History of Holland
By George Edmundson
Public Domain Books
Chapter VI: The Beginnings of the Dutch Republic
At the moment of the assassination of William the Silent it might well have seemed to an impartial observer that the restoration of the authority of the Spanish king over the whole of the Netherlands was only a question of time. The military skill and the statecraft of Alexander Farnese were making slow but sure progress in the reconquest of Flanders and Brabant. Despite the miserable inadequacy of the financial support he received from Spain, the governor-general, at the head of a numerically small but thoroughly efficient and well-disciplined army, was capturing town after town. In 1583 Dunkirk, Nieuport, Lindhoven, Steenbergen, Zutphen and Sas-van-Gent fell; in the spring of 1584 Ypres and Bruges were already in Spanish hands, and on the very day of William’s death the fort of Liefkenshoek on the Scheldt, one of the outlying defences of Antwerp, was taken by assault. In August Dendermonde, in September Ghent, surrendered. All West Flanders, except the sea-ports of Ostend and Sluis, had in the early autumn of 1584 been reduced to the obedience of the king. The campaign of the following year was to be even more successful. Brussels, the seat of government, was compelled by starvation to capitulate, March 10; Mechlin was taken, July 19; and finally Antwerp, after a memorable siege, in which Parma displayed masterly skill and resource, passed once more into the possession of the Spaniards. The fall of this great town was a very heavy blow to the patriot cause, and it was likewise the ruin of Antwerp itself. A very large part of its most enterprising inhabitants left their homes rather than abjure their religious faith and took refuge in Holland and Zeeland, or fled across the Rhine into Germany. Access to the sea down the Scheldt was closed by the fleets of the Sea Beggars, and the commerce and industry of the first commercial port of western Europe passed to Amsterdam and Middelburg. Meanwhile there had been no signs of weakness or of yielding on the part of the sturdy burghers of Holland and Zeeland. On the fatal July 10, 1584, the Estates of Holland were in session at Delft. They at once took energetic action under the able leadership of Paul Buys, Advocate of Holland, and John van Oldenbarneveldt, Pensionary of Rotterdam. They passed a resolution “to uphold the good cause with God’s help without sparing gold or blood.” Despatches were at once sent to the Estates of the other provinces, to the town councils and to the military and naval commanders, affirming their own determined attitude and exhorting all those who had accepted the leadership of the murdered Prince of Orange “to bear themselves manfully and piously without abatement of zeal on account of the aforesaid misfortune.” Their calm courage at such a moment of crisis reassured men’s minds. There was no panic. Steps were at once taken for carrying on the government in Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht. Stimulated by the example of Holland, the States-General likewise took prompt action. On August 18 a Council of State was appointed to exercise provisionally the executive powers of sovereignty, consisting of eighteen members, four from Holland, three each from Zeeland and Friesland, two from Utrecht and six from Brabant and Flanders. Of this body Maurice of Nassau, William’s seventeen year-old son, was nominated first Councillor, and a pension of 30,000 guilders per annum was granted him. At the same time Louise de Coligny was invited to take up her residence in Holland and suitable provision was made for her. William Lewis, son of Count John of Nassau, was elected Stadholder of Friesland. Count Nieuwenaar was Stadholder of Gelderland and shortly afterwards also of Utrecht and Overyssel. Owing to the youth of Maurice the question as to whether he should become Count of Holland and Zeeland or be elected Stadholder was left in abeyance until it should be settled to which of two foreign rulers the sovereignty of the provinces, now that Anjou was dead, should be offered.
In the revolted provinces the responsible leaders were at this time practically unanimous in their opinion that any attempt on their part to carry on the struggle against the power of Spain without foreign assistance was hopeless; and it was held that such assistance could only be obtained by following in the footsteps of William and offering to confer the overlordship of the provinces on another sovereign in the place of Philip II. There were but two possible candidates, Henry III of France and Elizabeth of England.
There were objections to both, but the rapid successes of Parma made it necessary to take action. The partisans of a French alliance were in the majority, despite the efforts of a strong opposition headed by Paul Buys; and an embassy (January, 1585) was despatched to Paris to offer conditionally to the French king the Protectorship of Holland and Zeeland and sovereignty over the other provinces. The negotiations went on for a couple of months, but Henry III finally declined the offer. Another embassy was sent, July, 1585, to England, but Elizabeth refused absolutely to accept the sovereignty. She however was not averse to the proposal that she should despatch a body of troops to the armed assistance of the provinces, provided that adequate guarantees were given for the outlay. She was afraid of Philip II and, though she had no love for men who were rebels to their lawful sovereign, was quite willing to use them for her own ends. Her motives therefore were mixed and purely self-interested; nevertheless it is doubtful if the negotiations would have led to any definite result, had not the news of the fall of Antwerp made both parties feel that this was no time for haggling or procrastination. Elizabeth therefore promised to send at once 6000 troops under the command of a “gentleman of quality,” who should bear the title of governor-general. He was to co-operate with the Council of State (on which two Englishmen were to sit) in restoring order and in maintaining and defending the ancient rights and privileges of the provinces. The governor-general and all other officials were to take an oath of fealty both to the States-General and to the queen. The towns of Flushing and Brill with the fort of Rammekens were to be handed over in pledge to Elizabeth for the repayment of expenses and received English garrisons. They were known as “the cautionary towns.”
At the end of October the States were informed that the choice of the queen had fallen upon her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and that he would shortly set out for the Netherlands. Holland and Zeeland, ever jealous of foreign interference with their rights and privileges, resolved now to forestall the arrival of the English governor-general by appointing Maurice of Nassau, with the title of “Excellency,” to the offices of Stadholder and Admiral and Captain-General of both provinces; and the Count of Hohenlo was nominated (Maurice being still little more than a boy) to the actual command of the State’s forces. Leicester set sail from Harwich accompanied by a fleet of fifty vessels and landed at Flushing on December 19. He met everywhere with an enthusiastic reception. The States-General were eager to confer large powers upon him. Practically he was invested with the same authority as the former regent, Mary of Hungary, with the reservation that the States-General and the Provincial Estates should meet at their own instance, that the present stadholders should continue in office, and that appointments to vacant offices should be made from two or three persons nominated by the Provincial Estates. A new Council of State was created which, as previously agreed, included two Englishmen. On February 4, 1586, Leicester’s government was solemnly inaugurated in the presence of Maurice of Nassau and the States-General, and he accepted the title of “Excellency.” Elizabeth on hearing this was very angry and even threatened to recall Leicester, and she sent Lord Heneage to express both to the States-General and the governor-general her grave displeasure at what had taken place. She bade Leicester restrict himself to the functions that she had assigned to him, and it was not until July that she was sufficiently appeased to allow him to be addressed as “Excellency.”
