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CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
C.F. CLAY, MANAGER
LONDON: FETTER LANE, E.C.4
HISTORY OF HOLLAND
D. LITT., F.R.G.S., F.R.HIST.S.
SOMETIME FELLOW OF BRASENOSE COLLEGE, OXFORD HON.
MEMBER OF THE DUTCH HISTORICAL SOCIETY, UTRECHT
FOREIGN MEMBER OF THE NETHERLANDS SOCIETY OF LITERATURE, LEYDEN
CAMBRIDGE AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 1922
THE EAST AND WEST INDIA COMPANIES. COMMERCIAL AND ECONOMIC EXPANSION
An account of the foundation, constitution and early efforts of the Dutch East India Company has been already given. The date of its charter (March 20, 1602) was later than that of its English rival (Dec. 31, 1600), but in reality the Dutch were the first in the field, as there were several small companies in existence and competing with one another in the decade previous to the granting of the charter, which without extinguishing these companies incorporated them by the name of chambers under a common management, the Council of Seventeen. The four chambers however—Amsterdam, Zeeland, the Maas (Rotterdam and Delft) and the North Quarter (Enkhuizen and Hoorn)—though separately administered and with different spheres, became gradually more and more unified by the growing power of control exercised by the Seventeen. This was partly due to the dominating position of the single Chamber of Amsterdam, which held half the shares and appointed eight members of the council. The erection of such a company, with its monopoly of trade and its great privileges including the right of maintaining fleets and armed forces, of concluding treaties and of erecting forts, was nothing less than the creation of an imperium in imperio ; and it may be said to have furnished the model on which all the great chartered companies of later times have been formed. The English East India Company was, by the side of its Dutch contemporary, almost insignificant; with its invested capital of £30,000 it was in no position to struggle successfully against a competitor which started with subscribed funds amounting to £540,000.
The conquest of Portugal by Spain had spelt ruin to that unhappy Country and to its widespread colonial empire and extensive commerce. Before 1581 Lisbon had been a great centre of the Dutch carrying-trade; and many Netherlanders had taken service in Portuguese vessels and were familiar with the routes both to the [pg.160] East Indies and to Brazil. It was the closing of the port of Lisbon to Dutch vessels that led the enterprising merchants of Amsterdam and Middelburg to look further afield. In the early years of the seventeenth century a large number of expeditions left the Dutch harbours for the Indian Ocean and made great profits; and very large dividends were paid to the shareholders of the company. How far these represented the actual gain it is difficult to discover, for the accounts were kept in different sets of ledgers; and it is strongly suspected that the size of the dividends may, at times when enhanced credit was necessary for the raising of loans, have been to some extent fictitious. For the enterprise, which began as a trading concern, speedily developed into the creation of an empire overseas, and this meant an immense expenditure.
The Malay Archipelago was the chief scene of early activity, and more especially the Moluccas. Treaties were made with the native chiefs; and factories defended by forts were established at Tidor, Ternate, Amboina, Banda and other places. The victories of Cornelis Matelief established that supremacy of the Dutch arms in these eastern waters which they were to maintain for many years. With the conclusion of the truce the necessity of placing the general control of so many scattered forts and trading posts in the hands of one supreme official led, in 1609, to the appointment of a governor-general by the Seventeen with the assent of the States-General. The governor-general held office for five years, and he was assisted by a council, the first member of which, under the title of director-general, was in reality minister of commerce. Under him were at first seven (afterwards eight) local governors. These functionaries, though exercising considerable powers in their respective districts, were in all matters of high policy entirely subordinate to the governor-general. The first holders of the office were all men who had risen to that position by proving themselves to possess energy and enterprise, and being compelled by the distance from home to act promptly on their own initiative, were practically endowed with autocratic authority. In consequence of this the Dutch empire in the East became in their hands rapidly extended and consolidated, to the exclusion of all competitors. This meant not only that the Portuguese and Spaniards were ousted from their formerly dominant position in the Orient, but that a collision with the English was inevitable. [pg.161]
The first governor-general, Pietsser Both, had made Java the centre of administration and had established factories and posts at Bantam, Jacatra and Djapara, not without arousing considerable hostility among the local rulers, jealous of the presence of the intruders. This hostility was fostered and encouraged by the English, whose vessels had also visited Java and had erected a trading-post close to that of the Dutch at Jacatra. Already the spice islands had been the scene of hostile enCounters between the representatives of the two nations, and had led to many altercations. This was the state of things when Jan Pietsserzoon Koen became governor-general in 1615. This determined man, whose experience in the East Indies was of long date, and who had already served as director-general, came into his new office with an intense prejudice against the English, and with a firm resolve to put an end to what he described as their treachery and intrigues. "Were they masters," he wrote home, "the Dutch would quickly be out of the Indies, but praise be to the Lord, who has provided otherwise. They are an unendurable nation." With this object he strongly fortified the factory near Jacatra, thereby arousing the hostility of the Pangeran , as the native ruler was styled. The English in their neighbouring post also began to erect defences and to encourage the Pangeran in his hostile attitude. Koen thereupon fell upon the English and destroyed and burnt their factory, and finding that there was a strong English fleet under Sir Thomas Dale in the neighbourhood, he sailed to the Moluccas in search of reinforcements, leaving Pietsser van der Broeck in command at the factory. The Pangeran now feigned friendship, and having enticed Broeck to a conference, made him prisoner and attacked the Dutch stronghold. The garrison however held out until the governor-general returned with a strong force. With this he stormed and destroyed the town of Jacatra and on its site erected a new town, as the seat of the company's government, to which the name Batavia was given. From this time the Dutch had no rivalry to fear in Java. The conquest of the whole island was only a question of time, and the "pearl of the Malay Archipelago" has from 1620 to the present been the richest and most valuable of all the Dutch colonial possessions. Koen was planning to follow up his success by driving the English likewise from the Moluccas, when he heard that the home government had concluded a treaty which tied his hands. [pg.162]
The position in the Moluccas had for some years been one of continual bickering and strife; the chief scene being in the little group known as the Banda islands. The lucrative spice-trade tempted both companies to establish themselves by building forts; and the names of Amboina and Pulo Rum were for many years to embitter the relations of the two peoples. Meanwhile the whole subject of those relations had been in 1619 discussed at London by a special embassy sent nominally to thank King James for the part he had taken in bringing the Synod of Dort to a successful termination of its labours, but in reality to settle several threatening trade disputes. Almost the only result of the prolonged conferences was an agreement (June 2, 1619) by which the East India Companies were for twenty years to be virtually amalgamated. The English were to have half the pepper crop in Java and one-third of the spices in the Moluccas, Amboina and the Banda islands. Forts and posts were to remain in their present hands, but there was to be a joint council for defence, four members from each company, the president to be appointed alternately month by month. Such a scheme was a paper scheme, devised by those who had no personal acquaintance with the actual situation. There was no similarity between a great military and naval organisation like the Dutch Company and a body of traders like the English, whose capital was small, and who were entirely dependent on the political vagaries of an impecunious sovereign, whose dearest wish at the time was to cultivate close relations with the very power in defiance of whose prohibition the East India Company's trade was carried on. The agreement received indeed a fresh sanction at another conference held in London (1622-23), but it never was a working arrangement. The bitter ill-feeling that had arisen between the Dutch and English traders was not to be allayed by the diplomatic subterfuge of crying peace when there was no peace. Events were speedily to prove that this was so.
