James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Bradford, 4 March 1774

From William Bradford

FC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

March 4. 1774. Philada.

Dear Sir,

I purposely delayed answering yours of January 24th to this time that I might be better able to give you the Intelligence you wanted. I hope however it will reach you before you set out and perhaps time enough to be answered.

I agree with you that a Student of Law should not to[o] much indulge his taste for polite-Learning as it has a tendency to make the mind averse to severer Studies. Yet the Lawyer as well as the Divine has this advantage that every kind of Learning will be benificial1 to him in his profession: where as to most others it can at best be but ornamental. Some parts of the Law are indeed dry & disagreeable enough; but you should not call it a barren Study—Far from it: It bears Golden fruit, my friend. Rather say the Belles letters are unprofitable—

“For what’s the worth of any thing

“But as much money as ‘twill bring.”    Butler.2

Or allow it to be a barren study; even then it will but the more resemble those cou[n]tries that abound [in] Gold:3 It is this that attracts so many to engage in the profession & that makes them pore over the dry Pages of Littleton and Coke4 with more pleasure than those of Homer or Cicero. They had rather with Eneas seek the Golden branch, even in a desert, then loll on the sides of Parnassus tho’ surrounded with flowers.5 Helicon may be pure and refreshing indeed but ’tis Patoclus with his golden sands that has charms for them.6 But for my own Part I must confess that with all this rich encouragement I cannot apply myself so closely as I would wish to do: but I hope that as I advance the journey will be plesanter.

I received a Letter a few days ago from Finley7 in which he tells me that Breckenridge is sick and the disorder he labours under a dangerous one: But the ludicrous manner in which he mentions it inclines me to think it is not so bad as he would have me imagine.8 Of Ervin Mr McPherrin &c I have hear[d] nothing new.9 Doctor Witherspoon was down a few days past & informed me that Dod was married to a Girl in Brunswick: but he put the Cart before the horse: he was a father before he was an husband. I beleive it was the Girls friends that forced the Old fellow’s head in the noose.10 Linn is married to one of the Daughters of that Mr Blair who resided some time at Princeton.11 ’Tis said Reese intends to follow the example but (to use the news-paper stile) this wants confirmation.12

I am sorry to hear that Persecution has got so much footing among you. The discription you give of your Country makes me more in love with mine. Indeed I have ever looked on America as the land of freedom when compared with the rest of the world, but compared with the rest of america Tis Pennsylvania that is so. Persecution is a weed that grows not in our happy soil: and I do no[t] remember that any Person was ever imprisoned here for his religious sentiments however heritical or unepiscopal they might be. Liberty (As Caspipina says in his Letters) [is] the Genius of Pennsylvania; and it[s] inhabitants think speak and act with a freedom unknow13——I do indeed pity you; & long to see you according to your own expression, “breathing our purer air.” The Synod will meet here about the middle of may.14 You will then have an opportunity of seeing most of your Nassovian friends, and higthing15 the felicity that friends long seperated enjoy when they meet.

We have several publications here the cheif of which is, “Caspipina Letters.” It is conjectured they are written by Mr Duche: for the Author in one place says, “My name contains the Initials of my Profession” & signs his Letters Tamoccaspipina, which is thus decyphered. [“]The Assistant Minister Of Christ Church And St. Peters In Philadelphia In North America—That is, Mr Duche.”16 I have not yet read them with attention but as far as I can judge they a[re] very pretty.17 You shall have one when you visit us.

I am impatient to see you & will write no more as it reminds me you are yet afar of[f]. But must conclude with18 assuri[n]g you That I am &c


1Bradford underlined this word in his copybook.

2Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part II, Canto I, lines 465–66. If Bradford had quoted accurately he would have written.

“For what is Worth in any Thing,

But so much money as ‘twill bring?”

3Bradford wrote “it Gold” instead of “in Gold.” At this point in his copybook, Bradford bracketed and crossed out a passage following the colon, as well as a succeeding sentence. The former reads: “for naturalists tell us that the more any place abounds in that precious metal the more wild & barren it is.” The sentence, however, is too heavily inked out to be legible.

