Louis XIV meanwhile had been actively pushing forward his schemes of aggrandisement. Strasburg was seized in August, 1681; Luxemburg was occupied; claims were made under the treaty of Nijmwegen to certain portions of Flanders and Brabant, and troops were despatched to take possession of them. There was general alarm; and, with the help of Waldeck, William was able to secure the support of a number of the small German states in the Rhenish circle, most of them always ready to hire out their armed forces for a subsidy. Sweden also offered assistance. But both England and Brandenburg were in secret collusion with France, and the emperor would not move owing to the Turkish menace.
In these circumstances Spain was compelled (1684) by the entry of the armies of Louis into the southern Netherlands to declare war upon France, and called upon the States for their military aid of 8000 men in accordance with the terms of the treaty of Nijmwegen. Orange at once referred the matter to the Council of State, and himself proposed that 16,000 should be sent. As this, however, could only mean a renewal of the war with France, the proposal met with strong opposition in many quarters, and especially in Amsterdam. Prosperity was just beginning to revive, and a remembrance of past experiences filled the hearts of many with dread at the thought of the French armies once more invading their land. The Amsterdam regents even went so far as to enter into secret negotiations with D'Avaux; and they were supported by Henry Casimir, who was always ready to thwart his cousin's policy. William was checkmated and at first, in his anger, inclined to follow his father's example and crush the opposition of Amsterdam by force. He possessed however, which William II had not, the support of a majority in the Estates of Holland. He used this with effect. The raising of the troops was sanctioned by the Estates (January 31, 1684), an intercepted cipher-letter from D'Avaux being skilfully used to discredit the Amsterdam leaders, who were accused of traitorous correspondence with a foreign power. Nevertheless the prince, although he was able to override any active opposition at home, did not venture, so long as England and Brandenburg were on friendly relations with France, to put pressure upon the States-General. The French troops, to the prince's chagrin, overran Flanders; and he had no alternative but to concur in the truce for twenty years concluded at Ratisbon, August 15, 1684, which left the French king in possession of all his conquests.
No more conclusive proof of the inflexible resolve of William III can be found than the patience he now exhibited. His faith in himself was never shaken, and his patience in awaiting the favourable moment was inexhaustible. To him far more appropriately than to his great-grandfather might the name of William the Silent have been given. He had no confidants, except Waldeck and William Bentinck; and few could even guess at the hidden workings of that scheming mind or at the burning fires of energy and will-power beneath the proud and frigid reserve of a man so frail in body and always ailing. Very rarely could a born leader of men have been more unamiable or less anxious to win popular applause, but his whole demeanour inspired confidence and, ignoring the many difficulties and oppositions which thwarted him, he steadfastly bided his time and opportunity. It now came quickly, for the year 1685 was marked by two events—the accession of James II to the throne of England, and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes—which were to have far-reaching consequences.
The new King of England was not merely a strong but a bigoted Roman Catholic. Had he been a wise and patriotic prince, he would have tried by a studiously moderate policy to win the loyal allegiance of his subjects, but he was stubborn, wrong-headed and fanatical, and from the first he aimed at the impossible. His attempts to establish absolute rule, to bring back the English nation to the fold of the Catholic Church and, as a means to that end, to make himself independent of Parliament by accepting subsidies from the French king, were bound to end in catastrophe. This was more especially the case as Louis XIV had, at the very time of King James' accession, after having for a number of years persecuted the Huguenots in defiance of the Edict of Nantes, taken the step of revoking that great instrument of religious toleration on November 17, 1685. The exile of numerous families, who had already been driven out by the dragonnades, was now followed by the expulsion of the entire Huguenot body, of all at least who refused to conform to the Catholic faith. How many hundreds of thousands left their homes to find refuge in foreign lands it is impossible to say, but amongst them were great numbers of industrious and skilled artisans and handicraftsmen, who sought asylum in the Dutch Republic and there found a ready and sympathetic welcome. The arrival of these unhappy immigrants had the effect of arousing a strong feeling of indignation in Holland, and indeed throughout the provinces, against the government of Louis XIV. They began to see that the policy of the French king was not merely one of territorial aggression, but was a crusade against Protestantism. The governing classes in Holland, Zeeland, Friesland and Groningen were stirred up by the preachers to enforce more strictly the laws against the Catholics in those provinces, for genuine alarm was felt at the French menace to the religion for which their fathers had fought and suffered. The cause of Protestantism was one with which the Princes of Orange had identified themselves; but none of his ancestors was so keen an upholder of that cause as was William III. The presence in their midst of the Huguenot refugees had the effect of influencing public opinion powerfully in the States in favour of their stadholder's warlike policy. Nor was the Dutch Republic the only State which was deeply moved by the ruthless treatment of his Protestant subjects by the French king. The Elector of Brandenburg, as head of the principal Protestant State in Germany, had also offered an asylum to the French exiles and now reverted once more to his natural alliance with the United Provinces. He sent his trusted councillor, Paul Fuchs, in May, 1685, to offer to his nephew, the Prince of Orange, his friendly co-operation in the formation of a powerful coalition against France. Fuchs was a skilled diplomatist, and by his mediation an understanding was arrived at between the stadholder and his opponents in Amsterdam. At the same time strong family influence was brought to bear upon Henry Casimir of Friesland, and a reconciliation between the two stadholders was effected. William thus found himself, before the year 1685 came to an end, able to pursue his policy without serious let or hindrance. He was quite ready to seize his opportunity, and by tactful diplomacy he succeeded by August, 1686, in forming an alliance between the United Provinces, Brandenburg, Sweden, Austria, Spain and a number of the smaller Rhenish states, to uphold the treaties of Westphalia and Nijmwegen against the encroachments of French military aggression. But the design of William was still incomplete. The naval power and financial resources of England were needed to enable the coalition to grapple successfully with the mighty centralised power of Louis XIV.
In England the attempt of James II to bring about a Catholic reaction by the arbitrary use of the royal prerogative was rapidly alienating the loyalty of all classes, including many men of high position, and even some of his own ministers. William watched keenly all that was going on and kept himself in close correspondence with several of the principal malcontents. He was well aware that all eyes were turning to him (and he accepted the position) as the natural defender, should the need arise, of England's civil and religious liberties. The need arose and the call came in the summer of 1688, and it found William prepared. The climax of the conflict between King James and his people was reached with the acquittal of the Seven Bishops in May, 1688, amidst public rejoicings, speedily followed on June 10 by the birth of a Prince of Wales. The report was spread that the child was supposititious and it was accepted as true by large numbers of persons, including the Princess Anne, and also, on the strength of her testimony, by the Prince and Princess of Orange.
The secret relations of William with the leaders of opposition had for some time been carried on through his trusted confidants, Dijkveld, the State's envoy at the English Court, and William of Nassau, lord of Zuilestein. A bold step was now taken. Several Englishmen of note signed an invitation to the prince to land in England with an armed force in defence of the religion and liberties of the country; and it was brought to him by Admiral Russell, one of the signatories. After some hesitation William, with the consent and approval of the princess, decided to accept it. No man ever had a more loyal and devoted wife than William III of Orange, and he did not deserve it. For some years after his marriage he treated Mary with coldness and neglect. He confessed on one occasion to Bishop Burnet that his churlishness was partly due to jealousy; he could not bear the thought that Mary might succeed to the English throne and he would in that country be inferior in rank to his wife. The bishop informed the princess, who at once warmly declared that she would never accept the crown unless her husband received not merely the title of king, but the prerogatives of a reigning sovereign. From that time forward a complete reconciliation took place between them, and the affection and respect of William for this loyal, warm-hearted and self-sacrificing woman deepened as the years went on. Mary's character, as it is revealed in her private diaries, which have been preserved, deserves those epithets. Profoundly religious and a convinced Protestant, Mary with prayers for guidance and not without many tears felt that the resolve of her husband to hazard all on armed intervention in England was fully justified; and at this critical juncture she had no hesitation in allowing her sense of duty to her husband and her country to override that of a daughter to her father. Already in July vigorous preparations in all secrecy began to be made for the expedition. The naval yards were working at full pressure with the ostensible object of sending out a fleet to suppress piracy in the Mediterranean. The stadholder felt that he was able to rely upon the willing co-operation of the States in his project. His difficulty now, as always, was to secure the assent of Amsterdam. But the opposition of that city proved less formidable than was anticipated. The peril to Protestantism should England under James II be leagued with France, was evident, and scarcely less the security of the commerce on which Amsterdam depended for its prosperity. The support of Amsterdam secured that of the Estates of Holland; and finally, after thus surmounting successfully the elements of opposition in the town and the province, where the anti-Orange party was most strongly represented, the prince had little difficulty in obtaining, on October 8, the unanimous approval of the States-General, assembled in secret session, to the proposed expedition. By that time an army of 14,000 men had been gathered together and was encamped at Mook. Of these the six English and Scottish regiments, who now, as throughout the War of Independence, were maintained in the Dutch service, formed the nucleus. The force also comprised the prince's Dutch guards and other picked Dutch troops, and also some German levies. Marshal Schomberg was in command. The pretext assigned was the necessity of protecting the eastern frontier of the Republic against an attack from Cologne, where Cardinal Fuerstenberg, the nominee and ally of Louis XIV, had been elected to the archiepiscopal throne.
