James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Donald Fraser Sr., 8 June 1817

From Donald Fraser Sr.

Newyork June 8th. 1817.

Highly Respected Sir.

Notwithstanding, my not having the honor of a personal acquaintance, yet, I trust, that, the well known, suavity of your disposition will induce you to pardon my freedom in addressing you at present.

Knowing, that for many years past, your highly useful life, has been Devoted to the promotion of the best interests of your beloved Country: I [s]hou’d not have intruded upon your retireme[n]t, but for two cogent reasons.

First, to evince, that I was not unmindful of your bounty towards me, some since; when, by misfortune, I had lost the fruits of many years Industry.1

Secondly. Your liberality towards my son, Donald,2 in having twice Brevetted him; & lastly, in your having Granted him his full Major’s Pension; which he has, as a truly felial son, transferred to me: and his appointment to his present situation; as Secy. to his friend, Genl. Peter B. Porter;3 they fought & bled together. These instateces [sic] of your Bounty, have impressed his mind, with indeliable gratitude, towards the late President of the UStates: And, should John-Bull, in his mad career, again measure Swords with us, he would doubtless fight hard, in the defence of the Liberties of his country: He has been four times wounded, in as many hard fought battles: The Capture of York, & Fort-George; the Sanguinary Battle of Chipawaw, & at the famous Sortie from Erie; where he was shot through the leg, in the act of s[p]iking a cannon, in one of the Enemy’s forts. You’ll pardon the partialy of a parent, towards a favorite son: He, now, thank God! can walk & ride tolerably well; tho, his leg, can’t bear much hardship.

That your Days may be numberous & happy here, & crowned with Eternal felicity here after, is the Sincere wish, of Sir, Your respectful obdt. humble Servant

Donald Fraser Senr.4

RC (NN). Addressed by Fraser to JM “Late President of the U. States,” and franked. Cover docketed by JM.

1See Fraser to JM, 12 June 1812, PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (6 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 4:476.

2Donald Fraser Jr. entered the U.S. Army in March 1812 as an ensign in the Fifteenth Regiment of Infantry and moved steadily up the ranks. His promotions included a brevet to captain for gallant conduct during the Niagara campaign and to major at the sortie from Fort Erie. He resigned from the army in 1816 but reentered as a major paymaster in 1836, resigning again in November 1841 (Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, from Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 [2 vols.; 1903; reprint, Baltimore, 1994], 1:434).

3Peter Buell Porter (1773–1844), a Yale graduate and lawyer, settled in Western New York in 1795 and quickly became a major figure in local politics and the economic development of the region. He served in Congress from 1809 to 1813 when he gave up his seat to become quartermaster general of New York state. As commander of volunteers he led his brigade in a number of important engagements and was promoted to major general of the New York militia. After the war he again served in Congress, 1814–16, and JM appointed him a U.S. commissioner under articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty of Ghent to determine the U.S.-Canadian border from the St. Lawrence River to the Lake of the Woods. Porter was briefly secretary of war, 1828–29.

4Donald Fraser Sr. (ca. 1754–1820) was a Scottish-born essayist who wrote on a wide variety of historical and literary topics. JM subscribed to one of Fraser’s publications, and evidently provided him with a small loan at one time (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (6 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 4:28 and n. 1, 476; Fraser to JM, 11 Jan. 1808 [NN]).

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