From what source did the forefathers of modern America acquire the high ideals of government and right living that made the American Republic first a possibility, and finally a proved realization? … One nation, and one only, in the whole of Western Europe, at the time of the founding of the New England Colonies, embodied the ideas that have become an integral part of American civilization. The Netherlands had been for centuries the home of religious freedom and toleration, or representative government, and of political liberty.
So wrote H. A. van Coenen Torchiana in the first chapter of Holland: An Historical Essay (1915). While Americans might blithely think that our former colonial overlord—the Kingdom of Great Britain—was the source of our democracy, Torchiana begs to differ. In a later chapter, “The Debt of the United States to the Netherlands,” he lists various American institutions that we take for granted, but which originated in Holland: free public schools including universities, health care for the poor and needy, assistance for war widows and orphans, work programs for prisoners, relative equality for women, and even the American peace treaty policy.
Holland was published in green paper on boards, with cover and spine paste-downs in a lovely uncial typeface. It probably was issued with a dust-jacket, not seen by me.
Henry Albert van Coenen Torchiana (1867-1940) had a long and interesting career. He was born on the island of Java, then part of the Dutch East Indies. After graduating from the Amsterdam College of Commerce in 1890, he came to the United States in with his wife, Catherine Geloudemans, and became a naturalized citizen in 1895.
In the 1890s Torchiana became manager of the extensive Miller & Lux land holdings. He was admitted to the bar in 1900 and from 1910-16 he was a member of the firm of Stratton, Kaufman and Torchiana. In 1913 he was appointed Consul General in San Francisco for the Netherlands, a post he would hold until his death. He was resident commissioner-general of the PPIE, dean of foreign commissioners in 1915, and controller of Netherlands’ navigation on the Pacific Ocean from 1916 to 1919.
Torchiana wrote two other books for Paul Elder, California Gringos and The Story of the Mission of Santa Cruz.