Message on the Observance of Dutch-American Friendship Year, 1982

February 17, 1982

April 19, 1982 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between The Netherlands and the United States of America. This is the United States' longest unbroken, peaceful relationship with any foreign power.

From the very beginning, Americans and Dutch were drawn together by mutual ideals. As early as 1776, the rebellious American colonies saw the republican Netherlands as a potential ally, while the Dutch viewed the North American colonies' struggle for independence as a parallel to their own historical struggle for freedom. The widespread sympathy and goodwill in The Netherlands for the success of the American quest for freedom was illustrated by several Dutch gestures that boosted colonial morale:

On the Dutch island of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean, the First foreign salute to the American flag took place on November 16, 1776; John Paul Jones was received as a hero in Amsterdam in 1779 when he landed with two captured British ships; and the Dutch Government entered into secret negotiations with the Continental Congress, starting in 1778, on the draft of a Treaty of Amity and Commerce.

But, most important, on April 19, 1782, John Adams was admitted by the States General of the Dutch Republic as Minister of the United States of America, thus obtaining the second diplomatic recognition of the United States as an independent nation. Adams also succeeded, on October 8, 1782, in signing the first Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the two countries. This shortly led to a series of vital loans totaling the equivalent of 12 million dollars. This recognition of the United States as an independent nation can be regarded as a culmination of our country's efforts to take its rightful place in the world community of nations as a sovereign state.

In the nineteenth century Dutch immigrants and capital continued to play an important role in the development of our young nation. A considerable part of upstate New York was developed by investments from The Netherlands, and the vast Louisiana Purchase was financed through loans placed in Amsterdam. Washington Irving wrote of the Dutch settlers of the Hudson Valley, and immigrants from Holland founded many new towns on the frontier of the 1840s in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Netherlands helped finance much of the building of the great American railway systems which opened up the West and contributed three U.S. Presidents of Dutch descent -- Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

During the dark days of World War II, America was able to return this early support for our nationhood. Thousands of our young men are buried on Dutch soil, having given their lives in the liberation of The Netherlands.

Today, the United States and The Netherlands share a joint commitment to mutual security and the defense of freedom through our NATO partnership. Our close economic ties reinforce our common philosophic and political goals, and The Netherlands is now the top foreign investor in the United States -- a clear sign of Dutch confidence in our country and its future.

While the particular expression of our policies and actions has not always been identical, the theme of common interests and shared ideals has been a hallmark of the continuously peaceful and productive relationship between the United States and The Netherlands for two hundred years.

In recognition of this long and fruitful relationship between our two countries, I call on all Americans to join with citizens of The Netherlands in observing 1982 with appropriate ceremonies and activities to recall the long-standing friendship and shared values of our two peoples.

Ronald Reagan