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HOLLAND THE HISTORY OF THE NETHERLANDS
THOMAS COLLEY GRATTAN
WITH A SUPPLEMENTARY CHAPTER OF RECENT EVENTS BY JULIAN HAWTHORNE
Lardner's ‘Cyclop.’ vol. x. 1830
SUPPLEMENTARY CHAPTER A.D. 1815--1899
In the preceding chapters we have seen the history of Holland carried down to the treaty which joined together what are now known as the separate Countries of Holland and Belgium. And it is at this point that the interest of the subject for the historian practically ceases. The historian differs from the annalist in this--that he selects for treatment those passages in the career of nations which possess a dramatic form and unity, and therefore convey lessons for moral guidance, or for constituting a basis for reasonable prognostications of the future. But there are in the events of the world many tracts of Country (as we might term them) which have no special character or apparent significance, and which therefore, though they may extend over many years in time, are dismissed with bare mention in the pages of the historian; just as, in travelling by rail, the tourist will keep his face at the window only when the scenery warrants it; at other times composing himself to other occupations.
The scenery of Dutch history has episodes as stirring and instructive as those of any civilized people since history began; but it reached its dramatic and moral apogee when the independence of the United Netherlands was acknowledged by Spain. The Netherlands then reached their loftiest pinnacle of power and prosperity; their colonial possessions were vast and rich; their reputation as guardians of liberty and the rights of man was foremost in the world. But further than this they could not go; and the moment when a people ceases to advance may generally be regarded as the moment when, relatively speaking at least, it begins to go backward. The Dutch could in no sense become the masters of Europe; not only was their domain too small, but it was geographically at a disadvantage with the powerful and populous nations neighboring it, and it was compelled ever to fight for its existence against the attacks of nature itself. The stormy waves of the North Sea were ever moaning and threatening at the gates, and ever and anon a breach would be made, and the labor of generations annulled. Holland could never enter upon a career of conquest, like France or Russia; neither could she assume the great part which Britain has played; for although the character of the Dutchmen is in many respects as strong and sound as that of the English, and in some ways its superior, yet the Dutch had not been dowered with a sea-defended isle for their habitation, which might enable them to carry out enterprises abroad without the distraction and weakness involved in maintaining adequate guards at home. They were mighty in self-defence and in resistance against tyranny; and they were unsurpassed in those virtues and qualities which go to make a nation rich and orderly; but aggression could not be for them. They took advantage of their season of power to confirm themselves in the ownership of lands in the extreme East and in the West, which should be a continual source of revenue; but they could do no more; and they wasted not a little treasure and strength in preserving what they had gained, or a part of it, from the grasp of others. But this was the sum of their possibility; they could not presume to dictate terms to the world; and the consequence was that they gradually ceased to be a considered factor in the European problem. In some respects, their territorial insignificance, while it prevented them from aggressive action, preserved them from aggression; their domain was not worth conquering, and again its conquest could not be accomplished by any nation without making others uneasy and jealous. They became, like Switzerland, and unlike Poland and Hungary, a neutral region, which it was for the interest of Europe at large to let alone. None cared to meddle with them; and, on the other hand, they had native virtue and force enough to resist being absorbed into other peoples; the character of the Dutch is as distinct to-day as ever it had been. Their language, their literature, their art, and their personal traits, are unimpaired. They are, in their own degree, remarkably prosperous and comfortable; and they have the good sense to be content with their condition. They are liberal and progressive, and yet conservative; they are even with modern ideas as regards education and civilization, and yet the tourist within their boundaries continually finds himself reminded of their past. The costumes and the customs of the mass of the people have undergone singularly little change; they mind their own affairs, and are wisely indifferent to the affairs of others. Both as importers and as exporters they are useful to the world, and if the prophecies of those who foretell a general clash of the European powers should be fulfilled, it is likely that the Dutch will be onlookers merely, or perhaps profit by the misfortunes of their neighbors to increase their own well-being.
As we have seen in the foregoing pages, Belgium did not unite with the Hollanders in their revolt of the sixteenth century; but appertained to Burgundy, and was afterward made a domain of France. But after Napoleon had been overthrown at Waterloo, the nations who had been so long harried and terrorized by him were not satisfied with banishing the ex-conqueror to his island exile, but wished to present any possibility of another Napoleon arising to renew the wars which had devastated and impoverished them. Consequently they agreed to make a kingdom which might act as a buffer between France and the rest of Europe; and to this end they decreed that Belgium and Holland should be one. But in doing this, the statesmen or politicians concerned failed to take into account certain factors and facts which must inevitably, in the course of time, undermine their arrangements. Nations cannot be arbitrarily manufactured to suit the convenience of others. There is a chemistry in nationalities which has laws of its own, and will not be ignored. Between the Hollanders and the Belgians there existed not merely a negative lack of homogeneity, but a positive incompatibility. The Hollanders had for generations been fighters and men of enterprise; the Belgians had been the appanage of more powerful neighbors. The Hollanders were Protestants; the Belgians were adherents of the Papacy. The former were seafarers; the latter, farmers. The sympathies or affiliations of the Dutch were with the English and the Germans; those of the Belgians were with the French. Moreover, the Dutch were inclined to act oppressively toward the Belgians, and this disposition was made the more irksome by the fact that King William was a dull, stupid, narrow and very obstinate sovereign, who thought that to have a request made of him was reason sufficient for resisting it.
