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François Adriaan Van der Kemp to John Adams: A Translation, 5 June 1781

François Adriaan Van der Kemp to John Adams: A Translation

Nijmegen, 5 June. 1781


Having received several expressions of your Excellency’s friendship and esteem during your stay in Leyden, I flatter myself now that it will not be disagreeable for you to receive proof of my confidence in our friendship. It is a solicitation sir! I hope that it will not appear to you to be rash, because it is made by a friend; a man of talent, with profound and erudite judgment, and with the greatest modesty, a lover of liberty. He has a brilliant character and suffers greatly due to the misfortunes of his country and wishes to go to America. Up until now he has been the Baptist minister at Middelburg, the main city in Zeeland, and held in high esteem by all his parishioners. He would like to lead the same kind of life in America and believes that in a short time he will be able to preach in English. I have tried to persuade him, because of his talents, that if he would like to go to America he could try a different job since he is of little means. But this was in vain. Would it be possible for you, sir, to give him recommendations in Boston that would help him succeed? He would be a virtuous acquisition, enlightened and patriotic, who would be worthy of the welcome he would receive. Perhaps the Indien needs a chaplain and, even though soldiers are more necessary than ministers, a man of taste, courage and principles can, nevertheless, have great influence on the crew, as well as be an agreeable companion to the officers. Maybe he could go on this ship.1

So I take leave of friend’s plea and would be dismayed if I have displeased your Excellency.

Governor Trumbull’s letter is at the press. I have finished the translation of the Articles of Confederation of the United States in 1778, as well as Dr. Cooper’s sermon, and the heads of enquiry, with the answers to it, printed at Boston, as a document relative to the Governor’s letter. One of my friends is translating other papers and speeches relative to the Massachusetts Bay constitution, and after my return to Leyden, I will write a preface to these documents that will be published at Appletern.2 I would be delighted to be of service, to demonstrate the simple fact of my interest in the humanitarian cause in America, and to persuade you of the esteem with which I am, sir, your Excellency’s most zealous servant

Fr. Ad. van der Kemp

P.S. At noon today I leave for Appletern to the home of Baron van der Capellen. If your Excellency would give me the honor of a response to this letter, I dare ask you to address it to Mr. van der Capellen. I sincerely apologize for not being well versed in French and English, and for not being able to explain myself more clearly and more precisely, but I am sure your Excellency will indulge me. Baron Van der Capellen van de Marsch made a manly address.3 Perhaps, I will have an occasion to give you further details.

RC (Adams Papers);

1Van der Kemp’s friend remains unidentified.

2Van der Kemp’s collection of tracts relating to the United States, Verzameling van stukken tot de dertien Vereenigde Staeten van Noord-Amerika betrekkelijk, was published at Leyden in 1781. He included a letter of 31 Aug. 1779 from Gov. John Trumbull to Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol describing the progress of the Revolution; the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut of 14 Jan. 1638; three accounts of the 1779 British raid into Connecticut; Connecticut General Assembly, Heads of Inquiry Relative to the Present State and Condition of His Majesty’s Colony of Connecticut Signified by His Majesty’s Secretary of State, in his Letter of the 5th July, 1773; With the Answers Thereto, New London, 1775; the Articles of Confederation; the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780; John Hancock’s speech upon taking office as governor of Massachusetts, 31 Oct. 1780; and Samuel Cooper’s Election Day Sermon, 25 Oct. 1780. For additional information regarding the publication, see Van der Kemp’s letter to JA of 26 Nov. (Adams Papers), and JA’s reply of 27 Nov. (PHi).

3The speech by Robert Jasper van der Capellen van de Marsch, cousin of Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol, member of the States of Gelderland, and a strong and active supporter of the Patriot, and thus the American, cause, has not been further identified.

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