Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1774 - TO WILLIAM BRADFORD, JR. - The Writings, vol. 1 (1769-1783)
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1774 - TO WILLIAM BRADFORD, JR. - 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 WILLIAM BRADFORD, JR.
January the 24th, 1774.
My worthy Friend,—
Yours of the 25th of last month came into my hands a few days past. It gave singular pleasure, not only because of the kindness expressed in it, but because I had reason to apprehend the letter you received last from me had miscarried, and I should fail in procuring the intelligence I wanted before the trip I designed in the spring.
I congratulate you on your heroic proceedings in Philadelphia with regard to the tea.1 I wish Boston may conduct matters with as much discretion as they seem to do with boldness. They seem to have great trials and difficulties by reason of the obduracy and ministerialism of their Governor. However, political contests are necessary sometimes, as well as military, to afford exercise and practice, and to instruct in the art of defending liberty and property. I verily believe the frequent assaults that have been made on America (Boston especially) will in the end prove of real advantage.
If the Church of England had been the established and general religion in all the northern colonies as it has been among us here, and uninterrupted tranquillity had prevailed throughout the continent, it is clear to me that slavery and subjection might and would have been gradually insinuated among us. Union of religious sentiments begets a surprising confidence, and ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption; all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.
But away with politics! Let me address you as a student and philosopher, and not as a patriot, now. I am pleased that you are going to converse with the Edwards and Henrys and Charleses, &c., &c., who have swayed the British sceptre, though I believe you will find some of them dirty and unprofitable companions, unless you will glean instruction from their follies, and fall more in love with liberty by beholding such detestable pictures of tyranny and cruelty.
I was afraid you would not easily have loosened your affection from the belles lettres. A delicate taste and warm imagination like yours must find it hard to give up such refined and exquisite enjoyments for the coarse and dry study of the law. It is like leaving a pleasant flourishing field for a barren desert; perhaps I should not say barren either, because the law does bear fruit, but it is sour fruit, that must be gathered and pressed and distilled before it can bring pleasure or profit. I perceive I have made a very awkward comparison; but I got the thought by the end, and had gone too far to quit it before I perceived that it was too much entangled in my brain to run it through; and so you must forgive it. I myself used to have too great a hankering after those amusing studies. Poetry, wit, and criticism, romances, plays, &c., captivated me much; but I began to discover that they deserve but a small portion of a mortal’s time, and that something more substantial, more durable, and more profitable, befits a riper age. It would be exceedingly improper for a laboring man to have nothing but flowers in his garden, or to determine to eat nothing but sweet meats and confections. Equally absurd would it be for a scholar and a man of business to make up his whole library with books of fancy, and feed his mind with nothing but such luscious performances.
When you have an opportunity and write to Mr. Brackenridge,1 pray tell him I often think of him, and long to see him, and am resolved to do so in the spring. George Luckey was with me at Christmas, and we talked so much about old affairs and old friends, that I have a most insatiable desire to see you all. Luckey will accompany me, and we are to set off on the 10th of April, if no disaster befalls either of us.
I want again to breathe your free air. I expect it will mend my constitution and confirm my principles. I have indeed as good an atmosphere at home as the climate will allow; but have nothing to brag of as to the state and liberty of my country. Poverty and luxury prevail among all sorts; pride, ignorance, and knavery among the priesthood, and vice and wickedness among the laity. This is bad enough, but it is not the worst I have to tell you. That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some; and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such business. This vexes me the worst of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent country not less than five or six well-meaning men in close jail for publishing their religious sentiments, which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither patience to hear, talk, or think of anything relative to this matter; for I have squabbled and scolded, abused and ridiculed, so long about it to little purpose, that I am without common patience. So I must beg you to pity me, and pray for liberty of conscience to all.
I expect to hear from you once more before I see you, if time will admit; and want to know when the synod meets, and where; what the exchange is at, and as much about my friends and other matters as you can [tell,] and think worthy of notice Till I see you,
N. B. Our correspondence is too far advanced to require apology for bad writing and blots.
Your letter to Mr. Wallace is yet in my hands, and shall be forwarded to you as soon as possible. I hear nothing from him by letter or fame.
