Rise of the Dutch Republic, Vol. 3

Author: John Lothrop Motley

Chapter IV.

Captivity of La Noue—Cruel propositions of Philip—Siege of Groningen—Death of Barthold Enter—His character—Hohenlo commands in the north—His incompetence—He is defeated on Hardenberg Heath—Petty operations—Isolation of Orange—Dissatisfaction and departure of Count John—Remonstrance of Archduke Matthias—Embassy to Anjou—Holland and Zealand offer the sovereignty to Orange—Conquest of Portugal—Granvelle proposes the Ban against the Prince—It is published—The document analyzed—The Apology of Orange analyzed and characterized—Siege of Steenwyk by Renneberg—Forgeries—Siege relieved—Death of Renneberg—Institution of the "land-Council"—Duchess of Parma sent to the Netherlands—Anger of Alexander—Prohibition of Catholic worship in Antwerp, Utrecht, and elsewhere—Declaration of Independence by the United Provinces—Negotiations with Anjou—The sovereignty of Holland and Zealand provisionally accepted by Orange—Tripartition of the Netherlands—Power of the Prince described—Act of Abjuration analyzed—Philosophy of Netherland politics.—Views of the government compact—Acquiescence by the people in the action of the estates—Departure of Archduke Matthias.

The war continued in a languid and desultory manner in different parts of the country. At an action near Ingelmunster, the brave and accomplished De la Noue was made prisoner. This was a severe loss to the states, a cruel blow to Orange, for he was not only one of the most experienced soldiers, but one of the most accomplished writers of his age. His pen was as celebrated as his sword. In exchange for the illustrious Frenchman the states in vain offered Count Egmont, who had been made prisoner a few weeks before, and De Belles, who was captured shortly afterwards. Parma answered contemptuously, that he would not give a lion for two sheep. Even Champagny was offered in addition, but without success. Parma had written to Philip, immediately upon the capture, that, were it not for Egmont, Seller, and others, then in the power of Oranges he should order the execution of La Noue. Under the circumstances, however, he had begged to be in formed as to his Majesty’s pleasure, and in the meantime had placed the prisoner in the castle of Limburg, under charge of De Billy.

[Strada, d. 2, iii. 155, 156. Parma is said to have hinted to
Philip that De Billy would willingly undertake, the private
assassination of La Noue.—Popeliniere, Hist. des Pays Bas; 1556-

His Majesty, of course, never signified his pleasure, and the illustrious soldier remained for five years in a loathsome dungeon more befitting a condemned malefactor than a prisoner of war. It was in the donjon keep of the castle, lighted only by an aperture in the roof, and was therefore exposed to the rain and all inclemencies of the sky, while rats, toads, and other vermin housed in the miry floor. Here this distinguished personage, Francis with the Iron Arm, whom all Frenchmen, Catholic or Huguenot, admired far his genius, bravery, and purity of character, passed five years of close confinement. The government was most anxious to take his life, but the captivity of Egmont and others prevented the accomplishment of their wishes. During this long period, the wife and numerous friends of La Noue were unwearied in, their efforts to effect his ransom or exchange, but none of the prisoners in the hands of the patriots were considered a fair equivalent. The hideous proposition was even made by Philip the Second to La Noue, that he should receive his liberty if he would permit his eyes to be put out, as a preliminary condition. The fact is attested by several letters written by La Noue to his wife. The prisoner, wearied, shattered in health, and sighing for air and liberty, was disposed and even anxious to accept the infamous offer, and discussed the matter philosophically in his letters. That lady, however, horror-struck at the suggestion, implored him to reject the condition, which he accordingly consented to do. At last, in June, 1585, he was exchanged, on extremely rigorous terms, for Egmont. During his captivity in this vile dungeon, he composed not only his famous political and military discourses, but several other works, among the rest; Annotations upon Plutarch and upon the Histories of Guicciardini.

The siege of Groningen proceeded, and Parma ordered some forces under Martin Schenck to advance to its relief. On the other hand, the meagre states’ forces under Sonoy, Hohenlo, Entes, and Count John of Nassau’s young son, William Louis, had not yet made much impression upon the city. There was little military skill to atone for the feebleness of the assailing army, although there was plenty of rude valor. Barthold Entes, a man of desperate character, was impatient at the dilatoriness of the proceedings. After having been in disgrace with the states, since the downfall of his friend and patron, the Count De la Marck, he had recently succeeded to a regiment in place of Colonel Ysselstein, "dismissed for a homicide or two." On the 17th of May, he had been dining at Rolda, in company with Hohenlo and the young Count of Nassau. Returning to the trenches in a state of wild intoxication, he accosted a knot of superior officers, informing them that they were but boys, and that he would show them how to carry the faubourg of Groningen on the instant. He was answered that the faubourg, being walled and moated, could be taken only by escalade or battery. Laughing loudly, he rushed forward toward the counterscarp, waving his sword, and brandishing on his left arm the cover of a butter firkin, which he had taken instead of his buckler. He had advanced, however, but a step, when a bullet from the faubourg pierced his brain, and he fell dead without a word.

So perished one of the wild founders of the Netherland commonwealth—one of the little band of reckless adventurers who had captured the town of Brill in 1572, and thus laid the foundation stone of a great republic, which was to dictate its laws to the empire of Charles the Fifth. He was in some sort a type. His character was emblematical of the worst side of the liberating movement. Desperate, lawless, ferocious—a robber on land, a pirate by sea—he had rendered great service in the cause of his fatherland, and had done it much disgrace. By the evil deeds of men like himself, the fair face of liberty had been profaned at its first appearance. Born of a respectable family, he had been noted, when a student in this very Groningen where he had now found his grave, for the youthful profligacy of his character. After dissipating his partrimony, he had taken to the sea, the legalized piracy of the mortal struggle with Spain offering a welcome refuge to spendthrifts like himself. In common with many a banished noble of ancient birth and broken fortunes, the riotous student became a successful corsair, and it is probable that his prizes were made as well among the friends as the enemies of his country. He amassed in a short time one hundred thousand crowns—no contemptible fortune in those days. He assisted La Marck in the memorable attack upon Brill, but behaved badly and took to flight when Mondragon made his memorable expedition to relieve Tergoes. He had subsequently been imprisoned, with La Marck for insubordination, and during his confinement had dissipated a large part of his fortune. In 1574, after the violation of the Ghent treaty, he had returned to, his piratical pursuits, and having prospered again as rapidly as he had done during his former cruises, had been glad to exchange the ocean for more honorable service on shore. The result was the tragic yet almost ludicrous termination which we have narrated. He left a handsome property, the result of his various piracies, or, according to the usual euphemism, prizes. He often expressed regret at the number of traders whom he had cast into the sea, complaining, in particular, of one victim whom he had thrown overboard, who would never sink, but who for years long ever floated in his wake, and stared him in the face whenever he looked over his vessel’s side. A gambler, a profligate, a pirate, he had yet rendered service to the cause of freedom, and his name—sullying the purer and nobler ones of other founders of the commonwealth—"is enrolled in the capitol."