The trade in spices had proved the most lucrative of all, and measures had been taken to prevent any undue lowering of the price by a glut in the market. The quantity of spices grown was carefully regulated, suitable spots being selected, and the trees elsewhere destroyed. Thus cloves were specially cultivated at Amboina; nutmegs in the Banda islands. Into this strictly guarded monopoly, from which the English had been expelled by the energy of Koen, they were now by the new treaty to be admitted to a share. [pg.163]
It was only with difficulty that the Dutch were induced to acquiesce sullenly in the presence of the intruders. A fatal collision took place almost immediately after the convention between the Companies, about the trade in the spice islands, had been renewed in London, 1622-3.
In 1623 Koen was succeeded, as governor-general, by Pietsser Carpentier, whose name is still perpetuated by the Gulf of Carpentaria on the north of Australia. At this time of transition the Governor of Amboina, Van Speult, professed to have discovered a conspiracy of the English settlers, headed by Gabriel Towerson, to make themselves masters of the Dutch fort. Eighteen Englishmen were seized, and though there was no evidence against them, except what was extorted by torture and afterwards solemnly denied, twelve, including Towerson, were executed. Carpentier admitted that the proceedings were irregular, and they were in any case unnecessary, for a despatch recalling Towerson was on its way to Amboina. It was a barbarous and cruel act; and when the news of the "massacre of Amboina," as it was called, reached England, there was loud indignation and demands for redress. But the quarrel with Spain over the marriage of the Prince of Wales had driven James I at the very end of his life, and Charles I on his accession, to seek the support of the United Provinces. By the treaty of Southampton, September 17, 1625, an offensive and defensive alliance was concluded with the States-General; and Charles contented himself with a demand that the States should within eighteen months bring to justice those who were responsible "for the bloody butchery on our subjects." However, Carleton again pressed for the punishment of the perpetrators of "the foule and bloody act" of Amboina. The Dutch replied with evasive promises, which they never attempted to carry out; and Charles' disastrous war with France and his breach with his parliament effectually prevented him from taking steps to exact reparation. But Amboina was not forgotten; the sore rankled and was one of the causes that moved Cromwell to war in 1654.
The activity of the Dutch in eastern waters was, however, by no means confined to Java, their seat of government, or to the Moluccas and Banda islands with their precious spices. Many trading posts were erected on the large islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Trading relations were opened with Siam from 1613 onwards. In 1623 a [pg.164] force under Willem Bontekoe was sent by Koen to Formosa. The island was conquered and a governor appointed with his residence at Fort Zelandia. Already under the first governor-general, Pietsser Both, permission was obtained from the Shogun for the Dutch, under close restrictions, to trade with Japan, a permission which was still continued, after the expulsion of the Portuguese and the bloody persecution of the Christian converts (1637-42), though under somewhat humiliating conditions. But, with the Dutch, trade was trade, and under the able conduct of Francis Caron it became of thriving proportions. During the next century no other Europeans had any access to the Japanese market except the agents of the Dutch East India Company.
Among the governors-general of this early period the name of Antony van Diemen (1636-45) deserves special recognition. If Koen laid the firm foundations of Dutch rule in the East, Van Diemen built wisely and ably on the work of Koen. Carpentier's rule had been noteworthy for several voyages of discovery along the coasts of New Guinea and of the adjoining shore of Australia, but the spirit of exploration reached its height in the days of Van Diemen. The north and north-west of Australia being to some extent already known, Abel Tasman was despatched by Van Diemen to find out, if possible, how far southward the land extended. Sailing in October, 1642, from Mauritius, he skirted portions of the coast of what is now Victoria and New South Wales and discovered the island which he named after his patron Van Diemen's land, but which is now very appropriately known as Tasmania. Pressing on he reached New Zealand, which still bears the name that he gave to it, and sailed through the strait between the northern and southern islands, now Cook's strait. In the course of this great voyage he next discovered the Friendly or Tonga islands and the Fiji archipelago. He reached Batavia in June, 1643, and in the following year he visited again the north of Australia and voyaged right round the Gulf of Carpentaria. Even in a modern map of Australia Dutch names will be found scattered round certain portions of the coast of the island-continent, recording still, historically, the names of the early Dutch explorers, their patrons, ships and homes. Along the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria may be seen Van Diemen river, gulf and cape; Abel Tasman, Van Alphen, Nassau and Staten rivers; capes Arnhem, Caron and Maria (after Francis Caron and [pg.165] Maria van Diemen) and Groote Eylandt. In Tasmania, with many other names, may be found Frederick Henry bay and cape, Tasman's peninsula and Tasman's head and Maria island; while the wife of the governor-general is again commemorated, the northernmost point of New Zealand bearing the name of Maria van Diemen cape.
To Van Diemen belongs the credit of giving to the Dutch their first footing (1638) in the rich island of Ceylon, by concluding a treaty with the native prince of Kandy. The Portuguese still possessed forts at Colombo, Galle, Negumbo and other places, but Galle and Negumbo were now taken by the Dutch, and gradually the whole island passed into their hands and became for a century and a half their richest possession in the East, next to Java. On the Coromandel coast posts were also early established, and trade relations opened up with the Persians and Arabs. At the time when the Treaty of Münster gave to the United Provinces the legal title to that independence for which they had so long fought, and conceded to them the freedom to trade in the Indies, that trade was already theirs, safe-guarded by the fleets, the forts and the armed forces of the chartered company. The governor-general at Batavia had become a powerful potentate in the Eastern seas; and a succession of bold and able men, by a policy at once prudent and aggressive, had in the course of a few decades organised a colonial empire. It was a remarkable achievement for so small a Country as the United Provinces, and it was destined to have a prolonged life. The voyage round by the cape was long and hazardous, so Van Diemen in 1638 caused the island of Mauritius to be occupied as a refitting station; and in 1652 one of his successors (Reinierz) sent a body of colonists under Jan van Riebeck to form a settlement, which should be a harbour of refuge beneath the Table mountain at the Cape itself. This was the beginning of the Cape colony.
