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TO JAMES MADISON. 1 mad. mss. - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 1 (1769-1783) 
The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 1.
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TO JAMES MADISON.1mad. mss.
Nassau Hall, September 30th 69.
I received your letter by Mr. Rossekrans, and wrote an answer; but as it is probable this will arrive sooner which I now write by Doctor Witherspoon, I shall repeat some circumstances to avoid obscurity.
On Wednesday last we had the usual commencement. Eighteen young Gentlemen took their Bachelor’s degrees, and a considerable number their Master’s Degrees. The degree of Doctor of Law was bestowed on Mr. Dickenson the Farmer and Mr. Galloway,2 the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, a distinguishing mark of Honour, as there never was any of that kind done before in America. The Commencement began at 10 O’Clock, when the President walked first into the Church, a board of Trustees following, and behind them those that were to take their Master’s degrees, and last of all, those that were to take their first Degrees; after a short prayer by the President the Head Oration, which is always given to greatest Scholar by the President & Tutors, was pronounced in Latin by Mr. Samuel Smith,1 son of a Presbyterian Minister in Pennsylvania. Then followed the other Orations, Disputes, and Dialogues, distributed to each according to his merit, and last of all was pronounced the Valedictory oration by Mr. John Henry son of Gentleman in Maryland. This is given to the greatest Orator. We had a very great assembly of People, a considerable number of whom came from N York those at Philadelphia were most of them detained by Races which were to follow on the next day.
Since Commencement the Trustees have been sitting about Business relative to the College, and have chosen for Tutors for the ensuing year, for the junior class Mr. Houston from N Carolina in the room of Mr. Peream. for the Freshman class, Mr. Reeve a gentleman who has for several years past kept a School at Elizabeth Town, in the room of Mr. Pemberton: The Sophomore Tutor Mr. Thomson still retains his place, remarkable for his skill in the Sophomore Studies, having taken care of that class for several years past. Mr. Halsey was chose Junior Tutor but refused. The Trustees have likewise appointed Mr. Caldwell a minister at Elizabeth Town to take a journey through the Southern Provinces as far as Georgia to make collections by which the College Fund may be enabled to increase the Library, provide an apparatus of mathematical and Philosophical Instruments & likewise to support Professors which would be a great addition to the advantages of this College. Doctr Witherspoon’s business to Virginia is nearly the same as I conjecture and perhaps to form some acquaintance to induce Gentlemen to send their sons to this College.
I am very sorry to hear of the great drought that has prevailed with you, but am in some hopes the latter part of the year may have been more seasonable for you[r] crops. Your caution of frugality on consideration of the dry weather shall be carefully observed; but I am under a necessity of spending much more than I was apprehensive, for the purchasing of every small trifle which I have occasion for consumes a much greater sum than one would suppose from a calculation of the necessary expences.
I feel great satisfaction from the assistance my Uncle has received from the Springs, and I flatter myself from the continuance of my mother’s health that Dr. Shore’s skill will effectually banish the cause of her late indisposition.
I recollect nothing more at present worth relating, but as often as opportunity and anything worthy your attention shall occur, be assured you shall hear from NA your affectionate son.
TO JAMES MADISON.mad. mss.
Nassau Hall, July 23d 1770.
I receiv’d yours dated June 4th. & have applied to Mr. Hoops as you directed; he says you must suit yourself in paying him, & if you should let him have a bill of Exchange it must be on your own terms. Forty pounds £40. New Jersey Currency is the Sum I shall have of him before I get home, my frugality has not been able to keep it below that, consistent with my staying here to the best advantage. I shall be glad, if it should be convenient for you, to have my next year’s stock prepared for me against I come home, for I shall not be able to stay in Virginia more than 4 weeks at most. Half Jos—pass here to the greatest advantage. I have spoken to several of the present senior class about living with you as Tutor, but they will determine on nothing unless they know what you would allow them, as it would not be proper for them to remain in suspense ’till I should return here; If you should receive this time enough to send me an answer by the middle of September & let me know the most you would be willing to give, I think there would be a greater probability of my engaging one for you. Inclosed are the measure of my Neck & rists. I believe my Mother need not hurry herself much about my shirts before I come for I shall not want more than three or four at most. I should chuse she would not have them ruffled ’till I am present myself. I have not yet procured a horse for my Journey, but think you had better not send me one as I cant wait long enough to know whether or not you’ll have an opportunity without losing my chance most of the horses being commonly engaged by the Students sometime before vacation begins. If I should set off from this place as soon as I expect you may look for me in October perhaps a little before the middle if the weather should be good.
