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Produced by David Widger



By John Lothrop Motley


CHAPTER III. 1574-1576

Latter days of the Blood Council - Informal and insincere
negotiations for peace - Characteristics of the negotiators and of
their diplomatic correspondence - Dr. Junius - Secret conferences
between Dr. Leoninus and Orange - Steadfastness of the Prince -
Changes in the internal government of the northern provinces -
Generosity and increasing power of the municipalities - Incipient
jealousy in regard to Orange rebuked - His offer of resignation
refused by the Estates - His elevation to almost unlimited power -
Renewed mediation of Maximilian - Views and positions of the parties
- Advice of Orange - Opening of negotiations at Breda - Propositions
and counter-propositions - Adroitness of the plenipotentiaries on
both sides - Insincere diplomacy and unsatisfactory results - Union of
Holland and Zealand under the Prince of Orange - Act defining his
powers - Charlotte de Bourbon - Character, fortunes, and fate of Anna
of Saxony - Marriage of Orange with Mademoiselle de Bourbon -
Indignation thereby excited - Horrible tortures inflicted upon
Papists by Sonoy in North Holland - Oudewater and Schoonoven taken by
Hierges - The isles of Zealand - A submarine expedition projected -
Details of the adventure - Its entire success - Death of Chiappin
Vitelli - Deliberations in Holland and Zealand concerning the
renunciation of Philip's authority - Declaration at Delft - Doubts as
to which of the Great Powers the sovereignty should be offered -
Secret international relations - Mission to England - Unsatisfactory
negotiations with Elizabeth - Position of the Grand Commander - Siege
of Zieriekzee - Generosity of Count John - Desperate project of the
Prince - Death and character of Requesens.

The Council of Troubles, or, as it will be for ever denominated in
history, the Council of Blood, still existed, although the Grand
Commander, upon his arrival in the Netherlands, had advised his sovereign
to consent to the immediate abolition of so odious an institution. Philip
accepting the advice of his governor and his cabinet, had accordingly
authorized him by a letter of the 10th of March, 1574, to take that step
if he continued to believe it advisable.

Requesens had made use of this permission to extort money from the
obedient portion of the provinces. An assembly of deputies was held at
Brussels on the 7th of June, 1574, and there was a tedious interchange of
protocols, reports, and remonstrances. The estates, not satisfied with
the extinction of a tribunal which had at last worn itself out by its own
violence, and had become inactive through lack of victims, insisted on
greater concessions. They demanded the departure of the Spanish troops,
the establishment of a council of Netherlanders in Spain for Netherland
affairs, the restoration to offices in the provinces of natives and
natives only; for these drawers of documents thought it possible, at that
epoch, to recover by pedantry what their brethren of Holland and Zealand
were maintaining with the sword. It was not the moment for historical
disquisition, citations from Solomon, nor chopping of logic; yet with
such lucubrations were reams of paper filled, and days and weeks
occupied. The result was what might have been expected. The Grand
Commander obtained but little money; the estates obtained none of their
demands; and the Blood Council remained, as it were, suspended in
mid-air. It continued to transact business at intervals during the
administration of Requesens, and at last, after nine years of existence,
was destroyed by the violent imprisonment of the Council of State at
Brussels. This event, however, belongs to a subsequent page of this

Noircarmes had argued, from the tenor of Saint Aldegonde's letters, that
the Prince would be ready to accept his pardon upon almost any terms.
Noircarmes was now dead, but Saint Aldegonde still remained in prison,
very anxious for his release, and as well disposed as ever to render
services in any secret negotiation. It will be recollected that, at the
capitulation of Middelburg, it had been distinctly stipulated by the
Prince that Colonel Mondragon should at once effect the liberation of
Saint Aldegonde, with certain other prisoners, or himself return into
confinement. He had done neither the one nor the other. The patriots
still languished in prison, some of them being subjected to exceedingly
harsh treatment, but Mondragon, although repeatedly summoned as an
officer and a gentleman, by the Prince, to return to captivity, had been
forbidden by the Grand Commander to redeem his pledge.

