James Madison Papers

From James Madison to William Bradford, 28 April 1773

To William Bradford

RC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Addressed: “Mr. William Bradford Jun[r] at the Coffee House Philadelphia.” Bradford’s copybook version, differing from the recipient’s copy by containing a little of Bradford’s shorthand, is also in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and helps to clarify a few indistinct words in the recipient’s copy.

Virginia Orange County April 28th. 73

Dear Billey

I received your Letter dated March the 1st. about a Week ago and It is not more to obey your demands, than to fulfill my own desires that I give you this early answer. I am glad you disclaim all punctiliousness in our correspondence. For my own part I confess I have not the face to perform ceremony in person and I equally detest it on paper though as Tully says It cannot blush.1 Friendship like all Truth delights in plainess and simplicity & It is the Counterfeit alone that needs Ornament and ostentation. I am so thoroughly persuaded of this that when I observe any one over Complaisant to me in his professions and promises I am tempted to interpret his Language thus—As I have no real esteem for you and for certain reasons think it expedient to appear well in your eye, I endeavour to Varnish Falsehood with politeness Which I think I can do in so ingenious a manner that so vain a Blockhead as you cannot see through it. I would have you write to me when you feel as you used to do when we were under the same Roof and you found it a recreation and release from Business and Books to come and chat an hour or two with me. The Case is such with me that I am too remote from the Post to have the same Choice, but It seldom happens that an Opportunity Catches me out of a Humour of Writing to my old Nassovian Friends and you know What place you hold among them.

I have not seen a single piece against the Doctor’s Address. I saw a piece advertised for publication in the Phila. Gazette Entitled—Candid Remarks &c. and that is all I know about it. These things seldom reach Virginia and when they do I am out of the way of them.2 I have a curiosity to read those Authors who write with “all the rage of Impotence” When passion seems to commit a rape on the understanding and engenders a little peevish snarling offspring:3 not because there is any Excellence or wit in their Writings, but because they implicitly proclaim the Merit of those they are railing against and give them an occasion of shewing by their Silence and Contempt that they are invulnerable. I am heartily obliged to you for your kind offer of sending me some of These Performances. I should also willingly accept Freneau’s Works4 and the Sermons to Doctors in Divinity which I hear are published and whatever else you reckon worth reading.5 Please to note the Cost of the Articles for I will by no means suffer our acquaintance to be an expence on your part and I have nothing fit to send you to make it reciprocal.

In your next Letter be more particular as to yourself, your Intentions present employments &c. Erwin6 McPherrin7 &c &c—The Affairs of College. Is their Lottery like to come to any thing?8 There has happened no Change in my purposes since you heard from me last. My Health is a little better owing I believe to more activity and less Study recommended by the Phy[si]cians. I shall try if possible to devise some Business that will afford me a sight of you once more in Philada. within a Year or two. I wish you would resolve the same with respect to me in Virginia though Within a shorter time.

I am sorry my situation affords me nothing New Curious or entertaining to pay you for your agreeable information & remarks You being at the Fountain-Head of Political and Literary Intelligence and I in an Obscure Corner—You must expect to be greatly [the] loser on that score by our Correspondence. But as you have entered upon it I am determined to hold you to it, and shall give you some very severe admonitions whenever I perceive a remissness or Brevity in your Letters. I do not intend this as a beginning of reproof but as a caution to you never to make it necessary at all.

If Mr. Horton9 is in Philadelphia give him my best Thanks for his Kindness in assisting Mr. Wallace10 to do some Business for [me] not long ago.

I must reecho your pressing Invitations to [write soon which I] do with the more confidence as I have complied [with yours.]

I am Dear [Sir]11 Yours most unfeignedly

James Madison Junr.

1In a letter to Lucius Lucceius, Cicero wrote: “… a certain awkward modesty has always restrained me from proposing in person, what I can with less scruple request at this distance; for a letter, you know, spares the confession of a blush” (William Melmoth, trans., The Letters of Marcus Tullius Cicero to Several of his Friends [3 vols.; London, 1753], I, 75–76).

2See Bradford to JM, 1 March 1773, n. 11. Newspaper delivery must have been erratic in Orange County for JM to have missed all of the printed replies to Witherspoon’s Address.

3William Cabell Rives, JM’s overly protective biographer, deleted “When” through “offspring,” without indicating the omission, from his edition (the Congressional edition) of JM’s writings. The Gaillard Hunt edition merely copied from Rives.

5These sermons have not been identified, nor is it known whether or not they ever appeared in print. Since Bradford was at this time in Princeton, JM may here refer to a proposed volume by Witherspoon, who had published sermons on clergymen in Scotland which were subsequently reprinted in America. See Varnum L. Collins, President Witherspoon, I, 53–55, and II, 241.

6Nathaniel Irwin.

7Thomas McPherrin, College of New Jersey, ’70, served as a Presbyterian minister in western Pennsylvania from 1773 until his death in 1802 (Alexander, Princeton College description begins Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College during the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1872). description ends , p. 136).

8On 11 March 1772 the trustees of the College of New Jersey authorized President Witherspoon and Jeremiah Halsey to arrange a lottery at New Castle, Del., for the benefit of the institution. They hoped to net a $15,000 profit after distributing prizes in money, ranging in amount from $10 to $6,000, to the purchasers of tickets bearing lucky numbers to be determined by lot. The drawing finally began on 23 May 1774, after nearly eight months of postponement. Although JM had several good friends among the managers of the lottery, he apparently purchased no tickets. The Bradford paper, the Pennsylvania Journal, advertised this so-called “Delaware Lottery for the Benefit of the College of New-Jersey” throughout the summer of 1773, and listed the winners in the 13 July 1774 issue. See also New Jersey Archives description begins William A. Whitehead et al., eds., Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey (1st ser., 42 vols.; Newark, Trenton, Paterson, 1880–1949). description ends , 1st ser., XXVIII, 542–43, 602–3; XXIX, 289, 352, 387, 417; John Maclean, History of the College of New Jersey, I, 315; Wheaton J. Lane, ed., Pictorial History of Princeton (Princeton, 1947), p. 11.

9Probably Azariah Horton, Jr. (d. 1793), College of New Jersey, ’70. Apparently he was a deputy commissary general of musters in the Continental Army during the Revolution (New Jersey Archives description begins William A. Whitehead et al., eds., Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey (1st ser., 42 vols.; Newark, Trenton, Paterson, 1880–1949). description ends , 1st ser., XXVII, 267; F. B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army, p. 229; Alexander, Princeton College description begins Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College during the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1872). description ends , p. 135).

10Probably Caleb Wallace. The nature of JM’s “Business” is unknown.

11This word and the bracketed words in the preceding sentence are either torn from the original or are indecipherable because of an ink blot. They have been inserted here from the copy of the letter in Bradford’s commonplace book.

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