Front Page Titles (by Subject) MEMOIR OF THE AFFAIRS OF HOLLAND. ad 1667—1686. - The Miscellaneous Works
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
MEMOIR OF THE AFFAIRS OF HOLLAND. ad 1667—1686. - Sir James Mackintosh, The Miscellaneous Works 
The Miscellaneous Works. Three Volumes, complete in One. (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1871).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
MEMOIR OF THE AFFAIRS OF HOLLAND.
The Seven United Provinces which established their independence made little change in their internal institutions. The revolt against Philip’s personal commands was long carried on under colour of his own legal authority, conjointly exercised by his lieutenant, the Prince of Orange, and by the States,—composed of the nobility and of the deputies of towns,—who had before shared a great portion of it. But, being bound to each other in an indissoluble confederacy, established at Utrecht in 1579, the care of their foreign relations and of all their common affairs was intrusted to delegates, sent from each, who gradually assumed that name of “States-General,” which had been originally bestowed only on the occasional assemblies of the whole States of all the Belgic provinces. These arrangements, hastily adopted in times of confusion, drew no distinct lines of demarcation between the provincial and federal authorities. Hostilities had been for many years carried on before the authority of Philip was finally abrogated; and after that decisive measure the States showed considerable disposition to the revival of a monarchical power in the person of an Austrian or French prince, or of the Queen of England. William I., seems about to have been invested with the ancient legal character of Earl of Holland at the moment of his murder.* He and his successors were Stadtholders of the greater provinces, and sometimes of all: they exercised in that character a powerful influence on the election of the magistrates of towns; they commanded the forces of the confederacy by sea and land; they combined the prerogatives of their ancient magistracy with the new powers, the assumption of which the necessities of war seemed to justify; and they became engaged in constant disputes with the great political bodies, whose pretensions to an undivided sovereignty were as recent and as little defined as their own rights. While Holland formed the main strength of the confederacy, the city of Amsterdam predominated in the councils of that province. The provincial States of Holland, and the patricians in the towns from whom their magistrates were selected, were the aristocratical antagonists of the stadholderian power, which chiefly rested on official patronage, on military command, on the favour of the populace, and on the influence of the minor provinces in the States-General.
The House of Nassau stood conspicuous, at the dawn of modern history, among the noblest of the ruling families of Germany. In the thirteenth century, Adolphus of Nassau succeeded Rodolph of Hapsburg in the imperial crown,—the highest dignity of the Christian world. A branch of this ancient house had acquired ample possessions in the Netherlands, together with the principality of Orange in Provence; and under Charles V., William of Nassau was the most potent lord of the Burgundian provinces. Educated in the palace and almost in the chamber of the Emperor, he was nominated in the earliest years of manhood to the government of Holland,* and to the command of the imperial army, by that sagacious monarch, who, in the memorable solemnity of abdication, leant upon his shoulder as the first of his Belgic subjects. The same eminent qualities which recommended him to the confidence of Charles awakened the jealousy of Philip, whose anger, breaking through all the restraints of his wonted simulation, burst into furious reproaches against the Prince of Orange as the fomenter of the resistance of the Flemings to the destruction of their privileges. Among the three rulers who, perhaps unconsciously, were stirred up at the same moment to preserve the civil and religious liberties of mankind, William I. must be owned to have wanted the brilliant and attractive qualities of Henry IV., and to have yielded to the commanding genius of Elizabeth; but his principles were more inflexible than those of the amiable hero, and his mind was undisturbed by the infirmities and passions which lowered the illustrious queen. Though he performed great actions with weaker means than theirs, his course was more unspotted. Faithful to the King of Spain as long as the preservation of the commonwealth allowed, he counselled the Duchess of Parma against all the iniquities by which the Netherlands were lost; but faithful also to his county, in his dying instructions he enjoined his son to beware of insiduous offers of compromise from the Spaniard, to adhere to his alliance with France and England, to observe the privileges of the provinces and towns, and to conduct himself in all things as became the chief magistrate of the republic.* Advancing a century beyond his contemporaries in civil wisdom, he braved the prejudices of the Calvinistic clergy, by contending for the toleration of Catholics, the chiefs of whom had sworn his destruction.† Thoughtful, of unconquerable spirit, persuasive though taciturn, of simple character, yet maintaining due dignity and becoming magnificence in his public character, an able commander and a wise statesman, he is perhaps the purest of those who have risen by arms from private station to supreme authority, and the greatest of the happy few who have enjoyed the glorious fortune of bestowing liberty upon a people.‡ The whole struggle of this illustrious prince was against foreign oppression. His posterity, less happy, were engaged in domestic broils, in part arising from their undefined authority, and from the very complicated constitution of the commonwealth.
Maurice, the eldest Protestant son of William, surpassed his father in military genius, but fell far short of him in that moderation of temper and principle which is the most indispensable virtue of the leader of a free state. The blood of Barneveldt and the dungeon of Grotius have left an indelible stain on his memory; nor is it without apparent reason that the aristocratical party have charged him with projects of usurpation,—natural to a family of republican magistrates allied by blood to all the kings of Europe, and distinguished by many approaches and pretensions to the kingly power.* Henry Frederic, his successor, was the son of William I. by Louise de Coligny,—a woman singular in her character as well as in her destiny, who, having seen her father and the husband of her youth murdered at the massacre of Saint Bartholomew, was doomed to witness the fall of a more illustrious husband by the hand of an assassin of the same faction, and who in her last widowhood won the affection of William’s children by former wives, for her own virtuous son. Having maintained the fame of his family in war, he was happier than his more celebrated brother in a domestic administration, which was moderate, tolerant, and unsuspected.† He lived to see the final recognition of Dutch independence by the treaty of Munster, and was succeeded by his son, William II., who, after a short and turbulent rule, died in 1650, leaving his widow, the Princess Royal of England, pregnant.
William III., born on the 14th of November, 1650, eight days after the death of his father, an orphan of feeble frame, with early indications of disease, seemed to be involved in the cloud of misfortune which then covered the deposed and exiled family of his mother. The patricians of the commercial cities, who had gathered strength with their rapidly increasing wealth, were incensed at the late attack of William II. on Amsterdam; they were equally emboldened by the establishment of a republic in England, and prejudiced, not without reason, against the Stuart family, whose absurd principle of the divine right of kings had always disposed James I. to regard the Dutch as no better than successful rebels,‡ and had led his son, in 1631, a period of profound peace and professed friendship, to conclude a secret treaty with Spain for the partition of the Republic, in which England was to be rewarded for her treachery and rapine by the sovereignty of Zealand.§ They found no difficulty in persuading the States to assume all the authority hitherto exercised by the Stadtholder, without fixing any period for conferring on the infant Prince those dignities which had been enjoyed by three generations of his family. At the peace of 1654, the States of Holland bound themselves by a secret article, yielded with no great reluctance to the demands of Cromwell, never to choose the Prince of Orange to be their Stadtholder, nor to consent to his being appointed Captain-General of the forces of the confederacy;—a separate stipulation, at variance with the spirit of the union of Utrecht, and disrespectful to the judgment, if not injurious to the rights, of the weaker confederates.* After the Restoration this engagement lost its power. But when the Prince of Orange had nearly reached years of discretion, and the brilliant operations of a military campaign against England had given new vigour to the republican administration, John De Witt, who, under the modest title of “Pensionary” of Holland, had long directed the affairs of the confederacy with a success and reputation due to his matchless honesty and prudence, prevailed on the States of that province to pass a “Perpetual Edict for the Maintenance of Liberty.” By this law they abolished the Stadtholdership in their own province, and agreed to take effectual means to obtain from their confederates edicts excluding all those who might be Captain-Generals from the Stadtholdership of any of the provinces,—binding themselves and their successors by oath to observe these provisions, and imposing the like oath on all who might be appointed to the chief command by land or sea.† Guelderland, Utrecht, and Overyssell acceded. Friesland and Groningen, then governed by a Stadtholder of another branch of the family of Nassau, were considered as not immediately interested in the question. Zealand alone, devoted to the House of Orange, resisted the separation of the supreme military and civil officers. On this footing De Witt professed his readiness to confer the office of Captain-General on the Prince, as soon as he should be of fit age. He was allowed meanwhile to take his seat in the Council of State, and took an oath to observe the Perpetual Edict. His opponents struggled to retard his military appointment, to shorten its duration, and to limit its powers. His partisans, on the other hand, supported by England, and led by Amelia of Solms, the widow of Prince Henry,—a woman of extraordinary ability, who had trained the young Prince with parental tenderness,—seized every opportunity of pressing forward his nomination, and of preparing the way for the enlargement of his authority.