Quite as interesting, and even more exciting, was the history of Dutch enterprise in other seas during this eventful period. The granting of the East India Company's charter led a certain Willem Usselincx to come forward as an earnest and persistent advocate for the formation of a West India Company on the same lines. But Oldenbarneveldt, anxious to negotiate a peace or truce with Spain and to maintain good relations with that power, refused to lend any Countenance to his proposals, either before or after the truce was concluded. He could not, however, restrain the spirit of enterprise [pg.166] that with increasing prosperity was abroad in Holland. The formation of the Northern or Greenland Company in 1613, specially created in order to contest the claims of the English Muscovy Company to exclusive rights in the whale fishery off Spitsbergen, led to those violent disputes between the fishermen of the two Countries, of which an account has been given. The granting of a charter to the Company of New Netherland (1614) was a fresh departure. The voyage of Henry Hudson in the Dutch service when, in 1610, he explored the coast of North America and sailed up the river called by his name, led certain Amsterdam and Hoorn merchants to plan a settlement near this river; and they secured a charter giving them exclusive rights from Chesapeake bay to Newfoundland. The result was the founding of the colony of New Netherland, with New Amsterdam on Manhattan island as its capital. This settlement was at first small and insignificant, but, being placed midway between the English colonies on that same coast, it added one more to the many questions of dispute between the two sea-powers.
Willem Usselincx had all this time continued his agitation for the erection of a West India Company; and at last, with the renewal of the war with Spain in 1621, his efforts were rewarded. The charter granted by the States-General (June 3, 1621) gave to the company for twenty-four years the monopoly of navigation and trade to the coast-lands of America and the West Indies from the south-end of Newfoundland to the Straits of Magellan and to the coasts and lands of Africa from the tropic of Cancer to the Cape of Good Hope. The governing body consisted of nineteen representatives, the Nineteen. The States-General contributed to the capital 1,000,000 fl., on half of which only they were to receive dividends. They also undertook in time of war to furnish sixteen ships and four yachts, the company being bound to supply a like number. The West India Company from the first was intended to be an instrument of war. Its aims were buccaneering rather than commerce. There was no secret about its object; it was openly proclaimed. Its historian De Laet (himself a director) wrote, "There is no surer means of bringing our Enemy at last to reason, than to infest him with attacks everywhere in America and to stop the fountain-head of his best finances." After some tentative efforts, it was resolved to send out an expedition in great force; but the question arose, where best to [pg.167] strike? By the advice of Usselincx and others acquainted with the condition of the defences of the towns upon the American coast, Bahia, the capital of the Portuguese colony of Brazil, was selected, as specially vulnerable. Thus in the West, as in the East, Portugal was to suffer for her unwilling subjection to the crown of Castile.
The consent of the States-General and of the Stadtholder being obtained, some months were spent in making preparations on an adequate scale. The fleet, which consisted of twenty-three ships of war with four yachts, armed with 500 pieces of ordnance, and carrying in addition to the crews a force of 1700 troops, sailed in two contingents, December, 1623, and January, 1624. Jacob Willekens was the admiral-in-chief, with Pietss Hein as his vice-admiral. Colonel Jan van Dorth, lord of Horst, was to conduct the land operations and to be the governor of the town, when its conquest was achieved. On May 9 the fleet sailed into the Bay of All Saints ( Bahia de todos os Santos ) and proceeded to disembark the troops on a sandy beach a little to the east of the city of San Salvador, commonly known as Bahia. It was strongly situated on heights rising sheer from the water; and, as news of the Dutch preparations had reached Lisbon and Madrid, its fortifications had been repaired and its garrison strengthened. In front of the lower town below the cliffs was a rocky island, and on this and on the shore were forts well provided with batteries, and under their lee were fifteen ships of war. On May 10 Pietss Hein was sent with five vessels to contain the enemy's fleet and cover the landing of the military forces. But Hein, far from being content with a passive role, attacked the Portuguese, burnt or captured all their ships and then, embarking his men in launches, stormed the defences of the island and spiked the guns. Meanwhile the troops had, without opposition, occupied a Benedictine convent on the heights opposite the town. But the daring of Pietss Hein had caused a panic to seize the garrison. Despite the efforts of the governor, Diogo de Mendoça Furdado, there was a general exodus in the night, both of the soldiery and the inhabitants. When morning came the Dutch marched into the undefended town, the governor and his son, who had refused to desert their posts, being taken prisoners. They, with much booty, were at once sent to Holland as a proof of the completeness of the victory. Events, however, were to prove that it is easier for an expeditionary [pg.168] force to capture a town at such a distance from the home-base of supplies, than to retain it.
Governor Van Dorth had scarcely entered upon his duties when he fell into an ambush of native levies near San Salvador and was killed. His successor, Willem Schouten, was incompetent and dissolute; and, when the fleet set sail on its homeward voyage at the end of July, the garrison soon found itself practically besieged by bodies of Portuguese troops with Indian auxiliaries, who occupied the neighbouring woods and stopped supplies. Meanwhile the news of the capture of San Salvador reached Madrid and Lisbon; and Spaniards and Portuguese vied with one another in their eagerness to equip a great expedition to expel the invaders. It was truly a mighty armada which set sail, under the supreme command of Don Fadrique de Toledo, from the Iberian ports at the beginning of 1625, for it consisted of fifty ships with five caravels and four pinnaces, carrying 12,566 men and 1185 guns. On Easter Eve (March 29) the fleet entered All Saints' Bay in the form of a vast crescent measuring six leagues from tip to tip. The Dutch garrison of 2300 men, being strongly fortified, resisted for a month but, shut in by sea and by land and badly led, they capitulated on April 28, on condition that they were sent back to Holland.
That the brilliant success of 1624 was thus so soon turned into disaster was in no way due to the supineness of the home authorities. The Nineteen were in no way surprised to hear of great preparations being made by the King of Spain to retake the town, and they on their part were determined to maintain their conquest by meeting force with force. Straining all their resources, three squadrons were equipped; the first two, numbering thirty-two ships and nine yachts, were destined for Brazil; the third, a small flying squadron of seven vessels, was despatched early to watch the Spanish ports. The general-in-chief of the Brazilian expedition was Boudewyn Hendrikszoon. Driven back by a succession of storms, it was not until April 17, 1625, that the fleet was able to leave the Channel and put out to sea. The voyage was a rapid one and on May 23, Hendrikszoon sailed into the bay in battle order, only to see the Spanish flag waving over San Salvador and the mighty fleet of Admiral Toledo drawn up under the protection of its batteries. Hendrikszoon sailed slowly past the Spaniards, who did not stir, and perceiving that it would be madness to attack a superior force [pg.169] in such a position he reluctantly gave orders to withdraw. On the homeward journey by the West Indies a number of rich prizes were made, but sickness made great ravages among the crews, and Counted Hendrikszoon himself among its victims.
