2. On 27 Dec. 1779 a combined fleet, one section intended for the West Indies and the other for France and Spain, sailed from Texel under the protection of a Dutch naval force commanded by Adm. Lodewijk van Bylandt. Among the vessels going to France and Spain were several carrying hemp, tar, and other shipbuilding materials not excluded from convoy by the States General's resolution of 19 Nov. 1778. Several others, that carried ships timbers, sailed with the convoy at their own risk. Note, however, that none of the materials for the construction or maintenance of ships, including ships timbers, whether under van Bylandt's protection or not, were counted as contraband under Art. 3 of the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1674. On 31 Dec. 1779, a Brit•
ish force commanded by Como. Charles Fielding met van Bylandt's fleet off the Isle of Wight. Fielding demanded permission to search the ships of the convoy for contraband and, when van Bylandt refused, used his superior force to compel van Bylandt's acquiescence. After seizing a number of ships, Fielding ordered and obtained a salute to the British flag. Refusing to proceed with the convoy, van Bylandt followed the captured vessels into the anchorage at Spithead, near Portsmouth, where he remained until told by the States General to return to Texel with the warships under his command. In March the ships carrying hemp, tar, and other naval stores under the convoy's protection were ordered confiscated by the British admiralty court, while those carrying ships timbers at their own risk were returned after their cargoes had been purchased.
The interception of the Dutch convoy and seizure of ships legally under its protection represented a violation of the undoubted right of a nation to protect ships sailing under its flag. Its implication for the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1674 was of even greater importance. Britain intended to do everything in its power to stop the Franco-Dutch trade in naval stores even if it meant unilaterally abrogating those sections of the treaty of 1674 defining contraband. Although the assault on the convoy caused considerable agitation in the Netherlands, little was done beyond the delivery of protests to the ministry in London and to Sir Joseph Yorke at The Hague. No clear alteration of the Dutch position vis-à-vis either Britain or France occurred until April and then it was at Britain's initiative in retaliation for the lack of response by the States General to its demands (Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution
, p. 129–136). For more information on the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1674, the controversy over convoys for Dutch ships, and the deterioration of Anglo-Dutch relations, see vols. 7:34–35