Meanwhile diplomacy was active. D'Avaux was far too clear-sighted not to have discerned the real object of the naval and military preparations, and he warned both Louis XIV and James II. James, however, was obdurate and took no heed, while Louis played his enemy's game by declaring war on the Emperor and the Pope, and by invading the Palatinate instead of the Republic. For William had been doing his utmost to win over to his side, by the agency of Waldeck and Bentinck, the Protestant Princes of Germany, with the result that Brandenburg, Hanover, Saxony, Brunswick and Hesse had undertaken to give him active support against a French attack; while the constant threat against her possessions in the Belgic Netherlands compelled Spain to join the anti-French league which the stadholder had so long been striving to bring into existence. To these were now added the Emperor and the Pope, who, being actually at war with France, were ready to look favourably upon an expedition which would weaken the common enemy. The Grand Alliance of William's dreams had thus (should his expedition to England prove successful) come within the range of practical politics; and with his base secured Orange now determined to delay no longer, but to stake everything upon the issue of the English venture.
The prince bade farewell to the States-General on October 26, and four days later he set sail from Helvoetsluis, but was driven back by a heavy storm, which severely damaged the fleet. A fresh start was made on November 11. Admiral Herbert was in command of the naval force, which convoyed safely through the Channel without opposition the long lines of transports. Over the prince's vessel floated his flag with the words Pro Religione et Libertate inscribed above the motto of the House of Orange, Je maintiendray. Without mishap a landing was effected at Torbay, November 14 (5 o.s.), which was William's birthday, and a rapid march was made to Exeter. He met with no armed resistance. James' troops, his courtiers, his younger daughter the Princess Anne, all deserted him; and finally, after sending away his wife and infant son to France, the king himself left his palace at Whitehall by night and fled down the river to Sheerness. Here he was recognised and brought back to London. It was thought, however, best to connive at his escape, and he landed on the coast of France at Christmas. The expedition had achieved its object and William, greeted as a deliverer, entered the capital at the head of his army.
On February 13,1689, a convention, specially summoned for the purpose, declared that James by his flight had vacated the throne; and the crown was offered to William and Mary jointly, the executive power being placed in the hands of the prince.
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THE KING-STADHOLDER, 1688-1702
The accession of William III to the throne of England was an event fraught with important consequences to European politics and to the United Provinces. The king was enabled at last to realise the formation of that Grand Alliance for which he had so long been working. The treaty of Vienna, signed on May 12, 1689, encircled France with a ring of enemies, and saw the Emperor and Spain united with the Protestant powers, England, the States and many of the German princes in a bond of alliance for the maintenance of the treaties of Westphalia and the Pyrenees. It was not without some difficulty that William succeeded in inducing the States to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance with England. A special embassy consisting of Witsen, Odijk, Dijkveld and others was sent to London early in 1689 to endeavour to bring about some mutually advantageous arrangement of the various conflicting maritime and commercial interests of the two countries. But they could effect nothing. The English government refused either to repeal or modify the Navigation Act or to reduce the toll for fishing privileges; and it required all the personal influence of William to secure the signing of a treaty (September 3), which many leading Hollanders considered to be a subordinating of Dutch to English interests. And they were right; from this time began that decline of Dutch commercial supremacy which was to become more and more marked as the 18th century progressed. The policy of William III, as Frederick the Great remarked most justly, placed Holland in the position of a sloop towed behind the English ship-of-the-line.
The carrying trade of the world was still, however, in the reign of William III practically in the hands of the Dutch, despite the losses that had been sustained during the English wars and the French invasion. The only competitor was England under the shelter of the Navigation Act. The English had, under favourable conditions, their staple at Dordrecht, the Scots their staple at Veere; and the volume of trade under the new conditions of close alliance was very considerable. But the imports largely exceeded the exports; and both exports and imports had to be carried in English bottoms. The Baltic (or Eastern) trade remained a Dutch monopoly, as did the trade with Russia through Archangel. Almost all the ships that passed through the Sound were Dutch; and they frequented all the Baltic ports, whether Russian, Scandinavian or German, bringing the commodities of the South and returning laden with hemp, tallow, wood, copper, iron, corn, wax, hides and other raw products for distribution in other lands. The English had a small number of vessels in the Mediterranean and the Levant, and frequented the Spanish and Portuguese harbours, but as yet they hardly interfered with the Dutch carrying-trade in those waters. The whole trade of Spain with her vast American dominions was by law restricted to the one port of Cadiz; but no sooner did the galleons bringing the rich products of Mexico and Peru reach Cadiz than the bulk of their merchandise was quickly transhipped into Dutch vessels, which here, as elsewhere, were the medium through which the exchange of commodities between one country and another was effected. It was a profitable business, and the merchants of Amsterdam and of the other Dutch commercial centres grew rich and prospered.
The position of the Dutch in the East Indies at the close of the 17th century is one of the marvels of history. The East India Company, with its flourishing capital at Batavia, outdistanced all competitors. It was supreme in the Indian archipelago and along all the shores washed by the Indian Ocean. The governor-general was invested with great powers and, owing to his distance from the home authority, was able to make unfettered use of them during his term of office. He made treaties and conducted wars and was looked upon by the princes and petty rulers of the Orient as a mighty potentate. The conquest of Macassar in 1669, the occupation of Japara and Cheribon in 1680, of Bantam in 1682, of Pondicherry in 1693, together with the possession of Malacca and of the entire coast of Ceylon, of the Moluccas, and of the Cape of Good Hope, gave to the Dutch the control of all the chief avenues of trade throughout those regions. By treaties of alliance and commerce with the Great Mogul and other smaller sovereigns and chieftains factories were established at Hooghly on the Ganges, at Coelim, Surat, Bender Abbas, Palembang and many other places. In the Moluccas they had the entire spice trade in their hands. Thus a very large part of the products of the Orient found its way to Europe by way of Amsterdam, which had become increasingly the commercial emporium and centre of exchange for the world.
The West India Company, on the other hand, had been ruined by the loss of its Brazilian dominion followed by the English wars. Its charter came to an end in 1674, but it was replaced by a new Company on a more moderate scale. Its colonies on the Guiana coast, Surinam, Berbice and Essequibo were at the end of the 17th century in an impoverished condition, but already beginning to develop the sugar plantations which were shortly to become a lucrative industry; and the island of Curacoa had the unenviable distinction of being for some years one of the chief centres of the negro slave trade.
In the United Provinces themselves one of the features of this period was the growth of many new industries and manufactures, largely due to the influx of Huguenot refugees, many of whom were skilled artisans. Not only did the manufacturers of cloth and silk employ a large number of hands, but also those of hats, gloves, ribbons, trimmings, laces, clocks and other articles, which had hitherto been chiefly produced in France. One of the consequences of the rapid increase of wealth was a change in the simple habits, manners and dress, which hitherto travellers had noted as one of the most remarkable characteristics of the Hollanders. Greater luxury began to be displayed, French fashions and ways of life to be imitated, and the French language to be used as the medium of intercourse among the well-to-do classes. Another sign of the times was the spread of the spirit of speculation and of gambling in stocks and shares, showing that men were no longer content to amass wealth by the slow process of ordinary trade and commerce. This state of prosperity, which was largely due to the security which the close alliance with England brought to the Republic, explains in no small measure the acquiescence of the Dutch in a state of things which made the smaller country almost a dependency of the larger. They were proud that their stadholder should reign as king in Britain; and his prolonged absences did not diminish their strong attachment to him or lessen his authority among them. So much greater indeed was the power exercised by William in the Republic than that which, as a strictly constitutional sovereign, he possessed in the kingdom, that it was wittily said that the Prince of Orange was stadholder in England and king in Holland.
It must not be supposed, however, that William in his capacity as stadholder was free from worries and trials. He had many; and, as usual, Amsterdam was the chief centre of unrest. After the expedition set sail for Torbay, William was continuously absent for no less than two and a half years. It is no wonder therefore that during so long a period, when the attention of the king was absorbed by other pressing matters, difficulties should have arisen in his administration of the affairs of the Republic. It was very unfortunate that his most able and trusted friend and adviser, the Council-Pensionary Fagel, should have died, in December, 1688, just when William's enterprise in England had reached its most critical stage. Fagel was succeeded, after a brief interval, in his most important and influential office by Antony Heinsius. Heinsius, who had been for some years Pensionary of Delft, was a modest, quiet man, already forty-five years of age, capable, experienced and business-like. His tact and statesmanlike qualities were of the greatest service to William and scarcely less to his country, at a time when urgent duties in England made it so difficult for the stadholder to give personal attention to the internal affairs of the Republic. No other Prince of Orange had ever so favourable an opportunity as William III for effecting such changes in the system of government and administration in the Dutch Republic as would simplify and co-ordinate its many rival and conflicting authorities, and weld its seven sovereign provinces into a coherent State with himself (under whatever title) as its "eminent head." At the height of his power his will could have over-ridden local or partisan opposition, for he had behind him the prestige of his name and deeds and the overwhelming support of popular opinion. But William had little or no interest in these constitutional questions. Being childless, he had no dynastic ambitions. The nearest male representative of his house was Henry Casimir, the stadholder of Friesland, with whom his relations had been far from friendly. In his mind, everything else was subordinate to the one and overruling purpose of his life, the overthrow of the power of Louis XIV and of French ascendancy in Europe.