Saint Aldegonde was now released from prison upon parole, and despatched
on a secret mission to the Prince and estates. As before, he was
instructed that two points were to be left untouched - the authority of
the King and the question of religion. Nothing could be more preposterous
than to commence a negotiation from which the two important points were
thus carefully eliminated. The King's authority and the question of
religion covered the whole ground upon which the Spaniards and the
Hollanders had been battling for six years, and were destined to battle
for three-quarters of a century longer. Yet, although other affairs might
be discussed, those two points were to be reserved for the more
conclusive arbitration of gunpowder. The result of negotiations upon such
a basis was easily to be foreseen. Breath, time, and paper were profusely
wasted and nothing gained. The Prince assured his friend, as he had done
secret agents previously sent to him, that he was himself ready to leave
the land, if by so doing he could confer upon it the blessing of peace;
but that all hopes of reaching a reasonable conclusion from the premises
established was futile. The envoy treated also with the estates, and
received from them in return an elaborate report, which was addressed
immediately to the King. The style of this paper was bold and blunt, its
substance bitter and indigestible. It informed Philip what he had heard
often enough before, that the Spaniards must go and the exiles come back,
the inquisition be abolished and the ancient privileges restored, the
Roman Catholic religion renounce its supremacy, and the Reformed religion
receive permission to exist unmolested, before he could call himself
master of that little hook of sand in the North Sea. With this paper,
which was entrusted to Saint Aldegonde, by him to be delivered to the
Grand Commander, who was, after reading it, to forward it to its
destination, the negotiator returned to his prison. Thence he did not
emerge again till the course of events released him, upon the 15th of
October, 1574.

This report was far from agreeable to the Governor, and it became the
object of a fresh correspondence between his confidential agent,
Champagny, and the learned and astute Junius de Jonge, representative of
the Prince of Orange and Governor of Yeere. The communication of De Jonge
consisted of a brief note and a long discourse. The note was sharp and
stinging, the discourse elaborate and somewhat pedantic. Unnecessarily
historical and unmercifully extended, it was yet bold, bitter, and
eloquent: The presence of foreigners was proved to have been, from the
beginning of Philip's reign, the curse of the country. Doctor Sonnius,
with his batch of bishops, had sowed the seed of the first disorder. A
prince, ruling in the Netherlands, had no right to turn a deaf ear to the
petitions of his subjects. If he did so, the Hollanders would tell him,
as the old woman had told the Emperor Adrian, that the potentate who had
no time to attend to the interests of his subjects, had not leisure
enough to be a sovereign. While Holland refused to bow its neck to the
Inquisition, the King of Spain dreaded the thunder and lightning of the
Pope. The Hollanders would, with pleasure, emancipate Philip from his own
thraldom, but it was absurd that he, who was himself a slave to another
potentate, should affect unlimited control over a free people. It was
Philip's councillors, not the Hollanders, who were his real enemies; for
it was they who held him in the subjection by which his power was
neutralized and his crown degraded.

It may be supposed that many long pages, conceived in this spirit and
expressed with great vigor, would hardly smooth the way for the more
official negotiations which were soon to take place, yet Doctor Junius
fairly and faithfully represented the sentiment of his nation.

Towards the close of the year, Doctor Elbertus Leoninus, professor of
Louvain, together with Hugo Bonte, ex-pensionary of Middelburg, was
commissioned by the Grand Commander to treat secretly with the Prince. He
was, however, not found very tractable when the commissioners opened the
subject of his own pardon and reconciliation with the King, and he
absolutely refused to treat at all except with the cooperation of the
estates. He, moreover, objected to the use of the word "pardon" on the
ground that he had never done anything requiring his Majesty's
forgiveness. If adversity should visit him, he cared but little for it;
he had lived long enough, he said, and should die with some glory,
regretting the disorders and oppressions which had taken place, but
conscious that it had not been in his power to remedy them. When reminded
by the commissioners of the King's power, he replied that he knew his
Majesty to be very mighty, but that there was a King more powerful
still - even God the Creator, who, as he humbly hoped, was upon his Side.