The events of the following year seem to show that with audacity he might have at least inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. For in 1626 the directors, ignorant of his failure, sent out a reinforcement of nine ships and five yachts under the command of the redoubtable Pietss Hein. Hein sailed on May 21 for the West Indies, where he learnt that Hendrikszoon was dead and that the remnant of his expedition had returned after a fruitless voyage of misadventure. Hein however was not the man to turn back. He determined to try what he could effect at Bahia by a surprise attack. He reached the entrance to the bay on March 1, 1627, but was unluckily becalmed; and the Portuguese were warned of his presence. On arriving before San Salvador he found thirty ships drawn up close to the land; sixteen of these were large and armed, and four were galleons with a considerable number of troops on board. The Dutch admiral with great daring determined to attack them by sailing between them and the shore, making it difficult for the guns on shore to fire on him without injury to their own ships. It was a hazardous stroke, for the passage was narrow, but entirely successful. One of the four galleons, carrying the admiral's flag, was sunk, the other three struck. Taking to their launches, the Dutchmen now fiercely assailed the other vessels, and in a very short time were masters of twenty-two prizes. It was a difficult task to carry them off at the ebb-tide, and it was not achieved without loss. Hein's own ship, the Amsterdam, grounded and had to be burnt, and another ship by some mischance blew up. The total loss, except through the explosion, was exceedingly small. The captured vessels contained 2700 chests of sugar, besides a quantity of cotton, hides and tobacco. The booty was stored in the four largest ships and sent to Holland; the rest were burnt.
Hein now made a raid down the coast as far as Rio de Janeiro and then returned. The "Sea Terror of Delft" for some weeks after this remained in unchallenged mastery of the bay, picking up prizes when the opportunity offered. Then he sailed by the West Indies homewards and reached Dutch waters on October 31, 1627, having during this expedition captured no less than fifty-five enemy [pg.170] vessels. The value of the booty was sufficient to repay the company for their great outlay, and it was wisely used in the equipment of fresh fleets for the following year.
This next year, 1628, was indeed an annus mirabilis in the records of the Dutch West India Company. On January 24 two fleets put to sea, one under Dirk Simonsz Uitgeest for the coast of Brazil; another under Pietsser Adriansz Ita for the West Indies. Both were successful and came back laden with spoil. It was reserved, however, for the expedition under Pietss Hein to make all other successes seem small. This fleet, consisting of thirty-one ships of war, left Holland at the end of May for the West Indies with instructions to lie in wait for the Spanish Treasure Fleet. Many attempts had been made in previous years to intercept the galleons, which year by year carried the riches of Mexico and Peru to Spain, but they had always failed. After some weeks of weary cruising, Pietss Hein, when off the coast of Cuba, was rewarded (September 8) by the sight of the Spanish fleet approaching, and at once bore down upon them. After a sharp conflict, the Spaniards took refuge in the bay of Matanzas and, running the galleons into shoal-water, tried to convey the rich cargoes on shore. It was in vain. The Dutch sailors, taking to their boats, boarded the galleons and compelled them to surrender. The spoil was of enormous value, comprising 177,537 lbs. of silver, 135 lbs. of gold, 37,375 hides, 2270 chests of indigo, besides cochineal, logwood, sugar, spices and precious stones. It brought 11,509,524 fl. into the coffers of the company, and a dividend of 50 per cent, was paid to the shareholders. It was a wrong policy thus to deal with the results of a stroke of good fortune not likely to be repeated. This year was, however, to be a lucky year unto the end. A fourth expedition under Adrian Jansz Pater which left on August 15 for the Caribbean sea, sailed up the Orinoco and destroyed the town of San Thomé de Guiana, the chief Spanish settlement in those parts. All this, it may be said, partook of the character of buccaneering, nevertheless these were shrewd blows struck at the very source from whence the Spanish power obtained means for carrying on the war. The West India Company was fulfilling triumphantly one of the chief purposes for which it was created, and was threatening Philip IV with financial ruin.
The successes of 1628 had the effect of encouraging the directors to try to retrieve the failure at Bahia by conquest elsewhere. [pg.171]
Olinda, on the coast of Pernambuco, was selected as the new objective. An expeditionary force of exceptional strength was got ready; and, as Pietss Hein, at the very height of his fame, unfortunately lost his life in the spring of 1629 in an enCounter with the Dunkirk pirates, Hendrik Cornelisz Lonck, who had served as vice-admiral under Hein at Matanzas bay, was made admiral-in-chief, with Jonckheer Diederik van Waerdenburgh in command of the military forces. A considerable delay was caused by the critical position of the United Provinces when invaded by the Spanish-Imperialist armies at the time of the siege of Hertogenbosch, but the capture of that fortress enabled the last contingents to sail towards the end of the year; and Lonck was able to collect his whole force at St Vincent, one of the Canary islands, on Christmas Day to start on their voyage across the Atlantic. That force consisted of fifty-two ships and yachts and thirteen sloops, carrying 3780 sailors and 3500 soldiers, and mounting 1170 guns. Adverse weather prevented the arrival of the fleet in the offing of Olinda until February 13. Along the coast of Pernambuco runs a continuous reef of rock with narrow openings at irregular intervals, forming a barrier against attack from the sea. Olinda, the capital of the provinces, was built on a hill a short distance inland, having as its port a village known as Povo or the Reciff, lying on a spit of sand between the mouths of the rivers Biberibi and Capibaribi. There was a passage through the rocky reef northwards about two leagues above Olinda and three others southwards (only one of which, the Barra , was navigable for large ships) giving access to a sheet of water of some 18 ft. in depth between the reef and the spit of sand, and forming a commodious harbour, the Pozo.
The problem before the Dutch commander was a difficult one, for news of the expedition had reached Madrid; and Matthias de Albuquerque, brother of "the proprietssor" of Pernambuco, Duarte de Albuquerque, a man of great energy and powers of leadership, had arrived in October to put Olinda and the Reciff into a state of defence. Two forts strongly garrisoned and armed, San Francisco and San Jorge, defended the entrances through the reef and the neck of the spit of sand; sixteen ships chained together and filled with combustibles barred access to the harbour; and the village of the Reciff was surrounded by entrenchments. Within the fortifications of Olinda, Albuquerque held himself in readiness to oppose [pg.172] any body of the enemy that should effect a landing above the town. Lonck, after consultation with Waerdenburgh, determined to make with the main body of the fleet under his own command an attempt to force the entrances to the Pozo, while Waerdenburgh, with the bulk of the military contingent on sixteen ships, sailed northwards to find some spot suitable for disembarkation.