The great coalition which had been formed in 1689 by the treaty of Vienna was, in the first years of the war which then broke out, attended with but mediocre success. The French armies laid waste the Palatinate with great barbarity, and then turned their attentions to the southern Netherlands. The attempted invasion was, however, checked by an allied force (August 25) in a sharp encounter near Charleroi. The next year, 1690, was particularly unfortunate for the allies. William was still absent, having been obliged to conduct an expedition to Ireland. He had placed the aged Marshal Waldeck in command of the Coalition forces. Waldeck had the redoubtable Luxemburg opposed to him and on July 1 the two armies met at Fleurus, when, after a hard-fought contest, the allies suffered a bloody defeat. An even greater set-back was the victory gained by Admiral Tourville over the combined Anglo-Dutch fleet off Beachy Head (July 10). The Dutch squadron under Cornelis Evertsen bore the brunt of the fight and suffered heavily. They received little help from the English contingent; and the English Admiral Torrington was accused of having wilfully sacrificed his allies. The effect was serious, for the French enjoyed for a while the rare satisfaction of holding the command of the Channel. The complete triumph of King William at the battle of the Boyne (July 12) relieved somewhat the consternation felt at this naval disaster, and set him free to devote his whole attention to the Continental war. His return to the Hague early in 1691 caused general rejoicing, and he was there able to concert with his allies the placing of a large force in the field for the ensuing campaign. The operations were, however, barren of any satisfactory results. Luxemburg advanced before the allies were ready, and burnt and plundered a large tract of country. William, acting on the defensive, contented himself with covering the capital and the rest of Flanders and Brabant from attack; and no pitched battle took place.
Great preparations were made by Louis XIV in the spring of 1692 for the invasion of England. Troops were collected on the coast, and the squadron under D'Estrees at Toulon was ordered to join the main fleet of Tourville at Brest. Contrary winds delayed the junction; and Tourville rashly sailed out and engaged off La Hogue a greatly superior allied fleet on May 29. The conflict this time chiefly fell upon the English, and after a fierce fight the French were defeated and fled for refuge into the shoal waters. Here they were followed by the lighter vessels and fire-ships of the allies; and the greater part of the French fleet was either burnt or driven upon the rocks (June 1). The maritime power of France was for the time being destroyed, and all fears of invasion dissipated. On land ill-success continued to dog the footsteps of the allies. The strong fortress of Namur was taken by the French; and, after a hotly contested battle at Steinkirk, William was compelled by his old adversary Luxemburg to retreat. William, though he was rarely victorious on the field of battle, had great qualities as a leader. His courage and coolness won the confidence of his troops, and he was never greater than in the conduct of a retreat. This was shown conspicuously in the following year (1693), when, after a disastrous defeat at Neerwinden (July 29), again at the hands of Luxemburg, he succeeded at imminent personal risk in withdrawing his army in good order in face of the superior forces of the victorious enemy.
In 1694 the allies confined themselves to defensive operations. Both sides were growing weary of war; and there were strong parties in favour of negotiating for peace both in the Netherlands and in England. Some of the burgher-regents of Amsterdam, Dordrecht and other towns even went so far as to make secret overtures to the French government, and they had the support of the Frisian Stadholder; but William was resolutely opposed to accepting such conditions as France was willing to offer, and his strong will prevailed.
The position of the king in England was made more difficult by the lamented death of Queen Mary on January 2,1695. William had become deeply attached to his wife during these last years, and for a time he was prostrated by grief. But a strong sense of public duty roused him from his depression; and the campaign of 1695 was signalised by the most brilliant military exploit of his life, the recapture of Namur. That town, strong by its natural position, had been fortified by Vauban with all the resources of engineering skill, and was defended by a powerful garrison commanded by Marshal Boufflers. But William had with him the famous Coehoorn, in scientific siege-warfare the equal of Vauban himself. At the end of a month the town of Namur was taken, but Boufflers withdrew to the citadel. Villeroy, at the head of an army of 90,000 men, did his utmost to compel the king to raise the siege by threatening Brussels; but a strong allied force watched his movements and successfully barred his approach to Namur. At last, on September 5, Boufflers capitulated after a gallant defence on the condition that he and his troops should march out with all the honours of war.
The campaign of 1696 was marked by no event of importance; indeed both sides were thoroughly tired out by the protracted and inconclusive contest. Moreover the failing health of Charles II of Spain threatened to open out at any moment the vital question of the succession to the Spanish throne. Louis XIV, William III and the emperor were all keenly alive to the importance of the issue, and wished to have their hands free in order to prepare for a settlement, either by diplomatic means or by a fresh appeal to arms. But peace was the immediate need, and overtures were privately made by the French king to each of the allied powers in 1696. At last it was agreed that plenipotentiaries from all the belligerents should meet in congress at Ryswyck near the Hague with the Swedish Count Lilienrot as mediator. The congress was opened on May 9, 1697, but many weeks elapsed before the representatives of the various powers settled down to business. Heinsius and Dijkveld were the two chief Dutch negotiators. The emperor, when the other powers had come to terms, refused to accede; and finally England, Spain and the United Provinces determined to conclude a separate peace. It was signed on September 20 and was based upon the treaties of Nijmwegen and Muenster. France, having ulterior motives, had been conciliatory. Strasburg was retained, but most of the French conquests were given up. William was recognised as King of England, and the Principality of Orange was restored to him. With the Dutch a commercial treaty was concluded for twenty-five years on favourable terms.
It was well understood, however, by all the parties that the peace of Ryswyck was a truce during which the struggle concerning the Spanish Succession would be transferred from the field of battle to the field of diplomacy, in the hope that some solution might be found. The question was clearly of supreme importance to the States, for it involved the destiny of the Spanish Netherlands. England, too, had great interests at stake, and was determined to prevent the annexation of the Belgic provinces by France. With Charles II the male line of the Spanish Habsburgs became extinct; and there were three principal claimants in the female line of succession. The claim of the Dauphin was much the strongest, for he was the grandson of Anne of Austria, Philip III's eldest daughter, and the son of Maria Theresa of Austria, Charles II's eldest sister. But both these queens of France had on their marriage solemnly renounced their rights of succession. Louis XIV, however, asserted that his wife's renunciation was invalid, since the dowry, the payment of which was guaranteed by the marriage contract, had never been received. The younger sister of Maria Theresa had been married to the emperor; and two sons and a daughter had been the fruit of the union. This daughter in her turn had wedded the Elector of Bavaria, and had issue one boy of ten years. The Elector himself, Maximilian Emmanuel, had been for five years Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, where his rule had been exceedingly popular. William knew that one of the chief objects of the French king in concluding peace was to break up the Grand Alliance and so prepare the way for a masterful assertion of his rights as soon as the Spanish throne was vacant; and with patient diplomatic skill he set to work at once to arrange for such a partition of the Spanish monarchy among the claimants as should prevent the Belgic provinces from falling into the hands of a first-class power and preserve Spain itself with its overseas possessions from the rule of a Bourbon prince. He had no difficulty in persuading the States to increase their fleet and army in case diplomacy should fail, for the Dutch were only too well aware of the seriousness of the French menace to their independence. In England, where jealousy of a standing army had always been strong, he was less successful, and Parliament insisted on the disbanding of many thousands of seasoned troops. The object at which William aimed was a partition treaty; and a partition was actually arranged (October 11, 1698). This arrangement, according to the ideas of the time, paid no respect whatever to the wishes of the peoples, who were treated as mere pawns by these unscrupulous diplomatists. The Spanish people, as might be expected, were vehemently opposed to any partition of the empire of Charles V and Philip II; and, in consequence of the influences that were brought to bear upon him, Charles II left by will the young electoral prince, Joseph Ferdinand, heir to his whole inheritance. By the secret terms of the partition treaty the crown of Spain together with the Netherlands and the American colonies had been assigned to the Bavarian claimant, but the Spanish dominions in Italy were divided between the two other claimants, the second son of the Dauphin, Philip, Duke of Anjou, receiving Naples and Sicily; the second son of the emperor, the Archduke Charles, the Milanese. Unfortunately, Joseph Ferdinand fell sick of the small-pox and died (March, 1699). With William and Heinsius the main point now was to prevent the French prince from occupying the Spanish throne; and in all secrecy negotiations were again opened at the Hague for a second partition treaty. They found Louis XIV still willing to conclude a bargain. To the Duke of Anjou was now assigned, in addition to Naples and Sicily, the duchy of Lorraine (whose duke was to receive the Milanese in exchange); the rest of the Spanish possessions were to fall to the Archduke Charles (March, 1700). The terms of this arrangement between the French king and the maritime powers did not long remain a secret; and when they were known they displeased the emperor, who did not wish to see French influence predominant in Italy and his own excluded, and still more the Spanish people, who objected to any partition and to the Austrian ruler. The palace of Charles II became a very hot-bed of intrigues, and finally the dying king was persuaded to make a fresh will and nominate Anjou as his universal heir. Accordingly on Charles' death (November 1, 1700) Philip V was proclaimed king.
