The van der Weyde - T. Roosevelt Letters

TPNHA note: William van der Weyde was President of the Thomas Paine National Historical Association from 1920 to 1929 when he died. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt had made a famous slander against Paine, and van der Weyde was interested in getting a retraction. Aside from the historical interest, and the marvelous manner in which Van der Weyde finesses Roosevelt into replying, this correspondence also demonstrates some of the history of the slander campaign against Paine, and its political and religious roots. When they could not defeat the ideas, they attacked the man. The first attack on Paine’s character came in March, 1776 when an outraged reverend, in an attempt to defeat the recently published Common Sense, attacked the author’s character when it was not even known who the author was. A series of personal slanders from Paine’s political enemies has hounded his memory and legacy ever since, and historians to this day repeat the same nonsense that Roosevelt does in these letters, with the same lack of thought that Roosevelt evidenced. Roosevelt’s pernicious slander was popularized just at the time, in the 1880’s, when Paine was gaining some recognition again. It took 30 years to get Roosevelt to account for his baseless accusations, and it was done in the following letters. Roosevelt died four months after the last letter was written. These letters are from the TPNHA archives, and first appeared in our Journal in 2000. To our knowledge the letters never made it into book form.

Foreword by William van der Weyde

The correspondence between Colonel Roosevelt and myself on the subject of Thomas Paine is in the main so directly to the point that an explanatory foreword is hardly necessary. There are nevertheless some matters touched upon in these letters concerning which a few additional words will be of value.

In having the correspondence bound into book form for preservation I think it will be well to cover these points by a short introduction, and also, to briefly relate the history of Mr. Roosevelt’s famous charactertzation of Thomas Paine as “a filthy little Atheist”.

In the 1888 first appeared Roosevelt’s “Life of Gouverneur Morris”, in which occurs his vehement and contemptuous denunciation of the great philosopher and libertarian. A storm of protest arose from admirers of Thomas Paine all over the world. Letters urging a retraction of the objectionable words reached Mr. Roosevelt from all lands. Mr. Roosevelt did not reply and did not retract. Magazines, newspapers and books quoted the unjust words and called upon the author for a withdrawal of his “three-word slander”. The future President of the United States was content to maintain silence. In 1899, when Mr. Roosevelt was Governor of New York, a delegation visited Albany to try to induce him to retract. He refused to see his visitors. When, some years later, Mr. Roosevelt was President of the Unites States, another delegation journeyed to the White House in Washington with the same purpose in view. It was equally unsuccessful.

In the course of the thirty years that have elapsed between the original publication of the libel on Thomas Paine and the time of Mr. Roosevelt’s death, many hundreds of letters reached him urging a retraction.

Curiously, not until the present correspondence took place, could Mr. Roosevelt be induced to break his long silence on the subject. A Mr. Hartmann evoked the first letter. Then I took the matter up, and the correspondence in this volume ensued. The correspondence comprises the only letters so far as I know that Mr. Roosevelt has written upon this vital and extremely interesting subject, with the exception of a brief letter to his friend, Owen Wister, dated September 20,1901, in which Mr. Roosevelt repeats the story about Paine in bed and alleges that “a swine in a sty was physically clean in comparison”! (vide Scribner’s Magazine, June, 1920, p. 644)

I think I may fairly attribute the abrupt termination of our very polite correspondence to my letter of July 15, 1918, which presented rather conclusive evidence that Thomas Paine was not filthy, but was, instead, scrupulously neat and clean. Also, I surmise that my correspondent did not appreciate my quotation to him of his own low estimate of Gouverneur Morris (an excerpt from his own biography of Morris); and I think besides that Mr. Roosevelt perceived the futility of writing further on a subject concerning which he knew little and regarding which I apparently knew much.

In the very beginning of the correspondence Mr. Roosevelt acknowledged that Paine was a Deist, not an Atheist; but he stubbornly persisted in the exactness otherwise of his characterization of Paine.

