. The declaration by the burgomasters of Amsterdam was, at its heart, an exercise in
self-defense against the possible consequences of the Lee-Neufville treaty signed
at Aix-la-Chapelle on 4 Sept. (see Dumas to the Commissioners, 4 Sept., note 2
, above). Unable to deny its existence, the burgomasters sought to define the agreement
as merely an effort to prepare the ground for the eventual conclusion of a treaty
after the formal recognition of American independence by Great Britain.
This intention is even more clearly expressed in the letter of 23 Sept. from van Berckel
to Dumas (PPAmP
: Franklin Papers), which Dumas also copied and enclosed in his letter to the Commissioners
of 2 Oct. There van Berckel stated that the burgomasters' declaration made it clear
that they did not intend to conclude an agreement separately from the States General,
but only to make advance preparations for a treaty when an opportunity presented itself.
He also noted that the States General could not conclude a treaty without Amsterdam's
consent and approval of the draft. To save time, however, such a draft could be examined
even before Britain recognized American independence.
Van Berckel closed his letter by suggesting that the preliminary work might be accomplished
by using the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce as a model. That document
could be submitted to experienced Amsterdam merchants, who would then suggest what
changes were necessary.