For a brief time Louis was doubtful as to what course of action would be most advantageous to French interests, but not for long. On November 11 he publicly announced to his court at Versailles that his grandson had accepted the Spanish crown. This step was followed by the placing of French garrisons in some of the frontier fortresses of the Belgic Netherlands by consent of the governor, the Elector of Bavaria. The following months were spent in the vain efforts of diplomacy to obtain such guarantees from the French king as would give security to the States and satisfaction to England and the emperor, and so avoid the outbreak of war. In the States Heinsius, who was working heart and soul with the stadholder in this crisis, had no difficulty in obtaining the full support of all parties, even in Holland, to the necessity of making every effort to be ready for hostilities. William had a more difficult task in England, but he had the support of the Whig majority in Parliament and of the commercial classes; and he laboured hard, despite constant and increasing ill-health, to bring once more into existence the Grand Alliance of 1689. In July negotiations were opened between the maritime powers and the emperor at the Hague, which after lengthy discussions were brought to a conclusion in September, in no small degree through the tact and persuasiveness of Lord Marlborough, the English envoy, who had now begun that career which was shortly to make his name so famous. The chief provisions of the treaty of alliance, signed on September 7, 1701, were that Austria was to have the Italian possessions of Spain; the Belgic provinces were to remain as a barrier and protection for Holland against French aggression; and England and the States were to retain any conquests they might make in the Spanish West Indies. Nothing was said about the crown of Spain, a silence which implied a kind of recognition of Philip V. To this league were joined Prussia, Hanover, Lueneburg, Hesse-Cassel, while France, to whom Spain was now allied, could count upon the help of Bavaria. War was not yet declared, but at this very moment Louis XIV took a step which was wantonly provocative. James II died at St Germain on September 6; and his son was at once acknowledged by Louis as King of England, by the title of James III. This action aroused a storm of indignation among the English people, and William found himself supported by public opinion in raising troops and obtaining supplies for war. The preparations were on a vast scale. The emperor undertook to place 90,000 men in the field; England, 40,000; the German states, 54,000; and the Republic no less than 100,000. William had succeeded at last in the object of his life; a mighty confederation had been called into being to maintain the balance of power in Europe, and overthrow the threatened French domination. This confederation in arms, of which he was the soul and the acknowledged head, was destined to accomplish the object for which it was formed, but not under his leadership. The king had spent the autumn in Holland in close consultation with Heinsius, visiting the camps, the arsenals and the dockyards, and giving instructions to the admirals and generals to have everything in readiness for the campaign of the following spring. Then in November he went to England to hurry on the preparations, which were in a more backward condition than in the States. But he had overtaxed his strength. Always frail and ailing, William had for years by sheer force of will-power conquered his bodily weakness and endured the fatigue of campaigns in which he was content to share all hardships with his soldiers. In his double capacity, too, of king and stadholder, the cares of government and the conduct of foreign affairs had left him no rest. Especially had this been the case in England during the years which had followed Queen Mary's death, when he found himself opposed and thwarted and humiliated by party intrigues and cabals, to such an extent that he more than once thought of abdicating. He was feeling very ill and tired when he returned, and he grew weaker, for the winter in England always tried him. His medical advisers warned him that his case was one for which medicine was of no avail, and that he was not fit to bear the strain of the work he was doing. But the indomitable spirit of the man would not give way, and he still hoped with the spring to be able to put himself at the head of his army. It was not to be; an accident was the immediate cause by which the end came quickly. He was riding in Bushey Park when his horse stumbled over a mole-hill and the king was thrown, breaking his collar-bone (March 14,1702). The shock proved fatal in his enfeebled state; and, after lingering for four days, during which, in full possession of his mental faculties, he continued to discuss affairs of state, he calmly took leave of his special friends, Bentinck, Earl of Portland and Keppel, Earl of Albemarle, and of the English statesmen who stood round his death-bed, and, after thanking them for their services, passed away. For four generations the House of Orange had produced great leaders of men, but it may be said without disparagement to his famous predecessors that the last heir-male of that House was the greatest of them all. He saved the Dutch Republic from destruction; and during the thirty years of what has well been called his reign he gave to it a weighty place in the Councils of Europe and raised it to a height of great material prosperity. But even such services as these were dwarfed by the part that he played in laying the foundation of constitutional monarchy in England, and of the balance of power in Europe. It is difficult to say whether Holland, England or Europe owed the deepest debt to the life-work of William III.
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THE WAR OF THE SPANISH SUCCESSION AND THE TREATIES OF UTRECHT, 1702-1715
William III left no successor to take his place. The younger branch of the Nassau family, who had been, from the time of John of Nassau, stadholders of Friesland and, except for one short interval, of Groningen, and who by the marriage of William Frederick with Albertina Agnes, younger daughter of Frederick Henry, could claim descent in the female line from William the Silent, had rendered for several generations distinguished services to the Republic, but in 1702 had as its only representative a boy of 14 years of age, by name John William Friso. As already narrated, the relations between his father, Henry Casimir, and William III had for a time been far from friendly; but a reconciliation took place before Henry Casimir's untimely death, and the king became god-father to John William Friso, and by his will left him his heir. The boy had succeeded by hereditary right to the posts of stadholder and captain-general of Friesland and Groningen under the guardianship of his mother, but such claims as he had to succeed William III as stadholder in the other provinces were, on account of his youth, completely ignored. As in 1650, Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overyssel reverted once more to a stadholderless form of government.
Fortunately this implied no change of external policy. The men who had for years been fellow-workers with King William and were in complete sympathy with his aims continued to hold the most important posts in the government of the Republic, and to control its policy. That policy consisted in the maintenance of a close alliance with England for the purpose of curbing the ambitious designs of Louis XIV. Foremost among these statesmen were Antony Heinsius, the council-pensionary of Holland, Simon van Slingelandt, secretary of the Council of State since 1690, and Jan Hop, the treasurer-general of the Union. In England the recognition by Louis of the Prince of Wales as King James III had thoroughly aroused the popular feeling against France; and Anne the new queen determined to carry out her predecessor's plans. The two maritime powers, closely bound together by common interests, and the ties which had arisen between them during the thirteen years of the reign of the king-stadholder, were to form the nucleus of a coalition with Austria and a number of the German states, including Prussia and Hanover (to which Savoy somewhat later adhered), pledged to support the claims of the Archduke Charles to the Spanish throne. For the Dutch it was an all-important question, for with Philip V reigning at Madrid the hegemony of France in Europe seemed to be assured. Already French troops were in possession of the chief fortresses of the so-called Spanish Netherlands. Face to face with such a menace it was not difficult for Heinsius to obtain not only the assent of the States-General, but of the Estates of Holland, practically without a dissenting voice, to declare war upon France and Spain (May 8, 1702); and this was quickly followed by similar declarations by England and Austria.
The Grand Alliance had an outward appearance of great strength, but in reality it had all the weaknesses of a coalition, its armies being composed of contingents from a number of countries, whose governments had divergent aims and strategic objects, and it was opposed by a power under absolute rule with numerous and veteran armies inspired by a long tradition of victory under brilliant leaders. In 1702, however, the successors of Turenne and Luxemburg were by no means of the same calibre as those great generals. On the other hand, the allies were doubly fortunate in being led by a man of exceptional gifts. John Churchill, Earl (and shortly afterwards Duke) of Marlborough, was placed in supreme command of the Anglo-Dutch armies. Through the influence of his wife with the weak Queen Anne, the Whig party, of which Marlborough and his' friend Godolphin the lord-treasurer were the heads, was maintained in secure possession of power; and Marlborough thus entered upon his command in the full confidence of having the unwavering support of the home government behind him. Still this would have availed little but for the consummate abilities of this extraordinary man. As a general he displayed a military genius, both as a strategist and a tactician, which has been rarely surpassed. For ten years he pursued a career of victory not marred by a single defeat, and this in spite of the fact that his army was always composed of heterogeneous elements, that his subordinates of different nationalities were jealous of his authority and of one another, and above all, as will be seen, that his bold and well-laid plans were again and again hindered and thwarted by the timidity and obstinacy of the civilian deputies who were placed by the States-General at his side. Had Marlborough been unhampered, the war would probably have ended some years before it did; as it was, the wonderful successes of the general were made possible by his skill and tact as a diplomatist. He had, moreover, the good fortune to have at his side in the Imperialist general, Prince Eugene of Savoy, a commander second only to himself in brilliance and leadership. In almost all wars the Austrian alliance has proved a weak support on which to trust; but now, thanks to the outstanding capacity of Eugene, the armies of Austria were able to achieve many triumphs. The vigorous participation of the emperor in this war, in support of the claims of his second son, was only made possible by the victories of the Italian general over the Turks, who had overrun Hungary and threatened Vienna. And now, in the still more important sphere of operations in the West in which for a series of years he had to co-operate with Marlborough, it is to the infinite credit of both these great men that they worked harmoniously and smoothly together, so that at no time was there even a hint of any jealousy between them. In any estimate of the great achievements of Marlborough it must never be forgotten that he not only had Eugene at his right hand in the field, but Heinsius in the council chamber. Heinsius had always worked loyally and sympathetically with William III; and it was in the same spirit that he worked with the English duke, who brought William's life-task to its triumphant accomplishment. Between Marlborough and Heinsius, as between Marlborough and Eugene, there was no friction—surely a convincing tribute to the adroit and tactful persuasiveness of a commanding personality.
