Adams Papers

From John Adams to the Board of Treasury, 2 July 1785

To the Board of Treasury

Westminster July 2d. 1785.—1


By Letter I received yesterday fm—Messrs: Willinks & Van Staphorsts of Amsterdam, I learn with much Concern the misfortune of their associates De la Lande & Fynje, who have stopped payment, indebted to the United States to the amount of one Hundred and twelve Thousand Florins—2 This House was recommended to me by the best and most judicious Friends of America in Amsterdam, and altho’ my entrusting our Loan to more than one House was ever disagreable to me The Junction of the three was recommended to me in so urgent a manner that it was not at that Time possible to avoid it—without exciting such a Clamour and such an opposition as would have defeated the loan entirely in the opinion of most of our friends.3 De La Lande & Fynje were in high Esteem among all those who had assisted us, and they were themselves not only useful to our Countrymen upon many occasions but very active in promoting our Cause, especially in promoting those Petitions to the Regencies of all the great Cities of Holland which finally turned the tide in our favour—and Silenced the opposition of the English Party— Their Characters have alway’s been fair. But the Calculations of the Merchants concerned in our Commerce have been so disappointed both in America and Europe that there is no foreseeing when or where their misfortunes will End—

I have heard there is large Property—really belonging to this House in the Hands of Mr. Ingraham at Philadelphia; of the House of Sailor & Seaver at New York and of Mr. William Foster at Boston— and altho it is said it cannot be attached as the property of De la Lande & Fynje because of a Contract whereby the property is conveyed to Mr. Geyer of London who Shipped it to America, yet I think it would be advisable for the Board of Treasury to take Measures for examining into this transaction—and Securing the Interest of the United States by an attachment, if it can be done.4

With the greatest respect and Esteem I have / the Honour to be— Gentlemen / Your most Obed. / & most Humble serv.

John Adams

LbC in WSS’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “The Honourable / The Board of Treasury / of the United states / of America”; APM Reel 111.

1The board received this letter on the morning of 2 Sept. and enclosed a copy with its letter of that date to the president of Congress, which was read on 5 Sept. (PCC, No. 140, II, f. 55–61; JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford, Gaillard Hunt, John C. Fitzpatrick, Roscoe R. Hill, and others, Washington, D.C., 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 29:679). For the board’s action, taken in consequence of JA’s letter and intelligence received the previous evening, see its reply to JA of 5 Sept., and note 1, below.

2Of 28 June, above.

3In April 1782 Dutch recognition of the United States made the prospects for a Dutch loan seem promising. JA’s choice for the undertaking was the firm of John Hodshon & Zoon, but JA’s Patriot Party supporters objected that Hodshon was pro-British, leading JA to turn to the loan consortium. For the machinations leading to the consortium’s creation, see vols. 12:434–435, 440–441, 449–450, 462–463, 471–472; 13:xvii–xviii.

4On 30 Aug. 1783, with Anglo-American hostilities having ceased and eager to profit from the commercial opportunities offered by the Dutch-American Treaty, De la Lande & Fynje signed a five-year contract with Boston merchant and loyalist Frederick William Geyer (d. 1803). The new entity of Geyer, De la Lande & Fynje sought to maximize long-term English credit while pursuing trade with American markets. The Dutch firm granted Geyer, then a refugee in London, sole control over the management of accounts and the purchase of goods for export. Along with several other Amsterdam banking houses, Geyer and his partners then established the North American Trade Association, with De la Lande & Fynje drawing on proceeds from the sale of American securities for the initial capital. Geyer spent £113,000 on merchandise—far more than he could ever hope to sell to the import-glutted markets of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City. Payment for the few goods sold was often slow to arrive, and the trade association quickly suffered.

By July 1785, as American business slackened and firms across Europe failed, De la Lande & Fynje asked to suspend payment on the trade association’s private transactions. Oversight of De la Lande & Fynje immediately splintered, as the Willinks, the Staphorsts, Clicquet & Co., and Couderc & Brants took on the firm’s private affairs. Four other banking houses—those of Etienne Lespinasse, Isaac ten Cate & Gebroeders Kops, and Christiaan van Eeghen—assumed supervision of the trade association. Since De la Lande & Fynje used proceeds from the sale of American securities, the United States faced a potential loss of ƒ112,000. JA was equally concerned about the plight of three American investors associated with Geyer’s defunct firm: Duncan Ingraham Jr., of the Philadelphia firm Sigourney, Ingraham & Bromfield, which had an outpost in Amsterdam; the New York City partnership of Shaler & Sebor; and the Boston merchant William Foster, whom AA and AA2 met on-board the Active en route to Europe in 1784 (Stark, Loyalists of Mass. description begins James H. Stark, The Loyalists of Massachusetts and the Other Side of the American Revolution, Boston, 1910. description ends , p. 350; Winter, Amer. Finance and Dutch Investment description begins Pieter J. van Winter and James C. Riley, American Finance and Dutch Investment, 1780–1805, New York, 1977; 2 vols. description ends , 1:182–183, 215–219; New-York Directory description begins New-York Directory [title varies], issued annually with varying imprints. description ends , [1786], p. 47, Evans, description begins Charles Evans and others, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends No. 19655; JQA, Diary description begins Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allen, Robert J. Taylor, and others, Cambridge, 1981–. description ends , 1:57). For additional details regarding the circumstances surrounding De la Lande & Fynje’s bankruptcy, see the firm’s letter of 29 July 1785, and the letters from the Willinks and Staphorsts of 12 and 29 July, all below.

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