Papers of John Adams, volume 13



Medal Commemorating Dutch Recognition of the United States, by Jean George Holtzhey, 1782 538 [page] [image]

“Your nation's independence has inspired me to immortalize this great and noteworthy event in a medal commemorating its liberty,” Amsterdam medalist Jean George Holtzhey (1729–1808) wrote to John Adams on 20 October 1782. Adams was pleased with the 28.9-gram silver medallion, which Holtzhey had struck upon the Netherlands' 19 April recognition of the United States. “The Influence of this Event upon many Nations, upon France, Spain Great Britain, America and all the Neutral Powers, has already been so great, and in the future Vicissitudes of things will be so much greater, that I confess every Essay of the fine Arts to commemorate and celebrate it, gives me pleasure,” Adams wrote to Holtzhey on 2 November (from Holtzhey, 20 Oct., below; to Holtzhey, 2 Nov. 1782, LbC, Adams Papers; Leonard Forrer, Biographical Dictionary of Medallists, 8 vols., London, 1904–1930, 2:536).


The face of the medal declares “Libera Soror,” or “A Free Sister,” and depicts Holland on the left as an armed woman and the United States on the right as a Native American woman. Holland uses a staff to place a Phrygian Cap upon America's head, while America holds a shield bearing thirteen stars and rests a foot upon the head of a chained lion. The reverse (which is also shown in this composite illustration) features the unicorn of the arms of England, prostrate with its horn broken against a rock cliff. The inscription reads, “Tyrannis virtute repulsa / sub Galliae auspiciis,” which translates to “Tyranny repelled by valor / under the auspices of France” (Charles Wyllys Betts, American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals, New York, 1894, p. 290–291).

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.