Extracts from CHAPTER 24 of the Cambridge Modern History. [Full text]

FREDERICK HENRY, PRINCE OF ORANGE.

By the Rev. GEORGE EDMUNDSON, M.A., formerly Fellow and Tutor of Brasenose College, Oxford.

 

CHAPTER XXIV.

FREDERICK HENRY, PRINCE OF ORANGE.

ON the death of Maurice (April 23, 1625), his younger brother, Frederick Henry, was hailed by men of all parties and opinions in the United Provinces as his natural successor, and the reins of power were unreservedly placed in his hands. He was now in the prime of life, having been born at Delft in 1584, and he possessed every qualification both by training and inherited gifts for the position of high authority and influence to which he was called. From his earliest youth he had lived in camps, and had shown himself a keen student of military science under the careful tuition of his brother. Already distinguished by many gallant feats of arms, handsome in face, chivalrous in bearing, with genial manners, the first of his House who could speak Dutch without a foreign accent, the son of William the Silent and Louise de Coligny had endeared himself alike to the army and the people, and this personal popularity was increased by the known tolerance and moderation of his religious and political opinions. Without a dissentient voice he was at once elected by the five Provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Overyssel, and Gelders as Stadholder in the place of Maurice, and was appointed by the States General Captain-General and Admiral-General of the Union, and head of the Council of State.

Frederick Henry thus found himself, without a rival in the field, at the head of a country weary of domestic strife. He was invested with vast, though undefined, powers, and he used them with a statesmanlike sagacity and masterly tact which gave him henceforth undisputed predominance in the State. It was an authority which grew with the passing of the years. A contemporary writer, van der Capellen, a little later states that "the Prince in truth disposed of everything as he liked. All things gave way to his word." Nor was the increasing deference paid to his advice in matters political the only difference between the position of Frederick Henry and that of his predecessors. Frederick Henry was married to a clever and ambitious wife ; and both he and Amalia von Solms delighted in society and were fond of ceremonial display. The somewhat burgher-like simplicity of the bachelor household of the surly Maurice was exchanged for the luxurious splendours of a Court. The Prince was during the whole period of his stadholdership compelled to spend a large part of every year with the army in the field. To his wife at the Hague was entrusted the delicate task of keeping herself in touch with the cabals and intrigues of politicians and diplomatists, and holding him fully informed of all that was going on. Such duties were eminently congenial to the tastes of the Princess, who in thus acting as the eyes and ears of her husband at the seat of government was able to exercise no small influence over him, and upon the conduct of affairs.

Frederick Henry was an indefatigable worker. Active campaigning at the head of the armies of the Republic naturally had the first claim upon his attention, and every detail of military and naval administration passed through his hands. But, unlike Maurice, he was a politician and statesman, as well as a soldier. Frederick Henry kept a continuous and vigilant outlook over the entire field of administrative activity ; and one department of State, with the help of certain trusted councillors, he entirely controlled-the important department of foreign affairs. Chief among these was Francis Aerssens, lord of Sommelsdijk, included by Richelieu among the three greatest statesmen he had met in his life. The new Stadholder had to overcome a natural prejudice against the arch-enemy of Oldenbarneveldt. But the proved skill and capacity of the diplomatist speedily won for him the entire trust and lasting friendship of Frederick Henry. It is from the voluminous confidential correspondence which passed between these two men, between 1625 and 1641, that we are able to form a true estimate of the foreign policy pursued by the Prince, and to learn how great a part during his long career Frederick Henry " par sa prudence et dextérité à manier les esprits " played in deciding the issue of the great drama known as the Thirty Years' War. His triumphs as a general were perhaps less instrumental than his gifts as a diplomatist in turning the scale against the preponderance of the House of Habsburg.

The first difficulty which the new Stadholder had to face was the burning question of religious persecution. The events of 1619 had left behind them bitter memories, and the Remonstrant party on the death of Maurice hoped for a reversal of the harsh policy with which his name was associated. Frederick Henry, however, was far too prudent to commit himself to any violent course. With statesmanlike instinct he was resolved, whatever his personal leanings to the principles of the Remonstrants, not to run the risk of a revival of civil strife. The Synod of Dort he looked upon as a fait accompli. The issues then settled must be broadly accepted. But, in the spirit of his father, he steadily advocated toleration, and, while maintaining the established "reformed " religion, he strove to mitigate the policy of repression, and to allow to all law-abiding citizens, within certain limits, freedom of worship and opinion. The enforcement of pains and penalties was discouraged, and gradually became almost a dead letter.

The conduct of the war was also attended by serious difficulties. The entrenchments which Spinola had drawn round Breda were too strong to be forced by the troops at the disposal of the Prince of Orange, and after holding out for eleven months the town was compelled by stress of famine to surrender (July 2). The loss of this frontier fortress, an ancestral possession of the Nassaus, caused much discouragement in the States, who, weary of the heavy burdens entailed by a series of ineffective campaigns, were anxious to confine the operations within the narrowest limits. Fortunately the conquerors of Breda were so exhausted by the length of the siege that for the rest of the summer of 1625 and the whole of the following year they were unable to assume a vigorous offensive. It was a critical moment for the United Provinces, and Frederick Henry by the agency of Aerssens made the strongest appeal to Richelieu for assistance against a common foe. The Cardinal offered a subsidy of a million livres annually on condition that a Dutch squadron helped to blockade the great Huguenot fortress of La Rochelle, then besieged by him. So strange an employment for the ships of Calvinist Holland and Zeeland was very unpopular in those provinces. But the influence of the Stadholder was strong enough to override opposition. He had his way and the treaty was ratified. What stronger proof can there be of the statesmanlike insight of Frederick Henry and his adviser, Aerssens, than their clear discernment that, as Ranke says in his admirable review of the situation, "the political power of the Huguenots in France and their antagonism to their King were opposed to the interest of the great Protestant and anti-Spanish party in Europe " ?

The campaign of 1627 was marked by the brilliant capture of Groll, a town on the eastern frontier, by the forces of the States. With this exception, the characteristic of the military operations during 1627 and 1628 was cautious inactivity. Neither side felt strong enough to assume the offensive, and both were content to render the formidable barrier of frontier fortresses yet more impenetrable by additional fortifications. One of the chief of these on the side of Brabant was the town known to the Dutch as Hertogenbosch, to the French as Bois-le-Duc. This place in 1629 Frederick Henry determined to seize, as a set-off' to the loss of Breda. It was a formidable task, but he made adequate preparations. He was able, on April 28, by almost incredible exertions, to assemble an army of 24,000 foot and 4000 horse, all picked men, on the heath of Mook; two days later by forced marches he arrived before Hertogenbosch and proceeded to invest it. Great was the joy at Brussels when the news came that the Prince of Orange had ventured on such an enterprise, and it was resolved that no efforts should be spared to prevent his success, as well as if possible to effect the destruction of his army. There was no fear of a speedy capture of the fortress. It was a place of extraordinary strength, garrisoned by a force of 3000 good soldiers under a brave and tried Governor, Baron de Grobendonc. Under his orders there were likewise 5000 well-armed citizens, who had several times during the war shown their mettle by their successful defence of " Bolduc la Pucelle," as the town was proudly called.