All this was galling to Leicester’s pride and ambition, and did not tend to improve his relations with the States. An English governor would in any case have had a difficult task, and Leicester had neither tact nor capacity as a statesman, and no pretensions as a military leader. He possessed no knowledge of the institutions of the country or the character of the people, and was ignorant of the Dutch language. The measures he took and the arbitrary way in which he tried to enforce them, soon brought him face to face with the stubborn resistance of the Estates of Holland under the leadership of Oldenbarneveldt. In April, 1586, he issued a very stringent placard forbidding all traffic with the enemy’s lands and more especially the supplying of the enemy with grain. He meant it well, for he had been informed that the cutting-off of this commerce, which he regarded as illicit, would deprive the Spaniards of the necessaries of life, and Parma’s position would become desperate. This carrying trade had, however, for long been a source of much profit to the merchants and shipowners of Holland and Zeeland; indeed it supplied no small part of the resources by which those two provinces had equipped the fleets and troops by which they had defended themselves against the efforts of the Spanish king. Two years before this the States-General had tried to place an embargo on the traffic in grain, but the powerful town-council of Amsterdam had refused obedience and the Estates of Holland supported them in their action. The deputies of the inland provinces, which had suffered most from the Spanish armies, were jealous of the prosperity of the maritime States, and regarded this trade with the Spaniard as being carried on to their injury. But Holland and Zeeland supplied the funds without which resistance would long since have been impossible, and they claimed moreover, as sovereign provinces, the right to regulate their trade affairs. The edict remained a dead-letter, for there was no power to enforce it.
The governor made a still greater mistake when, in his annoyance at the opposition of the Hollanders, he courted the democratic anti-Holland party in Utrecht, which had as its leader the ultra-Calvinist stadholder, Nieuwenaar, and caused one of his confidants, a Brabanter, Gerard Prounick, surnamed Deventer, to be elected burgomaster of Utrecht, although as a foreigner he was disqualified from holding that office. An even more arbitrary act was his creation of a Chamber of Finance armed with inquisitorial powers, thus invading the rights of the Provincial Estates and depriving the Council of State of one of its most important functions. To make matters worse, he appointed Nieuwenaar to preside over the new Chamber, with a Brabanter, Jacques Reingoud, as treasurer-general, and a Fleming, Daniel de Burchgrave, as auditor. The Estates of Holland, under the guidance of Oldenbarneveldt, prepared themselves to resist stubbornly this attempt to thrust upon them a new tyranny.
As a military leader Leicester was quite unfitted to oppose successfully such a general as Parma. Both commanders were in truth much hampered by the preparations that were being made by Philip for the invasion of England. The king could spare Parma but little money for the pay of his troops, and his orders were that the Spanish forces in the Netherlands should be held in reserve and readiness for embarkation, as soon as the Great Armada should hold command of the Channel. England was the first objective. When its conquest was accomplished that of the rebel provinces would speedily follow. On the other hand Elizabeth, always niggardly, was little disposed in face of the threatened danger to dissipate her resources by any needless expenditure. Leicester therefore found himself at the head of far too small a force to deal any effective blows at the enemy. He succeeded in capturing Doesburg, but failed to take Zutphen. It was in a gallant effort to prevent a Spanish convoy from entering that town that Sir Philip Sidney met his death at the combat of Warnsfeld (Sept. 22, 1586). An important fort facing Zutphen was however stormed, and here Leicester left Sir Robert Yorke with a strong garrison, and at the same time sent Sir William Stanley with 1200 men to be governor of Deventer. These appointments gave rise to much criticism that proved later to be fully justified, for both these officers were Catholics and had formerly been in the Spanish service. Leicester had also taken other steps that were ill-judged. West Friesland had for many years been united to Holland and was known as the North-Quarter. The governor-general, however, appointed Sonoy Stadholder of West Friesland, and was thus infringing the rights and jurisdiction of Maurice of Nassau. Maurice also held the post of Admiral-General of Holland and Zeeland, but Leicester took it upon himself to create three distinct Admiralty Colleges, those of Holland, Zeeland, and the North-Quarter, thus further dividing authority in a land where greater unity was the chief thing to be aimed at. Leicester was equally unwise in the part he took in regard to religious matters. Oldenbarneveldt, Paul Buys and the great majority of burgher-regents in Holland belonged to the moderate or, as it was called, the “libertine” party, to which William the Silent had adhered and whose principles of toleration he had strongly upheld. Leicester, largely influenced by spite against Oldenbarneveldt and the Hollanders for their opposition to his edict about trade with the enemy and to his appointment of Sonoy, threw himself into the arms of the extreme Calvinists, who were at heart as fanatical persecutors as the Spanish inquisitors themselves. These “precisian” zealots held, by the governor-general’s permission and under his protection, a synod at Dort, June, 1586, and endeavoured to organise the Reformed Church in accordance with their strict principles of exclusiveness.
By this series of maladroit acts Leicester had made himself so unpopular and distrusted in Holland that the Estates of that predominant province lost no opportunity of inflicting rebuffs upon him. Stung by the opposition he met and weary of a thankless task, the governor determined at the end of November to pay a visit to England. The Council of State was left in charge of the administration during his absence.
His departure had the very important effect of bringing the question of State-rights acutely to the front. The dislike and distrust felt by the Hollanders towards the English governor-general was greatly increased by the treachery of Yorke and Stanley, who delivered the fort at Zutphen and the town of Deventer, with the defence of which they had been charged, into the hands of the Spaniards. The town of Gelder and the fort at Wouw were likewise betrayed, and there can be small doubt that, had Parma at this time been able to take advantage of the dissensions in the ranks of his adversaries, he would have met with little effectual resistance to his arms. His whole attention was, however, centred in preparations for the proposed invasion of England. Leicester had no sooner left the country than the Estates of Holland, under the strong leadership of Oldenbarneveldt, took measures to assert their right to regulate their own affairs, independently of the Council of State. A levy of troops was made (in the pay of the province of Holland), who were required to take an oath to the Provincial Estates and the stadholder. To Maurice the title of “Prince” was given; and Sonoy in the North-Quarter and all the commanders of fortified places were compelled to place themselves under his orders. The States-General, in which the influence of Holland and its chief representative, Oldenbarneveldt, was overpoweringly great, upheld the Provincial Estates in the measures they were taking. As a result of their action the trade restrictions were practically repealed, the Council of State was reconstituted, and a strong indictment of Leicester’s conduct and administration was drawn up in the name of the States-General and forwarded to the absent governor in England.
