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finally passed away.

Such were the lives, and such the services, of these

1 An" attempt, in the debates on the articles of Union, to take away
the royal prerogative of mercy was, of course, opposed by Dalrymple,
which brought on him the taunt from Lockhart that his defence of this
prerogative was very natural, since but for its exercise he would have
been hanged long ago ! Rather too hard hitting for our degenerate


remarkable men. That their lives were marred by
shortcomings, by errors, even by crimes, we have not
attempted to disguise. That their services were such
as have rarely been rendered by a father and son to
their country, it would, we think, be idle to deny.
In character both rose above the low standard of
political morality which prevailed in their time.
Throughout all their changes they were faithful to
the cause which for the time they served ; and they
appear to have been ever animated by a sincere
desire for the welfare of their country. In intellect,
culture, and sagacity they were superior to all their
contemporaries. To their counsels and exertions Scot-
land mainly owes the easy accession of William to
her throne, the settlement of her ecclesiastical diffi-
culties, and (to the son) the Union. Few nations
have owed more to two statesmen : yet much as they
accomplished, much of necessity remained to be done.
Materials for religious discord were still rife. The
Highlands were left, unruly and discontented, to be
the source of future trouble and danger. The com-
mercial prosperity the expectation of which was, on
the Scotch side, the real inducing cause of the Union
did not come speedily. What did come, and at
once, was increase of taxation, severities of revenue
officers, alterations of ancient laws, enforcement of new
prerogatives. These grievances some of them not ima-
ginary fell upon the fertile soil of national animosity.
The Union was hated by the bulk of the Scottish
aristocracy, because under the Government of Great
Britain their importance could not fail to be dimin-
ished, their selfish views frustrated ; it was hated by
the bulk of the Scottish people with a hatred which
had its origin in a nobler source the feelings and
traditions bequeathed by their long and cruel struggle
for independence. But the work of healing was only


a question of time. The foundations of well-being
and mutual good- will had been laid strong and deep ;
and, happily for Scotland, there were not wanting
men, both among her nobles and her lawyers, worthy
and able to carry on the policy, and complete the pur-
poses, of William and his wise advisers.


" TN the four quarters of the globe, who reads an
JL American book \ or goes to an American play ?
or looks at an American picture or statue?" So
wrote Sydney Smith about forty years ago. And,
allowing for the peculiar style of the accomplished
Churchman, such questions were at that time natural
enough. But time, among the other wonders which
it works, has done much to wipe out this reproach.
Art, indeed, despite the Greek Slave, cannot be said
to have found a home on the other side of the Atlantic.
American plays may exist, but Englishmen are un-
aware of them ; and American poetry does not rise
above the graceful mediocrity of Longfellow. To one
important branch of literature, however, Americans
have in our day addressed themselves with a large
measure of success. They have written history, and
written it well. Mr. Prescott's picturesque narratives
are read, we should think, in all the four quarters of
the globe ; and Mr. Motley may, without presumption,
anticipate an equal popularity.

1 " History of the United Netherlands, from the death of William the
Silent to the Synod of Dort; with a full view of the English-Dutch
Struggle against Spain, and of the Origin and Destruction of the Spanish
Armada." By John Lothrop Motley, D.C.L., etc. Vols. I. and II.
London : I860. [Reprinted from the "North British Review," No. 68.
May 1861.]


" The Rise of the Dutch Republic," published some
four years ago, won its way, not perhaps rapidly, but
very surely. The subject was well chosen, and, on
the whole, worthily handled. Hence the " History of
the United Netherlands" was anxiously looked for.
It has fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, the most
favourable expectations. Though called by another
name, the present work is a direct continuation of the
former. The "Rise of the Dutch Republic" closed
with the death of William the Silent in 1584; the
" History of the United Netherlands " takes up the
tale at the date of that calamity, and carries it on till
after the destruction of the Armada.

