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was soon undeceived, and saluted with unceremonious reproaches.
"King of Bohemia! King of Bohemia!" shouted one of the boors,
"why do you trample on my wheat which I have so lately had the
trouble of sowing?" The king made many apologies, and retired,
throwing the whole blame on his dogs. But in the life of Marshal
Turenne we find a more marked trait of manners than this, which
might be paralleled in England at this day. This great general
served his apprenticeship in the art of war under his uncles, the
princes Maurice and Frederick Henry. He appeared one day on the
public walk at The Hague, dressed in his usual plain and modest
style. Some young French lords, covered with gold, embroidery, and
ribbons, met and accosted him: a mob gathered round; and while
treating Turenne, although unknown to them, with all possible
respect, they forced the others to retire, assailed with mockery
and the coarsest abuse.

[Footnote 5: Carleton.]

But one characteristic, more noble and worthy than any of those
thus briefly cited, was the full enjoyment of the liberty of
the press in the United Provinces. The thirst of gain, the fury
of faction, the federal independence of the minor towns, the
absolute power of Prince Maurice, all the combinations which
might carry weight against this grand principle, were totally
ineffectual to prevail over it. And the republic was, on this
point, proudly pre-eminent among surrounding nations.



A.D. 1648 - 1678

The completion of the peace of Munster opens a new scene in the
history of the republic. Its political system experienced
considerable changes. Its ancient enemies became its most ardent
friends, and its old allies loosened the bonds of long-continued
amity. The other states of Europe, displeased at its imperious
conduct, or jealous of its success, began to wish its humiliation;
but it was little thought that the consummation was to be effected
at the hands of England.

While Holland prepared to profit by the peace so brilliantly
gained, England, torn by civil war, was hurried on in crime and
misery to the final act which has left an indelible stain on her
annals. Cromwell and the parliament had completely subjugated
the kingdom. The unfortunate king, delivered up by the Scotch,
was brought to a mock trial, and condemned to an ignominious
death. Great as were his faults, they are almost lost sight of
in the atrocity of his opponents; so surely does disproportioned
punishment for political offences produce a reaction in the minds
that would approve a commensurate penalty. The United Provinces
had preserved a strict neutrality while the contest was undecided.
The Prince of Orange warmly strove to obtain a declaration in
favor of his father-in-law, Charles I. The Prince of Wales and
the Duke of York, his sons, who had taken refuge at The Hague,
earnestly joined in the entreaty; but all that could be obtained
from the states-general was their consent to an embassy to interpose
with the ferocious bigots who doomed the hapless monarch to the
block. Pauw and Joachimi, the one sixty-four years of age, the
other eighty-eight, the most able men of the republic, undertook
the task of mediation. They were scarcely listened to by the
parliament, and the bloody sacrifice took place.

The details of this event, and its immediate consequences, belong
to English history; and we must hurry over the brief, turbid,
and inglorious stadtholderate of William II., to arrive at the
more interesting contest between the republic which had honorably
conquered its freedom, and that of the rival commonwealth, which
had gained its power by hypocrisy, violence, and guilt.

William II. was now in his twenty-fourth year. He had early evinced
that heroic disposition which was common to his race. He panted
for military glory. All his pleasures were those usual to ardent
and high-spirited men, although his delicate constitution seemed
to forbid the indulgence of hunting, tennis, and the other violent
exercises in which he delighted. He was highly accomplished;
spoke five different languages with elegance and fluency, and
had made considerable progress in mathematics and other abstract
sciences. His ambition knew no bounds. Had he reigned over a
monarchy as absolute king, he would most probably have gone down
to posterity a conqueror and a hero. But, unfitted to direct a
republic as its first citizen, he has left but the name of a
rash and unconstitutional magistrate. From the moment of his
accession to power, he was made sensible of the jealousy and
suspicion with which his office and his character were observed
by the provincial states of Holland. Many instances of this
disposition were accumulated to his great disgust; and he was
not long in evincing his determination to brave all the odium
and reproach of despotic designs, and to risk everything for
the establishment of absolute power. The province of Holland,
arrogating to itself the greatest share in the reforms of the
army, and the financial arrangements called for by the transition
from war to peace, was soon in fierce opposition with the
states-general, which supported the prince in his early views.
Cornelius Bikker, one of the burgomasters of Amsterdam, was the
leading person in the states of Holland; and a circumstance soon
occurred which put him and the stadtholder in collision, and
quickly decided the great question at issue.

