A+ A A-


Lardner's ‘Cyclop.’ vol. x. 1830



The completion of the peace of Munster opens a new scene in the history of the republic. Its political system experienced considerable changes. Its ancient enemies became its most ardent friends, and its old allies loosened the bonds of long-continued amity. The other states of Europe, displeased at its imperious conduct, or jealous of its success, began to wish its humiliation; but it was little thought that the consummation was to be effected at the hands of England.

 While Holland prepared to profit by the peace so brilliantly gained, England, torn by civil war, was hurried on in crime and misery to the final act which has left an indelible stain on her annals. Cromwell and the parliament had completely subjugated the kingdom. The unfortunate king, delivered up by the Scotch, was brought to a mock trial, and condemned to an ignominious death. Great as were his faults, they are almost lost sight of in the atrocity of his opponents; so surely does disproportioned punishment for political offences produce a reaction in the minds that would approve a commensurate penalty. The United Provinces had preserved a strict neutrality while the contest was undecided. The Prince of Orange warmly strove to obtain a declaration in favor of his father-in-law, Charles I. The Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, his sons, who had taken refuge at The Hague, earnestly joined in the entreaty; but all that could be obtained from the states-general was their consent to an embassy to interpose with the ferocious bigots who doomed the hapless monarch to the block. Pauw and Joachimi, the one sixty-four years of age, the other eighty-eight, the most able men of the republic, undertook the task of mediation. They were scarcely listened to by the parliament, and the bloody sacrifice took place.

 The details of this event, and its immediate consequences, belong to English history; and we must hurry over the brief, turbid, and inglorious Stadtholder ate of William II., to arrive at the more interesting contest between the republic which had honorably conquered its freedom, and that of the rival commonwealth, which had gained its power by hypocrisy, violence, and guilt.

 William II. was now in his twenty-fourth year. He had early evinced that heroic disposition which was common to his race. He panted for military glory. All his pleasures were those usual to ardent and high-spirited men, although his delicate constitution seemed to forbid the indulgence of hunting, tennis, and the other violent exercises in which he delighted. He was highly accomplished; spoke five different languages with elegance and fluency, and had made considerable progress in mathematics and other abstract sciences. His ambition knew no bounds. Had he reigned over a monarchy as absolute king, he would most probably have gone down to posterity a conqueror and a hero. But, unfitted to direct a republic as its first citizen, he has left but the name of a rash and unconstitutional magistrate. From the moment of his accession to power, he was made sensible of the jealousy and suspicion with which his office and his character were observed by the provincial states of Holland. Many instances of this disposition were accumulated to his great disgust; and he was not long in evincing his determination to brave all the odium and reproach of despotic designs, and to risk everything for the establishment of absolute power. The province of Holland, arrogating to itself the greatest share in the reforms of the army, and the financial arrangements called for by the transition from war to peace, was soon in fierce opposition with the states-general, which supported the prince in his early views. Cornelius Bikker, one of the burgomasters of Amsterdam, was the leading person in the states of Holland; and a circumstance soon occurred which put him and the Stadtholder in collision, and quickly decided the great question at issue.

 The admiral Cornellizon de Witt arrived from Brazil with the remains of his fleet, and without the consent of the council of regency there established by the states-general. He was instantly arrested by order of the Prince of Orange, in his capacity of high-admiral. The admiralty of Amsterdam was at the same time ordered by the states-general to imprison six of the captains of this fleet. The states of Holland maintained that this was a violation of their provincial rights, and an illegal assumption of power on the part of the states-general; and the magistrates of Amsterdam forced the prison doors, and set the captains at liberty. William, backed by the authority of the states-general, now put himself at the head of a deputation from that body, and made a rapid tour of visitation to the different chief towns of the republic, to sound the depths of public opinion on the matters in dispute. The deputation met with varied success; but the result proved to the irritated prince that no measures of compromise were to be expected, and that force alone was to arbitrate the question. The army was to a man devoted to him. The states-general gave him their entire, and somewhat servile, support. He, therefore, on his own authority, arrested the six deputies of Holland, in the same way that his uncle Maurice had seized on Barneveldt, Grotius, and the others; and they were immediately conveyed to the castle of Louvestein.