But over and above all these causes for disintegration of the new kingdom lay facts of the broadest significance and application. The arbiters of 1815 did not sufficiently apprehend the meaning of the French Revolution. The wars of Napoleon had made them forget it; his power had seemed so much more formidable and positive that the deeper forces which had brought about the events of the last decade of the eighteenth century were ignored. But they still continued profoundly active, and were destined ere long to announce themselves anew. They were in truth the generative forces of the nineteenth century.
They have not yet spent themselves; but as we look back upon the events of the past eighty or ninety years, we perceive what vast differences there are between what we were in Napoleon's day and what we are now. A long period of intrigue and misrule, of wars and revolutions, has been followed by material, mental and social changes affecting every class of the people, and especially that class which had hitherto been almost entirely unconsidered. The wars of this century have been of another character than those of the past; they have not involved basic principles of human association, but have been the result of attempts to gain comparatively trifling political advantages, or else were the almost inevitable consequence of adjustments of national relations. Several small new kingdoms have appeared; but their presence has not essentially altered the political aspect of Europe. It is the conquests of mind that have been, in this century, far more important than the struggles of arms. Steam, as applied to locomotion on sea and land, and to manufactures, has brought about modifications in social and industrial conditions that cannot be exaggerated. Steamboats and railroads have not only given a different face to commerce and industry, but they have united the world in bonds of mutual knowledge and sympathy, which cannot fail to profoundly affect the political relations of mankind. Isolation is ignorance; as soon as men begin to discover, by actual intercourse, the similarities and dissimilarities of their several conditions, these will begin to show improvements. To be assured that people in one part of the world are better off than those in another, will tend inevitably to bring about ameliorations for the latter. The domain of evil will be continually restricted, and that of good enlarged. In the dissemination of intelligence and the spread of sympathy, the telegraph, and other applications of electricity, have enormously aided the work of steam. Every individual of civilized mankind may now be cognizant, at any moment, of what is taking place at any point of the earth's surface to which the appliances of civilization have penetrated. This unprecedented spread of common acquaintanceship of the world has been supplemented by discoveries of science in many other directions. We know more of the moon to-day than Europe did of this planet a few centuries ago. The industrial arts are now prosecuted by machinery with a productiveness which enables one man to do the work formerly performed by hundreds, and which more than keeps up the supply with the demand. Conquests of natural forces are constantly making, and each one of them adds to the comfort and enlightenment of man. Men, practically, live a dozen lives such as those of the past in their single span of seventy years; and we are even finding means of prolonging the Scriptural limit of mortal existence physically as well as mentally.
But is all this due to that great moral and social earthquake to which we give the name of the French Revolution? Yes; for that upheaval, like the plow of some titanic husbandman, brought to the surface elements of good and use which had been lying fallow for unnumbered ages. It brought into view the People, as against mere rulers and aristocrats, who had hitherto lived upon what the People produced, without working themselves, and without caring for anything except to conserve things as they were. Human progress will never be advanced by oligarchies, no matter how gentle and well-disposed. We see their results to-day in Spain and in Turkey, which are still mediæval, or worse, in their condition and methods. It is the brains of the common people that have wrought the mighty change; their personal interests demand that they go forward, and their fresh and unencumbered minds show them the way. The great scientists, the inventors, the philanthropists, the reformers, are all of the common people; the statesmen who have really governed the world in this century have sprung from the common stock. The French Revolution destroyed the dominance of old ideas, and with them the forms in which they were embodied. Political, personal and religious freedom are now matters of course; but a hundred years ago they were almost unheard of, save in the dreams of optimists and fanatics. The rights of labor have been vindicated; and the right of every human being to the benefit of what he produces has been claimed and established. Along with this improvement has come, of course, a train of evils and abuses, due to our ignorance of how best to manage and apply our new privileges and advantages; but such evils are transient, and the conditions which created them will suffice, ere long, to remove them. The conflict between labor and capital is not permanent; it will yield to better knowledge of the true demands of political economy. The indifference or corruption of law makers and dispensers will disappear when men realize that personal selfishness is self-destructive, and that only care for the commonweal can bring about prosperity for the individual. The democracy is still in its swaddling clothes, and its outward aspect is in many ways ugly and unwelcome, and we sigh for the elegance and composure of old days; but these discomforts are a necessary accompaniment of growth, and will vanish when the growing pains are past. The Press is the mirror of the aspirations, the virtues and the faults of the new mankind; its power is stupendous and constantly increasing; many are beginning to dread it as a possible agent of ill; but in truth its real power can only be for good, since the mass of mankind, however wedded to selfishness as individuals, are united in desiring honesty and good in the general trend of things; and it is to the generality, and not to the particular, that the Press, to be successful, must appeal. It is the great critic and the great recorder; and in the face of such criticism and record abuses cannot long maintain themselves. Men will be free, first of external tyrannies, and then of that more subtle but not less dangerous tyranny which they impose upon themselves. As might have been expected, extremists have arisen who sought to find a short road to perfection, and they have met with disappointment. The dreams of the socialists have not been realized; men will not work for one another unless they are at the same time working for themselves. The communist and the nihilist are yet further from the true ideal; there will always remain in human societssy certain persons who rule, and others who obey. There must always, in all affairs, be a head to direct as well as hands to execute. Men are born unequal in intelligence and ability; and it will never be possible to reduce leaders to the level of followers. The form of societssy must take its model from the human form, in which one part is subordinate to another, yet all work together in harmony. Only time--and probably no very long time--is required to bring a recognition of these facts. Meanwhile, the very violence of the revolts against even the suspicion of oppression are but symptoms of the vigorous vitality which, in former centuries, seemed to have no existence at all. On the other hand, industrial co-operation seems to promise successful development; it involves immense economies, and consequent profit to producers. The middleman has his uses, and especially is he a convenience; but it is easy to pay too dear for conveniences; and there seems no reason why the producer should not, as time goes on, become constantly better equipped for dealing direct with the consumer, to the manifest advantage of both.
