A+ A A-


Lardner's ‘Cyclop.’ vol. x. 1830



Frederick Henry succeeded to almost all his brother's titles and employments, and found his new dignities clogged with an accumulation of difficulties sufficient to appall the most determined spirit. Everything seemed to justify alarm and despondency. If the affairs of the republic in India wore an aspect of prosperity, those in Europe presented a picture of past disaster and approaching peril. Disunion and discontent, an almost insupportable weight of taxation, and the disputes of which it was the fruitful source, formed the subjects of internal ill. Abroad was to be seen navigation harassed and trammelled by the pirates of Dunkirk; and the almost defenceless frontiers of the republic exposed to the irruptions of the enemy. The king of Denmark, who endeavored to make head against the imperialist and Spanish forces, was beaten by Tilly, and made to tremble for the safety of his own States. England did nothing toward the common cause of Protestantism, in consequence of the weakness of the monarch; and civil dissensions for a while disabled France from resuming the system of Henry IV. for humbling the House of Austria.

 Frederick Henry was at this period in his forty-second year. His military reputation was well established; he soon proved his political talents. He commenced his career by a total change in the tone of government on the subject of sectarian differences. He exercised several acts of clemency in favor of the imprisoned and exiled Arminians, at the same time that he upheld the dominant religion. By these measures he conciliated all parties; and by degrees the fierce spirit of intolerance became subdued. The foreign relations of the United Provinces now presented the anomalous policy of a fleet furnished by the French king, manned by rigid Calvinists, and commanded by a grandson of Admiral Coligny, for the purpose of combating the remainder of the French Huguenots, whom they considered as brothers in religion, though political foes; and during the joint expedition which was undertaken by the allied French and Dutch troops against Rochelle, the stronghold of Protestantism, the preachers of Holland put up prayers for the protection of those whom their army was marching to destroy. The states-general, ashamed of this unpopular union, recalled their fleet, after some severe fighting with that of the Huguenots. Cardinal Richelieu and the king of France were for a time furious in their displeasure; but interests of state overpowered individual resentments, and no rupture took place.

 Charles I. had now succeeded his father on the English throne. He renewed the treaty with the republic, which furnished him with twenty ships to assist his own formidable fleet in his war against Spain. Frederick Henry had, soon after his succession to the chief command, commenced an active course of martial operations, and was successful in almost all his enterprises. He took Groll and several other towns; and it was hoped that his successes would have been pushed forward upon a wider field of action against the imperial arms; but the States prudently resolved to act on the defensive by land, choosing the sea for the theatre of their more active operations. All the hopes of a powerful confederation against the emperor and the king of Spain seemed frustrated by the war which now broke out between France and England. The states-general contrived by great prudence to maintain a strict neutrality in this quarrel. They even succeeded in mediating a peace between the rival powers, which was concluded the following year; and in the meantime they obtained a more astonishing and important series of triumphs against the Spanish fleets than had yet been witnessed in naval conflicts.

 The West India Company had confided the command of their fleet to Peter Hein, a most intrepid and intelligent sailor, who proved his own merits, and the sagacity of his employers on many occasions, two of them of an extraordinary nature. In 1627, he defeated a fleet of twenty-six vessels, with a much inferior force. In the following year, he had the still more brilliant good fortune, near Havana, in the island of Cuba, in an engagement with the great Spanish armament, called the Money Fleet, to indicate the immense wealth which it contained. The booty was safely carried to Amsterdam, and the whole of the treasure, in money, precious stones, indigo, etc., was estimated at the value of twelve million florins. This was indeed a victory worth gaining, won almost without bloodshed, and raising the republic far above the manifold difficulties by which it had been embarrassed. Hein perished in the following year, in a combat with some of the pirates of Dunkirk--those terrible freebooters whose name was a watchword of terror during the whole continuance of the war.