This contest might have been longer protracted, if the Conspiracy of Louis and Charles, and the occupation of the greater part of the country by the former, had not brought undeserved reproach on the administration of De Witt. Fear and distrust became universal; every man suspected his neighbour; accusations were heard with greedy credulity; misfortunes were imputed to treachery; and the multitude cried aloud for victims. The corporate officers of the great towns, originally chosen by the burghers, had, on the usual plea of avoiding tumult, obtained the right of filling up all vacancies in their own number. They thus strengthened their power, but destroyed their security. No longer connected with the people by election, the aristocratical families received no fresh infusion of strength, and had no hold on the attachment of the community; though they still formed, indeed, the better part of the people. They had raised the fishermen of a few marshy districts to be one of the greatest nations of Europe; but the misfortunes of a moment banished the remembrance of their services. Their grave and harsh virtues were more unpopular than so many vices; while the needs and disasters of war served to heighten the plebeian clamour, and to strengthen the military power, which together formed the combined force of the Stadtholderian party. It was then in vain that the Republicans endeavoured to satisfy that party, and to gain over the King of England by the nomination of the Prince of Orange to be Captain-General: Charles was engaged in deeper designs. The progress of the French arms still farther exasperated the populace, and the Republicans incurred the reproach of treachery by a disposition,—perhaps carried to excess,—to negotiate with Louis XIV. at a moment when all negotiation wore the appearance of submission. So it had formerly happened:—Barneveldt was friendly to peace with Spain, when Maurice saw no safety but in arms. Men equally wise and honest may differ on the difficult and constantly varying question, whether uncompromising resistance, or a reservation of active effort for a more favourable season, be the best mode of dealing with a formidable conqueror. Though the war policy of Demosthenes terminated in the destruction of Athens, we dare not affirm that the pacific system of Phocion would have saved it. In the contest of Maurice with Barneveldt, and of De Witt with the adherents of the House of Orange, both parties had an interest distinct from that of the commonwealth; for the influence of the States grew in peace, and the authority of the Captain-General was strengthened by war. The populace now revolted against their magistrates in all the towns, and the States of Holland were compelled to repeal the Edict, which they—called “Perpetual,” to release themselves and all the officers from the oath which they had taken to observe it, and to confer, on the 4th of July, 1672, on the Prince the office of Stadtholder,—which, then only elective for life, was, after two years more, made hereditary to his descendants.
The commotions which accompanied this revolution were stained by the murder of John and Cornelius De Witt,—a crime perpetrated with such brutal ferocity, and encountered with such heroic serenity, that it may almost seem to be doubtful whether the glory of having produced such pure sufferers may not in some degree console a country for having given birth to assassins so atrocious. These excesses are singularly at variance with the calm and orderly character of the Dutch,—than whom perhaps no free state has, in proportion to its magnitude, contributed more amply to the amendment of mankind by examples of public virtue. The Prince of Orange, thus hurried to the supreme authority at the age of twenty-two, was ignorant of these crimes, and avowed his abhorrence of them. They were perpetrated more than a month after his highest advancement, when they could produce no effect but that of bringing odium upon his party. But it must be for ever deplored that the extreme danger of his position should have prevented him from punishing the offences of his partisans, till it seemed too late to violate that species of tacit amnesty which time insensibly establishes. It would be impossible ever to excuse this unhappy impunity, if we did not call to mind that Louis XIV. was at Utrecht; that it was the populace of the Hague that had imbrued their hands in the blood of the De Witts; and that the magistrates of Amsterdam might be disposed to avenge on their country the cause of their virtuous chiefs. Henceforward William directed the counsels and arms of Holland, gradually forming and leading a confederacy to set bounds to the ambition of Louis XIV., and became, by his abilities and dispositions, as much as by his position, the second person in Europe.
We possess unsuspected descriptions of his character from observers of more than ordinary sagacity, who had an interest in watching its development, before it was surrounded by the dazzling illusions of power and fame. Among the most valuable of these witnesses were some of the subjects and servants of Louis XIV. At the age of eighteen the Prince’s good sense, knowledge of affairs, and seasonable concealment of his thoughts, attracted the attention of Gourville, a man of experience and discernment. St. Evremond, though himself distinguished chiefly by vivacity and accomplishments, saw the superiority of William’s powers through his silence and coldness. After long intimacy, Sir William Temple describes his great endowments and excellent qualities, his—then almost singular—combination of “charity and religious zeal,” “his desire—rare in every age—to grow great rather by the service than the servitude of his country;”—language so manifestly considerate, discriminating, and unexaggerated, as to bear on it the inimitable stamp of truth, in addition to the weight which it derives from the probity of the writer. But there is no testimony so important as that of Charles II., who, in the early part of his reign, had been desirous of gaining an ascendant in Holland by the restoration of the House of Orange, and of subverting the government of De Witt, whom he never forgave for his share in the treaty with the English Republic. Some retrospect is necessary, to explain the experiment by which that monarch both ascertained and made known the ruling principles of his nephew’s mind.
The mean negotiations about the sale of Dunkirk first betrayed to Louis XIV. the passion of Charles for French money. The latter had at the same time, offered to aid Louis in the conquest of Flanders, on condition of receiving French succour against the revolt of his own subjects,* and had strongly expressed his desire of an offensive and defensive alliance to Ruvigni, one of the most estimable of that monarch’s agents.† But the most pernicious of Charles’ vices, never bridled by any virtue, were often mitigated by the minor vices of indolence and irresolution. Even the love of pleasure, which made him needy and rapacious, unfitted him for undertakings full of toil and peril. Projects for circumventing each other in Holland, which Charles aimed at influencing through the House of Orange, and Louis hoped to master through the Republican party, retarded their secret advances to an entire union. De Witt was compelled to consent to some aggrandisement of France, rather than expose his country to a war without the co-operation of the King of England, who was ready to betray a hated ally. The first Dutch war appears to have arisen from the passions of both nations, and their pride of maritime supremacy,—employed as instruments by Charles wherewith to obtain booty at sea, and supply from his Parliament,—and by Louis wherewith to seize the Spanish Netherlands. At the peace of Breda (July, 1667,) the Court of England seemed for a moment to have changed its policy, by the conclusion of the Triple Alliance, which prescribed some limits to the ambition of France,—a system which De Witt, as soon as he met so honest a negotiator as Sir William Temple, joyfully hastened to embrace.