In July, 1702, Marlborough at the head of 65,000 men faced Marshal Boufflers with a French army almost as strong numerically, the one in front of Nijmwegen, the other in the neighbourhood of Liege. Leaving a force of 25,000 Dutch and Brandenburgers to besiege Kaiserswerth, Marlborough by skilful manoeuvring prevented Boufflers from attempting a relief, and would on two occasions have been able to inflict a severe defeat upon him had he not been each time thwarted by the cautious timidity of the Dutch deputies. Kaiserswerth, however, fell, and in turn Rheinberg, Venloo, Roeremonde and Liege; and the campaign ended successfully, leaving the allies in command of the lower Rhine and lower Meuse.
That of 1703 was marred even more effectually than that of the previous year by the interference of the deputies, and the ill-concealed opposition to Marlborough of certain Dutch generals, notably of Slangenburg. The duke was very angry, and bitter recriminations ensued. In the end Slangenburg was removed from his command; and the appointment of Ouwerkerk, as field-marshal of the Dutch forces, relieved the tension, though the deputies were still present at headquarters, much to Marlborough's annoyance. The campaign resulted in the capture of Bonn, Huy and Limburg, but there was no general action.
The year 1704 saw the genius of Marlborough at length assert itself. The French had placed great armies in the field, Villeroy in the Netherlands, Tallard in Bavaria, where in conjunction with the Bavarian forces he threatened to descend the Danube into the heart of Austria. Vienna itself was in the greatest danger. The troops under Lewis of Baden and under Eugene were, even when united, far weaker than their adversaries. In these circumstances Marlborough determined by a bold strategical stroke to execute a flank march from the Netherlands right across the front of the Franco-Bavarian army and effect a junction with the Imperialists. He had to deceive the timid Dutch deputies by feigning to descend the Meuse with the intention of working round Villeroy's flank; then, leaving Ouwerkerk to contain that marshal, he set out on his daring adventure early in May and carried it out with complete success. His departure had actually relieved the Netherlands, for Villeroy had felt it necessary with a large part of his forces to follow Marlborough and reinforce the Franco-Bavarians under Marshal Tallard and the Elector. The two armies met at Blenheim (Hochstaedt) on August 13. The battle resulted in the crushing victory of the allies under Marlborough and Eugene. Eleven thousand prisoners were taken, among them Tallard himself. The remnant of the French army retired across the Rhine. Vienna was saved, and all Bavaria was overrun by the Imperialists.
Meanwhile at sea the Anglo-Dutch fleet was incontestably superior to the enemy; and the operations were confined to the immediate neighbourhood of the Peninsula. William III had before his death been preparing an expedition for the capture of Cadiz. His plan was actually carried out in 1702, when a powerful fleet under the supreme command of Admiral Sir George Rooke sailed for Cadiz; but the attack failed owing to the incompetence of the Duke of Ormonde, who commanded the military forces. In this expedition a strong Dutch squadron under Philip van Almonde participated. Almonde was a capable seaman trained in the school of Tromp and De Ruyter; and he took a most creditable part in the action off Vigo, October 23, in which a large portion of the silver fleet was captured, and the Franco-Spanish fleet, which formed its escort, destroyed. The maritime operations of 1703 were uneventful, the French fleet being successfully blockaded in Toulon harbour.
The accession of Portugal in the course of this year to the Grand Alliance was important in that it opened the estuary of the Tagus as a naval base, and enabled the Archduke Charles to land with a body of troops escorted by an Anglo-Dutch fleet under Rooke and Callenberg. This fleet later in the year (August 4) was fortunate in capturing Gibraltar without much loss, the defences having been neglected and inadequately garrisoned. In this feat of arms, which gave to the English the possession of the rock fortress that commands the entrance into the Mediterranean, the Dutch under Callenberg had a worthy share, as also in the great sea-fight off Malaga on August 24, against the French fleet under the Count of Toulouse. The French had slightly superior numbers, and the allies, who had not replenished their stores after the siege of Gibraltar, were short of ammunition. Though a drawn battle, so far as actual losses were concerned, it was decisive in its results. The French fleet withdrew to the shelter of Toulon harbour; and the allies' supremacy in the midland sea was never again throughout the war seriously challenged. The Dutch ships at the battle of Malaga were twelve in number and fought gallantly, but it was the last action of any importance in which the navy of Holland took part. There had been dissensions between the English and Dutch commanders, and from this time forward the admiralties made no effort to maintain their fleet in the state of efficiency in which it had been left by William III. The cost of the army fell heavily upon Holland, and money was grudged for the maintenance of the navy, whose services, owing to the weakness of the enemy, were not required.
The military campaign of 1705 produced small results, the plans of Marlborough for an active offensive being thwarted by the Dutch deputies. The duke's complaints only resulted in one set of deputies being replaced by another set of civilians equally impracticable. There was also another reason for a slackening of vigour. The Emperor Leopold I died on May 5. His successor Joseph I had no children, so that the Archduke Charles became the heir-apparent to all the possessions of the Austrian Habsburgs. Louis XIV therefore seized the opportunity to make secret overtures of peace to some of the more influential Dutch statesmen through the Marquis D'Allegne, at that time a prisoner in the hands of the Dutch. The French were willing to make many concessions in return for the recognition of Philip V as King of Spain. In the autumn conversations took place between Heinsius, Buys the pensionary of Amsterdam, and others, with D'Allegne and Rouille, an accredited agent of the French government. Matters went so far that Buys went to London on a secret mission to discuss the matter with the English minister. The English cabinet, however, refused to recognise Philip V; and, as the Dutch demand for a strong barrier of fortresses along the southern frontier of the Netherlands was deemed inadmissible at Versailles, the negotiations came to an end.
In 1706 Marlborough's bold proposal to join Eugene in Italy, and with their united forces to drive the French out of that country and to march upon Toulon, failed to gain the assent of the Dutch deputies. The duke, after much controversy and consequent delay, had to content himself with a campaign in Belgium. It was brilliantly carried out. On Whit Sunday, May 23, at Ramillies the allies encountered the enemy under the command of Marshal Villeroi and the Elector of Bavaria. The French were utterly defeated with very heavy loss; and such was the vigour of the pursuit that the shattered army was obliged to retire to Courtrai, leaving Brabant and Flanders undefended. In rapid succession Louvain, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and other towns surrendered to Marlborough, and a little later Ostend, Dendermonde, Menin and Ath; and the Archduke Charles was acknowledged as sovereign by the greater part of the southern Netherlands. In Italy and Spain also things had gone well with the allies. This series of successes led Louis XIV to make fresh overtures of peace to the States-General, whom the French king hoped to seduce from the Grand Alliance by the bait of commercial advantages both with Spain and France and a good "barrier." He was even ready to yield the crown of Spain to the Archduke Charles on condition that Philip of Anjou were acknowledged as sovereign of the Spanish possessions in Italy. Heinsius however was loyal to the English alliance; and, in face of the determination of the English government not to consent to any division of the Spanish inheritance, the negotiations again came to nothing.
The year 1707 saw a change of fortune. Austria was threatened by the victorious advance of Charles XII of Sweden through Poland into Saxony. A French army under Villars crossed the Rhine (May 27) and advanced far into south-eastern Germany. The defence of their own territories caused several of the German princes to retain their troops at home instead of sending them as mercenaries to serve in the Netherlands under Marlborough. The duke therefore found himself unable to attack the superior French army under Vendome, and acted steadfastly on the defensive. An attempt by Eugene, supported by the English fleet, to capture Toulon ended in dismal failure and the retreat of the Imperialists with heavy loss into Italy. In Spain the victory of Berwick at Almanza (April 27) made Philip V the master of all Spain, except a part of Catalonia.
But, though Marlborough had been reduced to immobility in 1707, the following campaign was to witness another of his wonderful victories. At the head of a mixed force of 80,000 men he was awaiting the arrival of Eugene with an Imperialist army of 35,000, when Vendome unexpectedly took the offensive while he still had superiority in numbers over his English opponent. Rapidly overrunning western Flanders he made himself master of Bruges and Ghent and laid siege to Oudenarde. By a series of brilliant movements Marlborough out-marched and out-manoeuvred his adversary and, interposing his army between him and the French frontier, compelled him to risk a general engagement. It took place on July 11, 1708, and ended in the complete defeat of the French, who were only saved by the darkness from utter destruction. Had the bold project of Marlborough to march into France forthwith been carried out, a deadly blow would have been delivered against the very vitals of the enemy's power and Louis XIV probably compelled to sue for peace on the allies' terms. But this time not only the Dutch deputies, but also Eugene, were opposed to the daring venture, and it was decided that Eugene should besiege Lille, while Marlborough with the field army covered the operations. Lille was strongly fortified, and Marshal Boufflers made a gallant defence. The siege began in mid-August; the town surrendered on October 22, but the citadel did not fall until December 9. Vendome did his best to cut off Eugene's supplies of munitions and stores, and at one time the besiegers were reduced to straits. The French marshal did not, however, venture to force an engagement with Marlborough's covering army, a portion of which under General Webb, after gaining a striking victory over a French force at Wynendael, (September 30), conducted at a critical moment a large train of supplies from Ostend into Eugene's camp. As a consequence of the capture of Lille, the French withdrew from Flanders into their own territory, Ghent and Bruges being re-occupied by the allies with a mere show of resistance.
