Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To Thomas Jefferson

From John Wingrove

From John Adams to François Adriaan van der Kemp, 1 December 1786 Adams, John Van der Kemp, François Adriaan
To François Adriaan Van der Kemp
Sir Grosvenor Square Decr 1. 1786

I have received your Letter,1 and am much concerned to perceive your Apprehensions that Affairs might take an unfavourable Turn. The Questions you do me the Honour to propose to me, are very 515 difficult to Answer. I have ever been Scrupulous of advising Strangers to emigrate to America. There are difficulties to be encountered in every Exchange of Country. Arising from the Climate soil, Air, manner of Living &c, and Accidents may always happen.

With the Sum of Money You mention, a Man and a Family may live in America: but it must be in a frugal manner— With a Taste for Rural Life, by the Purchase of a Farm, and diligent Attention to it, a Man might live very comfortably. You may have Views of Commerce, or other Occupations, which may improve the Prospect.

If a Number of Friendly Families were to remove together, they would mutually assist each other and make the risk less as well as Life more agreable.

If you determine to go, I will give you Letters of Introduction with Pleasure,2 being with / Sincere Esteem and Regard, your Friend / and humble Servant

John Adams

RC (PHi:John Adams’ Letters); internal address: “The Reverend Mr / Van der Kemp / Leyden.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 113.


Of 31 Oct., above. Not having yet received JA’s reply and fearing that his earlier letter concerning his possible immigration to New York State had miscarried, Van der Kemp wrote again on 7 Dec. (Adams Papers). There he summarized his much longer 31 Oct. letter and asked JA to recommend an American atlas superior to Thomas Jefferys’ The American Atlas, Paris, 1776, which had been loaned to him by Jean Luzac.


Writing to JA on 29 Dec. 1787, following his release from prison on 19 Dec. and subsequent removal to Antwerp, Van der Kemp indicated that he had finally decided that he must leave the Netherlands for America. In his reply of 6 Jan. 1788, JA as promised sent him letters of introduction, also dated 6 Jan., to New York governor George Clinton (DLC:J.P. Morgan Papers) and to John Jay (MBU). In the letter to Clinton, JA described the “beloved” clergyman as “a gentleman of very brilliant Talents and great Merit: who is at Present Suffering Persecution for his Attachment to Liberty.”