Peace Negotiator John Adams Announces to Fellow Negotiator John Jay the Momentous News: The Dutch Will Recognize American Independence and the British would Begin Negotiations on America’s terms

Adams, American envoy in the Netherlands, sends Jay, envoy in England, top secret documents that would lead to the peace treaty

  • Currency:
  • USD
  • GBP
  • JPY
  • EUR
  • CNY
  • Info IconThis currency selector is for viewing only.
    The Raab Collection only accepts USD payments at checkout.
    Exchange rates are updated hourly. Rates may be inaccurate.
Purchase $72,000

This notification represents the first recognition of our independence by a European country that was not party to the war


The Dutch Negotiations in The Hague

Support for the American Revolution was strong in the Netherlands, where the ideas of `The Age of Reason’ were extremely popular and hopes for greater...

Read More

Peace Negotiator John Adams Announces to Fellow Negotiator John Jay the Momentous News: The Dutch Will Recognize American Independence and the British would Begin Negotiations on America’s terms

Adams, American envoy in the Netherlands, sends Jay, envoy in England, top secret documents that would lead to the peace treaty

This notification represents the first recognition of our independence by a European country that was not party to the war


The Dutch Negotiations in The Hague

Support for the American Revolution was strong in the Netherlands, where the ideas of `The Age of Reason’ were extremely popular and hopes for greater freedom were excited. After France recognized the new American republic in 1778 and declared war on England, a strong party developed that wanted the Dutch government to follow the same policy. But the Netherlands and Great Britain had been official allies for a hundred years and this pro-American policy was not universal. The Netherlands was composed of sovereign provinces that had united to form a federal government. Provincial legislatures controlled by long-established local families elected representatives and sent them to the States-General that was the parliament of the nation. The head of state, the “stadtholder”, was the hereditary “crowned” ruler of the Dutch Republic. Caution if not opposition existed in both the ruling families in the provinces, who were concerned that freedom would erode their power, and in the Stadholder, William of Orange, who was reluctant to offend his cousin, the British King. Moreover, Dutch commercial interests, though in principle favoring American independence, were worried about losing the profitable trade they carried on with the fledgling U.S. from their holdings in the West Indies. An alliance with America might imperil that trade, since British sea power could easily disrupt it.

In January 1781, John Adams arrived as Minister to the Netherlands and was charged with the task of obtaining political and financial support in the form of a treaty of friendship and commerce. His initial task in Holland was to persuade the Dutch government to recognize him as the formal diplomatic representative of the United States. He met with formidable obstacles, not the least of which was that Count Vergennes, the French foreign minister, was working behind the scenes to block Dutch recognition and thus maximize American dependence on France. The war was not going well at home either, and the simple military facts hindered his mission. So in the spring, Adams made a daring move and went out of diplomatic channels with an appeal direct to the States General and the Dutch people. On April 19, he wrote a 16-page letter proposing that the two countries enter into a treaty, suggesting that such a treaty would result in profitable trade relations and considerable financial gain for the Netherlands. He also drew parallels between the American and Dutch Republics, writing “In the liberality of sentiments in those momentous points of freedom of inquiry, the right of private judgment and the liberty of conscience…the two nations resemble each other more than any other.” The document was translated into English, French and Dutch and widely distributed as a pamphlet. In the words of biographer David McCullough, when the Dutch government refused to accept his diplomatic credentials, Adams “took his case to the people of the Netherlands,” urging the Dutch public to petition its government to recognize the United States. He lobbied States-General delegations, visiting personally representatives from 18 cities in the province of Holland alone. In every place, McCullough writes, “the reception was the same – approval, affection, esteem for the United States.”

Then, in October 1781, British forces under General Lord Cornwallis surrendered to a combined French and American force at Yorktown, Virginia, and on November 23 word reached Amsterdam. This event convinced many in Europe that the Americans were likely to prevail in the war, but the Dutch were the first to act. In February 1782, the province of Friesland instructed its States General delegates to move to acknowledge Adams as an official diplomatic representative. That April, the Netherlands extended its formal acceptance of his credentials, which constituted de facto recognition that the United States was an independent nation. On April 23, 1782, Adams proceeded to his primary mission, and wrote the States General proposing “a treaty of amity and commerce between the two republics,” and requesting that it name negotiators “with full power to confer and treat with him on this important subject.” It did so and he submitted a draft treaty soon after. Months of negotiations followed, made all the more complex because on the Dutch end, the States-General, Stadtholder, Foreign Ministry and Admiralty were all involved.

The British Negotiations in Paris

The capture of Cornwallis and his army in October 1781 convinced all parties in England of the folly of a further prosecution of the war. In March 1782, Parliament resolved on peace. Lord North resigned, the Marquis of Rockingham succeeded him in office, and Lord Shelburne and Charles Fox (a known supporter of American independence) were made secretaries of state. Thomas Grenville was sent to France and concluded an informal agreement that a treaty would contain an acknowledgment of American independence as a basis. While these early talks were just getting under way, Rockingham died and was succeeded in office by Lord Shelburne. Richard Oswald, a wealthy British merchant whose long residency in America made him many friends among the future revolutionaries, succeeded Grenville, and was clothed with full powers to negotiate a treaty of peace with the United States.

