Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 31 March 1790

To Francis Adrian Van der Kemp

New York 31st. March 1790.


The letter has been duly received which you addressed to the President of the United States, praying his interference with the Government of the United Netherlands, on the subject of property you left there on your coming to America. I have it in charge to inform you that the United States have at present no minister at the Hague, and consequently no channel through which they could express their concern for your interests. However free1 we are to receive and protect all persons who come hither with the property they bring, perhaps it may be doubted how far it would be expedient to engage ourselves for what they leave behind, or for any other matter retrospective to their becoming Citizens. In the present instance we hope that no confiscation of the residuum of your property left in the United Netherlands having taken place, the justice of that Government will leave you no occasion for that interference which you have been pleased to ask from this. I have the honor to be, &c.

FC (DNA: RG 59, PCC No. 120); in a clerk’s hand, but with one correction by TJ; at foot of letter: “(Signed) Thomas Jefferson.” Another FC (DNA: RG 59, SDC); in a different clerk’s hand; at head of text: “Mr. VanderKemp Kingston.”

Van der Kemp’s letter to the president was dated at Kingston, N.Y., 17 Mch. 1790 and stated in part: “Engaged since several years in the domestic quarrel of the people of the United Netherlands for recovering their ancient rights … I was particularly interested in the fate of the Province of Utrecht and the city of Wyck by Duerstede. In this city I was taken prisoner together with Sir Adrian de Nÿs, then commander of the city, transported with him … to Amersfort, from there to Utrecht, after this place was evacuated by the Troops of the Patriotic party,” and, after an imprisonment of 23 weeks, was offered liberty on condition of paying 45,000 guilders or £7500 New York currency, in accordance with the resolution “to recover by that sum the damages and losses sustained by the Province of Utrecht and City of Wyck by Duerstede, in particular under our direction.” Van der Kemp acknowledged that this “iniquitous … exaction” was a domestic matter in which a foreign state could not interfere, but hoped that Washington could direct his minister to assist in the recovery of part or all of the sum “as far as may be proper” (Tr in same). John Adams was the one to whom Van der Kemp first appealed. Adams advised him to write to the president and, after receiving the above letter, Van der Kemp told Adams that he had “received, by order of the President, a Polite refusal upon my petition for his intercession” (Van der Kemp to Adams, 7 Jan., 17 Mch., 26 May, and 19 June 1790; MHi).

1This word written in margin by TJ in correction of clerk’s error in FC, which reads: “However too we are …” &c. Second FC reads: “However willing too we are …” &c.

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