The army of the Stadholder was of first-rate quality, strongly attached to a leader, who, though a stern disciplinarian, knew how to win the hearts of his soldiers by freely sharing their dangers and fatigues. It consisted of a medley of nationalities. Frederick Henry himself tells us, in his memoirs, that he led 18 regiments to Hertogenbosch, and of these three were Netherlanders, one Frisian, one Walloon, two German, four French, three Scottish, and four English. The English, Scottish, and French contingents formed the élite of the force, all of them veteran troops serving by the consent of their sovereigns, but in the pay of the Republic. Few military records indeed are more interesting than those of the English and Scottish brigades in the Dutch service, which first came into existence in 1572, and were not finally dissolved until 1782. They numbered in their ranks during the War of Independence some of the best blood and of the most adventurous spirits to be found in Britain, and were always in the forefront of danger.

The strength of Hertogenbosch lay in its position in the midst of marshes and of a number of small streams through which only one available military road passed, flanked by water on either side, and defended by two powerful detached forts, named St Isabella and St Anthony. But the Prince had had long training in the school of Maurice, and with a patience and skill that had never been surpassed he set to work to surround the town with a double line of circumvallation ; all the resources of engineering were employed upon the task. The whole of the earth and fascines had been brought by boat from Holland. Across the marshes he built two immense dykes, one of these 3500 feet in length and 12 feet wide, rising 4 feet out of the water with high parapets on either side ; the other was 1500 feet in length, and both were strong enough to admit of the passage of cavalry and artillery. The village of Crèvecoeur, three miles distant at the confluence of the rivers Diese and Meuse, was strongly entrenched and garrisoned as a base of supplies, and was connected with the lines of circumvallation by a double line of earthworks along the banks of the Diese. With such unremitting energy was the work carried on under the personal superintendence of the Stadholder himself, that the whole was completed in the astonishingly short period of three weeks. To the English and French contingents was entrusted the attack on forts St Anthony and St Isabella, company relieving company unceasingly, the soldiers of the two rival nationalities emulously, side by side, with resistless vigour pushed on their approaches.

The news led to prompt measures being taken at Brussels. The Count de Berg was ordered with all available forces to march as quickly as possible to the relief of the town. Accordingly that officer set out from Turnhout, June 19, at the head of an admirably equipped army of 30,000 foot and 7000 horse for Hertogenbosch, gathering reinforcements as he went. No one imagined that the Prince would dare to stand his ground in the face of such a force. But Frederick Henry had already made his preparations. By damming two streams, the Dommel and the Aa, he was able to fill with water two broad canals that he had drawn right round his lines, and to flood a stretch of low-lying country beyond. Day and night the entire circle of the ramparts was patrolled by detachments of troops. De Berg after some unsuccessful attempts, finding access impracticable, determined on a bold counter-stroke. Crossing the Yssel he advanced into the very heart of the United Provinces, which lay almost defenceless before him. With fire and sword he ravaged the Province of Utrecht, which had long been spared the presence of an enemy, captured Amersfoort, and even threatened Amsterdam.

Everywhere terror and anxiety reigned ; but the Stadholder was not to be moved from his set purpose. Sending a force under Ernest Casimir of Nassau to watch de Berg, he pushed on the siege operations with relentless determination. The forts of St Isabella and St Anthony were stormed, July 17, and the advance along the narrow causeway to the main defences of the town began. Again the English and French regiments, working turn by turn in the trenches, and having to fight their way step by step, were the assailants. Meanwhile, a success attended the arms of Frederick Henry in the capture of the important town of Wesel by a small force under the command of Colonel Dieden in a sudden night-attack. This fortunate stroke occurred at a critical moment, for an Imperialist force was advancing into the Veluwe to cooperate with the Spaniards. But, on hearing of the loss of Wesel, which had served as his storehouse for munitions and arms, de Berg, fearing for his communications, abandoned Amersfoort and retreated towards Rheinberg followed by the Imperialists. Hertogenbosch was left to its fate, and the efforts of the besiegers were redoubled. Frederick Henry set an example of reckless courage, by exposing himself freely in the front ranks ; and Colonel Vere was killed at his side. The garrison, on their part, fought hard to the very last, and did not parley until their main defences, one after the other, had been carried by assault. At length, on September lé, Grobendonc capitulated on most favourable terms. This was a great triumph for the Stadholder, for the eyes of all Europe had for months been fixed upon the siege of Hertogenbosch, and his position both at home and abroad was greatly strengthened by this fine feat of arms. On his return to the Hague on November 13, after six months1 absence, he was enthusiastically greeted by the people as a national hero.

Nevertheless, like his predecessors, Frederick Henry had his difficulties with the Province of Holland, and with its largest town, Amsterdam. He was perpetually hampered in the vigorous prosecution of the war by their refusal to grant supplies. Yet overtures from the Infanta for a truce came to naught chiefly through the opposition of the States of Holland, under pressure from the Calvinist preachers and the shareholders of the East and West India Companies. The old questions as to freedom of religion and freedom of trade once more blocked the way. But, though rejecting the proposals for a truce, the stiffnecked Hollander Regents would not open their purse-strings, although the Stadholder plainly told them that if they were resolved upon war it should be offensive war, and that in his opinion defensive operations could only end in the ruin of the country. But he spoke to deaf ears, and the year 1630 passed without any serious military undertaking. In spite, however, of this divergence of views, the influence of Frederick Henry and the confidence inspired by him were continually on the increase. This was conspicuously shown by the readiness with which the Hollanders took the lead of the other provinces in the passing of the Acte de Survivance (April 19, 1631), by which the States General declared the only son of the Prince of Orange, a five years' old child, heir to his father's offices of Captain-General and Admiral-General of the Union, while Holland, Zeeland, and Gelders severally declared him heir to the stadholdership in those Provinces. The passing of this Act rendered the position and powers of Frederick Henry little different from those of a sovereign prince.

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Frederick Henry made the year 1632 notable by another great feat of arms. In 1629 he had secured the southern frontier of the United Provinces by the taking of Hertogenbosch ; he now resolved to strengthen their eastern frontier and their hold upon the Meuse by the capture of Maestricht. With this design the Prince of Orange advanced in the spring from Nymegen at the head of a force of 17,000 foot and 4000 horse, the choicest part of which consisted of the seasoned English, Scottish, and French regiments. To clear his way he invested and took Venloo and Roermonde. Before Roermonde Ernest Casimir of Nassau was killed. He was succeeded in the stadholderships of Friesland and Groningen by his son, Henry Casimir. On June 10 the army arrived before Maestricht. The task which confronted the Stadholder was not so difficult as in 1629. The river Meuse, on both sides of which lay the populous town, afforded easy facilities for supplies. Maestricht was, however, strongly fortified and garrisoned, and, in case of the advance of a relieving force, the besiegers would be weakened by the division of their army into two separate bodies by a broad, deep river. But Frederick Henry, using all the resources of engineering science for which he was renowned, surrounded the place with entrenched lines of circumvallation, connected above and below the town by bridges, and protected at all critical points by powerful redoubts and outlying forts. The English and French troops again, as at Hertogenbosch, shared the honour of being entrusted with the approaches. The Prince was not, however, to carry on his siege operations undisturbed. A strong Spanish army of 18,000 foot and 6000 horse under Don Gonzalez de Cordoba was ordered to advance to the relief of the fortress, and on July 2 encamped not far from the Dutch lines on the southern side of the river. By unremitting vigilance, however, and by personally visiting the outposts by day and night, Frederick Henry was able to prevent the Spaniards from finding any vulnerable spot in his extended works which they could pierce by surprise or by sudden attack. Nevertheless, the position of the Stadholder became very critical when, at the beginning of August, an Imperialist army of 12,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry under Pappenheim arrived before Maestricht and pitched their camp near the Spaniards.

