Dutch Support of America's Independence 1770-1782

By Paul Trainor — 1st Continental Regt.

1770-1773 American colonists buy Dutch tea in preference to British tea.
1774 Britain declares all shipments of warlike goods to the colonies to be contraband. Local Dutch officials continue to smuggle the sinews of war to the rebellious colonists.
1776 Dutch evade British blockage of colonies by shipping goods to lesser ports enabling the flow of gun powder purchased by France to continue to Washington's army.
10/23/76 Near Philadelphia, the Andrew Doria is commissioned at Gloucester, New Jersey, as one of the first four ships in the American Navy.
11/16/76 The Andrew Doria sails into the Dutch West Indies, flying the American flag and carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence for the Dutch Governor, Johannes de Graaff. The Dutch fire a salute appropriate to honoring the ship of an independent sovereign power. This was the first time that an American ship had received such a salute. The British government viewed this as an insult.
12/75-80 The Dutch are under treaty obligation with Britain to return a brigade of soldiers known as the "Scotts Brigade," once loaned to the Dutch by England. The Dutch steadfastly refuse to return these troops to Britain if they are to be used to fight the Americans.
1775-1777 The Dutch ship Baltic lumber to France to rebuild the French fleet in preparation for France's impending war with England.
1778 France declares war on England.
1779 Spain declares war on England. French and Spanish invasion of England is prevented only when the allied fleet is becalmed within view of the English coasts. Sickness aboard the ships forces the fleet to return to port.
1779 British search Dutch ships on a weekly basis. The Dutch vote to have armed naval vessels convoy with their merchant fleet. Shots are exchanged on December 31, 1779, between Dutch and British naval vessels.
9/79-10/79 John Paul Jones sails the captured British warship, the Serapais, into port in Holland. The British attempt to arrest Jones and free his British prisoners, but this is prevented by the Dutch. The Dutch people regard Jones as a hero and come in droves to visit him. The Dutch start composing pro-American songs.
2/29/80 Catherine the Great of Russia (who would later appoint John Paul Jones as admiral of her Black Sea fleet) forms the League of Armed Neutrality. Members of the league pledge to use their military power to prevent the search or seizure of their shipping. Denmark and Sweden join. The Dutch are invited to join the League of Armed Neutrality.
3/80-8/80 Britian is aware that if the Dutch join the League of Armed Neutrality, Britain could easily find herself at war with all the members of the League. Britain needs to declare war on the Dutch first but must find a provocation.
9/80 Plans for a secret treaty with Holland drafted by the President of the Continental Congress are captured at sea by the British. Neither the United States nor the Dutch had authorized the drafting of such a treaty, but Britain considers the mere drafting of the plan a provocation.
11/80 Britain issues an ultimatum to the Dutch: Turn over the "Scots Brigade" for service in America "or else." The Dutch refuse and Britain declares war on the Dutch.
1780-1783 Britain is now at war with France, Spain and the United Provinces (the Dutch). They (the Dutch) are ill prepared for war and lose their West Indies colonies and their merchant fleet.
1782 The British destroy the French and Spanish fleets; strengthening their negotiating position with the United States. To counter this, the Dutch officially recognize the United States and accept John Adams as U.S. Ambassador, thus adding weight to the U.S. position. The Dutch become the second nation (after the French) to officially recognize American independence.

American independence may well have been impossible but for the sacrifice of the Dutch.

Copyright © 1995 Paul Trainor. All rights reserved.