James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Bradford, 4 January 1775

From William Bradford

FC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

Philadelphia Jany. 4. 1775.

My dear Friend

Agreeable to your request I waited on Mr Dunlap & stopd your paper[?] ours now follows[?] [Got Ferguson at Bell’s and will send it as soon as possible etc]1

With regard to the Complaints of New-England Baptist I can learn nothing. I believe there was none. I suppose you have by this time read the Journal2 of the Congress by which you will see the Secresy was one of their first resolves; they have observed it so faithfully that we know but little of the Delegates Characters as Scholars & Orators, but those of Virginia are highly celebrated for their zeal. Your province seems to take the lead at present; that silent spirit of Courage which is said to reign there has gained you more credit than you can imagine. One fleeson an Upholster[er] has made two Colours for the Fairfax Company; the Motto’s “Pro aris & focis” & “Aut Liber aut nullus.[”] He has orders also to procure a number of Drums & 200 Muskets as speedily as possible.3 This is doing something to purpose; but Pennsylvania seems as if it had expended all its vigor in the time of the Stampt-act; or surely it would catch some of that martial spirit that is kindled all around it. But the great Number of Quakers among us will always prevent our doing much that way: “Their dear delight is peace,” for which I beli[e]ve (with you) they have more reasons than one.4 As to New-York I think it has the least public Virtue of any City on the Continent. I have heard several express their apprehensions of its Constancy. Rivington is encouraging the Cause of Administration there with all his might: he is daily publishing pamphlets against the proceedings of the Congress & the Cause they are engaged in. Some of them are grossly scurrilous, particularly “A Dialogue between a Southern delegate & his Spouse on his return from the Congress.” One of them entitled “a Friendly address to all reasonable americans” (said to be written by Dr Cooper or Dr Chandler) is very artfully done, & I am afraid has had some bad effects on the lower Class of people. Genl. Lee & several others have answered it. If you have not seen it you shall have [it] as soon as possible.5

I am sorry to hear of Mr Wallace’s declining health. If you write to him advise him to a Journey this way & ask him for me why I never hear from him. Mr Breckenridge when he was here spoke to Aikin about publishing a Satire he had written against some drunken, swearing ministerial parsons who infested his neighbourhood & one Ennis master of [the] School. It was written in Hudibrastic verse in which you know he excells: he repeated part of it & [I] think it had more of the Spirit of Butler than the one I sent you had of Milton. I know not why he delays sending it unless the Skirmish with yon Schoolmaster you speak of engages his attention too much to think of any [thing] else.6

Your fear with regard to an insurrection being excited among the slaves seems too well founded. A letter from a Gentleman in England was read yesterday in the Coffee-house, which mentioned the design of administration to pass an act (in case of a rupture) declaring [“]all Slaves & Servants free that would take arms against the Americans.” By this you see such a scheme is thought on & talked of; but I cannot beleive the Spirit of the English would ever allow them publickly to adopt so slavish a way of Conquering.


W B——d.

PS. Your quondam Chum Livingston, boy as he is, has become a husband.—A run a way match with one Miss Lot.7

1The italicized words represent a somewhat doubtful decoding of Bradford’s shorthand symbols. The final pair of brackets are Bradford’s. He apparently had canceled JM’s subscription to Dunlap’s newspaper, replaced it with a subscription to the Bradfords’ The Pennsylvania Journal; and the Weekly Advertiser, and would forward to Montpelier, at the first opportunity, Adam Ferguson’s (1723–1816) An Essay on the History of Civil Society (Edinburgh, 1767), which Robert Bell (ca. 1732–1784), Philadelphia printer and bookseller, republished in 1773.

2Bradford underlined this word and the two other words italicized later in this letter.