That fiery leader, despite the strength of the Stadholder's lines, determined at all hazards to force them, and so compel the besiegers to retire at the imminent risk of being crushed in their retreat. Accordingly, while the Spaniards made a strong demonstration on one side of the Meuse, he flung himself with all the forces at his command against what he believed to be a weak point in the Dutch entrenchments. But Frederick Henry, though taken by surprise, being at the moment laid up by an attack of gout, at once rose from his bed and hurried in person with strong reinforcements to the post of danger. A fierce and protracted struggle took place ; but, as night fell, the Imperialists were finally beaten off, leaving 1500 killed and wounded on the field. An attempt was next made to cut the Stadholder's communications. He had, however, laid up within his lines ample supplies for two months, and without paying any attention to the proceedings of the armies outside pressed on with the utmost vigour his approaches against the town. In vain the brave garrison made sortie after sortie. The English bore the brunt of the fighting; and the Earl of Oxford and Colonel Harwood were killed and Colonel Morgan dangerously wounded. At last two tunnels sixty feet deep were driven under the great moat before the ramparts, a mine was sprung, and a forlorn hope succeeded in making good their footing within the main walls. Night put an end to the strife, and when morning came overtures were made for surrender. It was feared that further resistance might lead to the sack of the town. Favourable terms were granted and the garrison marched out with all the honours of war (August 23). The Spanish and Imperial armies were still encamped close by ; but as their supplies were running short, and the position of the States troops was too strong to be successfully assailed, they withdrew, the Spaniards in the direction of Liege, Pappenheim across the Rhine. The taking of Orsoy ended a triumphant campaign.

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[The French helped in the seizure of Maestricht. ] With the three great frontier fortresses of Hertogenbosch, Maestricht, and Breda in their hands, the Netherlanders began to feel themselves secure.

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The Spaniards, enheartened by the successes of Cardinal Ferdinand, had been preparing a great expedition to sweep the Channel clear of the Dutch, and to land a large body of troops at Dunkirk to reinforce their army in the Netherlands. In September the armada, consisting of seventy-seven vessels, many of them of the largest size, manned by 24,000 sailors and soldiers under the command of the experienced Admiral Antonio de Oquendo appeared in the Channel. They were sighted by Lieutenant-Admiral Marten Harpertzoon Tromp, who had been on the watch for them, cruising up and down the coast all the summer. Tromp had at the moment but thirteen ships with him, but without hesitation he attacked the Spaniards, and with such fury, that he succeeded in driving them to take refuge under the lee of the Downs. Here they anchored, by the side of an English squadron of ten ships under Admiral Pennington. Tromp, now reinforced by the rest of his fleet, which had been blockading Dunkirk, consisting of seventeen vessels under Vice-Admiral Witte Corneliszoon de With, lay in the offing ready to resist any attempt of the Spaniards to put to sea, and meanwhile sent urgent requests to the States General and the Prince of Orange to despatch every available ship to his aid. The Admiral's message found a ready response; with an enthusiasm very uncommon in the northern Netherlands the authorities and people threw themselves heart and soul into the task of preparation and equipment. The whole of Holland and Zeeland, says one authority, became one vast ship-building yard. Crowds of sailors and fisher-folk volunteered for service. Such indeed was the zeal displayed, that, in the words of an eyewitness, "the vessels seemed not to be built, but to grow of themselves, and to be at once filled with sailors."

In three weeks Tromp found himself at the head of a great fleet of 105 men-of-war and 12 fire-ships, and orders had reached him to attack as soon as he was in a position to do so without regard to locality or other impediments. On October 21 accordingly the Admiral, detaching Vice-Admiral de With with thirty ships to watch the English squadron, determined to engage the Spanish fleet, where it lay in English waters under the cliffs between Dover and Deal. The onslaught was irresistible. Under cover of a fog, Oquendo himself, with seven ships, managed to slip out of the fight and reach Dunkirk. All the rest were destroyed or taken. Of the crews 15,200 perished, 1,800 fell into the hands of the victors. It was a crushing defeat, which shattered the naval power of Spain, and left the Dutch during the rest of the war masters of the sea.

This great triumph of the Netherlanders had however been effected under circumstances which naturally aroused much heartburning and resentment in England. The infringement of the neutrality of English waters in sight of an English fleet was a bitter pill for English pride to swallow. The maritime and commercial rivalry between the two peoples, which was eventually to issue in a succession of wars, had been for years growing more acute, and now nearly led to a breach of the peace. Aerssens was despatched upon a special mission to Charles I with instructions (to use the envoy's own words) to "endormir lejhict desDuyns." To achieve such a result required all the address and skill of this accomplished diplomatist; but his patience and persuasive powers were at length successful. The "scandal of the Downs," though it was to rankle long in English memories, was officially hushed up, and the influence which the dexterous Aerssens was able to acquire at the English Court was marked by the negotiations which he set on foot for a matrimonial alliance between the son of Frederick Henry and the Princess Royal of England. The final settlement of the matter admitted of delay, for Prince William was but in his fifteenth year, Princess Mary in her ninth, and volumes of diplomatic notes and protocols were to be exchanged before the youthful Prince was allowed to win the hand of his still more youthful bride. All difficulties were however in due course overcome, and on May 12, 1641, the marriage took place. This royal alliance was an interesting event. It marked another step upwards in the fortunes of the House of Orange, and it was to issue in the birth of William III.

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One of the reasons for the dilatory campaigns of 1641-2 was undoubtedly a growing disinclination on the part of Frederick Henry to aggrandise France in the Netherlands at the expense of Spain. The revolt of Portugal in 1641 had greatly weakened the Spanish power, and, as will be shown at length later, had made the all-important "question of the Indies" to assume quite a different aspect. The deaths of Richelieu and of Louis XIII in 1642-3 caused no change in the policy of France. Mazarin was as omnipotent in the counsels of Anne of Austria as Richelieu had been in those of her husband, and Mazarin followed closely in the steps of his great predecessor. The overwhelming victory gained at Rocroi in May, 1643, over a veteran Spanish army was in the eyes of the wary and experienced Stadholder a danger signal. He had no wish to see the southern Netherlands pass into the hands of the French. He was still loyal to the French alliance, but from this time forward his thoughts were directed towards securing an advantageous peace.

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At this point, and before dealing with the Treaty of Münster, reference has to be made to the wonderful expansion of Dutch dominion and Dutch commerce beyond the seas during the period of Frederick Henry. The question of the Indies dominated the negotiations of 1646-8 even more pronouncedly than it had those of 1607-9.

