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History of Holland
by George Edmundson
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All the writers, whose names have just been mentioned, used Latin almost exclusively as their instrument of expression. But one name, the most renowned of them all, has been omitted, because through political circumstances he was compelled to spend the greater part of his life in banishment from his native land. Hugo Grotius (Huig van Groot), after his escape from the castle of Loevestein in 1621, though he remained through life a true patriot, never could be induced to accept a pardon, which implied an admission of guilt in himself or in Oldenbarneveldt. So the man, who was known to have been the actual writer of the Advocate's Justification, continued to live in straitened circumstances at Paris, until Oxenstierna appointed him Swedish ambassador at the French court. This post he held for eleven years. Of his extraordinary ability, and of the variety and range of his knowledge, it is not possible to speak without seeming exaggeration. Grotius was in his own time styled "the wonder of the world"; he certainly stands intellectually as one of the very foremost men the Dutch race has produced. Scholar, jurist, theologian, philosopher, historian, poet, diplomatist, letter-writer, he excelled in almost every branch of knowledge and made himself a master of whatever subject he took in hand. For the student of International Law the treatise of Grotius, De Jure belli et pacis, still remains the text-book on which the later superstructure has been reared. His Mare liberum, written expressly to controvert the Portuguese claim of an exclusive right to trade and navigate in the Indian Ocean, excited much attention in Europe, and was taken by James I to be an attack on the oft-asserted dominium maris of the English crown in the narrow seas. It led the king to issue a proclamation forbidding foreigners to fish in British waters (May, 1609). Selden's Mare clausum was a reply, written by the king's command, to the Mare liberum. Of his strictly historical works the Annales et Historiae de Rebus Belgicis, for its impartiality and general accuracy no less than for its finished and lucid style, stands out as the best of all contemporary accounts from the Dutch side of the Revolt of the Netherlands. As a theologian Grotius occupied a high rank. His De Veritate Religionis Christianae and his Annotationes in Vetus et in Novum Testamentum are now out of date; but the De Veritate was in its day a most valuable piece of Christian apologetic and was quickly translated into many languages. The Annotationes have, ever since they were penned, been helpful to commentators on the Scriptures for their brilliancy and suggestiveness on many points of criticism and interpretation. His voluminous correspondence, diplomatic, literary, confidential, is rich in information bearing on the history and the life of his time. Several thousands of these letters have been collected and published.

But if the smouldering embers of bitter sectarian and party strife compelled the most brilliant of Holland's own sons to spend the last twenty-three years of his life in a foreign capital and to enter the service of a foreign state, Holland was at the same time, as we have seen, gaining distinction by the presence within her hospitable boundaries of men of foreign extraction famous for their learning.

It was thus that both the Cartesian and Spinozan systems of philosophy had their birth-place on Dutch soil. Rene Descartes sought refuge from France at Amsterdam in 1629, and he resided at different places in the United Provinces, among them at the university towns of Utrecht, Franeker and Leyden, for twenty years. During this time he published most of his best known works, including the famous Discours de la methode. His influence was great. He made many disciples, who openly or secretly became "Cartesians." Among his pupils was Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) the apostle of pantheism. A Portuguese Jew by descent, Spinoza was born in Amsterdam and was a resident in his native city throughout life.

The fame of Holland in 17th century Europe as the chosen home of learning had thus been established by scholars and thinkers whose literary language was ordinarily Latin. It is now time to speak of the brilliant band of poets, dramatists and stylists, who cultivated the resources of their native tongue with such success as to make this great era truly the Golden Age of Dutch Literature properly so-called. The growth of a genuine national literature in the Netherlands, which had produced during the latter part of the 13th century a Maerlandt and a Melis Stoke, was for some considerable time checked and retarded by the influence of the Burgundian regime, where French, as the court language, was generally adopted by the upper classes. The Netherland or Low-German tongue thus became gradually debased and corrupted by the introduction of bastard words and foreign modes of expression. Nevertheless this period of linguistic degradation witnessed the uprise of a most remarkable institution for popularising "the Art of Poesy." I refer to the literary gilds, bearing the name of "Chambers of Rhetoric," which, though of French origin, became rapidly acclimatised in the Netherlands. In well-nigh every town one or more of these "gilds" were established, delighting the people with their quaint pageantry and elaborate ritual, and forming centres of light and culture throughout the land. Rhyming, versifying, acting, became through their means the recreation of many thousands of shop-keepers, artisans and even peasants. And with all their faults of style and taste, their endless effusion of bad poetry, their feeble plays and rude farces, the mummery and buffoonery which were mingled even with their gravest efforts, the "Rhetoricians" effectually achieved the great and important work of attracting an entire people in an age of ignorance and of darkness towards a love of letters, and thereby broke the ground for the great revival of the 17th century. Amsterdam at one time possessed several of these Chambers of Rhetoric, but towards the end of the 16th century they had all disappeared, with one brilliant exception, that of the "Blossoming Eglantine," otherwise known as the "Old Chamber." Founded in 1518 under the special patronage of Charles V, the "Eglantine" weathered safely the perils and troubles of the Revolt, and passed in 1581 under the joint direction of a certain notable triumvirate, Coornheert, Spiegel and Visscher. These men banded themselves together "to raise, restore and enrich" their mother-tongue. But they were not merely literary purists and reformers; the "Eglantine" became in their hands and through their efforts the focus of new literary life and energy, and Amsterdam replaced fallen Antwerp as the home of Netherland culture.

The senior member of the triumvirate, Dirk Volkertz Coornheert, led a stormy and adventurous life. He was a devoted adherent of William the Silent and for a series of years, through good and ill-fortune, devoted himself with pen and person to the cause of his patron. As a poet he did not attain any very high flight, but he was a great pamphleteer, and, taking an active part in religious controversy, by his publications he drew upon himself a storm of opposition and in the end of persecution. He was, like his patron, a man of moderate and tolerant views, which in an age of religious bigotry brought upon him the hatred of all parties and the accusation of being a free-thinker. His stormy life ended in 1590. Hendrik Laurensz Spiegel (1549-1612) was a member of an old Amsterdam family. In every way a contrast to Coornheert, Spiegel was a Catholic. A prosperous citizen, simple, unostentatious and charitable, he spent the whole of his life in his native town, and being disqualified by his religion from holding public office he gave all his leisure to the cultivation of his mind and to literary pursuits. The work on which his fame chiefly rests was a didactic poem entitled the Hert-Spiegel. In his pleasant country house upon the banks of the Amstel, beneath a wide and spreading tree, which he was wont to call the "Temple of the Muses" he loved to gather a circle of literary friends, irrespective of differences of opinion or of faith, and with them to spend the afternoon in bright congenial converse on books and men and things. Roemer Visscher, the youngest member of the triumvirate, was like Spiegel an Amsterdammer, a Catholic and a well-to-do merchant. His poetical efforts did not attain a high standard, though his epigrams, which were both witty and quaint, won for him from his contemporaries the name of the "Second Martial." Roemer Visscher's fame does not, however, rest chiefly upon his writings. A man of great affability, learned, shrewd and humorous, he was exceedingly hospitable, and he was fortunate in having a wife of like tastes and daughters more gifted than himself. During the twenty years which preceded his death in 1620 his home was the chosen rendezvous of the best intelligence of the day. To the young he was ever ready to give encouragement and help; and struggling talent always found in him a kindly critic and a sympathising friend. He lived to see and to make the acquaintance of Brederoo, Vondel, Cats and Huyghens, the men whose names were to make the period of Frederick Henry the most illustrious in the annals of Dutch literature.

Gerbrand Adriansz Brederoo, strictly speaking, did not belong to that period. He died prematurely in 1618, a victim while still young to a wayward life of dissipation and disappointment. His comedies, written in the rude dialect of the fish-market and the street, are full of native humour and originality and give genuine glimpses of low life in old Amsterdam. His songs show that Brederoo had a real poetic gift. They reveal, beneath the rough and at times coarse and licentious exterior, a nature of fine susceptibilities and almost womanly tenderness. Joost van den Vondel was born in the same year as Brederoo, 1587, but his career was very different. Vondel survived till 1679, and during the whole of his long life his pen was never idle. His dramas and poems (in the edition of Van Lennep) fill twelve volumes. Such a vast production, as is inevitable, contains material of very unequal merit; but it is not too much to say that the highest flights of Vondel's lyric poetry, alike in power of expression and imagery, in the variety of metre and the harmonious cadence of the verse, deserve a far wider appreciation than they have ever received, through the misfortune of having been written in a language little known and read. Vondel was the son of an Antwerp citizen compelled as a Protestant to fly from his native town after its capture by Parma. He took refuge at Cologne, where the poet was born, and afterwards settled at Amsterdam. In that town Vondel spent all his life, first as a shopkeeper, then as a clerk in the City Savings' Bank. He was always a poor man; he never sought for the patronage of the great, but rather repelled it. His scathing attacks on those who had compassed the death of Oldenbarneveldt, and his adhesion to the Remonstrant cause brought him in early life into disfavour with the party in power, while later his conversion to Catholicism—in 1641—and his eager and zealous advocacy of its doctrines, were a perpetual bar to that public recognition of his talents which was his due. Vondel never at any time sacrificed his convictions to his interest, and he wrote poetry not from the desire of wealth or fame, but because he was a born poet and his mind found in verse the natural expression of its thought and emotions.

