History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution/Chapter XXV
While the active and interesting scenes in the West Indies, related in the preceding pages, commanded the attention of America, and deranged the systems of France, other objects of importance, by sea as well as by land, equally occupied the arms, the industry, and the energies of the European powers, and equally affected the great cause of freedom and the entire independence of the United States. The French navy had indeed suffered much in the West Indies, and the Batavians there were nearly ruined by the unexpected operations of war. Yet the Dutch flag still waved with honor over the ocean, and in several instances maintained the courage, the character, and the glory won by their Van Trumps, de Ruyters, and other naval heroes distinguished in their history.
They had been called out to try their strength on the ocean, by the open hostilities of Britain, in consequence of a declaration by the King, which relieved them from a state of suspense. This declaration, dated April 1780, annihilated all former treaties of neutrality, friendship, or connection and suspended all stipulations respecting the freedom of navigation and commerce in time of war, with the subjects of the States-General.
A few weeks previous to the date of this declaration of war, the government of Great Britain had exercised its assumed right of searching the vessels of all nations for contraband goods. This presumptuous right they had for many years arrogated to themselves, though no other nation had acceded to the claim. Yet it had been submitted to, from want of power sufficient for an effectual opposition, while all considered it an infringement on the free trade of nations that could not be justified by the laws of equity.
A number of Dutch merchantmen, laden with timber and naval stores for the use of France had taken the advantage of sailing under the protection of Count Byland, who, with a small fleet of men of war and frigates, was to escort a convoy to the Mediterranean. In consequence of this intelligence, the English government sent out a squadron of armed ships under the command of Captain Fielding, in pursuit of them, with a commission to search, seize, and make prizes of any of the Dutch ships that might have on board articles deemed contraband goods, according to the construction of the British laws of trade.
The Dutch refused to submit to the humiliating orders. Notwithstanding which, Fielding dispatched a number of boats to execute the business. These were fired upon by the Dutchmen; on which, Captain Fielding fired a shot across the head of the Dutch admiral's ship, who returned a broadside. This salute was answered in a manner that might have been expected from a British naval commander, and several shot were exchanged. But Count Byland, though sensible that he was in force sufficient for a severe action that might ensure, from the humane idea of saving the lives of his men, thought proper to strike his colors and surrender to the English. [British Annual Register.]
In the meantime, most of the convoy, under cover of night, made their escape into some of the ports of France. The remainder were detained; and the Dutch admiral informed that he was at liberty to hoist his colors and pursue his voyage. He refused to leave any part of his convoy, but hoisted his colors and sailed with them to Spithead, where he continued until he received fresh instructions from his masters.
This affair enkindled much resentment in the bosoms of the Hollanders, who considered an attempt to search their ships as an act of unwarrantable insolence. This, with many other concurring circumstances which then existed, had ripened their minds for the open rupture which soon after took place between the English and Dutch governments.
Many feats of maritime bravery were exhibited on the ocean during the existing war between the two nations. The most signal event of the kind in the European seas the same year was an action which took place between Admiral Zeutman, commander of the Dutch fleet, and Sir Hyde Parker, who commanded a British squadron of superior force. They met near a place called Dogger-Bank, as Admiral Parker was returning from Elsineur with a large convoy. An engagement immediately took place. Equal valor and prowess animated the officers on each side, and equal fury and bravery stimulated the sailors. An action bloody indeed was kept up for three or four hours, but without either allowing the honor of victory to hi antagonist.
After a short pause, within a little distance from each other, they withdrew to their native shores. Admiral Zeutman was honored, caressed promoted, and happy in the applauses of his countrymen; while Admiral Parker returned chagrined and disgusted. He indeed received the approbation and was honored with a visit from the King and an invitation to dine with him on board the royal yacht; but he refused the honor of knighthood His Majesty was about to confer on him, complained heavily that he had not been properly supported, and attributed the escape of any part of the Dutch fleet to the negligence of the Admiralty.
Notwithstanding the renown of the British navy, the nation had little to boast from the termination of several marine adventures, through the course of the present year. Their fleets had fallen under some disappointments and disasters, which heightened the clamor against the admiralty officers, and increased the discontent of the nation.
Commodore Johnstone, with a handsome squadron, had been ordered to sail for and take possession of the Cape of Good Hope. Had he succeeded, his next enterprise was designed to surprise Buenos Ayres, and sweep the Spanish settlements from Rio de la Plata, in South America. But he was attacked by Monsieur de Suffrein, who intercepted him near Cape de Verde Islands. Johnstone was found rather in an unguarded situation. A considerable number of the officers and men were on shore at the Island of St. Jago, in pursuit of health and pleasure, and many of the crews of all the ships were absent, employed either in hunting, fishing, or plundering cattle from the islands.