At a subsequent interview with Hugo Bonte, the Prince declared it almost
impossible for himself or the estates to hold any formal communication
with the Spanish government, as such communications were not safe. No
trust could be reposed either in safe conducts or hostages. Faith had
been too often broken by the administration. The promise made by the
Duchess of Parma to the nobles, and afterwards violated, the recent
treachery of Mondragon, the return of three exchanged prisoners from the
Hague, who died next day of poison administered before their release, the
frequent attempts upon his own life - all such constantly recurring crimes
made it doubtful, in the opinion of the Prince, whether it would be
possible to find commissioners to treat with his Majesty's government.
All would fear assassination, afterwards to be disavowed by the King and
pardoned by the Pope. After much conversation in this vein, the Prince
gave the Spanish agents warning that he might eventually be obliged to
seek the protection of some foreign power for the provinces. In this
connection he made use of the memorable metaphor, so often repeated
afterwards, that "the country was a beautiful damsel, who certainly did
not lack suitors able and willing to accept her and defend her against
the world." As to the matter of religion, he said he was willing to leave
it to be settled by the estates-general; but doubted whether anything
short of entire liberty of worship would ever satisfy the people.

Subsequently there were held other conferences, between the Prince and
Doctor Leoninus, with a similar result, all attempts proving fruitless to
induce him to abandon his position upon the subject of religion, or to
accept a pardon on any terms save the departure of the foreign troops,
the assembling of the estates-general, and entire freedom of religion.
Even if he were willing to concede the religious question himself, he
observed that it was idle to hope either from the estates or people a
hand's-breadth of concession upon that point. Leoninus was subsequently
admitted to a secret conference with the estates of Holland, where his
representations were firmly met by the same arguments as those already
used by the Prince.

These proceedings on the part of Saint Aldegonde, Champagny, Junius, and
Elbertus Leoninus extended through the whole summer and autumn of 1574,
and were not terminated until January of the following year.

Changes fast becoming necessary in the internal government of the
provinces, were also undertaken during this year. Hitherto the Prince had
exercised his power under the convenient fiction of the King's authority,
systematically conducting the rebellion in the name of his Majesty, and
as his Majesty's stadholder. By this process an immense power was lodged
in his hands; nothing less, indeed, than the supreme executive and
legislative functions of the land; while since the revolt had become, as
it were, perpetual, ample but anomalous functions had been additionally
thrust upon him by the estates and by the general voice of the people.

The two provinces, even while deprived of Harlem and Amsterdam, now
raised two hundred and ten thousand florins monthly, whereas Alva had
never been able to extract from Holland more than two hundred and
seventy-one thousand florins yearly. They paid all rather than pay a
tenth. In consequence of this liberality, the cities insensibly acquired
a greater influence in the government. The coming contest between the
centrifugal aristocratic principle, represented by these corporations,
and the central popular authority of the stadholder, was already
foreshadowed, but at first the estates were in perfect harmony with the
Prince. They even urged upon him more power than he desired, and declined
functions which he wished them to exercise. On the 7th of September,
1573, it had been formally proposed by the general council to confer a
regular and unlimited dictatorship upon him, but in the course of a year
from that time, the cities had begun to feel their increasing importance.
Moreover, while growing more ambitious, they became less liberal.

The Prince, dissatisfied with the conduct of the cities, brought the
whole subject before an assembly of the estates of Holland on the 20th
October, 1574. He stated the inconveniences produced by the anomalous
condition of the government. He complained that the common people had
often fallen into the error that the money raised for public purposes had
been levied for his benefit only, and that they had, therefore, been less
willing to contribute to the taxes. As the only remedy for these evils,
he tendered his resignation of all the powers with which he was clothed,
so that the estates might then take the government, which they could
exercise without conflict or control. For himself, he had never desired
power, except as a means of being useful to his country, and he did not
offer his resignation from unwillingness to stand by the cause, but from
a hearty desire to save it from disputes among its friends. He was ready,
now as ever, to shed the last drop of his blood to maintain the freedom
of the land.