... The struggle for Bahia (1624-6) was an heroic effort worthy of more than passing reference. The West India differed from the East India Company in the effrontery with which at the outset it sought for profit by free-booting at the cost of the national foe rather than by the methods of peaceful trade. No secret was made by the promoters of their aims. They hoped "by bearding the King of Spain in his treasure-house to cut the sinews by which he sustained his wars in Europe."

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At last, on May 9, 1624, the Dutch fleet sailed in battle order into the bay, and, finding no opposition, one portion proceeded to disembark a body of 1200 men on the shore some distance below the town, while the other portion under Piet Hein took their station in face of San Salvador itself. The town, which crowned some precipitous heights, was strongly protected by forts and sufficiently garrisoned. It was covered from attack by sea by a platform battery on a rocky islet manned by some 600 men, behind which were drawn up 15 armed merchantmen. But Hein was a man who never shrank from any enterprise, however hazardous. With his flagship and three other vessels he sailed straight upon the enemy quite close to the shore, thereby drawing upon himself a concentrated cross-fire, from the island, from the land batteries, and from troops drawn up along the wharves. His ships suffered severely. One vessel, pierced through and through, lost half its crew and its captain. Hein now gave orders to lower the boats and board the enemy. With an intrepidity that nothing could withstand the command was obeyed. Of the Portuguese flotilla, eight vessels were captured and towed away, the rest burnt, and then, flushed with success, as evening fell, the Hollanders and Zeelanders, true sons of the Sea-beggars of 1572, with the aid of their boat-hooks clambered up the walls of the platform battery, and after a brief fight the place was won. Meanwhile, the troops having made good their landing, had at nightfall seized a Benedictine convent on the top of the heights facing San Salvador. They had no need to march further. The spirit of the garrison had been utterly cowed by the splendid daring of Piet Hein and his sailors, and at dawn the Governor sent in a flag of truce and surrendered unconditionally. Thus was the first enterprise of the West India Company crowned with signal success.

It was destined nevertheless to be a short-lived triumph. The news, when it reached Madrid and Lisbon, roused deep consternation. For once the Spanish Court was moved to take decisive action, and the Portuguese forgot their hatred of the Spaniard in their eagerness for the recapture of Bahia. A great armada of 57 vessels, carrying 12,566 men and 1185 guns, was with enthusiastic energy assembled in the various Iberian ports and placed under the supreme command of Don Fadrique de Toledo. Storms and contrary winds caused many delays before the expedition reached the coast of Brazil, but finally on Easter Eve (March 30), 1625, the great fleet, drawn up in the form of a half-moon, entered the bay in imposing array. The garrison of San Salvador numbered 2300 men, but its commander, van Dorth, had been killed in a skirmish with Indians, and had left unworthy successors. Undisciplined licence reigned within the town, the siege was pressed with skill and vigour by sea and land, and on April 28 San Salvador capitulated. The defenders being troops of many nationalities, without a leader they could trust, offered but feeble resistance. Had they known that a great relief fleet from Holland was speeding to their assistance the issue might have been different. The Dutch squadrons had unfortunately for many weeks been prevented from starting, as so often happened in those days, by stress of wind and weather, and when at length Admiral Boudewyn Hendrikszoon with 34 sail on May 26 entered All Saints' Bay he had the mortification of seeing the flag of Spain flying from the forts of San Salvador, the shore lined with troops, and 50 large galleons lying at anchor close under the batteries. Toledo had determined thus to await attack. The Dutch sailed slowly by, but not a Spaniard stirred, and Hendrikszoon, seeing that nothing was to be done, in deep disappointment withdrew. He died on his return voyage off Cuba, and his fleet reached Holland crippled by disease and bad weather.

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[Piet Hein] reached home on October 31, having in the course of his expedition taken no less than 55 Spanish and Portuguese vessels. The vast spoil he brought back furnished the means for fitting out another expedition destined to cover itself with renown.

At the end of May, 1628, Piet Hein set sail for the West Indies at the head of a fine fleet of 30 sail with the express object of intercepting and capturing the galleons which annually conveyed to the King of Spain the treasures of Mexico and Peru. Week after week the western seas were scoured and a keen look-out kept. Hitherto the treasure-ships had always eluded the Dutch, but the star of Piet Hein was in the ascendant. While cruising off Cuba he learnt from prisoners that the fleet was expected, and on September 8 it was sighted sailing along unsuspiciously in two divisions. The first, comprising nine large armed merchantmen, was at once assailed and captured almost without resistance. The six treasure-ships behind, seeing what had happened, headed for the Bay of Matanzas and succeeded in entering before the Dutch as night fell, and ran their ships aground in shallow water. The next day Hein attacked them with his boats, and the Spaniards speedily surrendered at discretion. Thus, at a most trifling cost of life, there fell into the hands of the Dutch Admiral 177,537 Ibs. of silver in chests and bars; 135 Ibs. of gold; 37,375 hides; 2,270 chests of indigo; 7,961 pieces of logwood; 735 chests of cochineal; 235 of sugar; besides a quantity of pearls, spices, and other precious wares. The total was valued at 11,509,524 Dutch florins, and sufficed to pay a dividend of 50 per cent, to the shareholders of the West India Company. On his return town corporations and enthusiastic crowds vied with one another in the homage they paid to Piet Hein, and the State rewarded his services by appointing him Lieutenant-Admiral of Holland, a post second only to that of Admiral-General, held by the Prince of Orange. The hero himself, writes de Laet, looked rather scornfully upon the plaudits which greeted him. " Look," he said, " how these people rave because I have brought home so great a treasure. But before, when I had hard fighting to do and performed far greater deeds than this, they scarcely turned round to look at me." It was a great .misfortune to his country that Piet Hein's career was destined to be prematurely cut short. In the following year, in a victorious encounter with the Dunkirk pirates, he lost his life.

The desire of the Company for territorial conquest, damped by the failure at Bahia, was revived by the success of 1628. The locality selected for invasion was the Brazilian province of Pernambuco. Great preparations were made. Hein was dead, but his second in command at Matanzas Bay, Hendrik Corneliszoon Lonck, sailed at the end of 1629 at the head of a great fleet of 52 ships and yachts, and 13 sloops manned by 3780 sailors, 3500 soldiers, and carrying 1170 guns. Colonel Diederik van Waerdenburgh was commander of the military forces. On February 13, 1630, the expedition arrived in the offing of Olinda, the capital of Pernambuco. The town was situated on a hill a short distance inland, its port, known as the RecifF, being only accessible through two narrow openings in a continuous reef of rock. The defences of both town and harbour had been strengthened by the indefatigable exertions of the Governor, Matthias de Albuquerque; but the troops at his disposal were few in number and many of them raw levies. It was soon found that an attack on the Reciff from the sea was impracticable. But Waerdenburgh succeeded in disembarking with some 3,000 men at a suitable landing-place a few miles to the north on February 15 without opposition. Next day Albuquerque at the head of a small force attempted to defend the passage of the river Doce, but was completely routed and his troops dispersed. In the flush of victory the Nether-landers marched straight on Olinda, which they took by storm, with small loss. Regular siege was now laid to the forts of the Reciff. After a gallant defence the place surrendered on March 3, and the West Indian Company had again in its possession a good port on the Brazilian coast.