The admiral Cornellizon de Witt arrived from Brazil with the
remains of his fleet, and without the consent of the council of
regency there established by the states-general. He was instantly
arrested by order of the Prince of Orange, in his capacity of
high-admiral. The admiralty of Amsterdam was at the same time
ordered by the states-general to imprison six of the captains
of this fleet. The states of Holland maintained that this was a
violation of their provincial rights, and an illegal assumption
of power on the part of the states-general; and the magistrates
of Amsterdam forced the prison doors, and set the captains at
liberty. William, backed by the authority of the states-general,
now put himself at the head of a deputation from that body, and
made a rapid tour of visitation to the different chief towns of
the republic, to sound the depths of public opinion on the matters
in dispute. The deputation met with varied success; but the result
proved to the irritated prince that no measures of compromise were
to be expected, and that force alone was to arbitrate the question.
The army was to a man devoted to him. The states-general gave
him their entire, and somewhat servile, support. He, therefore,
on his own authority, arrested the six deputies of Holland, in
the same way that his uncle Maurice had seized on Barneveldt,
Grotius, and the others; and they were immediately conveyed to
the castle of Louvestein.

In adopting this bold and unauthorized measure, he decided on an
immediate attempt to gain possession of the city of Amsterdam,
the central point of opposition to his violent designs. William
Frederick, count of Nassau, stadtholder of Friesland, at the
head of a numerous detachment of troops, marched secretly and
by night to surprise the town; but the darkness and a violent
thunderstorm having caused the greater number to lose their way,
the count found himself at dawn at the city gates with a very
insufficient force; and had the further mortification to see the
walls well manned, the cannon pointed, the draw-bridges raised,
and everything in a state of defence. The courier from Hamburg,
who had passed through the scattered bands of soldiers during the
night, had given the alarm. The first notion was that a roving
band of Swedish or Lorraine troops, attracted by the opulence
of Amsterdam, had resolved on an attempt to seize and pillage
it. The magistrates could scarcely credit the evidence of day,
which showed them the count of Nassau and his force on their
hostile mission. A short conference with the deputies from the
citizens convinced him that a speedy retreat was the only measure
of safety for himself and his force, as the sluices of the dikes
were in part opened, and a threat of submerging the intended
assailants only required a moment more to be enforced.

Nothing could exceed the disappointment and irritation of the
Prince of Orange consequent on this transaction. He at first
threatened, then negotiated, and finally patched up the matter in
a mariner the least mortifying to his wounded pride. Bikker nobly
offered himself for a peace-offering, and voluntarily resigned
his employments in the city he had saved; and De Witt and his
officers were released. William was in some measure consoled for
his disgrace by the condolence of the army, the thanks of the
province of Zealand, and a new treaty with France, strengthened by
promises of future support from Cardinal Mazarin; but, before he
could profit by these encouraging symptoms, domestic and foreign,
a premature death cut short all his projects of ambition.
Over-violent exercise in a shooting party in Guelders brought
on a fever, which soon terminated in an attack of smallpox. On
the first appearance of his illness, he was removed to The Hague;
and he died there on the 6th of November, 1650, aged twenty-four
years and six months.

