James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Bradford, [3–6? March] 1775

From William Bradford

FC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

[3–6? March 1775]1

My dear friend,

I would have answered your most acceptable epistle of the 20 Jany had not the conclusion given me hopes of “eer long hearing from you again.” You must have received a letter I wrote in the beginning of Jany. soon after you dispatched your last unless it be as long on its Voyage as the one I sent by Rutherford was.

I thank you for Logan’s speech. I admire the nervous & untutor’d eloquence of it. Like Timanthes “Plus pingitur quam intelligitur.2 The last sentence is particularly pathetic & expressive; it raises a crowd of Ideas & at one stroke sets in a strong light the Barbarity of Cressop, the sufferings of Logan and his contempt of death. I thought it a pity that so fine a specimen of “Indian Eloquence & mistaken Valour” (as you justly call it) should languish in obscurity and therefore gave a copy of it to my brother who inserted it in his paper; from which it has been transcribed into the others & has given the highest satisfaction to all that can admire & relish the simple Beauties of nature. I need make no apology for publishing what I suppose must be public your way, tho you say you have not seen it in print.

I am glad to hear you are so industrious in Virginia in preparing for the worst. There is no hopes of this province learning the military Exercise unless it be when we ought to be making use of it. Our provincial Convention was called (it is thought) principally for the purpose of setting on foot independant companies appointing officers &c; But so great an opposition was expected that it was not even proposed. They however passed a few harmless resolves lest [it] should be said, “they march’d up the hill & so march’d down again.”3 It is happy for us that we have Boston in the front & Virginia in the rear to defend us: we are placed where Cowards ought to be placed in the middle; & perhaps the bravery that surrounds us may prevent our want of it being detrimental to the cause of freedom. But we are not totally destitute of public virtue. Our Assembly is strinuous in supporting & recommending the resolutions of the late Congress & have appointed Delegates for the ensuing one. Among these was Galloway; but he declined it with declaring that the proceedings of the Colonies were against his Judgment & against his Conscience. Methinks this fellow’s Conscience has become very tender since he laid aside the attorney; but I am afraid he can contract or dilate it at pleasure & make it strain at a Gnat or swallow a camel as best suits his purpose.4 As to the N York Assembly, they have resolved to petition the king & remonstrate to the parliament, but will have nothing to do with the Congress. They have absolutely refused to nominate delegates, but I hope their Constituents will do it for them; I observe the Committee of that City have called a meeting to consult upon the matter.5 Was it not too late a petition from the several assembli[es] might perhaps be advantageous to our cause. Most of the Governors6 have assured their respective assemblies (from private instructions I suppose) that such petition will be duly attended to; I imagine there is nothing prevents the parliament repealing the oppressive acts but their Pride & therefore a little submission on our side by affording them an opportunity of receeding with credit might not be amiss. But if, as is probable our fate is already determined in parliament[,] Union among ourselves, & a strict adhearence to the measures of the Congress is the only means of safety.

I had a letter the other day from Mr Breckenridge in which he gave me the disagreeable task of telling him what the public said of his peice. I have enquired but can meet with nobody that has read it, & shall therefore plainly tell him so & lay the fault on the subject the times & the publisher. He says nothing about his Canto’s, which I am impatient to see. They would serve to counterbalance several satire[s] that have been published this way against the Congress & patriotic party.7

I wrote to Mr Duffield about your brother and have the happiness to inform you that he is well—the formost scholar in his class & what is still better yt he is a good boy.8 I hope I shall hear from you soon, but I am afraid the business of the supreme Court will prevent me writing to you again for some time.9 But whereever I am, or whatever I am doing I cannot forget you. You frequently obtrude on my thoughts & are frequently the subject of my conversations with those who know & love you. I find that your friendship & correspondence makes a great part of my happiness and that time but serves to increase my fond attatchment to you. Forgive my friend these overflowings of an heart devoted to you. I know you will esteem it the Language of the heart & believe me sincere when I subscribe myself

your affectionate friend


1Because Bradford refers to an action of the New York City “Committee of Sixty” on 1 March (below, n. 5) but omits mention of the results of that action on 6 March, he probably wrote this undated letter between the 3d and 6th of that month.

2In his Natural History, book 35, chapter 10, Pliny commented that Timanthes, a celebrated Greek painter of about 400 b.c., “atque in hujus operibus intelligitur plus semper, quam pingitur.” One English version of this runs, “for albeit a man shall see in his [Timanthes’] pictures as much art as may be, yet his wit went alwaies beyond his art” (Philemon Holland, trans., The Historie of the World, Commonly called, the Naturall Historie of C. Plinius Secundus [London, 1601], p. 536).

3This is a somewhat inaccurate quotation from the anonymous nursery jingle about “the noble Duke of York” and his “ten thousand men.” During its meetings of 23 to 28 January, the Convention of the Province of Pennsylvania unanimously approved what the First Continental Congress had done, pledged to enforce its recommendations, and adopted twenty-seven resolutions, mostly designed to encourage and regulate domestic manufactures (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., I, 1169–71).

4In December 1774 the Pennsylvania Assembly led all other colonial legislatures in ratifying the work of the Continental Congress and in naming delegates to the second meeting of that body, scheduled for the following May. Among those chosen to attend was Joseph Galloway. Although he at once and repeatedly declared that he would not serve, he was not released by the Assembly from his commission until 12 May 1775. This revocation closed his political career in Pennsylvania (Oliver C. Kuntzleman, Joseph Galloway, Loyalist [Philadelphia, 1941], pp. 127, 132–33).

5After resolving to petition George III and memorialize Parliament, the New York Assembly on 23 February, by a 17 to 9 vote, declined to appoint delegates to the Second Continental Congress (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., I, 1287–90). On 1 March the “Committee of Sixty” of New York City set 6 March as the date for a meeting of the city’s voters to decide how those delegates should be chosen (ibid., 4th ser., II, 4, 48–49).

6Between “Governors” and “have,” Bradford inadvertently wrote “this was.”

7Thus ended Brackenridge’s high hopes that his A Poem on Divine Revelation would be a success. The “Canto’s” were probably his never published, anti-Tory satires (Bradford to JM, 4 January 1775, n. 6).

8John Duffield, a tutor at the College of New Jersey, was Bradford’s close friend.

9Service in the patriot army delayed Bradford’s admission to the bar until 1779. Early in 1775 he was probably the student assistant of a Philadelphia attorney who was preparing the briefs of cases to be heard by the provincial Supreme Court, scheduled to convene on 10 April.

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