Henry Hope

Henry Hope

Henry Hope (1735 - 1811) was an Amsterdam merchant banker born in Boston, New England.

Early years

His father Henry was a Rotterdam merchant of Scottish lineage who had left for the "new world" after experiencing financial difficulties in the bubble of 1720 in Rotterdam. Henry Hope the elder settled near Boston and became a freemason and merchant. His sent his son Henry to school in London where he became apprenticed for 6 years to a well-known banker, Gurnell, Hoare, & Harman. In 1762 he came to the Netherlands with his only sister Harriet when she married the son of Rotterdam merchant John Goddard, a family business associate. Henry went to work for his uncles Thomas and Adrian together with his cousin John (or Jan) Hope (father of Thomas Hope), in the family business in Amsterdam. By that time the Hope brothers were established as leading merchants in the Netherlands, but when the younger Hopes joined the Amsterdam branch, the name was changed to Hope & Co.. In the 18th century Amsterdam as the largest port of Europe was the center of commerce and merchant banking in Europe, and Hope & Co. played a major part in the finances of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

In the aftermath of the Seven Years War, Hope & Co. entered the arena of international banking, arranging for loans to the governments of Sweden, Russia, Portugal and Bavaria. Sometimes the loans were Henry Hope's own funds, but usually Henry Hope headed a consortium of English and Dutch investors that fronted the money, with Hope & Co. collecting a commission that ranged between 5-9%. The firm also specialized in loans to planters in the West Indies, taking payment in kind of sugar, coffee or tobacco, which the Hope's would then sell on the Amsterdam market.

For some loans to the King of Portugal, Hope & Co was given the exclusive concession to sell diamonds from the Portuguese colony of Brazil. The Hopes would take the diamonds and sell them on the Amsterdam market, using the proceeds to pay the interest and principal of the loans they had made to Portugal. These sales helped to make Amsterdam the leading diamond center in Europe.

The most important client of Hope & Co. was Catherine the Great of Russia. In addition to the large loans it made to Russia, Hope & Co. obtained the right to import sugar into Russia, and the firm acted as agents for sales of Russian wheat and timber to countries throughout Europe. During the 1780s, Catherine the Great offered Henry Hope a title, which he declined, feeling advancement to the nobility was incompatible to his position as a working merchant banker. Both Henry and Catherine were leading art collectors, and Henry Hope sometimes acted as an art dealer. Through this varied role as merchants and bankers, Henry Hope and his cousin John Hope amassed great wealth, and were arguably the richest men in Europe.


Today Henry is best known for building his summer villa Welgelegen. He was a particularly good networker and had many influential friendships among important figures of the day, thanks to his good command of English, French, and Dutch. He acquired a large art collection and built villa "Welgelegen" in Haarlem to house it on the grounds of a former summer home he had acquired in 1769. Building this summer palace, a five year project, became a summer attraction in its own right, rivaling the neighboring park Groenendaal set up by his cousin, partner, and neighbor Jan Hope in Heemstede. In 1781 Henry started receiving visitors to view the gardens and expansion process. These ambitious plans did not seem to make a dent in his enormous wealth; for in 1782 he purchased Hope Lodge in Pennsylvania as a wedding gift for the son of his American cousin Maria Ellis.

At Welgelegen he received many important figures of the day, and in the summer he was a neighbor there of many leading figures in Amsterdam commerce and politics. As an American (though considered English until well into the 1780s) he knew and received the Americans Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams who came to Europe for trade negotiations. Henry Hope was an Orangist and received William V of Orange who he knew through his uncle Thomas Hope. Prince William's wife Wilhelmina of Prussia spent her summers there after her husband's death as Princess of Orange until her death in 1820, probably for sentimental reasons, as she would have been a frequent visitor there and at Groenendaal in her early marriage years before the Napoleonic era forced her and her husband into exile in England, their former enemies.