Temple was, however, duped by his master. It is probable that the Triple Alliance was the result of a fraudulent project, suggested originally by Gourville to ruin De Witt, by embroiling him irreconcilably with France.‡ Charles made haste to disavow the intentions professed in it;§ and a negotiation with France was immediately opened, partly by the personal intercourse of Charles with the French ministers at his court, but chiefly through his sister, the Duchess of Orleans,—an amiable princess, probably the only person whom he ever loved. This correspondence, which was concealed from those of his ministers who were not either Catholics or well affected to the Catholic religion, lingered on till May, 1670, when (on the 22d) a secret treaty was concluded under cover of a visit made by the Duchess to her brother.*
The essential stipulations of this unparalleled compact were three: that Louis should advance money to Charles, to enable him the more safely to execute what is called “a declaration of his adherence to the Catholic religion,” and should support him with men and money, if that measure should be resisted by his subjects; that both powers should join their arms against Holland, the islands of Walcheren and Cadsand being alloted to England as her share of the prey (which clearly left the other territories of the Republic at the disposal of Louis), and that England should aid Louis in any new pretensions to the crown of Spain, or, in other and plainer language, enable him, on the very probable event of Charles II. of Spain dying without issue,* to incorporate with a monarchy already the greatest in Europe the long-coveted inheritance of the House of Burgundy, and the two vast peninsulas of Italy and Spain. The strength of Louis would thus have been doubled at one blow, and all limitations to his farther progress on the Continent must have been left to his own moderation. It is hard to imagine what should have hindered him from rendering his monarchy universal over the civilized world. The port of Ostend, the island of Minorca, and the permission to conquer Spanish America, with a very vague promise of assistance of France, were assigned to England as the wages of her share of this conspiracy against mankind. The fearful stipulations for rendering the King of England independent of Parliament, by a secret supply of foreign money, and for putting into his hands a foreign military force, to be employed against his subjects, were, indeed, to take effect only in case of the avowal of his reconciliation with the Church of Rome. But as he himself considered a re-establishment of that Church as essential to the consolidation of his authority,—which the mere avowal of his religion would rather have weakened, and the bare toleration of it could little, if at all, have promoted; as he confessedly meditated measures for quieting the alarms of the possessors of Church lands, whom the simple letter of the treaty could not have much disturbed; as he proposed a treaty with the Pope to obtain the cup for the laity, and the mass in English,—concessions which are scarcely intelligible without the supposition that the Church of Rome was to be established; as he concealed this article from Shaftesbury, who must have known his religion, and was then friendly to a toleration of it; and as other articles were framed for the destruction of the only powerful Protestant state on the Continent, there cannot be the slightest doubt that the real object of this atrocious compact, however disguised under the smooth and crafty language of diplomacy, was the forcible imposition of a hated religion upon the British nation, and that the conspirators foresaw a national resistance, which must be stifled or quelled by a foreign army.† It was evident that the most tyrannical measures would have been necessary for the accomplishment of such purposes, and that the transfer of all civil, military, and ecclesiastical power to the members of a communion, who had no barrier against public hatred but the throne, must have tended to render the power of Charles absolute, and must have afforded him the most probable means of effectually promoting the plans of his ally for the subjugation of Europe.* If the foreign and domestic objects of this treaty be considered, together with the means by which they were to have been accomplished, and the dire consequences which must have flowed from their attainment, it seems probable that so much falsehood, treachery, and mercenary meanness were never before combined, in the decent formalities of a solemn compact between sovereigns, with such premeditated bloodshed and unbridled cruelty. The only semblance of virtue in the dark plot was the anxiety shown to conceal it; which, however, arose more from the fears than the shame of the conspirators. In spite of all their precautions it transpired: the secret was extorted from Turenne, in a moment of weakness, by a young mistress.† He also disclosed some of the correspondence to Puffendorf, the Swedish minister at Paris, to detach the Swedes from the Triple Alliance;‡ and it was made known by that minister, as well as by De Groot, the Dutch ambassador at Paris, to De Witt, who had never ceased to distrust the sincerity of the Stuarts towards Holland.§ The suspicions of Temple himself had been early awakened; and he seems to have in some measure played the part of a willing dupe, in the hope of entangling his master in honest alliances. The substance of the secret treaty was the subject of general conversation at the Court of England at the time of Puffendorf’s discovery.∥ A pamphlet published, or at least printed, in 1673, intelligibly hints at its existence “about four years before.”¶ Not long after, Louis XIV., in a moment of dissatisfaction with Charles II., permitted or commanded the Abbate Primi to print a History of the Dutch War at Paris, which derived credit from being soon suppressed at the instance of the English minister, and which gave an almost verbally exact summary of the secret treaty, with respect to three of its objects,—the partition of Holland, the re-establishment of the Catholic religion in the British Islands, and the absolute authority of the King.** The project for the dismemberment of Holland, adopted by Charles I. in 1631 appears to have been entertained by his eldest son till the last years of his reign.*
As one of the articles of the secret treaty had provided a petty sovereignty for the Prince of Orange out of the ruins of his country, Charles took the opportunity of his nephew’s visit to England, in October 1670, to sound him on a project which was thus baited for his concurrence. “All the Protestants,” said the King, “are a factious body, broken among themselves since they have been broken from the main stock. Look into these things better; do not be misled by your Dutch blockheads.”† The King immediately imparted the failure of this attempt to the French ambassador: “I am satisfied with the Prince’s abilities, but I find him too zealous a Dutchman and a Protestant to be trusted with the secret.”‡ But enough had escaped to disclose to the sagacious youth the purposes of his uncle, and to throw a strong light on the motives of all his subsequent measures. The inclination of Charles towards the Church of Rome could never have rendered a man so regardless of religion solicitous for a conversion, if he had not considered it as subservient to projects for the civil establishment of that Church,—which, as it could subsist only by his favour, must have been the instrument of his absolute power. Astonished as William was by the discovery, he had the fortitude, during the life of Charles, to conceal it from all but one, or, at most, two friends. It was reserved for later times to discover that Charles had the inconceivable baseness to propose the detention of his nephew in England, where the temptation of a sovereignty being aided by the prospect of the recovery of his freedom, might act more powerfully on his mind; and that this proposal was refused by Louis, either from magnanimity, or from regard to decency, or, perhaps, from reluctance to trust his ally with the sole disposal of so important a prisoner.
Though—to return,—in 1672 the French army had advanced into the heart of Holland, the fortitude of the Prince was unshaken. Louis offered to make him sovereign of the remains of the country, under the protection of France and England:§ but at that moment of extreme peril, he answered with his usual calmness, “I never will betray a trust, nor sell the liberties of my country, which my ancestors have so long defended.” All around him despaired.—One of his very few confidential friends, after having long expostulated with him on his fruitless obstinacy, at length asked him, if he had considered how and where he should live after Holland was lost. “I have thought of that;” he replied; “I am resolved to live on the lands I have left in Germany. I had rather pass my life in hunting there, than sell my country or my liberty to France at any price.”* Buckingham and Arlington were sent from England to try, whether, beset by peril, the lure of sovereignty might not seduce him. The former often said, “Do you not see that the country is lost?” The answer of the Prince to the profligate buffoon spoke the same unmoved resolution with that which he had made to Zulestein or Fagel; but it naturally rose a few degrees towards animation:—“I see it is in great danger, but there is a sure way of never seeing it lost; and that is, to die in the last ditch.”† The perfect simplicity of these declarations may authorise us to rank them among the most genuine specimens of true magnanimity. Perhaps the history of the world does not hold out a better example, how high above the reach of fortune the pure principle of obedience to the dictates of conscience, unalloyed by interest, passion, or ostentation, can raise the mind of a virtuous man. To set such an example is an unspeakably more signal service to mankind, than all the outward benefits which flow to them from the most successful virtue. It is a principle independent of events, and one that burns most brightly in adversity,—the only agent, perhaps, of sufficient power to call forth the native greatness of soul which lay hid under the cold and unattractive deportment of the Prince of Orange.
His present situation was calculated to ascertain whether his actions would correspond with his declarations. Beyond the important country extending from Amsterdam to Rotterdam,—a district of about forty miles in length, the narrow seat of the government, wealth, and force of the commonwealth, which had been preserved from invasion by the bold expedient of inundation, and out of which the cities and fortresses arose like islands,—little remained of the republican territory except the fortress of Maestricht, the marshy islands of Zealand, and the secluded province of Friesland. A French army of a hundred and ten thousand men, encouraged by the presence of Louis, and commanded by Condé and Turenne, had their head-quarters at Utrecht, within twenty miles of Amsterdam, and impatiently looked forward to the moment when the ice should form a road to the spoils of that capital of the commercial world. On the other side, the hostile flag of England was seen from the coast. The Prince of Orange, a sickly youth of twenty-two, without fame or experience, had to contend against such enemies at the head of a new government, of a divided people, and of a little army of twenty thousand men,—either raw recruits or foreign mercenaries,—whom the exclusively maritime policy of the late administration had left without officers of skill or name. His immortal ancestor, when he founded the republic about a century before, saw at the lowest ebb of his fortune the hope of aid from England and France: far darker were the prospects of William III. The degenerate successor of Elizabeth, abusing the ascendant of a parental relation, sought to tempt him to become a traitor to his country for a share in her spoils. The successor of Henry IV. offered him only the choice of being bribed or crushed. Such was their fear of France, that the Court of Spain did not dare to aid him, though their only hope was from his success. The German branch of the House of Austria was then entangled in a secret treaty with Louis, by which the Low Countries were ceded to him, on condition of his guaranteeing to the Emperor the reversion of the Spanish monarchy on the death of Charles II. without issue. No great statesman, no illustrious commander but Montecucculi, no able prince but the great Elector of Brandenburgh, was to be found among the avowed friends or even secret well-wishers of William. The territories of Cologne and Liege, which presented all the means of military intercourse between the French and Dutch frontiers, were ruled by the creatures of Louis. The final destruction of a rebellious and heretical confederacy was foretold with great, but not apparently unreasonable confidence, by the zealots of absolute authority in Church and State; and the inhabitants of Holland began seriously to entertain the heroic project of abandoning an enslaved country, and transporting the commonwealth to their dominions in the Indian islands.