The naval attack was made on February 15, but was unavailing. All the efforts of the Dutch to make their way through any of the entrances to the Pozo, though renewed again and again with the utmost bravery, were beaten off. In the evening Lonck withdrew his ships. He had learnt by an experience, to which history scarcely offers an exception, that a naval attack unsupported by military co-operation against land defences cannot succeed. But Waerdenburgh had used the opportunity, while the enemy's attention was directed to the repelling of the assault on the Reciff, to land his army without opposition. At dawn the Dutch general advanced and, after forcing the crossing of the river Doce in the teeth of the resistance of a body of irregular troops led by Albuquerque in person, marched straight on Olinda. There was no serious resistance. The fortifications were carried by storm and the town fell into the hands of Waerdenburgh. The garrison and almost all the inhabitants fled into the neighbouring forest.
Aware of the fact that the occupation of Olinda was useless without a harbour as a base of supplies, it was resolved at once with the aid of the fleet to lay siege to the forts of San Francisco and San Jorge. Despite obstinate resistance, first San Jorge, then San Francisco surrendered; and on March 3 the fleet sailed through the Barra, and the Reciff with the island of Antonio Vaz behind it was occupied by the Dutch. No sooner was the conquest made than steps were taken for its administration. A welcome reinforcement arrived from Holland on March 11, having on board three representatives sent by the Nineteen, who were to form with Waerdenburgh, appointed governor, an administrative council, or Court of Policy. The Reciff, rather than Olinda, was selected as the seat of government, and forts were erected for its defence. The position, however, was perilous in the extreme. Albuquerque, who was well acquainted with the Country and skilled in guerrilla warfare, formed an entrenched camp to which he gave the name of the Arreyal de Bom Jesus , a position defended by marshes and thick woods. From this centre, [pg.173] by the aid of large numbers of friendly Indians, he was able to cut off all supplies of fresh water, meat or vegetables from reaching the Dutch garrison. They had to depend for the necessaries of life upon stores sent to them in relief fleets from Holland. It was a strange and grim struggle of endurance, in which both Dutch and Portuguese suffered terribly, the one on the barren sea-shore, the other in the pathless woods under the glare of a tropical sun, both alike looking eagerly for succour from the Motherland. The Dutch succours were the first to arrive. The first detachment under Marten Thijssen reached the Reciff on December 18, 1630; the main fleet under Adrian Jansz Pater on April 14, 1631. The whole fleet consisted of sixteen ships and yachts manned by 1270 sailors and 860 soldiers. Their arrival was the signal for offensive operations. An expedition under Thijssen's command sailed on April 22 for the large island of Itamaraca about fifteen miles to the north of the Reciff. It was successful. Itamaraca was occupied and garrisoned, and thus a second and advantageous post established on the Brazilian coast.
Meanwhile the Spanish government had not been idle. After many delays a powerful fleet set sail from Lisbon on May 5 for Pernambuco, consisting of fifteen Spanish and five Portuguese ships and carrying a large military force, partly destined for Bahia, but principally as a reinforcement for Matthias de Albuquerque. The expedition was commanded by Admiral Antonio de Oquendo, and was accompanied by Duarte de Albuquerque, the proprietssor of Pernambuco. After landing troops and munitions at Bahia, the Spaniards wasted several weeks before starting again to accomplish the main object of blockading the Dutch in the Reciff and compelling their surrender by famine. But Pater had learnt by his scouts of the presence of Oquendo at Bahia, and though his force was far inferior he determined to meet the hostile armada at sea. The Spanish fleet was sighted at early dawn on September 12, and Pater at once gave orders to attack. His fleet consisted of sixteen ships and yachts, that of the enemy of twenty galleons and sixteen caravels. The Dutch admiral had formed his fleet in two lines, himself in the Prins Willem and Vice-Admiral Thijssen in the Vereenigte Provintien being the leaders. On this occasion the sight of the great numbers and size of the Spanish galleons caused a great part of the Dutch captains to lose heart and hang back. Pater and Thijssen, followed [pg.174] by only two ships, bore down however on the Spaniards. The Prins Willem with the Walcheren in attendance laid herself alongside the St Jago , flying the flag of Admiral Oquendo; the Vereenigte Provintien with the Provintie van Utrecht in its wake drew up to the St Antonio de Padua , the ship of Vice-Admiral Francisco de Vallecilla. For six hours the duel between the Prins Willem and the St Jago went on with fierce desperation, the captain of the Walcheren gallantly holding at bay the galleons who attempted to come to the rescue of Oquendo. At 4 p. m. the St Jago was a floating wreck with only a remnant of her crew surviving, when suddenly a fire broke out in the Prins Willem , which nothing could check. With difficulty the St Jago drew off and, finding that his vessel was lost, Pater, refusing to surrender, wrapped the flag round his body and threw himself into the sea. Meanwhile success had attended Thijssen. The lagging Dutch ships coming up gradually threatened the convoy of Spanish transports and drew off many of the galleons for their protection. The Provintie van Utrecht indeed, like the Prins Willem , caught fire and was burnt to the water's edge; but the vice-admiral himself sank the St Antonio de Padua and another galleon that came to Vallecilla's help, and captured a third. It was a bloody and apparently indecisive fight, but the Dutch enjoyed the fruits of victory. Oquendo made no attempt to capture the Reciff and Olinda, but, after landing the troops he convoyed at a favourable spot, sailed northwards, followed by Thijssen.
But though relieved the position was still very serious. Albuquerque, now considerably reinforced from his impregnable post at the Arreyal de Bom Jesus , cut off all intercourse inland. The Dutch even abandoned Olinda and concentrated themselves at the Reciff, where they remained as a besieged force entirely dependent upon supplies sent from Holland. Several expeditions were despatched with the hope of seizing other positions on the coast, but all of them proved failures; and, when Waerdenburgh returned home in 1633, having reached the end of his three years' service as governor, all that could be said was that the Dutch had retained their foothold on the coast of Pernambuco, but at vast cost to the company in men, vessels and treasure, and without any apparent prospect for the future. But pertinacity was to be rewarded. For the period of success that followed special histories must be consulted. In the year following the return of Waerdenburgh the efforts of [pg.175] the Dutch authorities to extend their possessions along the coast at the various river mouths were steadily successful; and with the advent of Joan Maurice of Nassau to the governorship, in 1637, the dream of a Dutch empire in Brazil seemed to be on the point of realisation. This cousin of the Prince of Orange was endowed with brilliant qualities, and during the seven years of his governorship he extended the Dutch dominion from the Rio Grande in the south to the island of Maranhão on the north and to a considerable distance inland, indeed over the larger part of seven out of the fourteen captaincies into which Portuguese Brazil was divided. On his arrival, by a wise policy of statesmanlike conciliation, he contrived to secure the goodwill of the Portuguese planters, who, though not loving the Dutch heretics, hated them less than their Spanish oppressors, and also of the Jews, who were numerous in the conquered territory. Under his rule the Reciff as the seat of the Dutch government was beautified and enlarged; many fine buildings and gardens adorned it, and the harbour made commodious for commerce with rows of warehouses and ample docks. To the new capital he gave the name of Mauritsstad.