But, though Vondel was a poor man, he was not unlearned. On the contrary he was a diligent student of Greek and Latin literature, and translated many of the poetical masterpieces in those languages into Dutch verse. Indeed so close was his study that it marred much of his own work. Vondel wrote a great number of dramas, but his close imitation of the Greek model with its chorus, and his strict adherence to the unities, render them artificial in form and lacking in movement and life. This is emphasised by the fact that many of them are based on Scriptural themes, and by the monotony of the Alexandrine metre in which all the dialogues are written. It is in the choruses that the poetical genius of Vondel is specially displayed. Lyrical gems in every variety of metre are to be found in the Vondelian dramas, alike in his youthful efforts and in those of extreme old age. Of the dramas, the finest and the most famous is the Lucifer, 1654, which treats of the expulsion of Lucifer and his rebel host of angels from Heaven. We are here in the presence of a magnificent effort to deal grandiosely with a stupendous theme. The conception of the personality of Lucifer is of heroic proportions; and a comparison of dates renders it at least probable that this Dutch drama passed into John Milton's hands, and that distinct traces of the impression it made upon him are to be found in certain passages of the Paradise Lost. Vondel also produced hundreds of occasional pieces, besides several lengthy religious and didactic poems. He even essayed an epic poem on Constantine the Great, but it was never completed. Of the occasional poems the finest are perhaps the triumph songs over the victories of Frederick Henry, and of the great admirals Tromp and De Ruyter.

Jacob Cats (1577-1660) lived, like Vondel, to a great age, but in very different circumstances. He was a native of Dordrecht and became pensionary of that town, and, though not distinguished as a statesman or politician, he was so much respected for his prudence and moderation that for twenty-two years he filled the important office of Council-Pensionary of Holland and was twice sent as an Envoy Extraordinary to England. He was a prolific writer and was undoubtedly the most popular and widely-read of the poets of his time. His works were to be found in every Dutch homestead, and he was familiarly known as "Father Cats." His gifts were, however, of a very different order from those of Vondel. His long poems dealt chiefly with the events of domestic, every-day existence; and the language, simple, unpretentious and at times commonplace, was nevertheless not devoid of a certain restful charm. There are no high flights of imagination or of passion, but there are many passages as rich in quaint fancy as in wise maxims. With Constantine Huyghens (1596-1687) the writing of verse was but one of the many ways in which one of the most cultured, versatile, and busy men of his time found pleasant recreation in his leisure hours. The trusted secretary, friend and counsellor of three successive Princes of Orange, Huyghens in these capacities was enabled for many years to render great service to Frederick Henry, William II and William III, more especially perhaps to the last-named during the difficult and troubled period of his minority. Nevertheless all these cares and labours of the diplomatist, administrator, courtier and man of the world did not prevent him from following his natural bent for intellectual pursuits. He was a man of brilliant parts and of refined and artistic tastes. Acquainted with many languages and literatures, an accomplished musician and musical composer, a generous patron of letters and of art, his poetical efforts are eminently characteristic of the personality of the man. His volumes of short poems—Hofwijck, Cluijswerck, Voorhout and Zeestraet—contain exquisite and witty pictures of life at the Hague—"the village of villages"—and are at once fastidious in form and pithy in expression.

It remains to speak of the man who may truly be described as the central figure among his literary contemporaries. Pieter Cornelisz Hooft (1583-1647) was indisputably the first man of letters of his time. He sprang from one of the first families of the burgher-aristocracy of Amsterdam, in which city his father, Cornelis Pietersz Hooft, filled the office of burgomaster no less than thirteen times. He began even as a boy to write poetry, and his strong bent to literature was deepened by a prolonged tour of more than three years in France, Germany and Italy, almost two years of which were spent at Florence and Venice. After his return he studied jurisprudence at Leyden, but when he was only twenty-six years old he received an appointment which was to mould and fix the whole of his future career. In 1609 Prince Maurice, in recognition of his father's great services, nominated Hooft to the coveted post of Drost, or Governor, of Muiden and bailiff of Gooiland. This post involved magisterial and administrative duties of a by-no-means onerous kind; and the official residence of the Drost, the "High House of Muiden," an embattled feudal castle with pleasant gardens, lying at the point where at no great distance from Amsterdam the river Vecht sleepily empties itself into the Zuyder Zee, became henceforth for thirty years a veritable home of letters.

Hooft's literary life may be divided into two portions. In the decade after his settlement at Muiden, he was known as a dramatist and a writer of pretty love songs. His dramas—Geerard van Velzen, Warenar and Baeto—caught the popular taste and were frequently acted, but are not of high merit. His songs and sonnets are distinguished for their musical rhythm and airy lightness of touch, but they were mostly penned, as he himself tells us, for his own pleasure and that of his friends, not for general publication. There are, nevertheless, charming pieces in the collected edition of Hooft's poems, and he was certainly an adept in the technicalities of metrical craft. But Hooft himself was ambitious of being remembered by posterity as a national historian. He aimed at giving such a narrative of the struggle against Spain as would entitle him to the name of "the Tacitus of the Netherlands." He wished to produce no mere chronicle like those of Bor or Van Meteren, but a literary history in the Dutch tongue, whose style should be modelled on that of the great Roman writer, whose works Hooft is said to have read through fifty-two times. He first, to try his hand, wrote a life of Henry IV of France, which attained great success. Louis XIII was so pleased with it that he sent the author a gold chain and made him a Knight of St Michael. Thus encouraged, on August 19, 1628, Hooft began his Netherland Histories, and from this date until his death in 1647 he worked ceaselessly at the magnum opus, which, beginning with the abdication of Charles V, he intended to carry on until the conclusion of the Twelve Years' Truce. He did not live to bring the narrative further than the end of the Leicester regime. In a small tower in the orchard at Muiden he kept his papers; and here, undisturbed, he spent all his leisure hours for nineteen years engaged on the great task, on which he concentrated all his energies. He himself tells us of the enormous pains that he took to get full and accurate information, collecting records, consulting archives and submitting every portion as it was written to the criticism of living authorities, more especially to Constantine Huyghens and through him to the Prince of Orange himself. Above all Hooft strove, to use his own words, "never to conceal the truth, even were it to the injury of the fatherland"; and the carrying-out of this principle has given to the great prose-epic that he wrote a permanent value apart altogether from its merits as a remarkable literary achievement. And yet perhaps the most valuable legacy that Hooft has left to posterity is his collection of letters. Of these a recent writer[7] has declared "that, though it could not be asserted that they [Hooft's letters] threw into the shade the whole of the rest of Netherland literature, still the assertion would not be far beyond the mark." They deal with every variety of subject, grave and gay; and they give us an insight into the literary, social and domestic life of the Holland of his time, which is of more value than any history.

In these letters we find life-like portraits of the scholars, poets, dramatists, musicians, singers, courtiers and travellers, who formed that brilliant society which received from their contemporaries the name of the "Muiden Circle"—Muidener Kring. The genial and hospitable Drost loved to see around him those "five or six couple of friends," whom he delighted to invite to Muiden. Hooft was twice married; and both his wives, Christina van Erp and Heleonore Hellemans, were charming and accomplished women, endowed with those social qualities which gave an added attractiveness to the Muiden gatherings. Brandt, Hooft's biographer, describes Christina as "of surpassing capacity and intelligence, as beautiful, pleasing, affable, discreet, gentle and gracious, as such a man could desire to have"; while, of Heleonore, Hooft himself writes: "Within this house one ever finds sunshine, even when it rains without."

This reference to the two hostesses of Muiden calls attention to one of the noteworthy features of social life in the Holland of this period—namely, the high level of education among women belonging to the upper burgher-class. Anna and Maria Tesselschade Visscher, and Anna Maria Schuurman may be taken as examples. Anna, the elder of the two daughters of Roemer Visscher (1584-1651), was brought up amidst cultured surroundings. For some years after her mother's death she took her place as mistress of the house which until 1620 had been the hospitable rendezvous of the literary society of Amsterdam. She was herself a woman of wide erudition, and her fame as a poet was such as to win for her, according to the fashion of the day, the title of "the Dutch Sappho." Tesselschade, ten years younger than her sister and educated under her fostering care, was however destined to eclipse her, alike by her personal charms and her varied accomplishments. If one could believe all that is said in her praise by Hooft, Huyghens, Barlaeus, Brederoo, Vondel and Cats, she must indeed have been a very marvel of perfect womanhood. As a singer she was regarded as being without a rival; and her skill in painting, carving, etching on glass and tapestry work was much praised by her numerous admirers. Her poetical works, including her translation into Dutch verse of Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, have almost all unfortunately perished, but a single ode that survives—"the Ode to a Nightingale"—is an effort not unworthy of Shelley and shows her possession of a true lyrical gift. At Muiden the presence of the "beautiful" Tesselschade was almost indispensable. "What feast would be complete," wrote Hooft to her, "at which you were not present? Favour us then with your company if it be possible"; and again: "that you will come is my most earnest desire. If you will but be our guest, then, I hope, you will cure all our ills." He speaks of her to Barlaeus as "the priestess"; and it is clear that at her shrine all the frequenters of Muiden were ready to burn the incense of adulation. Both Anna and Tesselschade, like their father, were devout Catholics.