Count Philip Hohenlo, upon whom now, devolved the, entire responsibility of the Groningen siege and of the Friesland operations, was only a few degrees superior to this northern corsair. A noble of high degree, nearly connected with the Nassau family, sprung of the best blood in Germany, handsome and dignified in appearance, he was, in reality only a debauchee and a drunkard. Personal bravery was his main qualification for a general; a virtue which he shared with many of his meanest soldiers. He had never learned the art of war, nor had he the least ambition to acquire it. Devoted to his pleasures, he depraved those under his command, and injured the cause for which he was contending. Nothing but defeat and disgrace were expected by the purer patriots from such guidance. "The benediction of God," wrote Albada, "cannot be hoped for under this chieftain, who by life and manners is fitter to drive swine than to govern pious and honorable men."

The event justified the prophecy. After a few trifling operations before Groningen, Hohenlo was summoned to the neighbourhood of Coewerden, by the reported arrival of Martin Schenck, at the head of a considerable force. On the 15th of June, the Count marched all night and a part of the follow morning, in search of the enemy. He came up with them upon Hardenberg Heath, in a broiling summer forenoon. His men were jaded by the forced march, overcame with the heat, tormented with thirst, and unable to procure even a drop of water. The royalists were fresh so that the result of the contest was easily to be foreseen. Hohenlo’s army was annihilated in an hour’s time, the whole population fled out of Coewerden, the siege of Groningen was raised; Renneberg was set free to resume his operations on a larger scale, and the fate of all the north- eastern provinces was once more swinging in the wind. The boors of Drenthe and Friesland rose again. They had already mustered in the field at an earlier season of the year, in considerable force. Calling themselves "the desperates," and bearing on their standard an eggshell with the yolk running out—to indicate that, having lost the meat they were yet ready to fight for the shell—they had swept through the open country, pillaging and burning. Hohenlo had defeated them in two enchanters, slain a large number of their forces, and reduced them for a time to tranquillity. His late overthrow once more set them loose. Renneberg, always apt to be over-elated in prosperity, as he was unduly dejected in adversity, now assumed all the airs of a conqueror. He had hardly eight thousand men under his orders, but his strength lay in the weakness of his adversaries. A small war now succeeded, with small generals, small armies, small campaigns, small sieges. For the time, the Prince of Orange was even obliged to content himself with such a general as Hohenlo. As usual, he was almost alone. "Donec eris felix," said he, emphatically—

"multos numerabis amicos,
Tempera cum erunt nubila, nullus erit,"

and he was this summer doomed to a still harder deprivation by the final departure of his brother John from the Netherlands.

The Count had been wearied out by petty miseries. His stadholderate of Gelderland had overwhelmed him with annoyance, for throughout the north- eastern provinces there was neither system nor subordination. The magistrates could exercise no authority over an army which they did not pay, or a people whom they did not protect. There were endless quarrels between the various boards of municipal and provincial government— particularly concerning contributions and expenditures.

[When the extraordinary generosity of the Count himself; and the
altogether unexampled sacrifices of the Prince are taken into
account, it may well be supposed that the patience of the brothers
would be sorely tried by the parsimony of the states. It appears by
a document laid before the states-general in the winter of 1580-
1581, that the Count had himself advanced to Orange 570,000 florins
in the cause. The total of money spent by the Prince himself for
the sake of Netherland liberty was 2,200,000. These vast sums had
been raised in various ways and from various personages. His
estates were deeply hypothecated, and his creditors so troublesome,
that, in his own language, he was unable to attend properly to
public affairs, so frequent and so threatening were the applications
made upon him for payment. Day by day he felt the necessity
advancing more closely upon him of placing himself personally in the
hands of his creditors and making over his estates to their mercy
until the uttermost farthing should be paid. In his two campaigns
against Alva (1568 and 1572) he had spent 1,050,000 florins. He
owed the Elector Palatine 150,000 florins, the Landgrave 60,000,
Count John 670,000, and other sums to other individuals.]

During this wrangling, the country was exposed to the forces of Parma, to the private efforts of the Malcontents, to the unpaid soldiery of the states, to the armed and rebellious peasantry. Little heed was paid to the admonitions of Count John, who was of a hotter temper than was the tranquil Prince. The stadholder gave way to fits of passion at the meanness and the insolence to which he was constantly exposed. He readily recognized his infirmity, and confessed himself unable to accommodate his irascibility to the "humores" of the inhabitants. There was often sufficient cause for his petulance. Never had praetor of a province a more penurious civil list. "The baker has given notice," wrote Count John, in November, "that he will supply no more bread after to-morrow, unless he is paid." The states would furnish no money to pay the, bill. It was no better with the butcher. "The cook has often no meat to roast," said the Count, in the same letter, "so that we are often obliged to go supperless to bed." His lodgings were a half-roofed, half- finished, unfurnished barrack, where the stadholder passed his winter days and evenings in a small, dark, freezing-cold chamber, often without fire-wood. Such circumstances were certainly not calculated to excite envy. When in addition to such wretched parsimony, it is remembered that the Count was perpetually worried by the quarrels of the provincial authorities with each other and with himself, he may be forgiven for becoming thoroughly exhausted at last. He was growing "grey and grizzled" with perpetual perplexity. He had been fed with annoyance, as if—to use his own homely expression—"he had eaten it with a spoon." Having already loaded himself with a debt of six hundred thousand florins, which he had spent in the states’ service, and having struggled manfully against the petty tortures of his situation, he cannot be severely censured for relinquishing his post. The affairs of his own Countship were in great confusion. His children—boys and girls—were many, and needed their fathers’ guidance, while the eldest, William Louis, was already in arms for the-Netherlands, following the instincts of his race. Distinguished for a rash valor, which had already gained the rebuke of his father and the applause of his comrades, he had commenced his long and glorious career by receiving a severe wound at Coewerden, which caused him to halt for life. Leaving so worthy a representative, the Count was more justified in his departure.

His wife, too, had died in his absence, and household affairs required his attention. It must be confessed, however, that if the memory of his deceased spouse had its claims, the selection of her successor was still more prominent among his anxieties. The worthy gentleman had been supernaturally directed as to his second choice, ere that choice seemed necessary, for before the news of his wife’s death had reached him, the Count dreamed that he was already united in second nuptials to the fair Cunigunda, daughter of the deceased Elector Palatine—a vision which was repeated many times. On the morrow he learned, to his amazement, that he was a widower, and entertained no doubt that he had been specially directed towards the princess seen in his slumbers, whom he had never seen in life. His friends were in favor of his marrying the Electress Dowager, rather than her daughter, whose years numbered less than half his own. The honest Count, however, "after ripe consideration," decidedly preferred the maid to the widow. "I confess," he said, with much gravity, "that the marriage with the old Electress, in respect of her God-fearing disposition, her piety, her virtue, and the like, would be much more advisable. Moreover, as she hath borne her cross, and knows how to deal with gentlemen, so much the better would it be for me. Nevertheless, inasmuch as she has already had two husbands, is of a tolerable age, and is taller of stature than myself, my inclination is less towards her than towards her daughter."

For these various considerations, Count John, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his brother, definitely laid down his government of Gelderland, and quitted the Netherlands about midsummer. Enough had not been done, in the opinion of the Prince, so long as aught remained to do, and he could not bear that his brother should desert the country in the hour of its darkness, or doubt the Almighty when his hand was veiled in clouds. "One must do one’s best," said he, "and believe that when such misfortunes happen, God desires to prove us. If He sees that we do not lose our courage, He will assuredly help us. Had we thought otherwise, we should never have pierced the dykes on a memorable occasion, for it was an uncertain thing and a great sorrow for the poor people; yet did God bless the undertaking. He will bless us still, for his arm hath not been shortened."