3In October 1774 the Fairfax County (Virginia) Committee of Safety asked its chairman, George Washington, who was then in Philadelphia attending the First Continental Congress, to procure the colors and other equipment needed by the Committee’s “independent militia company.” “For our altars and firesides” and “either freedom or nothing” signified its revolutionary spirit and its purpose. Washington placed the order with Plunket Fleeson, whose upholstery, drapery, and wallpaper shop was patronized by the socially elite of Philadelphia (Kate Mason Rowland, The Life of George Mason, 1725–1792 [2 vols.; New York, 1892], I, 181–82; Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington, a Biography [7 vols.; New York, 1948–57; Vol. VII by J. A. Carroll and M. W. Ashworth], III, 393; and William Henry Egle, ed., Proprietary, Supply, and State Tax Lists of the City and County of Philadelphia, for the Years 1769, 1774 and 1779 [Harrisburg, 1897], p. 251).

4On the day following Bradford’s letter, a Quaker “Meeting for Sufferings … for Pennsylvania and New-Jersey,” held in Philadelphia, addressed “An Epistle … To our Friends and Brethren in these and the adjacent Provinces,” embodying counsel of identical tenor with that of the quotation (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., I, 1093–94). The pacifism of Quakers was often attributed by their opponents to an unwillingness to have political unrest lessen their business profits.

5Bradford’s comment about James Rivington (1724–1802) is somewhat unfair because he had not altogether barred Whiggish articles from his widely read New-York Gazetteer. To ardent patriots, however, Rivington was “that Judas,” “a most wretched, jacobitish, hireling incendiary.” In 1774, he published the anonymous A Dialogue, Between a Southern Delegate, and his Spouse, on His Return from the Grand Continental Congress, a Fragment, ascribed to the Married Ladies of America, By Their Most Sincere, and Affectionate Friend, and Servant Mary V. V., and the anonymous (but probably by Myles Cooper [1737–1785], Anglican clergyman and president of King’s College) A Friendly Address to all Reasonable Americans, on the Subject of Our Political Confusions: in which the Necessary Consequences of Violently Opposing the King’s Troops, and of a General Non-Importation are Fairly Stated. Most likely it was Thomas Bradbury Chandler (1726–1790), Anglican rector of St. John’s Church, Elizabethtown, N.J., who replied in the anonymous The Strictures on the Friendly Address Examined, and a Refutation of Its Principles Attempted (New York, 1775) to General Charles Lee’s Strictures on a Pamphlet, Entitled, a “Friendly Address to All Reasonable Americans …” (Philadelphia, 1774). See Arthur M. Schlesinger, Prelude to Independence: The Newspaper War on Britain, 1764–1776 (New York, 1958), pp. 222–27. Lee (1731–1782), a professional soldier whose later conduct in the American army would arouse much controversy, may have been the more outspokenly Whiggish in 1774–1775 in the hope of gaining a high, if not the highest, command in the patriot forces in the event of war.

6The poem which Brackenridge discussed with Robert Aitken (1734–1802), a Philadelphia printer, was apparently never published, unless possibly in pamphlet or newspaper form. Brackenridge’s “Hudibrastic verse” recalls his undergraduate days at the College of New Jersey (Collegiate Doggerel, June 1771–April 1772), while his Miltonic imitation was A Poem on Divine Revelation (Bradford to JM, 17 October 1774, n. 5). “Ennis” probably should have been “Innis,” a teacher at Eden School in Princess Anne, Md., and a zealous Loyalist. Eden School was established in 1770 and destroyed by fire in 1804. Although Brackenridge’s poem seems not to be extant, an apparent answer to it in verse was “The Devil’s Triumvirate,” about three hundred lines in length, and written by “Aristophanes” (MS owned by Mrs. E. H. Cohn, Princess Anne, Md.). It attacks Brackenridge, Samuel Wilson, and Luther Martin for leaguing with Satan in their strictures upon Innis and Loyalist ministers. After chiding Brackenridge for his “fertile Genius at a Knack of turning fair white into Black,” the anonymous poet ordered him

In Dust and Ashes now repent

The horrid Lies thou dos’t invent

’Gainst Men of Probity and Candour

Tho’ nought can come from thee but Slander

Thou’rt so far gone in Defamation

That I dispair of Reformation.

7William Smith Livingston married Catherine Lott, daughter of Abraham Lott of Beaverwyck, near Morristown, N.J. (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, LXX [1946], 294 n., 297 n.).

Index Entries