Anna Maria van Schuurman (1607-84) was a woman of a different type. She does not seem to have loved or to have shone in society, but she was a very phenomenon of learning. She is credited with proficiency in painting, carving and other arts; but it is not on these, so to speak, accessory accomplishments that her fame rests, but on the extraordinary range and variety of her solid erudition. She was at once linguist, scholar, theologian, philosopher, scientist and astronomer. She was a remarkable linguist and had a thorough literary and scholarly knowledge of French, English, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldee, Arabic and Ethiopic. Her reputation became widespread; and, in the latter part of her long life, many strangers went to Utrecht, where she resided, to try to get a glimpse of so great a celebrity, which was not easy owing to her aversion to such visits.

Turning to the domain of mathematical and physical science and of scientific research and discovery, we find that here also the 17th century Netherlanders attained the highest distinction. As mathematicians Simon Stevin, the friend and instructor of Maurice of Orange, and Francis van Schooten, the Leyden Professor, who numbered among his pupils Christian Huyghens and John de Witt, did much excellent work in the earlier years of the century. The published writings of De Witt on "the properties of curves" and on "the theory of probabilities" show that the greatest of Dutch statesmen might have become famous as a mathematician had the cares of administration permitted him to pursue the abstract studies that he loved. Of the scientific achievements of Christian Huyghens (1629-95), the brilliant son of a brilliant father, it is difficult to speak in adequate terms. There is scarcely any name in the annals of science that stands higher than his. His abilities, as a pure mathematician, place him in the front rank among mathematicians of all time; and yet the services that he rendered to mathematical science were surpassed by his extraordinary capacity for the combination of theory with practice. His powers of invention, of broad generalisation, of originality of thought were almost unbounded. Among the mathematical problems with which he dealt successfully were the theory of numbers, the squaring of the circle and the calculation of chances. To him we owe the conception of the law of the conservation of energy, of the motion of the centre of gravity, and of the undulatory theory of light. He expounded the laws of the motion of the pendulum, increased the power of the telescope, invented the micrometer, discovered the rings and satellites of Saturn, constructed the first pendulum clock, and a machine, called the gunpowder machine, in principle the precursor of the steam engine. For sheer brain power and inventive genius Christian Huyghens was a giant. He spent the later years of his life in Paris, where he was one of the founders and original members of the Academie des Sciences. Two other names of scientists, who gained a European reputation for original research and permanent additions to knowledge, must be mentioned; those of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), and of Jan Swammerdam (1637-80). Leeuwenhoek was a life-long observer of minute life. The microscope (the invention of which was due to a Dutchman, Cornelius Drebbel) was the favourite instrument of his patient investigations, and he was able greatly to improve its mechanism and powers. Among the results of his labours was the discovery of the infusoria, and the collection of a valuable mass of information concerning the circulation of the blood and the structure of the eye and brain. Swammerdam was a naturalist who devoted himself to the study of the habits and the metamorphoses of insects, and he may be regarded as the founder of this most important branch of scientific enquiry. His work forms the basis on which all subsequent knowledge on this subject has been built up.

To say that the school of Dutch painting attained its zenith in the period of Frederick Henry and the decades which preceded and followed it, is scarcely necessary. It was the age of Rembrandt. The works of that great master and of his contemporaries, most of whom were influenced and many dominated by his genius, are well known to every lover of art, and are to be seen in every collection of pictures in Europe. One has, however, to visit the Rijks Museum at Amsterdam and the Mauritshuis at the Hague to appreciate what an extraordinary outburst of artistic skill and talent had at this time its birth within the narrow limits of the northern Netherlands. To the student of Dutch history these two galleries are a revelation, for there we see 17th century Holland portrayed before us in every phase of its busy and prosperous public, social and domestic life. Particularly is this the case with the portraits of individuals and of civic and gild groups by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Van der Helst and their followers, which form an inimitable series that has rarely been equalled. To realise to what an extent in the midst of war the fine arts flourished in Holland, a mere list of the best-known painters of the period will suffice, it tells its own tale. They are given in the order of their dates: Frans Hals (1584-1666), Gerard Honthorst (1592-1662), Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan Wyvants (1600-87), Albert Cuyp (1606-72), Jan Lievens (1607-63), Rembrandt van Rhyn (1608-69), Gerard Terburg (1608-81), Adrian Brouwer (1608-41), Ferdinand Bol (1609-81), Salomon Koning (1609-74), Andreas Both (1609-60), Jan Both (1610-62), Adrian van Ostade (1610-85), Bartolomaus van der Helst (1613-70), Gerard Douw (1613-80), Gabriel Metzu (1615-58), Govaert Flinck (1615-60), Isaac van Ostade (1617-71), Aart van der Neer (1619-83), Pieter de Koningh (1619-89), Philip Wouvermans (1620-68), Pieter van der Hoogh (?), Nicolas Berchem (1624-83), Paul Potter (1625-54), Jacob Ruysdael (1625-81), Meindert Hobbema (?), Jan Steen (1626-79), Samuel van Hoogstraeten (1627-78), Ludolf Backhuizen (1631-1709), Jan van der Meer of Delft (1632-?), Nicholas Maes (1632-93), William van der Velde (1633-1707), Frans van Mieris (1635-81), Caspar Netscher (1639-84), Adrian van der Velde (1639-72).

It is strange that little is known of the lives of the great majority of these men; they are scarcely more than names, but their memory survives in their works. No better proof could be brought of the general abundance of money and at the same time of the widespread culture of the land than the fact that art found among all classes so many patrons. The aristocratic burgher-magistrates and the rich merchants loved to adorn their houses with portraits and a choice selection of pictures; it was a favourite investment of capital, and there was a certain amount of rivalry among the principal families in a town like Amsterdam in being possessed of a fine collection. The "Six" collection still remains as an example upon the walls of the 17th century house of Burgomaster Six, where it was originally placed. The governing bodies of gilds and boards, members of corporations, the officers of the town schutterij or of archer companies delighted to have their portraits hung around their council chambers or halls of assembly. In the well-to-do farmer-homesteads and even in the dwellings of the poorer classes pictures were to be found, as one may see in a large number of the "interiors" which were the favourite subject of the genre painters of the day. But with all this demand the artists themselves do not seem to have in any case been highly paid. The prices were low. Even Rembrandt himself, whose gains were probably much larger than those of any of his contemporaries, and whose first wife, Saskia Uilenburg, was a woman of means, became bankrupt in 1656, and this at a time when he was still in his prime, and his powers at their height. Some of his most famous pictures were produced at a later date.

During the Thirty Years' War Holland became the centre of the publishing and book-selling trade; and Leyden and Amsterdam were famed as the foremost seats of printing in Europe. The devastation of Germany and the freedom of the press in the United Provinces combined to bring about this result. The books produced by the Elseviers at Leyden and by Van Waesberg and Cloppenburch at Amsterdam are justly regarded as fine specimens of the printer's art, while the maps of Willem Jansz Blaeu and his Dutch contemporaries were quite unrivalled, and marked a great step forward in cartography.

This chapter must not conclude without a reference to the part taken by the Netherlanders in the development of modern music and the modern stage. The love of music was widespread; and the musicians of the Netherlands were famed alike as composers and executants. It was from its earlier home in the Low Countries that the art of modern music spread into Italy and Germany and indeed into all Europe. Similarly in the late Middle Ages the people of the Netherlands were noted for their delight in scenic representations and for the picturesque splendour with which they were carried out. The literary gilds, named Chambers of Rhetoric, never took such deep root elsewhere; and in the performance of Mystery Plays and Moralities and of lighter comic pieces (chuttementen and cluyten) many thousands of tradespeople and artisans took part. In the 17th century all the Chambers of Rhetoric had disappeared with the single exception of the famous "Old Chamber" at Amsterdam, known as The Blossoming Eglantine, to which the leading spirits of the Golden Age of Dutch Literature belonged and which presided over the birth of the Dutch Stage. From the first the stage was popular and well-supported; and the new theatre of Amsterdam, the Schouburg (completed in 1637), became speedily renowned for the completeness of its arrangements and the ability of its actors. Such indeed was their reputation that travelling companies of Dutch players visited the chief cities of Germany, Austria and Denmark, finding everywhere a ready welcome and reaping a rich reward, whilst at Stockholm for a time a permanent Dutch theatre was established.

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CHAPTER XIII

THE STADHOLDERATE OF WILLIAM II.