On the 22nd of July, 1580, the Archduke Matthias, being fully aware of the general tendency of affairs, summoned a meeting of the generality in Antwerp. He did not make his appearance before the assembly, but requested that a deputation might wait upon him at his lodgings, and to this committee he unfolded his griefs. He expressed his hope that the states were not—in violation of the laws of God and man—about to throw themselves into the arms of a foreign prince. He reminded them of their duty to the holy Catholic religion to the illustrious house of Austria, while he also pathetically called their attention to the necessities of his own household, and hoped that they would, at least, provide for the arrears due to his domestics.

The states-general replied with courtesy as to the personal claims of the Archduke. For the rest, they took higher grounds, and the coming declaration of independence already pierced through the studied decorum of their language. They defended their negotiation with Anjou on the ground of necessity, averring that the King of Spain had proved inexorable to all intercession, while, through the intrigues of their bitterest enemies, they had been entirely forsaken by the Empire.

Soon afterwards, a special legation, with Saint Aldegonde at its head, was despatched to France to consult with the Duke of Anjou, and settled terms of agreement with him by the treaty of Plessis les Tours (on the 29th of September, 1580), afterwards definitely ratified by the convention of Bordeaux, signed on the 23rd of the following January.

The states of Holland and Zealand, however, kept entirely aloof from this transaction, being from the beginning opposed to the choice of Anjou. From the first to the last, they would have no master but Orange, and to him, therefore, this year they formally offered the sovereignty of their provinces; but they offered it in vain.

The conquest of Portugal had effected a diversion in the affairs of the Netherlands. It was but a transitory one. The provinces found the hopes which they had built upon the necessity of Spain for large supplies in the peninsula—to their own consequent relief—soon changed into fears, for the rapid success of Alva in Portugal gave his master additional power to oppress the heretics of the north. Henry, the Cardinal King, had died in 1580, after succeeding to the youthful adventurer, Don Sebastian, slain during his chivalrous African campaign (4th of August, 1578). The contest for the succession which opened upon the death of the aged monarch was brief, and in fifty-eight days, the bastard Antonio, Philip’s only formidable competitor, had been utterly defeated and driven forth to lurk, like ’a hunted wild beast, among rugged mountain caverns, with a price of a hundred thousand crowns upon his head. In the course of the succeeding year, Philip received homage at Lisbon as King of Portugal. From the moment of this conquest, he was more disposed, and more at leisure than ever, to vent his wrath against the Netherlands, and against the man whom he considered the incarnation of their revolt.

Cardinal Granvelle had ever whispered in the King’s ear the expediency of taking off the Prince by assassination. It has been seen how subtly distilled, and how patiently hoarded, was this priest’s venom against individuals, until the time arrived when he could administer the poison with effect. His hatred of Orange was intense and of ancient date. He was of opinion, too, that the Prince might be scared from the post of duty, even if the assassin’s hand were not able to reach his heart. He was in favor of publicly setting a price upon his head-thinking that if the attention of all the murderers in the world were thus directed towards the illustrious victim, the Prince would tremble at the dangers which surrounded him. "A sum of money would be well employed in this way," said the Cardinal, "and, as the Prince of Orange is a vile coward, fear alone will throw him into confusion." Again, a few months later, renewing the subject, he observed, "’twould be well to offer a reward of thirty or forty thousand crowns to any one who will deliver the Prince, dead or alive; since from very fear of it—as he is pusillanimous—it would not be unlikely that he should die of his own accord."

It was insulting even to Philip’s intelligence to insinuate that the Prince would shrink before danger, or die of fear. Had Orange ever been inclined to bombast, he might have answered the churchman’s calumny, as Caesar the soothsayer’s warning:—

"-----------------Danger knows full well
That Caesar is more dangerous than he—"

and in truth, Philip had long trembled on his throne before the genius of the man who had foiled Spain’s boldest generals and wiliest statesmen. The King, accepting the priest’s advice, resolved to fulminate a ban against the Prince, and to set a price upon his head. "It will be well," wrote Philip to Parma, "to offer thirty thousand crowns or so to any one who will deliver him dead or alive. Thus the country may be rid of a man so pernicious; or at any rate he will be held in perpetual fear, and therefore prevented from executing leisurely his designs."

In accordance with these suggestions and these hopes, the famous ban was accordingly drawn up, and dated on the 15th of March, 1580. It was, however, not formally published in the Netherlands until the month of June of the same year.

This edict will remain the most lasting monument to the memory of Cardinal Granvelle. It will be read when all his other state-papers and epistles—able as they incontestably are—shall have passed into oblivion. No panegyric of friend, no palliating magnanimity of foe, can roll away this rock of infamy from his tomb. It was by Cardinal Granvelle and by Philip that a price was set upon the head of the foremost man of his age, as if he had been a savage beast, and that admission into the ranks of Spain’s haughty nobility was made the additional bribe to tempt the assassin.

The ban consisted of a preliminary narrative to justify the penalty with which it was concluded. It referred to the favors conferred by Philip and his father upon the Prince; to his-signal ingratitude and dissimulation. It accused him of originating the Request, the image- breaking, and the public preaching. It censured his marriage with an abbess—even during the lifetime of his wife; alluded to his campaigns against Alva, to his rebellion in Holland, and to the horrible massacres committed by Spaniards in that province—the necessary consequences of his treason. It accused him of introducing liberty of conscience, of procuring his own appointment as Ruward, of violating the Ghent treaty, of foiling the, efforts of Don John, and of frustrating the counsels of the Cologne commissioners by his perpetual distrust. It charged him with a newly-organized conspiracy, in the erection of the Utrecht Union; and for these and similar crimes—set forth, with involutions, slow, spiral, and cautious as the head and front of the indictment was direct and deadly—it denounced the chastisement due to the "wretched hypocrite" who had committed such offences.

"For these causes," concluded the ban, "we declare him traitor and miscreant, enemy of ourselves and of the country. As such we banish him perpetually from all our realms, forbidding all our subjects, of whatever quality, to communicate with him openly or privately—to administer to him victuals, drink, fire, or other necessaries. We allow all to injure him in property or life. We expose the, said William Nassau, as an enemy of the human-race—giving his property to all who may; seize it. And if anyone of our subjects or any stranger should be found sufficiently generous of heart to rid us of this pest, delivering him to us, alive or dead, or taking his life, we will cause to be furnished to him immediately after the deed shall have been done, the sum of twenty-five thousand crowns; in gold. If he have committed any crime, however heinous, we promise to pardon him; and if he be not already noble, we will ennoble him for his valor."