All these and many other triumphs of civilization, which we see now in objective form, were present in potency at the beginning of this century, though, as we have said, they were not duly taken into account by the framers of the agreement which sought to make Holland and Belgium one flesh. Had the sun not yet risen upon the human horizon, the attempt might have had a quasi success; but the light was penetrating the darkened places, and men were no longer willing to accept subjection as their inevitable doom. It might be conducive to the comfort of the rest of Europe that Batavian and Belgian should dwell together under one political roof; but it did not suit the parties themselves; and therefore they soon began to make their incompatibility known. But nothing was heard beyond the grumblings of half-awakened discontent until, in 1830, the new revolution in Paris sent a sympathetic thrill through all the dissatisfied of Europe. A generation had now passed since the first great upheaval, and men had had time to digest the lesson which it conveyed, and to draw various more or less reasonable inferences as to future possibilities. It had been determined that, broadly speaking, what the people heartily wanted, the people might have; and the disturbances in Paris indicated that the people were prepared to resent any attempt on the part of their rulers to bring back the old abuses. When the Pentarchy, in 1815, had made its division of the spoils of Napoleon, the Bourbons were reseated on the throne which Louis XIV. had made famous; but Louis XVIII. was but a degenerate representative of the glories that had been. He adopted a reactionary policy against the Napoleonic (or imperialist), the republican and the Protestant elements in France; and outrages and oppressions occurred. As a consequence, secret societssies were formed to Counteract the ultra-royalist policy. When Louis died, it was hoped that his successor, Charles X., might introduce improvements; but on the contrary he only made matters worse. The consequence was the gradual growth of a liberal party, seeking a monarchy based on the support of the great middle class of the population. In 1827 Charles disbanded the National Guard; and in the following year the liberals elected a majority in the Chamber. Charles foolishly attempted to meet this step by making the prince de Polignac his minister, who stood for all that the people had in abhorrence. The prince issued ordinances declaring the late elections illegal, narrowing down the rights of suffrage to the large landowners, and forbidding all liberty to the press. Hereupon the populace of Paris erected barricades and took up arms; and in the "Three Days" from the 27th to the 29th of July, 1830, they defeated the forces of the king, and after capturing the Hotel de Ville and the Louvre, sent him into exile, and made the venerable and faithful Lafayette commander of the National Guard. But the revolutionists showed forbearance; and instead of beheading Charles, as they might have done, they let him go, and punished the ministers by imprisonment only. This put an end to the older line of the Bourbons in France, and the representative of the younger branch, Louis Philippe ("Philippe Egalite"), was set on the throne, in the hope that he would be willing to carry out the people's will.
All this was interesting to the Belgians, and they profited by the example. They regarded William as another Charles, and deemed themselves justified in revolting against his rule. They declared that they were no longer subject to his control, and issue was joined on that point. But the Powers were not ready to permit the dissolution of their anxiously constructed edifice; and they met together with a view to arranging some secure modus vivendi. The issue of their deliberations took the form of proposing that the duchy of Luxemburg, at the southeast corner of Belgium, should be ceded to Holland on the north. This suggestion was favorably received by the Hollanders, but was not so agreeable to the Belgians; and an assembly at Brussels devised and adopted a liberal constitution, and invited Leopold of Saxe-Coburg to occupy their throne. Leopold was at this time about forty years of age; he was the youngest son of Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg; he had married, in 1816, the daughter of George IV. of England, the princess Charlotte, and had, a few months before the Belgians' proposal, been offered and had refused the crown of Greece. But the Belgian throne was more to his liking; and after taking measures to sound the Powers on the subject, and to assure himself of their good will, he accepted the proffer, and was crowned under the title of Leopold I. His reign lasted thirty-four years, and was comparatively uneventful and prosperous.