THE GREAT ASSEMBLY

Upon the death of Frederick Henry of Orange (March, 1647), his only son succeeded to his titles and estates and also by virtue of the Act of Survivance to the offices of Stadholder in six provinces and to the Captain-Generalship and Admiral-Generalship of the Union. William was but twenty-one years of age and, having been excluded during Frederick Henry's lifetime from taking any active part in affairs of state, he had turned his energies into the pursuit of pleasure, and had been leading a gay and dissolute life. His accession to power was, however, speedily to prove that he was possessed of great abilities, a masterful will and a keen and eager ambition. He had strongly disapproved of the trend of the peace negotiations at Muenster, and would have preferred with the help of the French to have attempted to drive the Spaniards out of the southern Netherlands. The preliminaries were, however, already settled in the spring of 1647; and the determination of the province of Holland and especially of the town of Amsterdam to conclude an advantageous peace with Spain and to throw over France rendered the opposition of the young Stadholder unavailing. But William, though he had perforce to acquiesce in the treaty of Muenster, was nevertheless resolved at the earliest opportunity to undo it. Thus from the outset he found himself in a pronounced antagonism with the province of Holland, which could only issue in a struggle for supremacy similar to that with which his uncle Maurice was confronted in the years that followed the truce of 1609, and, to a less degree, his father after 1640.

Commerce was the predominant interest of the burgher-aristocracies who held undisputed sway in the towns of Holland; and they, under the powerful leadership of Amsterdam, were anxious that the peace they had secured should not be disturbed. They looked forward to lightening considerably the heavy load of taxation which burdened them, by reducing the number of troops and of ships of war maintained by the States. To this policy the young prince was resolutely opposed, and he had on his side the prestige of his name and a vast body of popular support even in Holland itself, among that great majority of the inhabitants, both of town and country, who were excluded from all share in government and administration and were generally Orangist in sympathy. He had also with him the officers of the army and navy and the preachers. His chief advisers were his cousin William Frederick, Stadholder of Friesland, and Cornelis van Aerssens (son of Francis) lord of Sommelsdijk. By the agency of Sommelsdijk he put himself in secret communication with Count d'Estrades, formerly French ambassador at the Hague, now Governor of Dunkirk, and through him with Mazarin, with the view of concluding an alliance with France for the conquest of the Spanish Netherlands, and for sending a joint expedition to England to overthrow the Parliamentary forces and establish the Stewarts on the throne. Mazarin was at this time, however, far too much occupied by his struggle with the Fronde to listen to the overtures of a young man who had as yet given no proof of being in a position to give effect to his ambitious proposals. Nevertheless the prince was in stern earnest. In April, 1648, his brother-in-law, James, Duke of York, had taken refuge at the Hague, and was followed in July by the Prince of Wales. William received them with open arms and, urged on by his wife, the Princess Royal, and by her aunt the exiled Queen of Bohemia, who with her family was still residing at the Hague, he became even more eager to assist in effecting a Stewart restoration than in renewing the war with Spain. The difficulties in his way were great. In 1648 public opinion in the States on the whole favoured the Parliamentary cause. But, when the Parliament sent over Dr Doreslaer and Walter Strickland as envoys to complain of royal ships being allowed to use Dutch harbours, the States-General, through the influence of the prince, refused them an audience. The Estates of Holland on this gave a signal mark of their independence and antagonism by receiving Doreslaer and forbidding the royal squadron to remain in any of the waters of the Province.

The news of the trial of King Charles for high-treason brought about a complete revulsion of feeling. The Prince of Wales himself in person begged the States-General to intervene on his father's behalf; and the proposal met with universal approval. It was at once agreed that Adrian Pauw, the now aged leader of the anti-Orange party in Holland, should go to London to intercede for the king's life. He was courteously received on January 26 o.s., and was granted an audience by the House of Commons, but the decision had already been taken and his efforts were unavailing. The execution of the king caused a wave of horror to sweep over the Netherlands, and an address of condolence was offered by the States-General to the Prince of Wales; but, to meet the wishes of the delegates of Holland, he was addressed not as King of Great Britain, but simply as King Charles II, and it was agreed that Joachimi, the resident ambassador in London, should not be recalled at present. The new English Government on their part sent over once more Dr Doreslaer with friendly proposals for drawing the two republics into closer union. Doreslaer, who had taken part in the trial of Charles I, was specially obnoxious to the royalist exiles, who had sought refuge in Holland. He landed on May 9. Three days later he was assassinated as he was dining at his hotel. The murderers, five or six in number, managed to make their escape and were never apprehended.

Although highly incensed by this outrage, the English Government did not feel itself strong enough to take decided action. The Estates of Holland expressed through Joachimi their abhorrence at what had occurred; and the Parliament instructed Strickland to approach the States-General again with friendly advances. The States-General refused to grant him an audience, while receiving the envoy despatched by Charles II from Scotland to announce his accession. The English Council of State had no alternative but to regard this as a deliberate insult. Strickland was recalled and left Holland, July 22. On September 26 Joachimi was ordered to leave London. The breach between the two countries seemed to be complete, but the Estates of Holland, who for the sake of their commerce dreaded the thought of a naval war, did all in their power to work for an accommodation. They received Strickland in a public audience before his departure, and they ventured to send a special envoy to Whitehall, Gerard Schaep, January 22, to treat with the Parliament. By this action the Provincial Estates flouted the authority of the States-General and entered into negotiations on their own account, as if they were an independent State. The Hollanders were anxious to avoid war almost at any price, but circumstances proved too strong for them.

In order to carry out this pacifist policy the Estates of Holland now resolved to effect a large reduction of expenditure by disbanding a portion of the troops and ships. When the peace of Muenster was signed the States possessed an army of 60,000 men, and all parties were agreed that this large force might safely be reduced. In July 1648, a drastic reduction was carried out, twenty-five thousand men being disbanded. The Estates of Holland, however, demanded a further retrenchment of military charges, but met with the strong opposition of the Prince and his cousin William Frederick, who declared that an army of at least 30,000 was absolutely necessary for garrisoning the frontier fortresses and safeguarding the country against hostile attack. Their views had the support of all the other provinces, but Holland was obdurate. In Holland commerce reigned supreme; and the burgher-regents and merchants were suspicious of the prince's warlike designs and were determined to thwart them. Finding that the States-General refused to disband at their dictation some fifty-five companies of the excellent foreign troops who formed the kernel of the States' army, the Provincial Estates proceeded to take matters into their own hands, and discharged a body of 600 foreign troops which were paid by the Province. In doing this they were acting illegally. The old question of the sovereign rights of the Provinces, which had been settled in 1619 by the sword of Maurice, was once more raised. The States-General claimed to exercise the sole authority in military matters. There were not seven armies in the Union, but one army under the supreme command of the captain-general appointed by the States-General. The captain-general was now but a young and inexperienced man, but he had none of the hesitation and indecision shown by his uncle Maurice in the troubles of 1618-19, and did not shrink from the conflict with the dominant province to which he was challenged.

For some time, indeed, wrangling went on. There was a strong minority in the Estates of Holland opposed to extreme measures; and the council-pensionary, Jacob Cats, was a moderate man friendly to the House of Orange. An accommodation was reached on the subject of the disbanding of the 600 foreign troops, but the conflict was renewed, and in the middle of 1650 it assumed grave proportions. The heart and soul of the opposition to the prince was Amsterdam. William had for some time been urged by his Friesland cousin to take action, since the attitude of Amsterdam threatened the dissolution of the Union. The prince was at this time engaged in negotiating with France, but nothing had as yet been settled, and his projects were not ripe for execution. Nevertheless it was absolutely necessary for their realisation that the military forces should not be excessively reduced. Under his influence the States-General decided that, though the number of troops in the several regiments should be decreased, the cadres of all regiments with their full quota of officers should be retained. To this the Estates of Holland dissented, and finding that they could not prevail, they determined on a daring step. Orders were sent (June 1, 1650) to the colonels of the regiments on the Provincial war-sheet to disband their regiments on pain of stoppage of pay. The colonels refused to take any orders save from the Council of State and the captain-general. The prince accordingly, with William Frederick and the Council of State, appeared in the States-General and appealed to them to uphold the colonels in their refusal. There could be no question that the Estates of Holland were hopelessly in the wrong, for their representatives in the States-General had in 1623,1626,1630 and 1642 voted for the enforcement on recalcitrant provinces of the full quota at which they were assessed for the payment of the army of the Union. The States-General, June 5, therefore determined to send a "notable deputation" to the towns of Holland. The prince was asked to head the deputation, the members of which were to be chosen by him; and he was invested with practically dictatorial powers to take measures for the keeping of the peace and the maintenance of the Union. In doing this the Generality were themselves acting ultra vires. The States-General was an assembly consisting of the representatives of the Provincial Estates. It could deal or treat therefore only with the Estates of the several provinces, not with the individual towns within a province. In resisting the interference of the Estates of Holland with matters that concerned the Union as a whole, they were themselves infringing, by the commission given to the "notable deputation," the jurisdiction of the Provincial Estates over their own members.

