James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Bradford, [18] July 1775

From William Bradford

FC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

Philada. July [18, 1775]1

My dear Sir,

I wrote to you last week by the post. Mr Smith gives me an opportunity of sending you a few more lines which friendship will not allow me to neglect.2

I have seen the address to the six confederate indian Nations. It sets forth that our fathers left britain on the faith of Contracts which have been faithfully observed on our part, that the king’s ministers grew jealous of us, that they sent armies to rob & kill us, therefore requesting if any application be made to them by those wicked ministers to refuse them, that we only desire that peace may continue between us. “We do not ask you (says the address) to take up the hatchet against the soldiers of the great King. We ask that it may be buried deep & peace & harmony subsist between us[.]” They are desired to acquaint the tribes on the river St. Lawrence with this talk: & on the return of their messengers to pay a visit to the general congress: & in the conclusion “We have lighted up a small council fire at Albany that we may hear each other & more fully disclose our minds to one another.[”] This is to be translated into Indian by Mr Kirkland and Genl. Schuyler is to deliver the belts, which are to be larger than any ever sent to the five nations: & as the Indians judge of the importance of the business by the Largeness of the belt there is no doubt but this matter will excite universal attention among them.3

It is said the Declaration is to be translated in several Languages and sent abroad. I am also privately informed that they are preparing an address to foreing states inviting them to trade with us.4 If this be true it may serve to explain what I heard Coll Hancock say the other day: “that he made no doubt but Boston would soon be in the peaceable possession of the original proprietors: nay continued he, I should not be surprized if Britain should court a reconciliation by offering to indemnify us for all our Losses.” As I knew not his Grounds for such a speech I must confess it appeared to me a very extradinary one. I believe the Congress have lay aside the design of removing from Philada. But they talk of adjourning next saturday for a few weeks.5

I had the pleasure this morning of seeing Aaron Burr who is going to the Camp with one Mr Ogden.6 I hope I shall hear from you soon, but I had rather see you. If the Congress should not remove it may be an inducement to you, to pay us a visit after their adjournment.

With this you will recieve Priestly, a few pamphlets, & a small map of Boston harbour.7

I am Dr Sir &c

W B Jun

P.S. The suspicions against Dr Franklin have died away: whatever was his design at coming over here, I believe he has now chosen his side, and favors our cause.8

1In his notebook copy, Bradford neglected to complete the date of this letter. He mentioned, however, in his diary, which is now in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, that he wrote to JM on 10 and 18 July.

2Reverend Samuel Stanhope Smith was about to return to Virginia with his bride, Ann Witherspoon.

3“A Speech to the Six Confederate Nations … from the Twelve United Colonies,” adopted by the Continental Congress on 13 July, was to be accompanied by “Three Strings, or a small Belt,” “The large belt of intelligence and declaration,” and “A small belt.” After Reverend Samuel Kirkland and General Philip Schuyler (1733–1804) took these to the “central council house” at Onondaga, the Six Nations were asked to make them known to their seven allied tribes along the St. Lawrence River, and then meet again (as they did) with agents of Congress in August at Albany. Bradford’s two quotations should have read as follows: “We don’t wish you to take up the hatchet against the king’s troops. We desire you to remain at home, and not join on either side, but keep the hatchet buried deep… . We depend upon you to send and acquaint your allies to the northward … that you have this talk of ours… . And when they return, we invite your great men to come and converse farther with us at Albany, where we intend to re-kindle the council fire which your and our ancestors sat round in great friendship” (Journals of the Continental Congress, II, 177–83; III, 351).

4Although on 15 July Congress declared that for the next nine months any shipmaster could export American produce to the value of whatever gunpowder, saltpeter, sulphur, or other military stores he brought in from abroad, it delayed until 6 April 1776 before completely opening American ports to world trade (ibid., II, 184–85, 200–201; IV, 257–59).

5Congress adjourned 1 August and reconvened 5 September 1775. John Hancock of Boston was at this time the president of the Continental Congress.

6Bradford and Aaron Burr had been graduated in the same class at the College of New Jersey. Following the death of his parents, Burr lived with his uncle, Timothy Edwards, in Elizabethtown. Armed with a letter of introduction from John Hancock to George Washington (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed., American Archives, 4th ser. (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1837–46). description ends , 4th ser., II, 1689), Burr and Matthias Ogden (1755–1791), who had also lived with the Edwards family, joined the patriot forces besieging Boston. They later served with distinction in the ill-fated Montgomery-Arnold campaign against Canada.

7For Joseph Priestley see JM to Bradford, 9 May 1775, n. 8. The map was probably “A New Plan of Boston Harbour from an Actual Survey, Engrav’d for the Pennsylva. Magazine,” which was printed in June 1775 (Pennsylvania Magazine or American Monthly Museum, I [1775], between p. 240 and p. 241).

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