 The year 1629 brought three formidable armies at once to the frontiers of the republic, and caused a general dismay all through the United Provinces; but the immense treasures taken from the Spaniards enabled them to make preparations suitable to the danger; and Frederick Henry, supported by his cousin William of Nassau, his natural brother Justin, and other brave and experienced officers, defeated every effort of the enemy. He took many towns in rapid succession; and finally forced the Spaniards to abandon all notion of invading the territories of the republic. Deprived of the powerful talents of Spinola, who was called to command the Spanish troops in Italy, the armies of the archduchess, under the Count of Berg, were not able to cope with the genius of the Prince of Orange. The consequence was the renewal of negotiations for a second truce. But these were received on the part of the republic with a burst of opposition. All parties seemed decided on that point; and every interest, however opposed on minor questions, combined to give a positive negative on this.

 The gratitude of the Country for the services of Frederick Henry induced the provinces of which he was Stadtholder to grant the reversion in this title to his son, a child of three years old; and this dignity had every chance of becoming as absolute, as it was now pronounced almost hereditary, by the means of an army of one hundred and twenty thousand men devoted to their chief. However, few military occurrences took place, the sea being still chosen as the element best suited to the present enterprises of the republic. In the widely-distant settlements of Brazil and Batavia, the Dutch were equally successful; and the East and West India companies acquired eminent power and increasing solidity.

 The year 1631 was signalized by an expedition into Flanders, consisting of eighteen thousand men, intended against Dunkirk, but hastily abandoned, in spite of every probability of success, by the commissioners of the states-general, who accompanied the army, and thwarted all the ardor and vigor of the Prince of Orange. But another great naval victory in the narrow seas of Zealand recompensed the disappointments of this inglorious affair.

 The splendid victories of Augustus Adolphus against the imperial arms in Germany changed the whole face of European affairs. Protestantism began once more to raise its head; and the important conquests by Frederick Henry of almost all the strong places on the Meuse, including Maestricht, the strongest of all, gave the United Provinces their ample share in the glories of the war. The death of the archduchess Isabella, which took place at Brussels in the year 1633, added considerably to the difficulties of Spain in the Belgian provinces. The defection of the Count of Berg, the chief general of their armies, who was actuated by resentment on the appointment of the marquis of St. Croix over his head, threw everything into confusion, in exposing a widespread confederacy among the nobility of these provinces to erect themselves into an independent republic, strengthened by a perpetual alliance with the United Provinces against the power of Spain. But the plot failed, chiefly, it is said, by the imprudence of the king of England, who let the secret slip, from some motives vaguely hinted at, but never sufficiently explained. After the death of Isabella, the prince of Brabancon was arrested. The prince of Epinoi and the Duke of Burnonville made their escape; and the Duke of Arschot, who was arrested in Spain, was soon liberated, in consideration of some discoveries into the nature of the plot. An armistice, published in 1634, threw this whole affair into complete oblivion.

 The king of Spain appointed his brother Ferdinand, a cardinal and archbishop of Toledo, to the dignity of governor-general of the Netherlands. He repaired to Germany at the head of seventeen thousand men, and bore his share in the victory of Nordlingen; after which he hastened to the Netherlands, and made his entry into Brussels in 1634. Richelieu had hitherto only combated the house of Austria in these Countries by negotiation and intrigue; but he now entered warmly into the proposals made by Holland for a treaty offensive and defensive between Louis XIII. and the republic. By a treaty soon after concluded (February 8, 1635) the king of France engaged to invade the Belgian provinces with an army of thirty thousand men, in concert with a Dutch force of equal number. It was agreed that if Belgium would consent to break from the Spanish yoke it was to be erected into a free state; if, on the contrary, it would not co-operate for its own freedom, France and Holland were to dismember, and to divide it equally.

 The plan of these combined measures was soon acted on. The French army took the field under the command of the marshals De Chatillon and De Breeze; and defeated the Spaniards in a bloody battle, near Avein, in the province of Luxemburg, on the 20th of May, 1635, with the loss of four thousand men. The victors soon made a junction with the Prince of Orange; and the towns of Tirlemont, St. Trond, and some others, were quickly reduced. The former of these places was taken by assault, and pillaged with circumstances of cruelty that recall the horrors of the early transactions of the war. The Prince of Orange was forced to punish severely the authors of these offences. The consequences of this event were highly injurious to the allies. A spirit of fierce resistance was excited throughout the invaded provinces. Louvain set the first example. The citizens and students took arms for its defence; and the combined forces of France and Holland were repulsed, and forced by want of supplies to abandon the siege, and rapidly retreat. The prince-cardinal, as Ferdinand was called, took advantage of this reverse to press the retiring French; recovered several towns; and gained all the advantages as well as glory of the campaign. The remains of the French army, reduced by continual combats, and still more by sickness, finally embarked at Rotterdam, to return to France in the ensuing spring, a sad contrast to its brilliant appearance at the commencement of the campaign.