In his letter dated July 9th, 1918, however, he retracts the “quotation” which he had alleged was from the journal of Gouverneur Morris, and which he quoted in the letter to Mr. Hartmann that brought about this correspondence. Being unable to substantiate it, Mr. Roosevelt definitely says of his “quotation” that he “has made and shall make no further allusions to it and will not quote it.” He added: “I have never used it in public and I have withdrawn the only two private quotations that I have made of it.” As the two private quotations were presumably to me and to Mr. Hartmann, I wrote to Mr. Hartmann telling him of Mr. Roosevelt’s letter and asking if he had received a retraction from Mr. Roosevelt. Mr. Hartmann promptly replied, saying that he had received no such retraction, nor any letter whatever from Mr. Roosevelt.

Regarding the Jared Sparks assertion, quoted by Mr. Roosevelt in the letter dated April 19, 1918, (where it is incorrectly ascribed to Morris) that Thomas Paine’s habits and personality were so disagreeable to the Monroes while he was a guest at their home in Paris (1794-5), necessitating their excluding him from the family and sending his meals to his own apartment, the simple truth and historic fact is that Paine was extremely ill in the home of James Monroe (the U.S. Minister who succeeded Gouverneur Morris after the latter’s recall), and that he was there tenderly nursed by Mrs. Monroe herself, who very kindly had the invalid’s meals sent to his sick-room, he being unable to come downstairs.

In Mr. Roosevelt’s letter of July 1, 1918, he refers to Paine being “in reality a French citizen,” not a citizen of the United States, entirely disregarding the fact that James Monroe claimed Paine as an American citizen when he demanded from the French Government - and secured - his release from the Luxembourg, into which he had been cast, largely enough through the machinations of Gouverneur Morris, Paine’s inveterate enemy. The same French decree (August 26,1792), by the way, that conferred on Paine the complimentary title of French citizen, conferred the same title on George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Kosciuszko, Joseph Priestley, David Williams and a dozen others.

This allegation by Mr. Roosevelt and a number of others that I might easily have controverted, I did not trouble to dispute because my subject was solely whether or not Paine was “a filthy little Atheist”. Mr. Roosevelt having admitted that Paine was not an Atheist, I devoted my letters entirely to the question of his filthiness or cleanliness.

I am sorry Mr. Roosevelt has passed away without retracting fully and frankly his unwarranted slander of the great man who did so much in the founding of the United States of America. I am indeed not sorry for the sake of Thomas Paine. His fame is too secure to be injured by calumny and vituperation. It is for the sake and for the reputation of Mr. Roosevelt that I have regrets.

Letter from S.E. Hartmann of the Rationalist Press Association to Theodore Roosevelt, October 8, 1917:

Theodore Roosevelt, Esq.

Oyster Bay

Long Island, NY

Dear Sir,

As to one of the distinguished citizens of the United States, althought (sic) unknown, I am writing you this letter. Some days ago I passed 23rd Street and fourth(sic) Avenue, and listened to one of the soap box orators who mentioned your name in a manner I must admit shocked me.

You will excuse the language but I am repeating what he said, word for word: “Theodore Roosevelt is the man who told three lies in three words, when he called Thomas Paine,”Dirty, little Atheist”, first Thomas Paine was a very clean man, second he was six feet tall, and third, he was a deist for he wrote, on the first page of his “Age of Reason”,” I believe in one God and no more and I hope for future life.”

Some days later it happened that I came to the same corner and a different soap box orator assailed you with the same story.

If the trouble is not to (sic) much will you be good enough to refute their statement as a mischievious (sic) lie.

I think that it is a shame that these soap box orators are allowed to be-smere (sic) the name and character of a citizen and an ex-president of this republic.

Thanking you in advance for your response,

Yours sincerely,

S.E. Hartmann

Letter of Theodore Roosevelt to S.E. Hartmann, October 23, 1917:

My dear Mr. Hartmann,

letter is private and not for publication.

The statement refers to a quotation from Gouverneur Morris’ Journal while he was Minister to France, during the French Revolution. He visited Paine, and found him in bed, not having left it for a week, for the purposes of nature, altho (sic) seemingly entirely able to do so.

If “filthy” does not describe such conduct, no word can. Of course he was a deist, not an atheist. It would be nonsense to answer a soap-box orator.

Sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

Letter of Willium van der Weyde to Theodore Roosevelt, March 31, 1918:

My dear Col. Roosevelt,

I am interested in the Gouverneur Morris-Thomas Paine matter and have recently seen your letter to Mr. Hartmann, of East Orange, in which you say: “The statement refers to a quotation from Gouverneur Morris’ journal while he was Minister to France, during the French Revolution. He visited Paine, and found him in bed, not having left it for a week, for the purposes of nature, altho seemingly entirely able to do so.” etc.