The prince set out on June 8, and visited all the "privileged" towns. The result was more than disappointing. The Council of the premier municipality, Dordrecht, set the example by declaring that they were answerable only to the Estates of the Province. Schiedam, Alkmaar, Edam and Monnikendam gave the same reply. Delft and Haarlem were willing to receive the prince as stadholder, but not the deputation. Amsterdam, under the influence of the brothers Andries and Cornelis Bicker, went even further and after some parleying declined to admit either the deputation or the prince. On June 25 William returned to the Hague bitterly chagrined by his reception and determined to crush resistance by force.

The stroke he planned was to seize the representatives of six towns which had been specially obstinate in their opposition, and at the same time to occupy Amsterdam with an armed force. His preparations were quickly made. On July 30 an invitation was sent to Jacob de Witt, ex-burgomaster of Dordrecht, and five other prominent members of the Estates of Holland, to visit the prince. On their arrival they were arrested by the stadholder's guard, and carried off as prisoners to the Castle of Loevestein. William had meanwhile left the execution of the coup-de-main against Amsterdam to his cousin William Frederick. The arrangements for gathering together secretly a large force from various garrisons were skilfully made, and it was intended at early dawn to seize unexpectedly one of the gates, and then to march in and get possession of the town without opposition. The plan, however, accidentally miscarried. Some of the troops in the night having lost their way, attracted the notice of a postal messenger on his way to Amsterdam, who reported their presence to the burgomaster, Cornelis Bicker. Bicker at once took action. The gates were closed, the council summoned, and vigorous measures of defence taken. William Frederick therefore contented himself with surrounding the city, so as to prevent ingress or egress from the gates. On the next morning, July 31, William, having learnt that the surprise attack had failed, set out for Amsterdam, determined to compel its surrender. The council, fearing the serious injury a siege would cause to its commerce, opened negotiations (August 1). The prince, however, insisting on unconditional submission, no other course was open. Amsterdam undertook to offer no further opposition to the proposals of the States-General, and was compelled to agree to the humiliating demand of the stadholder that the brothers Bicker should not only resign their posts in the municipal government, but should be declared ineligible for any official position in the future.

The Prince of Orange had now secured the object at which he had aimed. His authority henceforth rested on a firm basis. His opponents had been overthrown and humiliated. The Estates of six provinces thanked him for the success of his efforts, and he on his part met the general wish for economy by agreeing to a reduction of the foreign troops in the pay of the States on the distinct understanding that only the States-General had the right to disband any portion of the forces, not the provincial paymasters. In the flush of triumph William at the end of August left the Hague for his country seat at Dieren, nominally for hunting and for rest, in reality to carry on secret negotiations with France for the furtherance of his warlike designs. The complete defeat of Charles II at the battle of Worcester, September 3, must have been a severe blow to his hopes for the restoration of the Stuarts, but it did not deter him from pursuing his end. With d'Estrades, now Governor of Dunkirk, the prince secretly corresponded, and through him matters were fully discussed with the French Government. In a letter written from the Hague on October 2, William expressed a strong wish that d'Estrades should come in person to visit him; and it was the intention of d'Estrades to accept this invitation as soon as he had received from Paris the copy of a draft-treaty, which was being prepared. This draft-treaty, which was probably drawn up by Mazarin, reached d'Estrades in the course of October, but circumstantial evidence proves that it was never seen by William. Its provisions were as follows. Both Powers were to declare war on Spain and attack Flanders and Antwerp. The Dutch were to besiege Antwerp, which city, if taken, was to become the personal appanage of the Prince, of Orange. When the Spanish power in the southern Netherlands had been overthrown, then France and the United Provinces were to send a joint expedition to England to place Charles II on the throne. Whether the prince would have approved these proposals we know not; in all probability he would have declined to commit himself to a plan of such a far-reaching and daring character, for he was aware of the limitations of his power, and knew that even his great influence would have been insufficient to obtain the consent of the States-General to an immediate renewal of war. Speculation however is useless, for an inexorable fate raised other issues.

On October 8 the stadholder returned to Dieren, on the 27th he fell ill with an attack of small-pox. He was at once taken back to the Hague and for some days he progressed favourably, but the illness suddenly took a turn for the worse and he expired on November 6. The news of the prince's death fell like a shock upon the country. Men could scarcely believe their ears. William was only 24 years old; and, though his wife gave birth to a son a week later, he left no heir capable of succeeding to the high offices that he had held. The event was the more tragic, following, as it did, so swiftly upon the coup d'etat of the previous summer, and because of the youth and high promise of the deceased prince. William II was undoubtedly endowed with high and brilliant qualities of leadership, and he had proved his capacity for action with unusual decision and energy. Had his life not been cut short, the course of European politics might have been profoundly changed.

As was to be expected, the burgher-regents of Holland, when once the first shock was over, lost no time in taking advantage of the disappearance of the man who had so recently shown that he possessed the power of the sword and meant to be their master. The States-General at once met and requested the Provincial Estates to take steps to deal with the situation. The Estates of Holland proposed that an extraordinary assembly should be summoned. This was agreed to by the States-General; and "the Great Assembly" met on January 11, 1651. In the meantime the Holland regents had been acting. The Estates of that province were resolved to abolish the stadholderates and to press the States-General to suspend the offices of Captain-and Admiral-General of the Union. Utrecht, Gelderland, Overyssel and Zeeland were induced to follow their example. Groningen, however, elected William Frederick of Friesland to be stadholder in the place of his cousin.

The "States party" in Holland had for their leaders the aged Adrian Pauw, who had for so many years been the moving spirit of the opposition in powerful Amsterdam to Frederick Henry's authority, and Jacob de Witt, the imprisoned ex-burgomaster of Dordrecht. The "Orange party" was for the moment practically impotent. Stunned by the death of their youthful chief, they were hopelessly weakened and disorganised by the dissensions and rivalries which surrounded the cradle of the infant Prince of Orange. The princess royal quarrelled with her mother-in-law, Amalia von Solms, over the guardianship of the child. Mary asserted her right to be sole guardian; the dowager-princess wished to have her son-in-law, the Elector of Brandenburg, associated with her as co-guardian. After much bickering the question was at last referred to the Council of State, who appointed the princess royal, the dowager-princess and the elector jointly to the office. This decision however was far from effecting a reconciliation between the mother and the grandmother. Mary did not spare the Princess Amalia the humiliation of knowing that she regarded her as inferior in rank and social standing to the eldest daughter of a King of England. There was rivalry also between the male relatives William Frederick, Stadholder of Friesland, and Joan Maurice, the "Brazilian," both of them being ambitious of filling the post of captain-general, either in succession to the dead prince, or as lieutenant in the name of his son. In these circumstances a large number of the more moderate Orangists were ready to assist the "States party" in preventing any breach of the peace and securing that the government of the republic should be carried on, if not in the manner they would have wished, at least on stable and sound lines, so far as possible in accordance with precedent.

The Great Assembly met on January 11,1651, in the Count's Hall in the Binnenhof at the Hague. The sittings lasted until September, for there were many important matters to be settled on which the representatives of the seven provinces were far from being in entire agreement. The chief controversies centred around the interpretation of the Utrecht Act of Union, the Dordrecht principles, and military affairs. The last-named proved the most thorny. The general result was decentralisation, and the strengthening of the Provincial Estates at the expense of the States-General. It was agreed that the established religion should be that formulated at Dordrecht, that the sects should be kept in order, and the placards against Roman Catholicism enforced. In accordance with the proposal of Holland there was to be no captain-or admiral-general. Brederode, with the rank of field-marshal, was placed at the head of the army. The Provincial Estates were entrusted with considerable powers over the troops in their pay. The effect of this, and of the decision of five provinces to dispense with a stadholder and to transfer his power and prerogatives to the Estates, was virtually the establishment in permanent authority of a number of close municipal corporations. It meant the supersession alike of monarchy and popular government, both of which were to a certain extent represented by the authority vested in, and the influence exerted by, the stadholder princes of Orange, in favour of a narrow oligarchic rule. Moreover, in this confederation of seven semi-sovereign provinces, Holland, which contributed to the strength, the finances and the commerce of the Union more than all the other provinces added together, obtained now, in the absence of an "eminent head," that position of predominance, during the stadholderless period which now follows, for which its statesmen had so long striven. When the amiable Jacob Cats, the Council-Pensionary of Holland, closed the Great Assembly in a flowery speech describing the great work that it had accomplished, a new chapter in the history of the republic may be said to have begun.

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CHAPTER XIV

THE RISE OF JOHN DE WITT.

THE FIRST ENGLISH WAR

Before the sittings of the Great Assembly had come to an end, a young statesman, destined to play the leading part in the government of the Dutch republic during two decades, had already made his mark. After the death of William II Jacob de Witt was not only reinstated in his former position at Dordrecht but on December 21, 1650, John, his younger son, at the age of 25 years was appointed pensionary of that town. In this capacity he was ex officio spokesman of the deputation sent to represent Dordrecht in the Great Assembly. His knowledge, his readiness and persuasiveness of speech, his industry and his gifts at once of swift insight and orderly thoroughness, quickly secured for him a foremost place both in the deliberations of the Assembly and in the conduct of the negotiations with the English Parliament, which at this time required very delicate handling.