The narration of that destruction is a theme of
which Englishmen can never grow weary. Yet, on
the whole, these volumes are not so rich in scenes of
striking and varied interest as were their predecessors.
There is nothing here to compare, in wild romance,
with the famous submarine expeditions of Philipsland
and Zierickzee ; there are no horrors like the horrors
of the " Spanish Fury," or the sack of Haarlem ; nor
are our hearts stirred by any such picture of noble
endurance, rewarded by happy triumph, as is pre-
sented in the agony and relief of Ley den. On the
other hand, the drama has broadened and deepened.
We are no longer concerned with the rebellion of a
province. The revolt of the "Beggars of the Sea"
has expanded into the long strife of which the Refor-
mation was the real beginning, and which was to end
only with the peace of Westphalia. Mr. Motley's two
volumes comprise the history of not more than six
years. But in that brief period came the crisis of the
most momentous struggle the world has ever seen
Despotism and Popery striving against Freedom and
Toleration for the possession of the civilised world.
It should always be remembered that this great war


was a war for liberty of thought. There never was
a moment in its early history in which the Dutch
would not have returned to their allegiance had
they been promised liberty of conscience ; there never
was a moment in which Philip dreamed of yielding
to such a demand. It is not too much to say that
the destinies of our race for many ages depended on
the issue of this contest. Fortunately for the better
part, the Emperor, busy with the advancing power of
the Turks, stood aloof; the German Lutherans, filled
with an unworthy jealousy of Netherlandic Calvinism,
refused to succour; France, torn with internal dis-
sensions, was powerless, at least for good : so that
Holland and England stood alone against the gigantic
empire of Spain. The Hollanders were held of small
account. Despite their lengthened resistance, they
were regarded as a band of reckless sailors, daring in
piratical expeditions, but utterly incapable of offering
any lasting opposition to the organised power of
Philip. The English, indeed, had, some two centuries
before, taken their place among the nations in a true
imperial style. Since then, however, cooped up with-
in the limits of their own island, they had quarrelled
plentifully among themselves, but had taken no share
in Continental affairs. The memories of Cressy and
of Agincourt were forgotten, and the victors in those
fights were regarded as faithless and turbulent islanders.
The following sketches give some curious traits, espe-
cially as to the tendencies of our ancestors in their
convivial moments :

" The English," says an Antwerp historian, " are a very
clever, handsome, and well-made people ; but, like all
islanders, by nature weak and tender. ... As a people,
they are stout-hearted, vehement, eager, cruel in war, zealous
in attack, little fearing death ; not revengeful, but fickle,
presumptuous, rash, boastful, deceitful, very suspicious,


especially of strangers, whom they despise. They are full of
courteous and hypocritical gestures and words, which they
consider to imply good manners, civility, and wisdom. They
are well spoken, and very hospitable. They feed well
eating much meat, which, owing to the rainy climate, and
the ranker character of the grass, is not so firm and succulent
as the meat of France and the Netherlands. The people
are not so laborious as the French and Hollanders, preferring
to lead an indolent life, like the Spaniards. They dress very
elegantly. Their costume is light and costly, but they are
very changeable and capricious altering their fashions every
year, both the men and the women."

" They excel in dancing and music," says a German tourist,
" for they are active and lively, although they are of a thicker
build than the Germans. They are good sailors, and better
pirates, cunning, treacherous, thievish. Three hundred and
upwards are hanged annually in London. The English are
more polite in eating than the French, devouring less bread,
but more meat, which they roast in perfection. They are
powerful in the field, successful against their enemies, im-
patient of anything like slavery, vastly fond of great ear-filling
noises, such as cannon-firing, drum-beating, and bell-ringing ;
so that it is very common for a number of them, when they
have got a cup too much in their heads, to go up to some
belfry, and ring the bells for an hour together for the sake
of amusement." Vol. i, pp. 307-9.