 In adopting this bold and unauthorized measure, he decided on an immediate attempt to gain possession of the city of Amsterdam, the central point of opposition to his violent designs. William Frederick, Count of Nassau, Stadtholder of Friesland, at the head of a numerous detachment of troops, marched secretly and by night to surprise the town; but the darkness and a violent thunderstorm having caused the greater number to lose their way, the Count found himself at dawn at the city gates with a very insufficient force; and had the further mortification to see the walls well manned, the cannon pointed, the draw-bridges raised, and everything in a state of defence. The courier from Hamburg, who had passed through the scattered bands of soldiers during the night, had given the alarm. The first notion was that a roving band of Swedish or Lorraine troops, attracted by the opulence of Amsterdam, had resolved on an attempt to seize and pillage it. The magistrates could scarcely credit the evidence of day, which showed them the Count of Nassau and his force on their hostile mission. A short conference with the deputies from the citizens convinced him that a speedy retreat was the only measure of safety for himself and his force, as the sluices of the dikes were in part opened, and a threat of submerging the intended assailants only required a moment more to be enforced.

 Nothing could exceed the disappointment and irritation of the Prince of Orange consequent on this transaction. He at first threatened, then negotiated, and finally patched up the matter in a mariner the least mortifying to his wounded pride. Bikker nobly offered himself for a peace-offering, and voluntarily resigned his employments in the city he had saved; and De Witt and his officers were released. William was in some measure consoled for his disgrace by the condolence of the army, the thanks of the province of Zealand, and a new treaty with France, strengthened by promises of future support from Cardinal Mazarin; but, before he could profit by these encouraging symptoms, domestic and foreign, a premature death cut short all his projects of ambition. Over-violent exercise in a shooting party in Guelders brought on a fever, which soon terminated in an attack of smallpox. On the first appearance of his illness, he was removed to The Hague; and he died there on the 6th of November, 1650, aged twenty-four years and six months.

 The death of this prince left the state without a Stadtholder , and the army without a chief. The whole of Europe shared more or less in the joy or the regret it caused. The republican party, both in Holland and in England, rejoiced in a circumstance which threw back the sovereign power into the hands of the nation; the partisans of the House of Orange deeply lamented the event. But the birth of a son, of which the widowed princess of Orange was delivered within a week of her husbands death, revived the hopes of those who mourned his loss, and offered her the only consolation which could assuage her grief. This child was, however, the innocent cause of a breach between his mother and grandmother, the dowager-princess, who had never been cordially attached to each other. Each claimed the guardianship of the young prince; and the dispute was at length decided by the states, who adjudged the important office to the elector of Brandenburg and the two princesses jointly. The states of Holland soon exercised their influence on the other provinces. Many of the prerogatives of the Stadtholder were now assumed by the people; and, with the exception of Zealand, which made an ineffectual attempt to name the infant prince to the dignity of his ancestors under the title of William III., a perfect unanimity seemed to have reconciled all opposing interests. The various towns secured the privileges of appointing their own magistrates, and the direction of the army and navy devolved to the states-general.

 The time was now arrived when the wisdom, the courage, and the resources of the republic were to be put once more to the test, in a contest hitherto without example, and never since equalled in its nature. The naval wars between Holland and England had their real source in the inveterate jealousies and unbounded ambition of both Countries, reciprocally convinced that a joint supremacy at sea was incompatible with their interests and their honor, and each resolved to risk everything for their mutual pretensions--to perish rather than yield. The United Provinces were assuredly not the aggressors in this quarrel. They had made sure of their capability to meet it, by the settlement of all questions of internal government, and the solid peace which secured them against any attack on the part of their old and inveterate enemy; but they did not seek a rupture. They at first endeavored to ward off the threatened danger by every effort of conciliation; and they met, with temperate management, even the advances made by Cromwell, at the instigation of St. John, the chief justice, for a proposed, yet impracticable coalition between the two republics, which was to make them one and indivisible. An embassy to The Hague, with St. John and Strickland at its head, was received with all public honors; but the partisans of the families of Orange and Stuart, and the populace generally, openly insulted the ambassadors. About the same time Dorislas, a Dutchman naturalized in England, and sent on a mission from the parliament, was murdered at The Hague by some Scotch officers, friends of the banished king; the massacre of Amboyna, thirty years before, was made a cause of revived complaint; and altogether a sum of injuries was easily made up to turn the proposed fantastic coalition into a fierce and bloody war.