At this awful moment Fortune seemed to pause. The unwieldly magnificence of a royal retinue encumbered the advance of the French army. Though masters of Naerden, which was esteemed the bulwark of Amsterdam, they were too late to hinder the opening of the sluices at Murden, which drowned the country to the gates of that city. Louis, more intoxicated with triumph than intent on conquest, lost in surveying the honours of victory the time which should have been spent in seizing its fruits. Impatient of so long an interruption of his pleasures, he hastened to display at Versailles the trophies of a campaign of two months, in which the conquest of three provinces, the capture of fifty fortified places, and of twenty-four thousand prisoners, were ascribed to him by his flatterers. The cumbrous and tedious formalities of the Dutch constitution enabled the Stadtholder to gain some time without suspicion. Even the perfidious embassy of Buckingham and Arlington contributed somewhat to prolong negotiations. He amused them for a moment by appearing to examine the treaties they had brought from London, by which France was to gain all the fortresses which commanded the country, leaving Zealand to England, and the rest of the country as a principality to himself.* Submission seemed inevitable and speedy; still the inundation rendered military movements inconvenient and perhaps hazardous; and the Prince thus obtained a little leisure for the execution of his measures. The people, unable to believe the baseness of the Court of London, were animated by the appearance of the ministers who came to seal their ruin: the Government, surrounded by the waters, had time to negotiate at Madrid, Vienna, and Berlin. The Marquis de Monterey, governor of the Catholic Netherlands, without instructions from the Escurial, had the boldness to throw troops into the important fortresses of Dutch Brabant,—Breda, Bergen-op-Zoom, and Bois-le-Duc,—under pretence of a virtual guarantee of that territory by Spain.
In England, the continuance of prorogations—relieving the King from parliamentary opposition, but depriving him of sufficient supply,—had driven him to resources alike inadequate and infamous,† and had foreboded that general indignation which, after the combined fleets of England and France had been worsted by the marine of Holland‡ alone, at the very moment when the remnant of the Republic seemed about to be swallowed up, compelled him to desist from the open prosecution of the odious conspiracy against her.§ The Emperor Leopold, roused to a just sense of the imminent danger of Europe, also concluded a defensive alliance with the States-General;∥ as did the Germanic body generally, including Frederic William of Brandenburgh, called the “Great Elector.”
Turenne had been meanwhile compelled to march from the Dutch territory to observe, and, in case of need, to oppose, the Austrian and Brandenburgh troops; and the young Prince ceased to incur the risk and to enjoy the glory of being opposed to that great commander, who was the grandson of William I.,¶ and had been trained to arms under Maurice. The winter of 1672 was unusually late and short. As soon as the ice seemed sufficiently solid, Luxemburgh, who was left in command at Utrecht, advanced, in the hope of surprising the Hague; when a providential thaw obliged him to retire. His operations were limited to the destruction of two petty towns; and it seems doubtful whether he did not owe his own escape to the irresolution or treachery of a Dutch officer intrusted with a post which commanded the line of retreat. At the perilous moment of Luxemburgh’s advance, took place William’s long march through Brabant to the attack of Charleroi,—undertaken probably more with a view of raising the drooping spirits of his troops than in the hope of ultimate success. The deliverance of Holland in 1672 was the most signal triumph of a free people over mighty invaders, since the defeat of Xerxes.
In the ensuing year, William’s offensive operations had more outward and lasting consequences. Having deceived Luxemburgh, he recovered Naerden, and shortly hazarding another considerable march beyond the frontier, he captured the city of Bonn, and thus compelled Turenne to provide for the safety of his army by recrossing the Rhine. The Spanish governor of the Low Countries then declared war against France; and Louis was compelled to recall his troops from Holland. Europe now rose on all sides against the monarch who not many months before appeared to be her undisputed lord. So mighty were the effects of a gallant stand by a small people, under an inexperienced chief, without a council or minister but the Pensionary Fagel,—the pupil and adherent of De Witt, who, actuated by the true spirit of his great master, continued faithfully to serve his country, in spite of the saddest examples of the ingratitude of his countrymen. In the six years of war which followed, the Prince commanded in three battles against the greatest generals of France. At Senef,* it was a sufficient honour that he was not defeated by Condé; and that the veteran declared, on reviewing the events of the day,—“The young Prince has shown all the qualities of the most experienced commander, except that he exposed his own person too much.” He was defeated without dishonour at Cassel,† by Luxemburgh, under the nominal command of the Duke of Orleans. He gained an advantage over the same great general, after an obstinate and bloody action, at St. Denis, near Mons. This last proceeding was of more doubful morality than any other of his military life, the battle being fought four days after the signature of a separate treaty of peace by the Dutch plenipotentiaries at Nimeguen.‡ It was not, indeed, a breach of faith, for there was no armistice, and the ratifications were not executed. It is uncertain, even, whether he had information of what had passed at Nimeguen; the official despatches from the States-General reaching him only the next morning. The treaty had been suddenly and unexpectedly brought to a favourable conclusion by the French ministers; and the Prince, who condemned it as alike offensive to good faith and sound policy, had reasonable hopes of obtaining a victory, which, if gained before the final signature, might have determined the fluctuating counsels of the States to the side of vigour and honour. The morality of soldiers, even in our own age, is not severe in requiring proof of the necessity of bloodshed, if the combat be fair, the event brilliant, and, more particularly, if the commander freely exposes his own life. His gallant enemies warmly applauded this attack, distinguished, as it seems eminently to have been, for the daring valour, which was brightened by the gravity and modesty of his character; and they declared it to be “the only heroic action of a six years’ war between all the great nations of Europe.” If the official despatches had not hindered him from prosecuting the attack on the next day with the English auxiliaries, who must then have joined him, he was likely to have changed the fortune of the war.
The object of the Prince and the hope of his confederates had been to restore Europe to the condition in which it had been placed by the treaty of the Pyrenees.* The result of the negotiations at Nimeguen was to add the province of Franche Comté, and the most important fortresses of the Flemish frontier, to the cessions which Louis at Aix-la-Chapelle† had extorted from Spain. The Spanish Netherlands were thus farther stripped of their defence, the barrier of Holland weakened, and the way opened for the reduction of all the posts which face the most defenceless parts of the English coast. The acquisition of Franche Comté broke the military connection between Lombardy and Flanders, secured the ascendant of France in Switzerland, and, together with the usurpation of Lorraine, exposed the German empire to new aggression. The ambition of the French monarch was inflamed, and the spirit of neighbouring nations broken, by the ineffectual resistance as much as by the long submission of Europe.
The ten years which followed the peace of Nimeguen were the period of his highest elevation. The first exercise of his power was the erection of three courts, composed of his own subjects, and sitting by his authority, at Brissac, Mentz, and Besançon, to determine whether certain territories ought not to be annexed to France, which he claimed as fiefs of the provinces ceded to him by the Empire by the treaty of Westphalia. These courts, called “Chambers of Union,” summoned the possessors of these supposed fiefs to answer the King’s complaints. The justice of the claim and the competence of the tribunals were disputed with equal reason. The Chamber at Metz decreed the confiscation of eighty fiefs, for default of appearance by the feudatories, among whom were the Kings of Spain and Sweden, and the Elector Palatine. Some petty spiritless princes actually did homage to Louis for territories, said to have been anciently fiefs of the see of Verdun;* and, under colour of a pretended judgment of the Chamber at Brissac,† the city of Strasburgh, a flourishing Protestant republic, which commanded an important pass on the Rhine, was surrounded at mid-night, in a time of profound peace, by a body of French soldiers, who compelled those magistrates who had not been previously corrupted to surrender the city to the crown of France,‡ amidst the consternation and affliction of the people. Almost at the same hour, a body of troops entered Casal, in consequence of a secret treaty with the Duke of Mantua, a dissolute and needy youth, who for a bribe of a hundred thousand pounds, betrayed into the hands of Louis that fortress, then esteemed the bulwark of Lombardy.§ Both these usurpations were in contempt of a notice from the Imperial minister at Paris, against the occupation of Strasburgh, an Imperial city, or Casal, the capital of Montferrat, a fief of the Empire.∥
On the Belgic frontier, means were employed more summary and open than pretended judgments or clandestine treaties. Taking it upon himself to determine the extent of territory ceded to him at Nimeguen, Louis required from the Court of Madrid the possession of such districts as he thought fit. Much was immediately yielded. Some hesitation was shown in surrendering the town and district of Alost. Louis sent his troops into the Netherlands, there to stay till his demands were absolutely complied with; and he notified to the governor, that the slightest resistance would be the signal of war. Hostilities soon broke out, which after having made him master of Luxemburg, one of the strongest fortresses of Europe, were terminated in the summer of 1684, by a truce for twenty years, leaving him in possession of, and giving the sanction of Europe to, his usurpations.
