Friedrich Schiller.

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presented to the



Mrs. Marcela Cornish




















YEARS 1584 AND 1585 287




years ago, when I read the History of the Belgian
Revolution in Watson's excellent work, I was seized with
an enthusiasm which political events but rarely excite.
On further reflection I felt that this enthusiastic feeling
had arisen less from the book itself than from the ardent
workings of my own imagination, which had imparted to
the recorded materials the particular form that so fasci-
nated me. These imaginations, therefore, I felt a wish
to fix, to multiply, and to strengthen ; these exalted
sentiments I was anxious to extend by communicating
them to others. This was my principal motive for com-
mencing the present history, my only vocation to write
it. The execution of this design carried me farther than
in the beginning I had expected. A closer acquaintance
with my materials enabled me to discover defects pre-
viously unnoticed, long waste tracts to be filled up,
apparent contradictions to be reconciled, and isolated
facts to be brought into connection with the rest of the
subject. Not so much with the view of enriching my
history with new facts as of seeking a key to old ones, I
betook myself to the original sources, and thus what was
originally intended to be only a general outline expanded
under my hands into an elaborate history. The first part,
which concludes with the Duchess of Parma's departure
from the Netherlands, must be looked upon only as the
introduction to the history of the Revolution itself, which
did not come to an open outbreak till the government of
her successor. I have, bestowed the more care and atten-


tion upon this introductory period the more the generality
of writers who had previously treated of it seemed to me
deficient in these very qualities. Moreover, it is in my
opinion the more important as being the root and source
of all the subsequent events. If, then, the first volume
should appear to any as barren in important incident,
dwelling prolixly on trifles, or, rather, should seem at
first sight profuse of reflections, and in general tediously
minute, it must be remembered that it was precisely out
of small beginnings that the Revolution was gradually
developed; and that all the great results which follow
sprang out of a countless number of trifling and little

A nation like the one before us invariably takes its first
steps with doubts and uncertainty, to move afterwards
only the more rapidly for its previous hesitation. I pro-
posed, therefore, to follow the same method in describing
this rebellion. The longer the reader delays on the intro-
duction the more familiar he becomes with the actors in
this history, and the scene in which they took a part, so
much the more rapidly and unerringly shall I be able
to lead him through the subsequent periods, where the
accumulation of materials will forbid a slowness of step
or minuteness of attention.

As for the authorities of our history there is not so
much cause to complain of their paucity as of their ex-
treme abundance, since it is indispensable to read them
all to obtain that clear view of the whole subject to which
the perusal of a part, however large, is always prejudicial.
From the unequal, partial, and often contradictory narra-
tives of the same occurrences it is often extremely diffi-
cult to seize the truth, which in all is alike partly con-
cealed and to be found complete in none. In this first
volume, besides de Thou, Strada, Keyd, Grotius, Meteren,
Burgundius, Meursius, Bentivoglio, and some moderns,
the Memoirs of Counsellor Hopper, the life and corre-
spondence of his friend Yiglius, the records of the trials
of the Counts of Hoorne and Egmont, the defence of the
Prince of Orange, and some few others have been my
guides. I must here acknowledge my obligations to a
work compiled with much industry and critical acumen.


and written with singular truthfulness and impartiality.
I allude to the general history of the United Netherlands
which was published in Holland during the present cen-
tury. Besides many original documents which I could
not otherwise have had access to, it has abstracted all
that is valuable in the excellent works of Bos, Hooft,
Brandt, Le Clerc, which either were impossible for me to
procure or were not available to my use, as being written
in Dutch, which I do not understand. An otherwise
ordinary writer, Richard Dinotli, has also been of service
to me by the many extracts he gives from the pamphlets
of the clay, which have been long lost. I have in vain
endeavored to procure the correspondence of Cardinal
Granvella, which also would no doubt have thrown much
light upon the history of these times. The lately pub-
lished work on the Spanish Inquisition by my excellent
countryman, Professor Spittler of Gottingen, reached me
too late for its sagacious and important contents to be
available for my purpose.