Such was the celebrated ban against the Prince of Orange. It was answered before the end of the year by the memorable "Apology of the Prince of Orange" one of the moat startling documents in history. No defiance was ever thundered forth in the face of a despot in more terrible tones. It had become sufficiently manifest to the royal party that the Prince was not to be purchased by "millions of money," or by unlimited family advancement—not to be cajoled by flattery or offers of illustrious friendship. It had been decided, therefore, to terrify him into retreat, or to remove him by murder. The Government had been thoroughly convinced that the only way to finish the revolt, was to "finish Orange," according to the ancient advice of Antonio Perez. The mask was thrown off. It had been decided to forbid the Prince bread, water, fire, and shelter; to give his wealth to the fisc, his heart to the assassin, his soul, as it was hoped, to the Father of Evil. The rupture being thus complete, it was right that the "wretched hypocrite" should answer ban with ban, royal denunciation with sublime scorn. He had ill-deserved, however, the title of hypocrite, he said. When the friend of government, he had warned them that by their complicated and perpetual persecutions they were twisting the rope of their own ruin. Was that hypocrisy? Since becoming their enemy, there had likewise been little hypocrisy found in him—unless it were hypocrisy to make open war upon government, to take their cities, to expel their armies from the country.

The proscribed rebel, towering to a moral and even social superiority over the man who affected to be his master by right divine, swept down upon his antagonist with crushing effect. He repudiated the idea of a king in the Netherlands. The word might be legitimate in Castillo, or Naples, or the Indies, but the provinces knew no such title. Philip had inherited in those countries only the power of Duke or Count—a power closely limited by constitutions more ancient than his birthright. Orange was no rebel then—Philip no legitimate monarch. Even were the Prince rebellious, it was no more than Philip’s ancestor, Albert of Austria, had been towards his anointed sovereign, Emperor Adolphus of Nassau, ancestor of William. The ties of allegiance and conventional authority being, severed, it had become idle for the King to affect superiority of lineage to the man whose family had occupied illustrious stations when the Habsburgs were obscure squires in Switzerland, and had ruled as sovereign in the Netherlands before that overshadowing house had ever been named.

But whatever the hereditary claims of Philip in the country, he had forfeited them by the violation of his oaths, by his tyrannical suppression of the charters of the land; while by his personal crimes he had lost all pretension to sit in judgment upon his fellow man. Was a people not justified in rising against authority when all their laws had been trodden under foot, "not once only, but a million of times?"—and was William of Orange, lawful husband of the virtuous Charlotte de Bourbon, to be denounced for moral delinquency by a lascivious, incestuous, adulterous, and murderous king? With horrible distinctness he laid before the monarch all the crimes of which he believed him guilty, and having thus told Philip to his beard, "thus diddest thou," he had a withering word for the priest who stood at his back. "Tell me," he cried, "by whose command Cardinal Granvelle administered poison to the Emperor Maximilian? I know what the Emperor told me, and how much fear he felt afterwards for the King and for all Spaniards."

He ridiculed the effrontery of men like Philip and Granvelle; in charging "distrust" upon others, when it was the very atmosphere of their own existence. He proclaimed that sentiment to be the only salvation for the country. He reminded Philip of the words which his namesake of Macedon— a schoolboy in tyranny, compared to himself—had heard from the lips of Demosthenes—that the strongest fortress of a free people against a tyrant was distrust. That sentiment, worthy of eternal memory, the Prince declared that he had taken from the "divine philippic," to engrave upon the heart, of the nation, and he prayed God that he might be more readily believed than the great orator had been by his people.

He treated with scorn the price set upon his head, ridiculing this project to terrify him, for its want of novelty, and asking the monarch if he supposed the rebel ignorant of the various bargains which had frequently been made before with cutthroats and poisoners to take away his life. "I am in the hand of God," said William of Orange; "my worldly goods and my life have been long since dedicated to His service. He will dispose of them as seems best for His glory and my salvation."

On the contrary, however, if it could be demonstrated, or even hoped, that his absence would benefit the cause of the country, he proclaimed himself ready to go into exile.

Would to God," said he, in conclusion, that my perpetual banishment, or even my death, could bring you a true deliverance from so many calamities. Oh, how consoling would be such banishment—how sweet such a death! For why have I exposed my property? Was it that I might enrich myself? Why have I lost my brothers? Was it that I might find new; ones? Why have I left my son so long a prisoner? Can you give me another? Why have I put my life so often in, danger? What reward, can I hope after my long services, and the almost total wreck, of my earthly fortunes, if not the prize, of having acquired, perhaps at the expense of my life, your liberty?—If then, my masters, if you judge that my absence or my death can serve you, behold me ready to obey. Command me —send me to the ends of the earth—I will obey. Here is my head, over which no prince, no monarch, has power but yourselves. Dispose of it for your good, for the preservation of your Republic, but if you judge that the moderate amount of experience and industry which is in me, if you judge that the remainder of my property and of my life can yet be of service to you, I dedicate them afresh to you and to the country."

His motto—most appropriate to his life and character—"Je maintiendrai," was the concluding phrase of the document. His arms and signature were also formally appended, and the Apology, translated into most modern languages, was sent, to nearly every potentate in Christendom. It had been previously, on the 13th of December, 1580, read before the assembly of the united states at Delft, and approved as cordially as the ban was indignantly denounced.

During the remainder of the year 1580, and the half of the following year, the seat of hostilities was mainly in the northeast-Parma, while waiting the arrival of fresh troops, being inactive. The operations, like the armies and the generals, were petty. Hohenlo was opposed to Renneberg. After a few insignificant victories, the latter laid siege to Steenwyk, a city in itself of no great importance, but the key to the province of Drenthe. The garrison consisted of six hundred soldiers, and half as many trained burghers. Renneberg, having six thousand foot and twelve hundred horse, summoned the place to surrender, but was answered with defiance. Captain Cornput, who had escaped from Groningen, after unsuccessfully warning the citizens of Renneberg’s meditated treason, commanded in Steenwyk, and his courage and cheerfulness sustained the population of the city during a close winter siege. Tumultuous mobs in the streets demanding that the place should be given over ere it was too late, he denounced to their faces as "flocks of gabbling geese," unworthy the attention of brave men. To a butcher who, with the instinct of his craft, begged to be informed what the population were to eat when the meat was all gone, he coolly observed, "We will eat you, villain, first of all, when the time comes; so go home and rest assured that you, at least, are not to die of starvation."

With such rough but cheerful admonitions did the honest soldier, at the head of his little handful, sustain the courage of the beleaguered city. Meantime Renneberg pressed it hard. He bombarded it with red-hot balls, a new invention introduced five years before by Stephen Bathor, King of Poland, at the siege of Dantzig. Many houses were consumed, but still Cornput and the citizens held firm. As the winter advanced, and the succor which had been promised still remained in the distance, Renneberg began to pelt the city with sarcasms, which, it was hoped, might prove more effective than the red-hot balls. He sent a herald to know if the citizens had eaten all their horses yet; a question which was answered by an ostentatious display of sixty starving hacks—all that could be mustered-upon the heights. He sent them on another occasion, a short letter, which ran as follows:

"MOST HONORABLE, MOST STEADFAST,—As, during the present frost, you have but little exercise in the trenches—as you cannot pass your time in twirling your finger-rings, seeing that they have all been sold to pay your soldiers’ wages—as you have nothing to rub your teeth upon, nor to scour your stomachs withal, and as, nevertheless, you require something if only to occupy your minds, I send you the enclosed letter, in hope it may yield amusement.—January 15, 1581."

The enclosure was a letter from the Prince of Orange to the Duke of Anjou, which, as it was pretended, had been intercepted. It was a clumsy forgery, but it answered the purpose of more skilful counterfeiting, at a period when political and religious enmity obscured men’s judgment. "As to the point of religion," the Prince was made to observe, for example, to his illustrious correspondent, "that is all plain and clear. No sovereign who hopes to come to any great advancement ought to consider religion, or hold it in regard. Your Highness, by means of the garrisons, and fortresses, will be easily master of the principal cities in Flanders and Brabant, even if the citizens were opposed to you. Afterwards you will compel them without difficulty to any religion which may seem most conducive to the interests of your Highness."