Signals for repairing on board were made, and an action immediately ensured, but it did not redound to the honor of the British commander. After suffering much in the engagement, and his original design totally defeated, he returned homewards, with the small reparation of his ill fortune by the capture of a few Dutch East India ships, which were at anchor in the Bay of Soldana.
The brave Admiral Kempenfelt was not much more fortunate in an interview with the French fleet which he met with in the winter 1781. This squadron, commanded by Monsieur Guichen, was unexpectedly to him so much superior to his own that Admiral Kempenfelt did not think it prudent to engage. He, however, captured a number of transports laden with all the implements of war, and upwards of 1000 French soldiers and sailors, designed for the West Indies.
Success so inadequate to expectation was the occasion of much uneasiness and censure in the nation. The First Lord of the Admiralty was charged with negligence and incapacity, in conducting the maritime affairs of England. The magnitude of the object, and the strength of the combined foes of Great Britain required the first abilities, penetration, and industry; neither of which adorned the character of Lord Sandwich, the First Minister in the Naval department. But the great Admiral Kempenfelt lived but a short space after his late disappointment, either to reap the applauses or to fear the censures that arose from the fortuitous or natural events of time.
His ship, the Royal George, of 118 guns, required a slight repair before he proceeded, as was designed, to join the fleet before Gibraltar. For this purpose, the ship a little on the careen, the weather fine, and no danger to be apprehended, a great crowd of persons of both sexes were on board to visit and take leave of their husbands, brothers, and friends, when a sudden, small gust of wind struck the ship, and carried her instantly down.
In this unfortunate moment, perished near 1000 persons, among whom was the respected admiral himself, who had scarcely time to rise from his writing desk after the alarm, before he met his watery grave. [Annual Register.]
A few of the guards and most of the men who happened to be on the upper deck were picked up by boats and saved from sharing the melancholy catastrophe of their associates.
No man could have been more justly and universally lamented than Admiral Kempenfelt. Far advanced in years, he had retained a character unimpeached in his professional line, nor was he less meritorious in his deportment in private life.
The various naval rencounters among the contending powers were too diffuse for the present design, which is meant only as a sketch of a few of the most important events, in order to give a general idea of the sources of censure or applause bestowed on the principal actors. It may also elucidate the causes of that weight of opprobrium which fell on the Admiralty Department in England, at the close of the war. The bravery of many of the British naval commanders was signalized though existing circumstances so frequently combined to render abortive their valorous exertions.
Amid the many enterprises of this busy period among the nations, it would not be just to pass over the year without recollecting the honor due to a young hero who perished in the gallant defense of the island of Jersey.
The unsuccessful attempt made to reduce the place by a number of troops commanded by the Baron de Rullincort, in the year 1780, did not discourage a second enterprise. This first attempt was finally defeated by relief from Admiral Arbuthnot, who was then on his way to America. He had thought proper to stop and lend his assistance to prevent the impending fate of the island. It is true he saved it from falling into the hands of the French at that time, but a very heavy balance of disadvantage was felt in consequence of this delay. The very large reinforcement and the prodigious number of transports and merchantmen under his convoy, thus retarded, operated among other causes to prevent timely succors to Lord Cornwallis, of which he stood in the utmost necessity in Virginia.
On January 6, 1781, the Baron de Rullincort made a second effort to recover the island of Jersey. The design was so secret and the attack so sudden that the out-guards were surprised, and the avenues to the town of St. Helena seized, while the inhabitants lay in perfect security. In the morning of the 7th, in the utmost dismay, they found themselves in the hands of their enemies.
Major Corbet, the lieutenant governor, received the first intelligence that the French troops were in possession of the town, from his own servant, before he had risen from his bed. He was in a few minutes after surrounded and taken prisoner; and by the peremptory demand of the Baron de Rullincort, he was so far intimidated as to sign a capitulation in behalf of the town, and issued orders that his officers on the their stations should do the same.
A few of them obeyed; but Captain Pierson, a brave young officer of only 25 years of age, assembled the militia of the island, and with a party of British troops withdrew to the neighboring heights, on which the French commander, agreeably to the articles of capitulation, summoned him to surrender. Instead of a compliance, he, with the utmost intrepidity, advertised the Baron de Rullincort, that unless he and his troops laid down their arms and surrendered within 24 minutes, he should attack them in their post.
