Thomas Jefferson Papers

From John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder to Peter Stephen Duponceau, 21 March 1819

Bethlehem 21st March 1819

My dear friend


It was quite a treat to see a Letter from You again, tho no fault can be ascribed to either of us on account of this. As I had not recieved my books, my time was otherwise employed—and the Book being quite off of Your hands, I fancied, to myself that You now must be engaged in preparing some other valuable production, in which, as little as in Your professional business, my aid would be required, so all goes right.

Mr Denche went some Weeks ago on a Visit to his relations at Litiz: As he is translating parts of the Scriptures in the Lenape to be printed by the N. Y. Bible Society, he is much engaged in this work, especially as they are pressing hard to have it done. As he goes on with this work, he hands, or sends me the pages for to look over & correct; and as he, in his Letter to me of Wednesday last, wishes me to send on to Litiz the pages I have done with, it does not appear that he is in a hurry of returning to this place—however by his letter I find, that he has not lost sight of what I requested to do for You. for he writes: “Noch nicht war ich im stande etwas gramaticalisch britisches für deinen Freund zu entwerfen, habe es aber im Gedächtniss. und da gut ding, weile “(Zeit)” haben will, so will ich mir sie auch nehmen.”! He told me while he was here, that he thought that he could add considerable in the Gramar way, to what Zeisberger had stated. It is probable he can, and we will hope that he can. He has some talents—& had much leisure during his stay among the Indians. but there is something in the way, which prevents me to say much of him. I am sorry to say any thing on this subject—& will at present say no more, than what duty enjoins on me. It is now 19 Years that Mr Denche at his particular requests, recieved of me a Letter of recomendation to our late friend Dr. Barton. They had an interview, & as Denche shortly after was to travel with me out to the Indn Country, as an Assistant to the Mission, Barton was by him led to believe that he would do much for him, both in the botanical way—& on Indn Language &c —& besides a lively correspondence was to be kept up between them. And that Denche, who had some knowledge of Botany, might the better succeed in classing Plants, Barton (tho with reluctance; yet to oblige his imagined friend,) consented to let him take a certain Book—a very rare book on botany, along with him, but by all means to place the Book in my hands for to send to him to Philada at the expiration of the Year or soon after. Now consider, 12 Years elapsed and not a single Letter, to the many Letters the Dr. had written to him during that time, was answered—nor the Book sent—I feel too much ashamed to tell the whole of the Story at this time—but may at another. but Denches conduct to this valuable friend of mine, grieved me so much: that I took the resolution: if ever he asked me henceforth for a letter of recomendation to any of my literary friends, I would refuse it to him at once. You will remember, that in the course of our correspondenc in 1816 when: You wished for Mr Denches Address in U. Canada, that You might write and ask Questions of him—I answered that I would ask the Questions &—(giving You no direct reason why I did not grant the request of his Address)—Now You understand me; I conclude, I feel indeed quite ashamed to mention these things to You; but I am pressd to it. I will not suffer my friend Du Ponceau, to be so taken in or treated as my friend Barton was. & as I have the best reason to believe that he will want from me a Letter of recomendation to You, a’er long. I am compelled to do; what I now have done. Yet I am far from forbidding or seeking to hinder an acquaintance & interviews between You & him—No. that can go on—but You ought to know something of the Man you may have to do with—Even we, both are friendly & sociable together when we meet—nay he often asks my advice in matters &—but he is aware, that I know him so well, that he cannot play upon me—His great faults, are Vanity—& a share of Avarice. You will understand me—that my intention is not to throw a barrier between You & him &—No! No! I wish You to get out of him what You can—& I think you will know how to manage that—Neither can I be positive that he at this time is what he was some Years ago, not having seen him for many Years—but time will show this—

I am glad to see as well by the printed Sheets: (Nat. Recorder) as by Your Letter, that the book is so much admired, & that the copies sell well, so that the Printer will be rewarded for his trouble. I for any part, when I sat about that most of the work which came to my share, felt rather indiferent about it, however to avoid doing something in this way for the Phylosophical Society: I could not, for a reason well known to You—Yet, I hoped, that by comunicating as much, as would fill about 40 or 60 pages, I might be considered as exhonerated—but here—as at the first onset—while I was flattering myself, that I had nearly compleated the task I had set to myself, our excellent friend the Doctor (Wistar) enterred my room unawares, & having examined what I had written, most pressingly urged me, to go on with the Work, and make it as compleat as I could—& that I should while writing keep in mind, that I was serving the public. Thus the late Dr. Wistar, was the Machine, which first brought my Pen into Action—& which afterwards kept it a going (so for as relates to the historical part) and it is to him & not to me, that the public are indebted for the communication. I was highly pleased in seeing in the Sheet You kindly sent me, such notice taken on the subject. for I can assure the public, that but for our late dear Doctor Mr Jeffersons prophecy would have been verifyed—(where in a Letter to Dr Wistar he laments the loss of much information of the Southern Indians, by the death of Col. Hawkins (—or the Conflagration of his house) adding that it is to be expected that old Mr Heckewelders knowledge of the Northern Indian &c will also be lost to the public & (or he says something similar to this) also by his Death &—

I long to see all the reviewers may have to say, and I wish they may be candid, which if favourable, will be the means of the Printers selling more Copies, tho he has hitherto done pretty well—A private Gentleman in Philada writes to me; “that he had read my history of the Indians, with a great deal of sattisfaction, & he is of opinion, that it will have a strong tendancy to molify the Savage treatment of the Whites towards these People—He only laments that I did not in the 44 Chapter, exhibit in all its horrid colours, the Murder of the Conestoga Indians at Lancaster—which spectacle he had witnessed himself, when at the time living there I wonder if the Printer has any loose pages of the Words, Phrases “which he could spare without spoiling a Copy—so also if I could get 1 or 2 reports of the Corresponding Society (marked)—I would have these & the words, bound up with the History that I have the 50 Copies of, but I will not on any account, that he shall break one singl Copy on that account.

I barely wanted to suit a few individuals here, if it can be done without injury—& I would willingly pay him for it—I however believe that they seldom have such single Sheets, and therefore will not look out for any

I have not been very well this 10 or 12 days past, being taken with a bad Cold—my writing will show that it even affects my hand & makes it unsteady for writing.

With best respect to You & dear Children—and my good Mr Malefant, I remain Yours affectionately

Jn Heckewelder

PPAmP: John G. Heckewelder Papers.

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