The death of this prince left the state without a stadtholder,
and the army without a chief. The whole of Europe shared more or
less in the joy or the regret it caused. The republican party,
both in Holland and in England, rejoiced in a circumstance which
threw back the sovereign power into the hands of the nation;
the partisans of the House of Orange deeply lamented the event.
But the birth of a son, of which the widowed princess of Orange
was delivered within a week of her husbands death, revived the
hopes of those who mourned his loss, and offered her the only
consolation which could assuage her grief. This child was, however,
the innocent cause of a breach between his mother and grandmother,
the dowager-princess, who had never been cordially attached to
each other. Each claimed the guardianship of the young prince;
and the dispute was at length decided by the states, who adjudged
the important office to the elector of Brandenburg and the two
princesses jointly. The states of Holland soon exercised their
influence on the other provinces. Many of the prerogatives of
the stadtholder were now assumed by the people; and, with the
exception of Zealand, which made an ineffectual attempt to name
the infant prince to the dignity of his ancestors under the title
of William III., a perfect unanimity seemed to have reconciled
all opposing interests. The various towns secured the privileges
of appointing their own magistrates, and the direction of the
army and navy devolved to the states-general.

The time was now arrived when the wisdom, the courage, and the
resources of the republic were to be put once more to the test,
in a contest hitherto without example, and never since equalled in
its nature. The naval wars between Holland and England had their
real source in the inveterate jealousies and unbounded ambition
of both countries, reciprocally convinced that a joint supremacy
at sea was incompatible with their interests and their honor, and
each resolved to risk everything for their mutual pretensions - to
perish rather than yield. The United Provinces were assuredly
not the aggressors in this quarrel. They had made sure of their
capability to meet it, by the settlement of all questions of
internal government, and the solid peace which secured them against
any attack on the part of their old and inveterate enemy; but they
did not seek a rupture. They at first endeavored to ward off the
threatened danger by every effort of conciliation; and they met,
with temperate management, even the advances made by Cromwell, at
the instigation of St. John, the chief justice, for a proposed,
yet impracticable coalition between the two republics, which was
to make them one and indivisible. An embassy to The Hague, with
St. John and Strickland at its head, was received with all public
honors; but the partisans of the families of Orange and Stuart,
and the populace generally, openly insulted the ambassadors.
About the same time Dorislas, a Dutchman naturalized in England,
and sent on a mission from the parliament, was murdered at The
Hague by some Scotch officers, friends of the banished king;
the massacre of Amboyna, thirty years before, was made a cause of
revived complaint; and altogether a sum of injuries was easily
made up to turn the proposed fantastic coalition into a fierce
and bloody war.

The parliament of England soon found a pretext in an outrageous
measure, under pretence of providing for the interests of commerce.
They passed the celebrated act of navigation, which prohibited all
nations from importing into England in their ships any commodity
which was not the growth and manufacture of their own country.
This law, though worded generally, was aimed directly at the
Dutch, who were the general factors and carriers of Europe. Ships
were seized, reprisals made, the mockery of negotiation carried
on, fleets equipped, and at length the war broke out.

In the month of May, 1652, the Dutch admiral, Tromp, commanding
forty-two ships of war, met with the English fleet under Blake
in the Straits of Dover; the latter, though much inferior in
number, gave a signal to the Dutch admiral to strike, the usual
salutation of honor accorded to the English during the monarchy.
Totally different versions have been given by the two admirals of
what followed. Blake insisted that Tromp, instead of complying,
fired a broadside at his vessel; Tromp stated that a second and
a third bullet were sent promptly from the British ship while
he was preparing to obey the admiral's claim. The discharge of
the first broadside is also a matter of contradiction, and of
course of doubt. But it is of small consequence; for whether
hostilities had been hurried on or delayed, they were ultimately
inevitable. A bloody battle began: it lasted five hours. The
inferiority in number on the side of the English was balanced
by the larger size of their ships. One Dutch vessel was sunk;
another taken; and night parted the combatants.

The states-general heard the news with consternation: they despatched
the grand pensionary Pauw on a special embassy to London. The
imperious parliament would hear of neither reason nor remonstrance.
Right or wrong, they were resolved on war. Blake was soon at
sea again with a numerous fleet; Tromp followed with a hundred
ships; but a violent tempest separated these furious enemies,
and retarded for a while the rencounter they mutually longed
for. On the 16th of August a battle took place between Sir George
Ayscue and the renowned De Ruyter, near Plymouth, each with about
forty ships; but with no decisive consequences. On the 28th of
October, Blake, aided by Bourn and Pen, met a Dutch squadron
of nearly equal force off the coast of Kent, under De Ruyter
and De Witt. The fight which followed was also severe, but not
decisive, though the Dutch had the worst of the day. In the
Mediterranean, the Dutch admiral Van Galen defeated the English
captain Baddely, but bought the victory with his life. And, on
the 29th of November, another bloody conflict took place between
Blake and Tromp, seconded by De Ruyter, near the Goodwin Sands.
In this determined action Blake was wounded and defeated; five
English ships, taken, burned, or sunk; and night saved the fleet
from destruction. After this victory Tromp placed a broom at
his masthead, as if to intimate that he would sweep the Channel
free of all English ships.