At the expiration of this short time, Captain Pierson, agreeably to his threat, proceeded to the desperate enterprise. This was done with such vigor and success that the French were driven to a decided action. The Baron de Rullincort was morally wounded; and within half an hour from the commencement of the engagement, the French troops were totally routed, and Major Corbet, who was kept as a forlorn hope by the side of their commander until Rullincort fell, was urged by the French troops to resume his command and permit them to surrender as prisoners of war.
But the valiant Pierson did not live to enjoy the fruits of this splendid action, or applauses of his country. He was unfortunately shot through the head, almost at the moment victory declared in his favor. The death of this brave young office, who a so early a period had exhibited such proofs of military genius and capacity, was greatly an justly lamented. On the other hand, the passive Corbet was tried by court martial censured, and dismissed from further service. While engravings of the action and the portraits of Captain Pierson were displayed through the nation, accompanied with the highest encomium on his valor and merit.
It has been observed that Spaniards had never relinquished their design of subduing the strong fortress of Gibraltar, though obliged the last year to suspend it for a time. The reduction of Minorca previous to their progress against Gibraltar, was by the Spaniards deemed an object of high importance. The island was invested by an armament under the command of the Duke of Crillon, in August 1781; but the conquest was not completed until February 4, 1782.
Many circumstances peculiarly affecting accompanied the siege and surrender of Fort St. Philip. Shut up by a large armament, surrounded by a heavy train of artillery, commanded by the most able and experienced officers, the garrison was totally unable to make any effectual resistance. They were reduced by an inveterate scurvy that had long prevailed, infested with a pestilential fever, dysentery, and other disorders, without medicine for the sick or food for the healthy: no extreme of misery could exceed theirs before they yielded to the arms of Spain.
Yet, in this condition of wretchedness they displayed every mark of valor and fortitude, until the combined circumstances of distress obliged the remnant of British troops, reduced to about 600, old, worn-out, emaciated skeletons, to lay down their arms. This they did with tears of regret and with an exclamation extorted by the pride of valor that they "submitted to God alone."
Their appearance and their behavior equally excited the sympathy of the conqueror, and even drew involuntary tears from the victorious soldiers amid the glory of success. The most compassionate attention was shown to those aged and unfortunate veterans who had been 11 years in garrison, by the noble Crillon, who directed everything necessary to be provided for the relief of the sick and ample supplies of prison and clothing were furnished by him, for the naked troops who still retained a degree of health.
We now leave events of less observation and notoriety to pursue the termination of the interesting siege of Gibraltar. In the beginning of the autumn of the present year, all the powers of invention were called forth to bring into action the most ingenious and fatal means of destruction; and the most glorious display of European valor was exhibited before the impregnable fortress of Gibraltar, that perhaps any age had beheld.
Battering ships of formidable size, and fireworks of the most curious construction awakened the attention in all. The fierce sons of Ishmael, whose hands are against every man, and every man's hand against them, at this time held their work of carnage among the tributary nations near their own coasts. [It may be properly asked, whenever the mind adverts to the situation and circumstances of the Barbary states, how long the European world will submit to their lawless depredations? It is a strange phenomenon in human affairs that the nations should so long have been kept in awe by their corsairs, and be compelled from time to time to purchase a temporary peace, by becoming tributary to a people so much inferior to themselves in manners, in arts, in arms, and in everything that aggrandizes the powers of the earth.] As they took no part in the conflict, the barbarian shores of Africa were covered with spectators, to view the frightful engines and the awful play of the artillery of death.
The Duke of Crillon was vested with the chief command of the mighty armament destined for the reduction of this proud fortress that thundered defiance to all the neighboring nations. Minorca reduced, and some other impediments surmounted, the Duke, in conjunction with some of the first naval commanders in Europe, opened the formidable onset about September 10. He was an officer equally distinguished for his politeness and his bravery. The last was conspicuously displayed from the beginning to the termination of this awful enterprise; and a signal instance of the first appeared when he sent a supply of vegetables and other delicacies for the table of General Elliot, while the garrison was almost without the smallest means of subsistence.
This present was accompanied with the highest expressions of personal regards for the British commander. The Duke de Crillon assured him, "that he cherished a hope of meriting and meeting his future friendship, after he had learned to make himself worthy of that honor by facing him as an enemy." General Elliot replied with equal gallantry that however he felt himself obliged by those tenders of politeness and generosity, yet as long as his brave troops suffered and patiently endured a scarcity of provisions, he should accept nothing for himself; that as he was determined to participate in common with the lowest of his fellow soldiers, every hardship they might suffer, he must of consequence be excused from the acceptance of any future favor.
The Count de Artois, a brother of the King, and many other princes of the blood of France and the royal house of Spain, were in the action before Gibraltar; an action that surpassed the descriptive pen of the historian or the poet, to do ample justice to the display of military skill in both parties, to the magnificence of design, the intrepidity of execution, the grandeur of the scene, and the valor and magnanimity of both officers and soldiers.
