James Madison Papers

From James Madison to William Bradford, 10 June 1773

To William Bradford

Copy (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

June 10th. —73. Orange County.

My dear friend,

I had the pleasure of Mr Wallace’s Company & your letter on Tuesday last.1 He left me to Day but not without requesting me to make mention of his kind remembrance of you when I should write to you. He professes a warm affection for you and you know the sincerity of his professions. I am much obliged to you for your information concerning my friends. I received a Line or two with yours from Mrss Ervin & McPherrin2 who confirm what you say of them. I hope the fortitude & Zeal with which they enter on the ministerial Duties will procure them esteem and success. As you have a communication with Mr Brackinridge tell him I write to him by every opportunity and by no means to ascribe his not hearing from me to any want of affection or endeavours in me; for I often lament our unlucky situation.3 Keith Debow &c I wish well but I adopt your opinion of them and had rather see them at the rustic employment you assign them than in the pulpit. Nevertheless it ought to be acknowledged that spiritual events are not limited or proportioned always to human means; yet granting this in its just extent it must be observed that the best human means should be ever employed otherwise it would look like a lazy presumptious dependance on Providence. Grier is a worthy fellow and I am pleased with his preferment; Tho’ his want of Majesty and Oeconomy may be unpromising, he has integrity & Industry two very useful requisites. Poor Brian has been long intoxicating his brain with Idleness & disapation. I hope this larger draught of folly he has now taken will sober him again. I seriously pity him.

The little bundle of pamphlets is not yet come to hand. Perhaps they may be yet lying at Fredg.4 I shall be better able to inform you in my next whether they have miscarried or not. You ask my sentiments on the application of your talents; friendship will not allow me to refuse my advice poor as it is; yet in so delicate & important a matter Prudence requires I should hear from you again before I give it; especially as the list of books you desire will fill up the remainder of my paper. I have selected for you the following out of a Catalogue Dr Witherspoon sent me at my request.5 The whole is too large to be transcribed here. You shall have it hereafter if you notify your want of it. [Here was the Catalogue.]6 So for the Doctor[;] what follows I have occasionally noted for my own use: some of them I have not read[.] you have given me a task for which I am wholly unqualified. If they do not answer you must blame yourself—(The Catalg)[.]7 Mr Wallace tell[s] me you are very sedate and philosophic which makes me love you better than ever I did: I am so myself.8


J—— M—— Jr.

1Caleb Wallace, who apparently reached Montpelier on 8 June, may have brought with him from Philadelphia Bradford’s letter of 27 May to JM. At Wallace’s request, the Synod of 1773, mentioned at the outset of that letter, had “dismissed” him from the presbytery of New Brunswick, N.J., “to join one of the southern Presbyteries.” The Synod of 1772 had commissioned him to go that autumn as “a supply” for six months to churches in Virginia and the Carolinas, but he had been “providentially prevented” from going (Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1706–1788, pp. 434, 438, 439).

2The “Line or two” from Nathaniel Irwin and Thomas McPherrin have not been found.

3Hugh Henry Brackenridge became a schoolteacher in Somerset County, Md., in the autumn of 1772. No early correspondence between him and JM has been found. Bradford entered “I write to him” twice in his copybook.

4Fredericksburg was on the post road between Philadelphia and Williamsburg, but the postmaster at Fredericksburg had no way to get Orange County mail to its destination unless the persons to whom it was addressed called for it, or unless a trustworthy traveler consented to carry it to them.

5This suggests the extent to which JM continued to seek “the Doctors” guidance in his studies after he left the College of New Jersey. JM’s letters to Witherspoon have apparently been lost or destroyed. “The Catalogue” may have been a copy of a booklist, preserved in the Princeton University Library, which is entitled, “A Catalogue of Books belonging to His Excellency Jonathan Belcher Esqr: Captain General & Commander in Chief in and over the Province of Nova Caesarea or New Jersey and Territories thereon depending in America[;] Chancellor and vice Admiral in the same.” These volumes, numbering about 250 titles, were given to the College of New Jersey by Belcher in 1755.

6Bradford, rather than JM, evidently inserted this bracketed sentence. By “the Catalogue” he probably meant the books JM listed from it. This list, prepared in response to the request of Bradford in his 27 May letter, has not been found.

7Whether this parenthesis was in JM’s original letter or was added by Bradford in his copy of it is not clear. The meaning seems to be that, if Bradford does not find the booklists satisfactory, he must blame himself for seeking inexpert advice. “The Catalg” probably means JM’s own list rather than Witherspoon’s. It, too, is lost.

8The italicized words in this paragraph are in shorthand in Bradford’s copy.

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