4Sir Edward Coke, The First Part Of The Institutes of the Lawes of England, Or, A Commentarie upon Littleton [Sir Thomas Littleton] not the name of a Lawyer onely, but of the Law it selfe (2d ed.; London, 1629).

5Virgil Aeneid vi. 141–48, 203–11.

6Bradford’s mention of Patroclus, the close friend of Achilles whom Hector slew outside the walls of Troy, is far-fetched. Bradford seems to mean that the Greeks mainly sought rich spoil when they besieged Troy. He probably had read Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad xx. 100. Here, although not referring directly to Patroclus, Homer mentioned the “golden sands” of the Scamander River near Troy. The mercenary emphasis of this paragraph may have shocked JM by its sharp contrast with the disdain of money-chasing expressed by Bradford in his letter of 12 August 1773 (q.v.). His altered attitude, however, was perhaps merely a pose congenial to his penchant for satire and literary allusions rather than reliable evidence that he had come to accept a financial standard as the principal gauge of a successful career.

7Ebenezer Finley (1754–?a. 1790), College of New Jersey, ’72, was the eldest son of Samuel Finley, president of the college from 1761 to 1766. Ebenezer Finley is incorrectly reported to have become a doctor in Charleston, S.C. (Alexander, Princeton College description begins Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College during the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1872). description ends , p. 151). Actually, he moved to the Ohio country (information from Office of the Secretary, Princeton University).

8Brackenridge had been ill earlier in the year but by March was well on the road toward recovery (Claude M. Newlin, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, pp. 26–27).

9Nathaniel Irwin and Thomas McPherrin.

10“Dod” was probably Thaddeus Dod (1740–1793) who was “old” when he began his theological studies shortly after his graduation in 1773 from the College of New Jersey. Sprague’s statement (Annals, III, 356) that Dod married Phoebe Baldwin in Newark may not contradict Bradford’s word if it is interpreted to mean that her home was in New Brunswick.

11William Linn (1752–1808), a graduate of the College of New Jersey in Bradford’s own class of 1772, married Rebecca (or Rebecka) Blair early in 1774. She was a daughter of Reverend John Blair (1720–1771), who had been professor of divinity at the college and served as its acting president for some months preceding Witherspoon’s arrival from Scotland. In his notebook, Bradford made copies of his sprightly correspondence of 1774–1775 with his close friend Linn. These letters often refer to the same persons mentioned in the JM-Bradford correspondence, and hence serve to illuminate it. Linn, a Pennsylvanian, served as a Presbyterian chaplain in the patriot army, transferred to the Dutch Reformed Church in 1787, acted as president of Queen’s College (Rutgers) from 1791 to 1794, and occupied the pulpit of the Collegiate Church in New York City until 1805 (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XLI [1917], 350; Sidney Irving Pomerantz, New York, an American City, 1783–1803 [New York, 1938], p. 377).

12Probably Oliver Reese, a Pennsylvanian, who graduated in 1772 from the College of New Jersey. He died on 7 October 1775 in Wilton, S.C., where he had accepted the pastorate of a Presbyterian church (Alexander, Princeton College description begins Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College during the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1872). description ends , p. 158; South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, X [1909], 222). Bradford’s copybook contains a fragment of an undated poem entitled, “A pastoral Elegy on the Death of Oliver Reese.”

13Bradford wrote “in the Genius” instead of “is the Genius.” Unaccountably, he failed to complete this sentence in his copybook. What he likely omitted was “n elsewhere in America.”

15Bradford wrote this word above a deleted “contributing” and probably meant “heightening.”

16The twenty letters of Caspipina (Reverend Jacob Duché [1737–1798], who became chaplain of the Continental Congress and still later a Tory) were originally printed anonymously in the Pennsylvania Packet, beginning in March 1772, and were first reprinted in book form, again anonymously, as Observations on a Variety of Subjects, Literary, Moral and Religious; in a Series of Original Letters, Written by a Gentleman of Foreign Extraction … Revised by a Friend (Philadelphia, 1774).

17Bradford underlined this word.

18Bradford used a shorthand symbol for this word.

Index Entries