 The parliament of England soon found a pretext in an outrageous measure, under pretence of providing for the interests of commerce. They passed the celebrated act of navigation, which prohibited all nations from importing into England in their ships any commodity which was not the growth and manufacture of their own Country. This law, though worded generally, was aimed directly at the Dutch, who were the general factors and carriers of Europe. Ships were seized, reprisals made, the mockery of negotiation carried on, fleets equipped, and at length the war broke out.

 In the month of May, 1652, the Dutch admiral, Tromp, commanding forty-two ships of war, met with the English fleet under Blake in the Straits of Dover; the latter, though much inferior in number, gave a signal to the Dutch admiral to strike, the usual salutation of honor accorded to the English during the monarchy. Totally different versions have been given by the two admiralsof what followed. Blake insisted that Tromp, instead of complying, fired a broadside at his vessel; Tromp stated that a second and a third bullet were sent promptly from the British ship while he was preparing to obey the admiral's claim. The discharge of the first broadside is also a matter of contradiction, and of course of doubt. But it is of small consequence; for whether hostilities had been hurried on or delayed, they were ultimately inevitable. A bloody battle began: it lasted five hours. The inferiority in number on the side of the English was balanced by the larger size of their ships. One Dutch vessel was sunk; another taken; and night parted the combatants.

 The states-general heard the news with consternation: they despatched the grand pensionary Pauw on a special embassy to London. The imperious parliament would hear of neither reason nor remonstrance. Right or wrong, they were resolved on war. Blake was soon at sea again with a numerous fleet; Tromp followed with a hundred ships; but a violent tempest separated these furious enemies, and retarded for a while the renCounter they mutually longed for. On the 16th of August a battle took place between Sir George Ayscue and the renowned De Ruyter, near Plymouth, each with about forty ships; but with no decisive consequences. On the 28th of October, Blake, aided by Bourn and Pen, met a Dutch squadron of nearly equal force off the coast of Kent, under De Ruyter and De Witt. The fight which followed was also severe, but not decisive, though the Dutch had the worst of the day. In the Mediterranean, the Dutch admiral Van Galen defeated the English captain Baddely, but bought the victory with his life. And, on the 29th of November, another bloody conflict took place between Blake and Tromp, seconded by De Ruyter, near the Goodwin Sands. In this determined action Blake was wounded and defeated; five English ships, taken, burned, or sunk; and night saved the fleet from destruction. After this victory Tromp placed a broom at his masthead, as if to intimate that he would sweep the Channel free of all English ships.

 Great preparations were made in England to recover this disgrace; eighty sail put to sea under Blake, Dean, and Monk, so celebrated subsequently as the restorer of the monarchy. Tromp and De Ruyter, with seventy-six vessels, were descried on the 18th of February, escorting three hundred merchantmen up Channel. Three days of desperate fighting ended in the defeat of the Dutch, who lost ten ships of war and twenty-four merchant vessels. Several of the English ships were disabled, one sunk; and the carnage on both sides was nearly equal. Tromp acquired prodigious honor by this battle; having succeeded, though defeated, in saving, as has been seen, almost the whole of his immense convoy. On the 12th of June and the day following two other actions were fought: in the first of which the English admiral Dean was killed; in the second, Monk, Pen, and Lawson amply revenged his death by forcing the Dutch to regain their harbors with great loss.

 The 21st of July was the last of these bloody and obstinate conflicts for superiority. Tromp issued out once more, determined to conquer or die. He met the enemy off Scheveling, commanded by Monk. Both fleets rushed to the combat. The heroic Dutchman, animating his sailors with his sword drawn, was shot through the heart with a musket-ball. This event, and this alone, won the battle, which was the most decisive of the whole war. The enemy captured or sunk nearly thirty ships. The body of Tromp was carried with great solemnity to the church of Delft, where a magnificent mausoleum was erected over the remains of this eminently brave and distinguished man.