We have no publick news but the base conduct of the Merchants in N. York in breaking through their spirited resolutions not to import, a distinct account of which I suppose will be in the Virginia Gazette before this arrives. Their Letter to the Merchants in Philadelphia requesting their concurrence was lately burnt by the students of this place in the college yard, all of them appearing in their black Gowns & the bell Tolling. The number of Students has increased very much of late, there are about an hundred & fifteen in College & the Grammar School twenty-two commence this Fall all of them in American Cloth.
With my love to all the Family, I am, etc.
TO JAMES MADISON.mad. mss.
Princeton October 9th 1771.
In obedience to your requests I hereby send you an answer to your’s of the 25th of Sept. which I received this morning. My Letter by Dr. Witherspoon who left this place yesterday week contains most of what you desire to be informed. I am exceedingly rejoiced to hear of the happy deliverance of my Mother & would fain hope your rheumatic pains will not continue much longer. The Bill of exchange was very acceptable. Though I cannot say I have been as yet very much pressed by my creditors. Since I got the Bill I have been making a calculation of my past & future expences & find it nothing more than a bare competency the reason of which I dare say you will not ascribe to extravagance when you read my letter of last week. If I come home in the Spring the purchase of a horse & travelling expences I am apprehensive will amount to more than I can reserve out of my present stock for those purposes so that it would not be amiss perhaps if you were to send a few Half-Jos: by Dr. Witherspoon or Colo. Lewis’s sons if they return, or some safe hand afterwards as best suits you. I should be glad if your health & other circumstances should enable you to visit D Witherspoon during his stay in Virginia. I am persuaded you would be much pleased with him & that he would be very glad to see you. If you should not be able to see him nor send to him Colo. Lewis or any other Gentleman in Fredericksburgh would advance what money I am to have at the least intimation from you. If you should ever send me any Bills hereafter, it will be best for you to make them payable to Dr Witherspoon, which will give him an opportunity to endorse them & greatly help me in getting them, if it should so happen that you see him, please to mention it to him. I am sorry Mr. Chew’s mode of Conveyance will not answer in Virginia. I expect to hear from him in a few days by return of a man belonging to this Town from New London & shall then acquaint him with it and get it remedied by the methods you propose. Mr. James Martin was here at Commencement and had an opportunity of hearing from his Brothers & friends in Carolina by a young man lately come from thence to this College however I shall follow your directions in writing to him immediately & visiting him as soon as I find it convenient.
You may tell Mrs Martin he left his Family at home all well. If you think proper that I should come back to this place after my journey to Virginia in the Spring & spend the Summer here you may send the cloth for my coat which I am extremely pleased with & could have wished it had come time enough to have used this Summer past, if you chuse rather I should remain in Virginia next Summer it will be unnecessary.
I am, etc.
TO WILLIAM BRADFORD, JR.1
Orange, Virginia, November 9, 1772.
My dear B.,—
You moralize so prettily, that if I were to judge from some parts of your letter of October 13, I should take you for an old philosopher that had experienced the emptiness of earthly happiness; and I am very glad that you have so early seen through the romantic paintings with which the world is sometimes set off by the sprightly imaginations of the ingenious. You have happily supplied, by reading and observation, the want of experiment; and therefore I hope you are sufficiently guarded against the allurements and vanities that beset us on our first entrance on the theatre of life. Yet, however nice and cautious we may be in detecting the follies of mankind, and framing our economy according to the precepts of Wisdom and Religion, I fancy there will commonly remain with us some latent expectation of obtaining more than ordinary happiness and prosperity till we feel the convincing argument of actual disappointment. Though I will not determine whether we shall be much the worse for it if we do not allow it to intercept our views towards a future state, because strong desires and great hopes instigate us to arduous enterprizes, fortitude, and perseverance. Nevertheless, a watchful eye must be kept on ourselves, lest while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the annals of Heaven. These thoughts come into my mind because I am writing to you, and thinking of you. As to myself, I am too dull and infirm now to look out for any extraordinary things in this world, for I think my sensations for many months past have intimated to me not to expect a long or healthy life; though it may be better with me after some time, [but] I hardly dare expect it, and therefore have little spirit and alacrity to set about anything that is difficult in acquiring and useless in possessing after one has exchanged time for eternity. But you have health, youth, fire, and genius, to bear you along through the high track of public life, and so may be more interested and delighted in improving on hints that respect the temporal though momentous concerns of man.