I do not find the reference in The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, edited by Anne Gray Morris, 2 vols, (Scribner’s, 1888.) but it is possible that I have overlooked it.

Will you be so good as to let me know if I have been looking in the right books, and, if not to what volume I should refer?

Yours very truly,

Thanking you in advance for the courtesy of your reply, I am

W.M. van der Wevde

Letter of Theodore Roosevelt to William van der Weyde, April 4, 1918:

Metropolitan 432 Fourth Avenue New York

Office of Theodore Roosevelt

My dear Mr. Van der Weyde,

The quotation appears in Sparks’s Life and Writings of Gouverneur Morris.

Faithfully yours, Theodore Roosevelt

Letter of Theodore Roosevelt to William van der Weyde, April 19, 1918

The Kansas City Star New York Office 347 Madison Avenue Office of Theodore Roosevelt

My dear Mr. Van der Weyde,

The book in which the statement to which you refer occurs, was written by me thirty years ago. I have forgotten now whether the details of Paine’s actions were set forth in manuscript or in a complete edition of his letters and journals. Spark’s Morris is the only one I have at hand. If you will turn to Vol. 1, pages 416-l8, you will see the following statements: “He had become disgusting in his person and deportment for several months he lived in Mr. Monroe’s house, but so intemperate were his habits and so disagreeable his person that it was necessary to exclude him from the family and send his meals to his own apartments.” I need hardly say that this absolutely justifies and requires the use of the adjective I did in fact use in order to describe Paine’s person and habits. Instead of atheist, however, I should have used the term deist. Atheist would have been the proper term if I had been dealing with the Thirteenth Century, for example; but in the Eighteenth Century the word deist had come into use to describe the men who denied the existence of the God of revealed religion, whereas atheist was a man who denied the existence of any God. Even in the 16th and l7th centuries the terms were sometimes used interchangeably.

Will you kindly send a copy of this letter to the gentleman who wrote you, stating to him, however that as I wrote him confidentially I do not desire him to make any further use of the letter I sent. I also request that this letter be treated as purely confidential. I send it merely because your own letter was so courteous that I am glad to answer you. But I do not desire or intend to be drawn into any kind of public controversy on the subject; it could not by any possibility result in any benefit. I wish to repeat that the quotations I give from Sparks, Morris amply warrant my using the adjective I did. If I were writing now I should use the word deist instead of atheist; but this is certainly not a matter of sufficient importance to warrant any re-opening of the question. I have expressed the reasons for my judgment on various public men. It is out of the question for me to re-open the matters as regards these public men, unless new material is given me; and such is not the case in the present instance. Nor have I time for such discussions now.

Faithfully yours, Theodore Roosevelt

Letter of William van der Weyde to Theodore Roosevelt, May 25, 1918:

My dear Col. Roosevelt:

I have only just now received your letter of April 19th in re Gouverneur Morris - Thomas Paine, having been out of town for several weeks.

I note by the newspapers that just at this time you are out of town yourself on a speech-making tour, so I shall defer replying to your courteous letter until you are back in the city.

I wish at present merely to acknowledge receipt of your letter, to thank you for it, and to explain why an acknowledgement was not sooner sent.

I mail this to The Metropolitan office with request on envelope that it be forwarded.

Sincerely yours, W.M. van der Weyde

Letter of William van der Weyde to Theodore Roosevelt, June 24, 1918:

My dear Col. Roosevelt:

On May 25 I sent you a brief note acknowledging receipt of your letter and saying I would defer a reply until your return from the speech-making tour that the newspapers announced. Now that you are back and at your home in Oyster Bay I am sending to you - by express - a copy of Moncure Conway’s Life of Thomas Paine, containing a couple of chapters on the Paine-Morris matter which I think have hitherto escaped your notice, and which will surely interest you.

In the closing paragraph of your letter to me dated April 19, you indicated willingness to revise your judgment “were new material given you”; “such”, you added, however, “is not the case in the present instance.”

