Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. IX. - The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland
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CHAP. IX. - Pieter de la Court, The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland 
The True Interest and Political Maxims of the Republic of Holland (London: John Campbell, Esq, 1746).
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Considerations touching Holland’s entering into Alliance with England.
England subsisted formerly by husbandry, without naval strength.AS for England, we are to know, that heretofore it wholly subsisted by husbandry, and was wont to be so naked of any naval power, that the Hans towns being at war with England, they compelled king Edward in the year 1470, to make peace upon terms of advantage to them.See Phil. de Comines. And so long as the English used to transport nothing but a few minerals, and much wool, which they carried to Calais by a small number of their own ships, and sold only to Netherlandish clothiers, it would have been so prejudicial for the king to forbear his customs of wool (which at Calais alone amounted to 50000 crowns per annum) and likewise to the subject, in case he had made war upon the Netherlands, that we read not that these trading provinces ever broke out into a perfect open war against England.And in some measure depended on the drapery of the Netherlands. For tho’ sometimes war happened between the princes of the respective countries, nevertheless most of the cities concerned in traffick and drapery, continued in amity. In so much that all the wars of that rich and plentiful country broke out against France, and consequently against Scotland, or else against Wales and Ireland, and sometimes against Spain.
But now not at all; and why.But afterwards, when the compulsive laws of the Netherlandish halls, and the tumultuous rising against them which followed, together with our inland and foreign wars, had first driven the cloth-weaving into our villages, and thence into England, and, by the cruelty of the duke of Alva, the say-weaving went also after it; the English by degrees fell to vend their manufactures throughout Europe, became potent at sea, and began no longer to depend on these Netherlands. Then by the discovery of that unexpressible rich cod-bank of Newfoundland, those of Bristol in particular made use of that advantage; and ballasting their ships with English lead, tin, and other wares, when they had compleated their fishing of cod on the said bank, they sailed with it to Spain, and throughout the Mediterranean, to vend their English wares with their Baccaleau, or Poor-John, in all those parts, and in return carried other goods of those lands to England.
Finally, we may add the long persecution of the puritans in England, which causing the planting of many English colonies in America, hath given England a very great conveniency to drive a mighty foreign trade with the Indies and the said colonies.
Is become formidable to all the princes of Europe, and why.So that this mighty island, united with the kingdom of Ireland under the government of one king, seems not to have need of any garisons to repel a foreign enemy, is situated in the midst of Europe, having a clean deep coast, furnished with good harbours and bays, in so narrow a sea, that all foreign ships that sail to the eastward or westward, are necessitated even in fair weather to shun the dangerous French coast, and sail along that of England, and in stormy weather to run in and preserve their lives, ships, and goods, in its bays. So that it is easy to judge, that the said king having acquired a considerable naval power, and being independent on all his neighbours as to trade, is very considerable to all that are concerned in navigating the said narrow seas.
For its exceeding convenient situation, to have the dominion of the sea.For according to the proverb, * A master at sea is a lord at land; and especially a king of England, seeing he is able both by whole fleets of ships, and private ships of war, at all times to seize ships that sail by that coast; the westerly winds which blow for the most part on this side the tropick, giving the English great opportunities to sail out of their numerous bays and harbours at pleasure, to infest our navigation. And if this commerce to the eastward and westward were stop’d, or prevented, it would certainly prove the ruin of Holland.
Which formidable power of the kingdom of England, king Henry the 8th was so sensible of, that he dared to use this device, † He whom I assist shall be master: and accordingly made war as he listed, sometimes against France, sometimes against Spain; which was then strengthened with the German empire, and these Netherlands; making peace at his own pleasure both with Francis the first, and Charles the fifth, whom he durst so horribly despise, as to repudiate his aunt.
So that England now, by a conjunction with Scotland, being much increased in strength, as well as by manufactures, and a great navigation, will in all respects be formidable to all Europe, so soon as an absolute king shall make use of that power against his neighbours, without the check and controul of a parliament.
How much England may be benefited by a peace with Holland, or damaged by a war.But on the other side, it is also certain that England in a time of peace has great advantages by the Hollanders, who in their passage are necessitated to frequent their havens. And there are now in Holland many more English commodities, which we could very well spare, that are transported and used by us, than Holland hath wares in England, because the Holland and other foreign manufactures have for the most part long since been prohibited. And since the prohibition in England of importing any goods, save those of the growth and manufacture of the country, by foreign ships into England, all our navigation to that kingdom is at a stand.
2. It is evident, that the rivers in England are very small, and remote from one another; so that all mutual traffick, and transporting of goods there, being necessarily done upon the open sea, the English may suffer great losses by our private ships of war.
By our great naval power.3. It is certain that the English traffick by sea being so great, and remote, may be most prejudiced in the Mediterranean sea, and the East-Indies, by the Holland ships, which during our free government are much augmented, and must and will be increased more and more.