TO WILLIAM BRADFORD, JR.
Virginia, Orange County, April 1, 1774.
My worthy Friend,—
I have another favor to acknowledge in the receipt of your kind letter of March the 4th. I did not intend to have written again to you before I obtained a nearer communication with you; but you have too much interest in my inclinations ever to be denied a request.
Mr. Brackenridge’s illness gives me great uneasiness; I think he would be a loss to America. His merit is rated so high by me that I confess, if he were gone, I could almost say with the poet, that his country could furnish such a pomp for death no more. But I solace myself from Finley’s ludicrous descriptions as you do.
Our Assembly is to meet the first of May, when it is expected something will be done in behalf of the dissenters. Petitions, I hear, are already forming among the persecuted Baptists, and I fancy it is in the thoughts of the Presbyterians also, to intercede for greater liberty in matters of religion. For my own part, I cannot help being very doubtful of their succeeding in the attempt. The affair was on the carpet during the last session; but such incredible and extravagant stories were told in the House of the monstrous effects of the enthusiasm prevalent among the sectaries, and so greedily swallowed by their enemies, that I believe they lost footing by it. And the bad name they still have with those who pretend too much contempt to examine into their principles and conduct, and are too much devoted to the ecclesiastical establishment to hear of the toleration of dissentients, I am apprehensive, will be again made a pretext for rejecting their request.
The sentiments of our people of fortune and fashion on this subject are vastly different from what you have been used to.1 That liberal, catholic, and equitable way of thinking, as to the rights of conscience, which is one of the characteristics of a free people, and so strongly marks the people of your province, is but little known among the zealous adherents to our hierarchy. We have, it is true, some persons in the Legislature of generous principles both in Religion and Politics; but number, not merit, you know, is necessary to carry points there. Besides, the clergy are a numerous and powerful body, have great influence at home by reason of their connection with and dependence on the Bishops and Crown, and will naturally employ all their art and interest to depress their rising adversaries; for such they must consider dissenters who rob them of the good will of the people, and may, in time, endanger their livings and security.
You are happy in dwelling in a land where those inestimable privileges are fully enjoyed; and the public has long felt the good effects of this religious as well as civil liberty. Foreigners have been encouraged to settle among you. Industry and virtue have been promoted by mutual emulation and mutual inspection; commerce and the arts have flourished; and I cannot help attributing those continual exertions of genius which appear among you to the inspiration of liberty, and that love of fame and knowledge which always accompany it. Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect. How far this is the case with Virginia will more clearly appear when the ensuing trial is made.
I am making all haste in preparing for my journey. It appears as if it would be the first of May before I can start, which I can more patiently bear, because I may possibly get no company before that time; and it will answer so exactly with the meeting of the synod. George Luckey talks of joining me if I can wait till then. I am resolutely determined to come if it is in my power. If anything hinders me, it will be most likely the indisposition of my mother, who is in a very low state of health; and if she should grow worse, I am afraid she will be more unwilling to part with my brother, as she will be less able to bear the separation. If it should unfortunately happen that I should be forced off or give out coming, Luckey on his return to Virginia will bring me whatever publications you think worth sending, and among others [Caspapini’s?] letters.
But whether I come or not, be assured I retain the most ardent affection and esteem for you, and the most cordial gratitude for your many generous kindnesses. It gives me real pleasure when I write to you that I can talk in this language without the least affectation, and without the suspicion of it, and that if I should omit expressing my love for you, your friendship can supply the omission; or if I make use of the most extravagant expressions of it, your corresponding affection can believe them to be sincere. This is a satisfaction and delight unknown to all who correspond for business and conveniency, but richly enjoyed by all who make pleasure and improvement the business of their communications.
P. S. You need no longer direct to the care of Mr. Maury.
TO WILLIAM BRADFORD, JR.