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... but one great effort was made by the Spanish Government to retrieve the position, and it was a supreme one. In 1639 a great expedition was slowly gathered together at Bahia for the reconquest of Pernambuco. It was one of the finest Hispano-Portuguese fleets (as it was the last) that ever appeared in American waters, and consisted of (at least) 86 sail, manned by 12,000 sailors and soldiers under the command of the Count da Torre. The position of the Dutch during the summer of 1639 was most precarious, for their forces were insufficient to meet such an attack. But even when the Spanish Admiral's preparations were complete, persistent northerly winds kept the armada for more than two months in Bahia, and, profiting by the delay, Joan Maurice was able by the most strenuous exertions to collect at the Beciff a force of some 40 vessels under Admiral Loos, much inferior in size, but superior in seamanship to their opponents. The fleets met on January 12, 1640, and a running fight took place which lasted four days. When the issue was joined, a strong southerly gale was blowing, which carried the fleets with it, as they fought, northward along the coast. Favoured by winds and waves the brave and skilful Netherlanders were able to drive their enemies before them with considerable losses, and finally to disperse them in flight. This victory of Itamaraca, as it was called, following so soon upon that of the Downs set the seal upon the supremacy of the Dutch at sea in this war.

The West India Company was not a financial success. The fleets and garrisons it had to maintain on a far distant shore were too costly for its resources; and the revolt of the Portuguese in Brazil in 1645 struck the knell of a dominion that had never paid its way. Nevertheless one of the great objects for which the Company was founded had been achieved, its long series of successes in the Western seas was one of the chief factors in exhausting the power of Spain, and in bringing to a triumphant issue the long War of Independence.

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The story of the Netherlander in the East, the beginnings of which have been already told, was no less eventful, and much more prosperous than in the West. The East India Company trusted to trade and not to buccaneering for its profits, and its profits were enormous. For the forty-three years, 1605-48, the average annual return upon the capital amounted to 22 per cent. From the earliest days the control of the group of the Moluccas, and with it the monopoly of the spice trade, was the mainstay of the Company's well-being.

The Portuguese were ousted by force of arms, and gradually by means of treaties with the native chiefs, Amboina, Ternati, Tidor, Banda, and the smaller neighbouring islands passed into the hands of the Dutch. These treaties (and they were the model that was followed generally in the East Indies) took the form of a guarantee to defend the territory in question against Portuguese attack, in exchange for the right to erect forts and factories, and the exclusive privilege of trade. In the Moluccas to such a pitch was the spirit of monopoly carried, that the quantity of spices grown was carefully restricted in order to keep up the price. Particular spots were selected suitable for the purpose, and elsewhere, as far as possible, the trees were destroyed. Thus cloves were cultivated at Amboina, and nutmegs in the Banda Islands. In prolific seasons a portion of the crop would sometimes be burnt. By this means the market was starved, and the limited supply commanded very high prices. Thus firmly established in the Moluccas the activities of the Company with marvellous rapidity overspread the entire East. Already in 1619 it was found necessary to create a capital of the Dutch East Indies, which should at once serve as an administrative centre of government and be a general emporium of traffic. The factory of Jacatra in Java was chosen as the site of an oriental Amsterdam, and received the name of Batavia (March, 1619). From this centre, not without considerable opposition and some serious fighting, but slowly and surely, partly by conquests, partly by alliances, the Dutch dominion was established over the richest and most beautiful island of the Malayan archipelago.

The supreme administration of the Company in the East was vested in a Governor-General of the Indies appointed by the Council of Seventeen for five years, and whose official residence was Batavia. He was assisted by a Council, also nominated by the home authorities. The first councillor bore the title of Director-General, and discharged the functions of Minister of Commerce. There was however practically but little restraint upon the autocratic powers of a strong Governor-General. Under him were seven (after the foundation of Cape Colony in 1651, eight) local Governors, armed with considerable powers in their own districts, but in all matters of high policy purely subordinates. The Governor-General, with his command over all the forces of the Company by land and sea and his unrestricted control of finance, in fact exercised, if he willed, an almost absolute sway, which made him appear a mighty potentate to the rulers of the innumerable petty Eastern States, who looked to him as the arbiter of their fortunes. It was a great position, and it had a succession of worthy occupants. The holders of the office during the period under consideration were Jan Pieterszoon Koen, 1617-22, and again 1628-9; Pieter Carpentier, 1622-8; Jacob Specx, 1629-32 ; Hendrik Brouwer, 1632-6, and Anthoni van Diemen, 1636-45. All these five were men of energy and capacity, but the names of Koen and van Diemen stand out pre-eminent. To Koen's resolute courage and somewhat truculent vigour the Company owed in no small measure the establishment of their power in the East. Under the active and statesmanlike administration of van Diemen that power was consolidated and extended. In his days the affairs of the Company reached perhaps their highest point of material prosperity. It is impossible here to trace out, even in outline, the story of Dutch enterprise in the East Indies; it must suffice for us to give a brief review of the results, taking in order the various centres of the Company's political and commercial influence.

It has already been mentioned that the seat of government had been in 1619 fixed at Batavia, in Java; and from this time the island, though its actual conquest took many years, may be regarded as a Dutch possession. In the two large adjoining islands of Sumatra and Borneo a number of factories were established under agreements with the native chiefs, and a thriving trade carried on. More important was the treaty which in 1636 Governor van Diemen concluded with the chief ruler in Ceylon, the King of Candy. It was drawn up on the usual lines, a monopoly of commerce in exchange for protection against the Portuguese, who had long had possessions in the island. Already some of their forts had been captured by the Dutch, and a conquest taken in hand which was to give to the Company, for a century and a half, their most valuable colony, next to Java, in the East. On the mainland of India a footing was early gained both on the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel. In 1640, under the auspices of van Diemen, Malacca was conquered, giving to the Dutch the command of the straits. With Siam trading relations had existed since 1613, and continued to flourish. A factory was placed at Ajudia, the old capital, and smaller trading posts at other places. From 1605 onwards, Macassar, the chief place of Celebes, was frequented by Netherlanders, though its ruler was not till 1662 finally compelled by force of arms to submit to the Company's dominion.

The supremacy of the Dutch over all European rivals was specially marked in the extreme East. In 1623 an expedition sent out by Governor-General Koen, under the command of Willem Bontekoe, made the conquest of the large and fruitful island of Formosa. The possession was secured by the building of Fort Zelandia, a Governor was appointed, and negotiations were opened with the Chinese for the interchange of commodities. Formosa soon became a very flourishing entrepôt, as may be gathered from the fact that in 1627 the export of Chinese silk from Formosa to Batavia reached the value of 559,493 florins, to Japan 621,655, or a total of 1,181,148 florins. Formosa became also the chief mart for the export of tea, a luxury at that time, which the Dutch had been the first to introduce into Europe.

...

On the Arabian coast Mocha and other places were regularly visited. Just as the Dutch had brought the first tea to Europe from China in 1610, so they introduced coffee from Mocha in 1616. As a station of call a settlement was in 1638 made upon the island of Mauritius. The superior advantages of Table Bay at the Cape of Good Hope were however obvious, and in 1651 an expedition under Antoni van Riebeek laid the foundation of Cape Colony as a half-way house on the voyage to Batavia.