4. It is clear, that considering our small and dangerous coast, the English by land can make no conquest upon Holland, unless they can get footing by means of our intestine divisions; nor we on them, for another reason. Besides, kings will ever be conquering of lands, and prudent republicks which thrive best by peace, will never do so, but rather erect colonies.
A war by sea, too chargeable for England, when we have a great naval strength.5. It is therefore consequently true, that the English cannot make war upon us but by sea. And since those wars must be carried on purely with money, because naval power cannot subsist by plundering, and quartering in an enemy’s country, and that the king of England cannot employ his revenue for that end, having occasion for that and more to maintain his court: It also follows that he would have need of another standing revenue or fund, to be enabled to carry on the said war by sea.
Because that king can carry on that war no other way than by taxes.6. It will be granted, that the said king having a new standing revenue to maintain those wars, he would never after call a parliament to desire subsidies from them, and consequently the parliament will never suffer that any perpetual important tax be established in that kingdom; because the establishment of such a tax would utterly divest them of so weighty a privilege, as is the assembling of parliaments, in which all abuses are to be redress’d, and the extortions, briberies, and other oppressions of ministers and courtiers prevented or punished, and right done to the people, before they will engage by an act of parliament to pay those heavy subsidies.
Which would be intolerable to the English.7. It is evident, that so long as we effectually take care of our naval power, and increase it as opportunities offer, a war with us would require so great and chargeable fleets, that they could not be set to sea, and maintained by subsidies or taxes only, because the burden would be so great, so unexpected, and so uneasily born by the inhabitants, that the king would be in continual apprehension and fear of an insurrection of his subjects, if he should obstinately persist to make war against us.
And a war by sea is very unserviceable to the courtiers.8. It is certain, that the courtiers and favourites who possess the king’s ear, may make great profits by this war at sea, by prizes taken, and subsidies granted, as long as they continue on shore to manage the same. But if they go to sea themselves to command in the fleet, they put themselves in as much danger of their lives as the least person there, by storms, shipwracks, fireships, bullets; and moreover, run the hazard of having all their endeavours during their absence from court misconstrued, and misrepresented to the king by other courtiers. In a word, if those favourites, and courtiers, remain on shore during the war against Holland, they will be necessitated to see the admiral carry away all the honour of good successes, and they the blame of the bad; whilst instead of carefully providing all things necessary, they study to enrich themselves by the subsidies and prizes; and the nation would gain little honour or profit by such a chargeable naval war. And on the other side, if they go to sea to command the fleets, they must necessarily part from the court, and be absent from the king, and consequently run a great hazard, lest in the mean time some malevolent private enemy, who hath the king’s ear, may so manage the matter, that tho’ they went to sea in the king’s favour, yet they may be called home with disgrace.
Besides, England may be plundered landward, and compelled to redeem their towns from firing, but Holland not.9. It is certain, that England, Scotland, and Ireland, having in all parts a deep and bold coast, their cities, towns, and villages in the country being weak, or without walls and fortifications, they may in all places be attacked, and our men may be landed under the shelter of our cannon, and so plunder and burn those places. Whereas the English cannot do the like in Holland, because our small coast can easily be guarded and secured by our own forces, and is so foul and shallow, that the enemies ships of war cannot reach our strand with their cannon; and in case they should attempt to land with their boats, they would soon be overset by the high surges of the sea, or at least have their powder spoil’d. So that what we should fall short of in our privateering by sea, we should ballance by our plundering by land, and burning of towns, and thereby be richly recompensed. Besides, such plundering and burning will strike a greater terror and consternation into the inhabitants there, than any losses at sea would operate amongst us.
All monarchs, especially the English, are very lavish of their treasure, aaa withal thievish.10. It cannot be denied, but that in all monarchical governments during a war, especially by sea, vast sums of money are ill laid out, and embezel’d by courtiers, sea officers, and soldiers, and the stores provided for the navy frequently misemploy’d and wasted; so that in a little time the money raised will fall short; more especially in England, where the subsidies granted by the parliament, being always limited to a certain sum, are indeed sufficient but not superfluous; and an English court, above all others, is prodigal and thievish. Whereas on the other side, in a free commonwealth, and in a time of war by sea, such exact accounts are kept, and regulation used, that neither those that are entrusted to provide things necessary, nor those that make use of them, can either mispend or embezzel the publick money or provisions; and this may in a particular manner be expected from the Hollanders, who have always been famous for frugality and parsimony.But all republicks, especially Holland, are frugal. And it is observable, that this prodigality of the one nation, and the frugality of the other, is not only visible in the publick treasure, but is also discerned in the private way of living, both of the English and Hollanders: so that by a war at sea the taxes upon the commonalty of both sides increasing, and the profits decreasing, Holland, in proportion to the country and purse of the inhabitants, by well husbanding the publick treasure, would easily hold out longer than England, as appeared manifestly in the year 1667.
