Copyright
John Lothrop Motley.

History of the United Netherlands: from the death of William the Silent to the twelve years' truce--1609 (Volume 2) online

. (page 78 of 118)
Online LibraryJohn Lothrop MotleyHistory of the United Netherlands: from the death of William the Silent to the twelve years' truce--1609 (Volume 2) → online text (page 78 of 118)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


he divided them into two formidable bands, one under the
charge of his young brother Frederic Henry, the other under
that most brilliant of cavalry officers, Marcellus Bax, hero of
Turnhout and many another well-fought field.
" Meteren. Van der Kemp. *• Authorities cited. ^* Bentivoglo, iii. 536.



236 THE UNITED NETHERLANDS. Chap. XLIV.

The river Ruhr was a wide but desultory stream, easily
fordable in many places. On the opposite bank to Mulheim
was the Castle of Broek, and some hills of considerable eleva-
tion. Bax was ordered to cross the river and seize the castle
and the heights, Count Henry to attack the enemy's camp
in front, while Maurice himself, following rapidly with the
advance of infantry and wagons, was to sustain the assault.

Marcellus Bax, rapid and dashing as usual, crossed the
Ruhr, captured Broek Castle with ease, and stood
ready to prevent the retreat of the Spaniards.
Taken by surprise in front, they would naturally seek refuge
on the other side of the river. That stream was not difficult
for infantry, but as the banks were steep, cavahy could not
easily extricate themselves from the water, except at certain
prepared landings. Bax waited however for some time in vain
for the flying Spaniards. It was not destined that the stad-
holder should effect many surprises that year. The troopers
under Frederic Henry had made their approaches through an
intricate path, often missing their way, and in far more
leisurely fashion than was intended, so that outlying scouts
had brought in information of the coming attack. As Count
Henry approached the village, Trivulzio's cavalry was found
drawn up in battle array, formidable in numbers, and most
fully prepared for their visitors from Wesel. The party
most astonished was that which came to surprise. In an
instant one of those uncontrollable panics broke out to which
even veterans are as subject as to dysentery or scurvy. The
best cavalry of Maurice's army turned their backs at the very
sight of the foe, and galloped off much faster than they had
come.

Meantime, Marcellus Bax was assaulted, not only by his
late handful of antagonists, who had now rallied, but by troops
from Mulheim, who began to wade across the stream. At
that moment he was cheered by the sight of Count Henry
coming on with a very few of his troopers who had stood to
their colours. A simultaneous charge from both banks
at the enemy floundering in the river was attempted. It



1605. PANIC AMONG MAURICE'S TROOPS. 237

might have been brilliantly successful, but the panic had
crossed the river faster than the Spaniards could do, and
the whole splendid picked cavalry force of the republic,
commanded by the youngest son of William the Silent, and
by the favourite cavalry commander of her armies, was, after
a hot but brief action, in disgraceful and unreasonable flight.
The stadholder reached the bank of that fatal stream only to
witness this maddening spectacle, instead of the swift and
brilliant triumph which he w^as justified in expecting. He
did his best to stem the retreating tide. He called upon the
veterans, by the memory of Turnhout and Nieuport, and
so many other \actories, to pause and redeem their name
before it was too late. He taunted them with their frequent
demands to be led to battle, and their expressed impatience
at enforced idleness. He denounced them as valiant only
for plundering defenceless peasants, and as cowards against
armed men ; as trusting more to their horses' heels than to
their own right hands. He invoked curses upon them for
deserting his young brother, who, conspicuous among them
by his gilded armour, the orange-plumes upon his casque, and
the bright orange-scarf across his shoulders, was now sorely
pressed in the struggling throng.^

It was all in vain. Could Maurice have thrown himself
into the field, he might, as in the crisis of the republic's fate
at Nieuport, have once more converted ruin into victory by
the magic of his presence. But the river was between him
and the battle, and he was an enforced spectator of his
country's disgrace.

For a few brief moments his demeanour, his taunts, and his
.supplications had checked the flight of his troops.

A stand was made by a portion of the cavalry and a few
detached but fierce combats took place. Count
Frederic Henry was in imminent danger. Leading
a mere handful of his immediate retainers, he threw himself
into the thickest of the fight, with the characteristic audacity
of his house. A Spanish trooper aimed his carbine full at his
^^ Orotius, xiv. 671.