 This memorable defeat, and the death of this great naval hero, added to the injury done to their trade, induced the states-general to seek terms from their too powerful enemy. The want of peace was felt throughout the whole Country. Cromwell was not averse to grant it; but he insisted on conditions every way disadvantageous and humiliating. He had revived his chimerical scheme of a total conjunction of government, privileges, and interests between the two republics. This was firmly rejected by John de Witt, now grand pensionary of Holland, and by the States under his influence. But the Dutch consented to a defensive league; to punish the survivors of those concerned in the massacre of Amboyna; to pay nine thousand pounds of indemnity for vessels seized in the Sound, five thousand pounds for the affair of Amboyna, and eighty-five thousand pounds to the English East India Company, to cede to them the island of Polerone in the East; to yield the honor of the national flag to the English; and, finally, that neither the young Prince of Orange nor any of his family should ever be invested with the dignity of Stadtholder . These two latter conditions were certainly degrading to Holland; and the conditions of the treaty prove that an absurd point of honor was the only real cause for the short but bloody and ruinous war which plunged the Provinces into overwhelming difficulties.

 For several years after the conclusion of this inglorious peace, universal discontent and dissension spread throughout the republic. The supporters of the House of Orange, and every impartial friend of the national honor, were indignant at the act of exclusion. Murmurs and revolts broke out in several towns; and all was once more tumult, agitation, and doubt. No event of considerable importance marks particularly this epoch of domestic trouble. A new war was at last pronounced inevitable, and was the means of appeasing the distractions of the people, and reconciling by degrees contending parties. Denmark, the ancient ally of the republic, was threatened with destruction by Charles Gustavus, king of Sweden, who held Copenhagen in blockade. The interests of Holland were in imminent peril should the Swedes gain the passage of the Sound. This double motive influenced De Witt; and he persuaded the states-general to send Admiral Opdam with a considerable fleet to the Baltic. This intrepid successor of the immortal Tromp soon came to blows with a rival worthy to meet him. Wrangel, the Swedish admiral, with a superior force, defended the passage of the Sound; and the two castles of Cronenberg and Elsenberg supported his fleet with their tremendous fire. But Opdam resolutely advanced; though suffering extreme anguish from an attack of gout, he had himself carried on deck, where he gave his orders with the most admirable coolness and precision, in the midst of danger and carnage. The rival monarchs witnessed the battle; the king of Sweden from the castle of Cronenberg, and the king of Denmark from the summit of the highest tower in his besieged capital. A brilliant victory crowned the efforts of the Dutch admiral, dearly bought by the death of his second in command, the brave De Witt, and Peter Florizon, another admiral of note. Relief was poured into Copenhagen. Opdam was replaced in the command, too arduous for his infirmities, by the still more celebrated De Ruyter, who was greatly distinguished by his valor in several successive affairs: and after some months more of useless obstinacy, the king of Sweden, seeing his army perish in the island of Funen, by a combined attack of those of Holland and Denmark, consented to a peace highly favorable to the latter power.

 These transactions placed the United Provinces on a still higher pinnacle of glory than they had ever reached. Intestine disputes were suddenly calmed. The Algerines and other pirates were swept from the seas by a succession of small but vigorous expeditions. The mediation of the States re-established peace in several of the petty states of Germany. England and France were both held in check, if not preserved in friendship, by the dread of their recovered power. Trade and finance were reorganized. Everything seemed to promise a long-continued peace and growing greatness, much of which was owing to the talents and persevering energy of De Witt; and, to complete the good work of European tranquillity, the French and Spanish monarchs concluded in this year the treaty known by the name of the "peace of the Pyrenees." Cromwell had now closed his career, and Charles II. was restored to the throne from which he had so long been excluded. The complimentary entertainments rendered to the restored king in Holland were on the proudest scale of expense. He left the Country which had given him refuge in misfortune, and done him honor in his prosperity, with profuse expressions of regard and gratitude. Scarcely was he established in his recovered kingdom, when a still greater testimony of deference to his wishes was paid, by the states-general formally annulling the act of exclusion against the House of Orange. A varietssy of motives, however, acting on the easy and plastic mind of the monarch, soon effaced whatever of gratitude he had at first conceived. He readily entered into the views of the English nation, which was irritated by the great commercial superiority of Holland, and a jealousy excited by its close connection with France at this period.