But the Dutch refused to tolerate this change of sovereignty without a struggle; William raised an army and suddenly threw it into Belgium; and the chanees are that he would have made short work of Belgian resistance had the two been permitted to fight out their quarrel undisturbed. This, however, could not happen; since the independence of Belgium had been recognized by England, Austria, Russia, and Prussia; and the triumphal march of the Dutch was arrested by a French army which happened to be in the place where they could be most effective in the circumstances. The Dutch had occupied Antwerp, a town on the borderland of Belgium and Holland. It had been in the possession of the French in 1794, but had been taken from them at the Restoration in 1814. The French now laid siege to it, being under the command of Gérard, while the Dutch were led by Chassè. The citadel was taken in 1832, and the resistance of the Dutch to the decree of Europe was practically at an end, though William the Obstinate refused for several years to accept the fact. The duchy of Luxemburg had sided with the Belgians all along, as might have been anticipated from its position and natural affiliations; and though no immediate action was taken relative to its ownership till 1839, it remained during the interval in Belgian hands. Matters remained in this ambiguous condition for some time; but though the Dutch might grumble, they could not fight. At length the treaty of 1839 was signed in London, on the 19th of April, according to the terms of which part of the duchy of Luxemburg was retained by the Belgians, and part was ruled by the king of Holland as grand Duke. In other respects, the status quo ante was preserved, and the partition of Holland and Belgium was confirmed, as it has ever since remained. The history of Belgium thenceforward has been almost wholly devoid of incidents; the little nation may quite too apothegm as applying to themselves, "Short are the annalsof a happy people!" Their insignificance and their geographical position secure them against all disturbance. They live in their tiny quarters with economy and industry; the most densely populous community in Europe, and one of the most prosperous. Around their borders rises the sullen murmur of threatening armies and hostile dynasties; but Belgium is free from menace, and their sunshine of peace is without a cloud. It is of course conceivable that in the great struggle which seems impending, the Belgian nation may suddenly vanish from the map, and become but a memory in the minds of a future generation; but their end, if it come, is likely to be in the nature of a euthanasia, and so far as they are physically concerned, they will survive their political annihilation. The only ripples which have varied the smooth surface of their career since the treaty, have been disputes between the liberal and clerical parties on questions of education, and disturbances and occasional riots instigated by socialists over industrial questions. Leopold, dying at the age of seventy-six, was succeeded by his son as Leopold II., and his reign continued during the remainder of the century.
The treaty of 1839, in addition to its provisions already mentioned, gave Limburg, on the Prussian border, to the Dutch, and opened the Scheldt under heavy tolls. In October of the year following the treaty, William I. abdicated the throne of Holland in favor of his son. He had not enjoyed his reign, and he retired in an ill humor, which was not without some excuse. His career had been a worthy one; he had been a soldier in the field from his twenty-first year till the battle of Wagram in 1809, when he was near forty; after that he dwelt in retirement in Berlin until he was called to the throne of the Netherlands. At that time he had exchanged his German possessions for the grand duchy of Luxemburg; and was therefore naturally reluctant to be deprived of the latter. The old soldier survived his abdication only a few years, dying in 1843 at Berlin.
William II. was a soldier like his father. He had gained distinction under Wellington in the Spanish campaign, and in the struggle against Napoleon during the Hundred Days he commanded the Dutch contingent. He married Anne, sister of Alexander I. of Russia, in 1816, and at the outbreak of the revolution of 1830 he was sent to Belgium to bring about an arrangement. On the 16th of October of that year he took the step, which was repudiated by his rigid old father, of acknowledging Belgian independence; but he subsequently commanded the Dutch army against the Belgians, and was forced to yield to the French in August, 1832. After his accession, he behaved with firmness and liberality, and died in 1849 leaving a good reputation behind him.
Meanwhile, the new revolution of 1848 was approaching. Insensibly, the states of Europe had ranged themselves under two principles. There were on one side the states governed by constitutions, including Great Britain, France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and, Norway, Denmark, and, for the time being, Spain and Portugal. On the other side were Russia, Prussia, Austria, the Italian States, and some of those of Germany, who held that the right of rule and the making of laws belonged absolutely to certain dynasties, which were, indeed, morally bound to consult the interests of their populations, yet were not responsible to their subjects for the manner in which they might choose to do it. In the last mentioned states there existed a chronic strife between the people and their rulers. It was an irrepressible conflict, and its crisis was reached in 1848.
It was in France that things first came to a head. Louis Philippe and his minister, Guizot, tried to render the government gradually independent of the nation, in imitation of the absolutist empires; and the uneasiness caused by this policy was emphasized by the scarcity that prevailed during the years 1846 and 1847. The Liberals began to demand electoral reform; but the king, on opening the Chambers, intimated that he was convinced that no reform was needed. Angry debates ensued, and finally the opposition arranged for a great banquet in the Champs Elysee on February 22, 1848, in support of the reform movement. This gathering, however, was forbidden by Guizot. The order was regarded as arbitrary, and the Republicans seized the opportunity. Barricades appeared in Paris, the king was forced to abdicate, and took refuge with his family in England. France was thereupon declared to be a Republic, and the government was intrusted to Lamartine and others. There was now great danger of excesses similar to those of the first great revolution; but the elements of violence were kept under by the opposition of the middle and higher classes. The communistic clubs were overawed by the National Guards, and on April 16th the Communistic party was defeated. General Cavaignac, who had been made dictator during the struggle, laid down his office after the battle which began on the 23d of June between the rabble of idle mechanics, eighty thousand in number, and the national forces had been decided in favor of the latter, who slew no less than sixteen thousand of the enemy. Cavaignac was now appointed chief of the Executive Commission with the title of President of the Council. A reaction favoring a monarchy was indicated; but meanwhile a new constitution provided for a quadriennial presidency, with a single legislature of seven hundred and fifty members. Louis Napoleon, the nephew of the great emperor, was chosen by a majority vote for the office in December of 1848. Four years later he was declared emperor under the title of Napoleon III.
