Thomas Jefferson Papers

Francis Adrian Van der Kemp to Thomas Jefferson, 18 February 1812

From Francis Adrian Van der Kemp

Olden barneveld (N. york State) Febr. 18. 1812.


I do not search for an apologÿ, in sending you included imperfect Sketch of a work, which I ardently wished, to see executed bÿ a masterlÿ hand If to former favours—which can not be obliterated by me—you would join another by condescending to gratifÿ me with your opinion and Strictures I should feel myself ÿet higher indebted to your Patronage—while—I should consider—to have not Laboured in vain—if one of your1 literarÿ friends—here or in Europe was induced by you, to undertake and discharge this arduous task.

Manÿ years past you honoured with a flattering approbation—a few loose Philosophical hints—on some points of Nat: Hist—discussed by you and the Count de Bufton—send to you by my frend the Chanc. Livingston. Encouraged by the remarks of my Correspondents—I have retouched these so often—that it is now a work of considerable bulk by what it was then. Did I dare to presume, that I could once more submit it to your judgment, without a too great Sacrifice of your precious time, I would endeavour—to give it a revision in the course of this year—altho by the uncouth garb in which it appears—I have not a distant prospect of publishing.

Permit me to assure you, that I remain with high regard and consideration

Sir! Your most obed: and obliged Servant

Fr. Adr. van der Kemp.

RC (DLC); dateline adjacent to signature; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Mar. 1812 and so recorded in SJL.

Francis Adrian Van der Kemp (1752–1829) was born at Kampen in the Netherlands. He served in the Dutch military, attended the University of Groningen, 1770–73, left the Dutch Reformed church in the latter year, and graduated in 1775 from a Baptist seminary in Amsterdam. Van der Kemp actively supported both the Dutch and American patriot movements. He was imprisoned in 1787 for his antimonarchical activities and immigrated to the United States in May 1788 carrying letters of introduction from TJ. Van der Kemp became a naturalized citizen in 1789. A Federalist, he corresponded regularly with John Adams and DeWitt Clinton. In 1805 Van der Kemp was elected to the American Philosophical Society. He settled at Olden Barneveld (now Barneveld), Oneida County, New York, where he farmed, served as a justice of the peace and master in chancery, and was briefly a federal revenue surveyor. He and TJ exchanged ideas on religion and the writing of history. In 1816 Van der Kemp persuaded TJ to let him publish anonymously in an English Unitarian periodical the latter’s “Syllabus,” an outline of his understanding of the doctrines of Jesus. Van der Kemp himself published a number of shorter works and translated a large body of early New York Dutch records, the manuscript of which was lost in a fire after his death. His grander designs for publishing expansive historical works did not come to fruition (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Harry F. Jackson, Scholar in the Wilderness: Francis Adrian Van der Kemp [1963]; Helen Lincklaen Fairchild, ed., Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 1752–1829: An Autobiography, Together with Extracts from his Correspondence [1903]; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 12:632–3, 655, 656, 16:285; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 18 Jan. 1805 [MS in PPAmP]).

Robert R. Livingston sent Van der Kemp’s loose philosophical hints to TJ on 29 Mar. 1801, describing them as an “essay” by a “clergyman of much learning” (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 31 vols. description ends , 33:497–8).

1Manuscript: “yuer.”

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc, comte de; and natural history search
  • Livingston, Robert R.; recommends F. A. Van der Kemp to TJ search
  • Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian; and proposed book search
  • Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian; and R. R. Livingston search
  • Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian; identified search
  • Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian; letters from search