Elizabeth was indignant at the language of this document, but at this particular time the dangers which were threatening her throne and people were too serious for her to take any steps to alienate the States. It was her obvious policy to support them in their resistance, and to keep, if possible, Parma’s forces occupied in the Netherlands. Accordingly Leicester returned to his post, July 1587, but in an altogether wrong spirit. He knew that he had a strong body of partisans in Utrecht, Friesland and elsewhere, for he had posed as the friend of the people’s rights against the nobles and those burgher-aristocracies in the cities in whose hands all real power rested, and by his attitude in religious matters he had won for himself the support of the Calvinist preachers. His agents, Deventer in Utrecht, Aysma in Friesland and Sonoy in the North-Quarter, were able men, who could count on the help of the democracy, whom they flattered. So Leicester came back with the determination to override the opposition of the Estates of Holland and compel their submission to his will. But he found that he only succeeded in making that opposition more resolute. His attempts to overthrow the supremacy of the “regents” in Amsterdam, Leyden, Enkhuizen and other towns were complete failures. Oldenbarneveldt and Maurice were supreme in Holland and Zeeland; and the power of the purse gave to Holland a controlling voice in the States-General. The position of Leicester was shaken also by his inability to relieve Sluis, which important seaport fell after a long siege into Parma’s hands, August 5. Its capture was attributed by rumour, which in this case had no foundation, to the treachery of the English governor and garrison. Moreover it was discovered that for some months secret peace negotiations had been passing between the English government and Parma; and this aroused violent suspicions that the Netherlands were merely being used as pawns in English policy, and alienated from the governor-general the sympathy of the preachers, who had been his strongest supporters. Humiliated and broken in spirit, Leicester, after many bickerings and recriminations, finally left the Netherlands (December 10), though his formal resignation of his post did not reach the States-General until the following April. Lord Willoughby was placed in command of the English troops.
The year 1588 was the beginning of a decade full of fate for the Dutch Republic. The departure of Leicester left the seven provinces of the Union of Utrecht weak, divided, torn by factions, without allies, the country to the east of the Yssel and to the south of the Scheldt and the Waal already in the hands of the enemy. Moreover the armed forces of that enemy were far stronger than their own and under the command of a consummate general. But this was the year of the Spanish Armada, and Parma’s offensive operations were, by the strictest orders from Madrid, otherwise directed. And Elizabeth on her side, though highly offended at the treatment which her favourite, Leicester, had received from the Hollanders, was too astute to quarrel at such a moment with a people whose ships kept a strict blockade in the Scheldt and before the Flemish harbours. Thus a respite was obtained for the States at this critical time, which was turned to good account and was of vital import for their constitutional development. The Leicestrian period, despite its record of incompetence and failure, had however the distinction of being the period which for good or for evil gave birth to the republic of the United Netherlands, as we know it in history. The curious, amorphous, hydra-headed system of government, which was to subsist for some two centuries, was in its origin the direct result of the confused welter of conflicting forces, which was the legacy of Leicester’s rule. As a preliminary to a right understanding of the political system, which was now, more by accidental force of circumstances than by design, developing into a permanent constitution, it will be necessary to trace the events of the years which immediately followed the departure of Leicester, and which under the influence and by the co-operation of three striking personalities were to mould the future of the Dutch republic.
Those three personalities were John van Oldenbarneveldt, Maurice of Nassau and his cousin William Lewis of Nassau, the Stadholder of Friesland. Born in 1547, Oldenbarneveldt, after studying Jurisprudence at Louvain, Bourges and Heidelberg, became a devoted adherent of William the Silent and took part in the defence of Haarlem and of Leyden. His abilities, however, fitted him to take a prominent part as a politician and administrator rather than as a soldier; and his career may be said to have begun by his appointment to the post of Pensionary of Rotterdam in 1576. In this capacity his industry and his talent speedily won for him a commanding position in the Estates of Holland, and he became one of the Prince of Orange’s confidential friends and advisers. In 1586 he was appointed Advocate of Holland in succession to Paul Buys. This office included the duties of legal adviser, secretary and likewise in a sense that of “Speaker” to the Provincial Estates. In addition to all this he was the mouthpiece in the States-General of the deputation representing the Provincial Estates, and exercised in that assembly all the authority attaching to the man who spoke in the name of Holland. At this time of transition, by his predominance alike in his own province of Holland and in the States-General, he was able to secure for the general policy of the Union, especially in the conduct of foreign affairs, a continuity of aim and purpose that enabled the loosely-cemented and mutually jealous confederacy of petty sovereign states to tide-over successfully the critical years which followed the departure of Leicester, and to acquire a sense of national unity.
The brain and the diplomatic skill of the great statesman would, however, have been of little avail without the aid of the military abilities of Maurice of Nassau. Maurice was twenty years of age when Leicester left Holland. He was a man very different from his father in opinions and in the character of his talents. Maurice had nothing of his father’s tolerance in religious matters or his subtle skill in diplomacy. He was a born soldier, but no politician, and had no wish to interfere in affairs of State. He had the highest respect for Oldenbarneveldt and complete confidence in his capacity as a statesman, and he was at all times ready to use the executive powers, which he exercised by virtue of the numerous posts he was speedily called upon to fill, for the carrying out of Oldenbarneveldt’s policy; while the Advocate on his side found in the strong arm of the successful general the instrument that he needed for the maintenance of his supremacy in the conduct of the civil government. Already in 1587 Maurice was Stadholder of Holland and Zeeland. In 1588 he became Captain-General and Admiral-General of the Union with the control and supervision of all the armed forces of the Provinces by sea and by land. The death of Nieuwenaar in the following year created a vacancy in the stadholderates of Utrecht, Gelderland and Overyssel. Maurice was in each province elected as Nieuwenaar’s successor. The Advocate therefore and the Prince, through the close accord which was for many years to subsist between them, gathered thus into their hands (except in Friesland) practically the entire administrative, executive and military powers of the United Provinces and by their harmonious co-operation with William Lewis, the wise and capable Stadholder of Friesland, were able to give something of real unity to a group of states, each claiming to be a sovereign entity, and to give them the outward semblance of a federal republic. There was no “eminent head,” but the sovereignty in reality, if not in name, was vested during the period with which we have now to deal in this triumvirate.
Circumstances provided a favourable field for the display of the youthful Maurice’s military abilities. In 1589 the assassination of Henry III placed Henry of Navarre on the throne of France. The accession of the brilliant Huguenot leader led to civil war; and the Catholic opposition was encouraged and supported by Philip II, who regarded Henry IV as a menace and danger to the Spanish power. Parma, therefore, whose active prosecution of the war against the rebel provinces had been so long hindered by having to hold his army in readiness for the projected invasion of England, found himself, after the failure and destruction of the Armada, in no better position for a campaign in the northern Netherlands. Disappointment and false charges against him brought on a serious illness, and on his recovery he received orders to conduct an expedition into France. William Lewis of Nassau had for sometime been urging upon the States-General that the time for remaining upon the strict defensive was past, and that, when the enemy’s efforts were weakened and distracted, the best defence was a vigorous offensive. At first he spoke to deaf ears, but he found now a powerful supporter in Maurice, and the two stadholders prevailed. They had now by careful and assiduous training created a strong and well-disciplined army for the service of the States. This army was made up by contingents of various nationalities, English, Scottish, French and German as well as Netherlanders. But the material was on the whole excellent, and the entire force was welded together by confidence in their leaders.