Great preparations were made in England to recover this disgrace;
eighty sail put to sea under Blake, Dean, and Monk, so celebrated
subsequently as the restorer of the monarchy. Tromp and De Ruyter,
with seventy-six vessels, were descried on the 18th of February,
escorting three hundred merchantmen up Channel. Three days of
desperate fighting ended in the defeat of the Dutch, who lost
ten ships of war and twenty-four merchant vessels. Several of
the English ships were disabled, one sunk; and the carnage on
both sides was nearly equal. Tromp acquired prodigious honor
by this battle; having succeeded, though defeated, in saving,
as has been seen, almost the whole of his immense convoy. On
the 12th of June and the day following two other actions were
fought: in the first of which the English admiral Dean was killed;
in the second, Monk, Pen, and Lawson amply revenged his death
by forcing the Dutch to regain their harbors with great loss.

The 21st of July was the last of these bloody and obstinate conflicts
for superiority. Tromp issued out once more, determined to conquer
or die. He met the enemy off Scheveling, commanded by Monk. Both
fleets rushed to the combat. The heroic Dutchman, animating his
sailors with his sword drawn, was shot through the heart with a
musket-ball. This event, and this alone, won the battle, which
was the most decisive of the whole war. The enemy captured or sunk
nearly thirty ships. The body of Tromp was carried with great
solemnity to the church of Delft, where a magnificent mausoleum was
erected over the remains of this eminently brave and distinguished

This memorable defeat, and the death of this great naval hero,
added to the injury done to their trade, induced the states-general
to seek terms from their too powerful enemy. The want of peace
was felt throughout the whole country. Cromwell was not averse to
grant it; but he insisted on conditions every way disadvantageous
and humiliating. He had revived his chimerical scheme of a total
conjunction of government, privileges, and interests between
the two republics. This was firmly rejected by John de Witt,
now grand pensionary of Holland, and by the States under his
influence. But the Dutch consented to a defensive league; to
punish the survivors of those concerned in the massacre of Amboyna;
to pay nine thousand pounds of indemnity for vessels seized in
the Sound, five thousand pounds for the affair of Amboyna, and
eighty-five thousand pounds to the English East India Company,
to cede to them the island of Polerone in the East; to yield
the honor of the national flag to the English; and, finally,
that neither the young Prince of Orange nor any of his family
should ever be invested with the dignity of stadtholder. These
two latter conditions were certainly degrading to Holland; and
the conditions of the treaty prove that an absurd point of honor
was the only real cause for the short but bloody and ruinous war
which plunged the Provinces into overwhelming difficulties.