 It was not till the 22d of February, 1665, that war was formally declared against the Dutch; but many previous acts of hostility had taken place in expeditions against their settlements on the coast of Africa and in America, which were retaliated by De Ruyter with vigor and success. The Dutch used every possible means of avoiding the last extremities. De Witt employed all the powers of his great capacity to avert the evil of war; but nothing could finally prevent it, and the sea was once more to witness the conflict between those who claimed its sovereignty. A great battle was fought on the 31st of June. The Duke of York, afterward James II., commanded the British fleet, and had under him the earl of Sandwich and Prince Rupert. The Dutch were led on by Opdam; and the victory was decided in favor of the English by the blowing up of that admiral's ship, with himself and his whole crew. The loss of the Dutch was altogether nineteen ships. De Witt the pensionary then took in person the command of the fleet, which was soon equipped; and he gave a high proof of the adaptation of genius to a pursuit previously unknown, by the rapid knowledge and the practical improvements he introduced into some of the most intricate branches of naval tactics.

 Immense efforts were now made by England, but with a very questionable policy, to induce Louis XIV. to join in the war. Charles offered to allow of his acquiring the whole of the Spanish Netherlands, provided he would leave him without interruption to destroy the Dutch navy (and, consequently, their commerce), in the by no means certain expectation that its advantages would all fall to the share of England. But the king of France resolved to support the republic. The king of Denmark, too, formed an alliance with them, after a series of the most strange tergiversations. Spain, reduced to feebleness, and menaced with invasion by France, showed no alacrity to meet Charles's overtures for an offensive treaty. Van Galen, bishop of Munster, a restless prelate, was the only ally he could acquire. This bishop, at the head of a tumultuous force of twenty thousand men, penetrated into Friesland; but six thousand French were despatched by Louis to the assistance of the republic, and this impotent invasion was easily repelled.

 The republic, encouraged by all these favorable circumstances, resolved to put forward its utmost energies. Internal discords were once more appeased; the harbors were crowded with merchant ships; the young Prince of Orange had put himself under the tuition of the states of Holland and of De Witt, who faithfully executed his trust; and De Ruyter was ready to lead on the fleet. The English, in spite of the dreadful calamity of the great fire of London, the plague which desolated the city, and a declaration of war on the part of France, prepared boldly for the shock.

 The Dutch fleet, commanded by De Ruyter and Tromp, the gallant successor of his father's fame, was soon at sea. The English, under Prince Rupert and Monk, now Duke of Albemarle, did not lie idle in port. A battle of four days continuance, one of the most determined and terrible up to this period on record, was the consequence. The Dutch claim, and it appears with justice, to have had the advantage. But a more decisive conflict took place on the 25th of July,[6] when a victory was gained by the English, the enemy having three of their admirals killed. "My God!" exclaimed De Ruyter; during this desperate fight, and seeing the certainty of defeat; "what a wretch I am! Among so many thousand bullets, is there not one to put an end to my miserable life?" [Footnote 6: In all these naval battles we have followed Hume and the English historians as to dates, which, in almost every instance, are strangely at variance with those given by the Dutch writers.] The king of France hastened forward in this crisis to the assistance of the republic and De Witt, by a deep stroke of policy, amused the English with negotiation while a powerful fleet was fitted out. It suddenly appeared in the Thames, under the command of De Ruyter, and all England was thrown into consternation. The Dutch took Sheerness, and burned many ships of war; almost insulting the capital itself in their predatory incursion. Had the French power joined that of the Provinces at this time, and invaded England, the most fatal results to that kingdom might have taken place. But the alarm soon subsided with the disappearance of the hostile fleet; and the signing the peace of Breda, on the 10th of July, 1667, extricated Charles from his present difficulties. The island of Polerone was restored to the Dutch, and the point of maritime superiority was, on this occasion, undoubtedly theirs.

