John Adams in Holland U.S. Department of Seal
Department of State
[photo Adams]

John Adams, who represented the United States in France 1778-1779, returned to Paris in 1780 as a Peace Commissioner charged by the Continental Congress with negotiating a peace treaty with Great Britain. Unable to get the British to begin peace negotiations, in January 1781 Adams moved to Holland as Minister to the Netherlands. Ironically, Britain declared war on Holland in December 1780 on the pretext that the Dutch were contemplating a treaty with the rebellious Americans. Adams hoped to use British belligerence and the republican traditions of the United Provinces for the patriot cause, but he soon found that Dutch commercial interests outweighed support for American independence. The Dutch carried on a profitable contraband trade with the 13 States from their holdings in the West Indies. An alliance with America would imperil that trade, since British sea power could easily disrupt it. Furthermore, Willem V, the Stadholder of the United Province, was an Anglophile and close relative of George III. It took Adams many months of frustration, but he managed to negotiate a loan from Dutch bankers for the virtually bankrupt United States, and in April 1782, he finally won Dutch recognition of American independence.