James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Bradford, 27 May 1773

From William Bradford

FC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

Philada. May 27. 1773.

My dear Jemmy

Tis with pleasure I find myself able to give you ample information concerning your Nassovian Friends, many of whom are now in town attending the Synod. Mr. Ervin has been sometime licensed & I hear is very popular in the back parts of Pennsylvania. He has lately commenced a strict Cadoganite; yet [in] spite of Cadogan his health is much impaired and he seems to be in the first stage of a consumption.1 Our friend McPherrin2 is likewise fulminating from the pulpit. He is well and in one of his letters desires to be rememb[e]red to you. As to Breckenridge3 he is still in Maryland. I lately received a letter from him in which he expresses the tenderest concern for You[r] ill state of Health which I acquaint[ed] him with the last time I wrote. He complains of never hearing from you, tho’ he has frequently written—and suppose you cannot find an opportuni[ty.]

Keith,4 Debow5 & Allen6 are now in town applying to the presbetry. I could sincerely wish some way was fallen upon for the good of the church; & to prevent persons from “running their heads against the Pulpit (as Dr South says) who might have done their Country excellent service at the Tail of the plow.”7 For I am verily persuaded that these Gentn. are more capable of being benificial to the state by their hands than by their heads.8 It will perhaps surprize you to hear that the College has chosen Grier9 Tutor in the place of Mr Devins10 who has resigned. But it will surprise you still more to hear that Brian is married to Miss Amelia Horner—nay has been so ever since last summer tho’ they never acknowledged it till the Fruits of it appeared in a fine Daughter. He is licensed to plead & is now gone to Baltimore. What could be the reason of his marrying her would be hard to determine. It could not be Love—perhaps it was pity.11 Indeed I know no place so overstocked with Old-Maids as Princeton. So few are the marriages that one a Stranger would be tempted to think the barbarous Custom of burning the Living with the dead prevailed there as well as in the East.

With regard to my Situation I shall be more explicit in my next. Suffice it to say that I have not yet entered on any particular business but continue the study of History and Morality. I have for a long time been roving thro’ the regions of Science without steering any direct course. It is now high time “Contrahere Vela”12 & to confine myself to some limits and follow some settled method of study. As I am now about forming a Library of Books which I intend shall be my companions thro’ Life, I intend to be very carefull in admitting an unworthy member in it. Could you draw up a list of such books as are proper for a private Gentn. Library you would much oblige me by sending it. If I mistake not you have done it already.13

News is at a stand—private scandal excepted—that you know can never want Votaries in so populous a city as this. There is now in the press a petit-peice ‘On the Management of Children” by Cadogan.14 When you are married I will send you one—or sooner, if you please

I am your &c &c

W—— B——d.

I have sent you a bundel of pamphlets by the posts. I hope they will reach you.15

1The Synod of New York and Philadelphia met in Philadelphia, 19–27 May 1773. It was the highest court of the Presbyterian Church in America and all ministers were expected to attend (Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Embracing the Minutes of the General Presbytery and General Synod, 1706–1788 [Philadelphia, 1904], pp. 436–49). Dr. William Cadogan (1711–1797) was an eminent English physician, fellow of the Royal Society and of the College of Physicians. His booklet, A Dissertation on Gout, and All Chronic Diseases, Jointly Considered, as Proceeding from the Same Causes; What Those Causes Are; and a Rational and Natural Method of Cure Proposed—Addressed to All Invalids, was published in London in 1771 and immediately achieved wide but short-lived popularity in both England and America. It was reprinted in Philadelphia in 1771 by William and Thomas Bradford. Dr. Cadogan proposed to cure gout and other diseases, all said to be caused by indolence, vexation, or intemperance, by exercise and clean living. Cadogan’s fellow physicians criticized his shallowness, and newspaper humorists derided the simplicity of his prescriptions. “Mr. Erwin” (Nathaniel Irwin), perhaps deriving more benefit from Cadogan’s prescriptions than Bradford thought, lived for nearly forty years after this report of ill health.

