James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Bradford, 10 July 1775

From William Bradford

FC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

July 10th 1775

My dear friend

I did intend to have delayed writing to you till Mr Smith’s return to Virginia; but I believe that will not be early & I am not fond of delaying the discharge of an Epistolary debt. He was married last week to Miss Anna Witherspoon & proposes to spend some time at Princeton & at his fathers.1 He desired me to mention this to you lest you should suppose he had returned without calling upon you.

The Congress talk of removing in a week or two to Hartford in Connecticut that they may be nearer the seat of War & receive earlier and more authentic intelligence than at this distance it is possible to obtain.2 They have published a “Declaration of the Causes & necessity of taking up arms”, and another “Address to the inhabitants of G. Britain [.”]3 I have been seeking an opportunity of sending you these but cannot find one: however they will be immediately published in all the papers & probably will reach you nearly as soon as this. They are written (particularly the last) with a Spirit that will charm you. As I read them Pleasure vibrated thro’ every nerve & I thank my God that I was born in an age & country capable of producing such Gallant spirit. By the address I find they have prefered another petition to the King & to remove every imputation of obstinacy (say they) we have requested his majesty to direct some mode by which the united applications of his faithful colonists may be improved into a happy & permanent reconciliation. The declaration & address have gone to England in a vessel which saild yesterday: & I suppose the petition accompanies them.4

Mr Kirkland (an Indian missionary at Onida) came to town a few days ago to engage the Congress to propose a treaty to the five nations which he thinks they would readily come into. He informed that those tribes are very favorable to our Cause notwithstanding the constant endeavors that have been used to excite them against us. Guy Johnston sometime ago sent them the War Belt but they returned him a belt of peace. The Congress is to take the matter under Consideration to day; & I hope will be able so to conduct matters that we shall either receive assistance from these nations or have nothing to fear from them[.]5 Mr Kirkland proposes on his return to send some of their Chiefs this way & hopes by seeing our military preparations they will banish that contemptable opinion of strength they have been industriously taught to entertain, & consequently [be] more willing to join us. He also informed me that the five nations lately resolved in a Conference meeting that they would not admit any White People to settle among them. They had observed that those tribes that did so, soon became extinct & they have wisely gaurded against the same fate. [“]The great God (said they to some white people) does not chuse we should live together: he hath Givin you a white skin & said live you on that side of the river: to us he hath given a Red skin & said live you on tother side the river—let us not disobey him.” They are however fond of treating with the white people & of being considered important by them.

I heartily wish your Riflemen & ours were at the Camp. There are about 200 collected in this province and are to set off soon.6 When the[y] arrive I am mistaken if the young officers complain of want of Promotion: there will be vacancies enough for them to rise in.

I am grieved to hear the dysentery prevails so much with you, & for the loss you have sustained. If the disorder should not abate I would recommend a Journey this way to you: & if you can find nothing to amuse you here you may prosecute your Journey to Cambrige. An Enthusiasm (almost equal to that which prevailed in Europe for the Crusades) has seized many in this city & carried them to the Camp; & yet they are not wanted. It is said the american lines a[re] 20 miles in length & that soldiers arrive so fast from all Quarters that it is difficult to find provision for them all.7 I received a letter from Mr Rees a few days ago in which he informs me of a Negro conspiracy having been discovered at Charlestown.8 I hope Virginia will have no disturbances of that Kind.

I am &c.

W B Jun

1See JM to his father, 30 September 1769, n. 4. Samuel S. Smith’s father, Robert, was a clergyman at Pequea, Pa.

2Benjamin Harrison to George Washington, 21–23 July 1775: “The debate about our remove was taken up yesterday [22 July], and determined in the negative” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., II, 1697–98).

3Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson were the principal authors of “A declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North America, now met in General Congress at Philadelphia, setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms,” adopted by Congress on 6 July 1775 (Journals of the Continental Congress, II, 140–57; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , I, 187–219). Richard Henry Lee was probably the main draftsman of “The Twelve United Colonies, by their Delegates in Congress, to the Inhabitants of Great Britain,” adopted 8 July 1775 (Journals of the Continental Congress, II, 163–70).

4Often called the “Olive Branch Petition,” this document written by John Dickinson bore the title, “To the king’s most excellent Majesty.” Congress adopted it on 8 July (ibid., II, 158–62). On the same day Congress asked Richard Penn to carry the three addresses, and a letter to the Lord Mayor of London. He sailed on 12 July (ibid., II, 162 n., 172).

5For forty years following his graduation in 1765 from the College of New Jersey, Reverend Samuel Kirkland (1741–1808) was a missionary among the Oneida Indians. Believing that he and other “dissenting missionaries” were influencing the six Iroquois tribes to favor the patriot cause, Colonel Guy Johnson (1740–1788), the Crown’s Indian superintendent, ordered these clergymen out of central New York. Although the patriots charged Johnson with endeavoring to incite the Iroquois against the settlers, he protested that he was merely trying to keep them neutral. Kirkland appeared before Congress on 10 July 1775. On 30 June it had named a committee to draft “proper talks to” the Indians (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., II, 661–62, 841–43, 911–12, 1116–17, 1309–10; Journals of the Continental Congress, II, 123, 172–73).

6On 22 June the Continental Congress asked Pennsylvania to increase from six to eight the number of its riflemen companies (ibid., II, 104). On 8 July, William and Thomas Bradford wrote with exaggeration in an open letter “to the Printer of a Publick Paper in London” that Pennsylvania had raised one thousand riflemen, “the worst of whom will put a ball into a man’s head at … one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards …” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., II, 1609).

7On 27 July 1775, George Washington wrote to John A. Washington that his troops, including the sick and absent, numbering about sixteen thousand, guarded a semicircle around Boston stretching for eight or nine miles (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., II, 1736). These soldiers were in greater need of tents, gunpowder, and other munitions than of food (ibid., II, 1119–20).

8Probably Oliver Reese. Early in May a letter was received from Arthur Lee in London “intimating that a plan was laid before Administration, for instigating the slaves to insurrection.” This was doubly alarming since it was already assumed that the Negroes “entertained ideas, that the present contest was for obliging us to give them their liberty.” Prompted by fears of the Negroes as well as of British invasion, the people of Charleston patrolled day and night and the city was declared in mid-June to resemble a “garrison town” (John Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution … [Charleston, 1821], I, 231; Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., II, 1129). A committee was appointed on 4 June 1775 to investigate reports of slave insurrections, and “trials of several Negroes suspected and charged of plotting an insurrection” were conducted during the week of 18 June. Of Jerry, a slave convicted at that time and hanged on 18 August, Henry Laurens wrote: “I am fully satisfied that Jerry was guilty of a design & attempt to encourage our Negroes to Rebellion & joining the King’s Troops if any had been sent here.” Although the superintendent of Indian affairs in South Carolina was impeached in June for “endeavoring to incite the Creek & Cherokee Indians to act against this Colony,” Laurens was convinced by 2 July that “we have nothing to fear from within; not even from the Indians.” But even though the “Rumours & Whispers of Insurrections are no more heard—nevertheless we are constantly upon our guard & the Militia are by parties trained every day” (Extracts from the Journals of the Provincial Congresses of South Carolina, 1775–1776 [Columbia, S.C., 1960], p. 37; Henry Laurens to John Laurens, 18 June, 23 June, and 21 August 1775, and to James Laurens, 2 July 1775, all in South Carolina Historical Society; David D. Wallace, South Carolina: A Short History, 1520–1948 [Chapel Hill, 1951], pp. 260–62).

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