The revolutionary movement spread to other Countries of Europe, with varying results. In Hungary, Kossuth in the Dietss demanded of the emperor-king a national government. Prince Metternich, prime minister, attempted to resist the demand with military force, but an insurrection in Vienna drove him into exile, and the Hungarians gained a temporary advantage, and were granted a constitution. The Slavs met at Prague, at the instigation of Polocky, and held a congress; but it was broken up by the impatience of the inhabitants, and a success of the imperialists was followed by the rising of the southern Slavs in favor of the emperor. A battle took place in Hungary on September 11, 1848, but the imperialists under Jellachich were routed and driven toward the Austrian frontier. The war became wider in its scope; the insurrectionists at first met with success; but in spite of their desperate valor the Hungarian forces were finally overthrown by the aid of a Russian army; and their leader, Goergy, was compelled to surrender to the Russians on August 13, 1849. It was thought that the Czar might annex Hungary; but he handed it back to Francis Joseph, who, by way of vengeance, permitted the most hideous cruelties.
In Germany, the issue had no definite feature. The people demanded freedom of the Press and a German parliament, and the various princes seemed acquiescent; but when it was proposed that Prussia should become Germany, there was opposition on all sides; a Dietss of the Confederation was held, but Frederick William IV., king of Prussia, refused to accept the title of hereditary emperor which was offered him. Austria and Prussia came into opposition; two rival congresses were sitting at the same time in 1850; and war between the two states was only averted by the interference of Russia. Czar Nicholas, then virtually dictator of Europe, ordered Prussia's troops back, and the Convention of Olmutz, in November, seemed to put a final end to Prussia's hopes of German hegemony.
All the local despotisms of Italy collapsed before the breath of revolution; but the Country then found itself face to face with Austria. Charles Albert of Sardinia had the courage to head the revolt; but was defeated, and abdicated in favor of his son Victor Emmanuel. Venice was taken after a severe siege by the Austrians; and King Bomba managed to repossess himself of Naples, after a terrible massacre. Sicily was subdued. In the Papal States, Pio Nono was deposed; but after a time a reaction set in, the provisional government under Mazzini was overthrown, and the French occupied Rome and recalled the Pope.
The question as to the Danish or German ownership of the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein had already been agitated, and they became acute at this time; but the spirit of the new revolution had no direct bearing upon the matter. By the end of the first half of the nineteenth century, Europe was outwardly quietss once more.
And what part had Holland taken in these proceedings? A very small one. The phlegmatic Dutchmen found themselves fairly well off, and were nowise tempted to embark in troubles for sentiment's sake. The constitution given them in 1814 was revised, with the consent of the king, and the changes, which involved various political reforms, went into effect on April 17, 1848. William II. died just eleven months afterward, and was succeeded by his son William III., at that time a man of two-and-thirty. He favored the reforms granted by his father, and showed himself to be in harmony with such sober ideas of progress as belonged to the nation over which he ruled. His aim in all things was peace, and the development of the resources of the Country; he understood his people, and they placed confidence in him, and Holland steadily grew in wealth and comfort. In 1853, after the establishment by the papacy of Catholic bishoprics had been allowed, there was a period of some excitement; for Roman Catholicism had found a stern and unconquerable foe in the Dutch; when it had come with the bloody tyranny of Spain. But those evil days were past, and the Dutch, who had pledged themselves to welcome religious freedom in their dominions, were disposed to let bygones be bygones, and to permit such of their Countrymen as preferred the Catholic ceremonial to have their way. It was evident that no danger existed of Holland's becoming subject to the papacy; and, indeed, the immediate political sequel of the establishment of the bishoprics was the election of a moderate, liberal, Protestant cabinet, which thoroughly represented the Country, and which represented its tone thereafter, with such modifications as new circumstances might suggest. The Dutch were philosophic, and were victims to no vague and costly ambitions. They felt that they had given sufficient proofs of their quality in the past; the glory which they had won as champions of liberty could never fade; and now they merited the repose which we have learned to associate with our conception of the Dutch character. Their nature seems to partake of the scenic traits of their Country; its picturesque, solid serenity, its unemotional levels, its flavor of the antique: and yet beneath that composure we feel the strength and steadfastness which can say to the ocean, Thus far and no further, and can build their immaculate towns, and erect their peaceful windmills, and navigate their placid canals, and smoke their fragrant pipes on land which, by natural right, should be the bottom of the sea. Holland is a perennial type of human courage and industry, common sense and moderation. As we contemplate them to-day, it requires an effort of the imagination to picture them as the descendants of a race of heroes who defied and overcame the strongest and most cruel Power on earth in their day, and then taught the rest of Europe how to unite success in commerce with justice and honor. But the heroism is still there, and, should need arise, we need not doubt that it would once more be manifested.