The many disputes, which had arisen between England and the United Provinces during the period between the accession of James I and the battle of the Downs in 1639, had never been settled. The minds of Englishmen were occupied with other and more pressing matters while the Civil War lasted. But the old sores remained open. Moreover the refusal of the States-General to receive the Parliamentary envoys, the murder of Doreslaer, and the protection afforded to royalist refugees, had been additional causes of resentment; but the English Council had not felt strong enough to take action. The death of the Prince of Orange, following so quickly upon the complete overthrow of Charles II at Worcester, appeared at first to open out a prospect of friendlier relations between the two neighbouring republics. In January, 1651, the Great Assembly formally recognised the Commonwealth and determined to send back to his old post in London the veteran ambassador, Joachimi, who had been recalled. The English government on their part anticipated his return by despatching, in March, Oliver St John and Walter Strickland on a special embassy to the Hague. They reached that city on March 27, 1651, and presented their credentials to the Great Assembly two days later. Their reception in the streets was anything but favourable. The feeling among the populace was predominantly Orangist and Stewart; and St John and Strickland, greeted with loud cries of "regicides" and many abusive epithets, remembering the fate of Doreslaer, were in fear of their lives.

On April 4 a conference was opened between the envoys and six commissioners appointed by the States to consider the proposals of the English Government for "a more strict and intimate alliance and union" between the two states. The Dutch quickly perceived that what the English really wanted was nothing less than such a binding alliance or rather coalition as would practically merge the lesser state in the greater. But the very idea of such a loss of the independence that they had only just won was to the Netherlanders unthinkable. The negotiations came to a deadlock. Meanwhile St John and Strickland continued to have insults hurled at them by Orangists and royalist refugees, foremost amongst them Prince Edward, son of the Queen of Bohemia. The Parliament threatened to recall the envoys, but consented that they should remain, on the undertaking of the Estates of Holland to protect them from further attacks, and to punish the offenders. New proposals were accordingly made for an offensive and defensive alliance (without any suggestion of a union), coupled with the condition that both States should bind themselves not to allow the presence within their boundaries of avowed enemies of the other—in other words the expulsion of the members and adherents of the house of Stewart, including the princess royal and the Queen of Bohemia with their children. In the face of the strong popular affection for the infant Prince of Orange and his mother, even the Estates of Holland dared not consider such terms, and the States-General would have angrily rejected them. After some further parleying therefore about fisheries and trade restrictions, it was felt that no agreement could be reached; and St John and Strickland returned to England on July 31, 1651.

Their failure created a very bad impression upon the Parliament. All the old complaints against the Dutch were revived; and, as they had refused the offer of friendship that had been made to them, it was resolved that strong measures should be taken to obtain redress for past grievances and for the protection of English trade interests.

At the instance of St John, the famous Navigation Act was passed by the Parliament, October 9, 1651. This Act struck a mortal blow at the Dutch carrying trade by forbidding the importation of foreign goods into English ports except in English bottoms, or in those of the countries which had produced the goods. Scarcely less injurious was the prohibition to aliens to fish in British waters, and the withdrawal of the rights based on the Magnus Intercursus, for the maintenance of which Dutch statesmen had so long and strenuously fought. There was consternation in Holland, and the States-General determined to send a special embassy to London. At the same time the Estates of Holland replaced Jacob Cats by appointing the aged Adrian Pauw, a man in whose ripe judgment they had confidence, to the office of council-pensionary. The chosen envoys were Jacob Cats and Gerard Schaep from Holland, Paulus van der Perre from Zeeland, all three representative of the two maritime and trading provinces. They arrived in England on December 27, 1651. Their instructions were to secure the withdrawal of the Navigation Act and to try to negotiate a new treaty of commerce on the basis of the Magnus Intercursus. They were also to protest strongly against the action of English privateers, who, having been given letters of marque to prey upon French commerce, had been stopping and searching Dutch merchantmen on the ground that they might be carrying French goods. The English government, however, met the Dutch complaints by raking up the long list of grievances that had stirred up a bitter feeling of popular hatred against the United Provinces in England, and by demanding reparation. They further demanded that Dutch commanders should acknowledge England's sovereignty by striking flag and sail and by firing a salute, whenever any of their squadrons met English ships "in the narrow seas."

It was these last two questions, the right of search and the striking of the flag, that were to be the real causes of the outbreak of a war that was desired by neither of the two governments. But popular feeling and the course of events was too strong for them. The news of the seizure of their vessels, not merely by privateers, but by an English squadron under Ayscue in the West Indies, had caused intense indignation and alarm in Holland, and especially in Amsterdam. Pressure was brought to bear on the States-General and the Admiralties, who in pursuance of economy had reduced the fleet to seventy-five ships. It was resolved therefore, on February 22, to fit out an additional 150 vessels. The Council of State, on hearing of this, began also to make ready for eventualities. Negotiations were still proceeding between the two countries, when Martin Tromp, the victor of the battle of the Downs, now lieutenant-admiral of Holland, was sent to sea with fifty ships and instructions to protect Dutch merchantmen from interference, and to see that the States suffered no affront. Nothing was actually said about the striking of the flag.

The situation was such that an armed collision was almost certain to happen with such an admiral as Tromp in command. It came suddenly through a misunderstanding. The Dutch admiral while cruising past Dover met, on May 29, fifteen English ships under Blake. The latter fired a warning shot across the bows of Tromp's ship to signify that the flag should be struck. Tromp declared that he had given orders to strike the flag, but that Blake again fired before there was time to carry them out. Be this as it may, the two fleets were soon engaged in a regular fight, and, the English being reinforced, Tromp withdrew at nightfall to the French coast, having lost two ships. Great was the anger aroused in England, where the Dutch were universally regarded as the aggressors. In the Netherlands, where the peace party was strong, many were disposed to blame Tromp despite his protests. Adrian Pauw himself left hastily for London, John de Witt being appointed to act as his deputy during his absence. Pauw's strenuous efforts however to maintain peace were all in vain, despite the strong leanings of Cromwell towards a peaceful solution. But popular feeling on both sides was now aroused. The States-General, fearing that the Orangists would stir up a revolt, if humiliating terms were submitted to, stiffened their attitude. The result was that the envoys left London on June 30, 1652; and war was declared.

The Dutch statesmen who sought to avoid hostilities were right. All the advantages were on the side of their enemies. The Dutch merchant-fleets covered the seas, and the welfare of the land depended on commerce. The English had little to lose commercially. Their war-fleet too, though inferior in the number of ships, was superior in almost all other respects. The Stuarts had devoted great attention to the fleet and would have done more but for lack of means. Charles' much abused ship-money was employed by him for the creation of the first English professional navy. It had been largely increased by the Parliament after 1648; and its "generals," Blake, Penn and Ayscue, had already acquired much valuable experience in their encounters with the royalist squadron under Prince Rupert, and in long cruises to the West Indies for the purpose of forcing the English colonies to acknowledge parliamentary rule. The crews therefore were well trained, and the ships were larger, stronger and better armed than those of the Dutch. The position of England, lying as it did athwart the routes by which the Dutch merchant-fleets must sail, was a great advantage. Even more important was the advantage of having a central control, whereas in the Netherlands there were five distinct Boards of Admiralty, to some extent jealous of each other, and now lacking the supreme direction of an admiral-general.

The war began by a series of English successes and of Dutch misfortunes. Early in July, 1652, Blake at the head of sixty ships set sail for the north to intercept the Dutch Baltic commerce, and to destroy their fishing fleet off the north of Scotland. He left Ayscue with a small squadron to guard the mouth of the Thames. Tromp meanwhile had put to sea at the head of nearly a hundred ships. Ayscue succeeded in intercepting a fleet of Dutch merchantmen near Calais, all of them being captured or burnt, while Blake with the main force off the north coast of Scotland destroyed the Dutch fishing fleet and their convoy. After these first blows against the enemy's commerce good fortune continued to attend the English. Tromp was prevented from following Blake by strong northerly winds. He then turned upon Ayscue, whose small force he must have overwhelmed, but for a sudden change to a southerly gale. The Dutch admiral now sailed northwards and (July 25) found the English fleet off the Shetlands. A violent storm arose, from the force of which Blake was protected, while the Dutch vessels were scattered far and wide. On the following day, out of ninety-nine ships Tromp could only collect thirty-five, and had no alternative but to return home to refit.

Before Tromp's return another Dutch fleet under Michael de Ruyter had put to sea to escort a number of outward-bound merchantmen through the Channel, and to meet and convoy back the home-coming ships. He had twenty-three warships and three fireships under his command. Ayscue had previously sailed up Channel with forty men-of-war and five fireships for a similar purpose. The two fleets met on August 16, and despite his inferiority of force De Ruyter forced Ayscue to withdraw into Plymouth, and was able to bring his convoy home to safety.