2Thomas McPherrin.

3Hugh Henry Brackenridge.

4Robert Keith, College of New Jersey, ’72, was an itinerant preacher whose principal service before his death in 1784 was as a chaplain in the Revolutionary army (Alexander, Princeton College description begins Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College during the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1872). description ends , pp. 153–54).

5John Debow (1745–1783), College of New Jersey, ’72, was licensed to preach in 1773, and occupied a Presbyterian pulpit in Hawfields, N.C., from that time until his death (ibid., p. 150).

6Moses Allen.

7The Dictionary of National Biography describes the career of the eminent Anglican divine, Dr. Robert South (1634–1716). Bradford’s quotation from South’s writings should be “another [man] run’s his Head against the pulpit, who might have been very serviceable to his Country at the Plough” (anon. ed., Maxims, Sayings, Explications of Scripture, Phrases, Descriptions and Characters, Extracted from the Writings of the late Reverend and Learned Dr. South [London, 1717], p. 35). William Livingston of New York, writing in 1768, made nearly an identical comment (Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, XCI [1947], 307).

8Since Moses Allen was a Cliosophian at Princeton, and Keith and Debow were probably members of the same society, Bradford’s disparaging remarks about them may reveal more about the heat of the rivalry between Whigs and Clios than about the quality of the pulpit oratory in question. Bradford unintentionally wrote “being” twice.

9James Grier (1750–1791), College of New Jersey, ’72, was licensed by the Philadelphia Presbytery in 1775, and was pastor of Deep Run Presbyterian Church, Bucks County, Pa., from then until his death. His appointment as tutor at the College of New Jersey lasted only one year (Sprague, Annals description begins William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit (9 vols.; New York, 1857–69). description ends , III, 466–67).

10Richard Devens (1749–1835), College of New Jersey, ’67, taught school for three years following his graduation, before returning to the College of New Jersey as a tutor in mathematics from 1770 to April 1773 and from September 1773 to 1774. He is said to have resigned as a tutor because of insanity brought on by too close application to study. So far as is known, he never recovered his reason (Alexander, Princeton College description begins Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College during the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1872). description ends , p. 118; John Maclean, History of the College of New Jersey, I, 365; Thomas Bellows Wyman, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown, in the County of Middlesex and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1629–1818 [2 vols.; Boston, 1879], I, 291).

11This scandalous gossip probably concerned Andrew Bryan, College of New Jersey, ’72, and Amy Hornor. Her father, Samuel Hornor, died in 1770 leaving a widow and a family of daughters who were often the subject of comment by College of New Jersey students. Little is known of Bryan except that he was admitted to the bar in Baltimore, and was living there in January 1774. His character was dealt with severely by the pious Andrew Hunter, who probably had in mind the same scandal mentioned by Bradford when he wrote Philip V. Fithian on 26 June 1773: “If infamy were law or lies were Gospel he might get license either to plead or preach” (John R. Williams, ed., Philip Vickers Fithian, I, 34–36, 90, 138–39; John F. Hageman, History of Princeton, I, 31–33; William Paterson, Glimpses of Colonial Society and the Life at Princeton College, ed. by W. Jay Mills [Philadelphia, 1903], p. 123). The child alluded to by Bradford was born on 27 March 1773 and died seventeen months later (“Hornor Genealogical Notes,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XXII [1898], 385).

12Contrahere Vela (to draw in [my] sails).

14William Cadogan, An Essay Upon Nursing, and the Management of Children, from Their Birth to Three Years of Age … (10th Edition; Reprinted in Boston for Cox and Berry, in King Street, 1772). It was also printed by William and Thomas Bradford in Philadelphia in 1773. This work, first published in London in 1748, was generally considered to be Cadogan’s best (Dictionary of National Biography, III, 639).

15The words in italics are in shorthand in Bradford’s notebook. The pamphlets have not been identified.

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