 While Holland was preparing to indulge in the luxury of national repose, the death of Philip IV. of Spain, and the startling ambition of Louis XIV., brought war once more to their very doors, and soon even forced it across the threshold of the republic. The king of France, setting at naught his solemn renunciation at the peace of the Pyrenees of all claims to any part of the Spanish territories in right of his wife, who was daughter of the late king, found excellent reasons (for his own satisfaction) to invade a material portion of that declining monarchy. Well prepared by the financial and military foresight of Colbert for his great design, he suddenly poured a powerful army, under Turenne, into Brabant and Flanders; quickly overran and took possession of these provinces; and, in the space of three weeks, added Franche-Comte to his conquests. Europe was in universal alarm at these unexpected measures; and no state felt more terror than the republic of the United Provinces. The interest of all Countries seemed now to require a coalition against the power which had abandoned the House of Austria only to settle on France. The first measure to this effect was the signing of the triple league between Holland, Sweden, and England, at The Hague, on the 13th of January, 1668. But this proved to be one of the most futile confederations on record. Charles, with almost unheard-of perfidy throughout the transaction, fell in with the designs of his pernicious, and on this occasion purchased, cabinet, called the Cabal; and he entered into a secret treaty with France, in the very teeth of his other engagements. Sweden was dissuaded from the league by the arguments of the French ministers; and Holland in a short time found itself involved in a double war with its late allies.

 A base and piratical attack on the Dutch Smyrna fleet by a large force under Sir Robert Holmes, on the 13th of March, 1672, was the first overt act of treachery on the part of the English government. The attempt completely failed, through the prudence and valor of the Dutch admirals; and Charles reaped only the double shame of perfidy and defeat. He instantly issued a declaration of war against the republic, on reasoning too palpably false to require refutation, and too frivolous to merit record to the exclusion of more important matter from our narrow limits.

 Louis at least covered with the semblance of dignity his unjust co-operation in this violence. He soon advanced with his army, and the contingents of Munster and Cologne, his allies, amounting altogether to nearly one hundred and seventy thousand men, commanded by Conde, Turenne, Luxemburg, and others of the greatest generalsof France. Never was any Country less prepared than were the United Provinces to resist this formidable aggression. Their army was as naught; their long cessation of military operations by land having totally demoralized that once invincible branch of their forces. No general existed who knew anything of the practice of war. Their very stores of ammunition had been delivered over, in the way of traffic, to the enemy who now prepared to overwhelm them. De Witt was severely, and not quite unjustly, blamed for having suffered the Country to be thus taken by surprise, utterly defenceless, and apparently without resource. Envy of his uncommon merit aggravated the just complaints against his error. But, above all things, the popular affection to the young prince threatened, in some great convulsion, the overthrow of the pensionary, who was considered eminently hostile to the illustrious House of Orange.

 [Illustration: A HOLLAND BEAUTY] William III., prince of Orange, now twenty-two years of age, was amply endowed with those hereditary qualities of valor and wisdom which only required experience to give him rank with the greatest of his ancestors. The Louvenstein party, as the adherents of the House of Orange were called, now easily prevailed in their long-conceived design of placing him at the head of affairs, with the titles of captain-general and high admiral. De Witt, anxious from personal considerations, as well as patriotism, to employ every means of active exertion, attempted the organization of an army, and hastened the equipment of a formidable fleet of nearly a hundred ships of the line and half as many fire-ships. De Ruyter, now without exception the greatest commander of the age, set sail with this force in search of the combined fleets of England and France, commanded by the Duke of York and Marshal D'Etrees. He enCountered them, on the 6th of May, 1672, at Solebay. A most bloody engagement was the result of this meeting. Sandwich, on the side of the English, and Van Ghent, a Dutch admiral, were slain. The glory of the day was divided; the victory doubtful; but the sea was not the element on which the fate of Holland was to be decided.

 The French armies poured like a torrent into the territories of the republic. Rivers were passed, towns taken, and provinces overrun with a rapidity much less honorable to France than disgraceful to Holland. No victory was gained--no resistance offered; and it is disgusting to look back on the fulsome panegyrics with which courtiers and poets lauded Louis for those facile and inglorious triumphs. The Prince of Orange had received the command of a nominal army of seventy thousand men; but with this undisciplined and discouraged mass he could attempt nothing. He prudently retired into the province of Holland, vainly hoping that the numerous fortresses on the frontiers would have offered some resistance to the enemy. Guelders, Overyssel and Utrecht were already in Louis's hands. Groningen and Friesland were threatened. Holland and Zealand opposed obstruction to such rapid conquest from their natural position; and Amsterdam set a noble example to the remaining towns--forming a regular and energetic plan of defence, and endeavoring to infuse its spirit into the rest. The sluices, those desperate sources at once of safety and desolation, were opened; the whole Country submerged; and the other provinces following this example, extensive districts of fertility and wealth were given to the sea, for the exclusion of which so many centuries had scarcely sufficed.