Six thousand cannon shot, and upwards of one thousand shells, were discharged on one side every 24 hours; while an equal scale of vigor was kept up by the unceasing blaze of the other, until several of the best ships of the assailants were blown up, others enwrapped in a torrent of fire and reduced to such a scene of misery and distress as excited not only the pity, but the boldest exertions of the valiant English in several instances, to snatch their enemies from destruction and death.
The intrepid Captain Curtis at the head of a brigade of marines, and at the hazard of his own life and the lives of his associates, dragged many men on the point of perishing from the burning ships of the combined fleet.
The Spanish Admiral don Marino abandoned his ship but the moment before she was blown up. A number of ships, both of France and Spain were reduced to the same distressed condition. A severe storm increased the catastrophe of the navy; but every compassionate mind will be willing to abridge a particular detail of such a period of horror; a period which portrayed images that seem to require a solemn pause, rather than a further dilation on the wretchedness of so many of our fellow-mortals.
Lord Howe's arrival, toward the termination of this tremendous scene, with a force sufficient for the entire relief of the besieged, completely defeated the hopes of the the House of Bourbon, of obtaining the long contemplated object. Thus this strong fortress, of which the English had been in possession from the Treaty of Utrecht in 1731, was again left to the triumph of the British nation. Its impregnable strength had often defied the hostilities and as now likely to continue the envy of the neighboring nations.
The memory of Elliot and Boyde, the two principal officers who sustained this long and perilous siege, will be immortalized. They, with unexampled fortitude, endured the miseries of fatigue and famine, until worn down by the first and on the point of perishing by the last. With skill, bravery, and resolution, unparalleled in modern story, they drove back the formidable invaders, blasted the expectations of their enemies, and obtained the most signal victory, when all Europe had denounced the fall of Gibraltar.
It was about the middle of October when Lord Howe arrived, with everything necessary for the relief of the distressed garrison. This extinguished all remains of hope that might have been indulged in the breasts of some individuals among the commanders of the combined fleet, already too much wounded an shattered for exertions of any kind. It is true a feint was made for an engagement with the British fleet, by Don de Cordova on the part of Spain and Monsieur de Guichen the French admiral; but they soon discovered themselves willing to retire, without any decisive operations. The greatest part of the squadron took the first favorable opportunity to sheer off, and repaired with all possible expedition to Cadiz.
Let us now rest a little from the roar of cannon, and the dread sound of bombardment, thunder, and death, those horrid interpreters of the hostile dispositions of man, and listen to the milder voice of negotiation. This often assimilates or unites nations by more rational and humane discussions than the implements of slaughter and destruction produce; and political altercations are frequently terminated before decisions are announced by torrents of fire, spouted by the invention of man, to spread frightful desolation over his own species.
The capture of Mr. Laurens, who had been appointed to negotiate with the Dutch provinces, and the steps taken to effect a treaty of amity and commerce between the United States of America and the inhabitants of the Netherlands, have already been related; also, the manner in which his packages were recovered by an adventurous sailor. In this deposit as found, when presented to the British minister, the form of a treaty of amity and commerce between the Republic of Holland and the United States of America, containing 34 articles. These were indeed obnoxious enough to the Court of Great Britain; but it appeared that it had been a very deliberate business. These articles had been examined and weighed by William Lee, esquire, a commissioner from Congress then resident in Europe. This had been done by the advice of Van Berkel, counselor and pensioner of the city of Amsterdam, and some other judicious Dutchmen. Thus everything had promised the speedy completion of treaty between the two republics. [See copies of these papers found in Mr. Laurens's trunk in the British Annual Register, 1780, in Journals of Congress, and many other records.]
In consequence of this discovery, orders were sent to the British minister resident at the Hague, which were acted upon by him with energy and fidelity. Sir Joseph Yorke complained and memorialized to the States-General on the nature and form of the designed treaty. He also expatiated on the conduct of many of the principal characters in the several united provinces and on the treacherous and dangerous nature and tendency to Great Britain of several other papers and letters found among Mr. Laurens's dispatches.
He repeated his complaints of the countenance and protection given by their High Mightinesses to the piratical Paul Jones, while lying in the Texel, and recapitulated other circumstances of their conduct which had given offense to his nation; and intimated that he expected within three weeks from the date of his memorial some decided answer would be given relative to the succors reclaimed eight months before; otherwise His Majesty would look upon their conduct as breaking off the alliance on the part of their High Mightinesses, and would not in future consider the United Provinces in any other light than on a footing with other neutral powers, unprivileged by treaty. But the minister obtained little satisfaction from the reply of their High Mightinesses, or the deportment of the Hollanders.