During the earlier part of his governor-generalship Joan Maurice was called upon to face a really great danger. The year 1639 was to witness what was to be the last great effort (before the Portuguese revolt) of the still undivided Spanish monarchy for supremacy at sea. Already it has been told how a great fleet sent under Antonio de Oquendo to drive the Dutch from the narrow seas was crushed by Admiral Tromp at the battle of the Downs. In the same year the most formidable armada ever sent from the Peninsula across the ocean set sail for Brazil. It consisted of no less than eighty-six vessels manned by 12,000 sailors and soldiers under the command of the Count de Torre. Unpropitious weather conditions, as so often in the case of Spanish naval undertakings, ruined the enterprise. Making for Bahia they were detained for two months in the Bay of All Saints by strong northerly winds. Meanwhile Joan Maurice, whose naval force at first was deplorably weak, had managed by energetic efforts to gather together a respectable fleet of forty vessels under Admiral Loos, which resembled the English fleet of 1588 under Effingham and Drake, in that it made up for lack of numbers and of size by superior seamanship and skill in manoeuvring. At length, the wind having shifted, the Count de [pg.176] Torre put to sea; and on January 12, 1640, the Dutch squadrons sighted the Spaniards, who were being driven along by a southerly gale which had sprung up. Clinging to their rear and keeping the weather-gauge, the Dutch kept up a running fight, inflicting continual losses on their enemies, and, giving them no opportunity to make for land and seek the shelter of a port, drove them northwards in disorder never to return. By this signal deliverance the hold of the Netherlanders upon their Brazilian conquests appeared to be assured; and, as has been already stated, Joan Maurice took full advantage of the opportunity that was offered to him to consolidate and extend them. A sudden change of political circumstances was, however, to bring to a rapid downfall a dominion which had never rested on a sound basis.
The revolt of Portugal in 1641 was at first hailed in the United Provinces as the entry of a new ally into the field against their ancient enemy the Spaniard. But it was soon perceived that there could be no friendship with independent Portugal, unless both the East and West India Companies withdrew from the territories they had occupied overseas entirely at the expense of the Portuguese. King João IV and his advisers at Lisbon, face to face as they were with the menacing Spanish power, showed willingness to make great concessions, but they could not control the spirit which animated the settlers in the colonies themselves. Everywhere the Spanish yoke was repudiated, and the Dutch garrisons in Brazil suddenly found themselves confronted in 1645 with a loyalist rising, with which they were not in a position to deal successfully. The West India Company had not proved a commercial success. The fitting out of great fleets and the maintenance of numerous garrisons of mercenaries at an immense distance from the home Country had exhausted their resources and involved the company in debt. The building of Mauritsstad and the carrying out of Joan Maurice's ambitious schemes for the administration and organisation of a great Brazilian dominion were grandiose, but very costly. The governor, moreover, who could brook neither incompetence nor interference on the part of his subordinates, had aroused the enmity of some of them, notably of a certain Colonel Architofsky, who through spite plotted and intrigued against him with the authorities at home. The result was that, the directors having declined to sanction certain proposals made to them by Joan Maurice, he sent [pg.177] in his resignation, which was accepted (1644). It must be remembered that their position was a difficult one. The charter of the company had been granted for a term of twenty-four years, and it was doubtful whether the States-General, already beginning to discuss secretly the question of a separate peace with Spain, would consent to renew it. The relations with Portugal were very delicate; and a formidable rebellion of the entire body of Portuguese settlers, aided by the natives, was on the point of breaking out. Indeed the successors of Joan Maurice, deprived of any adequate succour from home, were unable to maintain themselves against the skill and courage of the insurgent Portuguese leaders. The Dutch were defeated in the field, and one by one their fortresses were taken. The Reciff itself held out for some time, but it was surrendered at last in 1654; and with its fall the Dutch were finally expelled from the territory for the acquisition of which they had sacrificed so much blood and treasure.
The West India Company at the peace of Münster possessed, besides the remnant of its Brazilian dominion, the colony of New Netherland in North America, and two struggling settlements on the rivers Essequibo and Berbice in Guiana. New Netherland comprised the Country between the English colonies of New England and Virginia; and the Dutch settlers had at this time established farms near the coast and friendly relations with the natives of the interior, with whom they trafficked for furs. The appointment of Peter Stuyvesant as governor, in 1646, was a time of real development in New Netherland. This colony was an appanage of the Chamber of Amsterdam, after which New Amsterdam, the seat of government on the island of Manhattan, was named. The official trading posts on the Essequibo and the Berbice, though never abandoned, had for some years a mere lingering existence, but are deserving of mention in that they were destined to survive the vicissitudes of fortune and to become in the 18th century a valuable possession. Their importance also is to be measured not by the meagre official reports and profit and loss accounts that have survived in the West India Company's records, but by the much fuller information to be derived from Spanish and Portuguese sources, as to the remarkable daring and energy of Dutch trading agents in all that portion of the South American continent lying between the rivers Amazon and Orinoco. Expelled [pg.178] from the Amazon itself in 1627 by the Portuguese from Para, the Dutch traders established themselves at different times at the mouths of almost all the rivers along what was known as the Wild Coast of Guiana, and penetrating inland through a good understanding with the natives, especially with the ubiquitous Carib tribes, carried on a barter traffic beyond the mountains into the northern watershed of the Amazon, even as far as the Rio Negro itself. This trade with the interior finds no place in the company's official minutes, for it was strictly speaking an infringement of the charter, and therefore illegitimate. But it was characteristically Dutch, and it was winked at, for the chief offenders were themselves among the principal shareholders of the company.