To a reader of the nineteenth century, familiar with the present divisions of territory in Christendom, and accustomed to regard the greatness of France as well adapted to the whole state of the European system, the conquests of Louis XIV. may seem to have inspired an alarm disproportioned to their magnitude. Their real danger, however, will be speedily perceived by those who more accurately consider the state of surrounding countries, and the subdivision of dominion in that age. Two monarchies only of the first class existed on the continent, as the appellation of “the two Crowns,” then commonly used in speaking of France and Spain, sufficiently indicate. But Spain, which, under the last Austrian king, had perhaps reached the lowest point of her extraordinary fall, was in truth no longer able to defend herself. The revenue of somewhat more than two millions sterling was inadequate to the annual expense.* Ronquillo, the minister of this vast empire in London, was reduced to the necessity of dismissing his servants without payment.† An invader who had the boldness to encounter the shadow of a great name had little to dread, except from the poverty of the country, which rendered it incapable of feeding an army. Naples, Lombardy, and the Catholic Netherlands, though the finest provinces of Europe, were a drain and a burden in the hands of a government sunk into imbecile dotage, and alike incapable of ruling and of maintaining these envied possessions. While Spain, a lifeless and gigantic body, covered the South of Europe, the manly spirit and military skill of Germany were rendered of almost as little avail by the minute subdivisions of its territory. From the Rhine to the Vistula, a hundred princes, jealous of each other, fearful of offending the conqueror, and often competitors for his disgraceful bounty, broke into fragments the strength of the Germanic race. The houses of Saxony and Bavaria, Brandenburg and Brunswick, Wurtemburg, Baden, and Hesse, though among the most ancient and noble of the ruling families of Europe, were but secondary states. Even the genius of the late Elector of Brandenburg did not exempt him from the necessity or the temptation of occasional compliance with Louis. From the French frontier to the Baltic, no one firm mass stood in the way of his arms. Prussia was not yet a monarchy, nor Russia an European state. In the south-eastern provinces of Germany, where Rodolph of Hapsburg had laid the foundations of his family, the younger branch had, from the death of Charles V. formed a monarchy which, aided by the Spanish alliance, the imperial dignity, and a military position on the central frontier of Christendom, rendering it the bulwark of the Empire against the irruptions of the Turkish barbarians, rose during the thirty years’ war to such a power, that it was prevented only by Gustavus Adolphus from enslaving the whole of Germany. Fiance, which under Richelieu had excited and aided that great prince and his followers, was for that reason regarded for a time as the protector of the German States against the Emperor. Bavaria, the Palatinate, and the three ecclesiastical Electorates, partly from remaining jealousy of Austria, and partly from growing fear of Louis, were disposed to seek his protection and acquiesce in many of his encroachments.* This numerous, weak, timid, and mercenary body of German princes, supplied the chief materials out of which it was possible that an alliance against the conqueror might one day be formed. On the other hand, the military power of the Austrian monarchy was crippled by the bigotry and tyranny of its princes. The persecution of the Protestants, and the attempt to establish an absolute government, had spread disaffection through Hungary and its vast dependencies. In a contest between one tyrant and many, where the people in a state of personal slavery are equally disregarded by both, reason and humanity might be neutral, if reflection did not remind us, that even the contests and factions of a turbulent aristocracy call forth an energy, and magnanimity, and ability, which are extinguished under the quieter and more fatally lasting domination of a single master. The Emperor Leopold I., instigated by the Jesuits, of which order he was a lay member, rivalled and anticipated Louis XIV.† in his cruel prosecution of the Hungarian Protestants, and thereby drove the nation to such despair that they sought refuge in the aid of the common enemy of the Christian name. Encouraged by their revolt, and stimulated by the continued intrigues of the Court of Versailles,‡ the Turks at length invaded Austria with a mighty army, and would have mastered the capital of the most noble of Christian sovereigns, had not the seige of Vienna been raised, after a duration of two months, by John Sobieski, King of Poland,—the heroic chief of a people, whom in less than a century the House of Austria contributed to blot out of the map of nations. While these dangers impended over the Austrian monarchy, Louis had been preparing to deprive it of the Imperial sceptre, which in his own hands would have proved no bauble. By secret treaties, to which the Elector of Bavaria had been tempted to agree, in 1670, by the prospect of matrimonial alliance with the House of France, and which were imposed on the Electors of Brandenburg and Saxony in 1679, after the humiliation of Europe at Nimeguen, these princes had agreed to vote for Louis in case of the death of the Emperor Leopold,—an event which his infirm health had given frequent occasion to expect. The four Rhenish electors, especially after the usurpation of Strasburg and Luxemburg, were already in his net.
At home the vanquished party, whose antipathy to the House of Orange had been exasperated by the cruel fate of De Witt, sacrificed the care of the national independence to jealousy of the Stadtholderian princes, and carried their devotedness to France to an excess which there was nothing in the example of their justly revered leader to warrant.* They had obliged the Prince of Orange to accede to the unequal conditions of Nimeguen; they had prevented him from making military preparations absolutely required by safety; and they had compelled him to submit to that truce for twenty years, which left the entrances of Flanders, Germany, and Italy, in the hands of France. They had concerted all measures of domestic opposition with the French minister at the Hague; and, though there is no reason to believe that the opulent and creditable chiefs of the party, if they had received French money at all, would have deigned to employ it for any other than what they had unhappily been misled to regard as a public purpose, there is the fullest evidence of the employment of bribes to make known at Versailles the most secret counsels of the commonwealth.† Amsterdam had raised troops for her own defence, declaring her determination not to contribute towards the hostilities which the measures of the general government might occasion, and had entered into a secret correspondence with France. Friesland and Croningen had recalled their troops from the common defence, and bound themselves, by a secret convention with Amsterdam, to act in concert with that potent and mutinous city. The provinces of Guelderland, Overyssell, Utrecht, and Zealand, adhered, indeed, to the Prince, and he still preserved a majority in the States of Holland; but this majority consisted only of the order of nobles and of the deputies of inconsiderable towns. Fagel, his wise and faithful minister, appeared to be in danger of destruction at the hands of the Republicans, who abhorred him as a deserter. But Heinsius, Pensionary of Delft, probably the ablest man of that party, having, on a mission to Versailles, seen the effects of the civil and religious policy of Louis XIV., and considering consistency as dependent, not on names, but on principles, thought it the duty of a friend of liberty also to join the party most opposed to that monarch’s designs. So trembling was the ascendant of the Prince in Holland, that the accession of individuals was, from their situation or ability, of great importance to him. His cousin, the Stadtholder of Friesland, was gradually gained over; and Conrad Van Benningen, one of the chiefs of Amsterdam, an able, accomplished, and disinterested Republican, fickle from over-refinement, and betrayed into French councils by jealousy of the House of Orange, as soon as he caught a glimpse of the abyss into which his country was about to fall, recoiled from the brink. Thus did the very country where the Prince of Orange held sway, fluctuate between him and Louis; insomuch, indeed, that if that monarch had observed any measure in his cruelty towards French Protestants, it might have been impossible, till it was too late, to turn the force of Holland against him.