On the other hand, the Spaniards were esteemed
throughout the world as a race born to command.
Awe, hatred, and admiration were the mingled feelings
excited even among Englishmen by Spanish prowess
and Spanish policy. Long years of successful warfare,
daring enterprises in unknown lands, had conferred
on Philip ii. an extent of empire greater than what
was ever possessed by Napoleon I. In 1584, Philip
ruled in Europe Spain, Portugal, Celtic Flanders,
the Milanese, and the Two Sicilies. The other States
of Italy were obedient to his lightest wish. In Asia
he possessed the Philippines and the valuable settle-


ments which had been founded by the energy of the
first Portuguese discoverers. America was all his own.
But his mightiest power was in his statesmen and in
his warriors. The Great Captain had reared up a
soldiery in the Italian wars before whom the im-
petuosity of France, and the steadiness of the Swiss
legions, had been alike found wanting ; Cortes and
Pizarro, in the farthest west, had trained their fol-
lowers to a pitch of courage and a fertility of resource
which had often served to confound all the strange
devices of a barbarian foe. The Spaniards of that
day were the kings of the world. They had acquired
the subtlety and serene wisdom of Italian statesmen ;
they possessed as their birthright a force of character
and a knightly honour to which the Italian was a
stranger. Aspiring politicians, stern and haughty
rulers, they might be ; yet formed of nobler clay than
the unrelenting voluptuaries of Italy. They were
dark, resolute, and dangerous men, reminding us of
the blood-hounds frequently associated with them in
the pictures of Velasquez. That such men, wielding
such a power, should have been baffled by a band of
wild, undisciplined sailors, inhabiting an inhospitable
sand-bank, must be ascribed mainly to the bigotry
and obstinacy of their king, but perhaps also to that
inward consciousness of wrong which has often smitten
the strongest with feebleness, and turned to foolishness
the counsels of the wise.

Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma, may be taken
as the ideal Spaniard of his day. He is unquestion-
ably the hero of these two volumes, as William the
Silent was of the former. Mr. Motley draws character
at once elaborately and vividly, and has in this instance
done his very best :

" Farnese was now thirty-seven years of age with the
experience of a sexagenarian. No longer the impetuous,


arbitrary, hot-headed youth, whose intelligence and courage
hardly atoned for his insolent manner and stormy career, he
had become pensive, modest, almost gentle. His genius
was rapid in conception, patient in combination, fertile in
expedients, adamantine in the endurance of suffering; for
never did a heroic general and a noble army of veterans
manifest more military virtue in the support of an infamous
cause than did Parma and his handful of Italians and
Spaniards. That which they considered to be their duty
they performed. The work before them they did with all
their might. . . . Alexander rose with the difficulty and
responsibility of his situation. His vivid, almost poetic
intellect, formed his schemes with perfect distinctness.
Every episode in his great, and, as he himself called it, his
' heroic enterprise/ was traced out beforehand with the tran-
quil vision of creative genius ; and he was prepared to con-
vert his conceptions into reality, with the aid of an iron
nature, which never knew fatigue or fear. . . . Untiring,
uncomplaining, thoughtful of others, prodigal of himself,
generous, modest, brave ; with so much intellect and so much
devotion to what he considered his duty, he deserved to
be a patriot, and a champion of the right, rather than an
instrument of despotism.

"And thus he paused for a moment with much work
already accomplished, but his hardest life-task before him ;
still in the noon of manhood, a fine martial figure, standing,
spear in hand, full in the sunlight, though all the scene around
him was wrapped in gloom a noble, commanding shape,
entitled to the admiration which the energetic display of
great powers, however unscrupulous, must always command.
A dark meridional physiognomy ; a quick, alert, imposing
head; jet black, close-clipped hair; a bold eagle's face,
with full, bright, restless eye; a man rarely reposing,
always ready, never alarmed ; living in the saddle, with
harness on his back ; such was the Prince of Parma ;
matured and mellowed, but still unharmed by time." Vol. i.
pp. 135-8.

The cause which Parma maintained was hateful ;
the stage on which he acted was not extensive. Yet,


even allowing for these things, it is a striking in-
stance of the caprice of Fame, that his reputation
should have fallen so far short of his deserts. No one
who compares his achievements with his resources can
resist the conviction that he is entitled to be ranked
among the very greatest commanders. The siege of
Antwerp alone is sufficient to establish his renown.
In all the highest characteristics of military genius he
seems not unworthy to be named even with Hannibal
or with Csesar. Perhaps, however, his purest title to
fame is to be found in this, that the war, as conducted
by him, put off the savage aspect which it had worn
before. The storm of Neutz, indeed, was no very
gentle affair ; but it should be remembered that the
garrison had provoked their fate by a flagrant viola-
tion of the laws of war, to the great personal danger
of Farnese himself, and that, even then, he did his
utmost to restrain the anger of his troops. His
humanity and courtesy, his refined intellect and
subtle policy, combine to impress the imagination far
more powerfully than even the awe and terror which
invest with a lurid splendour the soldierlike figure of

