Adams in Amsterdam

In April 1782, the top story in Dutch newspapers was the decision to officially recognize the United States of America as a sovereign republic. Months of relentless perseverance had finally paid off for John Adams.

Johan Luzac, editor of the Gazette de Leyde, noted the coincidence as well, adding they had predicted the “birth” of the new nation seven years earlier. Luzac’s French-language newspaper, praised as the most impartial and widely read in Europe, had devoted a great deal of space to events in America.

Adams, impressed with the coverage, contacted Luzac soon after arriving in Amsterdam and contributed all kinds of material for publication. Adams provided other papers such as the Gazette d’Amsterdam with news items as well.

Supporting the US cause
Luzac also paid tribute to Joan Derk van der Capellen for his role in the Dutch recognition of the United States. He was the first in the Netherlands to openly support the American cause.

In 1776, he had prepared a Dutch translation of a dissenting English book called “Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty and Justice and the Policy of the War with America,” at the same time a French translation of Tom Paine’s “Common Sense” appeared in Rotterdam.

He also published his correspondence with New Jersey Governor William Livingston, a former newspaperman of Dutch descent, whom he urged to send an envoy to Holland a full year before Adams arrived. “I think I can say without boasting,” van der Capellen told Luzac, “I was in all of this an instrument in the hands of Providence.”

Le Politique Hollandais
Another important contact was Antoine-Marie Cérisier, whose voluminous history of the United Provinces Adams had discovered early in his visit. He took a canal boat to Utrecht to meet the author and the two men quickly became friends. Cérisier moved to Amsterdam and began publication of a periodical called Le Politique Hollandais, devoted in large part to propaganda on behalf of the Americans. Adams was a frequent contributor and later wrote of Cérisier, “his pen has erected a monument to the American cause more glorious and more durable than brass or marble.”

“Those who have the honor of making the acquaintance of Mr. Adams see that his visage bears the unmistakable signs of candor and honesty.”

In his newspaper Cérisier also published a complete translation of the 16-page Memorial Adams wrote addressed to “Their High Mightinesses, the States-General of the United Provinces of the Low Countries.” It was no coincidence that he signed and dated the document 19 April 1781, the day six years earlier the first shots were fired starting the American war for independence.

Much in common
The Memorial was an impassioned appeal for support, cooperation and recognition based on a long history of connections – from the years of asylum granted to the Pilgrims in Leiden before setting off for the New World to the early Dutch settlements in New York and New Jersey. Adams also drew parallels between the American Revolution and Dutch Revolt against Spain:

“The two Nations resemble each other more than any others.
The Originals of the two Republicks are so much alike, that
the History of one seems but a Transcript from that of the other:
so that every Dutchman, instructed in the subject, must pronounce
the American Revolution just and necessary, or pass a Censure
upon the greatest Actions of his immortal ancestors…”

One year later, the Prince of Orange, Willem V, and Princess Wilhelmina received John Adams at the Palace Huis Ten Bosch and formally proclaimed the Dutch Republic’s recognition of the United States of America.

Adams would later call it his most important achievement in the struggle for independence. But at the time, he was more philosophical. In a letter to Edward Jenings, American agent in London who placed his articles in the British press, Adams wrote:

“The resolution which has taken place in this nation is the result
of a vast number and variety of events, comprising the great
scheme of Providence… When I recollect the circumstances,
I am amazed, and feel that it is no work of mine.”

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Adams in Amsterdam
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