George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John William Gerar de Brahm, 21 September 1790

From John William Gerar de Brahm

Phila[delphi]a. 21. mth called septemr 1790.

The Kingdoms of this World are become the Kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever Rev: XI, 15.

Respected Friend!

On the nearness of the Great and awful day at the change of Time for Eternity impressed I ushered whilst in Britain into this great Avenue Charlot of Mecklenburg Streliz,1 when She in the month called November 1788 was in great affliction an account of Her Husband George the Phosphorian, and in 5 months after I had an other impression to address with the Same Subject his Minister William Pit;2 but they then reverted in their Worldly dreamings of peripherical Matters perishing in the great Abyss of the Most high in his holy Wrath (whose pavilion is Darkness 2 Sam: XXII, 12.)3 were not in that position to face centrical Spiritualitys before the Throne of the most high God of Love (whose garment is Light Psalm CIV, 2.)4 after 10 months more were added to my Stay in Britain I felt the Lord’s Will directed me to America, where this day I begin to be deeply concerned to address thee O Hesperian George! on the Same great and awful Subject, which I have been led to trace through Time’s whole Period.

the Openings on this Subject I have compiled in a work under the Title of The Time,5 wherewith Man the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is permitted in Eight Branchings (thus are called the Divisions or Chapters) to adtain the great concerns of God and his Creatures, which are worthy of they most Serious inquiry, the more especialy, as thee art in the Capacity of the first Man (the Patriarch if the pleases) of this extensive continent, whose Inhabitants to the Number of many Myriads may by thy Example and Precept be disposed duely to meet their God coming at this soon expiring Midnight.

the Preface of the Work (an Epitome of the whole,) I beg leave to affix should by thy composed and patient reading the Lord be pleased to reach thy heart to long for the whole Work.6 I hope at thy requiring I Shall be furnished with ability to transcribe and forward one Branching (or division) after an other I remain respectfully Thy assured Friend7

John William Gerar de Brahm


John William Gerar de Brahm (1717–1799) was a native of southern Germany who inherited from his father an interest in alchemy. After experiencing a conversion at the age of thirty, he renounced his family’s Roman Catholic faith, resigned his commission as captain engineer in Emperor Charles VII’s army, and began a new life in Georgia with a group of other German Protestant emigrants. He built a house in Savannah in 1760 but removed to St. Augustine after the British Board of Trade made him surveyor of East Florida and appointed him in 1764 to the newly created position of surveyor general for the southern district. After his second wife died, Brahm married in 1776 Mary Drayton Fenwick, daughter of Thomas Drayton and widow of a member of the royal council of South Carolina, and they remained loyal to the Crown during the Revolution, leaving for Britain in 1777. After only partial success in London pursuing his claims for compensation for his losses in East Florida, he lived alone in South Carolina from 1784 to 1788, trying to reclaim his wife’s property before returning to England for his wife. Brahm and his wife returned to Charleston in 1789 or 1790 and soon removed to Philadelphia, where they lived near GW: Clement Biddle’s 1791 city directory gives their address as 254 High Street. In 1796 the couple purchased from Henry Drinker an estate in Bristol Township, Philadelphia County. Some have confused Brahm with his nephew, the military engineer Ferdinand Joseph Sebastian de Brahm, who served with the American army in the southern department during the Revolution and returned to his native home in the Electorate of Trèves in 1787 (De Brahm’s Report description begins Louis De Vorsey, Jr., ed. De Brahm’s Report of the General Survey in the Southern District of North America. Columbia, S.C., 1971. description ends , 6, 7–10, 27–29, 51–54, 55–59, 261, 278–79; Heads of Families [Pennsylvania], description begins Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Pennsylvania. 1908. Reprint. Baltimore, 1970. description ends 227).

1Charlotte Sophia (1744–1818), youngest daughter of Charles Lewis, third duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, married King George III of England in 1761 and was given temporary care of his person and household when the king was first afflicted with mental illness in 1788 and again in 1810 when George became permanently insane. When Brahm heard of the king’s first affliction, he wrote to Queen Charlotte that the illness originated in an “excess of mental and corporeal motions” that required administration of an “admirable salt,” with which Brahm had been experimenting, and he requested her to “command my appearance in thy presence,” which she apparently did not (De Brahm’s Report description begins Louis De Vorsey, Jr., ed. De Brahm’s Report of the General Survey in the Southern District of North America. Columbia, S.C., 1971. description ends , 56).

