The Dutch Republic and American Independence

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

CHAPTER 18
Dutchmen in America

I can now affirm that I found America different from what I had expected and that the word liberty has acquired another meaning for me. In America I changed my mind about America. . . . American liberty has had a bad influence on our own. This much I have learned and that is better than seeing a heaven on earth.

GIJSBERT KAREL VAN HOGENDORP

THE time came at last when even opponents acquiesced in recognition of America. Left with no choice, they made the best of it and took part in doing what needed to be done. Recognition meant not only receiving Adams but also sending a Dutch ambassador to the United States. His instructions had to make clear everything he would have to do and what he would have to watch closely. The questions that he would have to answer were those that Europeans in general had on their minds: Would America become a welcome commercial partner or a dangerous competitor? How strong in fact was the country? Was her democratic constitution a good or a bad thing, and in what ways? He would have to inform himself about "the internal constitutions" of each of the thirteen states and "the essential form of their mutual association and the form of their General Government." These were problems that fascinated the Dutch; after all, they had been themselves seeking answers to them in their own country for more than two centuries. 1

The next question was whom to send. There was thought, briefly, of Robert Jasper van der Capellen van de Marsch, the cousin of Joan Derk, Baron tot den Pol. But when Van de Marsch hesitated, the post was given to Pieter Johan van Berckel, the brother of the pensionary of Amsterdam. He was a year older than Engelbert François, but had not kept up with him. Unassuming, insignificant, and full of good will, he was glad to accept the appointment at a salary of twenty thousand guilders plus another twenty-four thousand for travel costs, outfitting, and insurance.

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