In the volume I send you not only will you find “new material” but conclusive documentary evidence from the French National Archives in Paris, not brought to light until within comparatively recent years. The evidence is presented in the chapter entitled “A Minister and His Prisoner”.

I trust that you will be sufficiently interested to read the entire book. It is well worth reading, being the work of a very careful, conscientious and unbiased biographer, with whose rank as an American historian you are, of course, familiar.

The work of Jared Sparks was published in 1832, at a time when many facts about Paine and Morris had not come to light, and when there was a strong religious prejudice against Paine

There is additional material on the Paine-Morris matter in Volume III, Chap. 21, of the Writings of Thomas Paine, edited by Moncure Conway, with an important introduction by the Editor. This chapter includes quotations from Sparks. I shall be glad to send you this volume, too, should you care to see it.

I think, Mr. Roosevelt, that you are broad-minded and just, and I feel that new evidence being presented to you, you will be only glad to revise your earlier judgment of Paine.

I am in no great hurry for the return of the book I am sending you. Anytime within six weeks or so is quite all right. When you send it back please do so by express, at my expense.

May I ask you in the meantime to kindly acknowledge receipt of the book and this letter when they reach you?

Sincerely yours, W.M. van der Weyde

Letter of Theodore Roosevelt to William van der Weyde, July I, 1918:

The Kansas City Star New York Office 347 Madison Avenue Office of Theodore Roosevelt

My dear Mr. Van der Weyde:

I appreciate your letter and I appreciate your having sent me Conway’s “Paine”, which I return herewith. Now, my dear Mr. Van der Weyde, all this illuminates exactly why it is so difficult to go into a brief (private or public) argument on a matter which is really connected with the fundamental questions of history. The matter about Paine appeared in a book written by me some thirty years ago. I think I have said to you already, I ought to have used the word deist and not atheist in writing of the 18’n century. These terms have different values in different centuries. Deist, for instance, was unknown in the thirteenth century when any man who denied the existence of the Christian God was called an atheist, unless, as was most common, he was lumped with Mohammedans, Jews and heretics, and styled an infidel. I knew Conway personally. I know his writings somewhat. I do not know them better because I am entirely out of sympathy with them, and profoundly distrust his power of accurate statement. I think his views on most points of history absolutely wrong, and his judgments worse than unsafe. In the very chapters to which you refer me he takes almost Paine’s view of Washington, and himself attacks Washington vigorously for his attitude toward the French Revolution, and completely misstates Washington’s position toward Great Britain. In the same chapters his accusations against Morris are absurd. For example, one of Monroe’s letters which he quotes, itself shows that Paine was in reality a French citizen; and, of course, it is nonsense to take any other view of a man who was an active member of the Girondist Party in the Legislative body which at the time represented the supreme government of France. As for the statement by Morris, and by Monroe as quoted by Sparks, concerning the filthy personal habits of Paine, Mr. Conway does not contradict it save by inference and does not produce one particle of proof to upset it.

Under these conditions to go into an argument upon the question that you raise, my dear Mr. Van der Weyde, would mean the writing of a very large book; nor would it be necessary only to write one book, for I should have to write another as to why I think Washington, and not Washington’s enemies such as Paine , took the right position as regards the international questions of the day. It would be necessary for me to explain at length why I think the kind of language that Paine used about Christianity and the Bible was improper and unworthy, when compared with the language which Huxley, for example, used. I am abusy man. I haven’t the time to write volumes on every point where I differ from friends or from strangers concerning historical figures. My own view is that sound students of history and politics must come to the conclusion that Washington was immensely right, and Paine immensely wrong, during the decade which included Paine’s residence as a Revolutionary in Paris. My judgment is also that even from the standpoint of men who do not accept the Orthodox view of revealed religion, Huxley was right and Paine wrong in their methods of treatment of the subject. But nothing whatever is to be gained by any public thrashing over of this subject. I haven’t the time for it and I shall not deal with it further. If I did so in the case of Paine, I might just as well do so in the cases of Jefferson, of Monroe, of Calhoun, of Jefferson Davis, of the abolitionists, of the Secessionists, etc., etc., etc. This letter is for your personal information and in no way for publication.