2Brahm’s 30 April 1789 letter to William Pitt from Mutton Lane, Hackney, covered a copy of his earlier letter to Queen Charlotte (see Brahm to Pitt, 30 April 1789, P.R.O.: Chatham Papers, 30–8–116, calendared in List & Index Society, 237 [1989], 161, and cited in De Brahm’s Report description begins Louis De Vorsey, Jr., ed. De Brahm’s Report of the General Survey in the Southern District of North America. Columbia, S.C., 1971. description ends , 278, n.273).

3“And he made darkness pavilions round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies.”

4“Who covers thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain.”

5Brahm published this in Philadelphia in 1792 as the Voice of the Everlasting Gospel but had been studying sacred chronology for years before, at least since he had become a Quaker, and was familiar with Sir Isaac Newton’s work on the subject. In July 1788 he wrote to King George from Charleston, noting: “My loyalty and faithfulness is now of a Spiritual Nature and not Subject to change or even to be dissolved by Eternity. I cannot resist but am disposed cheerfully to obey its impulse in Submitting this manuscript [an essay on “Natural Astronomy”] to thy Royal contemplation” (see “A Friend” to GW, 20 Aug. 1790, n.1; De Brahm’s Report description begins Louis De Vorsey, Jr., ed. De Brahm’s Report of the General Survey in the Southern District of North America. Columbia, S.C., 1971. description ends , 56 and 278, n.270).

Although no further correspondence with GW concerning Brahm’s prophetic works has been found, the author probably presented his publications to the president, as GW had the following in his library: Brahm’s Time, an Apparition of Eternity (Philadelphia, 1791), the final “branching” of his Voice of the Everlasting Gospel, which predicted the end of the world would occur in 1808, and Apocalyptic Gnomon Points Out Eternity’s Divisibility Rated with Time, Pointed at Gnomons Sidereals (Philadelphia, 1795). Brahm also published Zeits Rechenschafft (Ephrata, Pa., 1794), and Sum of Testimonies of Truth, which was probably published in Philadelphia in 1795 (see Griffin, Boston Athenæum Collection, description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 66–67; De Brahm’s Report description begins Louis De Vorsey, Jr., ed. De Brahm’s Report of the General Survey in the Southern District of North America. Columbia, S.C., 1971. description ends , 278, n.279; and Evans, American Bibliography, description begins Charles Evans et al. American Bibliography and Supplement. 16 vols. Chicago, Worcester, Mass., and Charlottesville, Va., 1903–71. description ends 8:143, 276, 9:259, 10:58).

6The undated enclosure, also in Brahm’s miniscule hand, is entitled “The Times. Preface” and reads: The Lord has caused me to Watch, and taught me the numbering of Time, where with Man the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is permitted to Branch into the great concerns of God and his Creatures, terminating in the World’s Kingdoms becoming the Kingdoms of the Lord and his Christ.

“The Six first Branchings contain as follows.

“1. What God is agreable to his Revelation, by Creation and Redemption.

“2. that he created to manifest him Self from his Central Throne to his Perispherical Abyss: that his manifestation included an unintermitted joy in God, and with God in the Creatures, when all is come to fulness in union of Intellect, of understanding and of Judgement from the most diminutive to the most enlarged measure to wit from the least Creature up to the highest, which is Man, who is intended God’s compagnion, in him the whole Creation is to be blessed and rejoiced to fulness, for which they wait with grones Rom: VIII.

“3. Man is the most perfect Image of God in the whole Creation, he was to have been fulfilled in Original a suitable compagnion of God his Bridegroom in a measured Time or Period.

“4. the Time appointed was measured by the course of the Stars, who in 1186 of our Lord filld up a period of 7980 Tellural years, ⟨illegible⟩ the appointed time 3192 increase by Respite to 8606 years, whereof 8584 are actuary expired.

“5. during the appointed time the Creatures were to have enjoyed the Wonders of Nature; but Man the powers of the Divine Soul, whereof he possessed the Breathe, which (as long they were not divinely Substanciated) he was not to enjoy them, because he was under the Spirits Exercise unto this Substanciation.

“6. the whole Creation cannot come to it’s fulness, before Man has obtained the fulness of divine Originality, from which each individual of the whole Creation is to Reap it’s measure of perfection.

