Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol (1741–1784) is a controversial figure in Dutch history. His strong support of the American cause seemed at odds with his position in the Dutch nobility. As early as 1775, he opposed the stadholder, William V, and British military operations in America by protesting Britain's planned augmentation of its army with the Dutch-based Scots' Brigade, a unit with Scottish officers that was a relic of British intervention in the Dutch Revolt (Schulte Nordholt, Dutch Republic and Amer. Independence
, p. 19–26; Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution
, p. 28–33). Not surprisingly, van der Capellen began corresponding with leading Americans and several of his letters were found among the papers captured with Henry Laurens in 1780.
In October, upon learning of Henry Laurens' capture, van der Capellen wrote to John Adams to offer his assistance (from van der Capellen, 16 Oct.
, below). Adams welcomed van der Capellen's offer and in November made him one of the first recipients of his anonymous pamphlet, Pensées
(see Illustration No. 4, below). Van der Capellen replied with a critique of the pamphlet, but also warned that while he would do all in his power to further the American cause, his many political enemies made it inadvisable to link his name too closely with Adams' efforts (28 Nov.
, below). Over the next three years the Dutch nobleman served as both confidential adviser and friend, as Adams maneuvered through the complex political system of the Netherlands in pursuit of Dutch recognition and a loan.