Sincerely yours, Theodore Roosevelt

Letter of William van der Weyde to Theodore Roosevelt, July 6, 1918:

My dear Col. Roosevelt:

Please accept my thanks for your letter of July I and for the return of the Conway Life of Thomas Paine.

Yes, I was aware that your appraisement of Paine as a “filthy little Atheist” occurred in the book you wrote some thirty years ago - the Life of Gouvernour Morris. I have had a copy of the work for many years and am quite familiar with it. As you say, you should,of course, have written Deist instead of Atheist. Paine was a profound believer in God, and his Age of Reason was written because, as he says in his letter to Samuel Adams, “the people of France were running headlong into Atheism, and he wished to”fix them to the first article of every man’s creed who has any creed at all, I believe in God.”

Regarding the appellation “filthy” you wrote that “the statement refers to a quotation from Gouverneur Morris’s journal while he was Minister to France during the French Revolution. He visited Paine and found him in bed, not having left it for a week for purposes of nature, altho (sic) seemingly entirely able to do so. If filthy does not describe such conduct, no word can.”

On April4 you wrote me “the quotation appears in Sparks’ Life and Writings of Gouverneur Morris.”

The statement in Sparks’s Morris to which you referred in your letter of April 19 (Volume I, page 416-l8) and which you were so kind as to copy for me, is a totally different thing, and not a quotation from the journal or writings of Morris, but comment by the Rev. Jared Sparks, editor of Morris’s Journal.

In Sparks’s work, which I have at hand, I cannot locate Morris’s statement about visiting Paine and finding him in bed, etc. I am curious to know if this episode refers to the time Paine was in the Luxembourg Prison’ or subsequently, when he was a guest at Monroe’s home. I would like to locate the quotation in Sparks’s book and would be grateful to you for information as to just where it may be found in that interesting work.

Please accept my thanks in advance for furnishing me this data.

Sincerely yours, W.M. van der Weyde

Letter of Theodore Roosevelt to William van der Weyde, July 9, 1918:

The Kansas City Star New York Office 347 Madrson Avenue Office of Theodore Roosevelt

My dear Mr. Van der Weyde:

Evidently one of my letters to you went astray. I wrote you three or four weeks ago giving the exact quotations from Sparks, which you have seen. The quotation I first sent you was from some manuscript writings of Morris which were submitted to me some thirty years ago (I am now not able to identify them; indeed, I am not sure that they were in manuscript instead of in print) and as I have no time to look up the matter, I have made and shall make no further allusions to it, and shall not quote it. I have never used it in public and I have withdrawn the only two private quotations that I made of it. The statements in Sparks to which you refer completely justify my published statement.

Sincerely yours, Theodore Roosevelt

Letter of William van der Weyde to Theodore Roosevelt, July 15, 1918:

Col. Theodore Roosevelt Oyster Bay, N.Y.

My dear Col. Roosevelt:

Thank you for your letter of July 9. I am glad that you will not again use as a quotation from the journal of Gouverneur Morris the words regarding Paine’s “filthy condition” which you quoted to me in the beginning of our little correspondence, and that you have withdrawn the only two quotations that you have made of it (presumably to me and Mr. Hartmann.)

Yes, I received the letter in which you so kindly transcribed for me the paragraphs concerning Paine which occur in Jared Sparks’s Life and Writings of Gouverneur Morris (Vol.I pp. 416-18) and in my last letter, dated July 6, I thanked you, but called your attention to the fact that the passages to which you referred are not really quotations from the journal of Morris, but are plainly the comments (no quotation marks) of the editor, Sparks. The Rev. Jared Sparks was not personally acquainted with Paine and was, without a shadow of doubt, biased in his opinions by religious prejudice.

In your last letter you say “The statements in Sparks to which you refer, (Vol. I, pp.416-18) completely justify my published statement.” I am afraid I shall have to differ with you in this particular, for the reasons given in the above paragraph.

Even were the statements those of Morris, instead of allegations by Sparks, I should be inclined to doubt their reliability for the reason that Morris’s character was not above reproach, as one may gather from your own estimate of Morris, as expressed in your Life of Gouverneur Morris. You tell how “Morris actually advocated repudiating our war debt,” and you remark that “no greenback demagogue of the lowest type ever advocated a proposition more dishonest and more contemptible.” You also say of Morris, “he sneered at the words union and constitution as being meaningless:” “he strongly advocated secession” and “throughout the War of 1812 appeared as the open champion of treason to the nation.” etc., etc.