Because Holland is so quietss, some rash critics fancy that she may be termed effete. But this is far from the truth. The absence of military burdens, rendered needless by the intelligent selfishness, if not the conscience, of the rest of Europe, implies no decadence of masculine spirit in the Dutch. In no department of enterprise, commercial ability, or intellectual energy are they inferior to any of their contemporaries, or to their own great progenitors. "Holland," says Professor Thorold Rogers, "is the origin of scientific medicine and rational therapeutics. From Holland came the first optical instruments, the best mathematicians, the most intelligent philosophers, as well as the boldest and most original thinkers. Amsterdam and Rotterdam held the printing presses of Europe in the early days of the republic; the Elzevirs were the first publishers of cheap editions, and thereby aided in disseminating the new learning. From Holland came the new agriculture, which has done so much for social life, horticulture and floriculture. The Dutch taught modern Europe navigation. They were the first to explore the unknown seas, and many an island and cape which their captains discovered has been renamed after some one who got his knowledge by their research, and appropriated the fruit of his predecessor's labors. They have been as much plundered in the world of letters as they have been in commerce and politics. Holland taught the Western nations finance--perhaps no great boon. But they also taught commercial honor, the last and hardest lesson which nations learn. They inculcated free trade, a lesson nearly as hard to learn, if not harder, since the conspiracy against private right is watchful, incessant, and, as some would make us believe, respectable. They raised a constant and for a long time ineffectual protest against the barbarous custom of privateering, and the dangerous doctrine of contraband of war, a doctrine which, if carried out logically, would allow belligerents to interdict the trade of the world. The Dutch are the real founders of what people call international law, or the rights of nations. They made mistakes, but they made fewer than their neighbors made. The benefits which they conferred were incomparably greater than the errors they committed. There is nothing more striking than the fact that, after a brief and discreditable episode, the states were an asylum for the persecuted. The Jews, who were condemned because they were thrifty, plundered because they were rich, and harassed because they clung tenaciously to their ancient faith and customs, found an asylum in Holland; and some of them perhaps, after they originated and adopted, with the pliability of their race, a Teutonic alias, have not been sufficiently grateful to the Country which sheltered them. The Jansenists, expelled from France, found a refuge in Utrecht, and more than a refuge, a recognition, when recognition was a dangerous offence.
"There is no nation in Europe," continues the professor, "which owes more to Holland than Great Britain does. The English were for a long time, in the industrial history of modern civilization, the stupidest and most backward nation in Europe. There was, to be sure, a great age in England during the reign of Elizabeth and that of the first Stuart king. But it was brief indeed. In every other department of art, of agriculture, of trade, we learned our lesson from the Hollanders. I doubt whether any other small European race, after passing through the trials which it endured after the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle to the conclusion of the continental war, ever had so entire a recovery. The chain of its history, to be sure, was broken, and can never, in the nature of things, be welded together. But there is still left to Holland the boast and the reality of her motto, 'Luctor et emergo.'" The events of Holland's history since the Catholic concessions can be briefly told. In 1863 slavery was abolished in the Dutch West Indies, the owners being compensated; and forty-two thousand slaves were set free, chiefly in Dutch Guiana. In the same year the navigation of the Scheldt was freed, by purchase from Holland by the European powers, of the right to levy tolls. In 1867, Louis Napoleon raised the question of Luxemburg by negotiating to buy the grand duchy from Holland; but Prussia objected to the scheme, and the matter was finally settled by a Conference in London; the Prussian garrison evacuating the fortifications, which were then dismantled, and Luxemburg was declared neutral territory. Capital punishment was abolished in 1869; and on the 15th of July of the same year the Amsterdam National Exposition was opened by Prince Henry. In 1870, at the outbreak of war between Germany and France, the neutrality of Holland as to both belligerents was secured by the other Powers. In 1871 the Hollanders ceded Dutch Guinea to England, and in 1876 the canal between Amsterdam and the North Sea, which had been begun in 1865, was completed, and the passage through it was accomplished by a monitor. Another Exposition was opened in 1883, and in the same year the constitution underwent a further revision. On the 24th of June, 1884, the Prince of Orange, heir-apparent to the throne, died, and the succession thus devolved upon the princess Wilhelmina, then a child of four years. William III. himself died in 1890, and Queen Emma thereupon assumed the regency, which she was to hold until Wilhelmina came of age in 1898; an agreeable consummation which we have just witnessed.
A word may here be said concerning the physical and political constitution of the present kingdom of Holland. The Country is divided into eleven provinces--North and South Holland, Zealand, North Brabant, Utrecht, Limburg, Gelderland, Overyssel, Drenthe, Groningen, and Friesland. There are three large rivers--the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt. The inhabitants are Low Germans (Dutch), Frankish, Saxon, Frisian, and Jews, the latter numbering some sixty thousand, though their influence is, owing to their wealth and activity, larger than these figures would normally represent. The leading religion of the Country is Lutheran; but there are also many Catholics and persons of other faiths, all of whom are permitted the enjoyment of their creeds. Holland was at one time second to no Country in the extent of its colonies; and it still owns Java, the Moluccas, part of Borneo, New Guinea, Sumatra and Celebes, in the East; and in the West, Dutch Guiana and Curacoa. In Roman times the Low Countries were inhabited by various peoples, chiefly of Germanic origin; and in the Middle Ages were divided into several duchies and Counties--such as Brabant, Flanders, Gelderland, Holland, Zealand, etc. The present government is a hereditary monarchy, consisting of a king or queen and states-general; the upper chamber of fifty members, the lower of one hundred. It is essentially a Country of large towns, of five thousand inhabitants and upward. The Frisians are in North Holland, separated by the river Meuse from the Franks; the Saxons extend to the Utrecht Veldt. The Semitic race is represented by the Portuguese Jews; and there is an admixture of other nationalities. In no part of the Country do the Dutch present a marked physical type, but, on the other hand, they are sharply differenced, in various localities, by their laws, their customs, and particularly by their dialects; indeed the Frisians have a distinct language of their own.
The constitution of 1815, though more than once revised, remains practically much the same as at first. The son of the monarch, the heir-apparent, is called the Prince of Orange. The administration of the Provinces is in the hands of the provincial states; these meet but a few times in the year. The Communes have their communal councils, under the control of the burgomasters. There is a high court of justice, and numerous minor courts.