The more I am convinced of the importance of the
French history, the more I lament that it was not in my
power to study, as I could have wished, its copious annals
in the original sources and contemporary documents, and
to reproduce it abstracted of the form in which it was
transmitted to me by the more intelligent of my prede-
cessors, and thereby emancipate myself from the influence
which every talented author exercises more or less upon
his readers. But to effect this the work of a few years
must have become the labor of a life. My aim in making
this attempt will be more than attained if it should con-
vince a portion of the reading public of the possibility of
writing a history with historic truth without making
a trial of patience to the reader; and if it should extort
from another portion the confession that history can
borrow from a cognate art without thereby, of necessity,
becoming a romance.

WEIMAK, Michaelmas Fair, 1788.


OF those important political events which make the six-
teenth century to take rank among the brightest of the
world's epochs, the foundation of the freedom of the
Netherlands appears to me one of the most remarkable.
If the glittering exploits of ambition and the pernicious
lust of power claim our admiration, how much mure so
should an event in which oppressed humanity struggled
for its noblest rights, where with the good cause un-
wonted powers were united, and the resources of resolute
despair triumphed in unequal contest over the terrible
arts of tyranny.

Great and encouraging is the reflection that there is a
resource left us against the arrogant usurpations of des-
potic power; that its best-contrived plans against the
liberty of mankind may be frustrated ; that resolute
opposition can weaken even the outstretched arm of tyr-
anny ; and that heroic perseverance can eventually exhaust
'its fearful resources. Never did this truth affect me so
sensibly as in tracing the history of that memorable
rebellion which forever severed the United Netherlands
from the Spanish Crown. Therefore I thought it not
unworth the while to attempt to exhibit to the world this
grand memorial of social union, in the hope that it may
awaken in the breast of my reader a spirit-stirring con-
sciousness of his own powers, and give a new and irre-
fragable example of what in a good cause men may both
dare and venture, and what by union they may accom-
plish. It is not the extraordinary or heroic features of
this event that induce me to describe it. The annals of
the world record perhaps many similar enterprises, which
may have been even bolder in the conception and more
brilliant in the execution. Some states have fallen
after a nobler struggle; others have risen with more
exalted strides. Nor are we here to look for eminent
heroes, colossal talents, or those marvellous exploits which
the history of past times presents in such rich abundance.
Those times are gone; such men are no more. In the
soft lap of refinement we have suffered the energetic


powers to became enervate which those ages called into
action and rendered indispensable. With admiring awe
we wonder at these gigantic images of the past as a
feeble old man gazes on the athletic sports of youth.

Not so, however, in the history before us. The people
here presented to our notice were the most peaceful in
our quarter of the globe, and less capable than their
neighbors of that heroic spirit which stamps a lofty
character even on the most insignificant actions. The
pressure of circumstances with its peculiar influence sur-
prised them and forced a transitory greatness upon them,
which they never could have possessed and perhaps will
never possess again. It is, indeed, exactly this want of
heroic grandeur which renders this event peculiarly in-
structive; and while others aim at showing the superiority
of genius over chance, I shall here paint a scene where
necessity creates genius and accident makes heroes.

If in any case it be allowable to recognize the interven-
tion of Providence in human affairs it is certainly so in
the present history, its course appears so contradictory to
reason and experience. Philip II., the most powerful
sovereign of his line whose dreaded supremacy menaced
the independence of Europe whose treasures surpassed
the collective wealth of all the monarchs of Christendom
besides whose ambitious projects Avere backed by
numerous and well-disci plined armies whose troops,
hardened by long and bloody wars, and confident in past
victories and in the irresistible prowess of this nation,
were eager for any enterprise that promised glory and
spoil, and ready to second with prompt obedience the
daring genius of their leaders this dreaded potentate
here appears before us obstinately pursuing one favorite
project, devoting to it the untiring efforts of a long reign,
and bringing all these terrible resources to bear upon it;
but forced, in the evening of his reign, to abandon it
here we see the mighty Philip II. engaging in combat
with a few weak and powerless adversaries, and retiring
from it at last with disgrace.

And with what adversaries? Here, a peaceful tribe of
fishermen and shepherds, in nn almost-forgotten corner
of Europe, which with difficulty they had rescued from


the ocean ; the sea their profession, and at once their
wealth and their plague; poverty with freedom their
highest liK'ssing, their glory, their virtue. There, a harm-
less, moral, commercial people, revelling in the abundant
fruits of thriving industry, and jealous of the maintenance
of laws which had proved their benefactors. In the happy
leisure of affluence they forsake the narrow circle of im-
mediate wants and learn to thirst after higher and nobler
gratifications. The new views of truth, whose benignant
dawn now broke over Europe, cast a fertilizing beam on
tliis favored clime, and the free burgher admitted with
joy the light which oppressed and miserable slaves shut
out. A spirit of independence, which is the ordinary
companion of prosperity and freedom, lured this people
on to examine the authority of antiquated opinions and
to break an ignominious chain. But the stern rod of
despotism was held suspended over tluni; arbitrary
power threatened to tear away the foundation of their
happiness ; the guardian of their laws became their tyrant.
Simple in their statecraft no less than in their manners,
they dared to appeal to ancient treaties and to remind the
lord of both Indies of the rights of nature. A name
decides the whole issue of things. In Madrid that was
called rebellion which in Brussels was simply styled a
lawful remonstrance. The complaints of Brabant required
a prudent mediator; Philip II. sent an executioner. The
sitrnal for war was given. An unparalleled tyranny as-
sailed both property and life. The despairing citizens, to
whom the choice of deaths was all that was left, chose
the nobler one on the battle-field. A wealthy and luxu-
rious nation loves peace, but becomes warlike as soon as
it becomes poor. Then it ceases to tumble for a life
which is deprived of everything that had made it desir-
able. In an instant the contagion of rebellion sei/.es at
once the most distant provinces ; trade and commerce
are at a standstill, the ships disappear from the harbors,
the artisan abandons his workshop, the rustic his unculti-
vated fields. Thousands fled to distant lands, a thousand
victims fell on the bloody field, and fresh thousands
pressed on. Divine, indeed, must that doctrine be for
which men could die so joyfully. All that was wanting


was the last finishing hand, the enlightened, enterprising
spirit, to seize on this great political crisis and to mould
the offspring of chance into the ripe creation of wisdom.
William the Silent, like a second Brutus, devoted himself
to the great cause of liberty. Superior to all selfishness,
he resigned honorable offices which entailed on him ob-
jectionable duties, and, magnanimously divesting himself
of all his princely dignities, he descended to a state of
voluntary poverty, and became but a citizen of the world.
The cause of justice was staked upon the hazardous game
of battle; but the newly-raised levies of mercenaries and
peaceful husbandmen were unable to withstand the ter-
rible onset of an experienced force. Twice did the brave
William lead his dispirited troops against the tyrant.
Twice was he abandoned by them, but not by his courage.

Philip II. sent as many reinforcements as the dreadful
importunity of his viceroy demanded. Fugitives, whom
their country rejected, sought a new home on the ocean, and
turned to the ships of their enemy to satisfy the cravings
both of vengeance and of want. Naval heroes were now
formed out of corsairs, and a marine collected out of
piratical vessels ; out of morasses arose a republic. Seven
provinces threw off the yoke at the same time, to form
a new, youthful state, powerful by its waters and its
union and despair. A solemn decree of the whole nation
deposed the tyrant, and the Spanish name was erased
from all its laws.

For such acts no forgiveness remained ; the republic
became formidable only because it was impossible for her
to retrace her steps. But factions distracted her within ;
without, her terrible element, the sea itself, leaguing with
her oppressors, threatened her very infancy with a pre-
mature grave. She felt herself succumb to the superior
force of the enemy, and cast herself a suppliant before
the most powerful thrones of Europe, begging them to
accept a dominion which she herself could no longer
protect. At last, but with difficulty so despised at first
was this state that even the rapacity of foreign monarchs
spurned her opening bloom a stranger deigned to accept
their importunate offer of a dangerous crown. New
hopes began to revive her sinking courage ; but in this


new father of his country destiny gave her a traitor, and
in the critical emergency, when the foe was in full force
before her very gates, Charles of Anjou invaded the
liberties which he had been called to protect. In the
midst of the tempest, too, the assassin's hand tore the
steersman from the helm, and with William of Orange
the career of the infant republic was seemingly at an end,
and all her guardian angels fled. But the ship continued
to scud along before the storm, and the swelling canvas
carried her safe without the pilot's help.

Philip II. missed the fruits of a deed which cost him his
royal honor, and perhaps, also, his self-respect. Liberty
struggled on still with despotism in obstinate and dubious
contest ; sanguinary battles were fought ; a brilliant
array of heroes succeeded each other on the field of glory,
and Flanders and Brabant were the schools which educated
generals for the coming century. A long, devastating
war laid waste the open country ; victor and vanquished
alike waded through blood ; while the rising republic of
the waters gave a welcome to fugitive industry, and out
of the ruins of despotism erected the noble edifice of its
own greatness. For forty years lasted the Avar whose
happy termination was not to bless the dying eye of
Philip ; which destroyed one paradise in Europe to form
a new one out of its shattered fragments ; which destroyed
the choicest flower of military youth, and while it en-
riched more than a quarter of the globe impoverished the
possessor of the golden Peru. This monarch, who could
expend nine hundred tons of gold without oppressing his
subjects, and by tyrannical measures extorted far more,
heaped, moreover, on his exhausted people a debt of one
hundred and forty millions of ducats. An implacable
hatred of liberty swallowed up all these treasures, and
consumed on the fruitless task the labor of a royal life.
But the Reformation throve amidst the devastations of
the sword, and over the blood of her citizens the banner
of the new republic floated victorious.

This improbable turn of affairs seems to border on a
miracle ; many circumstances, however, combined to break
the power of Philip, and to favor the progress of the
infant state. Had the whole weight of his power fallen


on the United Provinces there had been no hope for their
religion or their liberty. His own ambition, by tempting
him to divide his strength, came to the aid of their weak-
ness. The expensive policy of maintaining traitors in
every cabinet of Europe ; the support of the League in
France ; the revolt of the Moors in Granada ; the con-
quest of Portugal, and the magnificent fabric of the
Escurial, drained at last his apparently inexhaustible
treasury, and prevented his acting in the field with spirit
and energy. The German and Italian troops, whom the
hope of gain alone allured to his banner, mutinied when he
could no longer pay them, and faithlessly abandoned their
leaders in the decisive moment of action. These terrible in-
struments of oppression now turned their dangerous power
against their employer, and wreaked their vindictive rage
on the provinces which remained faithful to him. The
unfortunate armament against England, on which, like a
desperate gamester, lie had staked the whole strength of
his kingdom, completed his ruin ; with the armada sank
the wealth of the two Indies, and the flower of Spanish

But in the very same proportion that the Spanish
power declined the republic rose in fresh vigor. The
ravages which the fanaticism of the new religion, the
tyranny of the Inquisition, the furious rapacity of the
soldiery, and the miseries of a long war unbroken by any
interval of peace, made in the provinces of Brabant,
Flanders, and Hainault, at once the arsenals and the
magazines of this expensive contest, naturally rendered
it every year more difficult to support and recruit the
royal armies. The Catholic Netherlands had already
lost a million of citizens, and the trodden fields main-
tained their husbandmen no longer. Spain itself had but
few more men to spare. That country, surprised by a
sudden affluence which brought idleness with it, had lost
much of its population, and could not long support the
continual drafts of men which were required both for the
New World and the Netherlands. Of these conscripts
few ever saw their country again ; and these few having
left it as youths returned to it infirm and old. Gold,
which had become more common, made soldiers propor-


tionately dearer; the growing charm of effeminacy en-
hanced the price of the opposite virtues. Wholly differ-
ent was the posture of affairs with the rebels. The
thousands whom the cruelty of the viceroy expelled from
the southern Netherlands, the Huguenots whom the wars
of persecution drove from France, as well as every one
whom constraint of conscience exiled from the other
parts of Europe, all alike flocked to unite themselves with
the Belgian insurgents. The whole Christian world was
their recruiting ground. The fanaticism both of the
persecutor and the persecuted worked in their behalf.
The enthusiasm of a doctrine newly embraced, revenge,
want, and hopeless misery drew to their standard adven-
turers from every part of Europe. All whom the new
doctrine had won, all who had suffered, or had still cause
of fear from despotism, linked their own fortunes with
those of the new republic. Every injury inflicted by a
tyrant gave a right of citizenship in Holland. Men
pressed towards a country where liberty raised her spirit-
stirring banner, where respect and security were insured
to a fugitive religion, and even revenge on the oppressor.
If we consider the conflux in the present day of people
to Holland, seeking by their entrance upon her territory
to be reinvested in their rights as men, what must it have
been at a time when the rest of Europe groaned under
a heavy bondage, when Amsterdam was nearly the only
free port for all opinions ? Many hundred families sought
a refuge for their wealth in a land which the ocean and
domestic concord powerfully combined to protect. The
republican army maintained its full complement without
the plough being stripped of hands to work it. Amid
the clash of arms trade and industry flourished, and the
peaceful citizen enjoyed in anticipation the fruits of
liberty which foreign blood was to purchase for them.
At the very time when the republic of Holland was
struggling for existence she extended her dominions
beyond the ocean, and was quietly occupied in erecting
her East Indian Empire.

Moreover, Spain maintained this expensive Avar with
dead, unfructifying gold, that never returned into the
hand which gave it away, while it raised to her the price


of every necessary. The treasuries of the republic were
industry and commerce. Time lessened the one whilst
it multiplied the other, and exactly in the same propor-
tion that the resources of the Spanish government became
exhausted by the long continuance of the war the repub-
lic began -to reap a richer harvest. Its field was sown
sparingly with the choice seed which bore fruit, though
late, yet a hundredfold; but the tree from which Philip
gathered fruit was a fallen trunk which never again
became verdant.

Philip's adverse destiny decreed that all the treasures
which he lavished for the oppression of the Provinces
should contribute to enrich them. The continual outlay
of Spanish gold had diffused riches and luxury through-
out Europe; but the increasing wants of Europe were
supplied chiefly by the Netherlander, who were masters
of the commerce of the known world, and who by their
dealings fixed the price of all merchandise. Even during
the war Philip could not prohibit his own subjects from
trading with the republic ; nay, he could not even desire
it. He himself furnished the rebels with the means of
defraying the expenses of their own defence ; for the very
war which was to ruin them increased the sale of their
goods. The enormous sums expended on his fleets and
armies flowed for the most part into the exchequer of the
republic, which was more or less connected with the
commercial places of Flanders and Brabant. Whatever
Philip attempted against the rebels operated indirectly
to their advantage.

The sluggish progress of this war did the king as much
injury as it benefited the rebels. His army was composed
for the most part of the remains of those victorious troops
which had gathered their laurels under Charles V. Old
and long services entitled them to repose ; many of them,
whom the Avar had enriched, impatiently longed for their
homes, where they might end in case a life of hardship.
Their former zeal, their heroic spirit, and their discipline
relaxed in the same proportion as they thought they had
fully satisfied their honor and their duty, and as they
began to reap at last the reward of so many battles. Be-

Online LibraryFriedrich SchillerThe works of Frederick Schiller (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 31)