Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol to John Adams: A Translation
Appeltern,116 October 1780
Having learned that Congress has given you the same powers it had given Colonel Laurens, whose sad fate grieves me, and that one of your mission’s objectives is to raise a loan for the United States, I take the liberty of asking you to please send me its terms as soon as possible; a relative2 of mine having voiced interest in investing 20,000 Dutch florins in the project.
If you seek a correspondent in Rotterdam, I can recommend my friend Adriaan Valck,3 a merchant who lives, if I am not mistaken, on the Leuvenhaue. He merits your entire confidence and is very zealous for the good cause. The honorable Tegelaar4 is known by you, as is my intimate friend Van der Kemp.5 The latter could be of great use to Congress in the future. He has many connections and a rectitude and boldness one would not expect in a Mennonite preacher.
In addition, sir, if I can be of any use in my own little sphere, rest assured that it is with a perfect devotion to the American cause, and with the highest esteem for you, that I have the honor to be, sir, your very humble and obedient servant.
J D van der Capellen6
P.S. The last packet I received from Governor Trumbull must have been sent to me by his son the Colonel. However, I received it via Ostend. Could you, sir, send me news of the Colonel, for I am beginning to worry about him.7
RC (Adams Papers).
1. A town on the Maas River approximately fifty miles southeast of Amsterdam and ten miles west of Nijmegen.
2. Van der Capellen’s relative remains unidentified.
3. Valck unsuccessfully sought to become an American commercial agent and in 1783 emigrated to the United States (Schulte Nordholt, Dutch Republic and Amer. Independence description begins Jan Willem Schulte Nordholt, The Dutch Republic and American Independence, transl. by Herbert H. Rowen, Chapel Hill, 1982. description ends , p. 255–256).
4. Jan Gabriel Tegelaar, an Amsterdam merchant active in the Patriot movement and the editor of an anti-Orangist paper, was on JA’s list of people to consult in Amsterdam (Pieter J. Van Winter, American Finance and Dutch Investment, 1780–1805, transl. James C. Riley, N.Y., 1977, 2 vols., 1:71; JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:444).
5. JA apparently did not meet Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, who became one of his closest friends and advisors, until late Feb. 1781, during a visit to Leyden (JA, Diary and description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends
6. In 1780, Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol was the most prominent Dutchman openly in favor the American Revolution. A nobleman and a major figure in the Patriot or anti-Stadholder movement, van der Capellen had corresponded with prominent Americans from the onset of the Revolution and copies of letters from him to Benjamin Franklin and Gov. Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut were among the papers seized with Henry Laurens (Davies, ed., Docs. of the Amer. Rev., 1770–1783 description begins Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783, (Colonial Office Series), ed. K. G. Davies, Irish University Press, Shannon, 1972–1981; 21 vols. description ends , 16:424). He advised the Americans on appointing a minister to the Netherlands, raising a loan, and the general conduct of Dutch-American relations. Although his reputation as a radical severely limited his influence with the Dutch government, van der Capellen’s connections within the Patriot movement and his enthusiasm for the American cause made him a valuable friend and advisor to JA. For assessments of van der Capellen’s activities and influence, particularly as to the breadth and depth of his radicalism, see Schulte Nordholt, Dutch Republic and Amer. Independence description begins Jan Willem Schulte Nordholt, The Dutch Republic and American Independence, transl. by Herbert H. Rowen, Chapel Hill, 1982. description ends , p. 21–30; and Simon Schama, Patriots and Liberators, N.Y., 1977, p. 64–67.
7. Van der Capellen likely received the packet from Gov. Jonathan Trumbull in late June or early July, for his son, Col. John Trumbull, visited JA in Paris at about that time. By the date of this letter, John Trumbull was studying art with Benjamin West in London, where, in November, he was arrested for high treason, reportedly in retaliation for the execution of Maj. John André (to Vergennes, 16 June, note 2, above; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; see also Thomas Digges’ letter of 22 Nov., and note 6, below).