James Madison Papers

From James Madison to William Bradford, 17 July 1779

To William Bradford

RC (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

Wmsbg. July 17th. 1779

My dear friend

I had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 29th.[?] Ulto.1 by yesterday’s post, and agreeable to your request take this immediate opportunity of acknowledging it.

The Inhabitants of this City roused by the extortions of the times and the example of your State are instituting regulations similar to those you mention. Whether they will have the necessary prudenc[e,] firmness & perseverence, or whether the other parts of the State will concur in the undertaking time only can shew.2 The Specific Tax adopted here3 and the plentiful crops in prospect in the middle States it is to be hoped will facilitate the execution of it.

The Govr. has recd. authentic information from the Southward that Gen Lincoln4 on the 20th. of last Month made a regular attack on the Enemy’s lines on the mainland opposite the Island abt. 20 Miles from C. Town where our main body lay. The assault continued 56 Minutes. A party of Highlanders which sallied out were driven back with great slaughter. The result was however that the Genl. finding the place more impregnable than he expected & reinforcements from the Island having arrived during the engagement withdrew his troops with all his wounded & Artillery. Our loss is represented as inconsiderable and that of the Enemy as probably material.5 Govr. Rutledge adds that our Army was greatly animated with the experiment and were satisfied that had the Enemy quitted their lines, that in a fair & open combat, they should have beat them.6

The General Washington a Ship belonging to this State and just arrived from France, left Brest in company with a fleet consisting of 1–80 Gun Ship[,] 5–74[,] 2[?] Frigates[,] 24–20 Gun Ships with 60 Transports containing 10,000 troops destined for the W. Indies. She parted with the Fleet on the 1st. of June off Madeira.7

I mentioned to you in my last that upon the receipt of it it would be necessary to change the direction of your Letters from this City to Orange. I propose to set of[f] about the last of next week.


JM Jr.

1Not found.

2Bradford had probably mentioned a meeting on 25 May 1779 in which prominent citizens of Philadelphia, under his father’s chairmanship, adopted and urged others to agree to measures designed to hold down prices and to penalize those who failed to co-operate, in order to prevent a further depreciation of the currency. Their “Address of the Committee of the City and Liberties of Philadelphia, to Their Fellow Citizens throughout the United States” appeared in the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg, Dixon and Nicolson) of 7 August 1779. On 15 and 16 July, however, “respectable citizens and freemen” of Williamsburg, meeting in the courthouse, had blamed the “alarming depreciation of our paper currency” largely upon “monopolizers, forestallers, and engrossers,” and appointed a standing committee (a) to maintain for basic commodities a monthly schedule of prices; (b) to prevent these commodities from being removed from the town to more profitable markets; (c) to brand transgressors as hostile “to the rights and liberties of America”; and (d) to urge other communities to do likewise, including an acceptance of approximately the Williamsburg price schedule (ibid., 24 July 1779).

3On 26 June 1779 the Assembly provided by law that annually for the next four years there must be furnished, without charge to the state, one bushel of wheat or its equivalent value in other grains, hemp, or tobacco, for every able-bodied man and “every woman slave” over sixteen years of age (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held At the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The Journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1781 are brought together in one volume, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , May 1779, p. 70; 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 , X, 79).

4Major General Benjamin Lincoln.

5Early in June 1779 the British Major General Augustine Prevost and his force of about 2,500 troops occupied a strongly fortified position on John’s Island and especially on the nearby mainland at Stono Ferry on the Stono River. Between 16 and 19 June, however, he and all except about nine hundred of his men left by sea for Savannah. On the 20th, some twelve hundred patriot soldiers led by Lincoln assaulted the enemy redoubts at Stono Ferry. After a hard-fought battle, having failed to attain their objective before British reinforcements began to arrive from John’s Island, they retreated in good order back to Charleston. Apparently their loss amounted to 146 men killed or wounded and 155 missing; that of the British to 129 killed or wounded and one missing. Shortly after the battle the remainder of the enemy troops left for Port Royal Island on their way to Savannah (Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, ed. by John Richard Alden [2 vols.; New York, 1952], II, 685–88).

6Probably the “authentic information” mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph had come to Governor Thomas Jefferson from Governor John Rutledge (1739–1800) of South Carolina. Rutledge would be a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1791, and briefly in 1795 its acting Chief Justice.

7The “General Washington” was apparently an armed schooner which returned to Alexandria, Va., in June from a nine-month voyage, mainly spent in and near the Bay of Biscay. On its return passage the “General Washington” captured a British privateer off Cape Henry. Toussaint Guillaume, Comte de La Motte-Picquet de la Vinoyère, commanded the French fleet, which was composed of five ships of the line, three frigates, and sixty transports (Doniol, Histoire description begins Henri Doniol, Histoire de la participation de la France à l’établissement des États-Unis d’Amérique (5 vols.; Paris, 1886–92). description ends , IV, 252 n.).

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