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 BATAVIAN REPUBLIC, 1795-1806
On January 19, 1795, Amsterdam fell into the hands of the advancing French troops. Daendels had previously caused a proclamation to be distributed which declared "that the representatives of the French people wished the Dutch nation to make themselves free; that they do not desire to oppress them as conquerors, but to ally themselves with them as with a free people." A complete change of the city government took place without any disturbance or shedding of blood. At the summons of the Revolutionary Committee the members of the Town Council left the Council Hall and were replaced by twenty-one citizens "as provisional representatives of the people of Amsterdam." Of this body Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck, a former advocate of the Council, was appointed president. The other towns, one after the other, followed in the steps of the capital. The patrician corporations were abolished and replaced by provisional municipal assemblies. Everywhere the downfall of the old régime was greeted with tumultuous joy by those large sections of the Dutch population which had imbibed revolutionary principles; and the French troops were welcomed by the "patriots" as brothers and deliverers. "Trees of Liberty," painted in the national colours, were erected in the principal squares; and the citizens, wearing "caps of liberty" danced round them hand in hand with the foreign soldiers. Feast-making, illuminations and passionate orations, telling that a new era of "liberty, fraternity and equality" had dawned for the Batavian people, were the order of the day. The Revolution was not confined to the town-corporations. At the invitation of the Amsterdam Committee and under the protection of the French representatives, deputations from fourteen towns met at the Hague on January 26. Taking possession of the Assembly Hall of the Estates of Holland and choosing as their president Pietsser Paulus, a man generally respected, this Provisional Assembly proceeded to issue a series of decrees subverting all the ancient institutions of the land. The representation by Estates and [pg.345] the offices of Stadtholder and of council-pensionary were abolished. The old colleges such as the Commissioned Councillors, the Admiralties, the Chamber of accounts, were changed into Committees for General Welfare, for War, for Marine, for Finance, etc. The other provinces in turn followed Holland's example; and the changes in the provincial administrations were then quickly extended to the States-General. These retained their name, but were now to be representative of the citizens of the whole land. The Council of State was transformed into a Committee for General Affairs; and a Colonial Council replaced the East and West India Companies and the Societssy of Surinam. To the Committee for General Affairs was entrusted the task of drawing up a plan for the summoning of a National Convention on March 4.
So far all had gone smoothly with the course of the revolutionary movement, so much so that its leaders seem almost to have forgotten that the land was in the occupation of a foreign conqueror. The unqualified recognition of Batavian independence, however, in the proclamation by Daendels had caused dissatisfaction in Paris. The Committee of Public Safety had no intention of throwing away the fruits of victory; and two members of the Convention, Cochon and Ramel, were despatched to Holland to report upon the condition of affairs. They arrived at the Hague on February 7. Both reports recommended that a war-indemnity should be levied on the Republic, but counselled moderation, for, though the private wealth of the Dutch was potentially large, the State was practically insolvent. These proposals were too mild to please the Committee of Public Safety. The new States-General had sent (March 3) two envoys, Van Blauw and Meyer, to Paris with instructions to propose a treaty of alliance and of commerce with France, to ask for the withdrawal of the French troops and that the land should not be flooded with assignats . The independence of the Batavian Republic was taken for granted. Very different were the conditions laid before them by Merlin de Douat, Rewbell and Siéyès. A war contribution of 100,000,000 florins was demanded, to be paid in ready money within three months, a loan of like amount at 3 per cent, and the surrender of all territory south of the Waal together with Dutch Flanders, Walcheren and South Beveland. Moreover there was to be no recognition of Batavian independence until a satisfactory treaty on the above lines was drawn up. [pg.346]
These hard conditions were on March 23 rejected by the States-General. Wiser counsels however prevented this point-blank refusal being sent to Paris, and it was hoped that a policy of delay might secure better terms. The negotiations went on slowly through March and April; and, as Blauw and Meyer had no powers as accredited plenipotentiaries, the Committee determined to send Rewbell and Siéyès to the Hague, armed with full authority to push matters through.