238 THE UNITED NETHERLANDS. Chap. XLIV

face. It missed fire, and Henry, having emptied his own
pistol, was seized by the floating scarf upon his breast by more
than one enemy. There was a brief struggle, and death or
capture seemed certain ; when an unkno^vn hand laid his
nearest antagonist low, and enabled him to escape from over-
powering numbers.^' The soldier, whose devotion thus saved
the career of the youngest Orange-Nassau destined to be so
long and so brilliant, from being cut off so prematurely, was
never again heard of,*^ and doubtless perished in the fray.

Meantime the brief sparkle of valour on the part of the
States' troops had already vanished. The adroit Spinola,
hurrying personally to the front, had caused such a clangoi
from all the drums and trumpets in Broek and its neighbour-
hood to be made as to persuade the restive cavalry that the
whole force of the enemy was already upon them. The day
was obviously lost, and Maurice, with a heavy heart, now him-
self gave the signal to retreat. Drawing up the greater part
of his infantry in solid mass upon the banks to protect the
passage, he sent a force to the opposite side, Horace Vere
being the first to wade the stream. All that was then possible
to do was accomplished, and the panic flight converted into
orderly retreat, but it was a day of disaster and disgrace for
the republic.^®

About five hundred of the best States' cavalry were left
dead on the field, but the stain upon his almost unsullied flag
was more cutting to the stadholder's heart than the death of
his veterans. The material results were in truth almost even.
The famous cavalry general, Count Trivulzio, with at least
three hundred Spaniards, fell in the combat,'* but the glory of
having defeated the best cavalry of Europe in a stricken field
and under the very eyes of the stadholder would have been
sufficient compensation to Spinola for much greater losses.

Maurice withdrew towards Wesel, sullen but not despond-
ing. His forces were meagre, and although he had been out-

*■> Grotius, xiv. 671. Meteren, 523^". *» Grotius, ubi sup.

« Ibid. xiv. 669-672. Meteren, 523 and ^o. Bentivoglio, iii. 537. Van der
Kemp, ii. 116, 510, 511. so i^^^



1605. RESULTS OF THE CAMPAIGN. 239

generalled, out-marched, and defeated in the open field, at
least the Genoese had not planted the blow which he had
meditated in the very heart of the reijublic.

Autumn was now far advanced, and dripping with rain.
The roads and fields were fast becoming impassable sloughs,
and no further large operations could be expected in this
campaign. Yet the stadholder's cup was not full, and he
Avas destined to witness two more triumphs of his rival, now
fast becoming famous, before this year of disasters should
close. On the 27th October, Spinola took the city 27 Oct.
of Wachtendonk, after ten days' siege, and on the ^ ■^°^'
5th of November the strong place of Cracow,^'

Maurice was forced to see these positions captured almost
under his eyes, being now quite powerless to afibrd relief.
His troops had dwindled by sickness and necessary detach-
ments for gaiTison-work to a comparatively insignificant force,
and very soon afterwards both armies went into winter
quarters.^^

The States were excessively disappointed at the results of
the year's work, and deep if not loud were the reproaches cast
upon the stadholder. Certainly his military reputation had not
been augmented by this campaign. He had lost many .places,
and had not gained an inch of ground anywhere. Already
the lustre of Sluys, of Nieuport, and Turnhout were growing
dim, for Maurice had so accustomed the republic to .victories
that his own past triumphs seemed now his greatest enemies.
Moreover he had founded a school out of which apt pupils
had already graduated, and it would seem that the Genoese
volunteer had rapidly profited by his teachings as only a man
endowed with exquisite military genius could have done.

Yet, after all, it seems certain that, with the stadholder's
limited means, and with the awful consequences to the country
of a total defeat in the open field, the Fabian tactics, wliich
he had now deliberately adopted, were the most reasonable.
The invader of foreign domains, the suppressor of great

6' Meteren, 523^o. Bentivr^frlio, iii. 536. Grot. xiv. 673. Van dcr Kemp,
ii 117. « Ibid.



240 THE UNITED NETHERLANDS. Chap. XLIV.

revolts, can indulge in the expensive luxury of procrastination
only at imminent peril. For the defence, it is always possible
to conquer by delay, and it was perfectly understood between
Spinola and his ablest advisers at the Spanish court ^ that
the blows must be struck thick and fast, and at the most
vulnerable places, or that the victoiy would be lost.

Time was the ally not of the Spanish invaders, who came
from afar, but of the Dutch burghers, who remained at home.
" Jam aut Nunquam," " was the motto upon the Italian's
banners.