Pitted against such an antagonist, and deprived of
their great leader by the crime of July, the Hol-
landers were in evil case. Speaking roughly, all
Celtic Flanders, Hainault, Arthois, Douay, with the
cities Arras, Valenciennes, Lille, Tournay, had fallen
into the power of Spain, by the treason, or " recon-
ciliation," of the preceding year. The rebels held
what is now known as the kingdom of Holland.
Between them lay the scene of strife the rich terri-
tories of East Flanders and Brabant the possession
of which would belong to him who could hold the
half-dozen cities which lie clustered round the Scheldt
and its tributaries. At the date of William's murder,

THE xT^k


these cities were occupied by the Kepublicans. He
had hardly been dead two months when Farnese
was master of Ghent. Dendermonde had capitulated
even sooner. Brussels fell in March of the following
year, and Mechlin could hold out no longer than mid-
summer. Antwerp alone remained. On the fate of
this town depended, in the judgment of Parma, the
fate of all Christendom.

Dismayed, yet not despairing, the Hollanders looked
around for help. They first sought it where they
had been taught to seek it by their departed leader.
The Prince of Orange had placed more reliance on
the assistance of France than on the assistance of
England. His reasons for this were many and weighty.
France was, at that time, much the stronger power.
The French Huguenots sympathised cordially with
the Calvinists and Anabaptists of the Low Countries ;
the English Government disliked Calvinists and Ana-
baptists about as heartily as it disliked Papists. The
next heir to the French Crown was the chosen leader
of the Protestant party ; the hopes of the Papists all
over the world were centred on the captive who, on
the death of Elizabeth, would pass from a prison to
the throne of England. Above all, Elizabeth had
uniformly repelled the overtures of the Provinces ;
Catherine de Medicis had as uniformly welcomed
them. But affairs in France had greatly changed
since such considerations had determined the policy
of Orange. The Duke of Anjou was dead; Henry of
Navarre was away at Pau, with nothing to do but to
make love to his wife's maids of honour ; Henry in.
was every day sinking deeper in degradation ; Henry
of Guise was every day rising higher in renown, and
the power of the League had already overshadowed
the throne. Even before the death of Orange the
increasing influence of the Catholic party in France


had caused some modification of his views. But now
the ascendency of the Papists was beyond a doubt :
the king was in the hands, and at the disposal, of
the Guises. When the ambassadors from Holland
arrived in France, they found that the Queen-mother
was playing for her own claims on Portugal, that
Henry of Guise was playing for Philip and for him-
self, that Henry of Navarre held no cards, and that
Henry of Valois could not play the cards he held.
After much solemn trifling, when much time, alto-
gether priceless, had been lost, the eyes of the ambas-
sadors were opened at last. On the 1 8th of July 1585
the Edict of Nemours was published, banishing all
Huguenots from the kingdom on pain of death. The
game was up ; and every man in Holland became
aware that their last hope was England.

We will not follow Mr. Motley in detail through
the negotiations which ensued. They were especially
discreditable to English sense and English candour ;
in truth, it is hardly possible to read of them, even
at this distance of time, without a feeling of shame.
Hesitation and delay seemed our only policy. Our
statesmen, or rather our queen, trifled with oppor-
tunity, and let occasion die, in a manner which would
have been laughable had it not led to results so dis-
astrous. At last the genius of Parma achieved its
deserved triumph. Antwerp capitulated. One great
point was lost ; yet much remained to fight for.
Terror inspired a temporary vigour into English
tactics. An inadequate force was despatched to
Holland, and the Earl of Leicester was sent in com-
mand. A more unhappy selection could not have
been made.

