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In his biography of John Randolph of Roanoke, William Cabell Bruce said of his grandfather James Bruce: "If tradition may be believed, sagacity, integrity, and an equable temper were the main factors that entered into his success. But a highly developed instinct of prudence seems to have had something to do with it. 'I am fond', Mr. Bruce wrote on one occasion, 'of taking two securities to a bond.'"

But Mr. Bruce was successful not just from a financial standpoint. In his own part of Virginia, and indeed wherever he was known, his name was a synonym for integrity and liberality. A contemporary said he was the "justest and most honorable man" he ever knew.

Dr. James Waddell Alexander, in one of his priceless letters, this one a Dr. Hall wrote: "I have just returned from Halifax. My visit was principally to the family of Mr. Bruce, to which I beg leave to introduce you. His house is noted for its hospitality, and presents to the 'bon vivant' as great temptations as can be found in Virginia. At Mr. Bruce's we seldom sat down to table, during the week I spent there, with less than ten strangers."

When he died in 1837 James Bruce was the third wealthiest man in America, his estate being valued at nearly three million dollars. Only John Jacob Astor and Stephen Girard