wrote the uninitialed nine preceding ones. Although Irving Brant (Madison, I, 87–88) surmises that a portion of the eighth of these, entitled “Spring’s Adventures,” may have been by JM, the present editors, lacking proof, are content to leave the “credit” for its particularly scurrilous lines to Brackenridge. Freneau’s literary editor severely criticized JM’s poems, stating that they are “by all means the worst of the lot… . No patriotic citizen will ever venture to resurrect them” (Fred Lewis Pattee, ed., The Poems of Philip Freneau [3 vols.; Princeton, 1902–7], I, xviii). The present editors wholly concur with Pattee’s literary judgment, even while they render his prophecy inaccurate by publishing these sophomoric outpourings. The verses serve to challenge the accuracy of the widely held opinion that JM was a sedate, humorless, and faultless student, never really young in spirit (L. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush [2 vols.; Princeton, 1951], II, 849–50).
2. Words in italics, unless otherwise noted, signify that Bradford used a shorthand designation of them in his copy. For comment on his shorthand, see Bradford to JM, 1 March 1773, n. 11.
3. Samuel Spring (1746–1819) of Massachusetts, more than any other Cliosophian, was the favorite target of Whig Society rhymesters. At the College of New Jersey commencement in September 1771 he delivered an oration entitled “The Idea of a Patriot-King.” Licensed to preach in 1774, he served as chaplain in the Arnold-Montgomery expedition to Canada in 1775–1776. From 1776 until his death, he was a pastor in Newburyport, Mass. (New Jersey Archives, 1st ser., XXVII, 583, 586).
4. The Whigs frequently put a Yankee tag on the Cliosophians, even though many of their members came from the South.
5. This word is an editorial surmise to fill in a blank space left by Bradford.
6. Samuel E. McCorkle (1746–1811), College of New Jersey, ’72, for long a prominent Presbyterian minister and academy head at Thyatira near Salisbury, N.C., was a charter trustee of the state university and declined appointment as its first professor of moral and political philosophy and history (William Henry Foote, Sketches of North Carolina, Historical and Biographical [New York, 1846], pp. 351, 358, 362, 472, 530–32, 543; Sprague, Annals, III, 346–49).
7. This may refer to the same incident mentioned by Brackenridge in his “A Dialogue,” the third of the Whig Society poems copied by Bradford in his notebook. Brackenridge wrote:
“Thou on thy sounding skin
Dost clash the din of war; as when of old
You followed boston’s Sons & beat the March
With Supple fingers on the sheepskin drum.”
8. Joseph Eckley (1750–1811), born in London, graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1772. From 1779 to 1811 he was Congregational pastor of Boston’s Old South Church (Justin Winsor, ed., The Memorial History of Boston [4 vols.; Boston, 1880–81], III, 406, 415).
9. This may refer to James Williamson who, with JM and others, received his A.B. at the 1771 commencement (information from Office of the Secretary, Princeton University). His name is given as Jacob Williamson in New Jersey Archives, 1st ser., XXVII, 584.
10. “Bum” in the eighteenth century meant “buttocks.”
11. Bradford wrote “of.”
12. Moses Allen (1748–1779), College of New Jersey, ’72, served briefly as pastor of Congregational churches at Wapetaw, S.C., and in St. John’s Parish, Ga. After acting for several months as chaplain of the First Georgia Continental Battalion, he died in 1779 while trying to escape from a British prison ship in the Savannah River. He visited JM for several days at Montpelier while on his way to Georgia in 1775 and was urged to spend the winter there (James Stacy, History of the Midway Congregational Church, Liberty County, Georgia [Newnan, Ga., 1899], p. 46; Kenneth Coleman, The American Revolution in Georgia, 1763–1789 [Athens, 1958], pp. 176, 187).
13. This word is interpolated by the editors to fill a blank space left by Bradford.
14. Archibald Craig, College of New Jersey, ’73, later practiced medicine in Albany, N.Y. (Alexander, Princeton College, p. 161).
15. John Warford (1745–1802), College of New Jersey, ’74, served as a Presbyterian minister in Amwell, Hunterdon County, N.J., 1776–1787, and in Salem, Washington County, N.Y., 1789–1802 (William H. Hill, comp., History of Washington County, N.Y. [Fort Edward, N.Y., 1932], p. 64).
16. Isaac Alexander, M.D. (d. 1812), College of New Jersey, ’72, was from 1776 to 1778 trustee and headmaster of the Presbyterian Liberty Hall Academy in Mecklenburg County, N.C. (William H. Foote, Sketches of North Carolina, pp. 514–15).
17. Commenting upon poetry in a note to John Quincy Adams on 22 November 1822, JM remarked that he had “never … been favored with the Inspiration of the Muses” (LC: Madison Papers).