The ill-success of Tromp, though he was in no way to blame for it, caused considerable alarm and discontent in Holland. His enemies of the States party in that province took advantage of it to suspend the gallant old seaman from his command. He was an Orangist; and, as the Orange partisans were everywhere clamorously active, the admiral was suspect. In his place Cornelisz Witte de With was appointed, a capable sailor, but disliked in the fleet as much as Tromp was beloved. De With effected a junction with De Ruyter and with joint forces they attacked Blake on October 8, near the shoal known as the Kentish Knock. The English fleet was considerably more powerful than the Dutch, and the desertion of De With by some twenty ships decided the issue. The Dutch had to return home with some loss. The English were elated with their victory and thought that they would be safe from further attack until the spring. Blake accordingly was ordered to send a squadron of twenty sail to the Mediterranean, where the Dutch admiral Jan van Galen held the command of the sea. But they were deceived in thinking that the struggle in the Channel was over for the winter. The deserters at the Kentish Knock were punished, but the unpopularity of De With left the authorities with no alternative but to offer the command-in-chief once more to Martin Tromp. Full of resentment though he was at the bad treatment he had received, Tromp was too good a patriot to refuse. At the end of November the old admiral at the head of 100 warships put to sea for the purpose of convoying some 450 merchantmen through the Straits. Stormy weather compelled him to send the convoy with an escort into shelter, but he himself with sixty ships set out to seek the English fleet, which lay in the Downs. After some manoeuvring the two fleets met on December 10, off Dungeness. A stubborn fight took place, but this time it was some of the English ships that were defaulters. The result was the complete victory of the Dutch; and Blake's fleet, severely damaged, retreated under cover of the night into Dover roads. Tromp was now for a time master of the Channel and commerce to and from the ports of Holland and Zeeland went on unimpeded, while many English prizes were captured.

This state of things was however not to last long. Towards the end of February, 1653, Blake put to sea with nearly eighty ships, and on the 25th off Portland met Tromp at the head of a force nearly equal to his own in number. But the Dutch admiral was convoying more than 150 merchantmen and he had moreover been at sea without replenishment of stores ever since the fight at Dungeness, while the English had come straight from port. The fight, which on the part of the Dutch consisted of strong rear-guard actions, had lasted for two whole days, when Tromp found that his powder had run out and that on the third day more than half his fleet were unable to continue the struggle. But, inspiring his subordinates De Ruyter, Evertsen and Floriszoon with his own indomitable courage, Tromp succeeded by expert seamanship in holding off the enemy and conducting his convoy with small loss into safety. Four Dutch men-of-war were taken and five sunk; the English only lost two ships.

Meanwhile both nations had been getting sick of the war. The Dutch were suffering terribly from the serious interference with their commerce and carrying trade and from the destruction of the important fisheries industry, while the English on their side were shut out from the Baltic, where the King of Denmark, as the ally of the United Provinces, had closed the Sound, and from the Mediterranean, where Admiral van Galen, who lost his life in the fight, destroyed a British squadron off Leghorn (March 23). In both countries there was a peace party. Cromwell had always wished for a closer union with the United Provinces and was averse to war. In the Dutch republic the States party, especially in Holland the chief sufferer by the war, was anxious for a cessation of hostilities; and it found its leader in the youthful John de Witt, who on the death of Adrian Pauw on February 21, 1653, had been appointed council-pensionary. Cromwell took pains to let the Estates of Holland know his favourable feelings towards them by sending over, in February, a private emissary, Colonel Dolman, a soldier who had served in the Netherland wars. On his part John de Witt succeeded in persuading the Estates of Holland to send secretly, without the knowledge of the States-General, letters to the English Council of State and the Parliament expressing their desire to open negotiations. Thus early did the new council-pensionary initiate a form of diplomacy in which he was to prove himself an adept. This first effort was not a success. The Parliament published the letter with the title "Humble Supplication of the States of Holland." The indignation of the Orange partisans was great, and they threatened internal disturbances throughout the country. Such however was the skill of De Witt that, on Parliament showing a willingness to resume the negotiations that had been broken off in the previous summer, he induced the States-General by a bare majority (four provinces to three) to send a conciliatory letter, the date of which (April 30, 1653) coincided with Cromwell's forcible dissolution of the Rump Parliament and the assumption by him, with the support of the army, of dictatorial powers. The English Council of State, however, was well informed of the serious economical pressure of the war upon Holland; and their insistence now on the full satisfaction of all the English demands made a continuation of hostilities inevitable.

Tromp, after successfully bringing in two large convoys of merchantmen, encountered (June 12), near the Gabbard, the English fleet under Monk and Deane. Each fleet numbered about 100 sail, but the Dutch ships were inferior in size, solidity and weight of metal. For two days the fight was obstinately and fiercely contested, but on Blake coming up with a reinforcement of thirteen fresh ships, Tromp was obliged to retreat, having lost twenty ships. He complained bitterly, as did his vice-admirals De Ruyter and De With, to the Board of Admiralty of the inferiority of the vessels of his fleet, as compared with those of the adversary.

The English now instituted a blockade of the Dutch coast, which had the effect of reducing to desperate straits a land whose welfare and prosperity depended wholly on commerce. Amsterdam was ruined. In these circumstances direct negotiation was perforce attempted. Four envoys were sent representing the three maritime provinces. At first it seemed impossible that any common ground of agreement could be found. Cromwell was obsessed with the idea of a politico-religious union between the two republics, which would have meant the extinction of Dutch independence. The Council of State met the Dutch envoys with the proposal una gens, una respublica, which nothing but sheer conquest and dire necessity would ever induce the Dutch people to accept. Accordingly the war went on, though the envoys did not leave London, hoping still that some better terms might be offered. But in order to gain breathing space for the efforts of the negotiators, one thing was essential—the breaking of the blockade. The Admiralties made a supreme effort to refit and reinforce their fleet, but it lay in two portions; eighty-five sail under Tromp in the Maas, thirty-one under De With in the Texel. Monk with about 100 ships lay between them to prevent their junction. On August 4 Tromp sailed out and, after a rearguard action off Katwijk, out-manoeuvred the English commander and joined De With. He now turned and with superior numbers attacked Monk off Scheveningen. The old hero fell mortally wounded at the very beginning of what proved to be an unequal fight. After a desperate struggle the Dutch retired with very heavy loss. Monk's fleet also was so crippled that he returned home to refit. The action in which Tromp fell thus achieved the main object for which it was fought, for it freed the Dutch coast from blockade. It was, moreover, the last important battle in the war. The States, though much perplexed to find a successor to Martin Tromp, were so far from being discouraged that great energy was shown in reorganising the fleet. Jacob van Wassenaer, lord of Obdam, was appointed lieutenant-admiral of Holland, with De Ruyter and Evertsen under him as vice-admirals. De With retained his old command of a detached squadron, with which he safely convoyed a large fleet of East Indiamen round the north of Scotland into harbour. After this there were only desultory operations on both sides and no naval engagement.

Meanwhile negotiations had been slowly dragging on. The accession of Cromwell to supreme power in December, 1653, with the title of Lord Protector seemed to make the prospects of the negotiations brighter, for the new ruler of England had always professed himself an opponent of the war, which had shattered his fantastic dream of a union between the two republics. Many conferences took place, but the Protector's attitude and intentions were ambiguous and difficult to divine. The fear of an Orange restoration appears to have had a strange hold on his imagination and to have warped at this time the broad outlook of the statesman. At last Cromwell formulated his proposals in twenty-seven articles. The demands were those of the victor, and were severe. All the old disputes were to be settled in favour of England. An annual sum was to be paid for the right of fishing; compensation to be made for "the massacre of Amboina" and the officials responsible for it punished; the number of warships in English waters was to be limited; the flag had to be struck when English ships were met and the right of search to be permitted. These demands, unpalatable as they were, might at least have furnished a basis of settlement, but there was one demand besides these which was impossible. Article 12 stipulated that the Prince of Orange should not at any time hold any of the offices or dignities which had been held by his ancestors, or be appointed to any military command. De Witt, in whose hands were all the threads of the negotiations, was perfectly aware that it would be useless to present such proposals to the States-General. Not only would they indignantly reject them, but he had not the slightest hope of getting any single province, even Holland, to allow a foreign power to interfere with their internal affairs and to bid them to treat with harsh ingratitude the infant-heir of a family to which the Dutch people owed so deep a debt. There was nothing for it but to prepare for a vigorous resumption of the war. Strong efforts were therefore made at De Witt's instigation to increase the fleet and secure the active co-operation of Denmark and France, both friendly to the States. But Cromwell really wanted peace and showed himself ready to yield on certain minor points, but he continued to insist on the exclusion of the Prince of Orange. Not till the Dutch envoys had demanded their passports did the Protector give way so far as to say he would be content to have the exclusion guaranteed by a secret article.