Odious and cynical as was the whole tone of the letter, it was extensively circulated. There were always natures base and brutal enough to accept the calumny and to make it current among kindred souls. It may be doubted whether Renneberg attached faith to the document; but it was natural that he should take a malicious satisfaction in spreading this libel against the man whose perpetual scorn he had so recently earned. Nothing was more common than such forgeries, and at that very moment a letter, executed with equal grossness, was passing from hand to hand, which purported to be from the Count himself to Parma. History has less interest in contradicting the calumnies against a man like Renneberg. The fictitious epistle of Orange, however, was so often republished, and the copies so carefully distributed, that the Prince had thought it important to add an express repudiation of its authorship, by way of appendix to his famous Apology. He took the occasion to say, that if a particle of proof could be brought that he had written the letter, or any letter resembling it, he would forthwith leave the Netherlands, never to show his face there again.

Notwithstanding this well known denial, however, Renneberg thought it facetious to send the letter into Steenvayk, where it produced but small effect upon the minds’ of the burghers. Meantime, they had received intimation that succor was on its way. Hollow balls containing letters were shot into the town, bringing the welcome intelligence that the English colonel, John Norris, with six thousand states’ troops, would soon make his appearance for their relief, and the brave Cornput added his cheerful exhortations to heighten the satisfaction thus produced. A day or two afterwards, three quails were caught in the public square, and the commandant improved the circumstance by many quaint homilies. The number three, he observed, was typical of the Holy Trinity, which had thus come symbolically to their relief. The Lord had sustained the fainting Israelites with quails. The number three indicated three weeks, within which time the promised succor was sure to arrive. Accordingly, upon the 22nd of February, 1581, at the expiration of the third week, Norris succeeded in victualling the town, the merry and steadfast Cornput was established as a true prophet, and Count Renneberg abandoned the siege in despair.

The subsequent career of that unhappy nobleman was brief. On the 19th of July his troops were signally defeated by Sonny—and Norris, the fugitive royalists retreating into Groningen at the very moment when their general, who had been prevented by illness from commanding them, was receiving the last sacraments. Remorse, shame, and disappointment had literally brought Renneberg to his grave.

"His treason," says a contemporary, "was a nail in his coffin, and on his deathbed he bitterly bemoaned his crime. ’Groningen! Groningen!’ would that I had never seen thy walls!" he cried repeatedly in his last hours. He refused to see his sister, whose insidious counsels had combined with his own evil passions to make him a traitor; and he died on the 23rd of July, 1581, repentant and submissive. His heart, after his decease, was found "shrivelled to the dimensions of a walnut," a circumstance attributed to poison by some, to remorse by others. His regrets; his early death, and his many attractive qualities, combined to: save his character from universal denunciation, and his name, although indelibly stained by treason, was ever mentioned with pity rather than with rancor.

Great changes, destined to be perpetual, were steadily preparing in the internal condition of the provinces. A preliminary measure of an important character had been taken early this year by the assembly of the united provinces held in the month of January at Delft. This was the establishment of a general executive council. The constitution of the board was arranged on the 13th of the month, and was embraced in eighteen articles. The number of councillors was fixed at thirty, all to be native Netherlanders; a certain proportion to be appointed from each province by its estates. The advice and consent of this body as to treaties with foreign powers were to be indispensable, but they were not to interfere with the rights and duties of the states-general, nor to interpose any obstacle to the arrangements with the Duke of Anjou.

While this additional machine for the self-government of the provinces was in the course of creation; the Spanish monarch, on the other hand, had made another effort to recover the authority which he felt slipping from his grasp. Philip was in Portugal, preparing for his coronation in, that, new kingdom—an event to be nearly contemporaneous with his deposition from the Netherland sovereignty, so solemnly conferred upon him a quarter of a century before in Brussels; but although thus distant, he was confident that he could more wisely govern the Netherlands than the inhabitants could do, and unwilling as ever to confide in the abilities of those to whom he had delegated his authority. Provided; as he unquestionably was at that moment, with a more energetic representative than any who had before exercised the functions of royal governor in the provinces, he was still disposed to harass, to doubt, and to interfere. With the additional cares of the Portuguese Conquest upon his hands, he felt as irresistibly impelled as ever to superintend the minute details of provincial administration. To do this was impossible. It was, however, not impossible, by attempting to do it, to produce much mischief. "It gives me pain," wrote Granvelle, "to see his Majesty working as before—choosing to understand everything and to do everything. By this course, as I have often said before, he really accomplishes much less." The King had, moreover, recently committed the profound error of sending the Duchess Margaret of Parma to the Netherlands again. He had the fatuity to believe her memory so tenderly cherished in the provinces as to ensure a burst of loyalty at her reappearance, while the irritation which he thus created in the breast of her son he affected to disregard. The event was what might have been foreseen. The Netherlanders were very moderately excited by the arrival of their former regent, but the Prince of Parma was furious. His mother actually arrived at Namur in the month of August, 1580, to assume the civil administration of the provinces,—and he was himself, according to the King’s request, to continue in the command of the army. Any one who had known human nature at all, would have recognized that Alexander Farnese was not the man to be put into leading strings. A sovereign who was possessed of any administrative sagacity, would have seen the absurdity of taking the reins of government at that crisis from the hands of a most determined and energetic man, to confide them to the keeping of a woman. A king who was willing to reflect upon the consequences of his own acts, must have foreseen the scandal likely to result from an open quarrel for precedence between such a mother and son. Margaret of Parma was instantly informed, however, by Alexander, that a divided authority like that proposed was entirely out of the question. Both offered to resign; but Alexander was unflinching in his determination to retain all the power or none. The Duchess, as docile to her son after her arrival as she had been to the King on undertaking the journey, and feeling herself unequal to the task imposed upon her, implored Philip’s permission to withdraw, almost as soon as she had reached her destination. Granvelle’s opinion was likewise opposed to this interference with the administration of Alexander, and the King at last suffered himself to be overruled. By the end of the year 1581, letters arrived confirming the Prince of Parma in his government, but requesting the Duchess of Parma to remain, privately in the Netherlands. She accordingly continued to reside there under an assumed name until the autumn of 1583, when she was at last permitted to return to Italy.

During the summer of 1581, the same spirit of persecution which had inspired the Catholics to inflict such infinite misery upon those of the Reformed faith in the Netherlands, began to manifest itself in overt acts against the Papists by those who had at last obtained political. ascendency over them. Edicts were published in Antwerp, in Utrecht, and in different cities of Holland, suspending the exercise of the Roman worship. These statutes were certainly a long way removed in horror from those memorable placards which sentenced the Reformers by thousands to the axe; the cord, and the stake, but it was still melancholy to see the persecuted becoming persecutors in their turn. They were excited to these stringent measures by the noisy zeal of certain Dominican monks in Brussels, whose extravagant discourses were daily inflaming the passions of the Catholics to a dangerous degree. The authorities of the city accordingly thought it necessary to suspend, by proclamation, the public exercise of the ancient religion, assigning, as their principal reason for this prohibition, the shocking jugglery by which simple-minded persons were constantly deceived. They alluded particularly to the practice of working miracles by means of relics, pieces of the holy cross, bones of saints, and the perspiration of statues. They charged that bits of lath were daily exhibited as fragments of the cross; that the bones of dogs and monkeys were held up for adoration as those of saints; and that oil was poured habitually into holes drilled in the heads of statues, that the populace might believe in their miraculous sweating. For these reasons, and to avoid the tumult and possible bloodshed to which the disgust excited by such charlatanry might give rise, the Roman Catholic worship was suspended until the country should be restored to greater tranquillity. Similar causes led to similar proclamations in other cities. The Prince of Orange lamented the intolerant spirit thus showing itself among those who had been its martyrs, but it was not possible at that moment to keep it absolutely under control.

