1976 was only the beginning, the first of many bicentennials to follow! The life of the historian is apt to be determined by nothing but commemorations. We now have had, since 1976, the bicentennials of Saratoga, the French Alliance, Yorktown, and some more which I perhaps have overlooked. And now, in 1982, the Dutch are entitled to their own special bicentennial. On 19 April 1782, John Adams was allowed to offer his credentials to the Dutch States General, and this implied the official recognition of the United States by the United Provinces, as the Netherlands were called at that time. On 8 October of the same year a treaty of amity and commerce was concluded between the two nations. And so we can look back on two hundred years of uninterrupted friendship between these two democracies. A good reason to celebrate, for sure.
But what exactly do we celebrate? What happened in 1782, and why? What was the impact of the American Revolution on Holland? What was it that drew these two nations together? That is what this book is about. It deals with the origins of our mutual sympathies. It is an elaboration in more than three hundred pages of a paper of about twenty pages which I wrote in 1975. In that year the Library of Congress dedicated one of its annual bicentennial symposiums on the impact of the American Revolution abroad, and I had the honor to represent the Dutch aspect of that problem ( The Impact of the American Revolution Abroad, Library of Congress, Washington, 1976, pp. 41-63). Since then the subject has captivated me. The result is this book.
I have often wondered which is more difficult: to condense such an extensive subject to just twenty pages or to stretch it to fill a book? I am not certain. I can best illustrate my problem with an intriguing passage from Laurence Sterne famous Life and Opinions of Tristram Sbandy, a book which, by the way, was well known to all the persons who appear in this book, for hardly another novel (if we may call it that) was so popular. Sterne writes: