David Storrar Meldrum.

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I judge the signs wrongly, too, if Capitalism is not
gathering itself together for a display of its political
power. Meanwhile, the combined Conservative forces in
the country are in the ascendant in the Chambers.

Co-operation, again, is difficult for Dutchmen. They
do not work well, or at any rate do not often work long,
in association. There is constant schism among them :
that, indeed, is their whole history. They are a nation
of seceders. The less lovely traits of their character, we
discovered, reflect a manly but too resolute individualism.
And thus co-operation, as it is known in other countries,
has never succeeded in Holland. Trade Unionism wilts.
No object, in fact, upon which men desire to combine
but occasions competitive Bonds. Do the peasants in
Brabant start a rabbit-show ? Then, somewhere about
Alkmaar, perhaps, there appears a " Christian Society
for the Improvement of Tame Rabbits."

Nevertheless, co-operation seems to me to be the
conspicuous principle in Holland to-day, and I have


ventured to call the Dutch practical Socialists. As one
moves through the country, listening to discussions about
recent legislation, he observes the signs of a gathering
revolt. Yet in the main it is only the revolt of the worried
tax-payer. There are strong reactionary elements, and
much of the so-called Radicalism is still Whiggish ; but
one cannot miss seeing that across the prolonged strife
on the education question, which exhibited the two
tendencies of laisser-faire Dutch Liberalism and a Dutch
reaction towards a three-hundred-years old Calvinism,
there cut a powerful and spreading humanitarian move-
ment coloured with every shade of modern philanthropic,
altruistic, and socialistic sentiment.

Of all this we shall find corroboration in recent
legislation to come under our notice later, but I shall
illustrate it here by one of the most conspicuous and
happy examples. I refer to the Children's Act, and the
part played in its administration by various societies and
institutions, of which " Pro Juventute " is the best known.

There is no First Offender's Act in Holland, nor is
there any liberation of prisoners on parole; and in the
opinion of many among themselves our neighbours had
fallen behind in the provision of Reformatory institutions,
famous as several of these in Holland were. By this
Children's Act, however, they stepped into the forefront.
It gives to magistrates, not an unlimited, but a quite
considerable discretion in dealing with children (minors :
that is, under 18) brought before them and convicted of
crime, theft as a rule. In these cases, which are tried
in private, and after a preliminary investigation, the
prisoners are given competent legal aid. On conviction
they may be (and most generally are on a first offence)
dismissed with a reprimand ; or are punished in this way
and that ; or they may be committed to the charge of
one or other of many institutions indicated by the Act as


open to the magistrate for choice. If any of the private
societies recognised by the law has intervened already
for the education of the child, the prosecution may be
postponed or dropped. In this way there enters, as has
been said, the association of private societies with the
administration of the Act.

It is, however, in itself an interesting and far-reaching
piece of legislation, to be described at greater length ;
especially as it indicates still another general character-
istic of the Dutch I mean their greater genius for
ordering and elaboration than for initiative.

There are provided under the Act disciplinary schools
(tuchtscholen\ of which there are at present five (one for
girls), and to these minors may be ordered for a com-
paratively short period, for the manipulation, so to say,
of their natures. The young criminal may be committed
to them. Or at the request of respectable parents or
guardians a child who has got out of hand will be
received there, to be sent back at the end of a year, say,
cured presumably and in his right mind, to the family
surroundings to whose virtues he had not previously done
justice. In such cases the State bears the cost of the
experiment, if the parents or guardians are unable to
pay. Moreover, should they rue having packed off the
offender, they may petition for his return, and it is at
the discretion of the authorities to grant it : the boy's
conduct in the school decides.

But in addition to these and the criminal cases are
others of minors living amid pernicious home influences.
Under the Children's Act the State regulates and limits
the parents' power over the child. It can undertake his
(or her) upbringing (ppvoeding) to the age of twenty-one ;
it can adopt the neglected or criminal child, in fact, or at
any rate appropriate him for certain guardians, among
whom are private institutions (subsidised in some in-


stances) to which he is then entrusted. And further, the
Act has created three State institutions (Ryks opvoeding
gestichteri), one of them for girls, to which the minor can
be committed.

These, without going into details (of safeguards and
of guardianship, for example), are the main provisions of
a piece of legislation which would be more than thorough
anywhere, but is especially so in Holland, among certain
strata of whose society complete parental authority is
still exercised with a sense of Scriptural sanction.

Of the last-named (the " upbringing ") schools I can
speak from hearsay only. In that at Alkmaar are
treated the most depraved youth. That at Kruisberg is
used as a probationary institution, in which cases are
kept under observation, before it is decided how they shall
be treated. Avereest sets the model, which no doubt
will be followed at Amersfoort also, where a new building
is being erected. The lads are trained in agriculture or
to a trade, and statistics indicate that over 80 per cent,
of the workmen and 95 per cent, of the farm-hands who
have left the institutions have been placed in good situa-
tions. Besides instruction, the strengthening of character
is aimed at, and with this in view the youths are divided
into groups of fifteen, each of which elects its own officers,
and possesses a garden in which their tastes in the rearing
of plants and animals are encouraged.

Recently I visited the newest of the disciplinary
institutions (tuchtscholeti), at Velsen. It stands on the
outskirts of the village, and looks a trade-school or
philanthropic institution of the customary Dutch type.
You would never mistake it for a prison from its out-
ward appearance. I was admitted by a woman. One
soon observed signs that the boys are kept under
constant observation, which indeed is essential to the
system ; but this supervision was without any traces of


prison discipline, i saw no uniformed officials in the

On the day of my visit there were fifty boys and
lads in the school, which has accommodation for sixty-
four. There are four divisions. In the first are the
newcomers, who are kept isolated for a week or two
(never more than a month), but scarcely in solitary
confinement, for now is the occasion taken by the
Director and other officials to be much with them,
softening their mood and seeking acquaintance with their
natures. They are also given gymnastics with the others
in the garden. In the normal section, to which the boy
passes next, all work and study together, but speech is
forbidden and discipline is strict. From there his good
conduct may carry him to the class for the well behaved,
in which there is freedom of games and speech, and
liberty to write letters, receive visitors, and even on
occasion to walk outside the bounds of the institution.
But there is no over-indulgence. An apple, it may be, is
the simple reward of virtue, or on special occasions a
cigar ! The fourth division is for the unruly ; and of
course it is at the discretion of the authorities to pass on
any undisciplined boy, when his year at the tucht school
is up, to one of the educational establishments, where he
may be retained until he is twenty-one.

I found boys at Velsen who had received a superior
education : one had been at a higher-burgher school,
another at a trades-school : but most were ill-instructed
and from poor homes. A boy of sixteen, still isolated,
was the son of a follower of the kermisses, and had never
got beyond the third class in his elementary school.
Another had been sent here from the navy, after con-
viction for some petty crime (I think theft) ; I was told
that if his conduct was satisfactory he would probably
be received back into the service. The trawlers at


Ymuiden provide for many of the reformed the oppor-
tunity for a fresh start.

Some of the lads were working in the gardens.
Others were in the classrooms, which, like the instruction
given in them, seemed to be similar to those I had seen
so often in the public schools. The short period of
confinement made instruction in a trade impossible. I
had the misfortune to pay my visit in the absence of the
Director, and so possibly missed hearing much of interest
about the result accomplished in these schools. On that
point the opinion formed on a casual visit could be of
no value, and the experiment may be still too new for
results to declare themselves.

The two strong impressions left on myself were the
excellent physique of most of the boys, and the superior
intelligence in the look of some of the lads in the unruly
section. From the last fact I have no wish to generalise.
The first corroborates my observation, borne out also by
conscript statistics, that the physical condition of the
Dutch youth has markedly improved in the last decade.

The distinguished jurist, whose courtesy made this
visit to a tucht school possible for me, expressed the
opinion that no recent legislation in Holland had been
more efficacious than the Children's Law, and in lay
circles also I found it generally approved ; though not
infrequently with a grumble that to the burdens of the
ratepayer there comes no end. The humane appeal is
irresistible, but where is the money to come from ?

That, of course, is the rub !


THE independent spirit of her towns is the most
vital fact in Holland's history. However much
the country counted for in the war with Philip, it was
they who threw off the power of Spain. And it was
they also who reaped the reward : who are the patricians
to-day but the descendants of the men who were faithful
to Orange? Within city walls, and not on the land, are
the enlarged and imaginative conditions of living, and
within them was fostered the liberalism of men's minds
in the Netherlands. This liberalism was the true re-
forming spirit. It nurtured education, and its tradition
survives in the pride of place allowed to education in
modern Holland. The persistent, eager independence of
the towns is still one of the most powerful factors in her

To have a true conception of her citizen society, we
must think of it as being scarcely less jealous of its
individuality than the boer is of his. And not only in the
towns are we to look for this tenacious grip on particu-
larity. It is amusingly paralleled in every handful of
houses that boasts a burgomaster.

It is the villages even more than the cities which
create the impression of a humming, ordered life that we
carry away from the Lowlands especially. The villages,
indeed, bring town into every corner of the country. In


a manner, all that the boer rings off from his patriarchal
domain is urban : some faint wash of the tradition of
civic pomp and independence has reached even to his
drawbridge. He has somewhat desperately to preserve
his self-centred ideal against another, as tenacious, of
exclusive citizenship. This, no doubt, is to exaggerate
the particularity of both, which time has sapped, and
may destroy ; but it enforces a characteristic aspect of
Holland. The spirit of self-government, which is
" towny," seems to rest over the whole country. And
in the present chapter I wish to get behind this im-
pression, and to watch from one or two points the
working of the local machine which produces it.

The machine is the same in city, town, and village.
The unit of self-government is the commune, the g-emeente.
It is a territory of varying extent, in which urban and
rural districts and populations are mixed indiscriminately.
Sometimes it is a town or a city, limited by the walls ;
or its borders may spread wider. It may, on the other
hand, be a portion only of a town, as in Delft, where
three communes meet, each of them retaining its own
administration, and acting independently. Most often it
is a village or group of villages with more or less land
around it. In any case it is of historic growth, in form
irregular and often inconvenient, determined with little
or no consideration for the needs of the inhabitants.

Holland is composed of 1121 of these communes,
each with a council of from seven to forty-five members,
according to the population they represent, and elected
by the enfranchised inhabitants from among themselves.
The electoral qualification is that, to be noted later, for
a member of the Second Chamber, with the addition
of the payment of a sum in the rates which varies
with the importance of the commune. So far, therefore,
the council (gemeente raacT) has a greater power than the


States-General over the purse of the citizens, and the
local, communal franchise is restricted in consequence.
There are in Leeuwarden, to take the first example at
hand, 4770 voters for the Second Chamber, and only
4236 for the local council; that is to say, some five
hundred men in that city have no voice in the govern-
ment of their own municipality, though they do have a
vote in the country's affairs. If there is any other
explanation of this than the tenacity of local rights
which has been so powerful an element in Holland's
history, I do not know it.

From among their number the councillors choose the
wethouders, or aldermen, two, three, or four according
to the population they represent, and these with the
burgomaster compose the daily executive (the dagelyksch
bestuur) for transacting the day-to-day business of the
gemeente. That is the Dutch method, common to public
and private bodies alike.

The burgomaster is not popularly elected, but is
appointed by the sovereign. He carries on in his office
the representation of the sovereign power in the
communes ; yet although he is responsible to the
commune for his administration and is paid by it (which
in the case of every other person is a disqualification),
he is eligible as a member of the communal council.
His position, in fact, is altogether peculiar. As the
sovereign's representative, he is president of the council.
By reason of his office he has an advising voice in its
deliberations. If the electors choose him as a member,
he of course has a vote. He is, moreover, the head of
the executive body, which also prepares the resolutions to
be taken by the Council ; where any councillor, however,
may initiate business ; and his hands are strengthened
further by the power of staying the execution of any of
the Council's decrees for thirty days while he appeals to

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the sovereign. The burgomaster's prerogative is clearly
by no means so hollow as Mr. Bumble's.

There is, in fact, a profession of burgomaster; but
the plums in it are not very large. I question if the
office carries with it over 600 anywhere except in
Amsterdam. In Leeuwarden (to continue drawing our
examples from that town and the Province of Friesland)
the salary is 365, and it decreases in the communes of
the Province until we come to about 66 in Hindeloopen.
The wethouders are paid small salaries, running from
75 in Leeuwarden to 2, los. in Schiermonnikoog ;
and the councillors are solaced for their labour by a
trifle of " presence-money." The salary of the secretary
of the gemeente is rather smaller than the burgomaster's,
and the collector's, again, smaller still than the secretary's.
Leeuwarden pays about 1100 for the services of the
officials and councillors whom we have mentioned ; and
together they cost the forty-three gemeenten in the
Province rather less than ,18,000.

These figures, or at any rate some of them, confirm
a point I have made earlier as to the meagre incomes
which satisfy many highly instructed men in Holland.
The growth of the bureaucracy is a subject for laughter
(on the wrong side of the mouth) among the Dutchmen
who still remain outside it ; but if the officials are many,
the guilders they draw for their services are relatively

This representation of the sovereign power on boards
of local government, illustrated by the position of the
burgomaster, is common to the whole Dutch system of
administration, and is of much historic interest. That
cannot be followed here ; but it is worth while to point
out that the case of the Dutch is in this precisely the
antithesis of our own. For we in Great Britain have
aimed at the reality of a political democracy, however


our instincts of loyalty and privilege may constitute
English Society what Mr. W. D. Howells calls " a realm
of faerie." The Dutch, on the other hand, withal their
often too aggressive assertion of the right to respect none
but themselves, are acquiescent under a larger exercise of
the sovereign prerogative than we should tolerate any-
where in these islands. And since this proceeds from
no love of the Dutch for authority, I conclude that they
feel the need of an " honest broker " among their many
local prescriptions.

Until within half a century ago, the gemeente raad in
the towns, I am told, was composed almost entirely of
doctors of law, an ideal constitution, which nevertheless to
our English notions is about the very worst imaginable.
It corroborates the impression, hinted at often already,
that a highly educated professional class for long
exercised an unusually strong influence on Dutch affairs
which is now considerably weakened. The explanation
is, partly, that in this class there was great public spirit,
while in the mass of the people there was just as little
as the failure to encourage it would lead us to expect.
But another reason undoubtedly was the incorrigible
belief, or profession of belief, among this special class
that wisdom walks with instruction. A further illustra-
tion of this will appear presently; for a moment longer,
however, we will keep our eye upon our burgomaster.

He is, as a rule, still a man of family or some
fortune, drawn therefore from the society that chiefly,
since as far back as Sir William Temple's day at least,
has filled the civil offices of State ; and being trained
for his duties, which often are performed in communes
composed entirely of peasants, he plays a necessary and
useful rdle in the life of the country. I have more than
once had occasion to observe him as a man of light and
leading, if not in dark, at least in dim, communities.


When, on the other hand, he is stupid and tactless,
as even far more learned men than he can be, there is
personal friction. I have heard the creation of socialists
charged to his folly. Now that the councils have
opened to working men, or they have forced their way
within them, his official position gives occasion, as in
Amsterdam and some other large towns, for trials of
strength in popular self-government.

The burgomaster's is often a thankless task. In the
country, composing private feuds brings him amusing ex-
periences such as do not alleviate his lot among public
bickerings in the towns. On the other hand, upon the
heads of rural communes descends the unquenchable
curiosity of the Department of Agriculture. Square
yards of parchment, or at least the finest paper, drop
upon his table with requests to be filled in. What
(for example) was the state of the weather when the
winter wheat was sown? To which, and all such-like,
one of them blandly replies, " A little cloudy." That
complicates no report " Over-regulated Holland " is
the lament of many a country burgomaster. And one
of them in the city has declared that he was little better
than a kind of printer's devil for the public.

Among his duties and the aldermen's do not lie
those associated with the magistrates in our police
courts. The burgomaster sometimes, indeed, appears to
act as public prosecutor, inasmuch as it rests with him
to draw up the proces-verbal by which the administration
of justice is initiated in every case. But that is only
where the burgomaster combines in his office that of
Head of the Police.

The lowest courts in Holland are presided over by
the Canton judges. Superior to them are those in which
the Arrondissement courts, created under French rule,
are still represented; and above the Arrondissement


courts again are Provincial courts, mainly of appeal ;
the crown of the judicial system being the High Court,
or Hooge Raad, at the Hague, with which appeals for
cassation are lodged. The feature of the system which
interests us here is that even in its lowest levels in the
communes justice is not administered by anyone who
does not possess the diploma of Doctor of Law.

Here is the further illustration promised of the faith
of the Dutch in the expert ; and they carry it so far, as
all the world knows, as to refuse to adopt the system of
trial by a jury of ordinary laymen and true. In how
many ways the country benefits from this determined
exclusion of the amateur is evident frequently to the
envious stranger ; but he may be permitted to doubt,
though the Dutch are so certain of it, that the administra-
tion of justice is one of them. The breakdown of the
layman under an appeal to sentiment is not a greater
danger, one imagines, than the rigidity of the expert
against the appeal to common sense, and, of course, it
lies with the Englishman to claim that the underlying
elastic basis of common sense in his laws is precisely
the element which contributes most to his personal

Holland has been stirred of late by a certain
notorious Papendrecht Case, involving in a manner the
purity of justice from a prejudicing instinct of authority
to protect its agents. That is not a point on which a
foreigner is likely to have sufficient knowledge even to
formulate an opinion for himself; but upon the subsequent
development of the case it is open for him to make the
comment, that it did not display any eminent wisdom of
the specialist, and indeed could scarcely have scandalised
a country with a system of jury trial.

The routine of business of the Councils day by day
exhibits no peculiar principle for the sake of which we


need follow it, unless it be that in some cases decisions
are left to the arbitrament of the lot. The appointment
of teachers and the supervision of education within the
gemeente, and such work in Poor Relief as the Churches
leave undone, fall among their duties ; and they have
others, indicated in different chapters of this book, arising
out of the peculiar and characteristic conditions of the
country. I wish now to glance at some recent legislation
on Public Health and Morals which in certain of its
aspects at least is peculiar, and illustrates another side of
the burgomaster's work.

If in Dutch cities is wanting the display of foolish
finery, so certainly are not the taverns (and I might add
the lawyers), which also were banished from Utopia.
The number of the first, however, has been considerably
lessened by the Drink Bill of 1904, which sums up the
legislation of a quarter of a century for combating the
Drink evil. The licences now issued in a commune,
including those for clubs, are limited by the population
thus : in a town of over 50,000 they may not exceed one
in 500 ; in towns of from 20,000 to 50,000, one in 400 ;
from 10,000 to 20,000, one in 300; and under 10,000,
one in 250.

It need hardly be said that when this regulation was
made, the number of licences in almost all the communes
exceeded the limit it laid down ; and reductions have
followed, after various methods, among them the
withdrawal of a licence that was not used. Reduction,
as a matter of fact, occurs automatically, for the licence
in Holland goes with a person, not with a building, and
lapses at such person's death. Further, all licences

Online LibraryDavid Storrar MeldrumHome life in Holland → online text (page 17 of 31)