 The military events for several ensuing years present nothing of sufficient interest to induce us to record them in detail. A perpetual succession of sieges and skirmishes afford a monotonous picture of isolated courage and skill; but we see none of those great conflicts which bring out the genius of opposing generals, and show war in its grand results, as the decisive means of enslaving or emancipating mankind. The prince-cardinal, one of the many who on this bloody theatre displayed consummate military talents, incessantly employed himself in incursions into the bordering provinces of France, ravaged Picardy, and filled Paris with fear and trembling. He, however, reaped no new laurels when he came into contact with Frederick Henry, who, on almost every occasion, particularly that of the siege of Breda, in 1637, carried his object in spite of all opposition. The triumphs of war were balanced; but Spain and the Belgian provinces, so long upheld by the talent of the governor-general, were gradually become exhausted. The revolution in Portugal, and the succession of the Duke of Braganza, under the title of John IV., to the throne of his ancestors, struck a fatal blow to the power of Spain. A strict alliance was concluded between the new monarch of France and Holland; and hostilities against the common enemy were on all sides vigorously continued.

 The successes of the republic at sea and in their distant enterprises were continual, and in some instances brilliant. Brazil was gradually falling into the power of the West India Company. The East India possessions were secure. The great victory of Van Tromp, known by the name of the battle of the Downs, from being fought off the coast of England, on the 21st of October, 1639, raised the naval reputation of Holland as high as it could well be carried. Fifty ships taken, burned, and sunk, were the proofs of their admiral's triumph; and the Spanish navy never recovered the loss. The victory was celebrated throughout Europe, and Van Tromp was the hero of the day. The king of England was, however, highly indignant at the hardihood with which the Dutch admiral broke through the etiquette of territorial respect, and destroyed his Country's bitter foes under the very sanction of English neutrality. But the subjects of Charles I. did not partake their monarch's feelings. They had no sympathy with arbitrary and tyrannic government; and their joy at the misfortune of their old enemies the Spaniards gave a fair warning of the spirit which afterward proved so fatal to the infatuated king, who on this occasion would have protected and aided them.

 In an unsuccessful enterprise in Flanders, Count Henry Casimir of Nassau was mortally wounded, adding another to the list of those of that illustrious family whose lives were lost in the service of their Country. His brother, Count William Frederick, succeeded him in his office of Stadtholder of Friesland; but the same dignity in the provinces of Groningen and Drent devolved on the Prince of Orange. The latter had conceived the desire of a royal alliance for his son William. Charles I. readily assented to the proposal of the states-general that this young prince should receive the hand of his daughter Mary. Embassies were exchanged; the conditions of the contract agreed on; but it was not till two years later that Van Tromp, with an escort of twenty ships, conducted the princess, then twelve years old, to the Country of her future husband. The republic did not view with an eye quite favorable this advancing aggrandizement of the House of Orange. Frederick Henry had shortly before been dignified by the king of France, at the suggestion of Richelieu, with the title of "highness," instead of the inferior one of "excellency"; and the states-general, jealous of this distinction granted to their chief magistrate, adopted for themselves the sounding appellation of "high and mighty lords." The Prince of Orange, whatever might have been his private views of ambition, had however the prudence to silence all suspicion, by the mild and moderate use which he made of the power, which he might perhaps have wished to increase, but never attempted to abuse.