Thus it has been seen that during the first half of the seventeenth century the Dutch East India Company had succeeded in monopolising a very large part of the trade of the entire Orient.

...

In their search for fresh avenues for trade Netherlanders made important additions to geographical knowledge. The circumnavigations of the globe by Spilbergen, 1614-5, and by van Schouten and Le Maire, 1615-6, stand in the foremost rank of famous voyages. To the latter two belongs the honour of the discovery of the Straits of Le Maire between Staten Island and Tierra del Fuego, of the passage round Cape Hoorn (so named by Schouten from his birthplace), and of numerous islands in the Pacific. Schouten and Le Maire were the first to explore the northern coast of New Guinea. Other Dutchmen had meanwhile been rediscovering the vast Australian continent (first sighted by a Portuguese vessel in 1542), to which they gave the name of New Holland, which it bore until the middle of the nineteenth century. Visits to the western coast in 1605, 1609, and 1619 are still perpetuated in Duifken and Coen Points, Dirk Hartog and Rottenest Islands, the Swan River, and other relics of this earliest nomenclature. The northern portion was first explored in 1627-8 under the auspices of Governor-General Carpentier, whose memory is preserved in the Gulf of Carpentaria. More important still were the voyages of Abel Tasman in the days of Governor-General van Diemen, 1642-4. To Tasman the world is indebted for its first knowledge of the southern and eastern coasts of New Holland, and for the discovery of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania), of New Zealand, and of the Fiji and Friendly Islands. Headlands, bays, rivers, and islands in many parts of the Australian continent still record the fact that they were discovered in the stacl-holderate of Frederick Henry, by the enterprise of Governor van Diemen and by the ships of the great seaman Abel Tasman.

...

The chief obstacle in the way of a separate truce or peace between Spain and the United Provinces lay in the treaty concluded between the States General and the King of France in 1635, by which it was agreed that neither the King nor States should make any peace, truce, or armistice, except together and by common consent. This led to negotiations between Madrid and the Hague being conducted at first, so far as possible, secretly, though it was not long before the French, having become aware of what was going on, used all their influence and all the resources of diplomacy to thwart proceedings so inimical to their interests. Progress therefore was slow, but the interchange of views steadily continued, and already in May, 1646, the negotiations had assumed a definite shape. The proposal of the Spaniards was for a truce of twelve or twenty years, or for a peace, based upon the truce of 1609, with the same formalities, clauses, and conditions. Across the path still lay, however, the same obstacle which had in 1609 been at length evaded by a subterfuge, and which could not a second time be so dealt with. But with Catalonia as well as Portugal in revolt, with the treasury empty and French armies encamped to the south of the Pyrenees, the Spaniards were practically on their knees. To secure peace with the United Provinces, and the Dutch as their allies, became to them, in the straits to which they were reduced, so vital a matter, that to attain so necessary an end they were willing to make almost any sacrifice. The sacrifice demanded was the concession to the Dutch of security for their possessions and commerce in the Indies; and the Dutch being masters of the position, the concession, though withheld as long as possible and contested in its details by all the expedients of skilful diplomacy, had to be made, and made practically without reserve. Already, at the end of 1646, a general agreement had been reached; nevertheless the ratification was delayed owing to a variety of causes.

The Prince of Orange had during the last years of his life been converted to the necessity of a separate peace with Spain, and his goodwill was confirmed by assurances that the interests of the House of Orange-Nassau would be treated with the fullest consideration. But Frederick Henry had returned from the campaign of Hulst hopelessly broken in health and with rapidly failing faculties of mind and body. After cruel sufferings he expired March 1st, 1647, lamented by Nether-landers of all classes, creeds, and opinions. The States General recognised the splendid services of the great Stadholder by according him a magnificent public funeral. Frederick Henry was buried by the side of his father and brother in his native town of Delft.

The removal of such a man at such a time was a national disaster, for local and provincial jealousies were rampant in a country where there were seven sovereign States, and each town was a small republic with its own rights and immunities; and the withdrawal of the commanding personal influence of the Prince allowed free play to the forces which made for delay and obstruction. Nevertheless the negotiations at Munster between the Dutch envoys, foremost amongst whom were Pauw and van Knuyt, the representatives respectively of Holland and Zeeland, and the Spanish plenipotentiaries, Count of Pena-randa and Antoine Brun, went steadily on, and, despite the strenuous opposition of the Provinces of Zeeland and of Utrecht, a successful issue was at length reached. The treaty, consisting of 79 articles, was signed by the plenipotentiaries at Münster on January 30, 1648. Its chief provisions were these: The United Provinces were recognised as a free, sovereign, and independent State. The bond of connexion with the Empire was finally severed. The Republic held all its conquests. No conditions were made for the Roman Catholics. Freedom of trade in the East and West Indies was conceded, and the East and West India Companies confirmed in the possession of the territories taken from the Portuguese, and of their settlements and trading posts generally. The Scheldt was declared closed. To the House of Orange most advantageous terms were offered, and all its confiscated property was restored. A special treaty of trade and navigation with Spain was shortly afterwards concluded. Thus the eighty years' war for Dutch independence came to an end, leaving all the fruits of victory to the revolted Provinces.

The peace of Münster found the United Netherlands at the very summit of their greatness. They stood forth in 1648 without a rival, as the first of maritime and commercial Powers. But more than this. The period of Frederick Henry has been rightly styled the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, because the Netherlanders in that great time held a supremacy in the domains of science, of learning, of letters, and of the arts, as indisputable as their supremacy upon the seas. This chapter would be incomplete did it not give some account, however brief, of that wonderful outburst of intellectual activity and many-sided culture, which for the greater part of the seventeenth century placed the Dutch people in the forefront of European progress and civilisation.

...

Of Hugo Grotius it is impossible to write, even at this distance of time, without feeling something of the wonder which the brilliancy of his talents and the versatility of his acquirements inspired. Scholar, poet, theologian, historian, jurist, philosopher, letter-writer-there was no branch of learning in which he did not excel, no species of writing in which he did not prove himself a master. His famous treatise, De jure belli et pacis, is still the text-book on which international law is based. Only less important in its influence on public opinion in Europe was his Mare Liberum. His Introduction to Holland's Jurisprudence (Inleidinge tot de Hollandsche liechtsgeleerdheid), written in the vernacular, though of more local interest, is a standard work upon the subject. As a historian Grotius stands in the highest class. The Annales et Historiae de Rebus Belgicis has always been regarded as the best contemporary account of the Revolt of the Netherlands. It is at once accurate and impartial, and in its finished Latinity a model of literary form. Of less value was his Liber de Antiquitate Reipublicae Batavicae. To theology he made numerous contributions. His Annotationes in Vetus et in Novum Testamentum are still consulted upon questions of interpretation, and were once in everyone's hands, while the De Veritate Religionis Christianae, rapidly translated into many languages, occupies a high position in Christian apologetic literature. These are but the most renowned of the works given to the world by this remarkable man, who, by the irony of untoward fate, was condemned to spend the last twenty-three years of his life in banishment from the native land he loved. During the greater part of this time Grotius resided in Paris, and for eleven years (1634-45) filled the post of Swedish ambassador at the French Court. To his long exile posterity is however indebted in a large measure for the voluminous correspondence of Grotius with relatives, friends and savants in Holland, and with the Oxenstierna (Axel and John), Salvius, and other Swedish statesmen. Considerably more than three thousand of his letters have been published, and they furnish a mass of valuable material, bearing upon his own life and upon the history of his eventful times.