In proportion to the depression in the republic at the re-
sults of this year's campaigning was the elation at the Spanish
court. Bad news and false news had preceded the authentic
intelligence of Spinola's victories. The English envoy had
received unquestionable information that the Catholic general
had sustained an overwhelming defeat at the close of the
campaign, with a loss of three thousand five hundred men.^
The tale was implicitly believed by king and cabinet, so that
when, very soon afterwards, the couriers arrived bringing
official accounts of the victory gained over the veteran cavalry
of the States in the very presence of the stadholder, followed
by the crowning triumph of Wachtendonk, the demonstrations
of joy were all the more vivacious in consequence of the pre-
vious gloom.^*^ Spinola himself followed hard upon the latest
messengers, and was received with ovations." Never, since
the days of Alexander Farnese, had a general at the Spanish
court been more cordially caressed or hated. Had Philip the
Prudent been still upon the throne, he would have felt it his
duty to make immediate arrangements for poisoning him.
Certainly his plans and his popularity would have been under-
mined in the most artistic manner.

But Philip III., more dangerous to rabbits than to generals,
left the Genoese to settle the plans of his next campaign with
Lerma and his parasites.

\ The subtle Spinola, having, in his despatches, ascribed the

chief merit of the victories to Louis Velasco, a Spaniard, while

" Grot. xiv. 660. " Ibid. " Gallucci, ii. 253, seqq. «« Ibid. " n^^^



1805. TRIUMPHS OF SPINOLA. 241

his own original conception of transferring the war to Fries-
land was attributed by him with magnificent effrontery to
Lerma and to the king"^" — who were probably quite ignorant
of the existence of that remote province — succeeded in main-
taining his favourable position at court, and was allowed, by
what was called the war-council, to manage matters nearly
at his pleasure.

It is difficult however to understand how so much clamour
should have been made over such paltry triumphs. All
Europe rang with a cavalry fight in which less than a
thousand saddles on both sides had been emptied, leading to
no result, and with the capture of a couple of insignificant
towns, of which not one man in a thousand had ever heard.

Spinola had doubtless shown genius of a subtle and inventive
order, and his fortunate audacity in measuring himself, while
a mere apprentice, against the first military leader living had
been crowned with wonderful success. He had nailed the stad-
holder fast to the island of Cadzand, while he was perfecting
his arrangements and building boats on the Rhine ; he had
propounded riddles which Maurice had spent three of the best
campaigning months in idle efforts to guess, and when he
at last moved, he had swept to his mark with the swiftness
and precision of a bird of prey. Yet the greatest of all
qualities in a military commander, that of deriving substantial
fruits from victory instead of barren trophies, he had not
manifested. If it had been a great stroke of art to seize
Lingen before Maurice could reach Deventer, it was an
enormous blunder, wortliy of a journeyman soldier, to fail to
seize the Bourtange marshes, and drive his sword into the
very vitals of the republic, thus placed at his mercy.

Meantime, while there had been all these rejoicings and
tribulations at the great doings on the Rhine and the short-
coming in Friesland, the real operations of the war had been
at the antipodes.

It is not a very unusual phenomenon in history that the
events, upon whose daily development the contemporary
^^ Ciallucci, ii. 353, seqq,

VOL. IV. — R



242 THE UNITED NETHERLANDS Chap. XLIV.

world hangs with most palpitating interest, are far inferior in
permanent influence upon the general movement of humanity
to a series of distant and aj^parently commonplace transac-
tions.

Empires are built up or undermined by the ceaseless
industry of obscure multitudes often slightly observed, or
but dimly comprehended.

Battles and sieges, dreadful marches, eloquent debates,
intricate diplomacy — from time to time but only perhaps at
rare intei-vals — have decided or modified the destiny of na-
tions, while very often the clash of arms, the din of rhetoric,
the whiz of political spindles, produce nothing valuable for
human consumption, and made the world no richer.

If tlie age of heroic and religious passion was rapidly
fading away before the gradual uprising of a politico-mercan-
tile civilization — as it certainly was — the most vital events,
those in which the fate of coming generations was most
deeply involved, were those insj)ired by the spirit of com-
mercial enterprise.

Nor can it be denied that there is often a genial and poetic
essence even among things practical or of almost vulgar
exterior. In those early expeditions of the Hollanders to
the flaming lands of the equator there is a rhythm and
romance of historical movement not less significant than in
their unexampled defence of fatherland and of the world's
liberty against the great despotism of the age.