“7. Man before the expiration of the appointed Time for his Fulness Suffered one of his unsubstanciated powers, to wit his longing to move, for his fulness in God his Bridegroom; this prematurity afflicted the Wisdom’s Spirit in a manner, that his Exercise Stopped, and Man fell in a deep inactivity, which to remove he was divided in Male and Female, were received and continuate in the Spirit’s Exercise. they soon after Suffered the Same unsubstanciated power of longing to move again, but also their unsubstanciated power of Judging to raise, whereby they adjudged, that their Bridegroom tarried, this premature and unrighteous Judgement Stopped the Spirits’ Exercise, and were dismissed out of the divine Soul (⟨tor Katriz⟩ by the Pentateuch called: Garden) and respited on Eden (one of the many allotments for living creatures, to wit that Planet, now Known by the appellation of Earth,[)] there Subjected to Carnal and Earthly Sleep and Dreams, yet followed by the Waters of grace thereby enabled to wait the pleasure of the Fathers holy Will during the prolonged Time for a Respite unto the Obedient denying all imperfect powers, be Strangers amongst the Living Creatures and Pilgrims on their allotment to be returned unto the Spirit’s Government; feel the manifestation of their Redemption through Jesus’s Righteousness and be replaced into the divine Soul.

“8. Men in their Banishment on Eden early apostated from under the Spirit’s Government in the Will of God, and governd them Selves in their own Will’s Evil Imagination (all this Will does is Evil in the Sight of God) this afflicted the Spirit again, for it proved a Leprosy, which infested all Men and devoured them as a consuming Fire, this was finaly quenched by an universal Deluge: Eight persons amongst 80 millions were excepted for being the only Royal Members who continued Steadfastly to Suppress their own Will, and persevered under the Spirit’s Government faithful to the Will of God unpolluted with Subjection unto Carnal Men in power.

“9. the deluge has reduced Eden into the present bewildering Earth; whilst Men Since this astonishing Watery Phenomenon for 88 years denying their own Will persevered under the Spirit’s Government in the Will of God; they increased and multiplied in Number and joy, Evil Imaginations found no conception nor Birth: the Fathers Will was Obeyed.

“10. but at the End of this Period Men Suffered their own Will to conceive Evil Imaginations, devised and Raised an Empire in opposition to the Fathers Will, renewed the Antediluvian Evil: by Widening the avenues for it’s increase and Spreading they exceded the Antediluvians.

“11. finally God manifested in the flesh, reinstated the Obedient under the Spirit’s Government taught them denying of their own Will, and the Will of Men, that is: not Seeking nor even asking favours nor protection from Men in power Subjected and enslaved by their own Will, Suffer rather patiently for Christ Sake all Evil from their power and Frowns, than to be Subservient to their Will and Vanity, and abstain from all things, that cannot be enjoyed, but as a favour or under Protection of Men in power, who Suffer their own Will to direct and Govern.

“12. all Royal Members of the Spirit’s Government or Kingdom of Christ are called by Christ’s Voice, as Abram to come out in Jesus’s meekness from under Men Will Government, Governors and governd as also those, who by Trafick Support them in their Vanitys (Revel: XVIII, 1–4) this going out is of two complexions: to wit Literaly removing in distant countrys; or pure Spiritual by continuing as Christ’s Witnesses to give Testimony amongst these carnal Governors and Governd, by Example and Precept, thereby to be clean from polution and plagues adtending at the last Coming of the Son in his Full glory, when God the Father’s holy Wrath will cease from Wincking for ever. these are the contents of the Six first Branchings; the Seventh Branching is the True Order of celestial Bodys in the Orb, Firmanent and Element Water; their Rotations & Revolutio⟨ns &⟩ parallaxes; the Eight establishes Sacred Chronology Supported by Testimonys of holy Records and Astronomical Evidences.

“The above Testimonys lay open both in Letter and Spirit in every of their own parts, the clearer to prove each other in their connections and affinity. Observe: the Sacred Writings are only a Concise Epitome of the extensive, unbounded and inexhaustible Wisdom of God, whereof holy Men taught in the Schools of Wisdom’s Spirit, have been impressed to write down Anecdotes as bequests to the Springing Generations not to confine the whole Wisdom of God, as the whole Waters of all Oceans in a cockle, but by the Testing of the Secret Truth therein be led to inquire after the Old path unto the Spirit’s School to be taught more aboundantly than can be comprehended in the Breviary of Sacred Writ.

“and the Spirit & the Bride Say Come, Amen even So Come Lord Jesus!” (DLC:GW).

7No evidence has been found of a reply from the president to Brahm. When GW was in Philadelphia in November 1798, he received another letter from Brahm, which accompanied two vials of a liquid disinfectant supposedly effective against “the Seed of the [yellow] fever” (see Brahm to GW, 26 Nov. 1798, DLC:GW).

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