James Madison Papers

From James Madison to William Bradford, 26 November 1774

To William Bradford

Copy (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

Virginia Nov: 26. 1774.

Dear Sir,

The pamphlets & letters1 you sent me were safely delivered about ten days after the date of them. I esteem it a singular favor that you should be so thoughtfull of obliging me at a time when your attention must necessarally have been employed on many more important considerations. Your readiness also to serve me on any future occasion demands my acknowledgments. I have no acquaintance in Baltimore I could confide in for that purpose. If I should hereafter make any I shall take the Liberty in consequence of your offer to give you notice of it (To go to Dunlaps to stop paper. Got several back etc.)2 A part of the men that went out with Lord dunmore against the Shawnese towns we hear were attacked on the 10 of last month by 7 or 800 Indians. The fight continued the whole day and was extremely obstinate on both sides; Our men kept the field: The loss of the Indians was considerable. This it seems was the last effort of the Savages for they immediately sued for peace as the only method to save themselves & their Towns3 from destruction. The peace was granted in order to save the lives of many prisoners the Indians had got among them, but on what terms I cannot say.4

The proceedings of the Congress are universally approved of in this Province & I am persuaded will be faithfully adheared to.5 A spirit of Liberty & Patriotism animates all degrees and denominations of men. Many publickly declare themselves ready to join the Bostonians as soon as violence is offered them or resistance thought expedient. In many counties independent companies are forming and voluntaraly subjecting themselves to military discipline that they may be expert & prepared against a time of Need. I hope it will be a general thing thro’ought6 this province. Such firm and provident steps will either intimidate our enemies or enable us to defy them. By an epistle from the yearly meeting of the Quakers in your City to their bretheren & friends in our Colonies I observe they are determined to be passive on this Critical occasion from a regard to their religious principles mixed I presume with the Leaven of civil policy.7

If america & Britain should come to an hostile rupture I am afraid an Insurrection among the slaves may & will be promoted. In one of our Counties lately a few of those unhappy wretches met together & chose a leader who was to conduct them when the English Troops should arrive—which they foolishly thought would be very soon & that by revolting to them they should be rewarded with their freedom. Their Intentions were soon discovered & proper precautions taken to prevent the Infection. It is prudent such attempts should be concealed as well as suppressed.8

I heard a few days since that our friend mr Wallace is in a declining state of health: His friends suspect the beginnings of a Consumption: But Death has no sting for him.9 Mr Brackenridge I understand is nobly engaged in a paper war with the Teachers of a rival & a neighbouring School.10

I was told by a Quaker Gentleman from Philada that a complaint of being persecuted in New-England was laid before the Congress by the People called baptists. Did Truth or prejudice dictate to the Quaker in his report.11 Are the Transactions of the Congress so well known that you could inform me what Character our delegates have left behind them for Oratory Zeal & Literature.


J Maddison Jr.

(the first[?] part of this letter compressible[?] abridged.)12

1What these were is not known although “the pamphlets,” at least, may have included, besides Brackenridge’s poem, several relating to the dispute between the colonies and Great Britain.

2The italicized words are in shorthand in Bradford’s copybook. Apparently JM had asked Bradford to stop his subscription to the weekly [John] Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet, or, the General Advertiser, published in Philadelphia. “Got several back” is probably Bradford’s vague summing up of JM’s stated reason for cancellation. During the rest of his life JM was occasionally annoyed by the slowness with which newspapers reached the Orange, Va., post office.

3Word underlined by Bradford.

4For the Battle of Point Pleasant and Treaty of Camp Charlotte, see JM to Bradford, 1 July 1774, n. 2, and 23 August 1774, nn. 1 and 2.

5Here JM especially has in mind the non-importation, non-exportation, and non-consumption resolutions of the First Continental Congress, known as the “Association.”

6Word underlined by Bradford.

7James Bowden, The History of the Society of Friends in America (2 vols.; London, 1850–54), II, 298–99.

8To what particular incident JM referred has not been determined. Planters took care that slave unrest in one locality was not noised about lest it cause disaffection in other areas. When, in the late spring and summer of 1775, the long-continued disagreements between Governor Dunmore and the House of Burgesses came to the pitch of armed conflict, he was accused of instigating a revolt of the slaves. The Governor’s course in the autumn of 1775 amply justified this charge (Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1773–1776, p. 245; David John Mays, Edmund Pendleton, 1721–1803 [2 vols.; Cambridge, Mass., 1952], II, 56–57).

9In his letter of 17 March 1775, JM assured Bradford that the rumor about Caleb Wallace’s ill health had been false.

10For a possible sample of the ammunition used in this “paper war,” see Bradford to JM, 4 January 1775, n. 6. The war may have broken out when Eden School, which was near Brackenridge’s school at Back Bay, was named the one free school in the area, and a road to it was ordered built (Elizabeth Merritt, ed., Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly of Maryland, October 1773 to April 1774, Archives of Maryland, LXIV [Baltimore, 1947], 341, 345, 360, 376).

11Although no “complaint” of this kind seems to have been made to Congress, Reverend Isaac Backus (1724–1806), other prominent New England Baptists, and leading Pennsylvania Quakers met on the evening of 14 October in Carpenter’s Hall with Continental Congress delegates from several of the New England and middle colonies. There, Backus presented “An Appeal to the Public” and President James Manning of Rhode Island College (Brown University) a “Memorial,” asking that the legal disabilities of Baptists in Massachusetts be removed. John Adams and his fellow delegates from that colony agreed to do what they could to have these grievances redressed upon their return home. The memorial appears in full in Alvah Hovey, A Memoir of the Life and Times of the Rev. Isaac Backus, A.M. (Boston, 1859), pp. 204–10. See also L. H. Butterfield et al., eds., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (4 vols.; Cambridge, Mass., 1961), II, 152–54; III, 311–13).

12Bradford used shorthand for the italicized words.

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