The sum of their short reply was that their High Mightinesses were very desirous to coincide with the wishes of the King of England, but they could give no positive answer to his memorial, as it was impossible to return an answer in the short term of three weeks. They observed that the memorial must be deliberated upon by the several provinces, and their resolutions waited for; that they were persuaded His Majesty would not wish rigorously to adhere to the afore mentioned time. They waved the business by observing further "that their High Mightinesses might be able to conclude upon an answer in a manner conformable to the constitution of the Republic, in which they had no right to make any alteration; and promised to accelerate the deliberations on that head as much as possible."
The final result, however, was that within a short time the vengeance of Britain was denounced against the Hollanders by an explicit declaration of war. This in some measure relieved the Batavian provinces from the constrained attitude in which they had for some time stood between Great Britain and the United States of America. But no treaty of alliance, amity, and commerce was settled between the two republics until it was effected by the negotiation of Mr. Adams, who was appointed by Congress and repaired to the Hague immediately after the unfortunate capture of Mr. Laurens; but the business of his mission was not completed until the present year.
On Mr. Adams's arrival in Holland, he found everything in a happy train for negotiation; the people well-disposed, and many of the most distinguished characters zealous for a treaty with the American states, without any farther delay. Perhaps no man was better qualified to treat with the Batavians, than Mr. Adams. His manners and habits were much more assimilated to the Dutch than to the French nation. He rendered himself acceptable to them by associating much with the common classes, by which he penetrated their views. Yet he made himself acquainted with the first literary characters among the citizens. He took lodgings at Amsterdam for several months at the house of Mr. Dumas, a man of some mercantile interest, considerable commercial knowledge, not acquainted with manners or letters, but much attached to the Americans, from the general predilection of Dutchmen in favor of republicanism.
Though this was the disposition of most of the inhabitants of the United Provinces, yet, as has been observed, there was a party attached to the Stadtholder, and to the measures of the British cabinet, that hung as a dead weight on the wishes of the generality of their countrymen, and for a time retarded the business of the American plenipotentiary.
Vigilant himself, and urged by men of the best information in the Batavian provinces, Mr. Adams, soon after his arrival in Holland, presented a long memorial to the States-General. In this he sketched some general ideas of the principles and the grounds of the Declaration of Independence, and the unanimity with which it was received and supported by all the thirteen united colonies in America. [See Mr. Adams's memorial presented to the States-General 1781.]
He vindicated the American claim to independence in a very handsome manner, and represented it as the interest of all the powers of Europe, and more particularly of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, to support and maintain that claim. He pointed out the natural and political grounds of a commercial connection between America and Holland, reminded them of the similarity of their religious and political principles, of their long and arduous struggles to secure their rights, of the sufferings of their ancestors to establish their privileges on principles which their sons could never derelict. In short, he urged in the memorial every reason for an alliance, with clearness, precision, and strength of argument. He observed "that principles founded in eternal justice and the laws of God and nature both dictated to them to cut in sunder all ties which had connected them with Great Britain." [Memorial.]
Before Mr. Adams presented this memorial, he had been indefatigable in his endeavors to cherish the attachment already felt by individual characters, toward the cause of America, and to strengthen the favorable opinion that most of the Dutch provinces had adopted before his arrival in Holland.
He had at the request of a private gentleman, [Dr. Calkoen, an eminent civilian of the city of Amsterdam.] given him in a series of letters, a general idea of the situation of America before and at the present period. He drew a portrait of her temper, her manners, her views, and her deportment. He stated the universal alienation and aversion to Great Britain, that prevailed throughout the United States; their ability to endure the protraction of the war; and observed on the small proportion of people that still adhered to the royal cause. He gave a concise statement of the public debt, the resources and population of America; and asserted that they could boast a multitude of characters of equal ability to support the American cause, either in the field or in Congress, on the supposable circumstance that any of the officers of the one or the other should be corrupted by British gold.
In one of these letters he observed that "they considered themselves not only contending for the purest principles of liberty, civil and religious, but against the greatest evils that any country ever suffered; for they knew, if they were deceived by England to break their union among themselves and their faith with their allies, they would ever after be in the power of England, who would bring them into the most abject submission to the government of a Parliament the most corrupted in the world, in which they would have no voice or influence, at 3000 miles distance." [See letter second to Dr. Calkoen.]