The population is divided between about two million two hundred thousand Protestants, and half as many Roman Catholics, together with others. There are four thousand schools, with six hundred thousand pupils, and about fourteen thousand teachers. Not more than ten per cent of the people are illiterate, and the women are as carefully educated the men. There are four great universities: Leyden, founded in 1575; Utrecht, founded in 1636; Groningen, in 1614; and Amsterdam, which has existed since 1877. These seats of learning give instruction to from three hundred to seven hundred students each. The total expenses of the universities average about six hundred thousand dollars. There are also in Holland excellent institutions of art, science, and industry.
Agriculture is generally pursued, but without the extreme science and economy shown in Belgium. The cultivation and produce vary, in part, according as the soil is sand or clay; but the same kind of soil, in different parts of the Country, produces different results. Cattle are largely raised and are of first-rate quality; Friesland produces the best, but there are also excellent stocks in North Holland and South Holland. In Drenthe, owing to the extensive pasturage, great numbers of sheep are raised. But perhaps the most important industry of Holland is the fisheries, both those of the deep sea, and those carried on in the great Zuyder Zee, which occupies a vast area within the boundaries of the Country. These fisheries, however, are not in all years successful, owing to the ungovernable vagaries of ocean currents, and other causes.
Holland has taken a prominent part in European thought since about 1820. The Dutch language, instead of yielding to the domination of the German, has been cultivated and enriched. The writers who have achieved distinction could hardly even be named in space here available, and any approach to a critical estimate of them would require volumes. One of the earlier but best-known names is that of Jacobus Van Lennep, who is regarded as the leader of the Dutch Romantic school. He was born in Amsterdam on the 24th of March, 1802, and died at Oosterbeek, near Arnheim, August 25, 1868. His father, David, was a professor and a poet; Jacobus studied jurisprudence at Leyden, and afterward practiced law at Amsterdam. For a while he took some part in politics as a member of the second chamber; but his heart was bent on the pursuit of literature, and he gradually abandoned all else for that. His first volume of poems was published when he was but four-and-twenty; and he was the author of several dramas. But his strongest predilections were for romantic novel-writing; and his works in this direction show signs of the influence of Walter Scott, who dominated the romantic field in the first half of this century, and was known in Holland as well as throughout the rest of Europe. "The Foster Son" was published in 1829; the "Rose of Dekama" in 1836; "The Adventures of Claus Sevenstars" in 1865. His complete works, in prose and poetry, fill six-and-thirty volumes. A younger contemporary of Van Lennep was Nikolas Beets, born at Haarlem in 1814; he also was both poet and prose writer, and his "Camara Obscura," published in 1839, is accounted a masterpiece of character and humor, though it was composed when the author was barely twenty-four years of age. Van den Brink was a leading critic of the Romanticists; Hasebrock, author of a volume of essays called "Truth and Dream," has been likened to the English Charles Lamb. Vosmaer is another eminent figure in Dutch literature; he wrote a "Life of Rembrandt" which is a masterpiece of biography. Kuenen, who died but ten years ago, was a biblical critic of European celebrity. But the list of contemporary Dutch writers is long and brilliant, and the time to speak critically of them must be postponed.
Nothing impresses the visitor to Holland more than the vast dikes or dams which restrain the sea from overwhelming the Country. They have to be constantly watched and renewed, and to those unused to the idea of dwelling in the presence of such constant peril, the phlegm of the Hollanders is remarkable. M. Havard, who has made a careful study of the Country and its people, and who writes of them in a lively style, has left excellent descriptions of these unique works. "We know," he says, "what the Zealand soil is--how uncertain, changing, and mutable; nevertheless, a construction is placed upon it, one hundred and twenty yards long, sixteen yards wide at the entrance, and more than seven and a half yards deep below high water. Add to this, that the enormous basin (one thousand nine hundred square yards) is enclosed within granite walls of extraordinary thickness, formed of solid blocks of stone of tremendous weight. To what depth must the daring workmen who undertook the Cyclopean task have gone in search of a stable standpoint, on which to lay the foundation of such a mass! In what subterranean layer could they have had such confidence, in this Country where the earth sinks in, all of a sudden, where islands disappear without leaving a trace--that they ventured to build upon it so mighty an edifice! And observe that not only one dam is thus built; in the two islands of Zuid Beveland and Walcheren a dozen have been constructed. There are two at Wormeldingen. In the presence of these achievements, of problems faced with such courage and solved with such success, one is almost bewildered." Elsewhere, in speaking of Kampveer, one of the towns which suffered an inundation, he says, "Poor little port! once so famous, lively, populous, and noisy, and now so solitary and still! Traces of its former military and mercantile character are yet to be seen. On the left stands a majestic building with thick walls and few apertures, terminating on the sea in a crenelated round tower; and these elegant houses, with their arched and trefoiled windows, and their decorated gables, on the right, once formed the ancient Scotschhuis. Every detail of the building recalls the great trade in wool done by the city at that period. Far off, at the entrance of the port, stands a tower, the last remnant of the ramparts, formerly a fortification; it is now a tavern. In vain do we look for the companion tower; it has disappeared with the earth on which its foundations stood deep and strong for ages. If, from the summit of the surviving tower, you search for that mysterious town upon the opposite bank, you will look for it in vain where it formerly stood and mirrored its houses and steeples in the limpid waters. Kampen also has been swallowed