Reagan's Sense of History

Regarding President Reagan's claim, reported in The Times (Jan. 25), that "there has never been a war between two free countries," I would like to point out a contrary example not mentioned in your article--namely the two Anglo-Dutch wars, 1652-54, and 1663-67.

In the mid-17th Century, the English Commonwealth and the Dutch Republic were, along with Switzerland, the most politically free countries on Earth. Not coincidentally, they contained Europe's two most powerful and vigorous mercantile classes, who in turn operated the world's largest merchant marines. It was the similarity rather than the differences between these countries that two times brought them to blows--both wars being in essence competition for domination of Europe's transoceanic trade, including ownership of certain colonies. Accordingly, both the Anglo-Dutch wars were fought almost entirely at sea.

The second war in particular is one that any U.S. President should be aware of, because during it the British occupied--and in the Treaty of Breda obtained title to--the New Netherlands, which thence became the colonies of New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

Thus it was by means of a war between free countries that what later became our nation's largest metropolis first became an English-speaking territory.



It would appear that President Reagan has as much trouble remembering U.S. history as he does remembering his campaign promises.



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