 On the 9th of November, 1641, the prince-cardinal Ferdinand died at Brussels in his thirty-third year; another instance of those who were cut off, in the very vigor of manhood, from worldly dignities and the exercise of the painful and inauspicious duties of governor-general of the Netherlands. Don Francisco de Mello, a nobleman of highly reputed talents, was the next who obtained this onerous situation. He commenced his governorship by a succession of military operations, by which, like most of his predecessors, he is alone distinguished. Acts of civil administration are scarcely noticed by the historians of these men. Not one of them, with the exception of the archDuke Albert, seems to have valued the internal interests of the government; and he alone, perhaps, because they were declared and secured as his own. De Mello, after taking some towns, and defeating the marshal De Guiche in the battle of Hannecourt, tarnished all his fame by the great faults which he committed in the famous battle of Rocroy. The Duke of Enghien, then twenty-one years of age, and subsequently so celebrated as the great Cond��, completely defeated De Mello, and nearly annihilated the Spanish and Walloon infantry. The military operations of the Dutch army were this year only remarkable by the gallant conduct of Prince William, son of the Prince of Orange, who, not yet seventeen years of age, defeated, near Hulst, under the eyes of his father, a Spanish detachment in a very warm skirmish.

 Considerable changes were now insensibly operating in the policy of Europe. Cardinal Richelieu had finished his dazzling but tempestuous career of government, in which the hand of death arrested him on the 4th of December, 1642. Louis XIII. soon followed to the grave him who was rather his master than his minister. Anne of Austria was declared regent during the minority of her son, Louis XIV., then only five years of age; and Cardinal Mazarin succeeded to the station from which death alone had power to remove his predecessor.

 The civil wars in England now broke out, and their terrible results seemed to promise to the republic the undisturbed sovereignty of the seas. The Prince of Orange received with great distinction the mother-in-law of his son, when she came to Holland under pretext of conducting her daughter; but her principal purpose was to obtain, by the sale of the crown jewels and the assistance of Frederick Henry, funds for the supply of her unfortunate husband's cause.

 The prince and several private individuals contributed largely in money; and several experienced officers passed over to serve in the royalist army of England. The provincial states of Holland, however, sympathizing wholly with the parliament, remonstrated with the Stadtholder ; and the Dutch colonists encouraged the hostile efforts of their brethren, the Puritans of Scotland, by all the absurd exhortations of fanatic zeal. Boswell, the English resident in the name of the king, and Strickland, the ambassador from the parliament, kept up a constant succession of complaints and remonstrances on occasion of every incident which seemed to balance the conduct of the republic in the great question of English politics. Considerable differences existed: the province of Holland, and some others, leaned toward the parliament; the Prince of Orange favored the king; and the states-general endeavored to maintain a neutrality.

 The struggle was still furiously maintained in Germany. Generalsof the first order of military talent were continually appearing, and successively eclipsing each other by their brilliant actions. Gustavus Adolphus was killed in the midst of his glorious career, at the battle of Lutzen; the Duke of Weimar succeeded to his command, and proved himself worthy of the place; Tilly and the celebrated Wallenstein were no longer on the scene. The emperor Ferdinand II. was dead, and his son Ferdinand III. saw his victorious enemies threaten, at last, the existence of the empire. Everything tended to make peace necessary to some of the contending powers, as it was at length desirable for all. Sweden and Denmark were engaged in a bloody and wasteful conflict. The United Provinces sent an embassy, in the month of June, 1644, to each of those powers; and by a vigorous demonstration of their resolution to assist Sweden, if Denmark proved refractory, a peace was signed the following year, which terminated the disputes of the rival nations.

 Negotiations were now opened at Munster between the several belligerents. The republic was, however, the last to send its plenipotentiaries there; having signed anew treaty with France, by which they mutually stipulated to make no peace independent of each other. It behooved the republic, however, to contribute as much as possible toward the general object; for, among other strong motives to that line of conduct, the finances of Holland were in a state perfectly deplorable.

 Every year brought the necessity of a new loan; and the public debt of the provinces now amounted to one hundred and fifty million florins, bearing interest at six and a quarter per cent. Considerable alarm was excited at the progress of the French army in the Belgian provinces; and escape from the tyranny of Spain seemed only to lead to the danger of submission to a nation too powerful and too close at hand not to be dangerous, either as a foe or an ally. These fears were increased by the knowledge that Cardinal Mazarin projected a marriage between Louis XIV. and the infanta of Spain, with the Belgian provinces, or Spanish Netherlands as they were now called, for her marriage portion. This project was confided to the Prince of Orange, under the seal of secrecy, and he was offered the marquisate of Antwerp as the price of his influence toward effecting the plan. The prince revealed the whole to the states-general. Great fermentation was excited; the Stadtholder himself was blamed, and suspected of complicity with the designs of the cardinal. Frederick Henry was deeply hurt at this want of confidence, and the injurious publications which openly assailed his honor in a point where he felt himself entitled to praise instead of suspicion.