 The states-general now assembled, and it was decided to supplicate for peace at the hands of the combined monarchs. The haughty insolence of Louvois, coinciding with the temper of Louis himself, made the latter propose the following conditions as the price of peace: To take off all duties on commodities exported into Holland; to grant the free exercise of the Romish religion in the United Provinces; to share the churches with the Catholics, and to pay their priests; to yield up all the frontier towns, with several in the heart of the republic; to pay him twenty million livres; to send him every year a solemn embassy, accompanied by a present of a golden medal, as an acknowledgment that they owed him their liberty; and, finally, that they should give entire satisfaction to the king of England.

 Charles, on his part, after the most insulting treatment of the ambassadors sent to London, required, among other terms, that the Dutch should give up the honor of the flag without reserve, whole fleets being expected, even on the coasts of Holland, to lower their topsails to the smallest ship under British colors; that the Dutch should pay one million pounds sterling toward the charges of the war, and ten thousand pounds a year for permission to fish in the British seas; that they should share the Indian trade with the English; and that Walcheren and several other islands should be put into the king's hands as security for the performance of the articles.

 The insatiable monarchs overshot the mark. Existence was not worth preserving on these intolerable terms. Holland was driven to desperation; and even the people of England were inspired with indignation at this monstrous injustice. In the republic a violent explosion of popular excess took place. The people now saw no safety but in the courage and talents of the Prince of Orange. He was tumultuously proclaimed Stadtholder . De Witt and his brother Cornelis, the conscientious but too obstinate opponents of this measure of salvation, fell victims to the popular frenzy. The latter, condemned to banishment on an atrocious charge of intended assassination against the Prince of Orange, was visited in his prison at The Hague by the grand pensionary. The rabble, incited to fury by the calumnies spread against these two virtuous citizens, broke into the prison, forced the unfortunate brothers into the street, and there literally tore them to pieces with circumstances of the most brutal ferocity. This horrid scene took place on the 27th of August, 1672.

 The massacre of the De Witts completely destroyed the party of which they were the head. All men now united under the only leader left to the Country. William showed himself well worthy of the trust, and of his heroic blood. He turned his whole force against the enemy. He sought nothing for himself but the glory of saving his Country; and taking his ancestors for models, in the best points of their respective characters, he combined prudence with energy, and firmness with moderation. His spirit inspired all ranks of men. The conditions of peace demanded by the partner kings were rejected with scorn. The whole nation was moved by one concentrated principle of heroism; and it was even resolved to put the ancient notion of the first William into practice, and abandon the Country to the waves, sooner than submit to the political annihilation with which it was threatened. The capability of the vessels in their harbors was calculated; and they were found sufficient to transport two hundred thousand families to the Indian settlements. We must hasten from this sublime picture of national desperation. The glorious hero who stands in its foreground was inaccessible to every overture of corruption. Buckingham, the English ambassador, offered him, on the part of England and France, the independent sovereignty of Holland, if he would abandon the other provinces to their grasp; and, urging his consent, asked him if he did not see that the republic was ruined? "There is one means," replied the Prince of Orange, "which will save me from the sight of my Country's ruin--I will die in the last ditch." Action soon proved the reality of the prince's profession. He took the field; having first punished with death some of the cowardly commanders of the frontier towns. He besieged and took Naarden, an important place; and, by a masterly movement, formed a junction with Montecuculi, whom the emperor Leopold had at length sent to his assistance with twenty thousand men. Groningen repulsed the bishop of Munster, the ally of France, with a loss of twelve thousand men. The king of Spain (such are the strange fluctuations of political friendship and enmity) sent the Count of Monterey, governor of the Belgian provinces, with ten thousand men to support the Dutch army. The elector of Brandenburg also lent them aid. The whole face of affairs was changed; and Louis was obliged to abandon all his conquests with more rapidity than he had made them. Two desperate battles at sea, on the 28th of May and the 4th of June, in which De Ruyter and Prince Rupert again distinguished themselves, only proved the valor of the combatants, leaving victory still doubtful. England was with one common feeling ashamed of the odious war in which the king and his unworthy ministers had engaged the nation. Charles was forced to make peace on the conditions proposed by the Dutch. The honor of the flag was yielded to the English; a regulation of trade was agreed to; all possessions were restored to the same condition as before the war; and the states-general agreed to pay the king eight hundred thousand patacoons, or nearly three hundred thousand pounds.

