The Dutch Republic and American Independence

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

CHAPTER 4
The Secret Treaty

Amsterdam maintained it made an agreement in eventum. G. J. VAN HARDENBROEK

No sooner had Dumas entered the service of the Americans as their agent than he realized that their historically appointed ally was France. He put several pertinent questions to the French chargé d'affaires: Would France mediate? And if that failed, would she come to America's support? Two weeks later he was able to report a reply. King Louis XVI could not intercede, because England would not accept it. Nor could France give help, at least not by joining in the fight. But she recognized the Americans as belligerents with the same right to protection and freedom as everyone else. Dumas persisted. He described the French position as that of a lion, secure to the east and north behind her "chain of fortresses from Basel to Dunkirk" and "showing her teeth," but vulnerable on her flank. There an alliance with America would create a good counter- balance to England. 1

The French did not need Dumas's fervid recommendations to become interested in the American question. In the great game of political chess in which the revolution across the Atlantic was the first move, the positions of the powers, including the Dutch Republic, were redefined. In it, Dumas was no more than a pawn, but one important enough to keep under control. The new French ambassador, the duke of La Vauguyon, arrived in The Hague at the end of 1776 with a "diplomatic mentor" at his side, the chargé d'affaires, de Bérenger, who had served at quite a few embassies.

La Vauguyon would play a very important role in the Netherlands, so much so that Yorke once bitterly called him the country's true stadholder. From the beginning the French ambassador kept Dumas under strict control. He received him very soon, "most graciously," as Dumas wrote, but bluntly admonished him at the same time that his position was that of a "private person" with a special interest in America. The ambassador re

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