But the weakest point in the defences of European independence was England. It was not, indeed, like the continental states, either attacked by other enemies, or weakened by foreign influence, or dwindling from inward decay. The throne was filled by a traitor; a creature of the common enemy commanded this important post: for a quarter of a century Charles had connived at the conquests of Louis. During the last ten years of his reign he received a secret pension; but when Louis became desirous of possessing Luxemburg, Charles extorted an additional bribe for connivance at that new act of rapine.* After he had sold the fortress, he proposed himself to Spain as arbitrator in the dispute regarding it;† and so notorious was his perfidy, that the Spanish ministers at Paris did not scruple to justify their refusal to his ambassador, by telling him, “that they refused because they had no mind to part with Luxemburg, which they knew was to be sacrificed if they accepted the offer.”*
William’s connection with the House of Stuart was sometimes employed by France to strengthen the jealous antipathy of the Republicans against him; while on other occasions he was himself obliged to profess a reliance on that connection which he did not feel, in order to gain an appearance of strength. As the Dutch Republicans were prompted to thwart his measures by a misapplied zeal for liberty, so the English Whigs were for a moment compelled to enter into a correspondence with the common enemy by the like motives. But in his peculiar relations with England the imprudent violence of the latter party was as much an obstacle in his way as their alienation or opposition. The interest of Europe required that he should never relinquish the attempt to detach the English government from the conqueror. The same principle, together with legitimate ambition, prescribed that he should do nothing, either by exciting enemies, or estranging friends, which could endanger his own and the Princess’ right of succession to the crown. It was his obvious policy, therefore, to keep up a good understanding with the popular party, on whom alone he could permanently rely; to give a cautious countenance to their measures of constitutional opposition, and especially to the Bill of Exclusion,* —a more effectual mode of cutting asunder the chains which bound England to the car of Louis, than the proposed limitations on a Catholic successor, which might permanently weaken the defensive force of the monarchy;† and to discourage and stand aloof from all violent counsels,—likely either to embroil the country in such lasting confusion as would altogether disable it for aiding the sinking fortunes of Europe, or, by their immediate suppression, to subject all national interests and feelings to Charles and his brother. As his open declaration against the King or the popular party would have been perhaps equally dangerous to English liberty and European independence, he was averse from those projects which reduced him to so injurious an alternative. Hence his conduct in the case of what is called the “Rye House Plot,” in which his confidential correspondence‡ manifests indifference and even dislike to those who were charged with projects of revolt; all which might seem unnatural if we did not bear in mind that at the moment of the siege of Vienna, he must have looked at England almost solely, as the only counterpoise of France. His abstinence from English intrigues was at this juncture strengthened by lingering hopes that it was still possible to lure Charles into those unions which he had begun to form against farther encroachment, under the modest and inoffensive name of “Associations to maintain the Treaty of Nimeguen,” which were in three years afterwards completed by the League of Augsburgh, and which, in 1689, brought all Europe into the field to check the career of Louis XIV.
The death of Charles II. gave William some hope of an advantageous change in English policy. Many worse men and more tyrannical kings than that prince, few persons of more agreeable qualities and brilliant talents have been seated on a throne. But his transactions with France probably afford the most remarkable instance of a king with no sense of national honour or of regal independence,—the last vestiges which departing virtue might be expected to leave behind in a royal bosom. More jealousy of dependence on a foreign prince was hoped from the sterner temper of his successor. William accordingly made great efforts and sacrifices to obtain the accession of England to the European cause. He declared his readiness to sacrifice his resentments, and even his personal interests, and to conform his conduct to the pleasure of the King in all things compatible with his religion and with his duty to the republic;* —limitations which must have been considered as pledges of sincerity by him to whom they were otherwise unacceptable. He declared his regret at the appearance of opposition to both his uncles, which had arisen only from the necessity of resisting Louis, and he sent M. D’Auverquerque to England to lay his submission before the King. James desired that he should relinquish communication with the Duke of Monmouth,† dismiss the malcontent English Officers in the Dutch army, and adapt his policy to such engagements as the King should see fit to contract with his neighbours. To the former conditions the Prince submitted without reserve: the last, couched in strong language by James to Barillon, hid under more general expressions by the English minister to Davaux, but implying in its mildest form an acquiescence in the projects of the conqueror, was probably conveyed to the Prince himself in terms capable of being understood as amounting only to an engagement to avoid an interruption of the general peace. In that inoffensive sense it seems to have been accepted by the Prince; since the King declared to him that his concessions, which could have reached no farther, were perfectly satisfactory.*
Sidney was sent to Holland—a choice which seemed to indicate an extraordinary deference for the wishes of the Prince, and which was considered in Holland as a decisive mark of good understanding between the two governments. The proud and hostile city of Amsterdam presented an address of congratulation to William on the defeat of Monmouth; and the Republican party began to despair of effectual resistance to the power of the Stadtholder, now about to be strengthened by the alliance with England. The Dutch ambassadors in London, in spite of the remonstrances of Barillon, succeeded in concluding a treaty for the renewal of the defensive alliance between England and Holland, which, though represented to Louis as a mere formality, was certainly a step which required little more than that liberal construction to which a defensive treaty is always entitled, to convert it into an accession by England to the concert of the other states of Europe, for the preservation of their rights and dominions. The connection between the Dutch and English governments answered alike the immediate purposes of both parties. It overawed the malcontents of Holland, as well as those of England; and James commanded his ministers to signify to the magistrates of Amsterdam, that their support of the Stadtholder would be acceptable to his Majesty.
William, who, from the peace of Nimeguen, had been the acknowledged chief of the confederacy gradually forming to protect the remains of Europe, had now slowly and silently removed all the obstacles to its formation, except those which arose from the unhappy jealousies of the friends of liberty at home, and the fatal progress towards absolute monarchy in England. Good sense, which, in so high a degree as his, is one of the rarest of human endowments, had full scope for its exercise in a mind seldom invaded by the disturbing passions of fear and anger. With all his determined firmness, no man was ever more solicitous not to provoke or keep up needless enmity. It is no wonder that he should have been influenced by this principle in his dealings with Charles and James, for there are traces of it even in his rare and transient intercourse with Louis XIV. He caused it to be intimated to him “that he was ambitious of being restored to his Majesty’s favour;”* to which it was haughtily answered, “that when such a disposition was shown in his conduct, the King would see what was to be done.” Yet Davaux believed that the Prince really desired to avoid the enmity of Louis, as far as was compatible with his duties to Holland, and his interests in England. In a conversation with Gourville,† which affords one of the most characteristic specimens of intercourse between a practised courtier and a man of plain inoffensive temper, when the minister had spoken to him in more soothing language, he professed his warm wish to please the King, and proved his sincerity by adding that he never could neglect the safety of Holland, and that the decrees of re-union, together with other marks of projects of universal monarchy, were formidable obstacles to good understanding. It was probably after one of these attempts that he made the remarkable declaration,—“Since I cannot earn his Majesty’s favour, I must endeavour to earn his esteem.” Nothing but an extraordinary union of wariness with perseverance—two qualities which he possessed in a higher degree, and united in juster proportions, perhaps, than any other man—could have fitted him for that incessant, unwearied, noiseless exertion which alone suited his difficult situation. His mind, naturally dispassionate, became, by degrees, steadfastly and intensely fixed upon the single object of his high calling. Brilliant only on the field of battle; loved by none but a few intimate connections; considerate and circumspect in council; in the execution of his designs bold even to rashness, and inflexible to the verge of obstinacy, he held his onward way with a quiet and even course, which wore down opposition, outlasted the sallies of enthusiasm, and disappointed the subtle contrivances of a refined policy.
[* ] Commentarii de Republicâ Bataviensi (Ludg. [Editor: illegible word] [Editor: illegible word]), vol. ii. pp. 42, 43.
[* ] By the ancient name of “Stadthouder” (lieutenant). Kluit, Vetus Jus Pub. Belg. p. 364.
[* ] D’Estrades, MSS. in the hands of his youngest son.
[† ] Burnet, History of his own time (Oxford, 1823). vol. i. p. 547.
[‡ ] Even Strada himself bears one testimony to this great man, which outweighs all his vain reproaches. “Nec postea mutavere (Hollandi) qui videbant et gloriabantur ab unius hominis conatu, cæptisque illi utcunque infelicibus, assurgere in dies Hollandicum nomen imperiumque.”—Strada, De Bello Belgico, dec. ii. lib. v.
[* ] Du Maurier, Mémoires de la Hollande, p. 293. Vandervynkt, Troubles des Pays Bas, vol. iii. p. 27.
[† ] D’Estrades, Lettres (Lond. 1743), vol. i. p. 55.
[‡ ] “In his table discourse he pronounced the Dutch to be rebels, and condemned their cause, and said that Ostend belonged to the Archduke.”—Carle, History of England, vol. iii. p. 714.
[§ ] Clarendon, State Papers, vol. i. p. 49, and vol. ii. app. xxvii.