In another letter to the same gentleman, he affirms, "that nothing short of an entire alteration of sentiment in the whole body of the people can make any material change in the councils or conduct of the United States; and that Great Britain had not power or art enough to change essentially, the temper, the feelings, and the opinions of between 3 million and 4 million people, at 3000 miles distance, supported as they are by powerful allies; that the people in America were too enlightened to be deceived in any great plan of policy. They understood the principles and nature of government too well to be imposed on any proposals short of their object." [Their object then was a free, independent republic, without any approximation to regal authority, or monarchic usages. There was then no sighing for rank, titles, and the expensive trappings of nobility.]
These letters were published and put into the hands of influential characters and had a powerful effect on the liberal minds of the Batavians, already predisposed to union and friendship with the Americans. No ready reply was made by the States-General to the judicious memorial presented by Mr. Adams. In consequence of this delay, petitions, remonstrances, and addresses were presented to their High Mightinesses from all the Dutch provinces. In these, they urged both the propriety and the policy of receiving a public minister in due form, from the United states of America.
The deputies to the States-General were everywhere instructed to concur in the measure of receiving Mr. Adams as ambassador from the American Congress, without farther deliberation. They insisted that his letters of credence should be received, an that negotiations should be immediately entered on, between him and the high authorities of the United Provinces. Yet, still the business lagged heavily. The intrigues of the Duke of Brunswick, the favorite and prime counselor of the Stadtholder, and the influence of the British minister were for a time an overbalance for the energy of republican resolves or entreaties.
This occasioned great dissatisfaction. A general murmur was heard through the several departments in the Dutch provinces. The measures of the court, and the Duke of Brunswick as the adviser, were attacked from the presses; his dismissal as field marshal was urged; and his retirement from Holland insisted on. To him, in conjunction with the designs of England and the subservience of the Stadtholder to the cabinet of Britain as attributed the derangement of their marine, and the mismanagement of all their public affairs.
Previous to this, in the Assembly of the States of Guelderland, in November, 1781, Robert Jasper Van de Capellen, in a very spirited speech, enforced with much precision, the necessity of opposing the measures which had created a general discordance through all the provinces of Holland.
He observed, "that a mean condescension, a fawning compliance with the measures of England ought no longer to prevent us from acknowledging the independence of a republic, which after our own glorious example, has acquired its freedom by arms, and is daily striving to shake off entirely the galling yoke of our common enemy." He said it was his opinion, that a treaty of amity between the two republics had been already too long held in suspense, and that it was injuring both nations for their High Mightinesses to postpone the reception of the American minister, or keep back the negotiation.
This was the general spirit of the most distinguished members of the provinces, while Mr. Adams still persevered in every prudent measure to facilitate the object of his mission. He was everywhere cordially received as an American, respected as a republican, and considered in the light of an ambassador from a new and great nation.
Mr. Adams was not, indeed, honored with a reply to his first memorial, but he was too zealous in the cause of his country to submit long to such an evasive step. Determined to bring on a speedy decision, a short time only elapsed before the American minister, without waiting for a replication to his first, presented a second address to the States-General. In this, he referred them to his former memorial and demanded a categorical answer that he might be able to transmit to the authority under which he acted an account of his negotiation. [See Mr. Adams's address presented to Van der Sandheuvel, president of the States-General, January 9, 1782.]
This second memorial was more effective in promoting the wishes of the friends of America than any previous step. We have already seen, from a variety of circumstances, that such was the desire, not only of the mercantile, but of most of the distinguished and patriotic characters in Holland, to enter into a close alliance with the American states, that it could not longer be postponed, without throwing the United Provinces into distraction and confusion that could not easily have been accommodated. The resolute and undaunted deportment of Mr. Adams, concurring with their dispositions, and with the interests and views of the United Netherlands, at last accomplished the object of his mission, entirely on his own, and to the satisfaction of both republics, though it had been impede by Great Britain, and not encouraged by any other power in Europe.
On April 22, 1782, Mr. Adams was admitted to the Hague, and with the usual ceremonies on such occasions, received as a minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America.
Articles of alliance and a treaty of amity were signed by both parties, and a loan of money was soon offered by the Dutch, and accepted by Mr. Adams for the use of the United states. This treaty of alliance and friendship between the sister republics of Holland and America was the subject of much triumph to the latter, and not less to the minister who finished the negotiation. Every expression of satisfaction and joy appeared in all classes of inhabitants through the Batavian provinces, on the confirmation of their union and alliance with a sister republic.
The treaty between their High Mightinesses the States-General and the United States of America contained 29 articles. They were in substance, first that there should be a firm, indissoluble, and general peace between the United Provinces of the Netherlands and the United States of America, and the citizens, inhabitants of their respective states. The second and third articles stipulated mutually the duties to be paid and the freedom of trade and navigation, without interruption by either nation, to whatever part of the universe their trade might be extended.