At the time (1887) that you wrote the Life of Gouverneur Morris in which your reference to Thomas Paine as a “filthy little Atheist” occurs, there was no good biography of Paine to which you might refer for information, but there were several scurrilous books purporting to be biographies of Paine, which were in fact merely mediums for the defamation of a man who had incurred political and theologic hatred. Even the biographic encyclopedias of that period - thirty-one years ago–reprinted as historic fact the various calumnies about Paine that had long passed current, thus perpetuating what is now known to be merely slander of the dead.

Your estimate of Paine as “filthy” and as an “Atheist” was, no doubt, founded on the only information available to you at that time - the scurrilous “biographies” to which I refer, and the attempts at belittlement by Morris, who was extremely jealous of Paine and who had reason to fear exposure if Paine were released from the Luxembourg.

Paine was not an “Atheist”, as you now admit, but also he was not “filthy.”

Paine was the friend and companion of persons that would hardly have had a filthy man for an associate. Among Paine’s friends in America were Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Monroe, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Richard Henry Lee, Robert R. Livingston, Henry Laurens, Albert Gallatin, Genl. Nathaniel Greene, Lewis Morris and Robert Morris, Burr and Hamilton. These are but a few of his circle of friends of American Revolutionary days. They are not people that would consort with a man who was filthy.

Paine’s circle of friends when he was in Europe included many of the most eminent persons in England and France, such people as M. and Mme. Lafayette, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, J . Horne Tooke, M . and Mme. Brissot, Charles James Fox, George Romney, Robert Fulton, Major General James Jackson, Dr. Joseph Priestley, Herault de Sechelles, Thomas Clio Rickman, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Erskine, Joel Barlow and Doctor Thomas Cooper. These are hardly the names of people who would make a friend of and entertain a man who was filthy.

The portraits of Paine, painted by the most eminent artists of America, England and France, the earliest by Charles Wilson Peale (within a year or two of Paine’s arrival in America,) and the last by John Wesley Jarvis (within a year or two of his death), all show Paine to have been scrupulously neat and clean, both in his dress and person. Other eminent painters whose portraits of Paine also bear witness to his cleanliness are George Romney, Gen’l John Trumbull and F. de Bonneville.

In the archives of the Thomas Paine National Historical Association,(of which I have the honor of being a member,) there is a mass of testimony as to Paine’s cleanliness of person and habits- all at your disposal if you wish to see it. Were my letter not already far longer than I had intended I would include some of this testimony

The fables about Paine promulgated in the scurrilous “biographies” of the long ago are now known to be pure mythology, created only for political and theological purposes. In the past quarter of a century the real Paine has emerged from the mass of misrepresentation to shine as one of the illustrious of names.

Walt Whitman, referring to the calumnies of Paine, wrote this: “Paine was double damnably lied about. Anything lower, meaner, more contemptible, I cannot imagine; to take an aged man - a man tired to death after a complicated life of toil, struggle, anxiety, - weak, dragged-down, at death’s door; …… then to pull him into the mud, distort everything he does and says; oh, it’s infamous.

“Thomas Paine had a noble personality, as exhibited in presence, face, voice, dress, manner, and what may be called his atmosphere and magnetism, especially the later years of his life. I am sure of it, of the foul and foolish fictions yet told about the circumstances of his decease, the absolute fact is that he lived a good life, after its kind; he died calmly and philosophically, as became him.”

I am confidant, Mr. Roosevelt, that as a fair-minded man and as an American historian, you wish only to have the exact and the entire truth, and that only the presentation of evidence is needed to have you revise your earlier judgment that Paine was filthy.

Is the evidence herein presented convincing to you that Paine was not filthy? If not quite sufficient I shall be glad to dig out from the Paine Association’s archives, and present to you, additionally, the testimony of Thomas Paine’s associates through many years.

Sincerely yours, W.M. van der Weyde

Letter of William van der Weyde to Theodore Roosevelt, August 18, 1918:

Colonel Theodore Roosevelt Oyster Bay, N.Y.

