James Madison Papers

From James Madison to William Bradford, 23 August 1774

To William Bradford

Copy (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

Virginia August 23. 1774.

Dear Sir,

The receipt of your’s of the first inst. was peculiarly acceptable to me; the enjoyment of your Company at Philada. has so revived & increased my pristine Affection for you, that I found great pleasure in that token of you[r] Affectionate Kindness. And tho’ it is with the utmost chearfulness I emancipate you from the bondage of a punctual correspondence yet I find I cannot do without an occasional Line from you. As to myself I shall continue to write something or other as long as I perceive you have patience or time to read it.

I informed you in my last of the unhappy condition of our Frontiers from the irruption & cruelty of the savages; tho’ I still beleive it to be true in great measure yet it is suggested by some that the mischiefs have been grossly magnified & misrepresented; and that it is possible some may find their Interest in doing it.1 Lord Dunmore is now at Pittsburg intending to march shortly with 2 or 3000 men to the indian Towns and to extirpate those perfidious people intirely: But his Lordships intentions & expectations meet with the greatest derision from those versed in Indian affairs who affirm that he will find no body at the Towns but a few old squaws & superannuated warriors, & that the destruction of their Huts & properties will by no means recompense us for the charges of the expedition. Besides the absence of those troops will certainly embolden the enemy to range with less controul & greater havoc among the Frontier settlers. If these Apprehensions should be well-grounded it is probable his Lordship’s conduct will breed some altercations between him and this assembly who will certainly examine into the expediency & success of so expensive a project before they pay the men he has employed for it.2

I have seen the instructions of your committee to your representatives & greately admire the wisdom of the advice & the elegance and cogency of the diction. In the latter especially they are vastly superior to what has been done by our convention.3 But do you not presume too much on the generosity & Justice of the crown, when you propose deffering all endeavours on our part till such important concessions & novel regulations are obtained; Would it not be advisable as soon as possible to begin our defence & to let its continuance or cessation depend on the success of a petition presented to his majesty. Delay on our part emboldens our adversaries and improves their schemes; whilst it abates the ardor of the Americans inspired with recent Injuries and affords opportunity to our secret enemies to disseminate discord & disunion. But I am mounting into the sphere of the general Congress to whose wisdom and Judgment all private opinions must give place. This Colony has appointed seven delegates to represent it on this grand occasion, most of them glowing patriots & men of Learning & penetration. It is however the opinion of some good Judges that one or two might be exchanged for the better.4 The Conduct of your Assembly in chusing galloway & Humphries seems to forbode difficulties and divisions which may be strengthened by the deputees from N.Y. It also seems to indicate a prevalency of selfish Quakers in your House which frustrate the generous designs & manly efforts of the real friends to American Fredom. I assure you I heartily repent of undertaking my Journey to the North when I did. If I had it to perform now, the opportunity of attending the Congress would be an infinite addition to the pleasures of it. I cannot help congratulating you on your happy situation in that respect. I comfort myself however under the privation of such an happiness with the hope that you will befriend me in sending a brief account of whatever is singular and important in their proceedings that can not be gathered from the public papers. Indeed I could wish their Debates were to be published which might greatly illuminate the minds of the thinking people among us and I would hope there would be sufficient abilities displayed in them to render us more respectable at Home.

With this I send a letter to Mr Ervin which I beg you will forward.5

I am Dr Sir Your &c.

JM Jr.

1See JM to Bradford, 1 July 1774, n. 2. There is no doubt that the Indians killed, maimed, or captured many whites and destroyed much of their property, but an accurate accounting cannot be made, if for no better reasons than the indistinctness of the geographic area to include, the impossibility of identifying the particular Indian tribe responsible for each of the long series of forays, and the lack of agreement upon when to begin, whether in 1764 at the close of the preceding war or at some later date in the next decade. In his comment, however, JM reflected a charge, often made in the summer of 1774, that Dunmore and his fellow land speculators had exaggerated the extent of the depredations as an excuse for expending the colony’s “blood and treasure” to crush the Indians and thereby profit financially from opening the frontier, especially Kentucky, to survey and settlement. The need to provision twelve hundred or two thousand troops would also reduce the amount of surplus food which individual Virginians might otherwise send to the beleaguered Bostonians (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., I, 593, 787).

2The victory of Colonel Andrew Lewis and Virginia militia over the Indians in the Battle of Point Pleasant at the mouth of the Kanawha River extricated Governor Dunmore, then at Pittsburgh, from a difficult situation. The victory, together with the satisfactory peace of Camp Charlotte, brought him congratulatory addresses as a gratifying sequel to the earlier accusations that he had welcomed, if not fomented, the conflict with the Shawnees. In 1775, the House of Burgesses voted £350,000, Virginia currency, to pay the cost of the war (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , IX, 61, 68).

3The instructions of 23 July 1774 of the Pennsylvania provincial assembly to its delegates to the First Continental Congress and the corresponding instructions of 6 August 1774 of the Virginia Convention are in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., I, 608–9 and 689–90, respectively. Although those of Virginia, unlike those of Pennsylvania, commanded the representatives to “express, in the first place, our faith and true allegiance” to King George III, they declared in favor of an intercolonial non-importation and non-exportation agreement, denied any authority to Parliament over a colony’s internal polity, and favored “resistance and reprisal” against Governor Gage if he did not desist from his “despotick” course in Boston. On the other hand, the much briefer instructions of Pennsylvania merely directed its delegates to concert upon a plan best calculated for “obtaining a redress of American grievances, ascertaining the American rights, and establishing that union and harmony which is most essential to the welfare and happiness of both countries; and, in doing this … to avoid every thing indecent or disrespectful to the mother state.” Although JM politely complimented “the diction” of the Pennsylvania directive, his comments later in this paragraph make clear that he favored the much bolder course enjoined upon the Virginia delegation.

4Peyton Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, and Edmund Pendleton comprised the delegation (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., I, 689). Which “one or two” of these JM had in mind is not certain; perhaps he deemed Henry too fiery, or Randolph or Bland too moderate.

5Nathaniel Irwin. JM’s letter to him has not been found. JM evidently misdirected his letter for Bradford to Irwin, and vice versa. At the bottom of his file copy Bradford wrote: “This letter by mistake was directed to Mr Ervin.”

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