In July 1782 Oswald met with the head of the American negotiating team, Benjamin Franklin. John Jay, who had arrived on June 23 to assist Franklin, was ill and did not attend. The two men agreed that the war would end and that basic terms would include American independence, withdrawal of British troops, boundaries to be the Mississippi and Canada, and the huge fishing industries of both nations to have freedom of the seas. Based on this preliminary understanding, Shelburne sent Alleyne Fitzherbert to Paris to be his conduit in the communications with the French, Dutch and Americans. Also, to avoid any misunderstanding about the authority of the British negotiators, he ordered a commission to be drawn up for Oswald over Fitzherbert’s signature stating that his emissaries had full powers to conclude a treaty, and pledged that the King’s government would sign whatever might be concluded with the American negotiators. However, rather than explicitly recognize the independence of the United States, this commission named the colonies one by one, saying Oswald could  “treat with the colonies and with any or either of them, and any part of them, and with any description of men in them, and with any person whatsoever, of and concerning peace.”

On August 6, Oswald presented the British negotiator’s commission to Jay and Franklin. This document led to a material difference of opinion between Jay and Franklin. When the commission was submitted to Vergennes, that minister held that it was sufficient, and advised Fitzherbert to that effect. Franklin believed it “would do.” But Jay declined to treat under the description of “colonies” or on any other than an equal footing, and saw the French approval as a trap. This fear appeared to be confirmed when Fitzherbert claimed that Vergennes had implied that France did not think the time ripe for American independence. Oswald then showed them an article in his instructions that authorized him to make the concession of independence, if insisted upon. Jay continued to veto American participation and Oswald applied to the foreign ministry for new instructions. Jay’s friend and ally in the Netherlands, John Adams, agreed with his position, believing that England could only be dealt with on an equal footing. On September 1, 1782, Jay wrote to inform Adams that he was sticking to his guns and that Oswald is therefore sending to London for further instructions. Jay also encloses a copy of Oswald’s unsatisfactory commission for Adams to review, adding that FitzHerbert has been sent to discuss preliminaries with the French court, but that he [Jay] will do nothing until Oswald receives further instructions. “We shall then,” he tells Adams, “be enabled to form some judgment of the British Ministry’s real intentions.”

The French sent a representative to London seeking to design a peace to suit its motives, going right to British government officials behind the backs of its American allies, and at the same time the British received a letter that Jay had written, meaning it to reach them, arguing that the British had much to gain by befriending the Americans and signing a separate treaty with them that did not include the French. When these facts were placed before the King’s cabinet in September, as Shelburne’s biographer relates, “It became clear to the Cabinet that a profound feud had sprung up between the Americans and their European allies, and that all they [the British cabinet] had to do was avail themselves of it. They at once decided to accept the American proposition.” Another commission was issued to Oswald and Fitzherbert on September 21 agreeing to deal with the American team as representing an established, unified nation and on the 27th it arrived in Paris, to Jay’s delight. The next day he wrote Adams, saying Oswald received yesterday a commission to treat “with the commissioners of the United States of America.” He requests that Adams say nothing about this “until you see me, which I hope and pray may be soon.”

Meanwhile, Adams had heard from the Dutch government. On August 26, it provided him with revisions of his draft. The journal of the States General relates that Adams responded and that the Foreign Ministry indicated “that all difficulties that had occurred [were] entirely removed.” A new treaty draft was given to Adams and on September 6 he indicated his approval. The Foreign Ministry then requested formal instructions from the States General on whether to execute the treaty, and the members conferred with their home provinces. On September 17, the States General instructed that the treaty be concluded and signed, and an engrossed copy of the treaty was ordered to be produced. Adams was made aware of the decision but was not provided with a copy of the States General’s instructions, as they were an internal Dutch government document; these, however, he received through the back door. The treaty was signed and publicly announced on October 8, 1782, and formally recognizing the independence of the United States, and establishing strong commercial and financial links, was a key step in the U.S. effort to take its rightful place in the world community of nations as a sovereign state.  It is worth noting that although the treaty with France in 1778 came first, the world recognized in France a self-interested party long at war with Britain. Thus this Dutch treaty was the first indicator of a broader acceptance of American independence.

Though the Dutch decision to sign the treaty had not yet been officially announced and was not public knowledge, Adams sat down to write Jay informing him of the great news but making clear that the communication was confidential. Considering Adams’ hesitancy to trust Benjamin Franklin or provide him with any information, this notification of the Dutch recognition of American independence was likely Adams’ first such communication to the American negotiators in Paris (and indeed perhaps to any American) on the subject.  Moreover, Adams by then had received word of something every bit as important – word from England that Oswald and Fitzherbert had a new and likely satisfactory commission – and wanted to be sure Jay found out immediately if he did not know already.

Autograph Letter Signed, The Hague, October 1, 1782, to John Jay in Paris, documenting these two epochal events in American history – treaty recognition by the Dutch and the final decision by the British to accept the independence of the United States. “Your favor inclosing a certain copy I have received, and in exchange send you two others – Fitzherbert’s Commission and the Dutch instructions. The first you may have seen or may not. The other may have been communicated to you in part. I need not say to you that it ought not to be known from whence either of them comes to you, or to me.” Thus, we see that both documents came to Adams through his secret sources and were not yet officially available either to him or the other American negotiators.

Peace negotiations now began in earnest. In late October, Adams would arrive in Paris to take part as well, and on November 30, they resulted in the Treaty of Paris, ending the American Revolution.

Purchase $72,000

Frame, Display, Preserve

Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.

Learn more about our Framing Services