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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 7


This foot note contained in document ADMS-06-07-02-0245-0002
2. This is the final letter addressed to the Commissioners by Dumas before Benjamin Franklin officially became the sole American representative at the French Court. In January 1779 the Netherlands was no closer to formulating a policy amenable to both Britain and France that would also preserve its rights as a neutral trader than it had been when the issue of unlimited convoys first arose. In the months that followed, the competing pressures of the two belligerents caused a continuation of the indecision that had characterized the deliberations of the States General. Britain, through Sir Joseph Yorke, adamantly refused to relax its orders regarding the seizure of Dutch vessels carrying naval stores, particularly ships timbers, but even more significant was its request, after Spain entered the war in June 1779, that the Netherlands supply the aid (6,000 troops and 20 warships) required by the Anglo-Dutch alliance of 1678, which had been renewed by later treaties (Charles Jenkinson, Collection of all the Treaties of Peace, Alliance, and Commerce, between Great-Britain and other Powers, 3 vols., London, 1785, 1:214). That demand, like the French insistence on unlimited convoys, required a clear choice between the belligerents and a commitment of resources that the republic was unwilling and unable to make. France's ambassador, La Vauguyon, continued his efforts to obtain unlimited convoys, using trade discrimination in favor of those cities supporting the French position in the States of Holland and before the States General as his major weapon. Ultimately Yorke's arrogance, coupled with the British seizures of Dutch ships and the financial losses to merchants from the duties levied in French ports, produced growing opposition to the Stadholder and a weakening of the English party. On 24 April 1780, following the British interception of a Dutch convoy on 31 Dec. 1779 and renunciation of all treaty obligations to the Netherlands on 17 April because of the Dutch refusal to provide aid under the alliance of 1678, the States General finally resolved to provide unlimited convoys.
French diplomacy won a clear victory. It had further isolated Britain, but at great cost to the Dutch Republic. Although France removed all restrictions on Dutch ships in its ports, neither the French nor the Netherlands' navy was strong enough to protect the Dutch merchant fleet, and thus it suffered great losses. In an effort to protect its trade, the Netherlands joined the League of Armed Neutrality, a decision that, by the end of 1780, brought war with England. For detailed accounts of events in the Netherlands in 1779 and 1780, see Bemis, Diplomacy of the Amer. Revolution , p. 142–163; Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution , chaps. 5–6; F. P. Renaut, La neutralité Hollandaise durant la guerre d'Amérique, Paris, 1924, chaps. 8–9, 12–15.