up forever, leaving no trace that it ever existed in this world. The land that stretches out before us is all affected by that subtle, cancerous disease, the _val_, whose ravages are so terrible. Two centuries ago this great bay was so filled up with sand that it was expected the two islands would in a short time be reunited and thenceforth form but one. Then, on a sudden, the gulf yawned anew. That huge rent, the Veer Gat, opened once again, more deeply than before; whole towns were buried, and their inhabitants drowned. Then the water retired, the earth rose, shaking off its humid winding sheet, and the old task was resumed; man began once more to dispute the soil with the invading waves. A portion of the land, which seemed to have been forever lost, was regained; but at the cost of what determined strife, after how many battles, with what dire alternations! Within a century, three entire polders on the north coast of Noordbeveland have again vanished, and in the place where they were there flows a stream forty yards deep. In 1873, the polder of Borselen, thirty-one acres in extent, sank into the waters. Each year the terrible _val_ devours some space or other, carrying away the land in strips. The Sophia polder is now attacked by the _val_. Every possible means is being employed for its defence; no sacrifice is spared. The game is almost up; already one dike has been swallowed, and a portion of the conquered ground has had to be abandoned. The dams are being strengthened in the rear, while every effort is being made to fix the soil so as to prevent the slipping away of the reclaimed land. To effect this, not only are the dams, reinforced and complicated by an inextricable network of stones and interlaced tree-branches; but _Zinkstukken_ are sunk far off in the sea, which by squeezing down the shifting bottom avert those sudden displacements which bring about such disasters. The Zinkstukken--enormous constructions in wicker work--are square rafts, made of reeds and boughs twisted together, sometimes two or three hundred feet long on a side. They are made on the edge of the coast and pushed into the sea; and no sooner is one afloat than it is surrounded by a crowd of barges and boats, big and little, laden with stones and clods of earth. The boats are then attached to the Zinkstuk, and this combined flotilla is so disposed along shore that the current carries it to the place where the Zinkstuk is to be sunk. When the current begins to make itself felt, the raft is loaded by the simple process of heaping the contents of the barges upon the middle of it. The men form in line from the four corners to the centre, and the loads of stone and earth are passed on to the centre of the raft, on which they are flung; then the middle of the Zinkstuk begins to sink gently, and to disappear under the water. As it goes down, the operators withdraw; the stones and clods are then flung upon it from boats. At this stage of the proceedings the Zinkstuk is so heavy that all the vessels, dragged by its weight, lean over, and their masts bend above it. But now the decisive moment approaches, and the foreman, standing on the poop of the largest boat, in the middle of the flotilla, on the side furthest from the shore, awaits the instant when the Zinkstuk shall come into precisely the foreordained position. At that instant he utters a shout and makes a signal; the ropes are cut, the raft plunges downward, and disappears forever, while the boats recover their proper position." M. Havard merits the space we have given him; for he describes a work the like of which has never been seen elsewhere in the world, any more than have the conditions which necessitated it. But the picturesqueness of the actual scene can hardly be conveyed in words. Under an azure sky we behold outstretched a sparkling sea, its waters shading from green to blue and from yellow to violet, harmoniously blending. In the distance, as though marking the horizon, stretches a long, green strip of land, with the spires of the churches standing out in strong relief against the sky. At our feet is the Zinkstuk, surrounded by its flotilla. The great red sails furled upon the masts, the green poops, the rudders sheathed with burnished copper, the red streaks along the sides of the boats, the colored shirts, brown vests, and blue girdles of the men, touched by the warm rays of the sun, compose a striking picture. On all sides the men are in motion, and five hundred brawny arms are flinging the contents of the boats upon the great raft; a truly Titanic stoning! Projectiles rain from all sides without pause, until the moment comes when the decisive command is to be given. Then silence, absolute and impressive, falls upon the multitude. Suddenly the signal is given; a creaking noise is heard; the fifty boats right themselves at the same instant, and turn toward the point where the great raft which had separated them has just disappeared. They bump against one another, they get entangled, they group themselves in numberless different ways. The swarming men, stooping and raising up, the uplifted arms, the flying stones, the spurting water covering the boats with foam; and in the midst of the confusion the polder-jungens flinging the clods of earth with giant strength and swiftness upon the raft. At certain points the tumult declines; flags are hoisted from the tops of masts, the large sails are shaken out, and aided by the breeze some vessels get loose, sail out, and desert the field of battle. These are they whose task is done, and which are empty. They retire one by one upon the great expanse of water, which, save in one spot, was a little while ago deserted, and is now overspread with the vessels making their various ways toward that green line on the horizon.
This is a conflict not of days, nor of years, nor of generations, but of all time; and what the end will be none can foretell. It is the concrete symbol of the everlasting fight of man with nature, which means civilization. The day may come when, where once Holland was, will be outspread the serene waters of the sea, hiding beneath them the records of the stupendous struggle of so many centuries. Or, perhaps, some mysterious shifting of the ocean bottom may not only lift Holland out of peril, but uncover mighty tracts of land which, in the prehistoric past, belonged to Europe. Meanwhile it is easy to understand that the people who can wage this ceaseless war for their homes and lives, are the sons of those heroes who curbed the might of Spain, and taught the world the lessons of freedom and independence.