No account of Dutch commerce during the period of Frederick Henry would be complete, however, which did not refer to the relations between Holland and Sweden, and the part played by an Amsterdam merchant in enabling the Swedish armies to secure the ultimate triumph of the Protestant cause in the Thirty Years' War. Louis de Geer sprang from an ancient noble family of Liège. His father fled to Dordrecht in 1595 to escape from the Inquisition and became prosperous in business. Liege was then, as now, a great centre of the iron industry; and after his father's death Louis de Geer in 1615 removed to Amsterdam, where he became a merchant in all kinds of iron and copper goods, more especially of ordnance and fire-arms. In close alliance with him, though not in partnership, was his brother-in-law, Elias Trip, the head of a firm reputed to have the most extensive business in iron-ware and weapons in the Netherlands. The commanding abilities of de Geer soon gave to the two firms, which continued to work harmoniously together as a family concern, a complete supremacy in the class of wares in which they dealt. At this time the chief supply of iron and copper ore came from Sweden; and in 1616 de Geer was sent on a mission by the States-General to that Country to negotiate for a supply of these raw materials for the forging of ordnance. This mission had important results, for it was the first step towards bringing about those close relations between Sweden and the United Provinces which were to subsist throughout the whole of the Thirty Years' War. In the following year, 1617, Gustavus Adolphus, then about to conduct an expedition into Livonia, sent an envoy to Holland for the purpose of securing the good offices of the States-General [pg.179] for the raising of a loan upon the security of the Swedish copper mines. The principal contributor was Louis de Geer. He had, during his visit to Sweden, learnt how great was the wealth of that Country in iron ore, and at the same time that the mines were lying idle and undeveloped through lack of capital and skilled workmen. He used his opportunity therefore to obtain from Gustavus the lease of the rich mining domain of Finspong. The lease was signed on October 12, 1619, and de Geer at once began operations on the largest scale. He introduced from Liège a body of expert Walloon iron-workers, built forges and factories, and was in a few years able to supply the Swedish government with all the ordnance and munitions of war that they required, and to export through the port of Norrköping large supplies of goods to his warehouses at Amsterdam. His relations with Gustavus Adolphus soon became intimate. The king relied upon de Geer for the supply of all the necessaries for his armies in the field, and even commissioned him to raise troops for the Swedish service. In 1626 the Dutch merchant was appointed by the king acting-manager of the copper mines, which were royal property; and, in order to regularise his position and give him greater facilities for the conduct of his enterprises, the rights of Swedish citizenship were conferred by royal patent upon him. It was a curious position, for though de Geer paid many visits to Sweden, once for three consecutive years, 1626-29, he continued to make Amsterdam his home and principal residence. He thus had a dual nationality. Year after year saw an increasing number of mines and properties passing into the great financier's hands, and in return for these concessions he made large advances to the king for his triumphant expedition into Germany; advancing him in 1628 50,000 rixdalers, and somewhat later a further sum of 32,000 rixdalers. So confidential were the relations between them that Gustavus sent for de Geer to his camp at Kitzingen for a personal consultation on business matters in the spring of 1632. It was their last interview, for before that year closed the Swedish hero was to perish at Lützen.
The death of Gustavus made no difference to the position of Louis de Geer in Sweden, for he found Axel Oxenstierna a warm friend and powerful supporter. Among other fresh enterprises was the formation of a Swedo-Dutch Company for trading on the West Coast of Africa. In this company Oxenstierna himself invested [pg.180] money. In reward for his many services the Swedish Council of Regency conferred upon de Geer and his heirs a patent of nobility (August 4,1641); and as part repayment of the large loans advanced by him to the Swedish treasury he obtained as his own the districts containing his mines and factories in different parts of Sweden, making him one of the largest landed proprietssors in the Country. He on his part in return for this was able to show in a remarkable way that he was not ungrateful for the favours that he had received.
With Christian IV of Denmark for many years the Swedes and the Dutch had had constant disputes and much friction. This able and ambitious king, throughout a long and vigorous reign, which began in 1593, had watched with ever-increasing jealousy the passing of the Baltic trade into Dutch hands, and with something more than jealousy the rapid advance to power of the sister Scandinavian kingdom under Gustavus Adolphus. Of the 1074 merchant ships that passed through the Sound between June 19 and November 16, 1645, all but 49 came from Dutch ports, by far the largest number from Amsterdam; and from these Christian IV drew a large revenue by the exaction of harsh and arbitrary toll-dues. Again and again the States-General had complained and protested; and diplomatic pressure had been brought to bear upon the high-handed king, but without avail. Between Sweden and Denmark there had been, since Gustavus Adolphus came to the throne in 1613, no overt act of hostility; but smouldering beneath the surface of an armed truce were embers of latent rivalries and ambitions ready at any moment to burst into flame. Christian IV was a Protestant, but his jealousy of Sweden led him in 1639 openly to take sides with the Catholic powers, Austria and Spain. Fearing that he might attempt to close the passage of the Sound, the States-General and the Swedish Regency in 1640 concluded a treaty "for securing the freedom and protection of shipping and commerce in the Baltic and North Seas"; and one of the secret articles gave permission to Sweden to buy or hire ships in the Netherlands and in case of necessity to enlist crews for the same. Outward peace was precariously maintained between the Scandinavian powers, when the seizure of a number of Swedish ships in the Sound in 1643 made Oxenstierna resolve upon a bold stroke. Without any declaration of war the Swedish general, Torstensson, was ordered to lead his victorious army from North Germany into Denmark [pg.181] and to force King Christian to cease intriguing with the enemy. Holstein, Schleswig and Jutland were speedily in Torstensson's hands, but the Danish fleet was superior to the Swedish, and he could make no further progress. Both sides turned to the United Provinces. Christian promised that the grievances in regard to the Sound dues should be removed if the States-General would remain neutral. Oxenstierna addressed himself to Louis de Geer. The merchant on behalf of the Swedish government was instructed to approach the Stadtholder and the States-General, and to seek for naval assistance under the terms of the treaty of 1640; and, if he failed in obtaining their assent, then he—de Geer—should himself (in conformance with the secret article of that treaty) raise on his own account and equip a fleet of thirty ships for the Swedish service.
De Geer soon discovered that Frederick Henry, being intent on peace negotiations, was averse to the proposal. The Stadtholder , and the States-General acting under his influence, did not wish to create fresh entanglements by embroiling the United Provinces in a war with Denmark. De Geer therefore at once began on his own responsibility to equip ships in the various seaports of Holland and Zeeland which had been the chief sufferers by the vexatious Sound dues, and he succeeded in enlisting the connivance of the Estates of Holland to his undertaking. Before the end of April, 1644, a fleet of thirty-two vessels was collected under the command of Marten Thijssen. Its first efforts were unsuccessful. The Danish fleet effectually prevented the junction of Thijssen with the Swedes, and for a time he found himself blockaded in a narrow passage called the Listerdiep. Taking advantage of a storm which dispersed the Danes, the Dutch admiral at last was able to put to sea again, and early in July somewhat ignominiously returned to Amsterdam to refit. For the moment King Christian was everywhere triumphant. On July 11 he gained a signal victory over the Swedish fleet at Colberg Heath, and he had the satisfaction of seeing Torstensson compelled by the Imperialists to retreat from Jutland. But the energy and pertinacity of the Amsterdam merchant saved the situation. Though the retreat of Thijssen meant for him a heavy financial loss, de Geer never for a moment faltered in his purpose. Within three weeks Thijssen again put to sea with twenty-two ships, and by skilful manoeuvring he succeeded in making his way [pg.182] through the Skagerak and the Sound, and finally brought his fleet to anchor in the Swedish harbour of Calmar. From this harbour the united Swedo-Dutch squadrons sailed out and on October 23, between Femern and Laaland, met the Danish fleet, and after a desperate conflict completely defeated and destroyed it. Thus were the wealth and resources of a private citizen of Amsterdam able to intervene decisively at a critical moment in the struggle for supremacy in the Baltic between the two Scandinavian powers. But it is not in the victory won by Marten Thijssen that de Geer rendered his greatest service to Sweden. As the Swedish historian Fryxell truly says, "all that was won by the statesmanship of Oxenstierna, by the sword of Baner, Torstensson and Wrangel, in a desolated Germany streaming with blood, has been already lost again; but the benefits which Louis de Geer brought to Sweden, by the path of peaceful industry and virtue, these still exist, and bear wholesome fruit to a late posterity."