The public men of that epoch seem to derive a sort
of reflected grandeur from the strangeness of the
events which they witnessed, and from the magnitude


of the interests in which they were involved. They
appear somehow men of loftier stature than the men
of other times. Nor, perhaps, is this appearance only.
We can well believe that their characters took an im-
press from what they saw and heard around them.
Stimulants of no common potency were applied to
their natures. They had seen the Old World chang-
ing its religion they had been amazed by the dis-
covery of the New legends of wild adventures in
lands far distant rung each day in their ears they
had marked the greatest empire of the world rise and
overshadow the earth with its pride ; and they were
now matched against that empire in a deadly struggle,
of which the issue would determine the destinies of
the whole human race. Such things could not fail to
strengthen, even if they did not elevate. " Dans un
grand siecle," says Cousin, " tout est grand." Hence
these men displayed, beyond all other traits, an
abounding and irrepressible vigour. Their very
excesses of conviviality command a certain respect.
It is not every set of Bacchanalians who, like Brede-
rode and his compeers, could lay deep the foundations
'of rebellion at a riotous supper party, and in their
cups adopt the name by which the sailors of Zeeland,
through long years of peril, were proud to be called.
And now, when their wild youth was spent, the. men
who finally won freedom for the Netherlands come
before us, intensified by time, sobered by danger, yet
undaunted one of the noblest groups in the gallery
of the heroes of the world : sailors, like Drake and
Nassau ; soldiers, like La Noue, Norris, and Sidney ;
partisans, like Schenk and Hohenlo; statesmen, like
Buys, Barneveld, and Walsingham.

Into the counsels of these men came Leicester, at
once incapable and unworthy. In the field and in
the cabinet he was a child in the hands of Farnese.


Every step he took in the Netherlands was a blunder,
or worse. He began by feasting at The Hague, he
ended by an attempt to establish his own power in
the scene of his revels, and to destroy the constitu-
tional government of the Provinces. His first step
was eminently injudicious. Elizabeth had expressly
forbidden one thing that he should accept the
supreme authority in Holland. The moment he got
there, this obedient subject proceeded to take all the
authority he could get, and to intrigue for more. He
got all he wanted ; and having thus grievously
offended his sovereign, he made no attempt to de-
precate her certain anger. When the storm burst, he
poured forth whimpering appeals, imploring permis-
sion to return, were it only to " rub her horse's heels."
The Queen was appeased ; but the envoy had been
publicly degraded, and the confidence of the States
was not easily restored. Leicester took no pains to
regain it. He would brook no restraint from the
Hollanders, determined, as he wrote to Davison, that
he would "have no other alliance but with gentle
blood." He weakened the cause of the patriots by
persecuting all the Papists on whom he could lay his
hands. Indeed, this good man's hatred of Popery
was most exemplary. A loose, easy-going fellow like
William the Silent, denounced all oppression, and
sheltered within his young republic Papists, Luther-
ans, Calvinists, and Anabaptists alike. But a man of
rigid principle, and edifying life and conversation,
like the husband of Amy Kobsart, could not act thus.
He was no Gallio ; and under his administration,
therefore, Papists were oppressed, plundered, and
banished. He quarrelled with every English diplo-
matist, and with every English soldier, save one who
wisely truckled to him. His hatreds were conceived in
a moment, and endured for a lifetime. At last, when


his arrogance, his revengefulness, his deceit, had
brought distrust and dislike to a height, he suddenly
crossed to England, leaving the patriots without a
leader for seven months ; and yet refusing to resign
his office that it might be rilled by another. Hating
every competent officer under him, he confided the
city of Deventer, a large, prosperous, commercial, and
manufacturing capital, to a pack of wild Irish kernes,
headed by Sir William Stanley. For the only time
in the annals of England, deliberate treason in the
field stained the honour of the English arms. Stanley
betrayed Deventer to the Spaniards. The Hollanders
went mad with grief and rage. The services of the
English were forgotten ; the sufferings of the starving
English soldiers were unrelieved ; their lives were
hardly secure. In the midst of the turmoil Leicester
returned, but only to work more evil. He returned to
be denounced by Barneveld in the States to display
again his incapacity as a general to form abortive
conspiracies in Leyden and Amsterdam in a word,
to do his utmost to destroy the commonwealth of
the Netherlands in the very crisis of the struggle to

Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 12 of 38)