[dateline] Amsterdam Feb. 2. 1781
Having adjusted the Form of the Obligations to be given in the proposed Loan,1
nothing remains but to agree upon the other Terms, respecting the Commission to be allowed, to your House, for receiving the Money from the Lenders, and paying it out upon the Draughts of Congress, and paying the Interest half Yearly to the Lenders, and finally paying off and discharging the Obligations.
I have had much Conversation upon this Subject, with Several Gentlemen of Character and Experience, and am advised, that one Per Cent, to the House for receiving the Money, and paying it to the orders of Congress—one Per Cent for paying off the Interest and one per Cent for Paying of the Principal finally to the Lenders is a just and reasonable Allowance. This I am willing to allow.
There is the affair of Brokerage also which will require Some Explanation between Us.
I should be glad if you would inform me, how much you expect to be allowed for Brokerage, when you engage and employ the Broker?2
But there is one Point that I beg Leave to reserve to myself and to any other Minister or Agent who may be Sent here in my stead. It is this, that I while I Stay and my Successor after me, shall have a right to employ any Broker that I or he may choose, and whenever one or the other may think proper, to dispose of the Obligations, or as many of them as I or he may think proper, and to allow what Brokerage We shall find necessary. The Money however received upon them to be paid into the Hands of your House.3
I should be glad of your Answer, as soon as may be and in the meantime, I have no farther Objection to your getting the Form of
the obligations and Coupons translated into Dutch and printed, with all Expedition.4
I have the Honour to be, with great Respect Gentlemen your most obedient and most humble servant
2. Any loan raised in the Netherlands involved three separate entities. First was the banker or bankers, in this case Jean de Neufville & Fils, who undertook to raise the loan and assumed responsibility for the contract, printing the obligations, receiving and paying out monies, and other matters relating to the loan. The bankers then secured the services of a broker who offered the loan or portions of it on the bourse; for his services he received a percentage of the amount he handled. The third person, often called the undertaker, purchased portions of the loan from the broker at a discount, depending on the negotiability of the securities, and sold loan certificates to individual investors (Pieter J. van Winter, American Finance and Dutch Investment 1780–1805, transl. James C. Riley, 2 vols., N.Y., 1977, 1:45–46).
3. JA interlined this sentence.
4. In 1809 JA printed this letter in the Boston Patriot
and followed it with this explanation of his effort to raise a loan through Jean de Neufville & Fils (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot
, p. 377–378):
“Such was the dejection and despondency of the whole nation, that I was candidly told by all the gentlemen in whom I had any confidence, that a loan was desperate, except Mr. De Neufville, who was very confident that he could obtain a considerable sum, and was extremely importunate with me to open a loan in his house. That gentleman's politeness and hospitality drew all Americans to his house, and he made them believe that he could do much, if I would authorise him. I had spies enough upon me, from England, France, and America too, very ready to impute blame to me. Congress were constantly drawing upon me, and there was the utmost danger that their bills would be protested. If this event should happen, I knew that representations in private letters would go to America and to France, that this fatal calamity was wholly owing to my negligence and obstinacy in refusing to open a loan in Mr. De Neufville's house. I thought it my duty, therefore, to try the experiment. It could do no harm, for we had certainly at that moment, no credit to lose. The loan was opened, and all the industry, enterprise and credit of Mr. De Neufville, never disposed of more than five obligations, amounting to five thousand guilders, three thousand of which were lent by Mr. John Luzac, who had previously promised me to advance that sum whenever my loan should be opened, though it should be in the house of Mr. De Neufville. I was not disappointed, however, in the result, because I had absolutely no expectations.”
Nicolaas and Jacob van Staphorst, the principals of an Amsterdam mercantile firm that would take part in JA's loan in 1782, disagreed. They met JA in 1780 soon after his arrival in the Netherlands (vol. 10:190–191
) and sought to advise him on financial matters. In a letter of 24 Nov. 1785 to the secretary for foreign affairs, the van Staphorsts made clear the nature of their objections to an American loan in 1781:
“We acquainted him [JA]
with great Regret, the Impossibility of Undertaking Same at this Period with the Probability of Success, and the disagreable Consequences that would ensue from a Failure. Which his Excellency appeared to take in good Part, and promised not to proceed further in this Business without speaking to us on the subject. A short time however convinced us the little Dependence Mr. Adams's Promises merited. For this Gentleman instead of following the Stream, by accommodating himself to the Dispositions and conciliating the Confidence of the Hollanders, which might been easily secured to the great Benefit of the United States; on the contrary attempted to force Matters, and with an Opinionatedness peculiar to himself, risqued to overset every Measure. He in consequence thought fit, contrary to the best Advice, which had been given him to open a Loan at the House of Messrs. John de Neufville & Son, Which was generally clamoured against, as we advised him would be the Case. We soon discovered from what passed, that Mr. Adams was much inclined to give Ear to such Persons as flattered him, and Spoke agreable to his Wishes, which not being our character, nor in our Opinion consistent with the Interest of the United States, it was not
surprizing that Mr. Adams and
Us were not so frequently in Conversation together, and that we sought less the Company of a Man whose way of Thinking corresponded so little with our own”