How a Leiden resident contributed to American independence

How a Leiden resident contributed to American independence

While we were walking across the Rappenburg River, Willem saw at No. 112 a painting on the wall, in honor of Johann Luzak, who lived there. That’s how he came up with a great story. It is about the residents of Leiden who contributed to the independence of the largest country in the world: America.

Written by William Hoogendoorn

Reading the text on the gable stone (which you see in the photo), I noticed that Leiden Johan Luzac was a friend of (George) Washington, (John) Adams, and (Thomas) Jefferson, the first three presidents of the United States. Then you must have been someone special, because not even Mark Rutte can match that number.

Leiden Gazette

Johann (or Jean) Luzac (1746-1807) was a publisher and journalist. As the editor-in-chief of “De Gazette de Leyde”, he turned this newspaper into a major medium. At that time, the newspaper was considered the most reliable and prestigious newspaper in Europe. Today it can be compared to a newspaper like The Times. The newspaper was printed in Leiden. Not in Leiden, but in French.

special friendship

John Adams, a name that can also be read in homage, went to live with his family in Amsterdam in 1780 as an American ambassador. He was looking for a good university for his two sons John Quincy and Charles and that was (of course) Leiden. At the end of 1780, these sons moved to the student dormitory at 45 Langebrug in Leiden. Father John Johann Luszak met in Leiden and became friends with him.

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At Adams’ suggestion, Lozak published several articles on the American Declaration of Independence in the Gazette de Lyde. At that time, the largest country in the world was still part of Great Britain. In 1781, John Adams stayed for six weeks at his sons student dormitory in Leiden. Here he made an appeal to the states general of the Netherlands. In 1783, Britain recognized the independence of America.

to ski

John Adams became the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. His son John Quincy (who studied in Leiden) became the sixth president of the United States from 1825 to 1829. So we can say that someone from Leiden had a role to play in America’s independence. But let’s not exaggerate and call it a “roll”. It is still characteristic that an American president lived as a student in a student house in Leiden for about a year, and learned to ski there on the Leiden canals. By the way, the building in Langebrug is still a student house.

Student house at 45 Langebrug where the second president of the United States lives. Photo: Willem Hoogendoorn.

bad ending

Unfortunately for Johann Luzak, it ended badly. During the Leiden gunpowder disaster on January 12, 1807, Luzac was carried away by air suction and drowned in the waters of Rapenburg. He was one of 150 victims who mourned at the time. His memorial is in Pieterskerk. But did you know that Leiden-Lussack College was founded by Eric, the grandson of Johann Lussack? Fortunately, after 250 years, his spirit still lingers in Leiden.

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