A most important change was now to take place in his condition, a most vital measure was to be consummated by the provinces. The step, which could never be retraced was, after long hesitation, finally taken upon the 26th of July, 1581, upon which day the united provinces, assembled at the Hague, solemnly declared their independence of Philip, and renounced their allegiance for ever.

This act was accomplished with the deliberation due to its gravity. At the same time it left the country in a very divided condition. This was inevitable. The Prince had done all that one man could do to hold the Netherlands together and unite them perpetually into one body politic, and perhaps, if he had been inspired by a keener personal ambition, this task might have been accomplished.—The seventeen provinces might have accepted his dominion, but they would agree to that of no other sovereign. Providence had not decreed that the country, after its long agony, should give birth to a single and perfect commonwealth. The Walloon provinces had already fallen off from the cause, notwithstanding the entreaties of the Prince. The other Netherlands, after long and tedious negotiation with Anjou, had at last consented to his supremacy, but from this arrangement Holland and Zealand held themselves aloof. By a somewhat anomalous proceeding, they sent deputies along with those of the other provinces, to the conferences with the Duke, but it was expressly understood that they would never accept him as sovereign. They were willing to contract with him and with their sister provinces— over which he was soon to exercise authority—a firm and perpetual league, but as to their own chief, their hearts were fixed. The Prince of Orange should be their lord and master, and none other. It lay only in his self-denying character that he had not been clothed with this dignity long before. He had, however, persisted in the hope that all the provinces might be brought to acknowledge the Duke of Anjou as their sovereign, under conditions which constituted a free commonwealth with an hereditary chief, and in this hope he had constantly refused concession to the wishes of the northern provinces. He in reality exercised sovereign power over nearly the whole population, of the Netherlands. Already in 1580, at the assembly held in April, the states of Holland had formally requested him to assume the full sovereignty over them, with the title of Count of Holland and Zealand forfeited by Philip. He had not consented, and the proceedings had been kept comparatively secret. As the negotiations with Anjou advanced, and as the corresponding abjuration of Philip was more decisively indicated, the consent of the Prince to this request was more warmly urged. As it was evident that the provinces thus bent upon placing him at their head, could by no possibility be induced to accept the sovereignty of Anjou—as, moreover; the act of renunciation of Philip could no longer be deferred, the Prince of Orange reluctantly and provisionally accepted the supreme power over Holland and Zealand. This arrangement was finally accomplished upon the 24th of July, 1581, and the act of abjuration took place two days afterwards. The offer of the sovereignty over the other united provinces had been accepted by Anjou six months before.

Thus, the Netherlands were divided into three portions—the reconciled provinces, the united provinces under Anjou, and the northern provinces under Orange; the last division forming the germ, already nearly developed, of the coming republic. The constitution, or catalogue of conditions, by which the sovereignty accorded to Anjou was reduced to such narrow limits as to be little more than a nominal authority, while the power remained in the hands of the representative body of the provinces, will be described, somewhat later, together with the inauguration of the Duke. For the present it is necessary that the reader should fully understand the relative position of the Prince and of the northern provinces. The memorable act of renunciation—the Netherland declaration of independence—will then be briefly explained.

On the 29th of March, 1580, a resolution passed the assembly of Holland and Zealand never to make peace or enter into any negotiations with the King of Spain on the basis of his sovereignty. The same resolution provided that his name—hitherto used in all public acts—should be for ever discarded, that his seal should be broken, and that the name and seal of the Prince of Orange should be substituted in all commissions and public documents. At almost the same time the states of Utrecht passed a similar resolution. These offers were, however, not accepted, and the affair was preserved profoundly secret. On the 5th of July, 1581, "the knights, nobles, and cities of Holland and Zealand," again, in an urgent and solemn manner, requested the Prince to accept the "entire authority as sovereign and chief of the land, as long as the war should continue." This limitation as to time was inserted most reluctantly by the states, and because it was perfectly well understood that without it the Prince would not accept the sovereignty at all. The act by which this dignity was offered, conferred full power to command all forces by land and sea, to appoint all military officers, and to conduct all warlike operations, without the control or advice of any person whatsoever. It authorized him, with consent of the states, to appoint all financial and judicial officers, created him the supreme executive chief, and fountain of justice and pardon, and directed him "to maintain the exercise only of the Reformed evangelical religion, without, however, permitting that inquiries should be made into any man’s belief or conscience, or that any injury or hindrance should be offered to any man on account of his religion."

The sovereignty thus pressingly offered, and thus limited as to time, was finally accepted by William of Orange, according to a formal act dated at the Hague, 5th of July, 1581, but it will be perceived that no powers were conferred by this new instrument beyond those already exercised by the Prince. It was, as it were, a formal continuance of the functions which he had exercised since 1576 as the King’s stadholder, according to his old commission of 1555, although a vast, difference existed in reality. The King’s name was now discarded and his sovereignty disowned, while the proscribed rebel stood in his place, exercising supreme functions, not vicariously, but in his own name. The limitation as to time was, moreover, soon afterwards secretly, and without the knowledge of Orange, cancelled by the states. They were determined that the Prince should be their sovereign—if they could make him so—for the term of his life.

The offer having thus been made and accepted upon the 5th of July, oaths of allegiance and fidelity were exchanged between the Prince and the estates upon the 24th of the same month. In these solemnities, the states, as representing the provinces, declared that because the King of Spain, contrary to his oath as Count of Holland and Zealand, had not only not protected these provinces, but had sought with all his might to reduce them to eternal slavery, it had been found necessary to forsake him. They therefore proclaimed every inhabitant absolved from allegiance, while at the same time, in the name of the population, they swore fidelity to the Prince of Orange, as representing the supreme authority.

Two days afterwards, upon the 26th of July, 1581, the memorable declaration of independence was issued by the deputies of the united provinces, then solemnly assembled at the Hague. It was called the Act of Abjuration. It deposed Philip from his sovereignty, but was not the proclamation of a new form of government, for the united provinces were not ready to dispense with an hereditary chief. Unluckily, they had already provided themselves with a very bad one to succeed Philip in the dominion over most of their territory, while the northern provinces were fortunate enough and wise enough to take the Father of the country for their supreme magistrate.

The document by which the provinces renounced their allegiance was not the most felicitous of their state papers. It was too prolix and technical. Its style had more of the formal phraseology of legal documents than befitted this great appeal to the whole world and to all time. Nevertheless, this is but matter of taste. The Netherlanders were so eminently a law-abiding people, that, like the American patriots of the eighteenth century, they on most occasions preferred punctilious precision to florid declamation. They chose to conduct their revolt according to law. At the same time, while thus decently wrapping herself in conventional garments, the spirit of Liberty revealed none the less her majestic proportions.

