1. The “Grand Facteur” could not have been anyone other than the Due de la Vauguyon (1746–1828), French ambassador to the Netherlands from 1776 to 1784, with whom JA, during his later mission to the Netherlands, enjoyed “a close and interesting diplomatic relationship.” With close ties to Louis XVI but no previous diplomatic experience, La Vauguyon sought quietly to encourage Dutch neutrality despite intense pressure by Sir Joseph Yorke, the British ambassador. Keeping a low profile, La Vauguyon allied himself with the patriot or anti-Stadholder party, the same group courted by Dumas (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale
; JA, Diary and Autobiography
, 2:457, note 1
; 4:46, note
; Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution
, p. 20).
La Vauguyon's name could not be mentioned because, according to Dumas' letter of 27 March, the identity of the “Grand Facteur” had to remain secret if his efforts for the American cause were to be successful. It had been La Vauguyon who had initiated the effort to communicate the Franco-American treaties to the Grand Pensionary, and who, in response to a letter from Vergennes complaining that the American effort to communicate the treaties was “un peu premature,” wrote on 1 May to reassure Vergennes about the American initiative (Dumas to the Commissioners, 27 March, 3, 6 April; to La Vauguyon, 29 March, all LbC
's in Algemeen Rijksarchief
, The Hague, Dumas Papers, Microfilm; F. P. Renaut, La neutralité Hollandaise durant la guerre d'Amérique
, Paris, 1924, p. 176–177; Dumas to the Commissioners, 7 May
, below; for further confirmation of La Vauguyon's identity as the “Grand Facteur” compare Dumas' letter of 7 May with La Vauguyon to Vergennes, 15 May
The communication of the Franco-American treaties to the Grand Pensionary, proposed by La Vauguyon and carried through by Dumas, involved the Commissioners in the complexities of dealing with the Dutch government. A knowledge of the organization and operation of that government is necessary for an understanding of this and later letters from Dumas chronicling his efforts.
The United Provinces or Dutch Republic was nominally ruled by the stadholder, who commanded the army and navy, held a variety of offices, had wide appointive powers, and at times could exercise a liberum veto over acts of the States General. The stadholder could not, however, “declare war or conclude peace.” Those powers and most other attributes of sovereignty belonged to the States General, referred to officially as Their High Mightinesses. This body was composed of deputies from the seven provinces, each province, regardless of size, having one vote. Besides declaring war and making peace, the States General appointed, instructed, and received the reports of ambassadors and ministers. Diplomatic representatives were accredited to the States General, and it ratified all agreements made in the name of the Republic. It was thus the resolutions adopted by the States General that governed the United Provinces. Nevertheless, its powers were not total, for all matters under consideration by the States General had to be referred back to the Provincial States for approval before a final vote of the States General could be taken. This necessity contributed to the time needed to conduct business and the general unwieldiness of the government, particularly in view of the confusion over whether a majority or unanimous vote of the States General was needed to adopt resolutions.
The Provincial States were the nominal governing bodies of the provinces, the deputies to which were appointed by the cities acting as almost independent republics within the larger Dutch state. In Holland, for example, the 6 large and 12 small towns had, together, 18 votes, to which was added a 19th, that of the nobility or Ridderschap. In fact, although the nobil•
ity was respected, its influence and power in the deliberations of the Provincial States were minor when compared to that of the large towns, particularly Amsterdam.
The burgomasters were the chief executives of the cities; under their authority stood the pensionary, who served as the city's secretary or minister. The burgomasters, with a number of councilors, formed the Great Council of the city, while members of those two groups, joined by schepens or judges, formed the Regency. The Regency, the final authority in the city, appointed deputies to the Provincial States. Each province, headed by a pensionary, then appointed its deputies to the States General.
Because of the size of the Province of Holland, which comprised almost half the country, its pensionary bore the title of grand pensionary. In that capacity he maintained a more or less permanent residence at The Hague and acted as the foreign minister of the Republic. Although nominally the second most powerful Dutch official after the stadholder, the grand pensionary often wielded greater power and influence, at least in the maritime provinces (the nucleus of the antiStadholder party) than the stadholder (Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution
, p. 11–12, note 1; Miller, Sir Joseph Yorke
, p. 15, 16, 18–19; Alice Clare Carter, Neutrality or Commitment: The Evolution of Dutch Foreign Policy, 1667–1795
, London, 1975, p. 4–5; Robert Fruin, Geschiedenis der Staatsinstellingen in Nederland tot den val der Republiek, ed.
H. T. Colenbrander, The Hague, 1922).