This expedition under Marten Thijssen, who after his victory was created a Swedish noble and definitely entered the Swedish naval service, though connived at by Frederick Henry and the States-General, did not express any desire on their part to aggrandise Sweden unduly at the expense of Denmark. If some great merchants such as Louis de Geer and Elias Trip were exploiting the resources of Sweden, others, notably a certain Gabriel Marcelis, had invested their capital in developing the Danish grazing lands; and politically and commercially the question of the Sound dues, pre-eminently a Danish question, overshadowed all others in importance. The Dutch had no desire to give Sweden a share in the control of the Sound; they preferred in the interests of their vast Baltic trade to have to deal with Christian IV alone. The Swedish threat was useful in bringing diplomatic pressure to bear on the Danish king, but ultimately they felt confident that, if he refused to make concessions in the matter of the dues, they could compel him to do so. As one of their diplomatists proudly declared, "the wooden keys of the Sound were not in the hands of King Christian, but in the wharves of Amsterdam." In June, 1645, his words were put to a practical test. Admiral Witte de With at the head of a fleet of fifty war-ships was ordered to convoy 300 merchantmen through the Sound, peacefully if possible, if not, by force. Quietssly the entire fleet of 350 vessels sailed through the narrow waters. The Danish [pg.183] fleet and Danish forts made no attempt at resistance. All the summer De With cruised to and fro and the Dutch traders suffered no molestation. Christian's obstinacy at last gave way before this display of superior might, and on August 23, by the treaty of Christianopel he agreed to lower the tolls for forty years and to make many other concessions that were required from him. At the same time by Dutch mediation peace was concluded between Denmark and Sweden, distinctly to the advantage of the former, by the treaty of Brömsebro.
To pass to other regions. In the Levant, during the long residence of Cornelis Haga at Constantinople, trade had been greatly extended. Considerable privileges were conceded to the Dutch by the so-called "capitulation" concluded by his agency with the Porte in 1612; and Dutch consuls were placed in the chief ports of Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Tunis, Greece and Italy. The trading however with the Mediterranean and the Levant was left to private enterprise, the States-General which had given charters to the different Companies—East India, West India and Northern—not being willing to create any further monopolies.
The lack of coal and of metals has always seriously hindered industrial development in the United Provinces. Nevertheless the advent into Holland of so many refugees who were skilled artisans, from the southern Netherlands, led to the establishment of various textile industries at Leyden, Haarlem and other towns. One of the chief of these was the dressing and dyeing of English cloth for exportation.
Amsterdam, it should be mentioned, had already at this time become the home of the diamond industry. The art of cutting and polishing diamonds was a secret process brought to the city on the Y by Portuguese Jews, who were expelled by Philip II; and in Amsterdam their descendants still retain a peculiar skill and craftmanship that is unrivalled. Jewish settlers were indeed to be found in many of the Dutch towns; and it was through them that Holland became famous in 17th century Europe for the perfection of her goldsmiths' and silversmiths' art and for jewelry of every kind. Another industry, which had its centre at Delft, was that of the celebrated pottery and tiles known as "delfware." It will be evident from what has been said above that vast wealth flowed into Holland at this period of her history, but, as so often happens, this [pg.184] sudden growth of riches had a tendency to accumulate in the hands of a minority of the people, with the inevitable consequence, on the one hand, of the widening of the gulf which divided poverty from opulence; on the other, with the creation among rich and poor alike of a consuming eagerness and passion for gain, if not by legitimate means, then by wild speculation or corrupt venality. Bubble companies came into existence, only to bring disaster on those who rashly invested their money in them. The fever of speculation rose to its height in the mania for the growing of bulbs and more especially of tulips, which more and more absorbed the attention of the public in Holland in the years 1633-6. Perfectly inordinate sums were offered in advance for growing crops or for particular bulbs; most of the transactions being purely paper speculations, a gambling in futures. Millions of guilders were risked, and hundreds of thousands lost or won. In 1637 the crash came, and many thousands of people, in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leyden, Alkmaar and other towns in Holland, were brought to ruin. The Estates of Holland and the various municipal corporations, numbers of whose members were among the sufferers, were compelled to take official action to extend the time for the liquidation of debts, and thus to some extent limit the number of bankruptcies. The tulip mania reduced, however, so many to beggary that it came as a stern warning. It was unfortunately only too typical of the spirit of the time.
Even worse in some ways was the venality and corruption which began to pervade the public life of the Country. The getting of wealth, no matter how, was an epidemic, which infected not merely the business community, but the official classes of the republic. There was malversation in the admiralties and in the military administration. The government was in the hands of narrow oligarchies, who took good care to oppose jealously any extension of the privileges which placed so much valuable patronage at their disposal. Even envoys to foreign courts were reputed not to be inaccessible to the receipt of presents, which were in reality bribes; and in the law-courts the wealthy suitor or offender could generally Count on a charitable construction being placed upon all points in his favour. The severe placards, for instance, against the public celebration of any form of worship but that of the Reformed religion, according to the decrees of the Synod of Dort, were [pg.185] notoriously not enforced. Those who were able and willing to pay for a dispensation found a ready and judicious toleration.
This toleration was not entirely due to the venality of the officials, but rather to the spirit of materialistic indifference that was abroad among the orthodox Calvinists, who were alone eligible for public office. Large numbers of those who professed the established faith were in reality either nominal conformists too much immersed in affairs to trouble about religious questions, or actually free-thinkers in disguise. It must never be forgotten that in the United Provinces taken as a whole, the Calvinists, whether orthodox or arminian, formed a minority of the population. Even in Holland itself more than half the inhabitants were Catholics, including many of the old families and almost all the peasantry. Likewise in Utrecht, Gelderland and Overyssel the Catholics were in the majority. The Generality lands, North Brabant and Dutch Flanders, were entirely of the Roman faith. In Holland, Zeeland and especially in Friesland and Groningen the Mennonite Baptists and other sects had numerous adherents. Liberty of thought and to a large extent of worship was in fact at this time the characteristic of the Netherlands, and existed in spite of the unrepealed placards which enforced under pain of heavy penalties a strict adherence to the principles of Dort.