Universal monarchy was bafiled by the little republic, not
within its own populous cities only, or upon its own barren
sands. The long combat between Freedom and Absolutism
had now become as wide as the world. The greatest
European states had been dragged by the iron chain of ne-
cessity into a conflict from which they often struggled to
escape, and on every ocean, and on almost every foot of soil,
where the footsteps of mankind had as yet been imprinted,
the fierce encounters were every day renewed. In the east
and the west, throughout that great vague new world, of which
geographers had hardly yet made a sketch, which comprised



1605. ADVANCE OF HUMAN LIBERTY. 243

both the Americas and something called the East Indies, and
which Spain claimed as her private property, those humbly
born and energetic adventurers were rapidly creating a sym-
metrical system out of most dismal chaos.

The King of Spain warned all nations from trespassing
upon those outlying possessions.

His edicts had not however prevented the English in
moderate numbers, and the Hollanders in steadily increasing
swarms, from enlarging and making profitable use of these
new domains of the world's commerce.

The days were coming when the People was to have more
to say than the pope in regard to the disposition and aiTange-
ments of certain large districts of this planet. While the
world-empire, which still excited so much dismay, was yield-
ing to constant corrosion, another empire, created by well-
directed toil and unflinching courage, was steadily rising out
of the depths. It has often been thought amazing that the
little republic should so long and so triumphantly withstand
the enormous forces brought forward for her destruction. It
was not, however, so verv^ surprising. Foremost among na-
tions, and in advance of the age, the republic had found the
strength which comes from the sjiirit of association. On a
wider scale than ever before known, large masses of men,
with their pecuniary means, had been intelligently banded
together to advance material interests. When it is remem-
bered that, in addition to this force, the whole commonwealth
was inspired by the divine influence of liberty, her power will
no longer seem so wonderful.

A sinister event in the Isle of Ceylon had opened the series
of transactions in the East, and had cast a gloom over the
public sentiment at home. The enterprising voyager, Sebald
de Weerdt, one of the famous brotherhood of the Invincible
Lion which had Avintered in the straits of Magellan,™ had
been murdered through the treachery of the King of Candy.
His countrymen had not taken vengeance on his assassins.
They were perhaps too fearful of losing their growing trade
" Vol. iii. page 579 of this History.



244



THE UNITED NETHERLANDS.



Chap. XLlV



in those lucrative regions to take a becoming stand in that
emergency. They were also not as yet sufficiently powerful
there,*^"

The East India Company had sent out in May of this year
its third fleet of eleven large ships, besides some smaller
vessels, under the general superintendence of Matelieff de
Jonghe, one of the directors. The investments for the voyage
amounted to more than nineteen hundred thousand florins.*'^

Meantime the preceding adventurers under Stephen van
der Hagen, who had sailed at the end of 1603, had been
doing much thorough work.*'^ A firm league had been made
with one of the chief potentates of Malabar, enabling them to
build forts and establish colonies in perpetual menace of Goa,
the great oriental capital of the Portuguese. The return of the
ambassadors sent out from Astgen to Holland had filled not
only the island of Sumatra but the Moluccas, and all the
adjacent regions, with praises of the power, wealth, and high
civilization of that distant republic so long depicted by rivals
as a nest of uncouth and sanguinary savages.^ The fleet now
proceeded to AmbojTia, a stronghold of the Spanish-Portu-
guese, and the seat of a most lucrative trade.

On the arrival of those foreign well-armed ships under the
guns of the fortress, the governor sent to demand, with
Castilian arrogance, who the intruders were, and by whose
authority and with what intent they presumed to show them-
selves in those waters. The reply was that they came in the
name and by the authority of their High Mightinesses the
States-General, and their stadholder the Prince of Orange ;
that they were sworn enemies of the King of Spain and all
his subjects, and that as to their intent, this would soon be made
apparent.^ Whereupon, without much more ado, they began
a bombardment of the fort, which mounted thirty-six guns.
The governor, as often happened in those regions, being less
valiant against determined European foes than towards the



*« Wagenaar, ix. 197. Meteren,
books xxvi. xxviii.

'* Wagenaar, Meteren, loc. cit



«2 Wagenaar, ix. 198

*3 Ibid. Grotius, xv. 700, seqq.

" Grotius XV. 702.