[* ] Cromwell was prevailed upon to content himself with this separate stipulation, very imperfect in form, but which the strength of the ruling province rendered in substance sufficient. Whitelock, Memorials, 12th May, 1684.
[† ] 3d August 1667. The immediate occasion of this edict seems to have been a conspiracy, for which one Buat, a spy employed by Lord Arlington, was executed. Histoire de J. D. De Witt Utrecht, 1709), liv. ii. chap. 2.
[* ] D’Estrades, vol. v. p. 450.
[† ] Mémoire de Ruvigni au Roi. Dalrymple, Memoirs of Great Britain, &c. vol. ii. p. 11. D’Estrades, vol. v., 20th Dec. 1663. 18th Dec. 1664.
[‡ ] Mémoires de Gourville (Paris, 1724), vol. ii. p. 14—18, 160.
[§ ] Charles II. to the Duchess of Orleans, 13th Jan. 1668.—Dalrymple, vol. ii. p. 5. [The old style is used throughout these references.—Ed.]
[* ] It was signed by Lords Arlington and Arundel, Sir Thomas Clifford, and Sir Richard Bealing, on the part of England, and by Colbert de Croissy, the brother of the celebrated financier, on the part of France. Rose, Observations on Fox’s History, p. 51. Summary collated with the original, in the hands of the present Lord Clifford. The draft of the same treaty, sent to Paris by Arundel, does not materially differ. Dalrymple, vol. i. p. 44. “The Life of James II. (vol. i. pp. 440—450,) agrees, in most circumstances, with these copies of the treaties, and with the correspondence. There is one important variation. In the treaty it is stipulated that Charles’ measures in favour of the Catholic religion should precede the war against Holland, according to the plan which he had always supported. ‘The Life’ says, that the resolution was taken at Dover to begin with the war against Holland, and the despatch of Colbert from Dover, 20th May (Dalrymple, vol. ii. p. 57), almost justifies the statement, which may refer to a verbal acquiescence of Charles, probably deemed sufficient in these clandestine transactions, where that prince desired nothing but such assurances as satisfy gentlemen in private life. It is true that the narrative of the Life is not here supported by those quotations from the King’s original Memoirs, on which the credit of the compilation essentially depends. But as in the eighteen years, 1660—1678, which exhibit no such quotations, there are internal proofs that some passages, at least, of the Life are taken from the Memoirs, the absence of quotation does not derogate so much from the credit of this part of the work as it would from that of any other.” See Edinburgh Review, vol. xxvi. pp. 402—430. This treaty has been laid to the charge of the Cabinet called the “Cabal,” unjustly; for, of the five members of that administration, two only, Clifford and Arlington, were privy to the designs of the King and the Duke of York. Ashley and Lauderdale were too zealous Protestants to be trusted with it. Buckingham (whatever might be his indifference in religion) had too much levity to be trusted with such secrets; but he was so penetrating that it was thought prudent to divert his attention from the real negotiation, by engaging him in negotiating a simulated treaty, in which the articles favourable to the Catholic religion were left out. On the other hand, Lord Arundel and Sir Richard Bealing, Catholics not of the “Cabal” were negotiators.
[* ] Charles II., King of Spain, was then a feeble and diseased child of nine years old.
[† ] Dalrymple, vol. ii. p. 84.
[* ] It is but just to mention, that Burnet calls it only the “toleration of popery,”—vol. i. p. 522. He had seen only Primi’s history, and he seems to speak of the negotiation carried on through Buckingham, from whom we know that the full extent of the plan was concealed.
[† ] Ramsay, Histoire de Turenne (Paris, 1735), vol. i. p. 429.
[‡ ] Sir W. Temple to Sir Orlando Bridgman, 24th April, 1669.
[§ ] De Witt observed to Temple, even in the days of the Triple Alliance:—“A change of councils in England would be our ruin. Since the reign of Elizabeth there has been such a fluctuation in the English councils that it has been impossible to concert measures with them for two years.”
[∥ ] Pepys’ Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 336.
[¶ ] England’s Appeal from the Private Cabal at Whitehall.
[** ] State Trials in the reign of Wm. III. (Lond. 705), Introd. p. 10.
[* ] Preston Papers in the possession of Sir James Graham, of Netherby.
[† ] Burnet, vol. i. p. 475.
[‡ ] Daliymple, vol. ii. p. 70.
[§ ] Ibid., p. 79.
[* ] Temple, Works (Lond. 1721), vol. i. p. 381. This friend was probably his uncle Zulestein, for the conversation passed before his intimacy with Bentinck.
[† ] Burnet, vol. i. p. 569.
[* ] The official despatches of these ambassadors are contained in a MS. volume, probably the property of Sir W. Trumbull, now in the hands of his descendant, the Marquis of Downshire. These despatches show that the worst surmises circulated at the time of the purposes of this embassy were scarcely so bad as the truth.
[† ] Shutting up of the Exchequer, 2d January, 1672.
[‡ ] Battle of Southwold Bay, 28th and 29th May, 1672. In these memorable actions even the biographer of James II. in effect acknowledges that De Ruyter had the advantage.—Life, vol. i. pp. 457—476.
[§ ] Peace concluded at Westminster, Feb. 19th, 674.
[∥ ] 25th July, 1672.
[¶ ] By Elizabeth of Nassau, Duchess of Bouilon.
[* ] 11th August, 1674.
[† ] 11 April, 1677.
[‡ ] 10th August, 1678.
[* ] 7th Nov. 1659.
[† ] 2d May, 1668.
[* ] Dumont, Corps Diplomatique, vol. vii. part ii. p. 13.
[† ] Flassan, Histoire de la Diplomatie Française vol. iv. pp. 59, 63.
[‡ ] Œuvres de Louis XIV., vol. iv. p. 194, where the original correspondence is published. The pretended capitulation is dated on the 30th September, 1681. The design against Strasburg had been known in July.—MS. letters of Sir Henry Saville (minister at Paris) to Sir Leoline Jenkins. Downshire Papers.
[§ ] Œuvres de Louis XIV., vol. iv. pp. 216, 217. The mutinous conscience of Catinat astonished and displeased the haughty Louvois. Casal had been ceded in 1678 by Matthioli, the Duke’s minister, who, either moved by remorse or by higher bribes from the House of Austria, advised his master not to ratify the treaty; for which he was carried prisoner into France, and detained there in close and harsh custody. He was the famous man with the Iron Mask, who died in the Bastile. The bargain for Casal was disguised in the diplomatic forms of a convention between the King and the Duke.—Dumont, vol. vii. part ii. p. 14. An army of one thousand five hundred men was collected in Dauphiny, at the desire of the Duke, to give his sale the appearance of necessity.—Letter of Sir Henry Saville.
[∥ ] Sir Henry Saville to Sir Leoline Jenkins Fontainbleau, 12th Sept. 1681.
[* ] Mémoires de Gourville, vol. ii. p. 82. An account apparently prepared with care. I adopt the proportion of thirteen livres to the pound sterling, which is the rate of exchange given by Barillon, in 1679.
[† ] Ronquillo, MS. letter.
[* ] The Palatine, together with Bavaria, Mentz and Cologne, promised to vote for Louis XIV. as emperor in 1658.—Pfeffel, Abrégé Chronologique, &c. (Paris, 1776), vol. ii. p. 360. A more authentic and very curious account of this extraordinary negotiation, extracted from the French archives, is published by Lemontey, (Monarchie de Louis XIV. Pièces Justificatives, No. 2,) by which it appears that the Elector of Metz betrayed Mazarin, who had distributed immense bribes to him and his fellows.
[† ] He banished the Protestant clergy, of whom two hundred and fifty, originally condemned to be stoned or burnt to death, but having under pretence, probably, of humanity, been sold to the Spaniards, were redeemed from the condition of galley slaves by the illustrious De Ruyter after his victory over the French, on the coast of Sicilv.—Coxe, House of Austria, chap. 66.
[‡ ] Sir William Trumbull, ambassador at Constantinople from August, 1687, to July, 1691, names French agents employed in fomenting the Hungarian rebellion, and negotiating with the Vizier.—Downshire MSS.
[* ] The speed and joy with which he and Temple concluded the Triple Alliance seem, indeed, to prove the contrary. That treaty, so quickly concluded by two wise, accomplished, and, above all, honest men, is perhaps unparalleled in diplomatic transactions. “Nulla dies unquam memori vos eximet ævo.”