The fourth article was principally relative to the rights of commerce, the enjoyment of their own religion, and the rites of decent sepulture to persons who might die in the territories of their allies. A number of other articles were inserted which discovered, even in their treaties, the peculiar taste, genius, and apprehensions of republicans. They were in language and expression, in several instances, very different from the usual style and manner observed between monarchic powers, more tenacious of the obedience of their subjects, while living, than attentive to the preservation of their lives or to the decent deposit of their ashes, when dead.
The other articles contained in this treaty, principally related to commercial intercourse between the contending powers. These were of great importance to the Dutch, whose energies were remarkable as a trading nation; nor were they of less consideration to the Americans, whose advantages promised that they might become one of the first commercial powers in the world.
The British minister, Sir Joseph Yorke, sent on for the purpose, still zealously endeavored, as he had done before, to shake the engagements of the Republic of Holland, and draw them off from the interests of the American states. Though the Court of Great Britain had been irritated until they had proceeded too the most vigorous and severe measures against the Dutch, yet on the successes of America, and the prospect of new acquisitions of strength and dignity from foreign alliances, they had condescended so far, as to permit their minister to make proposals of a separate peace with the Untied States of Holland.
These overtures for a separate peace, which England had recently made, might probably quicken the measures of the Unite States of Holland, and hasten the completion of the wishes of the Americans. They were rejected with disdain by the honest republicans; and at this period of amity between the tow republics, the American minister boasted in a letter to the author that he "should look down with pleasure from the other world, on the American flag-staff planted in Holland."
The exultation and joy exhibited in the Batavian provinces, on signing the treaty between the two republics, was more than usually animated, and rose to an exhilaration of spirits seldom discovered in such a phlegmatic nation. Among many other instances of the general approbation of the measure, a society of citizens established at Leon Warden, under the motto Liberty and Zeal, presented a medal to the States of Friesland, as the first public body that had explicitly proposed a connection and alliance with the American states.
No people on earth were more passionately enamored with liberty, or more obstinate in the defense of freedom than the inhabitants of Friesland. This is known from their ancient history. They enjoyed their liberty and retained a greater degree of independence than their neighbors, through a long course of years, even from Drufus to Charlemagne, and from Charlemagne down to the present time. [See Universal History.] They have always been distinguished for their free, independent spirit; for their valor, magnanimity, and bold defense of the liberties of their province.
Though a general uneasiness had long prevailed through every part of Holland, the deputies of Friesland had been more explicit than any of he provinces with regard to the pernicious influence of the Duke of Brunswick. They had strongly expressed their discontent in general with respect to public measures and particularly with those relative to the navy department. They had written to the Stadtholder and strongly expressed the universal distrust and discontent, respecting the manner in which the affairs of the nation had been conducted, and the consequences they apprehended, which could not fail to be highly prejudicial to public tranquility. They attributed these disorders to the mal-administration of the Duke of Brunswick, requested that he might no longer be permitted to continue either as an actor or adviser in the affairs of Holland, but that his Serene Highness the Stadtholder would cause him to be removed from court immediately.
This, however, was not done, nor was there any reason to suppose, notwithstanding he had acceded thereto that the Stadtholder and such as were attached to his family interest and to the schemes and projects of the Duke of Brunswick, were well pleased with the alliance between the United States of America and the Batavian provinces. Subsequent transactions evinced this to be the conviction of everyone. But notwithstanding the secret chagrin which might pervade his or the mind of any other individual, the great body of a nation, that had for near a century discovered an enthusiastic attachment to liberty, and who had surmounted inexpressible sufferings to maintain it, did not suppress the most lively demonstrations of general satisfaction on the happy event.
The medal above mentioned, presented by the Society of Leon Warden to the State of Friesland, was expressive of the general sentiment of the nation, as well as of their own alienation from England and their attachment to America. On one side of it, dedicated by the Society of Liberty and Zeal, was represented a Frisian, dressed according to their ancient characteristic custom, holding out his right hand to a North American, in token of friendship and brotherly love, while with the left he rejects a separate peace which England offers him.
There had been dissensions in Holland, which had existed a number of years previous to the present period. The people had been divided between an aristocratic and a republican party; the one influenced by their attachment to the Stadtholder, the other had operated with the interests of France. In the midst of the animosities occasioned by the dissensions of these two parties, a third arose of a still more important nature, which embraced a system more free than had yet existed in the Republic of Holland.
