The Dutch Republic and American Independence

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

CHAPTER 17
Traveling Diplomacy

Indeed, as I perceive by the papers that Mr. Adams is gone over to Holland I am not without hopes that his object may be to procure supplies of money.

THOMAS JEFFERSON

IT was a cold and rainy fall, and the roads were so drenched that it took the party of Americans no less than four days to reach Antwerp. But the energy and enthusiasm of Adams were not so easily deadened, and he found time to admire the works of Rubens--"Beautiful beyond description "--before traveling on to Paris by way of Brussels and Mons. In general, Belgium seemed to him a dismal, impoverished country; the villages had decrepit houses and people were wrapped in rags-- "What a contrast to the Villages of Holland." But he had no reason to linger, for he had to rush on to Paris to take part in the negotiation of peace, and except for an occasional bit of sightseeing--Fénelon's grave in the church of Cambrai, the chateau of Chantilly--there was not much to hold him. In all the journey from The Hague to the French capital lasted ten days. 1

There the gathering in of the harvest began. That the American Revolution would be brought to a glorious conclusion in a peace that was extremely favorable to the new nation would be in no small measure the result of Adams's stubbornness and discernment. William Lee had predicted it all when he met Adams in Brussels and told him that he was the swallow that heralded the summer. The story of the negotiation lies outside our theme, but one aspect of it does concern us. The American negotiators, Franklin, Jay, and Adams, decided to disregard the explicit instructions of Congress and go their own way instead of following the lead of the French diplomats. Adams, long convinced of Vergennes's perfidy, was principally responsible for this shift, and history has justified him, for there is no longer any doubt that America would not have gained so advantageous a peace if it had trailed at the French apron strings. In

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