At the very outset of the Abjuration, these fathers of the Republic laid down wholesome truths, which at that time seemed startling blasphemies in the ears of Christendom. "All mankind know," said the preamble, "that a prince is appointed by God to cherish his subjects, even as a shepherd to guard his sheep. When, therefore, the prince—does not fulfil his duty as protector; when he oppresses his subjects, destroys their ancient liberties, and treats them as slaves, he is to be considered, not a prince, but a tyrant. As such, the estates of the land may lawfully and reasonably depose him, and elect another in his room."

Having enunciated these maxims, the estates proceeded to apply them to their own case, and certainly never was an ampler justification for renouncing a prince since princes were first instituted. The states ran through the history of the past quarter of a century, patiently accumulating a load of charges against the monarch, a tithe of which would have furnished cause for his dethronement. Without passion or exaggeration, they told the world their wrongs. The picture was not highly colored. On the contrary, it was rather a feeble than a striking portrait of the monstrous iniquity which had so long been established over them. Nevertheless, they went through the narrative conscientiously and earnestly. They spoke of the King’s early determination to govern the Netherlands, not by natives but by Spaniards; to treat them not as constitutional countries, but as conquered provinces; to regard the inhabitants not as liege subjects, but as enemies; above all, to supersede their ancient liberty by the Spanish Inquisition, and they alluded to the first great step in this scheme—the creation of the new bishoprics, each with its staff of inquisitors.

They noticed the memorable Petition, the mission of Berghen and Montigny, their imprisonment and taking off, in violation of all national law, even that which had ever been held sacred by the most cruel and tyrannical princes. They sketched the history of Alva’s administration; his entrapping the most eminent nobles by false promises, and delivering them to the executioner; his countless sentences of death, outlawry, and confiscation; his erection of citadels to curb, his imposition of the tenth and twentieth penny to exhaust the land; his Blood Council and its achievements; and the immeasurable, woe produced by hanging, burning, banishing, and plundering, during his seven years of residence. They adverted to the Grand Commander, as having been sent, not to improve the condition of the country, but to pursue the same course of tyranny by more concealed ways. They spoke of the horrible mutiny which broke forth at his death; of the Antwerp Fury; of the express approbation rendered to that great outrage by the King, who had not only praised the crime, but promised to recompense the criminals. They alluded to Don John of Austria and his duplicity; to his pretended confirmation of the Ghent treaty; to his attempts to divide the country against itself; to the Escovedo policy; to the intrigues with the German regiments. They touched upon the Cologne negotiations, and the fruitless attempt of the patriots upon that occasion to procure freedom of religion, while the object of the royalists was only to distract and divide the nation. Finally, they commented with sorrow and despair upon that last and crowning measure of tyranny—the ban against the Prince of Orange.

They calmly observed, after this recital, that they were sufficiently justified in forsaking a sovereign who for more than twenty years had forsaken them. Obeying the law of nature—desirous of maintaining the rights, charters, and liberties of their fatherland—determined to escape from slavery to Spaniards—and making known their decision to the world, they declared the King of Spain deposed from his sovereignty, and proclaimed that they should recognize thenceforth neither his title nor jurisdiction. Three days afterwards, on the 29th of July, the assembly adopted a formula, by which all persons were to be required to signify their abjuration.

Such were the forms by which the united provinces threw off their allegiance to Spain, and ipso facto established a republic, which was to flourish for two centuries. This result, however, was not exactly foreseen by the congress which deposed Philip. The fathers of the commonwealth did not baptize it by the name of Republic. They did not contemplate a change in their form of government. They had neither an aristocracy nor a democracy in their thoughts. Like the actors in our own great national drama, these Netherland patriots were struggling to sustain, not to overthrow; unlike them, they claimed no theoretical freedom for humanity—promulgated no doctrine of popular sovereignty: they insisted merely on the fulfilment of actual contracts, signed sealed, and sworn to by many successive sovereigns. Acting, upon the principle that government should be for the benefit of the governed, and in conformity to the dictates of reason and justice, they examined the facts by those divine lights, and discovered cause to discard their ruler. They did not object to being ruled. They were satisfied with their historical institutions, and preferred the mixture of hereditary sovereignty with popular representation, to which they were accustomed. They did not devise an a priori constitution. Philip having violated the law of reason and the statutes of the land, was deposed, and a new chief magistrate was to be elected in his stead. This was popular sovereignty in fact, but not in words. The deposition and election could be legally justified only by the inherent right of the people to depose and to elect; yet the provinces, in their Declaration of Independence, spoke of the divine right of kings, even while dethroning, by popular right, their own King!

So also, in the instructions given by the states to their envoys charged to justify the abjuration before the Imperial diet held at Augsburg, twelve months later, the highest ground was claimed for the popular right to elect or depose the sovereign, while at the same time, kings were spoken of as "appointed by God." It is true that they were described, in the same clause, as "chosen by the people"—which was, perhaps, as exact a concurrence in the maxim of Vox populi, vox Dei, as the boldest democrat of the day could demand. In truth, a more democratic course would have defeated its own ends. The murderous and mischievous pranks of Imbize, Ryhove, and such demagogues, at Ghent and elsewhere, with their wild theories of what they called Grecian, Roman, and Helvetian republicanism, had inflicted damage enough on the cause of freedom, and had paved the road for the return of royal despotism. The senators assembled at the Hague gave more moderate instructions to their delegates at Augsburg. They were to place the King’s tenure upon contract—not an implied one, but a contract as literal as the lease of a farm. The house of Austria, they were to maintain, had come into the possession of the seventeen Netherlands upon certain express conditions, and with the understanding that its possession was to cease with the first condition broken. It was a question of law and fact, not of royal or popular right. They were to take the ground, not only that the contract had been violated, but that the foundation of perpetual justice upon which it rested; had likewise been undermined. It was time to vindicate both written charters and general principles. "God has given absolute power to no mortal man," said Saint Aldegonde, "to do his own will against all laws and all reason." "The contracts which the King has broken are no pedantic fantasies," said the estates, "but laws planted by nature in the universal heart of mankind, and expressly acquiesced in by prince and people." All men, at least, who speak the English tongue, will accept the conclusion of the provinces, that when laws which protected the citizen against arbitrary imprisonment and guaranteed him a trial in his own province—which forbade the appointment of foreigners to high office —which secured the property of the citizen from taxation, except by the representative body—which forbade intermeddling on the part of the sovereign with the conscience of the subject in religious matters—when such laws had been subverted by blood tribunals, where drowsy judges sentenced thousands to stake and scaffold without a hearing by excommunication, confiscation, banishment-by hanging, beheading, burning, to such enormous extent and with such terrible monotony that the executioner’s sword came to be looked upon as the only symbol of justice —then surely it might be said, without exaggeration, that the complaints of the Netherlanders were "no pedantic fantasies," and that the King had ceased to perform his functions as dispenser of God’s justice.

The Netherlanders dealt with facts. They possessed a body of laws, monuments of their national progress, by which as good a share of individual liberty was secured to the citizen as was then enjoyed in any country of the world. Their institutions admitted of great improvement, no doubt; but it was natural that a people so circumstanced should be unwilling to exchange their condition for the vassalage of "Moors or Indians."