 With these encouraging results from the Prince of Orange's influence and example, Holland persevered in the contest with France. He, in the first place, made head, during a winter campaign in Holland, against Marshal Luxemburg, who had succeeded Turenne in the Low Countries, the latter being obliged to march against the imperialists in Westphalia. He next advanced to oppose the great Conde, who occupied Brabant with an army of forty-five thousand men. After much manoeuvring, in which the Prince of Orange displayed consummate talent, he on only one occasion exposed a part of his army to a disadvantageous contest. Conde seized on the error; and of his own accord gave the battle to which his young opponent could not succeed in forcing him. The battle of Senef is remarkable not merely for the fury with which it was fought, or for its leaving victory undecided, but as being the last combat of one commander and the first of the other. "The Prince of Orange," said the veteran Conde (who had that day exposed his person more than on any previous occasion), "has acted in everything like an old captain, except venturing his life too like a young soldier." The campaign of 1675 offered no remarkable event; the Prince of Orange with great prudence avoiding the risk of a battle. But the following year was rendered fatally remarkable by the death of the great De Ruyter,[7] who was killed in an action against the French fleet in the Mediterranean; and about the same time the not less celebrated Turenne met his death from a cannon-ball in the midst of his triumphs in Germany. This year was doubly occupied in a negotiation for peace and an active prosecution of the war. Louis, at the head of his army, took several towns in Belgium: William was unsuccessful in an attempt on Maestricht. About the beginning of winter, the plenipotentiaries of the several belligerents assembled at Nimeguen, where the congress for peace was held. The Hollanders, loaded with debts and taxes, and seeing the weakness and slowness of their allies, the Spaniards and Germans, prognosticated nothing but misfortunes. Their commerce languished; while that of England, now neutral amid all these quarrels, flourished extremely. The Prince of Orange, however, ambitious of glory, urged another campaign; and it commenced accordingly. In the middle of February, Louis carried Valenciennes by storm, and laid siege to St. Omer and Cambray. William, though full of activity, courage, and skill, was, nevertheless, almost always unsuccessful in the field, and never more so than in this campaign. Several towns fell almost in his sight; and he was completely defeated in the great battle of Mount Cassel by the Duke of Orleans and Marshal Luxemburg. But the period for another peace was now approaching. Louis offered fair terms for the acceptance of the United Provinces at the congress of Nimeguen, April, 1678, as he now considered his chief enemies Spain and the empire, who had at first only entered into the war as auxiliaries. He was, no doubt, principally impelled in his measures by the marriage of the Prince of Orange with the lady Mary, eldest daughter of the Duke of York, and heir presumptive to the English crown, which took place on the 23d of October, to the great joy of both the Dutch and English nations. Charles was at this moment the arbiter of the peace of Europe; and though several fluctuations took place in his policy in the course of a few months, as the urgent wishes of the parliament and the large presents of Louis differently actuated him, still the wiser and more just course prevailed, and he finally decided the balance by vigorously declaring his resolution for peace; and the treaty was consequently signed at Nimeguen, on the 10th of August, 1678. The Prince of Orange, from private motives of spleen, or a most unjustifiable desire for fighting, took the extraordinary measure of attacking the French troops under Luxemburg, near Mons, on the very day after the signing of this treaty. He must have known it, even though it were not officially notified to him; and he certainly had to answer for all the blood so wantonly spilled in the sharp though undecisive action which ensued. Spain, abandoned to her fate, was obliged to make the best terms she could; and on the 17th of September she also concluded a treaty with France, on conditions entirely favorable to the latter power.

 [Footnote 7: The council of Spain gave De Ruyter the title and letters patent of Duke. The latter arrived in Holland after his death; and his children, with true republican spirit, refused to adopt the title.]


back to top