The USA and the Netherlands: 400 hundred years of shared history, shared values and shared paper


By Otto Spijkers

To celebrate 400 years of enduring friendship between the Netherlands and the United States, the Netherlands government has made a website called NY400 (there is also a Dutch version), with lots of info on the relationship between the Netherlands and the United States of America. It is worth a look.

In a speech of today, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs talked about this happy relationship. Just below are the most interesting parts of his speech (in my opinion that is).

First on the topic of shared paper:

Let me share a historical fact with you that amazed me when I first learned about it. Did you know that the paper on which the Declaration of Independence was printed in 1776 is of Dutch origin? I had no idea. But the ‘broadsides’ John Dunlap used to print his famous copies of the Declaration on the night of the fourth of July were made around 1770 in the Zaanstreek in Holland. This is one of history’s remarkable little details that points to a much broader historical connection between the United States and the Netherlands.

Then on the topic of shared history:

In 1609, Henry Hudson and his crew landed on the shores of what is now Manhattan. The first Dutch settlers followed in his wake. New York City’s street names and flag still bear witness to their early presence.

And finally on the topic of shared values:

The spirit of American society can partly be traced back to Dutch immigrants, who brought with them open-mindedness, tolerance, an enterprising spirit, free trade, a good work ethic and a strong belief in freedom of speech and freedom of religion. In those early years, many minority groups lived alongside each other. They had the freedom to maintain their own identity and practise their religion, as long as they worked hard and contributed to the greater good. It was a model that worked well for New Amsterdam, with its diverse population. It made New York the cosmopolitan city it is today.

Respect for diversity, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are deeply rooted in American society, which truly reflects those potent words of the Founding Fathers: all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights. Some historians argue that Thomas Jefferson and his fellow drafters drew inspiration from the Dutch Act of Abjuration, written some two centuries earlier. I wouldn’t go as far as to claim copyright, but it’s interesting to see the historic parallels between our two nations.

The values that have united Americans and Dutch people since the early days continue to direct our friendship today. Both our peoples have a strong belief in tolerance, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. We seek to uphold these values at home and abroad and we do so together.

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