Thomas Jefferson Papers
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James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 7 July 1810

From James Madison

Washington July 7. 1810

Dear Sir

Not knowing where I could be enabled to answer the inclosed, with so much confidence in the fact, as in your acquaintance with the historical antiquities of Virginia, I take the liberty of asking whether I may not1 say to Mr Bassette, that no such accounts as he enquires after, are known to exist. As he seems desirous of an early answer you will oblige me by a few lines as soon as convenient.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); bottom of page clipped; endorsed by TJ as received 12 July 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: John Bassette (“late a Minister of the reformed Dutch Church in Albany”) to Madison, [ca. 1 July 1810], indicating that, at the urging of Stephen Van Rensselaer and several members of the New-York Historical Society, he has completed a translation of Adriaen van der Donck, Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant, 2d ed. (Amsterdam, 1656), in which the author “comprehends under the appellation of New-Netherland, the States, lying between the great South and North rivers, and consequently bounds that Country on Virginia”; reporting that he is considering appending to it a translation of Joannes de Laet, Nieuwe wereldt, ofte Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien (Leiden, 1625; for a French translation owned by TJ see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4090); asking that Madison inform him “by post, whether the Virginians are in possession of any Dutch accounts relative to their Country; if so, it may be unnecessary to trouble myself or the Public with a Translation of De Laet”; and admitting that since he lacks any southern acquaintances he must request this information from a Virginian raised by God to the presidency (RC in DLC: Madison Papers; printed in Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:394–5).

Bassette’s translation of van der Donck’s description of New Netherland was never published due to a lack of funds, but in 1841 the New-York Historical Society printed different translations of both that work and Laet’s history of the New World.

1Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Bassette, John; and Dutch accounts of Va. search
  • Bassette, John; translates work search
  • Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant (Donck) search
  • Donck, Adriaen van der; Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant search
  • Laet, Joannes de; Nieuwe wereldt, ofte Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien search
  • Madison, James; and Dutch accounts of Va. search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • New-York Historical Society search
  • Nieuwe wereldt, ofte Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien (Laet) search
  • Van Rensselaer, Stephen; and early American history search
  • Virginia; search for Dutch-language accounts of search