George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 27 September 1788

To Francis Adrian Van der Kemp

Mount Vernon September 27th 88


The letter with which you was pleased to favor me dated the 29th of Augt came duly to hand, and afforded me the pleasure of hearing that you had made a purchase agreeable to your wishes in the vicinity of Esopus—I sincerely hope that it may prove an agreeable retreat, and a happy Asylum from your late troubles in Holland.1

The Mangal Root which you saw growing in my Garden is not, I believe, of the best sort—it was you have observed red—That which is marbled, I am told, is the best.2 If of this kind the Revd Dr Doll could spare a little seed it would oblige me,3 and when you shall be stocked with such other sorts of seed as are not usual in this Country, I would gladly participate in your sparings.

Mrs Washington joins me in best wishes for you—Mrs Vanderkemp family, and I am Sir, Yrs &c.

Go: Washington


Francis Adrian Van der Kemp (1752–1829), a Dutch scholar and Mennonite minister, was an early advocate of Dutch support for American independence during the Revolution. In 1787 Van der Kemp was imprisoned in Holland for his support of the liberal Patriot party. His political difficulties, coupled with a long-held desire to become a farmer in America, induced him to sail for the United States in March 1788 with his family. He carried with him a number of letters of introduction to prominent Americans, among them one from Lafayette to GW, 6 Mar. 1788. In July 1788 Van der Kemp spent several days at Mount Vernon. In spite of Van der Kemp’s effusive letters to GW, after his Mount Vernon visit he noted in his journal that “there seemed to me, to skulk somewhat of a repulsive coldness, not congenial with my mind, under a courteous demeanour; and I was infinitely better pleased by the unassuming, modest gentleness of the lady, than with the conscious superiority of her consort” (Fairchild, Francis Van der Kemp, description begins Helen Lincklaen Fairchild, ed. Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 1752–1829: An Autobiography Together with Extracts from His Correspondence. New York and London, 1903. description ends 116; Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:369–70).

1Van der Kemp’s letter to GW has not been found, but his farm, purchased in February 1789, was located northwest of Kingston, N.Y., near Esopus Creek. He lived there engaging in considerable agricultural experimentation and extensive political correspondence until he moved his family in 1795 to an estate called Kempwick between Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake in northern New York.

2Mangel (Beta vulgaris, mangel-wurzel, root of scarcity) is a large coarse beet. Grown primarily as food for livestock, it was receiving considerable attention from eighteenth-century agriculturists, and GW made a number of experiments with its cultivation.

3The Rev. George J. L. Doll was minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Kingston, New York. In 1782 he signed an address on behalf of the consistory to welcome GW to Kingston (15 Nov. 1782).

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