The envoys reached the Hague on May 8, and found the States-General in a more yielding mood than might have been expected from their previous attitude. Rewbell and Siéyès knew how to play upon the fears of the Provisional Government by representing to them that, if the terms they offered were rejected, their choice lay between French annexation or an Orange restoration. Four members were appointed by the States-General with full powers to negotiate. The conferences began on May 11; and in five days an agreement was reached. The Batavian Republic, recognised as a free and independent State, entered into an offensive and defensive alliance with the French Republic. But the Dutch had to cede Maestricht, Venloo and Dutch Flanders and to pay an indemnity of 100,000,000 florins. Flushing was to receive a French garrison, and its harbour was to be used in common by the two powers; 25,000 French troops were to be quartered in the Republic and were to be fed, clothed and paid. The Dutch were compelled to permit the free circulation of the worthless assignats in their Country.
One of the first results of this treaty was a breach with Great Britain. The Dutch coast was blockaded; British fleets stopped all sea-borne commerce; and the Dutch colonies in the East and West Indies were one after the other captured. The action of the Prince of Orange made this an easy task. William placed in the hands of the British commanders letters addressed to the governors of the Dutch colonies ordering them "to admit the troops sent out on behalf of his Britannic Majesty and to offer no resistance to the British warships, but to regard them as vessels of a friendly Power." The Cape of Good Hope surrendered to Admiral Rodney; and in quick succession followed Malacca, Ceylon and the Moluccas. A squadron of nine ships under Rear-Admiral Lucas, sent out to recover the Cape and the other East Indian possessions, was compelled to surrender to the English in Saldanha Bay on August 17, 1796, [pg.347] almost without resistance, owing to the Orange sympathies of the crews. The West Indian Colonies fared no better. Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice capitulated in the spring of 1796; Surinam remained in Dutch hands until 1799; Java until 1801. The occupation by the English of this island, the most important of all the Dutch overseas possessions, made the tale of their colonial losses complete. The offensive and defensive alliance with France had thus brought upon the Republic, as a trading and colonial power, a ruin which the efforts of the provisional government under French pressure to re-organise and strengthen their naval and military forces had been unable to prevent. The erstwhile exiles, Daendels and Dumonceau, who had attained the rank of generals in the French service, were on their return entrusted with the task of raising an army of 36,000 men, disciplined and equipped on the French system. The navy was dealt with by a special Committee, of which Pietsser Paulus was the energetic president. Unfortunately for the Committee, a large proportion of the officers and crews were strongly Orangist. Most of the officers resigned, and it was necessary to purge the crews. Their places had to be supplied by less experienced and trustworthy material; but Vice-Admiral Jan de Winter did his utmost to create a fleet in fit condition to join the French and Spanish fleets in convoying an expeditionary force to make a descent upon the coast of Ireland. In July, 1797, eighty ships were concentrated at the Texel with troops on board, ready to join the Franco-Spanish squadrons, which were to sail from Brest. But the junction was never effected. Week after week the Dutch admiral was prevented from leaving the Texel by contrary winds. The idea of an invasion of Ireland was given up, but so great was the disappointment in Holland and such the pressure exerted on De Winter by the Commission of Foreign Affairs, that he was obliged against his will to put to sea on October 7, and attack the English fleet under the command of Admiral Duncan, who was blockading the Dutch coast. The number of vessels on the two sides was not unequal, but neither officers nor crews under De Winter could compare in seamanship and experience with their opponents. The fleets met off Camperdown and the Dutch fought with their traditional bravery, but the defeat was complete. Out of sixteen ships of the line nine were taken, including the flag-ship of De Winter himself. [pg.348]
Meanwhile there had arisen strong differences of opinion in the Republic as to the form of government which was to replace the old confederacy of seven sovereign provinces. No one probably wished to continue a system which had long proved itself obsolete and unworkable. But particularism was still strong, especially in the smaller provinces. The Country found itself divided into two sharply opposed parties of Unitarians and federalists. The Unitarians were the most active, and meetings were held all over the Country by the local Jacobin clubs. Finally it was determined to hold a central meeting of delegates from all the clubs at the Hague. The meeting took place on Jan. 26, 1796, and resolutions were passed in favour of summoning a National Convention to draw up a new constitution on Unitarian lines. Holland and Utrecht pressed the matter forward in the States-General, and they had the support of Gelderland and Overyssel, but Zeeland, Friesland and Groningen refused their assent. Their action was very largely financial, as provinces whose indebtedness was small dreaded lest unification should increase their burden. But even in the recalcitrant provinces there were a large number of moderate men; and through the intervention of the French ambassador, Nöel, who gave strong support to the Unitarians, the proposal of Holland for a National Assembly to meet on March 1 was carried (February 18) by a unanimous vote. The following Provisional Regulation was then rapidly drawn up by a special committee. The land was divided into districts each containing 15,000 inhabitants; these again into fundamental assemblies ( grondvergaderingen ) of 500 persons; each of these assemblies chose an "elector" ( kiezer ); and then the group of thirty electors chose a deputy to represent the district. The National Assembly was in this way to consist of one hundred and twenty-six members; its deliberations were to be public, the voting individualistic and the majority to prevail. A Commission of twenty-one deputies was to be appointed, who were to frame a draft-Constitution, which after approval by the Assembly was to be submitted to the whole body of the people for acceptance or rejection.
