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Francis Adrian Van der Kemp to Thomas Jefferson, 24 March 1816

From Francis Adrian Van der Kemp

Olden barneveld 24 March 1816.


The manÿ condescending proofs, which I received from your politeness, imbue me with the confidence to Sollicit another favour from your kindness. I know too well, I can have no claims, but that, which originates in your indulgence—and in your ardent wish to promote the indagation of truth. About three years past I Spend a few days with my old respected friend at Quincÿ, whom you, perhaps, know, that continues to favour me with his affectionate esteem. Various topics of literature were then freely discussed—and—as I enjoy’d his full confidence—Some of a more Serious cast. He had then lately received from you a Syllabus, exhibiting your view on a most momentous Subject—Developing it in part, he favoured me at last with its perusal for a few moments: I was Surprised with this new point of view and deemed it deserving a more full consideration. I requested a copÿ: this was peremtorly refused, as He was not at liberty to keep one for himself, and was resolved not to violate this Sacred truth.1 Its memory was nearly erased from my mind, at least its traces were So faint, that recollection was not powerful enough, to call up again its Summarÿ. This Spring I received—with a parcel of Books—among whom The Month: Repos. of Theol: and Gen: Literat: which by its candour would entertain you in a moment of leisure, Belsham’s Mem. of my late friend Th. Lindseÿ—in which Pag. 539 I once more did See your Views of Christianity—Some what in a cloud—I wrote on the blank page at P. 539 “I have Seen this view with Surprise and delight, and regret, that I was not permitted to copy it. It Showeth an unprejudiced Inquirer, and a Sincere lover of truth.”

Actuated by the Same motives, which impelled you to that communication, I now Sollicit, to grant me the favour of the Same Sight, with which you honoured my friend—under what restrictions—you maÿ please to command I will engage to adhere faithfully to these—even—if required—to return it uncopied—I request in Such a case only the permission, of extracting its leading features. But could you look at it as So much interesting, as I consider it, then you would allow me its copying, with the Liberty to Send it to mÿ correspondents in England—for insertion in the Month. Rev. when it shall open the waÿ for its more full and impartial discussion. I would forbear to hint even at your name, till you Self Should have given leave. I doubt not or it must do good.

Having in view, if my days are prolonged, to draw up a historÿ of J. C. it would be of great use to me, to contemplate the whole in this new point. If after all prudence dictates to decline my demand, I Shall not be hurted by it—but then yet I Should not regret my application, if by it you was induced to communicate this plan for discussion, to one of your European friends—and then Great-Brittain again must be the Spot where it Shall appear.

I was yesterday gratified with a few lines of my old respected friend—His Strength2 fails—his Ladÿ is on the decline, and Shall, I apprehend, Sink under this Severe attack of illness—and He would not Survive Her long—She is indeed an accomplished woman! So my old friends go awaÿ—Pensionary de Gyzelaer—my oldest friend Dr. Toulmin—at the time, he intended—as his legacÿ—to publish my corrected Sketch on the Achaic Republic—Both gone! and if these Worthies follow—I am nearly left alone.

I expect, ere long, the criticisms of de Witt Clinton upon my Philosophical Researches which you have Seen in embryo—and which my young friend C. Eliot, after the correction of the Idiom, intended to publish, had he not been prevented by death—Now theÿ remain with the rest of my lucubrations here—to be burned in the tomb of the capulets.

I am informed by my correspondents in Europe, that my Sketch on the moral and Physical causes—which I corrected and enlarged by the hints with which you honoured me, begins to attract Some notice. I Should rejoyce, if Such a momentous work was undertaken; then I Should reap a large and honourable recompence.

I dare not encroach longer on your precious time, but confide, that you will not misinterpret the Liberty, which I have taken. Permit me without anÿ further apologÿ to assure you, that I remain with unabated respect and the highest consideration

Sir! Your most obed: humble Servant

Fr. Adr. van der Kemp

RC (DLC); dateline adjacent to signature; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Apr. 1816 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Peter Cottom, 7 May 1816, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson L.L.D. Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked Trenton, N.Y., 26 Mar.

John Adams was the friend at quincÿ. TJ first lent his syllabus to Adams in a letter dated 22 Aug. 1813 and sent him a copy to keep on 12 Oct. 1813. TJ’s views of christianity, specifically his 9 Apr. 1803 letter to Joseph Priestley (DLC), were published in Thomas Belsham, Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey, M.A. (London, 1812), 538–9. j. c.: Jesus Christ. In his few lines of 2 Mar. 1816, Adams informed Van der Kemp that he had read his “travels in the wilderness” and was sending the manuscript to Alexander Bryant Johnson, of Utica, and he reported that Abigail Adams had been “sick all winter, and is still very weak though we hope somewhat better” (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers). Cornelis de gyzelaer (1751–1815) was the pensionary of the Dutch commune of Dordrecht (Dort), 1779–87 (Helen Lincklaen Fairchild, ed., Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 1752–1829: An Autobiography, Together with Extracts from his Correspondence [1903], 24). The capulets are the family of the tragic heroine in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. For my sketch on the moral and physical causes, see Van der Kemp to TJ, 18 Feb. 1812, and enclosure. For the hints with which you honoured me, see TJ to Van der Kemp, 22 Mar. 1812, and Van der Kemp to TJ, 14 Apr. 1812.

1Thus in manuscript. Van der Kemp may have intended “trust.”

2Manuscript: “Strenght.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, Abigail Smith (John Adams’s wife); health of search
  • Adams, John; and TJ’s syllabus on Jesus’s doctrines search
  • Adams, John; health of search
  • Belsham, Thomas; Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey, M.A. (T. Lindsey) search
  • Christianity; F. A. Van der Kemp on search
  • Clinton, DeWitt; and F. A. Van der Kemp’s writings search
  • Eliot, Charles; and F. A. Van der Kemp’s writings search
  • Gyzelaer, Cornelis de; death of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; syllabus of Jesus’s doctrines search
  • Jesus; F. A. Van der Kemp on study of search
  • Johnson, Alexander Bryant; and F. A. Van der Kemp manuscript search
  • Lindsey, Theophilus; Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey, M.A. (T. Belsham) search
  • Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey, M.A. (T. Lindsey; T. Belsham) search
  • Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature; F. A. Van der Kemp recommends search
  • Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature; publishes TJ’s syllabus of Jesus’s doctrines search
  • Priestley, Joseph; TJ’s correspondence with search
  • Shakespeare, William; referenced search
  • Toulmin, Joshua; death of search
  • Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian; and proposed book search
  • Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian; and TJ’s syllabus of Jesus’s doctrines search
  • Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian; letters from search
  • Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian; proposed work on Jesus search
  • Van der Kemp, Francis Adrian; Synopsis of a Proposed Book search