Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Stephen R. Bradley, 27 August 1802

To Stephen R. Bradley

Monticello Aug. 27. 1802.

Dear Sir

I am afraid some want of sufficient explanation has prevented my recieving recommendations of proper persons as Commissioners of bankruptcy for your state. I had thro’ a particular channel desired that the favor might be asked of yourself & judge Smith to recommend; & understood it would be done on your return home. a recent circumstance however makes me doubt whether you had so understood it. I have therefore now to ask the favor of you, as I also do of Judge Smith to name three or four persons, lawyers or merchants, of republican principles, convenient for the exercise of the office at the place where the federal court holds it’s session in your state, and whose understanding and integrity qualify them for the office. to avoid the infinite number of nominations which would be necessary to spread these officers over the whole face of every state, most of which would be useless, we instruct the attorney of the district to apply to the Secretary of state whenever any case arises too distant for the general commissioners, & to recommend others for the special case. Accept assurances of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViU); at foot of text: “The honble Genl. Bradley Vermont.” PrC (DLC).

Born in Connecticut, Stephen R. Bradley (1754–1830) received an undergraduate degree from Yale in 1775 and a master’s degree in 1778, after which he began reading law with Tapping Reeve at Litchfield. At the same time, he served intermittently in the state militia and was aide-de-camp to General David Wooster at the Battle of Danbury when the general was killed in 1777. Bradley moved to Westminster, Vermont, in 1779, where he practiced law. Judge Moses Robinson promptly appointed him clerk of the superior court. Bradley represented Westminster in the Vermont General Assembly, served on the 1789 commission that settled the boundary dispute between New York and Vermont, and promoted the 1791 state convention, which led to Vermont’s admission to the Union. Bradley and Moses Robinson became Vermont’s first U.S. senators in 1791. Elijah Paine, a Federalist, defeated Bradley for reelection in 1795, but when Paine resigned in 1801, Bradley, a Jeffersonian Republican, was again appointed. He served in the U.S. Senate from December 1801 to March 1813, after which he retired, first to Westminster and then across the Connecticut River to Walpole, New Hampshire. A founding trustee of Middlebury College, Bradley continued to be active in its affairs during his retirement (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; Dorr Bradley Carpenter, ed., Stephen R. Bradley: Letters of a Revolutionary War Patriot and Vermont Senator [Jefferson, N.C., 2009], 23–31, 140–2; Acts and Laws Passed by the Legislature of the State of Vermont [Windsor, Vt., 1801], 131–4; Vol. 28:203; Vol. 36:100–1).

RECENT CIRCUMSTANCE: on this date, TJ saw the letter that Israel Smith addressed to Madison on 16 Aug. from Rutland, Vermont. Having not yet heard that the president had appointed bankruptcy commissioners for his state, Smith recommended Samuel Prentiss, a young attorney, and a “man of good morals and good habits,” who was “very capable of discharging the duties of a Commissioner” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR, endorsed by TJ: “Israel Smith to James Madison} Commrs. bkrptcy Vermont”; TJ to Madison, 27 Aug.).

WE INSTRUCT THE ATTORNEY OF THE DISTRICT: for TJ’s discussion of this procedure, see TJ to Madison, 6 Sep.

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