[† ] D’Avaux, Négociations en Hollande (Paris, 1754), vol. i. pp. 13, 23, 25, &c.—examples of treachery, in some of which the secret was known only to three persons. Sometimes, copies of orders were obtained from the Prince’s private repositories, vol. ii. p. 53.
[* ] “My Lord Hyde (Rochester) ne m’a pas caché que si son avis est suivi le Roi s’en entrera dans un concert secret pour avoir à V. M. la ville de Luxemburg.”—Barillon to Louis, 7th Nov. 1681.
[† ] The same to the same, 15th Dec.
[* ] Lord Preston to Secretary Jenkins, Paris, 16th Dec. 1682. Admitted within the domestic differences of England, Louis had not scrupled to make advances to the enemies of the court; and they, desirous of detaching their own sovereign from France, and of thus depriving him of the most effectual ally in his project for rendering himself absolute, had reprehensibly accepted the aid of Louis in counteracting a policy which they had good reason to dread. They considered this dangerous understanding as allowable for the purpose of satisfying their party, that in opposing Charles they would not have to apprehend the power of Louis, and disposing the King of France to spare the English constitution, as some curb on the irresolution and inconstancy of his royal dependent. To destroy confidence between the Courts seemed to be an object so important, as to warrant the use of ambiguous means; and the usual sophistry, by which men who are not depraved excuse to themselves great breaches of morality, could not be wanting. They could easily persuade themselves that they could stop when they pleased, and that the example could not be dangerous in a case where the danger was too great not to be of very rare occurrence. Some of them are said by Barillon to have so far copied their prince as to have received French money, though they are not charged with being, like him, induced by it to adopt any measures at variance with their avowed principles. If we must believe, that in an age of little pecuniary delicacy, when large presents from sovereigns were scarcely deemed dishonourable, and when many princes, and almost all ministers, were in the pay of Louis XIV., the statement may be true, it is due to the haughty temper, not to say to the high principles of Sidney,—it is due, though in a very inferior degree, to the ample fortunes of others of the persons named, also to believe, that the polluted gifts were applied by them to elections and other public interests of the popular party, which there might be a fantastic gratification in promoting by treasures diverted from the use of the Court. These unhappy transactions, which in their full extent require a more critical scrutiny of the original documents than that to which they have been subjected, are not pretended to originate till ten years after the concert of the two Courts, and were relinquished as soon as that concert was resumed. Yet the reproach brought upon the cause of liberty by the infirmity of some men of great soul, and of others of the purest virtue, is, perhaps, the most wholesome admonition pronounced by the warning voice of history against the employment of sinister and equivocal means for the attainment of the best ends.
[* ] Burnet, vol. ii. p. 245. Temple, vol. i. p. 355. “My friendship with the Prince (says Temple) I could think no crime, considering how little he had ever meddled, to my knowledge, in our domestic concerns since the first heats in Parliament, though sensible of their influence on all his nearest concerns at home; the preservation of Flanders from French conquests, and thereby of Holland from absolute dependence on that Crown.”
[† ] Letters of the Prince to Sir Leoline Jenkins, July, 1680.—February, 1681. Dalrymple, Appendix to Review.
[‡ ] MS. letters from the Prince to Mr. Bentinck, in England, July and August, 1683. By the favour of the Duke of Portland, I possess copies of the whole of the Prince’s correspondence with his friend, from 1677 to 1700; written with the unreserved frankness of warm and pure friendship, in which it is quite manifest that there is nothing concealed.
[* ] Davaux, 13th—26th Feb., 1685. The last contains an account of a conversation of William with Fagel, overheard by a person who reported it to Davaux. A passage in which Davaux shows his belief that the policy of the Prince now aimed at gaining James, is suppressed in the printed collection.
[† ] During these unexpected advances to a renewal of friendship, an incident occurred, which has ever since, in the eyes of many, thrown some shade over the sincerity of William. This was the landing in England of the Duke of Monmouth, with a small number of adherents who had embarked with him at Amsterdam. He had taken refuge in the Spanish Netherlands, and afterwards in Holland, during the preceding year, in consequence of a misunderstanding between him and the ministers of Charles respecting the nature and extent of the confession concerning the reality of the Rye House Plot, published by them in language which he resented as conveying unauthorised imputations on his friends. The Prince and Princess of Orange received him with kindness, from personal friendship, from compassion for his sufferings, and from his connection with the popular and Protestant party in England. The transient shadow of a pretension to the crown did not awaken their jealousy. They were well aware that whatever complaints might be made by his ministers, Charles himself would not be displeased by kindness shown towards his favourite son. There is, indeed, little doubt, that in the last year of his life, Charles had been prevailed on by Halifax to consult his ease, as well as his inclination, by the recall of his son, as a counterpoise to the Duke of York, and thus to produce the balance of parties at court, which was one of the darling refinements of that too ingenious statesman. Reports were prevalent that Monmouth had privately visited England, and that he was well pleased with his journey. He was assured by confidential letters, evidently sanctioned by his father, that he should be recalled in February. It appears also, that Charles had written with his own hand a letter to the Prince of Orange, beseeching him to treat Monmouth kindly, which D’Auverquerque was directed to lay before James as a satisfactory explanation of whatever might seem suspicious in the unusual honours paid to him. Before he left the Hague the Prince and Princess approved the draft of a submissive letter to James, which he had laid before them; and they exacted from him a promise that he would engage in no violent enterprises inconsistent with this submission. Despairing of clemency from his uncle, he then appears to have entertained designs of retiring into Sweden, or of serving in the Imperial army against the Turks; and he listened for a moment to the projects of some French Protestants, who proposed that he should put himself at the head of their unfortunate brethren. He himself thought the difficulties of an enterprise against England insuperable; but the importunity of the English and Scotch refugees in Holland induced him to return privately there to be present at their consultations. He found the Scotch exiles, who were proportionately more numerous and of greater distinction, and who felt more bitterly from the bloody tyranny under which their countrymen suffered, impatiently desirous to make an immediate attempt for the delivery of their country. Ferguson, the Nonconformist preacher, either from treachery, or from rashness, seconded the impetuosity of his countrymen. Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, a man of heroic spirit, and a lover of liberty even to enthusiasm, who had just returned from serving in Hungary, dissuaded his friends from an enterprise which his political sagacity and military experience taught him to consider as hopeless. In assemblies of suffering and angry exiles it was to be expected that rash counsels should prevail; yet Monmouth appears to have resisted them longer than could have been hoped from his judgment or temper. It was not till two months after the death of Charles II. (9th April, 1685,) that the vigilant Davaux intimated his suspicion of a design to land in England. Nor was it till three weeks that he was able to transmit to his Court the particulars of the equipment. It was only then that Skelton, the minister of James, complained of these petty armaments to the President of the States-General and the magistrates of Amsterdam, neither of whom had any authority in the case. They referred him to the Admiralty of Amsterdam, the competent authority in such cases, who, as soon as they were authorised by an order from the States-General, proceeded to arrest the vessels freighted by Argyle. But in consequence of a mistake in Skelton’s description of their station, their exertions were too late to prevent the sailing of the unfortunate expedition on the 5th of May. The natural delays of a slow and formal government, the jealousy of rival authorities, exasperated by the spirit of party, and the license shown in such a country to navigation and traffic, are sufficient to account for this short delay. If there was in this case a more than usual indisposition to overstep the formalities of the constitution, or to quicken the slow pace of the administration, it may be well imputed to natural compassion towards the exiles, and to the strong fellow-feeling which arose from agreement in religious opinion, especially with the Scotch. If there were proof even of absolute connivance, it must be ascribed solely to the magistrates and inhabitants of Amsterdam,—the ancient enemies of the House of Orange,—who might look with favour on an expedition which might prevent the Stadtholder from being strengthened by his connection with the King of England, and who, as we are told by Davaux himself, were afterwards filled with consternation when they learned the defeat of Monmouth. We know little with certainty of the particulars of his intercourse with his inexorable uncle, from his capture till his execution, except the compassionate interference of the Queen Dowager in his behalf; but whatever it was, from the King’s conduct immediately after, it tended rather to strengthen than to shake his confidence in the Prince.
[* ] James to the Prince of Orange, 6th, 16th, and [Editor: illegible word] March.—Dalrymple, app. to part i.
[* ] Davaux, vol. i. p. 5.
[† ] Gourville, vol. ii. p. 204.