The Dutch Republic and American Independence

By Jan Willem Schulte Nordholt; Herbert H. Rowen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
A Nobleman Takes the Lead

If be ( Van der Capellen) comes in these circumstances, there will be quite a fuss.

WILLIAM V

FOR all its immense strength, the British Empire was not able to bring the American rebels swiftly to their senses. The thirteen colonies proved to be tougher and more tenacious than had been expected, and the number of troops needed to continue the war soon began to increase steadily. In the days of standing armies and regiments of mercenaries, this meant that the government in London had to look around for new sources of manpower, and their eyes turned automatically to the European mainland. In the first place there were the numerous German principalities, whose rulers were only too ready to peddle off their subjects to pay for their private pleasures. But the British also remembered that they had possible sources in Holland. Thus it was that in 1775 the Republic was first involved in the American conflict.

There was no point in the English government's calling upon the treaty of 1678, for the obligation in it to send a support force of six thousand men applied only to the case of war between England and another country, and this was only an uprising within the British Empire. But ever since the Dutch War of Independence ( 1568-1648) a brigade consisting of Scots officers and originally Scots soldiers had been stationed in the Republic. The brigade, which had won much renown, had been sent to Britain several times, in 1715 and 1745, to protect the Protestant succession against Jacobite risings; now, however, it sat in garrison duty in cities in the Austrian Netherlands held by the Dutch as a "barrier" against France, and it was no longer what it had been. Mercenary soldiers from every country served in its ranks. It had gradually fallen below its authorized numbers, and according to the well-informed Prussian envoy, Friedrich Wilhelm von Thulemeyer, it now had no more than eighteen hundred men. 1

-19-

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