...

The high culture attained by women of the burgher class is one of the striking features of seventeenth century life in the Netherlands. Anna Maria Schuurman (1607-84)) was a phenomenon of learning and accomplishments. Not only did she excel in painting, carving, and many arts, but acquired fame as linguist, scholar, theologian, philosopher, scientist, and astronomer. She could speak French, English, Italian, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and had a thorough literary knowledge not only of these languages, but of Syriac, Chaldee, Arabic, and Ethiopie. Of the sisters Visscher, ... the elder, Anna, was a woman of unusual erudition and a poetess of no mean merit, but her fame has paled before the glamour which has surrounded the name of Maria Tesselschade. If but a fraction of what is said in her praise by the crowd of distinguished admirers, who burnt incense at her shrine, be true, "the beautiful Tesselschade " must be considered one of the most admirable and accomplished types of womanhood that the imagination of the poet or the pen of the romancer has ever devised. All the first literary men of her time were, not figuratively only but often literally, her devotees. Hooft and Huyghens, Barlaeus and Brederoo wooed in vain for her affections; Vondel and Cats with less ardour perhaps, but equal admiration, offered rich tributes of homage to her personal charms as well as to her intellectual gifts. She was careless of fame, and most of her poetical efforts, including her much-praised translation of the Gerusalemme Liberata, have perished. Among the scanty remains a fine lyric on the nightingale has some curious points of resemblance to Shelley's Ode to a Skylark. She could play with skill upon the harp, and her lovely voice, and the art with which she used it, won universal praise. She was moreover dexterous in all kinds of needlework, in painting, carving, and etching upon glass. But she was no pedant. Her healthy and well-balanced nature remained unspoilt by the flatteries that besieged her, and she gave her heart to a plain sea-captain, and during a happy but too short married life at Alkmaar devoted herself to the sedulous discharge of her motherly and domestic duties. In her widowhood she returned to Amsterdam and busied herself again with literary pursuits, and to the last her captivating personality retained its spell over her contemporaries, and may be said to have survived as a tradition among her countrymen even to the present day.

...

In this great era philosophy and science flourished on Dutch soil no less fruitfully than scholarship and letters. Holland was the birthplace alike of the Cartesian and Spinozan systems. René Descartes was French by origin, but he came to Holland in 1617, and resided there continuously from 1629 to 1649, and it was in that province that his famous mathematical and philosophical treatises were written and published. His disciple, Baruch Spinoza (1632-76), who, as a deep and original thinker, was to rival his master in repute, though by extraction a Portuguese Jew, was born at Amsterdam, and never quitted his native land. Of scientific observers and discoverers, who made valuable and permanent additions to knowledge, a long list might be given, but it must suffice to mention three. The exhaustive and minute researches of Jan Swammerdam (1637-80) into the habits and metamorphoses of insects form the basis of all subsequent investigations of the subject. By his lifelong labours with the microscope, which he greatly improved, Anthoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) amassed vast stores of information concerning the circulation of the blood and the structure of the eye and brain, and made the discovery of the infusoria. Concerning Christian Huyghens (1629-93), the distinguished son of a distinguished father, geometrician, astronomer, original thinker, and brilliant mechanical genius, a treatise might be written. As a mathematician he has had few equals. He increased the powers of the telescope, constructed the first pendulum clock, and invented the micrometer. To him is due the discovery of the rings of Saturn and the conception of the undulatory theory of light, which has been so completely substantiated by modern scientific results. For sheer brain power, inventive faculty, and practical achievement the annals of science contain few names which outvie that of Christian Huyghens.

It remains to record the fact that during this second quarter of the seventeenth century the Dutch school of painting attained its zenith. Holland has been styled the land of Rembrandt, and not unjustly. There can be little question that the name of the great painter has been more widely known in after times, and that his fame has conferred a greater lustre on his fatherland than that of any other Hollander who ever lived. And yet he was but the foremost representative of a school of painters, many of whom were his rivals in technical skill and facility of execution, though none of them possessed in like degree that almost magical power of colouring and of chiaroscuro which lends to the canvases of Rembrandt the poetical mystery and depth of tone which is peculiarly their own. A mere tabular statement will suffice to show how rich this epoch was in painters whose names are familiar to students of art as household words. Rembrandt van Ryn (1607-69), Frans Hals (1584-1666), Bartholomaeus Van der Heist (1613-70), Jan Steen (1626-79), Adrian Brouwer (1608-41), Adrian van Ostade (1610-85), Gérard Dow (1613-80), Gabriel Metzu (1615-67?), Gerard Terburg (1608-81), Paul Potter (1625-54), Nicolas Berchem (1624-83), Michiel Miereveit (1567-1641), Ferdinand Bol (1608-81), Philip Wouverman (1620-68), Albert Cuyp (1606-72), Aart Van der Neer (1619-83), Jacob Ruysdael (1625-81), Meindert Hobbema (?), Pieter de Hoogh (?), Jan Both (1610-56), Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-60) were all living and working within the period with which this chapter deals. It is strange, but true, that so extraordinary an outburst of native artistic talent made but little impression upon contemporaries. In the literature of the time Dutch painting and painters are rarely noticed. It is nevertheless to the painters that posterity owes the full and faithful portraiture and presentment of the appearance, dress, external habits, and customs of all classes of the people in the great days when the United Netherlands had won for themselves a unique place among the nations. Had there been no written records of men and manners in the Dutch Republic at its prime, the brush of Rembrandt, of Frans Hals, of Van der Heist, and their fellows would have conferred upon them immortality.