In 1590 the capture of Breda by a ruse (seventy men hidden beneath a covering of peat making their entrance into the town and opening the gates to their comrades outside) was a good omen for the campaign that was planned for 1591. For the first time Maurice had an opportunity for showing his genius for war and especially for siege warfare. By rapid movements he took first Zutphen, then Deventer and Delfzijl, and relieved the fort of Knodsenburg (near Nijmwegen). Thus successful on the eastern frontier, the stadholder hurried to Zeeland and captured Hulst, the key to the land of Waas. He then turned his steps again to the east and appearing suddenly before Nijmwegen made himself master of this important city. Such a succession of brilliant triumphs established Maurice’s fame, and to a lesser degree that of William Lewis, whose co-operation and advice were of the greatest service to the younger man. This was markedly the case in the following year (1592) when the two stadholders set to work to expel the Spaniards from the two strongly fortified towns of Steenwijk and Coevorden, whose possession enabled a strong force under the veteran Verdugo to retain their hold upon Friesland. The States army was not at its full strength, for the English contingent under Sir Francis Vere had been sent to France; and Verdugo was confident that any attempt to capture these well-garrisoned fortresses was doomed to failure. He had to learn how great was the scientific skill and resource of Maurice in the art of beleaguering. Steenwijk after an obstinate defence capitulated on June 5. Coevorden was then invested and in its turn had to surrender, on September 12. During this time Parma had been campaigning with no great success in northern France. In the autumn he returned to the Netherlands suffering from the effects of a wound and broken in spirit. Never did any man fill a difficult and trying post with more success and zeal than Alexander Farnese during the sixteen years of his governor-generalship. Nevertheless Philip was afraid of his nephew’s talents and ambition, and he despatched the Count of Fuentes with a letter of recall. It was never delivered. Parma set out to meet him, but fell ill and died at Spa, December 2, 1592. He appointed the Count of Mansfeld to take his place, until the Archduke Ernest of Austria, who had been appointed to succeed him, arrived in the Netherlands.
The campaign of 1593 was marked by the taking of Geertruidenberg, a fortress which barred the free access of the Hollanders and Zeelanders to the inland waters. The science which Maurice displayed in the siege of this town greatly increased his renown. In the following year the stadholders turned their attention to the north-east corner of the land, which was still in the possession of the Spaniards. After a siege of two months Groningen surrendered; and the city with the surrounding district was by the terms of the capitulation–known as “The Treaty of Reduction"–admitted as a province into the Union under the name of Stad en Landen. William Lewis was appointed stadholder, and Drente was placed under his jurisdiction. The northern Netherlands were now cleared of the enemy, and Maurice at the conclusion of the campaign made a triumphal entry into the Hague amidst general rejoicing. William Lewis lost no time in taking steps to establish Calvinism as the only recognised form of faith in his new government. His strong principles did not allow him to be tolerant, and to Catholicism he was a convinced foe. Everywhere throughout the United Provinces the reformed religion was now dominant, and its adherents alone could legally take part in public worship.
In January, 1595, Henry IV declared war against Spain and was anxious for an alliance with the States against the common enemy. The Archduke Ernest, on whose coming into the Netherlands great hopes had been placed, found himself now in a difficult position with hostile armies threatening from both sides and no hope of efficient financial or other support from Spain. He was instructed therefore to enter into negotiations at the Hague with a view to the conclusion of a peace, based upon the terms of the Pacification of Ghent. But there was never any prospect of an agreement being reached; and the sudden death of the archduke (February 20,1595) brought the negotiations to an end. Archduke Ernest was succeeded by the Count of Fuentes as governor ad interim.Fuentes proved himself to be a strong and capable commander; and the summer was marked by a series of successes against the hostile forces both of the French and the Netherlanders. There was no decisive encounter, but the Spanish forces foiled the efforts of their adversaries to effect an invasion or capture any towns.
The Cardinal Archduke Albert arrived at Brussels to replace Fuentes in January, 1596. Albert was the favourite nephew of King Philip, and had been brought up at Madrid. Although an ecclesiastic, he proved himself to be a statesman and soldier of more than ordinary capacity. It was intended that he should, as soon as the Pope’s consent could be obtained, divest himself of his orders and marry his cousin the Infanta Isabel. The bankrupt condition of Spain prevented Philip from furnishing the archduke with adequate financial help on entering upon his governorship, but Albert was provided with some money, and he found in the Netherlands the well-disciplined and war-tried force of which Fuentes had made such good use in the previous campaign. He was anxious to emulate that general’s success, and as the veteran leaders, Mondragon and Verdugo, had both died, he gave the command to the Seigneur de Rosne, a French refugee. This man was a commander of skill and enterprise, and special circumstances enabled him by two brilliant offensive strokes to capture first Calais and afterwards Hulst. Hulst was only taken after a severe struggle, in which De Rosne himself fell.
The special circumstances which favoured these operations were brought about by the conclusion of a treaty of alliance between France, England and the States. This treaty was the result of prolonged negotiations; it was of short duration and its conditions were far from favourable to the United Provinces, but it was of great importance from the fact that for the first time the new-fledged republic was recognised by the neighbouring sovereigns of France and England as an independent state and was admitted into alliance on terms of equality. It was, however, only with difficulty and through the insistence of Henry IV that Elizabeth was induced to acknowledge the independent status of the rebel provinces. In return the republic was required to keep up a force of 8000 men for service in the Netherlands, and to despatch 4000 men to act with the French army in northern France–this auxiliary force to include the five English regiments in the States’ service. Thus Maurice was deprived of a considerable part of his army and obliged to act on the defensive. Elizabeth also insisted upon the carrying out of Leicester’s placard forbidding trade with the enemy. This clause of the treaty was very unpalatable to Amsterdam and the Hollanders generally, and only a sullen acquiescence was given to it. From the first it was systematically evaded. The English government on their part undertook to support the French king with a force equal in strength to that furnished by the Provinces, i.e. 4000 men, but at the same time a secret treaty was drawn up by which Henry agreed to a reduction of the English troops by one-half. This piece of underhand work was in due time discovered by the States, who saw that their allies were not to be trusted and that they must be on the watch lest their interests should be sacrificed to the selfish policy of France. The issue showed that Henry IV was in fact ready to make terms with Spain, as soon as it was to his advantage to do so. Meanwhile in 1597 the French king, by advancing in force into Picardy, drew upon this frontier the chief attention of the Spaniards; and Maurice seized the opportunity that was offered to him to conduct an offensive campaign with signal success.