A war with England will be detrimental both to us and them.All which particulars being true, it naturally follows, that a war is for both nations very mischievous; yet so, that England will be able to take many prizes from us by sea, and little by land; we on the other side, few prizes of the English by sea, but great booty by land. But we should be sufficiently prejudiced by them, if we had not a competent number of ships of war to match their naval strength, and by that means should be forced to quit the sea to the English, especially if their kings and parliament would not lavish the strength of that island on their luxury and favourites, but rather in ships and mariners.
So that our only safety is grounded upon the increase of our naval strength to such a degree, that the English fleets may either be over-ballanced by ours, or not able to hurt us, as likewise upon those accidents to which a monarchical government is always subject, and that a war with us would be extremely pernicious to the subjects of England; and likewise that London, by means of greater traffick and navigation, would be more formidable to the kings of England, than any of his foreign neighbours.
So that we ought to give the English good words.So that in order to avoid a war, we must in all our differences give them good words, and gain time, in hopes that in these monarchical governments the kings will either follow their pleasures, or through excess of luxury, and court-robbery, waste all their revenues, and run themselves into debts, or die, or perhaps fall into a foreign or intestine war.
But we are to take care, that we do not suffer ourselves, for fear of a war with England, to be inveigled into an alliance, jointly to carry on an offensive war against any nation, which may be very formidable to that country, and not so much to us. For in so doing we should make ourselves considerably weaker, and England stronger; who having that thorn pull’d out of their foot, might afterwards with less fear oppress and trample upon us, while we remain deprived of that refuge by our own folly.Notwithstanding a war threatned. The truth is, since England is more formidable to us than any country in the whole universe, it were an unpardonable fault in us, to make them yet more formidable to ourselves.
And above all, we are to observe, that in order to shun or avoid a war with England, we must not suffer ourselves to be seduced to alter the commonwealth for a monarchical government; for*The free lion will not be bound again, was used to be Holland’s device and sense. And if now under a free government, we should be necessitated to make some steps that way to please the king of England;Above all we ought not to please England by altering our free government I would then ask how we should be able to make the least resistance against such a head, as would in a manner become lord of the country, through our weakness and chains, when he shall by an innate hatred (which all monarchs bear to republicks) attempt to ruin our formidable naval strength and trade, and deprive us of our navigation, under colour of favouring a prince related to him, and a head of his own making, whilst he designs the supreme power for himself: he would, I say, by this means make us the most miserable nation that ever was governed by any monarch; for such a government would infallibly strip us of all our natural advantages proceeding from the seas and rivers, and not only leave us charged with intolerable taxes, but oppress us also with an expensive and luxurious way of living, together with those other infinite mischiefs which are found ever in those governments. From whence it evidently follows, that we must defend our free government, tho’ it should be by a war against England.But to preserve the same sound, whole, and intire. for ’tis better and more commendable to fight for our lives, tho’ with the utmost hazard of perishing, than to hang ourselves like Judas, for fear of receiving some smarting wounds in the battle, and to murder ourselves by a double death of soul and body, without hopes of a resurrection; seeing if the worst befal us, and we be weakened by an English war, yet still living under a free government, we might wait for accidents and alterations, and hope to have better success at another time: whereas on the contrary, by a monarchical government we should for ever be deprived of our fisheries, manufactures, and trade, to the ruin of ourselves and our posterity, who might justly curse such base and cowardly parents.
And to have no offensive alliances with England.In all events it is evident, that England fearing no potentate of Europe, except the king of France, can make no alliance with us grounded upon a common fear, but that only; and consequently all other alliances with that kingdom, will be prejudicial to us.
Because such conquests would be pernicious to us.’Tis also as evident, that we are not to make any alliance with England, out of a desire of conquest; for at the best, when we have employ’d our utmost strength in pursuit of their game, we should at last most certainly differ with the English lion about dividing the prey; who taking the whole to himself, might soon after devour the wretched Holland ass; or at most we should only be like jackals, or ferrets, or drive the game into the English net.
It were therefore in truth much better, that Holland in her actions should imitate, not those two silly and unhappy beasts, but rather the shy and wary cat, that hunts only for her self.
But a defensive alliance with them against France may be very proper.Since then we can make no advantageous alliances with England, neither for common conquest, nor common defence, except against France only, we may rationally conclude, that all alliances with that kingdom, unless defensive against France, are useless to Holland, even those which might proceed from fear of a war with England: for it is evident that whatever advantageous conditions that king acquires from us, we must immediately make them good; and yet expect that he will nevertheless threaten us with a war, unless we will do many harder things for him.
And indeed he that will not defend his subjects in their lives and liberties, tho’ by troublesome and dangerous wars, is so unworthy of government, liberty and life, that in all respects he ought to be esteemed the off-scouring of the world, and his posterity never to be named by succeeding generations, without curses and detestations.
[* ]Imperator maris, terræ dominus.
[† ]Cui adhæreo præest.
[* ]Leo revinciri liber pernegat.