The events which followed the conclusion of the Treaty of Münster bore a curious resemblance to those which had occurred during the Twelve Years Truce. Peace was in each case the precursor of civil strife, in which the Provincial States of Holland stood opposed to the States General under the leadership of a Prince of Orange. The party of Oldenbarneveldt was crushed in 1618-9, but its principles survived. The Province of Holland, on which lay the burden of providing more than half of the total charges of the Union, and whose trade was many times greater than that of all the other Provinces put together, resented, and not unnaturally, the position of equality with the other Provinces in the States General, to which alone it was entitled under the pro visions of the Union of Utrecht. The power of the States General to execute their will in defiance of the opposition of a sovereign Province depended upon the personal authority of the Prince of Orange, who as Captain and Admiral-General of the Union, and head of the Council of State, was its executive officer, and who as Stadholder of six Provinces was able further to exercise large influence upon the Provincial States through his extensive patronage and other prerogatives. In the latter years of Frederick Henry growing infirmities of body had led to a weakening of the almost unchallenged authority he had long exercised, and the States of Holland under the leadership of Amsterdam had not scrupled on several occasions to oppose his proposals, and to mar his campaigns by refusing to furnish the necessary contributions for the payment of the troops. On his death in 1647 his son William II, by virtue of the Act of Survival of 1631, succeeded him in his various offices and dignities. Antagonism between the new Prince of Orange and the States of Holland at once arose on the subject of the negotiations at Munster. To the policy of breaking with France and concluding a separate treaty of peace with Spain William was entirely opposed. The negotiations had, however, proceeded so far that the youthful Stadholder (he was but twenty-two), though supported by Zeeland and Utrecht, could effect nothing against the determination of Holland. William, nevertheless, speedily showed after his accession that, in spite of his youth, he was a force to be reckoned with. His hereditary claims, combined with a striking presence, daring courage, attractive manners, and a generous disposition, assured him a secure place in the affections of the people. He was moreover a man of unusual ability and strength of character, his brain aglow with ambitious projects, as bold in action as he was fertile in resource. He longed for a renewal of the war with Spain not merely because he hoped to emulate his ancestors by winning laurels on the field of battle. Peace had no sooner become assured, than, in the deepest secrecy, he opened negotiations with the French Court with the view to an alliance by the aid of which he could restore his brother-in-law Charles II to the English throne, enlarge the boundaries of the United Provinces, and gradually centralise their government and consolidate it into a unified State, in which he himself should exercise the supreme authority. These seem to have been the dreams on the realisation of which he had set his heart, and it is not surprising that his policy should have clashed with that of the ruling oligarchy of Holland, bent on the maintenance of peace and the assertion to the utmost of their rights of provincial sovereignty.

The question of the disbanding of the troops brought about a violent collision between the States General and the States of Holland, which gave to the Prince an opportunity of taking decisive action for asserting the supremacy of the federal authority. That a large reduction in the military establishment should take place was the general wish of the whole country, and it was recommended by the Council of State with the approval of William himself. But the proposals of Holland were far more sweeping than those which the majority of the States General were prepared to sanction ; and, when they were rejected by the unanimous vote of the representatives of the other six Provinces, the States of Holland made up their minds to carry out the disbanding of the troops in their pay on their own authority. The quarrel came to a head in 1650. The States General, in order to be prepared for a fresh outbreak of the war, which at that time seemed not improbable, and which in fact the Prince of Orange was secretly doing his utmost to precipitate, wished, while reducing the number of men, to retain the cadres of the regiments with their full complement of officers. From this Holland dissented; and, finding that the States General were inflexible, the Provincial States took the bit between their teeth, and on their own authority (June 1, 1650) sent orders to the colonels of the regiments on the war sheet of Holland that they must disband on pain of stoppage of their pay. This implied that there were seven Provincial armies, instead of a single Federal army under the sole control of the Captain-General of the Union. But all precedent was against the States of Holland, whose representatives had in 1623, 1626, 1630, and 1642 voted in the States General for the enforcement upon other Provinces of the compulsory payment of their full quota to the Federal army in the service of the Union. The colonels therefore were strictly in their right in declining to receive any orders but those of the Council of State. On June 5 the States General passed a resolution ordering the colonels to refuse obedience to the States of Holland, and a Commission was appointed, with the Prince of Orange at its head, to visit the various towns of Holland and to take measures for the keeping of the peace and the maintenance of the Union. In doing this the States General were in their turn acting outside their powers. They could negotiate with the Provinces, but not with separate towns. Delft, Haarlem, and Medemblik refused to receive the deputation, but were willing to listen to the Prince in his capacity as Stadholder. Amsterdam went further : it refused to give any hearing at all. This was too much. William protested against the action of Amsterdam before the States General and the States of Holland, and was resolved, by isolating the town, to coerce it separately.

Amsterdam had for long been the soul of the opposition in Holland to the authority of the States General and of the Stadholder. With its enormous sea-borne traffic, its accumulated capital, and the credit of its bank, the great commercial city had become the central exchange and mart of the world. Within its gates mercantile and business considerations dominated men's thoughts, and high questions of politics and diplomacy were wont to be judged from the matter-of-fact standpoint of profit and loss. To the Amsterdam burghers peace with Spain had meant freedom and security of trade in the Indies, and such a reduction of the military forces as would materially lower the heavy taxes and imposts. They were determined therefore that peace must not be broken, and that the troops must be disbanded, and they believed that, by refusing to open their purse, they could in the long run carry out their will. To what a high position of influence and independence the foremost merchants of Amsterdam had attained at this time is perhaps best shown by the career of Louis de Geer. This man had, in return for loans advanced to Gustavus Adolphus, acquired the lease of the valuable iron and copper mines of Sweden, which he worked and developed, building foundries and factories in many places, and gradually acquiring vast landed possessions and the almost absolute control of the commerce of that country. He from time to time raised bodies of troops for the service of the States General and various foreign potentates, and supplied from his warehouses at Amsterdam and those of his near relatives, the family of Trip, a large part of the ordnance for the use of the Dutch, Swedish, and other armies on the Protestant side in the Thirty Years' War. In 1644 he even equipped and sent out from the Texel, at his own charges, two large fleets under Dutch admirals for the service of the Swedish Government in their war with Denmark, by means of which Oxenstierna was able to wrest from Christian IV his naval supremacy in the Baltic. It is not surprising that, in a confederacy so loosely knit as that of the United Provinces, a town which numbered among its citizens men of the type of Louis de Geer (he died 1652) should have arrogated to itself the right to oppose the decisions not merely of the majority of the States General, but also at times of the States of its own Province of Holland. In this very spring of 1650, when the States General had ordered the imprisonment, for returning from Brazil contrary to orders, of Admiral Witte de With at the Hague, and of some of his captains at Amsterdam, to await their trial by a body of judges to be chosen from the different Admiralty Colleges, the magistracy of Amsterdam, under the leadership of the brothers Andries and Cornelis Bicker, had deliberately flouted the authority of the generality by setting the captains free.

When these same magistrates refused to receive the Stadholder and his deputation his patience was exhausted. He resolved to use boldly the powers that had been confided to him, and by a daring stroke to crush resistance by force. On July 30, he invited six members of the States of Holland, chief among whom was Jacob de Witt, formerly burgomaster of Dordrecht, to meet him at his house at the Hague. They were immediately seized and carried off as prisoners to the Castle of Loevestein. On the same day a body of troops under the command of William Frederick of Nassau, Stadholder of Priesland, was despatched to Amsterdam with orders to enter the town by surprise. The surprise failed. The citizens were warned in time, the gates were dosed and the town guard called out. William's end, however, was gained without bloodshed. Remembering what had happened in 1618-9, the States of Holland were terror-stricken at the seizure of six of their leaders, and Amsterdam too was afraid of the injury to its trade if resistance were prolonged. Both the States and the Town Council submitted. The proposals of the States General with regard to the disbanding of the forces were accepted, and the brothers Bicker at Amsterdam were compelled to resign their municipal posts, and to withdraw from official life for ever. Shortly afterwards the prisoners were released from Loevestein.

 


fascines = A cylindrical bundle of sticks bound together for use in construction, as of fortresses, earthworks, sea walls, or dams.

forlorn hope = soldiers with a virtually hopeless task - from the Dutch forloren hoop "lost troop".