George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Elizabeth Bradford, 10 December 1794

From Elizabeth Bradford

Washington [Pa.] Decr 10th 1794


Being persuaded, that your extended Rank will prevent you from attending to the distresses even of an individual, I would willingly flatter myself that my request may obtain a favourable reception, and answer, which may relieve a heart in almost a state of ruin—Sir I am the affectionate Wife of Mr Bradford, he is absent from me and from several tender little ones, the pledges of our cemented affections—Common fame says he is Obnoxious to the Government, that he has been unfortunately involved in a conduct which cool reflection disapproves of—it is probable, that he was precipitated into it by the Violence of some with the deliberate Machinations of others—His not acceding immediately to the Term offered by the Commissioners on the part of Government1 was not with a view of persisting, but knowing that the flame of the Multitude was such were he immediately to accede both his person and property would be in Danger and thereby render any influence that he might have with the people in reconciling them to a Submission inafectual & trusting rather at a proper period to explain to Government the motives actuating his Conduct, than to an inflamed Multitude thereby staining his Character with signs of guilt which Originated not with him neither cherished by him—No Sir his heart I am sure was pure; those who know him, and knows the unhappy circumstances Attending him will say of him as I say and I hope some have told you so—Sure I am Sir, that the inquisitive of the inteligent part of the Army Who has been in the Country must have learnt from all unprejudiced person that Mr Bradford Signed the Amnesty on the day appointed by the Commissioners,2 Nor did any one more earnestly exert their influence to render the obstinate to Submit than he—I am Confident Sir, if it will contribute to secure to me the blessing of a restored husband, and to the Country a public Spirited Citizen A real friend to the United States and to its Government—permit me Sir, to say confidently that the Testimony of Gentleman who through the whole of the late confusions were steady friends to the Laws and good Order (so fatally lost sight of) that Mr Bradford is such a man as I represent him. It might be inquired if he is so good a man and of so Amiable a Character why he has absented himself from a fair investigation? Dear Sir, Suffer me to answer this important question; as well as I can, I will do it honestly From the accounts received from the Army Several Characters were represented as peculiarly Obnoxious to them, that he amongst others would not nor probably could not be secure from destruction by their hands these fears strenghened by the extravegant Declarations of some of the Officers on their approach together with his having real business of importance to transact abroad the horid and unheard of cruelty which has been manifested in an attempt to destroy his life by a banditti of Desparadoes who regarldless of truth even charging the Commander in Chief with directing to murder him—It was by no means with a view of flying from Justice, for he expected that he had answered every demand of Government by his Submission—These circumstances Sir, will be at least an excuse if not a justification—Finally Sir, my wish & request is that the president would be pleased to furnish me with a passport or protection for him to go to Philadelphia in order to Submit himself to the Laws of his Country, if there is any thing more to be demanded of him, and if finally they should declare him a Violater of them; yet in the Clemency of Government he may still hope that the penitant will find mercy.3 Sir I am Your female friend and very Humble Servant

Elizabeth Bradford

ALS, DLC: Pennsylvania–Whiskey Rebellion Collection. Elizabeth Bradford (née Porter; died c.1830) joined her husband, David Bradford, in Louisiana around 1799 and lived there until her death.

1For the terms offered to the insurgents by the commissioners, see Commissioners Sent to Western Pennsylvania to GW, 24 Sept., n.11. As the commissioners reported in that letter to GW, the terms were rejected at a meeting of the insurgents at Brownsville on 28–29 August. There, according to Hugh Henry Brackenridge, David Bradford “contrary to his engagements with the commissioners … opposed the acceptance of the propositions, in direct and violent terms” (Brackenridge, Incidents description begins Hugh H. Brackenridge. Incidents of the Insurrection in the Western Parts of Pennsylvania, In the Year 1794. Philadelphia, 1795. description ends , 116; see also Findley, History of the Insurrection description begins William Findley. History of the Insurrection, in the Four Western Counties of Pennsylvania: In the Year M.DCC.XCIV. With a Recital of the Circumstances Specially Connected Therewith: and an Historical Review of the Previous Situation of the Country. Philadelphia, 1796. description ends , 121–25).

2Elizabeth Bradford was referring to the statement of submission that was required by the commissioners as a condition of amnesty. The statement was to be signed at meetings on 11 Sept. (see the Commissioners to GW, 24 Sept., and n.23, and Western Pennsylvania Delegates to GW, 2 Oct., and n.2).

3Although Elizabeth Bradford sent additional petitions to GW of 10 Sept. 1795, 10 Dec. 1795, and 22 Jan. 1796, David Bradford was not pardoned until 9 March 1799, by John Adams (DNA: RG 59, Copies of Presidential Pardons and Remissions, 1794–1893).

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