The Assembly, having duly met on March 1, 1796, in the Binnenhof at the Hague, elected Pietsser Paulus as their president, but had the misfortune to lose his experienced direction very speedily. He had for some time been in bad health, and on March 17 he died. It fell [pg.349] to his lot to assist at the ceremonial closing of the last meeting of the States-General, which had governed the Republic of the United Netherlands for more than two centuries.
The National Assembly reflected the pronounced differences of opinion in the land. Orangist opinion had no representatives, although possibly more than half the population had Orange sympathies. All the deputies had accepted in principle French revolutionary ideas, but there were three distinct parties, the unitarians, the moderates and the federalists. The moderates, who were in a majority, occupied, as their name implied, an intermediate position between the unitarians or revolutionary party, who wished for a centralised republic after the French model, and the federalists or conservatives, who aimed at retaining so far as possible the rights of the several provinces and towns to manage their own affairs. The leaders of the unitarians were Vreede, Midderigh, Valckenier and Gogel; of the moderates Schimmelpenninck, Hahn and Kantelaur; of the federalists, Vitringa, Van Marle and De Mist. After the death of Pietsser Paulus the most influential man in an Assembly composed of politicians mostly without any parliamentary experience was the eloquent and astute Schimmelpenninck, whose opportunist moderation sprang from a natural dislike of extreme courses.
One of the first cares of the Assembly was the appointment of the Commission of twenty-one members to draw up a draft Constitution. The (so-styled) Regulation, representing the views of the moderate majority, was presented to the Assembly on November 10. The Republic was henceforth to be a unified state governed by the Sovereign People; but the old provinces, though now named departments, were to retain large administrative rights and their separate financial quotas. The draft met fierce opposition from the unitarians, but after much discussion and many amendments it was at length accepted by the majority. It had, however, before becoming law, to be submitted to the people; and the network of Jacobin clubs throughout the Country, under the leadership of the central club at Amsterdam, carried on a widespread and secret revolutionary propaganda against the Regulation. They tried to enlist the open co-operation of the French ambassador, Noël, but he, acting under the instruction of the cautious Talleyrand, was not disposed to commit himself.
The unitarian campaign was so successful that the Regulation, [pg.350] on being submitted to the Fundamental Assemblies, was rejected by 136,716 votes to 27,955. In these circumstances, as had been previously arranged by the Provisional Government, it was necessary to summon another National Assembly to draw up another draft Constitution. It met on September 1, 1797. The moderates, though they lost some seats, were still in a majority; and the new Commission of Twenty-One had, as before, federalistic leanings. The Unitarians, therefore, without awaiting their proposals, under the leadership of the stalwart revolutionary, Vreede, determined to take strong action. The coup d'état they planned was helped forward by two events. The first was the revolution in Paris of September 4, 1797, which led to the replacing of ambassador Noël by the pronounced Jacobin, Charles Delacroix. The other event was the disaster which befell the Dutch fleet at Camperdown, the blame for which was laid upon the Provisional Government.