The reverses of 1708 induced the French king to be ready to yield much for the sake of peace. He offered the Dutch a strong barrier, a favourable treaty of commerce and the demolition of the defences of Dunkirk; and there were many in Holland who would have accepted his terms. But their English and Austrian allies insisted on the restoration of Louis' German conquests, and that the king should, by force if necessary, compel his grandson to leave Spain. Such was the exhaustion of France that Louis would have consented to almost any terms however harsh, but he refused absolutely to use coercion against Philip V. The negotiations went on through the spring nor did they break down until June, 1709, when the exorbitant demands of the allies made further progress impossible. Louis issued a manifesto calling upon his subjects to support him in resisting terms which were dishonouring to France.
He met with a splendid response from all classes, and a fine army of 90,000 men was equipped and placed in the field under the command of Marshal Villars. The long delay over the negotiations prevented Marlborough and Eugene from taking the field until June. They found Villars had meanwhile entrenched himself in Artois in a very strong position. Marlborough's proposal to advance by the sea-coast and outflank the enemy being opposed both by Eugene and the Dutch deputies as too daring, siege was laid to Tournay. Campaigns in those days were dilatory affairs. Tournay was not captured until September 3; and the allies, having overcome this obstacle without any active interference, moved forward to besiege Mons. They found Villars posted at Malplaquet on a narrow front, skilfully fortified and protected on both flanks by woods. A terrible struggle ensued (September 11, 1709), the bloodiest in the war. The Dutch troops gallantly led by the Prince of Orange attacked the French right, but were repulsed with very heavy losses. For some time the fight on the left and centre of the French line was undecided, the attacking columns being driven back many times, but at length the allies succeeded in turning the extreme left and also after fearful slaughter in piercing the centre; and the French were compelled to retreat. They had lost 12,000 men, but 23,000 of the allies had fallen; the Dutch divisions had suffered the most severely, losing almost half their strength. The immediate result of this hard-won victory was the taking of Mons, October 9. The lateness of the season prevented any further operations. Nothing decisive had been achieved, for on all the other fields of action, on the Rhine, on the Piedmont frontier and in Spain, the advantage had on the whole been with the French and Spaniards. Negotiations proceeded during the winter (1709-10), Dutch and French representatives meeting both at the Hague and at Geertruidenberg. The States were anxious for peace and Louis was willing to make the concessions required of him, but Philip V refused to relinquish a crown which he held by the practically unanimous approval of the Spanish people. The emperor on the other hand was obstinate in claiming the undivided Spanish inheritance for the Archduke Charles. The maritime powers, however, would not support him in this claim; and the maritime powers meant England, for Holland followed her lead, being perfectly satisfied with the conditions of the First Barrier Treaty, which had been drawn up and agreed upon between the States-General and the English government on October 29, 1709. By this secret treaty the Dutch obtained the right to hold and to garrison a number of towns along the French frontier, the possession of which would render them the real masters of Belgium. Indeed it was manifest that, although the Dutch did not dispute the sovereign rights of the Archduke Charles, they intended to make the southern Netherlands an economic dependency of the Republic, which provided for its defence.
The negotiations at Geertruidenberg dragged on until July, 1710, and were finally broken off owing to the insistence of the Dutch envoys, Buys and Van Dussen, upon conditions which, even in her exhausted state, France was too proud to concede. Meanwhile Marlborough and Eugene, unable to tempt Villars to risk a battle, contented themselves with a succession of sieges. Douay, Bethune, St Venant and Aine fell, one after the other, the French army keeping watch behind its strongly fortified lines. This was a very meagre result, but Marlborough now felt his position to be so insecure that he dared not take any risks. His wife, so long omnipotent at court, had been supplanted in the queen's favour; Godolphin and the Whig party had been swept from power; and a Tory ministry bent upon peace had taken their place. Marlborough knew that his period of dictatorship was at an end, and he would have resigned his command but for the pressing instances of Eugene, Heinsius and other leaders of the allies.
The desire of the Tory ministry to bring the long drawn-out hostilities to an end was accentuated by the death, on April 17, 1711, of the Emperor Joseph, an event which left his brother Charles heir to all the possessions of the Austrian Habsburgs. The Grand Alliance had been formed and the war waged to maintain the balance of power in Europe. But such a result would not be achieved by a revival of the empire of Charles V in the person of the man who had now become the head of the House of Austria. Even had the Whigs remained in office, they could hardly have continued to give active support to the cause of the Habsburg claimant in Spain.
One of the consequences of the death of Joseph I, then, was to render the Tory minister, Henry St John, more anxious to enter into negotiations for peace; another was the paralysing of active operations in the field. Eugene had been summoned to Germany to watch over the meeting of the Imperial Diet at Frankfort, and Marlborough was left with an army considerably inferior in numbers to that of his opponent Villars. Thus the only fruit of the campaign was the capture of Bouchain. Meanwhile the French minister Torcy entered into secret communications with St John, intimating that France was ready to negotiate directly with England, but at first without the cognisance of the States. The English ministry on their part, under the influence of St John, showed themselves to be ready to throw over their allies, to abandon the Habsburg cause in Spain, and to come to an agreement with France on terms advantageous to England. For French diplomacy, always alert and skilful, these proceedings were quite legitimate; but it was scarcely honourable for the English government, while the Grand Alliance was still in existence, to carry on these negotiations in profound secrecy.
In August matters had so far advanced that Mesnager was sent over from Paris to London entrusted with definite proposals. In October the preliminaries of peace were virtually settled between the two powers. Meanwhile the Dutch had been informed through Lord Strafford, the English envoy at the Hague, of what was going on; and the news aroused no small indignation and alarm. But great pressure was brought to bear upon them; and, knowing that without England they could not continue the war, the States-General at last, in fear for their barrier, consented, on November 21, to send envoys to a peace congress to be held at Utrecht on the basis of the Anglo-French preliminaries. It was in vain that the Emperor Charles VI protested both at London and the Hague, or that Eugene was despatched on a special mission to England in January, 1712. The English ministry had made up their minds to conclude peace with or without the emperor's assent; and the congress opened at the beginning of the year 1712 without the presence of any Austrian plenipotentiaries, though they appeared later. The Dutch provinces sent two envoys each. The conferences at Utrecht were, however, little more than futile debates; and the congress was held there rather as a concession to save the amour propre of the States than to settle the terms of peace. The real negotiations were carried on secretly between England and France; and after a visit by St John, now Viscount Bolingbroke, in person to Paris in August, all points of difference between the two governments were amicably arranged. Spain followed the lead of France; and the States, knowing that they could not go on with the war without England, were reluctantly obliged to accept the Anglo-French proposals. Their concurrence might not have been so easily obtained, but for the unfortunate course of the campaign of 1712. Marlborough had now been replaced in the chief command by the Duke of Ormonde. Eugene, counting upon English support, had taken Quesnoy on July 4, and was about to invest Landrecies, when Ormonde informed him that an armistice had been concluded between the French and English governments. On July 16 the English contingent withdrew to Dunkirk, which had been surrendered by the French as a pledge of good faith. Villars seized the opportunity to make a surprise attack on the isolated Dutch at the bridge of Denain (July 24) and, a panic taking place, completely annihilated their whole force of 12,000 men with slight loss to himself. Eugene had to retreat, abandoning his magazines; and Douay, Quesnoy and Bouchain fell into the hands of the French marshal.
These disasters convinced the Dutch of their helplessness when deprived of English help; and instructions were given to their envoys at Utrecht, on December 29, to give their assent to the terms agreed upon and indeed dictated by the governments of England and France. Making the best of the situation, the Dutch statesmen, confronted with the growing self-assertion of the French plenipotentiaries, concluded, on January 30, 1713, a new offensive and defensive alliance with England. This treaty of alliance is commonly called the Second Barrier Treaty, because it abrogated the Barrier Treaty of 1709, and was much more favourable to France. It was not until all these more or less secret negotiations were over that the Congress, after being suspended for some months, resumed its sittings at Utrecht. The Peace of Utrecht which ensued is really a misnomer. No general treaty was agreed upon and signed, but a series of separate treaties between the belligerent powers. This was what France had been wishing for some time and, by the connivance of England, she achieved it. The treaty between these two countries was signed on April 11, 1713; and such was the dominant position of England that her allies, with the single exception of the emperor, had to follow her lead. Treaties with the States-General, with Savoy, Brandenburg and Portugal, were all signed on this same day.