July 1, 1774.
I am once more got into my native land, and into the possession of my customary employments, solitude and contemplation; though I must confess not a little disturbed by the sound of war, blood and plunder, on the one hand, and the threats of slavery and oppression on the other. From the best accounts I can obtain from our frontiers, the savages are determined on the extirpation of the inhabitants, and no longer leave them the alternative of death or captivity. The consternation and timidity of the white people, who abandon their possessions without making the least resistance, are as difficult to be accounted for as they are encouraging to the enemy. Whether it be owing to the unusual cruelty of the Indians, the want of necessary implements or ammunition for war, or to the ignorance and inexperience of many who, since the establishment of peace, have ventured into those new settlements, I can neither learn, nor with any certainty conjecture. However, it is confidently asserted that there is not an inhabitant for some hundreds of miles back which have been settled for many years except those who are [forted?] in or embodied by their military commanders. The state of things has induced Lord Dunmore, contrary to his intentions at the dissolution of the Assembly, to issue writs for a new election of members, whom he is to call together on the 11th of August.
As to the sentiments of the people of this Colony with respect to the Bostonians, I can assure you I find them very warm in their favor. The natives are very numerous and resolute, are making resolves in almost every county, and I believe are willing to fall in with the other Colonies in any expedient measure, even if that should be the universal prohibition of trade. It must not be denied, though, that the Europeans, especially the Scotch, and some interested merchants among the natives, discountenance such proceedings as far as they dare; alledging the injustice and perfidy of refusing to pay our debts to our generous creditors at home. This consideration induces some honest, moderate folks to prefer a partial prohibition, extending only to the importation of goods.
We have a report here that Governor Gage has sent Lord Dunmore some letters relating to public matters in which he says he has strong hopes that he shall be able to bring things at Boston to an amicable settlement. I suppose you know whether there be any truth in the report, or any just foundation for such an opinion in Gage.
It has been said here by some, that the appointed fast was disregarded by every Scotch clergyman, though it was observed by most of the others who had timely notice of it. I cannot avouch it for an absolute certainty, but it appears no ways incredible.
I was so lucky as to find Dean Tucker’s tracts1 on my return home, sent by mistake with some other books imported this spring. I have read them with peculiar satisfaction and illumination with respect to the interests of America and Britain. At the same time his ingenious and plausible defence of parliamentary authority carries in it such defects and misrepresentations, as confirm me in political orthodoxy—after the same manner as the specious arguments of Infidels have established the faith of inquiring Christians.
I am impatient to hear from you; and do now certainly [earnestly?] renew the stipulation for that friendly correspondence which alone can comfort me in the privation of your company. I shall be punctual in transmitting you an account of everything that can be acceptable, but must freely absolve you from as strict an obligation, which your application to more important business will not allow, and which my regard for your ease and interests will not suffer me to enjoin. I am, dear sir, your faithful friend.
[1 ]“Even at Philadelphia, which had been so long celebrated, for the excellency of its police and government, and the temperate manners of its inhabitants, printed papers were dispersed, warning the pilots on the river Delaware, not to conduct any of these tea ships into their harbour, which were only sent out for the purpose of enslaving and poisoning all the Americans; at the same time, giving them plainly to understand it was expected, that they would apply their knowledge of the river, under the colour of their profession, in such a manner, as would effectually secure their country from so imminent a danger.”—Annual Register, xvii., 49.
[1 ]Hugh Henry Brackenridge, a classmate of Madison’s. In conjunction with Philip Franeau he wrote a poetical dialogue, called “The Rising Glory of America,” which was read at the graduating exercises at Princeton and printed in 1772.
[1 ]Tucker, in his life of Jefferson, states it as Madison’s opinion, “That the proportion of dissenters in Virginia, at the breaking out of the Revolution, was considerably less than one half of those who professed themselves members of any church.” Rives, i., 55, n.
[1 ]On the dispute between England and America, recommending as a practical solution, a voluntary separation. Rives, i., 35.