This straightforward language produced an instantaneous effect. The
estates knew that they were dealing with a man whose life was governed by
lofty principles, and they felt that they were in danger of losing him
through their own selfishness and low ambition. They were embarrassed,
for they did not like to, relinquish the authority which they had begun
to relish, nor to accept the resignation of a man who was indispensable.
They felt that to give up William of Orange at that time was to accept
the Spanish yoke for ever. At an assembly held at Delft on the 12th of
November, 1574, they accordingly requested him "to continue in his
blessed government, with the council established near him," and for this
end, they formally offered to him, "under the name of Governor or Regent,"
absolute power, authority, and sovereign command. In particular, they
conferred on him the entire control of all the ships of war, hitherto
reserved to the different cities, together with the right to dispose of
all prizes and all monies raised for the support of fleets. They gave him
also unlimited power over the domains; they agreed that all magistracies,
militia bands, guilds, and communities, should make solemn oath to
contribute taxes and to receive garrisons, exactly as the Prince, with
his council, should ordain; but they made it a condition that the estates
should be convened and consulted upon requests, impositions, and upon all
changes in the governing body. It was also stipulated that the judges of
the supreme court and of the exchequer, with other high officers, should
be appointed by and with the consent of the estates.

The Prince expressed himself willing to accept the government upon these
terms. He, however, demanded an allowance of forty-five thousand florins
monthly for the army expenses and other current outlays. Here, however,
the estates refused their consent. In a mercantile spirit, unworthy the
occasion and the man with whom they were dealing, they endeavoured to
chaffer where they should have been only too willing to comply, and they
attempted to reduce the reasonable demand of the Prince to thirty
thousand florins. The Prince, who had poured out his own wealth so
lavishly in the cause - who, together with his brothers, particularly the
generous John of Nassau, had contributed all which they could raise by
mortgage, sales of jewellery and furniture, and by extensive loans,
subjecting themselves to constant embarrassment, and almost to penury,
felt himself outraged by the paltriness of this conduct. He expressed his
indignation, and denounced the niggardliness of the estates in the
strongest language, and declared that he would rather leave the country
for ever, with the maintenance of his own honor, than accept the
government upon such disgraceful terms. The estates, disturbed by his
vehemence, and struck with its justice, instantly, and without further
deliberation, consented to his demand. They granted the forty-five
thousand florins monthly, and the Prince assumed the government, thus

During the autumn and early winter of the year 1574, the Emperor
Maximilian had been actively exerting himself to bring about a
pacification of the Netherlands. He was certainly sincere, for an
excellent reason. "The Emperor maintains," said Saint Goard, French
ambassador at Madrid, "that if peace is not made with the Beggars, the
Empire will depart from the house of Austria, and that such is the
determination of the electors." On the other hand, if Philip were not
weary of the war, at any rate his means for carrying it on were
diminishing daily. Requesens could raise no money in the Netherlands; his
secretary wrote to Spain, that the exchequer was at its last gasp, and
the cabinet of Madrid was at its wits' end, and almost incapable of
raising ways and means. The peace party was obtaining the upper hand; the
fierce policy of Alva regarded with increasing disfavor. "The people
here," wrote Saint Goard from Madrid, "are completely desperate, whatever
pains they take to put a good face on the matter. They desire most
earnestly to treat, without losing their character." It seemed,
nevertheless, impossible for Philip to bend his neck. The hope of wearing
the Imperial crown had alone made his bigotry feasible. To less potent
influences it was adamant; and even now, with an impoverished exchequer,
and, after seven years of unsuccessful warfare, his purpose was not less
rigid than at first. "The Hollanders demand liberty of conscience," said
Saint Goard, "to which the King will never consent, or I am much

As for Orange, he was sincerely in favor of peace - but not a dishonorable
peace, in which should be renounced all the objects of the war. He was
far from sanguine on the subject, for he read the signs of the times and
the character of Philip too accurately to believe much more in the
success of the present than in that of the past efforts of Maximilian. He
was pleased that his brother-in-law, Count Schwartzburg, had been
selected as the Emperor's agent in the affair, but expressed his doubts
whether much good would come of the proposed negotiations. Remembering
the many traps which in times past had been set by Philip and his father,
he feared that the present transaction might likewise prove a snare. "We
have not forgotten the words I 'ewig' and 'einig' in the treaty with
Landgrave Philip," he wrote; "at the same time we beg to assure his
Imperial Majesty that we desire nothing more than a good peace, tending
to the glory of God, the service of the King of Spain, and the prosperity
of his subjects."