 The French labored to remove the impression which this affair excited in the republic; but the states-general felt themselves justified by the intriguing policy of Mazarin in entering into a secret negotiation with the king of Spain, who offered very favorable conditions. The negotiations were considerably advanced by the marked disposition evinced by the Prince of Orange to hasten the establishment of peace. Yet, at this very period, and while anxiously wishing this great object, he could not resist the desire for another campaign; one more exploit, to signalize the epoch at which he finally placed his sword in the scabbard.

 Frederick Henry was essentially a soldier, with all the spirit of his race; and this evidence of the ruling passion, while he touched the verge of the grave, is one of the most striking points of his character. He accordingly took the field; but, with a constitution broken by a lingering disease, he was little fitted to accomplish any feat worthy of his splendid reputation. He failed in an attempt on Venlo, and another on Antwerp, and retired to The Hague, where for some months he rapidly declined. On the 14th of March, 1647, he expired, in his sixty-third year; leaving behind him a character of unblemished integrity, prudence, toleration, and valor. He was not of that impetuous stamp which leads men to heroic deeds, and brings danger to the states whose liberty is compromised by their ambition. He was a striking contrast to his brother Maurice, and more resembled his father in many of those calmer qualities of the mind, which make men more beloved without lessening their claims to admiration. Frederick Henry had the honor of completing the glorious task which William began and Maurice followed up. He saw the oppression they had combated now humbled and overthrown; and he forms the third in a sequence of family renown, the most surprising and the least checkered afforded by the annalsof Europe.

 William II. succeeded his father in his dignities; and his ardent spirit longed to rival him in war. He turned his endeavors to thwart all the efforts for peace. But the interests of the nation and the dying wishes of Frederick Henry were of too powerful influence with the states, to be overcome by the martial yearnings of an inexperienced youth. The negotiations were pressed forward; and, despite the complaints, the murmurs, and the intrigues of France, the treaty of Munster was finally signed by the respective ambassadors of the United Provinces and Spain, on the 30th of January, 1648. This celebrated treaty contains seventy-nine articles. Three points were of main and vital importance to the republic: the first acknowledges an ample and entire recognition of the sovereignty of the states-general, and a renunciation forever of all claims on the part of Spain; the second confirms the rights of trade and navigation in the East and West Indies, with the possession of the various Countries and stations then actually occupied by the contracting powers; the third guarantees a like possession of all the provinces and towns of the Netherlands, as they then stood in their respective occupation--a clause highly favorable to the republic, which had conquered several considerable places in Brabant and Flanders. The ratifications of the treaty were exchanged at Munster with great solemnity on the 15th of May following the signature; the peace was published in that town and in Osnaburg on the 19th, and in all the different states of the king of Spain and the United Provinces as soon as the joyous intelligence could reach such various and widely separated destinations. Thus after eighty years of unparalleled warfare, only interrupted by the truce of 1609, during which hostilities had not ceased in the Indies, the new republic rose from the horrors of civil war and foreign tyranny to its uncontested rank as a free and independent state among the most powerful nations of Europe. No Country had ever done more for glory; and the result of its efforts was the irrevocable guarantee of civil and religious liberty, the great aim and end of civilization.

 The king of France alone had reason to complain of this treaty: his resentment was strongly pronounced. But the United Provinces flung back the reproaches of his ambassador on Cardinal Mazarin; and the anger of the monarch was smothered by the policy of the minister.

 The internal tranquillity of the republic was secured from all future alarm by the conclusion of the general peace of Westphalia, definitively signed on the 24th of October, 1648. This treaty was long considered not only as the fundamental law of the empire, but as the basis of the political system of Europe. As numbers of conflicting interests were reconciled, Germanic liberty secured, and a just equilibrium established between the Catholics and Protestants, France and Sweden obtained great advantages; and the various princes of the empire saw their possessions regulated and secured, at the same time that the powers of the emperor were strictly defined.