Vreede and his confederates being assured by Delacroix of the supportof the new French Directory, and of the co-operation of the French General Joubert and of Daendels, the commander of the Batavian army, chose for the execution of their plan the week in which Midderigh, one of the confederates, took his turn as president of the Assembly. Midderigh, by virtue of his office, being in command of the Hague civic force, on January 22, 1798, seized and imprisoned the members of the Committee for Foreign Affairs and twenty-two members of the Assembly. The "Rump" then met, protected by a strong body of troops, and declared itself a Constituent Assembly representing the Batavian people. After the French model, an Executive Council was nominated, consisting of five members, Vreede, Fijnje, Fokker, Wildrik and Van Langen, and a new Commission of Seven to frame a Constitution. The "Regulation" was rejected; and the Assembly solemnly proclaimed its "unalterable aversion" to the Stadtholder ate, federalism, aristocracy and governmental decentralisation.
French influence was henceforth paramount; and the draft of the new Constitution, in the framing of which Delacroix took a leading part, was ready on March 6. Eleven days later it was approved by the Assembly. The Fundamental Assemblies in their turn assented to it by 165,520 votes to 11,597, considerable official pressure being exerted to secure this result; and the Constitution came thus into legal existence. Its principal provisions were directed to the complete [pg.351] obliteration of the old provincial particularism. The land was divided into eight departments, whose boundaries in no case coincided with those of the provinces. Holland was split up among five departments; that of the Amstel, with Amsterdam as its capital, being the only one that did not contain portions of two or more provinces. Each department was divided into seven circles; each of these returned one member; and the body of seven formed the departmental government. The circles in their turn were divided into communes, each department containing sixty or seventy. All these local administrations were, however, quite subordinate to the authority exercised by the central Representative Body. For the purpose of electing this body the land was divided into ninety-four districts; each district into forty "Fundamental Assemblies," each of 500 persons. The forty "electors" chosen by these units in their turn elected the deputy for the department. The ninety-four deputies formed the Representative Body, which was divided into two Chambers. The Second Chamber of thirty members was annually chosen by lot from the ninety-four, the other sixty-four forming the First Chamber. The framing and proposing of all laws was the prerogative of the First Chamber. The Second Chamber accepted or rejected these proposed laws, but for a second rejection a two-thirds majority was required. The Executive Power was vested in a Directorate of five persons, one of whom was to retire every year. To supply his place the Second Chamber chose one out of three persons selected by the First Chamber. The Directorate had the assistance of eight agents or ministers: Foreign Affairs, War, Marine, Finance, Justice, Police, Education, and Economy. Finance was nationalised, all charges and debts being borne in common. Church and State were separated, payments to the Reformed ministers from the State ceasing in three years.
Such was the project, but it was not to be carried into effect without another coup d'état . It was now the duty of the Constituent Assembly to proceed to the election of a Representative Body. Instead of this, on May 4, 1798, the Assembly declared itself to be Representative, so that power remained in the hands of the Executive Council, who were afraid of an election returning a majority of "moderates." But this autocratic act aroused considerable discontent amongst all except the extreme Jacobin faction. The opponents of the Executive Council found a leader in Daendels, [pg.352] who, strong "unionist" though he was, was dissatisfied with the arbitrary conduct of this self-constituted government, and more especially in matters connected with the army. Daendels betook himself to Paris, where he was favourably received by the Foreign Secretary, Talleyrand, and with his help was able to persuade the French Directory that it was not in their interest to support the Jacobin Council in their illegal retention of office. Daendels accordingly returned to Holland, where he found the French commander, Joubert, friendly to his project, and three of the "agents," including Pijman, the Minister of War, ready to help him. Placed in command of the troops at the Hague, Daendels (June 12, 1798) arrested the directors and the presidents of the two Chambers. The Constituent Assembly was dissolved and a new Representative Body was (July 31) elected. The moderates, as was expected, were in a considerable majority; and five members of that party, Van Hasselt, Hoeth, Van Haersolte, Van Hoeft and Ermerius were appointed Directors.