Louis XIV had good right to congratulate himself upon obtaining far more favourable terms than he could have dared to hope in 1710 or 1711. Philip V was recognised as King of Spain and the Indies, but had solemnly to renounce his right of succession to the French throne and his claim to the Spanish possessions in the Netherlands and in Italy. The treaty between England and Spain was signed on July 13, 1713; that between the States-General and Spain was delayed until June 26, 1714, owing to the difficulties raised by the emperor, who, though deserted by his allies, continued the war single-handed, but with signal lack of success. He was forced to yield and make peace at Rastatt in a treaty, which was confirmed by the Imperial Diet at Baden in Switzerland on September 7, 1714. By this treaty the French king retained practically all his conquests, while Charles VI, though he did not recognise the title of Philip V, contented himself with the acquisition of the "Spanish" Netherlands, and of the Milanese and Naples. Into the details of these several treaties it is unnecessary here to enter, except in so far as they affected the United Provinces. The power that benefited more than any other was Great Britain, for the Peace of Utrecht laid the foundation of her colonial empire and left her, from this time forward, the first naval and maritime power in the world. Holland, though her commerce was still great and her colonial possessions both rich and extensive, had henceforth to see herself more and more overshadowed and dominated by her former rival. Nevertheless the treaties concluded by the States-General at this time were decidedly advantageous to the Republic.
That with France, signed on April 11, 1713, placed the Spanish Netherlands in the possession of the States-General, to be held by them in trust for Charles VI until such time as the emperor came to an agreement with them about a "Barrier." France in this matter acted in the name of Spain, and was the intermediary through whose good offices Spanish or Upper Gelderland was surrendered to Prussia. Most important of all to the Dutch was the treaty with the emperor concluded at Antwerp, November 15, 1715. This is generally styled the Third Barrier Treaty, the First being that of 1709, the Second that of 1713 at Utrecht. The States-General finally obtained what was for their interest a thoroughly satisfactory settlement. They obtained the right to place garrisons amounting in all to 35,000 men in Furnes, Warneton, Ypres, Knocke, Tournay, Menin and Namur; and three-fifths of the cost were to be borne by the Austrian government, who pledged certain revenues of their newly-acquired Belgic provinces to the Dutch for the purpose. The strong position in which such a treaty placed the Republic against aggression, either from the side of France or Austria, was made stronger by being guaranteed by the British government.
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THE STADHOLDERLESS REPUBLIC, 1715-1740
The thirty-four years which followed the Peace of Utrecht are a period of decadence and decay; a depressing period exhibiting the spectacle of a State, which had played a heroic part in history, sinking, through its lack of inspiring leadership and the crying defects inherent in its system of government, to the position of a third-rate power. The commanding abilities of the great stadholders of the house of Orange-Nassau, and during the stadholderless period which followed the untimely death of William II, those of the Council-Pensionary, John de Witt, had given an appearance of solidarity to what was really a loose confederation of sovereign provinces. Throughout the 17th century maritime enterprise, naval prowess and world-wide trade had, by the help of skilled diplomacy and wise statesmanship, combined to give to the Dutch Republic a weight in the council of nations altogether disproportionate to its size and the number of its population. In the memorable period of Frederick Henry the foundations were laid of an empire overseas; Dutch seamen and traders had penetrated into every ocean and had almost monopolised the carrying-trade of Europe; and at the same time Holland had become the chosen home of scholarship, science, literature and art. In the great days of John de Witt she contended on equal terms with England for the dominion of the seas; and Amsterdam was the financial clearing-house of the world. To William III the Republic owed its escape from destruction in the critical times of overwhelming French invasion in 1672, when by resolute and heroic leadership he not only rescued the United Provinces from French domination, but before his death had raised them to the rank of a great power. Never did the prestige of the States stand higher in Europe than at the opening of the 18th century. But, as has already been pointed out, the elevation of the great stadholder to the throne of England had been far from an unmixed blessing to his native land. It brought the two maritime and commercial rivals into a close alliance, which placed the smaller and less favoured country at a disadvantage, and ended in the weaker member of the alliance becoming more and more the dependent of the stronger. What would have been the trend of events had William survived for another ten or fifteen years or had he left an heir to succeed him in his high dignities, one can only surmise. It may at least be safely said, that the treaty which ended the war of the Spanish succession would not have been the treaty of Utrecht.
William III by his will made his cousin, John William Friso of Nassau-Siegen, his heir. Friso (despite the opposition of the Prussian king, who was the son of Frederick Henry's eldest daughter) assumed the title of Prince of Orange; and, as he was a real Netherlander, his branch of the house of Nassau having been continuously stadholders of Friesland since the first days of the existence of the Republic, he soon attracted to himself the affection of the Orangist party. But at the time of William III's death Friso was but fourteen years of age; and the old "States" or "Republican" party, which had for so many years been afraid to attempt any serious opposition to the imperious will of King William, now saw their opportunity for a return once more to the state of things established by the Great Assembly in 1651. Under the leadership of Holland five provinces now declared for a stadholderless government. The appointment of town-councillors passed into the hands of the corporations or of the Provincial Estates, not, however, without serious disturbances in Gelderland, Utrecht, Overyssel and also in Zeeland, stirred up partly by the old regent-families, who had been excluded from office under William, partly by the gilds and working folk, who vainly hoped that they would be able to exercise a larger share in the government. In many places faction-fights ensued. In Amersfoort two burghers were tried and beheaded; in Nijmwegen the burgomaster, Ronkens, met the same fate. But after a short while the aristocratic States party everywhere gained control in the town-corporations and through them in the Provincial Estates. In Zeeland the dignity of "first noble" was abolished.
The effect of all this was that decentralisation reached its extreme point. Not only were there seven republics, but each town asserted sovereign rights, defying at times the authority of the majority in the Provincial Estates. This was especially seen in the predominant province of Holland, where the city of Amsterdam by its wealth and importance was able to dictate its will to the Estates, and through the Estates to the States-General. Money-making and trade profits were the matters which engrossed everybody's interest. War interfered with trade; it was costly, and was to be avoided at any price. During this time the policy of the Republic was neutrality; and the States-General, with their army and navy reduced more and more in numbers and efficiency, scarcely counted in the calculations of the cabinets of Europe.
But this very time that was marked by the decline and fall of the Republic from the high position which it occupied during the greater part of the 17th century, was the golden age of the burgher-oligarchies. A haughty "patrician" class, consisting in each place of a very limited number of families, closely inter-related, had little by little possessed themselves, as a matter of hereditary right, of all the offices and dignities in the town, in the province and in the state. Within their own town they reigned supreme, filling up vacancies in the vroedschap by co-option, exercising all authority, occupying or distributing among their relatives all posts of profit, and acquiring great wealth. Their fellow-citizens were excluded from all share in affairs, and were looked down upon as belonging to an inferior caste. The old simple habits of their forefathers were abandoned. French fashions and manners were the vogue amongst them, and English clothes, furniture and food. In the country—platteland—people had no voice whatever in public affairs; they were not even represented, as the ordinary townspeople were by their regents. Thus the United Netherlands had not only ceased to be a unified state in any real sense of the word, but had ceased likewise to be a free state. It consisted of a large number of semi-independent oligarchies of the narrowest description; and the great mass of its population was deprived of every vestige of civic rights.
That such a State should have survived at all is to be explained by the fact that the real control over the foreign policy of the Republic and over its general government continued to be exercised by the band of experienced statesmen who had served under William III and inherited his traditions. Heinsius, the wise and prudent council-pensionary, continued in office until his death cm August 3, 1720, when he was succeeded by Isaac van Hoornbeck, pensionary of Rotterdam. Hoornbeck was not a man of great parts, but he was sound and safe and he had at his side Simon van Slingelandt, secretary of the Council of State since 1690, and others whose experience in public office dated from the preceding century. In their hands the external policy of the Republic, conducted with no lack of skill, was of necessity non-interventionist. In internal matters they could effect little. The finances after the war were in an almost hopeless condition, and again and again the State was threatened with bankruptcy. To make things worse an epidemic of wild speculation spread far and wide during the period 1716-1720 in the bubble companies, the Mississippi Company and the South Sea Company, associated with the name of Edward Law, which proved so ruinous to many in England and France, as well as in Holland. In 1716 such was the miserable condition of the country that the Estates of Overyssel, under the leadership of Count van Rechteren, proposed the summoning of a Great Assembly on the model of that of 1651 to consider the whole question of government and finance. The proposal was ultimately accepted, and the Assembly met at the Hague on November 28. After nine months of ineffectual debate and wrangling it finally came to an end on September 14, 1717, without effecting anything, leaving all who had the best interests of the State at heart in despair.
In the years immediately succeeding the Peace of Utrecht difficulties arose with Charles XII of Sweden; whose privateers had been seizing Dutch and English merchantmen in the Baltic. Under De Witt or William III the fleet of the Republic would speedily have brought the Swedish king to reason. But now other counsels prevailed. Dutch squadrons sailed into the Baltic with instructions to convoy the merchant vessels, but to avoid hostilities. With some difficulty this purpose was achieved; and the death of Charles at the siege of Frederikshald brought all danger of war to an end. And yet in the very interests of trade it would have been good policy for the States to act strongly in this matter of Swedish piracy in the Baltic. Russia was the rising power in those regions. The Dutch had really nothing to fear from Sweden, whose great days came to an end with the crushing defeat of Charles XII at Pultova in 1709. Trade relations had been opened between Holland and Muscovy so early as the end of the 16th century; and, despite English rivalry, the opening out of Russia and of Russian trade had been almost entirely in Dutch hands during the 17th century. The relations between the two countries became much closer and more important after the accession of the enterprising and reforming Tsar, Peter the Great. It is well known how Peter in 1696 visited Holland to learn the art of ship-building and himself toiled as a workman at Zaandam. As a result of this visit he carried back with him to Russia an admiration for all things Dutch. He not only favoured Dutch commerce, but he employed numbers of Hollanders in the building and training of his fleet and in the construction of waterways and roads. In 1716-17 Peter again spent a considerable time in Holland. Nevertheless Dutch policy was again timid and cautious; and no actual alliance was made with Russia, from dread of entanglements, although the opportunity seemed so favourable.