 This great epoch in European history naturally marks the conclusion of another in that of the Netherlands; and this period of general repose allows a brief consideration of the progress of arts, sciences, and manners, during the half century just now completed.

 The archDukes Albert and Isabella, during the whole course of their sovereignty, labored to remedy the abuses which had crowded the administration of justice. The Perpetual Edict, in 1611, regulated the form of judicial proceedings; and several provinces received new charters, by which the privileges of the people were placed on a footing in harmony with their wants. Anarchy, in short, gave place to regular government; and the archDukes, in swearing to maintain the celebrated pact known by the name of the Joyeuse Entree, did all in their power to satisfy their subjects, while securing their own authority. The pietssy of the archDukes gave an example to all classes. This, although degenerating in the vulgar to superstition and bigotry, formed a severe check, which allowed their rulers to restrain popular excesses, and enabled them in the internal quietss of their despotism to soften the people by the encouragement of the sciences and arts. Medicine, astronomy, and mathematics, made prodigious progress during this epoch. Several eminent men flourished in the Netherlands. But the glory of others, in Countries presenting a wider theatre for their renown, in many instances eclipsed them; and the inventors of new methods and systems in anatomy, optics and music were almost forgotten in the splendid improvements of their followers.

 In literature, Hugo de Groot, or Grotius (his Latinized name, by which he is better known), was the most brilliant star of his Country or his age, as Erasmus was of that which preceded. He was at once eminent as jurist, poet, theologian, and historian. His erudition was immense; and he brought it to bear in his political capacity, as ambassador from Sweden to the court of France, when the violence of party and the injustice of power condemned him to perpetual imprisonment in his native land. The religious disputations in Holland had given a great impulse to talent. They were not mere theological arguments; but with the wild and furious abstractions of bigotry were often blended various illustrations from history, art, and science, and a tone of keen and delicate satire, which at once refined and made them readable. It is remarkable that almost the whole of the Latin writings of this period abound in good taste, while those written in the vulgar tongue are chiefly coarse and trivial. Vondel and Hooft, the great poets of the time, wrote with genius and energy, but were deficient in judgment founded on good taste. The latter of these writers was also distinguished for his prose works; in honor of which Louis XIII. dignified him with letters patent of nobility, and decorated him with the order of St. Michael.

 But while Holland was more particularly distinguished by the progress of the mechanical arts, to which Prince Maurice afforded unbounded patronage, the Belgian provinces gave birth to that galaxy of genius in the art of painting, which no equal period of any other Country has ever rivalled. A volume like this would scarcely suffice to do justice to the merits of the eminent artists who now flourished in Belgium; at once founding, perfecting, and immortalizing the Flemish school of painting. Rubens, Vandyck, Teniers, Crayer, Jordaens, Sneyders, and a host of other great names, crowd on us with claims for notice that almost make the mention of any an injustice to the rest. But Europe is familiar with their fame; and the widespread taste for their delicious art makes them independent of other record than the combination of their own exquisite touch, undying tints, and unequalled knowledge of nature. Engraving, carried at the same time to great perfection, has multiplied some of the merits of the celebrated painters, while stamping the reputation of its own professors. Sculpture, also, had its votaries of considerable note. Among these, Des Jardins and Quesnoy held the foremost station. Architecture also produced some remarkable names.

 The arts were, in short, never held in higher honor than at this brilliant epoch. Otto Venire, the master of Rubens, held most important employments. Rubens himself, appointed secretary to the privy council of the archDukes, was subsequently sent to England, where he negotiated the peace between that Country and Spain. The unfortunate King Charles so highly esteemed his merit that he knighted him in full parliament, and presented him with the diamond ring he wore on his own finger, and a chain enriched with brilliants. David Teniers, the great pupil of this distinguished master, met his due share of honor. He has left several portraits of himself; one of which hands him down to posterity in the costume, and with the decorations of the belt and key, which he wore in his capacity of chamberlain to the archDuke Leopold, governor-general of the Spanish Netherlands.