He began the year brilliantly by surprising in January, while still in its winter quarters, a Spanish force of 4500 near Turnhout. More than half the force was destroyed. On the side of the Netherlands eight men only fell. With the spring began a series of sieges; and, one after the other, Rheinberg, Meurs, Groenloo, Breedevoort, Enschede, Ootmarsum, Oldenzaal and Lingen were captured. Gelderland, Overyssel and Drente were entirely freed from the presence of the enemy. With the opening of 1598 Henry IV and Philip II entered upon negotiations for a peace. The French king felt the necessity of a respite from war in order to reorganise the resources of his country, exhausted by a long continuance of civil strife; and Philip was ill and already feeling his end approaching. The States strove hard to prevent what they regarded as desertion, and two embassies were despatched to France and to England to urge the maintenance of the alliance. Oldenbarneveldt himself headed the French mission, but he failed to turn Henry from his purpose. A treaty of peace between France and Spain was signed at Vervins, May 2, 1598. Oldenbarneveldt went from Paris to England and was more successful. Elizabeth bargained however for the repayment of her loan by annual installments, and for armed assistance both by land and sea should an attack be made by the Spaniards on England. The queen, however, made two concessions. Henceforth only one English representative was to have a seat in the Council of State; and all the English troops in the Netherlands, including the garrisons of the cautionary towns, were to take an oath of allegiance to the States.
This year saw the accomplishment of a project on which the Spanish king had for some time set his heart–the marriage of the Cardinal Archduke Albert to his cousin the Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia, and the erection of the Netherlands into an independent sovereignty under their joint rule. Philip hoped in this way to provide suitably for a well-beloved daughter and at the same time, by the grant of apparent independence to the Netherland provinces, to secure their allegiance to the new sovereigns. The use of the word “apparent” is justified, for provision was made in the deed of cession that the Netherlands should revert to the Spanish crown in case the union should prove childless; and there was a secret agreement that the chief fortresses should still be garrisoned by Spanish troops and that the archdukes, as they were officially styled, should recognise the suzerainty of the King of Spain. Philip did not actually live to carry his plan into execution. His death took place on September 13, 1598. But all the necessary arrangements for the marriage and the transfer of sovereignty had already been made. Albert, having first divested himself of his ecclesiastical dignities, was married by proxy to Isabel at Ferrara in November. It was not until the end of the following year that the new rulers made their joyeuse entrée into Brussels, but their marriage marks the beginning of a fresh stage in the history of the Netherlands. Albert and Isabel were wise and capable, and they succeeded in gaining the affection and willing allegiance of the southern provinces. The States-General of the revolted provinces of the north had, however, already enjoyed for some years a real independence won by suffering and struggle and they showed no disposition to meet the overtures of the archdukes. They were resolved to have no further connection with Spain or with Spanish rulers, and from this time forward the cleavage in character, sentiment, and above all in religion, between north and south was to become, as time went on, more and more accentuated. The Dutch republic and the Spanish Netherlands were henceforth destined to pursue their separate course along widely divergent paths.
The ten years which had elapsed between the departure of Leicester and the advent of Albert and Isabel had witnessed a truly marvellous transformation in the condition of the rebel provinces, and especially of Holland and Zeeland. Gradually they had been freed from the presence of the Spaniard, while at the same time the Spanish yoke had been firmly riveted upon Flanders and Brabant. These provinces were now devastated and ruined. The quays of Antwerp were deserted, the industries of Ghent and Bruges destroyed. The most enterprising and skilful of their merchants and artisans had fled over the frontier into Holland or across the sea into England. Holland and Zeeland were thronged with refugees, Flemings and Brabanters, French Huguenots and numerous Spanish and Portuguese Jews, driven out by the pitiless persecution of Philip II. The Hollanders and Zeelanders had long been a seafaring people, who had derived the chief part of their wealth from their fisheries and their carrying trade; and this influx of new and vigorous blood, merchants, traders, and textile workers, bringing with them their knowledge, skill and energy, aroused such a phenomenal outburst of maritime and commercial activity and adventure as the world had never seen before. The fleets of the Hollanders and Zeelanders had during the whole of the war of independence been the main defence of those provinces against Spanish invasion; but, great as had been the services they had rendered, it was the carrying-trade which had furnished the rebel states with the sinews of war, and of this a large part had been derived from that very trading with the enemy which Leicester had striven in vain to prevent. The Spaniards and Portuguese were dependent upon the Dutch traders for the supply of many necessaries of life; and thus Spanish gold was made to pay for the support of the war which was waged against the Spanish king. The dues in connection with this trade, known as licences and convoys, alone furnished large sums to replenish the war-chest; and it is said that from 25,000 to 30,000 seamen found employment by it.
Amsterdam during this decade had been rapidly growing in importance and it was soon to be the first seaport in the world. It had become the emporium of the Baltic trade. In 1601 it is stated that between 800 and 900 ships left its quays in three days, carrying commodities to the Baltic ports. They came back laden with corn and other “east-sea” goods, which they then distributed in French, Portuguese and Spanish havens, and even as far as Italy and the Levant. Ship-building went on apace at Enkhuizen, Hoorn and other towns on the Zuyder Zee; and Zaandam was soon to become a centre of the timber trade. In Zeeland, Middelburg, through the enterprise of an Antwerp refugee of French extraction, by name Balthazar de Moucheron, was second only to Amsterdam as a sea-port, while Dordrecht and Rotterdam were also busy with shipping.