Henry is said to have been influenced in his choice of the Neo-Classical style by Hôtel de Salm in Paris, built in 1782 by his friend Frédéric III, Rhinegrave of Salm-Kyrburg. Thomas Jefferson made sketches of both buildings. This Prince de Salm was a business relation as well as a friend, and who became in the 'Patriotic Period' (1782-1787) a mediator between France and the Netherlands and the leader of a Patriotic defense at Utrecht in September 1787. [Schama, S. (1977) Patriots and Liberators, Revolution in the Netherland 1780-1813, p. 129-30] . After his defeat, the Prince of Salm, heavily criticized, fled to Amsterdam where it is said he hid in Henry Hope's house on the Keizersgracht for months before returning to France, where he was guillotined as a Royalist in 1794.

The Wealth of Nations

From 1779 Henry became the manager of Hope & Co. and he, his art collection, and his company were famous. In 1786 Adam Smith dedicated the fourth edition of his book 'The Wealth of Nations' to Henry Hope in hopes of increasing his readership:

"In this fourth Edition I have made no alterations of any kind. I now, however, find myself at liberty to acknowledge my very great obligations to Mr. HENRY HOP of Amsterdam. To that Gentleman I owe the most distinct, as well as liberal information, concerning a very interesting and important subject, the Bank of Amsterdam; of which no printed account had ever appeared to me satisfactory, or even intelligible. The name of that Gentleman is so well known in Europe, the information which comes from him must do so much honour to whoever has been favoured with it, and my vanity is so much interested in making this acknowledgment, that I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of prefixing this Advertisement to this new Edition of my Book."Adam Smith"The Wealth of Nations" 1895 [http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN0.html] ]

Relocation to London

Henry Hope fled to London in 1794 before the French revolutionary forces. In the Amsterdam archives of Hope & Co. it states that he took 372 paintings with him. Among these were important works by Frans Hals, Rubens, Rembrandt and Sir Anthony van Dyck. "The Virgin as Intercessor - Provenance" [http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg4243/gg4243-1230.0-prov.html] '] He started a London branch of Hope & Co. and became friendly with Francis Baring with whom he entered upon many large land deals with various royal names. He clearly shared the genius of his uncle Thomas Hope (the elder), who had died in 1779, leaving him the business in Amsterdam to share with his cousin Jan Hope, who died 5 years later in 1784 unexpectedly in the Hague.

Land deals

The largest land deal that he and Barings entered upon was the issue of shares to finance the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, more than a year after the treaty was signed. He and Barings had been working on the deal for almost a decade, and sent young Alexander Baring as their agent to act in America, where he first negotiated a large land deal in Maine, then still a part of Massachusetts. While there, Alexander Baring helped settle a treaty with David Cobb. The deal, completed in February 1796, gave Mr. Baring one-half interest in the "Penobscot million" and one-half interest in a third tract of acquired property north of this 1 million-acre (4,000 km²) expanse. Baring, to become the first Baron Ashburton, was himself to play a role in both the economic and political history of Maine in general and Down East Maine in particular. Along with Daniel Webster, he negotiated the treaty that resolved the disputes over Maine's northwest boundary (Henry had family in Nova Scotia).


Though he always hoped to return to his beloved Welgelegen, Henry died childless in London in 1811, leaving a capital of 12 million guilders, an art collection, and several large properties. He was a generous uncle to his many nieces and nephews in London, Heemstede, and Pennsylvania. On his death, his accumulated wealth was split between the children of his cousin Jan (who inherited Deepdene), the children of his cousin Maria (who inherited Hope Lodge), and the children of his sister Harriet (who inherited villa Welgelegen). Before his death, he commissioned a family portrait with his sister Harriet and the family of his adopted son John Williams Hope and Harriet's daughter Ann. The painting, by Benjamin West, shows a model of Welgelegen that sits above a mahogany chest, probably designed by Thomas Hope. The painting currently hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A fitting place, since it is built itself in the neo-classical style and is so close to where Harriet and Henry were born, in Braintree.



* Buist, M.G. (1974) At spes non fracta: Hope & Co. 1770-1815. Merchant bankers and diplomats at work. Den Haag, Martinus Nijhoff.

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