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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces an article in
Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society
Vol. 7 (1891‑1892), pp19‑22

The text is in the public domain.

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 p19  [Three Dutch Medals]

The Librarian said he had received an official communication from the Assistant Secretary of State at Washington, transmitting the copy of a despatch from the American minister at The Hague, and three Dutch medals.​1 The despatch is as follows:—

 p20  No. 257.

Legation of the United States,

The Hague, August 31, 1891.

To the Hon. James G. Blaine, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Sir, — I have the honor to state that on a recent occasion, while paying a visit to the Royal Museum at The Hague, I discovered three medals, which by reason of their relation to prominent events in our early history, and other considerations hereafter alluded to, render it proper that I should bring them to the notice of the Department.

The first medal in the series referred to was designed to commemorate the recognition of American Independence by the Province of Friesland on the 26th of February, 1782,a a description of which is as follows:—

On the obverse side is a male figure personating a Frisian in ancient costume, joining right hands with an American, represented by a maiden in aboriginal dress, standing on a sceptre, with her left hand resting on a shield bearing the inscription: "The United States of North America"; while with his left hand the Frisian signals his rejection of an olive branch offered by a Briton, represented by a maiden accompanied by a tiger, the left hand of the maiden resting on a shield having the inscription: "Great Britain."

On the reverse side is the figure of an arm projecting from the clouds holding the Coat of Arms of the Province of Friesland, under which is the inscription: "To the State of Friesland, in grateful recognition of the Acts of Assemblies in February and April, 1782, by the Burgher's Club of Leeuwarden Liberty and Zeal."

The second medal in this series was struck off by order of the States General in commemoration of its recognition of the Independence of the United States.

On the obverse side of the medal will be found the United States and the Netherlands represented by two maidens equipped for war, with right hands joined over a burning altar. The Dutch maiden is placing an emblem of freedom on the head of the American, whose right foot, attached to a broken chain, rests on England, represented by a tiger. In the field of the medal are the words: "Libera Soror. Solemni Decr. Agn. 19 Apr. MDCCLXXXII."

On the reverse side is the figure of a unicorn lying prostrate before a steep rock, against which he has broken his horn; over the figure are the words, "Tyrannis Virtute Repulsa," and underneath the same the words, "sub Galliae auspiciis."

The third medal in the series was made to commemorate the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation entered into between the United States and the Netherlands, the 7th of October, 1782.

On its obverse side stands in relief a monumental needle, bearing  p21 the Amsterdam Coat of Arms, upon which a wreath is being placed by a figure representing Mercury; underneath the Coat of Arms is a parchment, bearing the inscription, "Pro Dro Mvs."​b France, symbolized by a crowing cock, stands beside the needle, pointing, with a conjurer's hand, to a horn of plenty and an anchor. Over all are the words: "Justitiam et non temnere divos."

On the reverse side is an image of Fame, riding on a cloud, and carrying the Arms of the Netherlands and the United States, surmounted by a naval crown. The figures are covered by the following words: "Favstissimo foedere jvnctae. Die VII Octob. MDCCLXXXII."

It will be remembered that John Adams, while discharging his duties at paris as Commissioner in arranging a treaty of Peace and Commerce with Great Britain, was, in the year 1780, appointed Minister to the Netherlands; also that political complications between Holland and England delayed his reception by the government for more than two years after he had first offered his credentials.

The States General, oppressed by the magnitude of the responsibility, refused to pass upon the question until it had been submitted to each of the Provinces for individual action.

Friesland, impelled by the Germanic love of freedom which had long characterized its people, took the initiative in the movement for recognition, passing an Act to that effect on the 26th of February, A.D. 1782. Soon thereafter the remaining Provinces followed her example, and on the 19th of April, 1782, the States General, in deference to the wishes of the Provinces, received Mr. Adams's credentials.

It will also be borne in mind that while a Dutch man-of‑war first saluted the American flag, Holland stands second in the roll of foreign nations which formally recognized our independence, and the second with whom we made a treaty of commerce and navigation.

The medals in question possess interest, in that they furnish the best evidence extant of the current of opinion and sentiment at that time in the Netherlands concerning England and the United States, and are moreover worthy of special mention, inasmuch as I do not find them referred to in Mr. Adams's public correspondence, or in any book published in our language.

Through the courtesy of the government I have been permitted to procure five copies of each of these medals, and take pleasure in transmitting them to the Department through the agency of the American Despatch Agent, London.

One set is designed for the Department of State; one for the New York Historical Society; one for the Massachusetts Historical Society; one for the Minnesota State Historical Society; and one for the Holland Society of New York.

Should the Department approve, the four last-mentioned sets may  p22 be forwarded to each of the above-named societies, with a copy of this despatch.

There can be no more interesting or profitable study for the citizen of the United States, than the process of reasoning which led to our separate national existence, and the adoption of the present form of government; or the motives which influenced the people of other lands to welcome our advent into the family of nations.

I have the honor to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

Samuel R. Thayer.​c

The thanks of the Society were voted to Mr. Thayer for his valuable gift.

The Author's Note:

1 These medals, and others of the same period, are fully described by our associate Mr. William S. Appleton, in the "American Journal of Numismatics," vol. II p64.

Thayer's Notes:

a In the strictest sense, the Resolution passed by the States of Friesland was not a recognition of the United States, rather the acceptance of the credentials of the United States envoy to The Netherlands: but the effect was the same. The original Resolution may still be seen at the Tresoar (Frysk Histoarysk en Letterkundich Sintrum) in Friesland's capital, Ljouwert/Leeuwarden.

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b Sic: the syllables of this one word prodromus may have been disjoined on the medal, as is not infrequently the case; but a single word it is, and very likely intended to mean "forerunner". In Latin the word is rare: Lewis & Short's Latin Dictionary cites just three occurrences of it in ancient Latin, two of them meaning "A certain north-northeast wind that blows eight days before the rising of the dog-star" (Pliny, N. H. II.123) and the third "A kind of early fig" (Pliny, N. H. XVI.113). The basic word, however, with its meaning of "forerunner", "harbinger", is actually Greek, and must have been what the designer of the medal had in mind.

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c No relation.

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