The Country was now at length in the enjoyment of a settled constitution based upon liberal principles and popular representation. Daendels, though his influence was great, never attempted to play the part of a military dictator; and, though party passions were strong, no political persecutions followed. Nevertheless troubled times awaited the Batavian Republic, and the Constitution of 1798 was not to have a long life.
The Emperor Paul of Russia had taken up arms with Great Britain and Austria against revolutionary France, and the hopes of the Orange party began to rise. The hereditary prince was very active and, though he was unable to move his brother-in-law, the King of Prussia, to take active steps in his favour, he succeeded in securing the intervention of an Anglo-Russian force on his behalf. In August, 1798, a strong English fleet under Admiral Duncan appeared off Texel and in the name of the Prince of Orange demanded the surrender of the Batavian fleet which lay there under Rear-Admiral Story. Story refused. A storm prevented the English from taking immediate action; but on the 26th a landing of troops was effected near Callantroog and the Batavian forces abandoned the Helder. Story had withdrawn his fleet to Vlietsser, but Orangist sympathies were strong among his officers and crews, and he was compelled to surrender. The ships, hoisting the Orange flag, became [pg.353] henceforth a squadron attached to the English fleet. Such was the humiliating end of the Batavian navy. The efforts of the hereditary prince to stir up an insurrection in Overyssel and Gelderland failed; and he thereupon joined the Anglo-Russian army, which, about 50,000 strong, was advancing under the command of the Duke of York to invade Holland. But York was an incompetent commander; there was little harmony between the British and Russian contingents; and the French and Batavians under Generals Brune and Daendels inflicted defeats upon them at Bergen (September 19), and at Castricum (October 6). York thereupon entered upon negotiations with Brune and was allowed to re-embark his troops for England, after restoration of the captured guns and prisoners. The expedition was a miserable fiasco.
At the very time when the evacuation of North Holland by invading armies was taking place, the Directory in Paris had been overthrown by Bonaparte (18 Brumaire, or Nov. 20), who now, with the title of First Consul, ruled France with dictatorial powers. The conduct of the Batavian government during these transactions had not been above suspicion; and Bonaparte at once replaced Brune by Augereau, and sent Sémonville as ambassador in place of Deforgues. He was determined to compel the Batavian Republic to comply strictly with the terms imposed by the treaty of 1795, and demanded more troops and more money. In vain the Executive Council, by the mouth of its ambassador, Schimmelpenninck, protested its inability to satisfy those demands. Augereau was inexorable, and there was no alternative but to obey. But the very feebleness of the central government made Bonaparte resolve on a revision of the constitution in an anti-democratic direction. Augereau acted as an intermediary between him and the Executive Council. Three of the directors favoured his views, the other two opposed them. The Representative Body, however, rejected all proposals for a revision. On this the three called in the aid of Augereau, who suspended the Representative Body and closed the doors of its hall of meeting. The question was now referred to the Fundamental Assemblies. On October 1, 1801, the voting resulted in 52,279 noes against 16,771 yeas. About 350,000 voters abstained, but these were declared to be "yeas"; and the new constitution became on October 16 the law of the land.
The Constitution of 1801 placed the executive power in the hands [pg.354] of a State-Government of twelve persons. The three directors chose seven others, who in their turn chose five more, amongst these the above-named three, to whom they owed their existence. With this State-Government was associated a Legislative Body of 35 members, who met twice in the year and whose only function was to accept without amendment, or to reject, the proposalsof the Executive Body. The "agents" were abolished and replaced by small councils, who administered the various departments of State. Considerable administrative powers were given to the local governments, and the boundaries of the eight departments, Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Overyssel (in which Drente was included), Gelderland, Groningen, Friesland, and Brabant, were made to coincide largely with those of the old provinces. The aim of the new Constitution was efficiency, the reconciliation of the moderate elements both of the federalist and unitarian parties, and the restraint alike of revolutionary and Orangist intrigues.
