a Generous Madness

In 1769, Sarah Prince Gill, the wife of a Boston merchant, using the pseudonym “Sophronia,” wrote to the renowned English historian, Catharine Sawbridge Macaulay, urging her to write a history of America and offering to put her in touch with American intellectuals.

It is with Pleasure Madam, I hear of your design to treat of the settlement of these Northern Collonies. I hope you will have the aid of the most accurate Peices that give Light on the Subject. …

When I reflected on the Quallities you are endowed with for Works of this Nature, I feel regret that you are not on the Field where the history was Acted; for give me leave to say, no Person can form a full Idea of the American Spirit & Love of Liberty, but those who dwell in or visit the Clime; it is inwrought in their Frame; transpires in every breath; and beats in every Pulse. …

I would not, I hope I do not, carry my notion of Patriotism beyond the Standard of Truth, yea, of Truth confirmed by Fact. Souls there have been, Souls there are, who have Sacrificed darling Interests for their Countries Good. Even in this Age of Corruption Venality and Dissipation I am frequently the Wittness of Such a Conduct. I Glory in my Country, I Glory in Boston my native Town on this Account.—And tho the Pathetic Writings and warm Addresses of Some have been termed Enthusiastic Raphsody, high Flights of a raised Imagination &c., and the Spirited United Conduct of Others deem’d Madness and Faction, yet in my humble Opinion these are the Genuine results of a Rational Enthusiasm, a Generous Madness, and a truly Loyall Faction. What more Generous than the Merchant who depends on Commerce, stopping the resource of his own gain to procure the Liberty of his Country? What Online Pokies more Loyall than to prefer the good of the Empire to that of a Few mercenary Place-Men* Pensioners &c? What more Rational than to employ the Powers of Genius, and of Eloquence, in stating and defending the rights of Humanity?—Yes, My Dear Madam, there are among Us of Men very many, of Women not a Few animated with this Philosophy.

You Lament the want of such a spirit in “Our Sex.” I have Observed and Mourned it Also, but I find this is chiefly among our City Ladies: that it takes rise from that Levity of Manners, that dissipation of Thought, that Low Ambition of Title and Show which Characterises our Modern Women; Amusements and Pageantry have absorbed their every Care and destroyed the Noblest Feelings of the Humane Heart! When sick of Contemplating this, and Conversing with these, I turn me to those who think and Act more becoming Rationals. And many do I know who are warm Assertors and steady Friends of Liberty; Especially is this evident among the most serious religious Women of New England. … Our Ancestors wisely took care to instill the principles of Liberty into the minds of their Children, to this provident care it is owing that America hath made such a Noble stand against the inroads of Despotism, and produced such Able Defenders of her Rights.

*Place-man: one appointed by the sovereign to a remunerative public office as a reward for service or loyalty, usually a derogatory term.

Gill offered to transmit any information to Macaulay that could be of use in writing a history. “Happy shou’d I think myself if in any instance I cou’d serve the Cause, tho’ as the smallest spring in the Grand Machine.”

Gill’s letters are from In the Words of Women, pages 16-18; the portrait is at the National Gallery, London.

posted October 1st, 2012 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Boston, New England, Resistance to British

zero comments so far

Please share your thoughts with us; leave a comment below.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

   Copyright © 2023 In the Words of Women.