My dear Col. Roosevelt:

Since I have not heard from you in reply to my last letter, dated July 15, I think that perhaps my communication (addressed to Oyster Bay,) went astray in the mails and did not reach you.

My letter contained evidence in the Paine matter that I am sure would interest you, as an American historian. Luckily, I kept a copy of the letter and this I would be glad to forward to you if the original letter was lost.

Knowing of your bereavement I have not expected, nor wished, a prompt response, and I write now only with the idea that my letter may have miscarried, and to say that I shall be very glad to have your reply when you feel able to take the matter up.

I am glad to note in the newspapers that you are again enjoying good health.

Sincerely yours, W.M. van der Weyde

Letter of Theodore Roosevelt to William van der Weyde, Augast 21, 1918:

The Kansas City Star New York Office 347 Madison Avenue Office of Theodore Roosevelt

My dear Mr. Van der Weyde:

I have answered every letter I have received from you; but now, my dear sir, you must excuse my saying that I cannot correspond any longer with you or anyone else concerning Mr. Thomas Paine. I do not think you understand how busy I am. This is the last letter I shall write in the matter. Your letters to me showed such good spirit that I was betrayed into going into a correspondence which has evidently been utterly useless. What I wrote of Thomas Paine in the book to which you refer, over thirty years ago, contains the substantial truth; and whether or not I would now tell it in quite the same language does not matter. The only alteration I would make, in the interest of a rather meticulous correctness of terminology, would be in the use of the word deist instead of atheist. However, the word atheist is probably also correct. This you will see if you will turn to the Life of Huxley, by his son, and read Huxley’s letter to Kingsley in the year 1863. He there explicitly states that in his view, according to the customary terminology, and probably according to legal construction, the word atheist could be used to describe him, Huxley. I should myself, of course, describe Huxley as an agnostic rather than as either an atheist or a deist.

You understand that our correspondence has been private and is not to be published. The utter uselessness of such a discussion, either private or public, is shown by the fact that after having been forced to take up a good deal of my time in answering your queries, I see no reason whatever to make the slightest change in my statement, except as above indicated. But this is not all. As regards most historical questions there is always room for a difference of opinion. I take Macauley’s view of Marlborough and Penn for instance. I have said so in my published works. Perhaps you take directly the opposite view of both. But it would be an utter absurdity for me to go into a long discussion with you about our respective views of Marlborough and Penn. It is exactly as much an absurdity to have my time taken up in such a discussion about Paine.

Very sincerely yours, Theodore Roosevelt

Letter of William van der Weyde to Theodore Roosevelt, August 29, 1918:

Col. Theodore Roosevelt Sagamore Hill Oyster Bay, N.Y.

My dear Colonel Roosevelt:

I know you would not wish to bring our little correspondence to a close with the omission of a reply to my letter of July 15, especially as your favor of August 21, which I received yesterday says “I have answered every letter I have received from you.” This statement quite convinces me that my letter of July 15 did not reach you, for that letter remains unanswered.

As this letter (July 15) contains important evidence on the subject regarding which we corresponded, I feel sure you will be glad to have a duplicate, and I take pleasure therefore in enclosing a copy.

The letter I have just received from you, dealing only with the matter of Deist and Atheist, no reference being made to the claim that Paine was “filthy” - this latter being the entire subject matter of my letter - impresses me with the idea that my July 15th letter certainly went astray in the mails.

You will be interested, I am sure, in the evidence concerning Paine which is presented in the enclosed letter (copy dated July 15.)

Although your letter tells me you cannot continue the correspondence about Paine, I hardly think you will wish to end with my most important communication on the subject unanswered. I trust that after reading the letter of July l5 you will favor me with your opinion. Then I shall have had a reply to all of my letters.

Sincerely yours, W.M. van der Weyde

P.S. - Yes, I have the Life of Huxley, by his son, Leonard, and have found great pleasure in reading it. It is an extremely interesting and authoritative work by a most competent biographer.

Letter of J.M. Stricker to William van der Weyde, September 4, 1918:

The Kansas City Star New York Office 347 Madison Avenue Office of Theodore Roosevelt

Dear Mr. Van der Weyde:

Colonel Roosevelt does not see that there is anything he can add to what he has written and it is not possible for him to go further into the matter.

With regret. Sincerely yours, J.M. Stricker. Secretary.