I think you made a judicious choice of History and the science of morals for your winter’s study. They seem to be of the most universal benefit to men of sense and taste in every post, and must certainly be of great use to youth in settling the principles and refining the judgment, as well as in enlarging knowledge and correcting the imagination. I doubt not but you design to season them with a little divinity now and then, which, like the philosopher’s stone, in the hands of a good man, will turn them and every lawful acquirement into the nature of itself, and make them more precious than fine gold.
As you seem to require that I should be open and unreserved, (which is indeed the only proof of true friendship,) I will venture to give you a word of advice, though it be more to convince you of my affection for you than from any apprehension of your needing it. Pray do not suffer those impertinent fops that abound in every city to divert you from your business and philosophical amusements. You may please them more by admitting them to the enjoyment of your company, but you will make them respect and admire you more by showing your indignation at their follies, and by keeping them at a becoming distance. I am luckily out of the way of such troubles, but I know you are surrounded with them; for they breed in towns and populous places as naturally as flies do in the shambles, because there they get food enough for their vanity and impertinence.
I have undertaken to instruct my brothers and sisters in some of the first rudiments of literature; but it does not take up so much of my time but I shall always have leisure to receive and answer your letters, which are very grateful to me, I assure you; and for reading any performances you may be kind enough to send me, whether of Mr. Freneau1 or anybody else. I think myself happy in your correspondence, and desire you will continue to write as often as you can, as you see I intend to do by the early and long answer I send you. You are the only valuable friend I have settled in so public a place, and I must rely on you for an account of all literary transactions in your part of the world.
I am not sorry to hear of Livingston’s2 getting a degree. I heartily wish him well, though many would think I had but little reason to do so; and if he would be sensible of his opportunities and encouragements, I think he might still recover. Lucky (?) and his company, after their feeble yet wicked assault upon Mr. Erwin, in my opinion, will disgrace the catalogue of names; but they are below contempt, and I spend no more words about them.
And now, my friend, I must take my leave of you, but with such hopes that it will not be long before I receive another epistle from you, as make me more cheerfully conclude and subscribe myself
Your sincere and affectionate friend.
Your direction was right; however, the addition of “Jr.” to my name would not be improper.
[1 ]Madison’s father was, during the earlier part of his son’s career, his chief correspondent. He was a planter of substantial estate without being wealthy. Although he is represented as not having received much education the few of his letters which are extant show that he wrote with tolerable correctness. He was County Lieutenant of Orange and wielded an influence in local affairs which was considerable. He inherited Montpelier from his father, Ambrose Madison.
[2 ]“This gentleman afterwards tarnished all his honors by defection from the American cause.”—Rives, i., 18.
[1 ]Delegate from Maryland to the Continental Congress, 1778-81, and again in 1784-7; Senator from Maryland, 1789-97; Governor of the State from 1797 to his death, Dec. 16, 1798.
[1 ]From Madison’s works. This and the following Bradford letters are not iound in the Madison MSS. Bradford was successively Major in the Pennsylvania militia, in command of a company in Col. Hampton’s regiment of regular troops, and Deputy Muster Master-General, with rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, during the Revolution; Attorney-General of Pennsylvania in 1780, Judge of the Supreme Court of the State in 1791, and Attorney-General of the United States in 1794.
[1 ]Nov. 22, 1772, Philip Freneau wrote to Madison from Somerset Co., Md., where he was, as he expressed it, teaching school, sleeping, and writing poetry: “I should have been glad to have heard from you before now; while I was at College I had but a short participation of your agreeable friendship, and the few persons I converse with and yet fewer, whose conversation I delight in, makes me regret the Loss of it.”—Mad. MSS. It was chiefly through Madison’s agency that Freneau was subsequently appointed translating clerk of the State Department, a position which he held while he was editing the National Gazette and leading the abuse of Washington. See Ædanus Burke’s letter to Madison concerning him in The American Historical Review for January, 1898, p. 279.
[2 ]Brokholst Livingston, afterwards Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States.