This gave rise to the observations in a work of celebrity that "Animated by the example of North America and by that spirit of liberty and independence which has lately diffused itself in the world, in favor of democracy, the language of pure republicanism has been held by its citizens. They have publicly talked of choosing delegates and asserting the rights of nature. Their merchants an manufacturers have taken to the use of arms, and are daily improving themselves in military discipline. To judge from the auspicious contagion that has been caught from the revolution in America, we should be almost ready to say -- One more such revolution would give freedom to the world!"
The prevalence of this spirit in the Batavian provinces rendered the work of negotiation less arduous for the American ambassador. Yet while in Holland, Mr. Adams was in no point deficient in vigilance, nor did he neglect to fan the republican zeal by every argument in favor of civil liberty, of the equal rights of man, and of a republican form of government, during his residence in the Low Countries.
His satisfaction at the successful termination of his mission was evinced both in this public conduct and in the private effusions of his pen. In his diplomatic character, Mr. Adams had never enjoyed himself so well, as while residing in Dutch Republic. Regular in his morals, and reserved in his temper, he appeared rather gloomy in a circle; but he was sensible, shrewd, and sarcastic among private friends. His genius was not altogether calculated for a court life, amid the conviviality and gaiety of Parisian taste. In France, he was never happy; not beloved by his venerable colleague, Doctor Franklin; thwarted by the minister, the Count de Vergennes, and ridiculed by the fashionable and polite, as deficient in the je ne sais quoi, so necessary in highly polished society; viewed with jealousy by the Court, and hated by courtiers, for the perseverance, frigidity, and warmth blended in his deportment. He there did little of consequence, until the important period when, in conjunction with Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jay, a treaty of peace was negotiated between Great Britain and the United States of America.
Soon after the present period, Mr. Adams was summoned from the Hague by order of the American Congress, directed to repair to Paris, and assist in the important work of negotiating a peace between Great Britain and her former colonies, now a confederated and independent nation. In this business, he acquitted himself with equal firmness and equally to the satisfaction and approbation of his country, as he had before done in Holland. His reputation was enhanced among his countrymen, and his popularity kept up for a number of years after the honorable part he had acted as a diplomatic character, in his treaty with Holland and as a firm and zealous friend to the interests of his country through the negotiations for peace with his colleagues in France.
The loan of money obtained from Holland by the address of Mr. Adams was a great relief to the United States. This was at a crisis when their resources were drained by a long expensive war, and a paper substitute for specie had ceased to be of any farther utility. He had so handsomely anticipated the future resources of America, and contrasted the immense public debt of Great Britain with the comparatively small expenditures for national purposes in America, that not only the Dutch government conceded willingly to the propriety of assisting the United States, by the advance of moneys, but the affluent merchants, and others in possession of vast private property in that rich commercial country, offered, with the utmost alacrity, some handsome loans to assist and facilitate the freedom and growth of a young sister republic, from whom they expected to derive the greatest commercial advantages when the war should cease and her independence was universally acknowledged.
Mr. Adams's opinion at this early period seemed to favor the idea that America would be capable of bearing taxes to an immense amount in future, though this was a burden of which they had had comparatively little experience. He observed that "the people in America had not yet been disciplined to such enormous taxation as in England, but that they were capable of bearing as great taxes in proportion as the English; and if the English force them to it by continuing the war, they will reconcile themselves to it."
But it might have been observed that it would require a great number of years, and many contingent events to reconcile the inhabitants of the United States to the taxing of houses, lands, hearths, window-lights, and all the conveniences of life, as in England. Not the necessity of extricating themselves from old foreign debts, or newly contacted expenses for exigencies or projects, which they considered unnecessary in a republican government, could suddenly lead a people generally to acquiesce in measures to which they had heretofore been strangers. The artificial creation of expenses by those who deem a public debt a public blessing will easily suggest plausible pretenses for taxation, until every class is burdened to the utmost stretch of forbearance, and the great body of the people reduced to penury and slavery.
It does not always redound to the benefit of younger states and less affluent nations to become indebted to foreigners for large sums of money; but without this assistance from several of the European powers, it would have been impossible for the United States, under their complicated inconveniences and embarrassments, to have resisted so long the opulent and powerful nation of Britain. America was necessitated to borrow money abroad to support her credit at home; and had not the Dutch loan been obtained, it is impossible to calculate what would have been the consequences to the United States, who had not, at this period, even the weak support of an artificial medium, while their armies were unpaid, and their soldiers on the point of mutiny, for the want of immediate subsistence. His countrymen thought themselves highly indebted to Mr. Adams, for procuring this timely supply of cash, as well as for so ably negotiating a treaty of amity and commerce. It gave a new spring to all their exertions, which had for some time lagged heavily, for want of the necessary sinews for the protraction of war, or for enterprise in any other lien of business.