It began its course in fortunate circumstances. The long-wished-for peace was concluded at Amiens on March 27, 1802. It was signed by Schimmelpenninck, as the representative of the Batavian Republic, but he had not been allowed to have any influence upon the decisions. Great Britain restored all the captured colonies, except Ceylon; and the house of Orange was indemnified by the grant of the secularised Bishopric of Fulda, the abbeys of Korvey and Weingarten, together with the towns of Dortmund, Isny and Buchhorn. The hereditary prince, as his father refused to reside in this new domain, undertook the duties of government. William V preferred to live on his Nassau Estates. He died at Brunswick in 1806.
The peace was joyfully welcomed in Holland, for it removed the British blockade and gave a promise of the revival of trade. But all the hopes of better times were blighted with the fresh outbreak of war in 1803. All the colonial possessions were again lost; and a new treaty of alliance, which the State-Government was compelled to conclude with France, led to heavy demands. The Republic was required to provide for the quartering and support of 18,000 French troops and 16,000 Batavians under a French general. Further, a fleet of ten ships of war was to be maintained, and 350 flat-bottomed transports built for the conveyance of an invading army to England. These demands were perforce complied with. Nevertheless Napoleon was far from satisfied with the [pg.355] State-Government, which he regarded as inefficient and secretly hostile. In Holland itself it was hated, because of the heavy charges it was obliged to impose. Bonaparte accordingly determined to replace it and to concentrate the executive power in a single person. The Legislative Body was to remain, but the head of the State was to bear the title of council-pensionary, and was to be elected for a period of five years. Schimmelpenninck was designated for this post. Referred to a popular vote, the new Constitution was approved by 14,230 against 136; about 340,000 abstained from voting. On April 29, 1805, Schimmelpenninck entered into office as council-pensionary. He was invested with monarchical authority. The executive power, finance, the army and navy, the naming of ambassadors, the proposing of legislation, were placed in his hands. He was assisted by a Council of State, nominated by himself, of five members, and by six Secretaries of State. The Legislative Body was reduced to nineteen members, appointed by the Departmental Governments. They met twice in the year and could accept or reject the proposalsof the council-pensionary, but not amend them.
Schimmelpenninck was honest and able, and during the brief period of his administration did admirable work. With the aid of the accomplished financier Gogel, who had already done much good service to his Country in difficult circumstances, he, by spreading the burdens of taxation equally over all parts of the land and by removing restrictive customs and duties, succeeded in reducing largely the deficits in the annual balance-sheet. He also was the first to undertake seriously the improvement of primary education. But it was not Napoleon's intention to allow the council-pensionary to go on with the good work he had begun. The weakening of Schimmelpenninck's eyesight, through cataract, gave the emperor the excuse for putting an end to what he regarded as a provisional system of government, and for converting Holland into a dependent kingdom under the rule of his brother Louis. Admiral Verhuell, sent to Paris at Napoleon's request on a special mission, was bluntly informed that Holland must choose between the acceptance of Louis as their king, or annexation. On Verhuell's return with the report of the emperor's ultimatum, the council-pensionary (April 10, 1806) summoned the Council of State, the Secretaries and the Legislative Body to meet together as an Extraordinary Committee and deliberate on what were best to be done. It was resolved to send [pg.356] a deputation to Paris to try to obtain from Napoleon the relinquishment, or at least a modification, of his demand. Their efforts were in vain; Napoleon's attitude was peremptory. The Hague Committee must within a week petition that Louis Bonaparte might be their king, or he would take the matter into his own hands. The Committee, despite the opposition of Schimmelpenninck, finding resistance hopeless, determined to yield. The deputation at Paris was instructed accordingly to co-operate with the emperor in the framing of a new monarchical constitution. It was drawn up and signed on May 23; and a few days later it was accepted by the Hague Committee. Schimmelpenninck, however, refused to sign it and resigned his office on June 4, explaining in a dignified letter his reasons for doing so. Verhuell, at the head of a deputation (June 5), now went through the farce of begging the emperor in the name of the Dutch people to allow his brother, Louis, to be their king. Louis accepted the proffered sovereignty "since the people desires and Your Majesty commands it." On June 15 the new king left Paris and a week later arrived at the Hague, accompanied by his wife, Hortense de Beauharnais, Napoleon's step-daughter.