For several years after the conclusion of this inglorious peace,
universal discontent and dissension spread throughout the republic.
The supporters of the House of Orange, and every impartial friend
of the national honor, were indignant at the act of exclusion.
Murmurs and revolts broke out in several towns; and all was once
more tumult, agitation, and doubt. No event of considerable
importance marks particularly this epoch of domestic trouble.
A new war was at last pronounced inevitable, and was the means
of appeasing the distractions of the people, and reconciling by
degrees contending parties. Denmark, the ancient ally of the
republic, was threatened with destruction by Charles Gustavus,
king of Sweden, who held Copenhagen in blockade. The interests
of Holland were in imminent peril should the Swedes gain the
passage of the Sound. This double motive influenced De Witt;
and he persuaded the states-general to send Admiral Opdam with
a considerable fleet to the Baltic. This intrepid successor of
the immortal Tromp soon came to blows with a rival worthy to
meet him. Wrangel, the Swedish admiral, with a superior force,
defended the passage of the Sound; and the two castles of Cronenberg
and Elsenberg supported his fleet with their tremendous fire.
But Opdam resolutely advanced; though suffering extreme anguish
from an attack of gout, he had himself carried on deck, where he
gave his orders with the most admirable coolness and precision,
in the midst of danger and carnage. The rival monarchs witnessed
the battle; the king of Sweden from the castle of Cronenberg,
and the king of Denmark from the summit of the highest tower in
his besieged capital. A brilliant victory crowned the efforts
of the Dutch admiral, dearly bought by the death of his second in
command, the brave De Witt, and Peter Florizon, another admiral
of note. Relief was poured into Copenhagen. Opdam was replaced
in the command, too arduous for his infirmities, by the still
more celebrated De Ruyter, who was greatly distinguished by his
valor in several successive affairs: and after some months more
of useless obstinacy, the king of Sweden, seeing his army perish
in the island of Funen, by a combined attack of those of Holland
and Denmark, consented to a peace highly favorable to the latter

These transactions placed the United Provinces on a still higher
pinnacle of glory than they had ever reached. Intestine disputes
were suddenly calmed. The Algerines and other pirates were swept
from the seas by a succession of small but vigorous expeditions.
The mediation of the States re-established peace in several of
the petty states of Germany. England and France were both held
in check, if not preserved in friendship, by the dread of their
recovered power. Trade and finance were reorganized. Everything
seemed to promise a long-continued peace and growing greatness,
much of which was owing to the talents and persevering energy of
De Witt; and, to complete the good work of European tranquillity,
the French and Spanish monarchs concluded in this year the treaty
known by the name of the "peace of the Pyrenees."

Cromwell had now closed his career, and Charles II. was restored
to the throne from which he had so long been excluded. The
complimentary entertainments rendered to the restored king in
Holland were on the proudest scale of expense. He left the country
which had given him refuge in misfortune, and done him honor in
his prosperity, with profuse expressions of regard and gratitude.
Scarcely was he established in his recovered kingdom, when a still
greater testimony of deference to his wishes was paid, by the
states-general formally annulling the act of exclusion against
the House of Orange. A variety of motives, however, acting on the
easy and plastic mind of the monarch, soon effaced whatever of
gratitude he had at first conceived. He readily entered into the
views of the English nation, which was irritated by the great
commercial superiority of Holland, and a jealousy excited by
its close connection with France at this period.

It was not till the 22d of February, 1665, that war was formally
declared against the Dutch; but many previous acts of hostility
had taken place in expeditions against their settlements on the
coast of Africa and in America, which were retaliated by De Ruyter
with vigor and success. The Dutch used every possible means of
avoiding the last extremities. De Witt employed all the powers
of his great capacity to avert the evil of war; but nothing could
finally prevent it, and the sea was once more to witness the
conflict between those who claimed its sovereignty. A great battle
was fought on the 31st of June. The duke of York, afterward James
II., commanded the British fleet, and had under him the earl of
Sandwich and Prince Rupert. The Dutch were led on by Opdam; and
the victory was decided in favor of the English by the blowing
up of that admiral's ship, with himself and his whole crew. The
loss of the Dutch was altogether nineteen ships. De Witt the
pensionary then took in person the command of the fleet, which
was soon equipped; and he gave a high proof of the adaptation of
genius to a pursuit previously unknown, by the rapid knowledge
and the practical improvements he introduced into some of the
most intricate branches of naval tactics.

Immense efforts were now made by England, but with a very
questionable policy, to induce Louis XIV. to join in the war.
Charles offered to allow of his acquiring the whole of the Spanish
Netherlands, provided he would leave him without interruption to
destroy the Dutch navy (and, consequently, their commerce), in the
by no means certain expectation that its advantages would all fall
to the share of England. But the king of France resolved to support
the republic. The king of Denmark, too, formed an alliance with
them, after a series of the most strange tergiversations. Spain,

Online LibraryThomas Colley GrattanHolland The History of the Netherlands → online text (page 24 of 32)