The energies of the Dutch at this springtide of their national life were far from being confined to European, waters. Dutch sailors already knew the way to the East-Indies round the Cape of Good Hope through employment on Portuguese vessels; and the trade-routes by which the Spaniards brought the treasures of the New World across the Atlantic were likewise familiar to them and for a similar reason. The East-Indies had for the merchants of Holland and Zeeland, ever keenly on the look-out for fresh markets, a peculiar attraction. At first the Cape route was thought to be too dangerous, and several attempts were made to discover a north-west passage along the coast of Siberia. Balthazar de Moucheron was the pioneer in these northern latitudes. He established a regular traffic with the Russians by way of the White Sea, and had a factory (built in 1584) at Archangel. Through his instances, aided by those of the famous geographer Petrus Plancius (likewise a refugee from Antwerp), an expedition was fitted out and despatched in 1594 to try to sail round northern Asia, but it was driven back after passing through the Waigat by ice and storms. A like fate befell a second expedition in the following year. Discouraged, but still not despairing, a third fleet set out in 1596 under the command of Jacob van Heemskerk with William Barendtsz as pilot. Forced to winter in Spitsbergen, after terrible sufferings, Heemskerk returned home in the autumn of 1597 with the remnant of his crews. Barendtsz was one of those who perished. This was the last effort in this direction, for already a body of Amsterdam merchants had formed a company for trafficking to India by the Cape; and four ships had sailed, April 2, 1596, under the command of Cornelis Houtman, a native of Gouda. A certain Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, who had been in the Portuguese service, had published in 1595 a book containing a description from personal knowledge of the route to the East and the character of the Portuguese commerce. It was the information contained in this work that led the Amsterdam merchants to venture their money upon Houtman’s expedition, which Linschoten himself accompanied as guide. They reached Madagascar, Java and the Moluccas, and, after much suffering and many losses by sickness, what was left of the little fleet reached home in July, 1597. The rich cargo they brought back, though not enough to defray expenses, proved an incentive to further efforts. Three companies were formed at Amsterdam, two at Rotterdam, one at Delft and two in Zeeland, for trading in the East-Indies, all vying with one another in their eagerness to make large profits from these regions of fabled wealth, hitherto monopolised by the Portuguese. One expedition sent out by two Amsterdam companies under the command of Jacob van Neck and Wybrand van Waerwyck was very successful and came back in fifteen months richly laden with East-Indian products. The year 1598 was one of great commercial activity. Two-and-twenty large vessels voyaged to the East-Indies; others made their way to the coasts of Guinea, Guiana and Brazil; and one daring captain, Olivier van Noort, sailing through the Straits of Magellan, crossed the Pacific. It was in this year that Philip II prohibited by decree all trading in Spain with the Dutch, and all the Dutch ships in the harbours of the Peninsula were confiscated. But the Spanish trade was no longer of consequence to the Hollanders and Zeelanders. They had sought and found compensation elsewhere.
The small companies formed to carry out these ventures in the far-Eastern seas continued to grow in number, and by the very keenness of their competition threatened each other’s enterprises with ruin. In these circumstances the States-General and the Estates of Holland determined, under the leadership of Oldenbarneveldt, to take a step which was to be fraught with very important consequences. The rival companies were urged to form themselves into a single corporation to which exclusive rights would be given for trading in the East-Indies. Such a proposal was in direct contradiction to that principle of free trade which had hitherto been dear to the Netherlanders, and there was much opposition, and many obstacles had to be overcome owing to the jealousies of the various provinces, towns and bodies of merchants who were interested. But at length the patience and statesmanship of Oldenbarneveldt overcame all difficulties, and on March 20,1601, a charter was issued creating the United East-India Company and giving it a monopoly of the East-India trade (for 21 years) with all lands east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of the Straits of Magellan. The executive control was vested in a College known as the Seventeen. Extensive sovereign privileges were conferred upon the company and exercised by the Seventeen in the name of the States-General. They might make treaties with native rulers and potentates, erect forts for the protection of their factories, appoint governors and officials with administrative and judicial functions, and enlist troops, but these officials and troops were required to take an oath of allegiance to the States-General. The States-General themselves became “participants” by investing the 25,000 pounds, which the company had paid them for the grant of the charter. The capital speedily reached the amount of six and a half million guilders.
The warlike operations of the year 1599 were uneventful and in the main defensive, except on the eastern frontier where the Spanish forces under the command of the Admiral of Aragon, Mendoza, captured Wesel and Rheinberg. The new rulers of the Netherlands, Albert and Isabel, did not make their entry into Brussels until the end of 1599; and almost before they had had time to organise the new government and gain firm possession of the reins of power in the Belgic provinces, they found themselves confronted with a serious danger. The seaport of Dunkirk had for many years been a nest of pirates, who preyed upon Dutch commerce in the narrow seas. The States-General, urged on by Oldenbarneveldt, resolved in the spring of 1606 to despatch an expedition to besiege and capture Dunkirk. Both Maurice and William Lewis were opposed to the project, which they regarded as rash and risky. The States-General, however, hearing reports of the archduke’s soldiery being mutinous for lack of pay, persisted in their purpose, and Maurice, against his better judgment, acquiesced. A body of picked troops, 12,000 foot and 3000 horse, was assembled on the island of Walcheren. A succession of contrary winds delaying the sailing of the force, it was determined to march straight through West Flanders to Nieuport and then along the shore to Dunkirk. A deputation of the States-General, of which Oldenbarneveldt was the leading member, went to Ostend to supervise, much to Maurice’s annoyance, the military operations. The stadholder, however, reached Nieuport without serious opposition and proceeded to invest it. Meanwhile the Archduke Albert had been acting with great energy. By persuasive words and large promises he succeeded in winning back the mutineers, and at the head of a veteran force of 10,000 infantry and 1500 cavalry he followed Maurice and, advancing along the dunes, came on July 1 upon a body of 2000 men under the command of Ernest Casimir of Nassau, sent by the stadholder to defend the bridge of Leffingen. At the sight of the redoubtable Spanish infantry a panic seized these troops and they were routed with heavy loss. The fight, however, gave Maurice time to unite his forces and draw them up in battle order in front of Nieuport. Battle was joined the following afternoon, and slowly, foot by foot, after a desperate conflict the archduke’s Spanish and Italian veterans drove back along the dunes the troops of the States. Every hillock and sandy hollow was fiercely contested, the brunt of the conflict falling on the English and Frisians under the command of Sir Francis Vere. Vere himself was severely wounded, and the battle appeared to be lost. At this critical moment the Spaniards began to show signs of exhaustion through their tremendous exertions in two successive fights under a hot sun in the yielding sand-hills; and the prince, at the critical moment, throwing himself into the midst of his retreating troops, succeeded in rallying them. At the same time he ordered some squadrons of cavalry which he had kept in reserve to charge on the flank of the advancing foe. The effect was instantaneous. The Spaniards were thrown into confusion, broke and fled. The victory was complete. The archduke only just escaped capture, and of his army 5000 perished and a large number were taken prisoners, among these the Admiral of Aragon. Almost by a miracle was the States’ army thus rescued from a desperate position. Maurice’s hard-won triumph greatly enhanced his fame, for the battle of Nieuport destroyed the legend of the invincibility of the Spanish infantry in the open field. The victorious general, however, was not disposed to run any further risks. He accordingly retreated to Ostend and there embarked his troops for the ports from which they had started. The expedition had been very costly and had been practically fruitless. Oldenbarneveldt and those who had acted with him were deeply disappointed at the failure of their plans for the capture of Dunkirk and were far from satisfied with Maurice’s obstinate refusal to carry out any further offensive operations. From this time there arose a feeling of soreness between the advocate and the stadholder, which further differences of opinion were to accentuate in the coming years.
The vigour and powers of leadership displayed by their new sovereigns in meeting the invasion of Flanders by the States’ army, though a defeat in the field had been suffered at Nieuport, had inspired their subjects in the southern Netherlands with confidence and loyalty. Albert had proved himself a brave commander, and his efforts had at least been successful in compelling the enemy to withdraw within his own borders.
