During his visit to the White House, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands presented President Donald J. Trump with a copy of the letter from Dutch bankers to John Adams, confirming a loan of 5 million guilders. The loan stabilized a young America.
The letter, which belongs to the Massachusetts Historical Society, is a symbolic gift on the eve of the celebration of Independence Day, signifying the long-enduring partnership between the Netherlands and the United States.
In the closing days of the Revolutionary War, a newly independent America found herself deep in debt to both domestic creditors and foreign governments, notably France. To stabilize the shaky US economy, the Continental Congress turned to the financial powerhouse of the 18th century: the city of Amsterdam.
Dutch bankers believed in the promise of the world’s newest republic, and loaned America 5 million guilders, or $2.1 million, an amount that sounds small when viewed through a present-day lens.
However, when compared to America’s gross domestic product back then and today, that 5 million guilder loan would be as impactful as a $150 billion loan today.
John Adams became the first US ambassador to the Netherlands on April 19, 1782, and knew that Dutch bankers held the best hope for stabilizing the US economy.
A month later, on May 17, 1782, John Adams secured a loan of 5 million guilders from the Amsterdam banking firms of Wilhelm & Jan Willink, Nicolaas & Jan van Staphorst, and De la Lande & Fynje.
Adams responded the next day: “I have just received your Favour of the Seventeenth of May, in answer to mine of the Same day by Mr Fynje and it is with great Pleasure that I perceive, We are how agreed upon the Terms. I hope the Loan, will, in Consequence of this Agreement be opened without Loss of Time…”
Initially, John Adams was uncertain if America would receive the money quickly.
But almost a year after the loan was finalized, he wrote to Secretary Livingston: “I have great Pleasure, in assuring you that there is not one foreign Loan, open in this Republick, which is in so good Credit, or goes so quick as mine.”
The Holland Loan of 1782 played a key part in keeping a cash-strapped Continental Congress afloat, and consolidated the newfound independence of the United States of America.