At the same time it may be doubted whether the instinct for political freedom only would have sustained them in the long contest, and whether the bonds which united them to the Spanish Crown would have been broken, had it not been for the stronger passion for religious liberty, by which so large a portion of the people was animated. Boldly as the united states of the Netherlands laid down their political maxima, the quarrel might perhaps have been healed if the religious question had admitted of a peaceable solution. Philip’s bigotry amounting to frenzy, and the Netherlanders of "the religion" being willing, in their own words, "to die the death" rather than abandon the Reformed faith, there was upon this point no longer room for hope. In the act of abjuration, however, it was thought necessary to give offence to no class of the inhabitants, but to lay down such principles only as enlightened Catholics would not oppose. All parties abhorred the Inquisition, and hatred to that institution is ever prominent among the causes assigned for the deposition of the monarch. "Under pretence of maintaining the Roman religion," said the estates, "the King has sought by evil means to bring into operation the whole strength of the placards and of the Inquisition —the first and true cause of all our miseries."

Without making any assault upon the Roman Catholic faith, the authors of the great act by which Philip was for ever expelled from the Netherlands showed plainly enough that religious persecution had driven them at last to extremity. At the same time, they were willing—for the sake of conciliating all classes of their countrymen—to bring the political causes of discontent into the foreground, and to use discreet language upon the religious question.

Such, then, being the spirit which prompted the provinces upon this great occasion, it may be asked who were the men who signed a document of such importance? In whose-name and by what authority did they act against the sovereign? The signers of the declaration of independence acted in the name and by the authority of the Netherlands people. The estates were the constitutional representatives of that people. The statesmen of that day discovering, upon cold analysis of facts, that Philip’s sovereignty was, legally forfeited; formally proclaimed that forfeiture. Then inquiring what had become of the sovereignty, they found it not in the mass of the people, but in the representative body, which actually personated the people. The estates of the different provinces— consisting of the knights, nobles, and burgesses of each—sent, accordingly, their deputies to the general assembly at the Hague; and by this congress the decree of abjuration was issued. It did, not occur to any one to summon the people in their primary assemblies, nor would the people of that day, have comprehended the objects of such a summons. They were accustomed to the action of the estates, and those bodies represented as large a number of political capacities as could be expected of assemblies chosen then upon general principles. The hour had not arrived for more profound analysis of the social compact. Philip was accordingly deposed justly, legally formally justly, because it had become necessary to abjur a monarch who was determined not only to oppress; but to exterminate his people; legally, because he had habitually violated the constitutions which he had sworn to support; formally, because the act was done in the name of the people, by the body historically representing the people.

What, then, was the condition of the nation, after this great step had been taken? It stood, as it were, with its sovereignty in its hand, dividing it into two portions, and offering it, thus separated, to two distinct individuals. The sovereignty of Holland and Zealand had been reluctantly accepted by Orange. The sovereignty of the united provinces had been offered to Anjou, but the terms of agreement with that Duke had not yet been ratified. The movement was therefore triple, consisting of an abjuration and of two separate elections of hereditary chiefs; these two elections being accomplished in the same manner, by the representative bodies respectively of the united provinces, and of Holland and Zealand. Neither the abjuration nor the elections were acted upon beforehand by the communities, the train-bands, or the guilds of the cities—all represented, in fact, by the magistrates and councils of each; nor by the peasantry of the open country—all supposed to be represented by the knights and nobles. All classes of individuals, however; arranged in various political or military combinations, gave their acquiescence afterwards, together with their oaths of allegiance. The people approved the important steps taken by their representatives.

Without a direct intention on the part of the people or its leaders to establish a republic, the Republic established itself. Providence did not permit the whole country, so full of wealth intelligence, healthy political action—so stocked with powerful cities and an energetic population, to be combined into one free and prosperous commonwealth. The factious ambition of a few grandees, the cynical venality of many nobles, the frenzy of the Ghent democracy, the spirit of religious intolerance, the consummate military and political genius of Alexander Farnese, the exaggerated self-abnegation and the tragic fate of Orange, all united to dissever this group of flourishing and kindred provinces.

The want of personal ambition on the part of William the Silent inflicted perhaps a serious damage upon his country. He believed a single chief requisite for the united states; he might have been, but always refused to become that chief; and yet he has been held up for centuries by many writers as a conspirator and a self-seeking intriguer. "It seems to me," said he, with equal pathos and truth, upon one occasion, "that I was born in this bad planet that all which I do might be misinterpreted." The people worshipped him, and there was many an occasion when his election would have been carried with enthusiasm. "These provinces," said John of Nassau, "are coming very unwillingly into the arrangement with the Duke of Alencon, The majority feel much more inclined to elect the Prince, who is daily, and without intermission, implored to give his consent. His Grace, however, will in no wise agree to this; not because he fears the consequences, such as loss of property or increased danger, for therein he is plunged as deeply as he ever could be;—on the contrary, if he considered only the interests of his race and the grandeur of his house, he could expect nothing but increase of honor, gold, and gear, with all other prosperity. He refuses only on this account that it may not be thought that, instead of religious freedom for the country, he has been seeking a kingdom for himself and his own private advancement. Moreover, he believes that the connexion with France will be of more benefit to the country and to Christianity than if a peace should be made with Spain, or than if he should himself accept the sovereignty, as he is desired to do."

The unfortunate negotiations with Anjou, to which no man was more opposed than Count John, proceeded therefore. In the meantime, the sovereignty over the united provinces was provisionally held by the national council, and, at the urgent solicitation of the states-general, by the Prince. The Archduke Matthias, whose functions were most unceremoniously brought to an end by the transactions which we have been recording, took his leave of the states, and departed in the month of October. Brought to the country a beardless boy, by the intrigues of a faction who wished to use him as a tool against William of Orange, he had quietly submitted, on the contrary, to serve as the instrument of that great statesman. His personality during his residence was null, and he had to expiate, by many a petty mortification, by many a bitter tear, the boyish ambition which brought him to the Netherlands. He had certainly had ample leisure to repent the haste with which he had got out of his warm bed in Vienna to take his bootless journey to Brussels. Nevertheless, in a country where so much baseness, cruelty, and treachery was habitually practised by men of high position, as was the case in the Netherlands; it is something in favor of Matthias that he had not been base, or cruel, or treacherous. The states voted him, on his departure, a pension of fifty thousand guldens annually, which was probably not paid with exemplary regularity.


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Title: Rise of the Dutch Republic, Vol. 3

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Chicago: John Lothrop Motley, "Chapter IV.," Rise of the Dutch Republic, Vol. 3 in The Rise of the Dutch Republic, Vol. 3 (New York: Harper, 1883), Original Sources, accessed October 3, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L8G4SCGUY3MGDBQ.

MLA: Motley, John Lothrop. "Chapter IV." Rise of the Dutch Republic, Vol. 3, in The Rise of the Dutch Republic, Vol. 3, New York, Harper, 1883, Original Sources. 3 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L8G4SCGUY3MGDBQ.

Harvard: Motley, JL, 'Chapter IV.' in Rise of the Dutch Republic, Vol. 3. cited in 1883, The Rise of the Dutch Republic, Vol. 3, Harper, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 3 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L8G4SCGUY3MGDBQ.