Ostend had long been a thorn in the side of the government at Brussels and energetic steps were soon taken to besiege it. But the possession of Ostend was important also to Elizabeth, and she promised active assistance. The larger part of the garrison was, indeed, formed of English troops, and Sir Francis Vere was governor of the town. The siege which ensued was one of the memorable sieges of history, it lasted for more than three years (July 15,1601, to September 20,1604) and was productive of great feats of valour, skill and endurance on the part alike of besiegers and besieged. The States’ army under Maurice, though it did not march to the relief of Ostend, endeavoured to divert the attention of Albert from his objective by attacks directed elsewhere. In 1601 the fortresses of Rheinberg and Meurs on the Rhine were captured, and an attack made upon Hertogenbosch. In 1602 the important town of Grave on the Meuse was taken and a raid made into Brabant and Luxemburg.
Meanwhile the defenders of Ostend had been making a desperate resistance, and little progress was made by the besiegers, with the result that a great drain was made upon the finances of the archdukes and there were threatenings of mutiny among the troops. But the situation was saved by the intervention of a wealthy Genoese banker, Ambrosio de Spinola, who offered his services and his money to the archdukes and promised that if he, though inexperienced in warfare, were given the command, he would take Ostend. He fulfilled his promise. Without regard to loss of life he pressed on the siege, and though as fast as one line of defences was taken another arose behind it to bar his progress, little by little he advanced and bit by bit the area held by the garrison grew less. At last in the spring of 1604, under the pressure of the States-General, Maurice led an army of 11,000 men into Flanders in April, 1604, and laid siege to Sluis on May 19. Both Maurice and William Lewis were still unwilling to run the risk of an attack on Spinola’s army in its lines, and so the two sieges went on side by side, as it were independently. Sluis fell at the end of August, and Ostend was then at its last gasp. Urged now by the deputies of the States to make a direct effort to relieve the heroic garrison, Maurice and his cousin, after wasting some precious time in protesting against the step, began to march southward. It was too late. What was left of Ostend surrendered on September 20, and Spinola became the master of a heap of ruins. It is said that this three years’ siege cost the Spaniards 80,000 lives, to say nothing of the outlay of vast expenditure. Whether Maurice and William Lewis were right or wrong in their reluctance to assail Spinola’s entrenched camp, it is certain that they were better judges of the military situation than the civilian deputies of the States. In any case the capture of Sluis was an offset to the loss of Ostend; and its importance was marked by the appointment of Frederick Henry, the young brother of the stadholder, as governor of the seaport and the surrounding district, which received the name of States-Flanders. The tremendous exertions put forward for the defence of Ostend had been a very serious drain upon the resources of the United Provinces, especially upon those of Holland. Taxation was already So high that Oldenbarneveldt and many other leading members of the States-General and Provincial Estates began to feel despondent and to doubt whether it were possible to continue the war. No longer could the States rely upon the assistance of England. James I had concluded peace with Spain; and, though he made professions of friendship and goodwill to the Dutch, wary statesmen, like the Advocate, did not trust him, and were afraid lest he should be tempted to deliver up the cautionary towns into the hands of the enemy. Reverting to the policy of William the Silent, Oldenbarneveldt even went so far as to make tentative approaches to Henry IV of France touching the conditions on which he would accept the sovereignty of the Provinces. Indeed it is said that such was the despair felt by this great statesman, who knew better than any man the economic difficulties of the situation, that he even contemplated the possibility of submission to the archdukes. Had he suggested submission, there would have been no question, however, that he could not have retained office, for Maurice, William Lewis and the military leaders on the one hand, and on the other the merchants and the adventurous seamen, whom they employed in the profitable Indian traffic, would not have listened for a moment to any thought of giving up a struggle which had been so resolutely and successfully maintained for so many years. For financially the archdukes were in even worse plight than the Netherlanders, even though for a short time, with the help of Spinola, appearances seemed to favour the Belgic attacks on the Dutch frontier districts. In 1605 the Genoese general, at the head of a mixed but well-disciplined force in his own pay, made a rapid advance towards Friesland, and, after capturing Oldenzaal and Lingen and ravaging the eastern provinces, concluded the campaign with a brilliant success against a body of the States cavalry commanded by Frederick Henry, who nearly lost his life. Maurice with inferior forces kept strictly on the defensive, skilfully covering the heart of the land from attack, but steadily refusing a pitched battle. In the following year Spinola with two armies attempted to force the lines of the Waal and the Yssel, but, though thwarted in this aim by the wariness of the stadholder and by a very wet season, he succeeded in taking the important fortresses of Groll and Rheinberg. Maurice made no serious effort to relieve them, and his inactivity caused much discontent and adverse comment. His military reputation suffered, while that of his opponent was enhanced. But subsequent events showed that Maurice, though perhaps erring on the side of caution, had acted rightly. The armies which had threatened the safety of the Provinces had been raised at the charges of a private individual, but the financial resources, even of a Spinola, were not capable of a prolonged effort; there was no money in the State treasury; and the soldiery, as soon as their pay was in arrears, began once more to be mutinous. The bolt had been shot without effect, and the year 1607 found both sides, through sheer lack of funds, unable to enter upon a fresh campaign on land with any hope of definite success. But though the military campaigns had been so inconclusive, it had been far different with the fortunes of maritime warfare in these opening years of the seventeenth century. The sea-power of the Dutch republic was already a formidable factor which had to be reckoned with and which was destined to be decisive.
The East-India Company was no sooner founded than active steps were taken to make full use of the privileges granted by the Charter. A fleet of 17 vessels was despatched in 1602 under Wybrand van Waerwyck. Waerwyck visited Ceylon and most of the islands of the Malay Archipelago, established a factory at Bantam with a staff of officials for developing trade relations with the natives, and even made his way to Siam and China. He sent back from time to time some of his vessels richly laden, and finally returned himself with the residue of his fleet after an absence of five years in June, 1607. Another expedition of thirteen ships sailed in 1604 under Steven van der Hagen, whose operations were as widespread and as successful as those of Waerwyck. Van der Hagen took possession of Molucca and built factories at Amboina, Tidor and other places in the spice-bearing islands. On his way back in 1606 with his cargo of cloves, spices and other products of the far Orient, he encountered at Mauritius another westward-bound fleet of eleven ships under Cornelis Matelief. Matelief’s first objective was the town of Malacca, held by the Portuguese and commanding the straits to which it gave its name. Alphonso de Castro, the Viceroy of India, hastened however with a naval force far more powerful than the Dutch squadron to the relief of this important fortress; and after a hardly-fought but indecisive action Matelief raised the siege on August 17. Returning, however, about a month later, the Dutch admiral found that De Castro had sailed away, leaving only a detachment of ten vessels before Malacca. Matelief at once attacked this force, whose strength was about equal to his own, and with such success that he sank or burnt every single ship of the enemy with scarcely any loss, September 21, 1606.