 The intestine disturbances of Holland during the twelve years' truce, and the enterprises against Friesland and the duchy of Cleves, had prevented that wise economy which was expected from the republic. The annual ordinary cost of the military establishment at that period amounted to thirteen million florins. To meet the enormous expenses of the state, taxes were raised on every material. They produced about thirty million florins a year, independent of five million each for the East and West India companies. The population in 1620, in Holland, was about six hundred thousand, and the other provinces contained about the same number.

 It is singular to observe the fertile erections of monopoly in a state founded on principles of commercial freedom. The East and West India companies, the Greenland company, and others, were successively formed. By the effect of their enterprise, industry and wealth, conquests were made and colonies founded with surprising rapidity. The town of Amsterdam, now New York, was founded in 1624; and the East saw Batavia rise up from the ruins of Jacatra, which was sacked and razed by the Dutch adventurers.

 The Dutch and English East India companies, repressing their mutual jealousy, formed a species of partnership in 1619 for the reciprocal enjoyment of the rights of commerce. But four years later than this date an event took place so fatal to national confidence that its impressions are scarcely yet effaced--this was the torturing and execution of several Englishmen in the island of Amboyna, on pretence of an unproved plot, of which every probability leads to the belief that they were wholly innocent. This circumstance was the strongest stimulant to the hatred so evident in the bloody wars which not long afterward took place between the two nations; and the lapse of two centuries has not entirely effaced its effects. Much has been at various periods written for and against the establishment of monopolizing companies, by which individual wealth and skill are excluded from their chances of reward. With reference to those of Holland at this period of its history, it is sufficient to remark that the great results of their formation could never have been brought about by isolated enterprises; and the justice or wisdom of their continuance are questions wholly dependent on the fluctuations in trade, and the effects produced on that of any given Country by the progress and the rivalry of others.

 With respect to the state of manners in the republic, it is clear that the jealousies and emulation of commerce were not likely to lessen the vice of avarice with which the natives have been reproached. The following is a strong expression of one, who cannot, however, be considered an unprejudiced observer, on occasion of some disputed points between the Dutch and English maritime tribunals--"The decisions of our courts cause much ill-will among these people, whose hearts' blood is their purse."[5] While drunkenness was a vice considered scarcely scandalous, the intrigues of gallantry were concealed with the most scrupulous mystery--giving evidence of at least good taste, if not of pure morality. Court etiquette began to be of infinite importance. The wife of Count Ernest Casimir of Nassau was so intent on the preservation of her right of precedence that on occasion of Lady Carleton, the British ambassadress, presuming to dispute the _pas_, she forgot true dignity so far as to strike her. We may imagine the vehement resentment of such a man as Carleton for such an outrage. The lower orders of the people had the rude and brutal manners common to half-civilized nations which fight their way to freedom. The unfortunate king of Bohemia, when a refugee in Holland, was one day hunting; and, in the heat of the chase, he followed his dogs, which had pursued a hare, into a newly sown corn-field: he was quickly interrupted by a couple of peasants armed with pitchforks. He supposed his rank and person to be unknown to them; but he was soon undeceived, and saluted with unceremonious reproaches. "King of Bohemia! King of Bohemia!" shouted one of the boors, "why do you trample on my wheat which I have so lately had the trouble of sowing?" The king made many apologies, and retired, throwing the whole blame on his dogs. But in the life of Marshal Turenne we find a more marked trait of manners than this, which might be paralleled in England at this day. This great general served his apprenticeship in the art of war under his uncles, the princes Maurice and Frederick Henry. He appeared one day on the public walk at The Hague, dressed in his usual plain and modest style. Some young French lords, covered with gold, embroidery, and ribbons, met and accosted him: a mob gathered round; and while treating Turenne, although unknown to them, with all possible respect, they forced the others to retire, assailed with mockery and the coarsest abuse.

 [Footnote 5: Carleton.] But one characteristic, more noble and worthy than any of those thus briefly cited, was the full enjoyment of the liberty of the press in the United Provinces. The thirst of gain, the fury of faction, the federal independence of the minor towns, the absolute power of Prince Maurice, all the combinations which might carry weight against this grand principle, were totally ineffectual to prevail over it. And the republic was, on this point, proudly pre-eminent among surrounding nations.


back to top