What followed forms one of the strangest chapters in the history of diplomacy. De Witt had all this time been keeping up, in complete secrecy, a private correspondence with the leading envoy, his confidant Van Beverningh. Through Van Beverningh he was able to reach the private ear of Cromwell, and to enter into clandestine negotiations with him. The council-pensionary knew well the hopelessness of any attempt to get the assent of the States-General to the proposed exclusion, even in a secret article. Van Beverningh was instructed to inform Cromwell of the state of public feeling on this point, with the result that the Protector gave the envoy to understand that he would be satisfied if the Estates of Holland alone would affirm a declaration that the Prince should never be appointed stadholder or captain-general. Whether this concession was offered by Cromwell proprio motu or whether it was in the first instance suggested to him by De Witt through Van Beverningh is unknown. In any case the council-pensionary, being convinced of the necessity of peace, resolved to secure it by playing a very deep and dangerous game. Not only must the whole affair be kept absolutely from the cognisance of the States-General, but also De Witt was fully aware that the assent of the Estates of Holland to the proposed exclusion article could only be obtained with the greatest difficulty. He was to prove himself a very past master in the art of diplomatic chicanery and intrigue.

The council-pensionary first set to work to have the treaty, from which the exclusion article had been cut out, ratified rapidly by the States-General, before bringing the secret article to the knowledge of the Estates of Holland. The Estates adjourned for a recess on April 21, 1654. On the following day he presented the treaty to the States-General, and such was his persuasive skill that he accomplished the unprecedented feat of getting this dilatory body to accept the conditions of peace almost without discussion. On April 23 the treaty ratified and signed was sent back to London. Only one article aroused opposition (Art. 32), the so-called "temperament clause"; but Cromwell had insisted upon it. By this article the States-General and the Provincial Estates separately undertook that every stadholder, captain-general or commander of military or naval forces should be required to take an oath to observe the treaty. Meanwhile De Witt had received a letter from Van Beverningh and his colleague Nieuwpoort addressed to the Estates of Holland (not at the moment in session) stating that Cromwell refused on his part to ratify the treaty until he received the Act of Exclusion[8] from the Estates, who were until now wholly ignorant that any such proposal would be made to them.

The cleverness and skill now shown by the council-pensionary were truly extraordinary. A summons was sent out to the Estates to meet on April 28 without any reason being assigned. The members on assembly were sworn to secrecy, and then the official letter from London was read to them. The news that Cromwell refused to sign the treaty until he received the assent of the Province of Holland to the Act of Exclusion came upon the Estates like a thunder-bolt. The sudden demand caused something like consternation, and the members asked to be allowed to consider the matter with their principals before taking so momentous a decision. Three days were granted but, as it was essential to prevent publicity, it was settled that only the burgomasters should be consulted, again under oath of secrecy. At the meeting on May 1 another despatch from Van Beverningh was read in which the envoy stated that the demand of Cromwell—that the Act should be placed in his hands within two days after the ratification of the treaty—was peremptory and threatening. Unless he received the Act he would consider the treaty as not binding upon him. Using all his powers of advocacy, De Witt succeeded after an angry debate in securing a majority for the Act. Five towns however obstinately refused their assent, and claimed that it could not be passed without it. But De Witt had made up his mind to risk illegality, and overruled their protest. The Act was declared to have been passed and was on May 5 sent to Van Beverningh and Nieuwpoort with instructions not to deliver it until circumstances compelled them to do so. The proclamation of peace followed amidst general rejoicing both in England and the Netherlands; but for some five weeks the existence of the Act was unknown to the States-General, and during that period, as a fact, it remained in Van Beverningh's possession still undelivered.

Early in June a bribe induced one of De Witt's clerks to betray the secret to Count William Frederick. The news soon spread, and loud was the outcry of the Orange partisans and of the two princesses, who at once addressed a remonstrance to the States-General. All the other provinces strongly protested against the action of the Estates of Holland and of the council-pensionary. De Witt attempted to defend himself and the Estates, by vague statements, avoiding the main issue, but insisting that nothing illegal had been done. His efforts were in vain. On June 6 the States-General passed a resolution that the envoys in England should be ordered to send back at once all the secret instructions they had received from Holland, and the Act of Exclusion. Meanwhile the Estates of Holland themselves, frightened at the clamour which had been aroused, began to show signs of defection. They went so far as to pass a vote of thanks to the envoys for not having delivered the Act to Cromwell. De Witt's position appeared hopeless. He extricated himself and outwitted his opponents by the sheer audacity and cleverness of the steps that he took. His efforts to prevent the resolution of the States-General from taking immediate effect proving unavailing, he put forward the suggestion that on account of its importance the despatch should be sent to the envoys in cipher. This was agreed to, and on June 7 the document was duly forwarded to London by the council-pensionary; but he enclosed a letter from himself to Van Beverningh and Nieuwpoort informing them that the Estates of Holland assented to the request made by the States-General, and that they were to send back the secret correspondence and also the Act, if it were still undelivered. The result answered to his expectations. While the clerk was laboriously deciphering the despatch, the envoys read between the lines of De Witt's letter, and without a moment's delay went to Whitehall and placed the Act in Cromwell's hands. The States-General had thus no alternative between acceptance of the fait accompli and the risk of a renewal of the war. No further action was taken, and the Protector professed himself satisfied with a guarantee of such doubtful validity.

It is impossible to withhold admiration from De Witt's marvellous diplomatic dexterity, and from the skill and courage with which he achieved his end in the face of obstacles and difficulties that seemed insurmountable; but for the course of double-dealing and chicanery by which he triumphed, the only defence that can be offered is that the council-pensionary really believed that peace was an absolute necessity for his country, and that peace could only be maintained at the cost of the Act of Exclusion. Whether or no Cromwell would have renewed the war, had the Act been withdrawn, it is impossible to say. There is, however, every reason to believe that De Witt was prompted to take the risks he did by purely patriotic motives, and not through spite against the house of Orange. Be this as it may, the part that he now played was bitterly resented, not merely by the Orange partisans, but by popular opinion generally in the United Provinces, and it was never forgiven.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XV

THE ADMINISTRATION OF JOHN DE WITT 1654-1665

FROM THE PEACE OF WESTMINSTER TO THE OUT-BREAK OF THE SECOND ENGLISH WAR

The position of John de Witt in July, 1654, was a difficult one. The conduct of the council-pensionary in the matter of the Act of Exclusion was openly attacked in the States-General. Had the leaders of the Orange party been united, the attack might have had serious consequences; but notoriously the princess royal, the princess dowager and William Frederick were on bad terms, and De Witt, with his usual adroitness, knew well how to play off one against another. To meet the accusations of his assailants in the States-General he drew up however an elaborate defence of the action taken by the Estates of Holland and by himself. The document bore the title "Deduction of the Estates of Holland." It was laborious rather than convincing, and it did not convince opponents. Nevertheless, though resentment continued to smoulder, the fact that peace had been assured soon reconciled the majority to allow the doubtful means by which it had been obtained to be overlooked. The tact, the persuasiveness, the great administrative powers of the council-pensionary effected the rest; and his influence from this time forward continued to grow, until he attained to such a control over every department of government, as not even Oldenbarneveldt had possessed in the height of his power.

John de Witt was possibly not the equal of the famous Advocate in sheer capacity for great affairs, but he had practical abilities of the highest order as a financier and organiser, and he combined with these more solid qualifications a swiftness of courageous decision in moments of emergency which his almost infinite resourcefulness in extricating himself from difficult and perilous situations, enabled him to carry to a successful issue. His marriage in February, 1655, to Wendela Bicker, who belonged to one of the most important among the ruling burgher-families of Amsterdam, brought to him enduring domestic happiness. It was likewise of no slight political value. Andries and Cornelis Bicker, who had headed the opposition to William II and had been declared by him in 1650 incapable of holding henceforth any municipal office, were her uncles; while her maternal uncle, Cornelis de Graeff, was a man of weight and influence both in his native town and in the Provincial Estates. By this close relationship with such leading members of the regent-aristocracy of Amsterdam the council-pensionary became almost as secure of the support of the commercial capital in the north of Holland, as he was already of Dordrecht in the south. Two of his cousins, Slingelandt and Vivien, were in turn his successors, as pensionaries of Dordrecht, while for his predecessor in that post, Nicolas Ruysch, he obtained the extremely influential office of griffier or secretary to the States-General. Nor did he scruple to exercise his powers of patronage for other members of his family. His father, Jacob de Witt, was made a member of the Chamber of Finance; his elder brother, Cornelis, Ruwaard of Putten. By these and other appointments of men who were his friends and supporters, to important positions diplomatic, military and naval, De Witt contrived to strengthen more and more his personal authority and influence. And yet in thus favouring his relatives and friends, let us not accuse De Witt of base motives or of venality. He firmly believed in his own ability to serve the State, and, without doubt, he was convinced that it was for the best interest of his country for him to create for himself, as far as was possible amidst the restrictions by which he was hemmed in on every side, a free field of diplomatic and administrative action. No one, not even his bitterest enemies, ever charged John de Witt with personal corruption. Throughout his whole career he lived quietly and unostentatiously, as a simple citizen, on a very moderate income, and he died a poor man.

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