1605. EXPEDITION TO THE CLOVE ISLANDS. 245

feebler oriental races on which he had been accustomed to
trample, succumbed with hardly an effort at resistance.^
The castle and town and whole island were surrendered to
the fleet, and thenceforth became virtually a colony of the
republic with which, nominally, treaties of alliance and
defence were negotiated. Thence the fleet, after due posses-
session had been taken of these new domains, sailed partly to
Banda and partly to two small but most important islands of
the Moluccas."^

In that multitude of islands which make up the Eastern
Archipelago there were but five at that period where grew
the clove — Temate, Tydor, Motiel, Makian, and Bacia.^

Pepper and ginger, even nutmegs, cassia, and mace, were
but vulgar drugs, precious as they were already to the world
and the world's commerce, compared with this most magnifi-
cent spice.

It is wonderful to reflect upon the strange composition of
man. The world had lived in former ages very comfortably
without cloves. But by the beginning of the seventeenth
century that odoriferous pistil had been the cause of so many
pitched battles and obstinate wars, of so much vituperation,
negotiation, and intriguing, that the world's destiny seemed
to have almost become dependent upon the growth of a
particular gillyflower. Out of its sweetness had grown such
bitterness among great nations as not toiTents of blood could
wash away. A commonplace condiment enough it seems to
us now, easily to be dispensed with, and not worth purchasing
at a thousand human lives or so the cargo, but it was once the
great prize to be struggled for by civilized nations. From
that fervid earth, warmed from within by volcanic heat, and
basking ever beneath the equatorial sun, arose vapours as
deadly to human life as the fruits were exciting and delicious
to human senses. Yet the atmosphere of pestiferous fragrance
had attracted rather than repelled. The poisonous delights
of the climate, added to the perpetual and various warfare for

«" Qrotius, XV. 702. Wagenaar, ix. 197, 198.
•* Ibid. Meteren, 537. *' Grotius, itbi aup.

Vol. II— 8*



'246 THE uisriTtD Netherlands. chap. xliv.

its productions, spread a strange fascination around those fatal
isles.

Especially Temate and Tydor were objects of unending
strife. Chinese, Malays, Persians, Arabs, had struggled cen-
turies long for their possession ; those races successively or
simultaneously ruling these and adjacent portions of the
Archipelago. The great geographical discoveries at the
close of the fifteenth century had however changed the aspect
of India and of the world. The Portuguese adventurers found
two rival kings in the two jirecious islands, and by ingeni-
ously protecting one of these jiotentates and poisoning the
other, soon made themselves masters of the field. The clove
trade was now entirely in the hands of the strangers from
the antipodes. Goa became the great mart of the lucrative
traffic, and thither came Chinese, Arabs, Moors, and other
oriental traders to be supplied from the Portuguese monopoly.
Two-thirds of the spices however found their way directly to
Europe.

Naturally enough, the Spaniards soon penetrated into
these seas, and claimed their portion of the spice trade.
They insisted that the coveted islands were included in their
portion of the great Borgian grant. As there had hardly yet
been time to make a trigonometrical survey of an unknown
world, 80 generously divided by the pope, there was no way
of settling disputed boundary questions save by apostolr;
blows. These were exchanged with much earnestness, year
after year, between Spaniards, Portuguese, and all who came
in their way. Especially the unfortunate natives, and their
kings most of all, came in for a full share. At last Charles
V. sold out his share of the spice islands to his Portu-
guese rival and co-proprietor, for three hundred and fifty
thousand ducats.^ The emperor's very active pursuits caused
him to require ready money more than cloves. Yet John
III. had made an excellent bargain, and the monopoly
thenceforth brought him in at least two hundred thousand
ducats annually. Goa became more flourishing, the natives
^ Grotius, XV. 704.



1605. NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE KING OF TERNATE. 247

more wretched, the Portuguese more detested than ever.
Occasionally one of the royal line of victims would consent
to put a diadem upon his head, hut the coronation was usually
the prelude to a dungeon or death. The treaties of alliance,
which these unlucky potentates had formed viith their power-
ful invaders, were, as so often is the case, mere deeds to
convey themselves and their subjects into slavery.

Spain and Portugal becoming one, the slender weapon of
defence which these weak but subtle Orientals sometimes
emj^loyed with success — the international and commercial
jealousy between their two oppressors — was taken away. It
was therefore with joy that Zaida, who sat on the throne of
Ternate at the end of the sixteenth century, saw the sails of a



Online LibraryJohn Lothrop MotleyHistory of the United Netherlands: from the death of William the Silent to the twelve years' truce--1609 (Volume 2) → online text (page 78 of 118)