It was the same when in this year 1717 Cardinal Alberoni, at the instigation of Elizabeth of Parma the ambitious second wife of Philip V, attempted to regain Spain's lost possessions in Italy by an aggressive policy which threatened to involve Europe in war. Elizabeth's object was to obtain an independent sovereignty for her sons in her native country. Austria, France and England united to resist this attempt to reverse the settlement of Utrecht, and the States were induced to join with them in a quadruple alliance. It was not, however, their intention to take any active part in the hostilities which speedily brought Spain to reason, and led to the fall of Alberoni. But the Spanish queen had not given up her designs, and she found another instrument for carrying them out in Ripperda, a Groningen nobleman, who had originally gone to Spain as ambassador of the States. This able and scheming statesman persuaded Elizabeth that she might best attain her ends by an alliance with Austria, which was actually concluded at Vienna on April 1, 1725. This alliance alarmed France, England and Prussia, but was especially obnoxious to the Republic, for the emperor had in 1722 erected an East India Company at Ostend in spite of the prohibition placed by Holland and Spain in the treaties of 1714-15 upon Belgian overseas commerce. By the Treaty of Alliance in 1725 the Spanish crown recognised the Ostend Company and thus gave it a legal sanction. The States therefore, after some hesitation, became parties to a defensive alliance against Austria and Spain that had been signed by France, England and Prussia at Hanover in September, 1728. These groupings of the powers were of no long duration. The emperor, fearing an invasion of the Belgian provinces, first agreed to suspend the Ostend Company for seven years, and then, in order to secure the assent of the maritime powers to the Pragmatic Sanction, which guaranteed to his daughter, Maria Theresa, the succession to the Austrian hereditary domains, he broke with Spain and consented to suppress the Ostend Company altogether. The negotiations which took place at this time are very involved and complicated, but they ended in a revival of the old alliance between Austria and the maritime powers against the two Bourbon monarchies of France and Spain. This return to the old policy of William III was largely the work of Slingelandt, who had become council-pensionary on July 27, 1727.
Simon van Slingelandt, with the able assistance of his brother-in-law Francis Fagel, clerk of the States-General, was during the nine years in which he directed the foreign policy of the Republic regarded as one of the wisest and most trustworthy, as he was the most experienced statesman of his time. His aim was, in co-operation with England, to maintain by conciliatory and peaceful methods the balance of power. Lord Chesterfield, at that time the British envoy at the Hague, had the highest opinion of Slingelandt's powers; and the council-pensionary's writings, more especially his Pensees impartiales, published in 1729, show what a thorough grasp he had of the political situation. Fortunately the most influential ministers in England and France, Robert Walpole and Cardinal Fleury, were like-minded with him in being sincere seekers after peace. The Treaty of Vienna (March 18,1731), which secured the recognition by the powers of the Pragmatic Sanction, was largely his work; and he was also successful in preventing the question of the Polish succession, after the death of Augustus of Saxony in 1733, being the cause of the outbreak of a European war. In domestic policy Slingelandt, though profoundly dissatisfied with the condition of the Republic, took no steps to interfere with the form of government. He saw the defects of the stadholderless system plainly enough, but he had not, like Fagel, strong Orangist sympathies; and on his appointment as council-pensionary he pledged himself to support during his tenure of office the existing state of things. This undertaking he loyally kept, and his strong personality during his life-time alone saved Holland, and through Holland the entire Republic, from falling into utter ruin and disaster. At his death Antony van der Heim became council-pensionary under the same conditions as his predecessor. But Van der Heim, though a capable and hard-working official, was not of the same calibre as Slingelandt. The narrow and grasping burgher-regents had got a firm grip of power, and they used it to suppress the rights of their fellow-citizens and to keep in their own hands the control of municipal and provincial affairs. Corruption reigned everywhere; and the patrician oligarchy, by keeping for themselves and their relations all offices of profit, grew rich at the same time that the finances of the State fell into greater confusion. It was not a condition of things that could endure, should any serious crisis arise.
John William Friso, on whom great hopes had been fixed, met with an untimely death in 1711, leaving a posthumous child who became William IV, Prince of Orange. Faithful Friesland immediately elected William stadholder under the regency of his mother, Maria Louisa of Hesse-Cassel. By her fostering care the boy received an education to fit him for service to the State. Though of weakly bodily frame and slightly deformed, William had marked intelligence, and a very gentle and kindly disposition. Though brave like all his family, he had little inclination for military things. The Republican party had little to fear from a man of such character and disposition. The burgher-regents, secure in the possession of power, knew that the Frisian stadholder was not likely to resort either to violence or intrigue to force on a revolution. Nevertheless the prestige of the name in the prevailing discontent counted for much. William was elected stadholder of Groningen in 1718, of Drente and of Gelderland in 1722, though in each case with certain restrictions. But the other provinces remained obstinate in their refusal to admit him to any place in their councils or to any military post. The Estates of Zeeland went so far as to abolish the marquisate of Flushing and Veere, which carried with it the dignity of first noble and presidency in the meetings of the Estates, and offered to pay 100,000 fl. in compensation to the heir of the Nassaus. William refused to receive it, saying that either the marquisate did not belong to him, in which case he could not accept money for it, or it did belong to him and was not for sale. William's position was advanced by his marriage in 1734 to Anne, eldest daughter of George II. Thus for the third time a Princess Royal of England became Princess of Orange. The reception of the newly married pair at Amsterdam and the Hague was, however, cool though polite; and despite the representatives of Gelderland, who urged that the falling credit and bad state of the Republic required the appointment of an "eminent head," Holland, Utrecht, Zeeland and Overyssel remained obdurate in their refusal to change the form of government. William had to content himself with the measure of power he had obtained and to await events. He showed much patience, for he had many slights and rebuffs to put up with. His partisans would have urged him to more vigorous action, but this he steadily refused to take.
The Republic kept drifting meanwhile on the downward path. Its foreign policy was in nerveless hands; jobbery was rampant; trade and industry declined; the dividends of the East India Company fell year by year through the incompetence and greed of officials appointed by family influence; the West India Company was practically bankrupt. Such was the state of the country in 1740, when the outbreak of the Austrian Succession War found the Republic without leadership, hopelessly undecided what course of action it should take, and only seeking to evade its responsibilities.
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THE AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION WAR. WILLIAM IV, 1740-1751
The death of the Emperor Charles VI in October, 1740, was the signal for the outbreak of another European war. All Charles' efforts on behalf of the Pragmatic Sanction proved to have been labour spent in vain. Great Britain, the United Provinces, Spain, Saxony, Poland, Russia, Sardinia, Prussia, most of the smaller German States, and finally France, had agreed to support (1738) the Pragmatic Sanction. The assent of Spain had been bought by the cession of the two Sicilies; of France by that of Lorraine, whose Duke Francis Stephen had married Maria Theresa and was compensated by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany for the loss of his ancestral domain. The only important dissentient was Charles Albert, Elector of Bavaria, who had married the younger daughter of Joseph I and who claimed the succession not only through his wife, but as the nearest male descendant of Ferdinand I. On the death of Charles VI, then, it might have been supposed that Maria Theresa would have succeeded to her inheritance without opposition. This was far from being the case. The Elector of Bavaria put forward his claims and he found unexpected support in Frederick II of Prussia. Frederick had just succeeded his father Frederick William I, and being at once ambitious and without scruples he determined to seize the opportunity for the purpose of territorial aggression. While lulling the suspicions of Vienna by friendly professions, he suddenly, in December, 1740, invaded Silesia. Maria Theresa appealed to the guarantors of the Pragmatic Sanction. She met no active response, but on the part of Spain, Sardinia and France veiled hostility. Great Britain, at war with Spain since 1739, and fearing the intervention of France, confined her efforts to diplomacy; and the only anxiety of the United Provinces was to avoid being drawn into war. An addition was made to the army of 11,000 men and afterwards in 1741, through dread of an attack on the Austrian Netherlands, a further increase of 20,000 was voted. The garrisons and fortifications of the barrier towns were strengthened and some addition was made to the navy. But the policy of the States continued to be vacillating and pusillanimous. The Republican party, who held the reins of power, desiring peace at any price, were above all anxious to be on good terms with France. The Orangist opposition were in favour of joining with England in support of Maria Theresa; but the prince would not take any steps to assert himself, and his partisans, deprived of leadership, could exert little influence. Nor did they obtain much encouragement from England, where Walpole was still intent upon a pacific policy.