These successful incursions into a region that the Spaniards and Portuguese had jealously regarded as peculiarly their own aroused both anger and alarm. All available forces in the East (the Portuguese from the Mozambique and Goa, the Spaniards from the Philippines) were equipped and sent to sea with the object of expelling the hated and despised Netherlanders from East-Indian waters. Paulus van Caerden, Matelief’s successor in command, was defeated and himself taken prisoner. Nor were the Spaniards content with attacking the Dutch fleets in the far East. As the weather-worn and heavily-laden Company’s vessels returned along the west coast of Africa, they had to pass within striking distance of the Spanish and Portuguese harbours and were in constant danger of being suddenly assailed by a superior force and captured. In 1607 rumours reached Holland of the gathering of a large Spanish fleet at Gibraltar, whose destination was the East-Indies. The directors of the Company were much alarmed, an alarm which was shared by the States-General, many of whose deputies were cargo-shareholders. Accordingly, in April, 1607, a fleet of twenty-six vessels set sail for the purpose of seeking out and attacking the Spaniards whether in harbour or on the open sea. The command was given to one of the most daring and experienced of Dutch seamen, Jacob van Heemskerk. He found twenty-one ships still at anchor in Gibraltar Bay, ten of them large galleons, far superior in size and armament to his own largest vessels. Heemskerk at once cleared for action. Both Heemskerk and the Spanish commander, d’Avila, were killed early in the fight, the result of which however was not long doubtful. The Spanish fleet was practically destroyed. On the Dutch side no vessel was lost and the casualties were small. Such a disaster was most humiliating to Castilian pride, and its effect in hastening forward the peace negotiations, which were already in progress, was considerable.
The initial steps had been taken by the archdukes. Through the secret agency of Albert’s Franciscan Confessor, Father John Neyen, both Oldenbarneveldt and Maurice were approached in May, 1606, but without any result. Early in 1607 however the efforts were renewed, and negotiations were actively set on foot for the purpose of concluding a peace or a truce for a term of twelve, fifteen or twenty years. There were, however, almost insuperable difficulties in the way. In the first place the stadholders, the military and naval leaders, the Calvinist clergy, and the great majority of the traders honestly believed that a peace would be detrimental to all the best interests of the States, and were thoroughly distrustful of the motives which had prompted the archdukes and the Spanish government to make these advances. Oldenbarneveldt on the other hand thought that peace was necessary for the land to recuperate after the exhausting struggle, which had already lasted for forty years; and he found strong support among the burgher-regents and that large part of the people who were over-burdened and impoverished by the weight of taxation, and sick and weary of perpetual warfare. There were, however, certain preliminary conditions, which all were agreed must be assented to, and without which it would be useless to continue the negotiations. The independence of the United Provinces must be recognised, freedom of trade in the Indies conceded, and the public exercise of Catholic worship prohibited. After some parleying the archdukes agreed to treat with the United Provinces “in the quality and as considering them free provinces and states,” and an armistice was concluded in April, 1607, for eight months, in order that the matters in dispute might be referred to the King of Spain and his views upon them ascertained. Not till October did the king’s reply arrive at Brussels. He consented to negotiate with the States “as free and independent” parties, but he required that liberty of Catholic worship should be permitted during the truce, and no mention was made of the Indian trade. This was by no means satisfactory; nevertheless the influence of Oldenbarneveldt prevailed and the negotiations were not broken off. On February 1, 1608, the archdukes’ envoys, the two leading members being Ambrosio de Spinola and the president of the Privy Council, Ricardot, arrived in Holland. They were met at Ryswyck by Maurice and William Lewis in person, and with much ceremony and splendour a solemn entry was made into the Hague, the procession with the brilliant retinues forming a memorable spectacle, as it made its way through the crowds which lined the roads. The negotiations were conducted in the Binnenhof. The Special Commissioners to represent the States-General were William Lewis of Nassau, Walraven, lord of Brederode, and a deputy from each of the provinces under the leadership of Oldenbarneveldt. Envoys from France, England, Denmark, the Palatinate and Brandenburg were present, took part in the discussions, and acted as friendly mediators.
The question of treating the United Provinces “as free States” was soon settled. The archdukes, who were aiming at the conclusion of a truce in which to recuperate and not of a definitive peace, showed an unexpected complaisance in granting a concession which they regarded as only temporary. Then came the really serious questions as to freedom of trade in the Indies and the liberty of Catholic worship. Of these the first was of most immediate interest, and showed irreconcilable differences between the two parties. The Spaniards would never consent to any trespassing in the closed area, which they regarded as their own peculiar preserve. The Dutch traders and sailors were fired with the spirit of adventure and of profit, and their successful expeditions had aroused an enthusiasm for further effort in the distant seas, which had hardened into a fixed resolve not to agree to any peace or truce shutting them out from the Indian trade. For months the subject was discussed and re-discussed without result. Some of the foreign delegates left. The armistice was prolonged, in order that Father Neyen might go to Madrid for further instructions. It was found, however, that the King of Spain would yield nothing. The negotiations came to a standstill, and both sides began to make preparations for a renewal of the war. President Jeannin on behalf of the French king, by his skilful mediation, in which he was supported by his English colleague, saved the situation. He proposed as a compromise a twelve years’ truce, pointing out that whatever terms were arranged would only be binding for that short period. He managed to bring about a personal interview between Oldenbarneveldt and Maurice, who had respectively headed the peace and war parties in the provinces; and henceforth both consented to work together for this proposal of a limited truce, during which the trade to the Indies should be open and the religious question be untouched. The assent of the States-General and of the several Provincial Estates was obtained. The two most interested, Holland and Zeeland, were won over, Holland by the arguments and persuasions of the Advocate, Zeeland, which was the last to agree, by the influence of Maurice. Jeannin was aware that the finances of Spain were at their last gasp, and that both the archdukes and Philip III were most anxious for a respite from the ever-consuming expense of the war. At last the long and wearisome negotiations came to an end, and the treaty concluding a truce for twelve years was signed at the Hague on April 9,1609. The territorial status quo was recognised. The United Provinces were treated “as free States over which the archdukes made no pretensions.” Nothing was said about the religious difficulty nor about trade in the Indies, but in a secret treaty the King of Spain undertook not to interfere with Dutch trade, wherever carried on. Thus access to the Indies was conceded, though to save appearances the word was not mentioned. This result was due solely to the diplomatic tact and resource of Jeannin, who was able to announce to Henry IV that he had accomplished his task “to the satisfaction of everyone, and even of Prince Maurice.”