This was his language to his brother, in a letter which was meant to be
shown to the Emperor. In another, written on the same day, he explained
himself with more clearness, and stated his distrust with more energy.
There were no papists left, except a few ecclesiastics, he said; so much
had the number of the Reformers been augmented, through the singular
grace of God. It was out of the question to suppose, therefore, that a
measure, dooming all who were not Catholics to exile, could be
entertained. None would change their religion, and none would consent,
voluntarily, to abandon for ever their homes, friends, and property.
"Such a peace," he said, "would be poor and pitiable indeed."

These, then, were the sentiments of the party now about to negotiate. The
mediator was anxious for a settlement, because the interests of the
Imperial house required it. The King of Spain was desirous of peace, but
was unwilling to concede a hair. The Prince of Orange was equally anxious
to terminate the war, but was determined not to abandon the objects for
which it had been undertaken. A favorable result, therefore, seemed
hardly possible. A whole people claimed the liberty to stay at home and
practice the Protestant religion, while their King asserted the right to
banish them for ever, or to burn them if they remained. The parties
seemed too far apart to be brought together by the most elastic
compromise. The Prince addressed an earnest appeal to the assembly of
Holland, then in session at Dort, reminding them that, although peace was
desirable, it might be more dangerous than war, and entreating them,
therefore, to conclude no treaty which should be inconsistent with the
privileges of the country and their duty to God.

It was now resolved that all the votes of the assembly should consist of
five: one for the nobles and large cities of Holland, one for the estates
of Zealand, one for the small cities of Holland, one for the cities
Bommel and Buren, and the fifth for William of Orange. The Prince thus
effectually held in his hands three votes: his own, that of the small
cities, which through his means only had been admitted to the assembly,
and thirdly, that of Buren, the capital of his son's earldom. He thus
exercised a controlling influence over the coming deliberations. The ten
commissioners, who were appointed by the estates for the peace
negotiations, were all his friends. Among them were Saint Aldegonde, Paul
Buis, Charles Boisot, and Doctor Junius. The plenipotentiaries of the
Spanish government were Leoninus, the Seigneur de Rassinghem, Cornelius
Suis, and Arnold Sasbout.

The proceedings were opened at Breda upon the 3rd of March, 1575. The
royal commissioners took the initiative, requesting to be informed what
complaints the estates had to make, and offering to remove, if possible,
all grievances which they might be suffering. The states' commissioners
replied that they desired nothing, in the first place, but an answer to
the petition which they had already presented to the King. This was the
paper placed in the hands of Saint Aldegonde during the informal
negotiations of the preceding year. An answer was accordingly given, but
couched in such vague and general language as to be quite without
meaning. The estates then demanded a categorical reply to the two
principal demands in the petition, namely, the departure of the foreign
troops and the assembling of the states-general. They, were asked what
they understood by foreigners and by the assembly of states-general. They
replied that by foreigners they meant those who were not natives, and
particularly the Spaniards. By the estates-general they meant the same
body before which, in 1555, Charles had resigned his sovereignty to
Philip. The royal commissioners made an extremely unsatisfactory answer,
concluding with a request that all cities, fortresses, and castles, then
in the power of the estates, together with all their artillery and
vessels of war, should be delivered to the King. The Roman Catholic
worship, it was also distinctly stated, was to be re-established at once
exclusively throughout the Netherlands; those of the Reformed religion
receiving permission, for that time only, to convert their property into

Online LibraryJohn Lothrop MotleyRise of the Dutch Republic, the — Complete (1574-84) → online text (page 1 of 48)