Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XIII. - The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland
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CHAP. XIII. - 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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That Holland during its free Government is very well able to resist all foreign Power.
What must be supposed that Holland may repel all force from without.I Shall now endeavour to shew that the republick of Holland, while an entire free government, can very well defend itself against any foreign force whatever. But first I must premise and suppose, that this is a sure effect of a free government, viz. that all the great cities of Holland must fortify themselves, and be provided with all things necessary for their defence; as also that the states of Holland must out of the common stock strengthen all the avenues and frontier cities of the provinces, which of themselves are too weak effectually to repel an enemy. For otherwise we may well be of opinion, that Holland will not be able to deal with the force of Spain by land; and that it might by surprize be overrun by the power of some other of the United Provinces; yea, that it might be easily plundered by its own conquered cities. But not to cut out more work, I shall, in pursuance of that position, look upon Holland, and all the other provinces, as being without union, league, or alliance with its neighbours: for as other countries may join in making war upon Holland, so Holland may make leagues with foreign powers to make war upon others: which cases would cause endless thoughts and considerations; and therefore I will presuppose, that when Holland shall have difference, or wars with any one of its neighbours, all the rest shall be neuter.
Therefore to come to the point, I say, that it seems needless for me to shew that Holland can very well subsist and endure all the force of France, Spain, England, and other lesser remote countries, since I think I have done it sufficiently in the foregoing chapters, when I treated of Holland’s alliances. So it remains only to be considered, whether Holland be strong enough to defend itself against the power of the neighbouring United Provinces, and of the associated or conquered lands and cities?
Holland can easily stand against the other United Provinces.Upon which I shall premise in the general, that Holland being so well surrounded by the seas and rivers, and broken by waters; so populous, so full of great, well fortified (for this must be supposed) and impregnable cities lying near one another, every one of which can produce an army; this being considered, I say no potentate in the world could invade us with an army: or suppose he were entered the country, it is clear that the said enemy, by the continual unexpected attacks of the adjacent cities, and, by the beating of his convoys, or such as bring in forage, would in a short time be necessitated, by the continual lessening of his forces, shamefully to relinquish the attempt and march away. All which they ought to foresee and expect, and much more of the forces and incursions of our neibouring Netherlands, and conquered cities.Because, those provinces gain more by peace and suffer more by war, than Holland. See a general catalogue of offices. Aitzma Book 41. p. 231.
Again, I must say, that all the said provinces do receive incomparably more advantage by Holland, than Holland does from them; which benefits would all cease by a war, namely, by virtue of the union, which, as it has been practised, the rulers and inhabitants of the other provinces draw profits from Holland; namely by embassies ordinary and extraordinary, by commissions and deputations in the colleges of the joint allies; or by offices or benefices in and about the government; in the courts of judicature, treasuries, and affairs of war depending on the generality, which are paid by the joint allies, by which they accordingly receive above 58 per cent. of all that they enjoy. To which we may add the profits they reap by administration, or offices about regulation of trade, and maritime affairs, whether at home depending on the admiralties, or abroad by being residents and consuls, &c. So that it is evident enough that all rewards must proceed from Holland alone; and by the traffick of Holland, and its wonderful populousness and vicinity, they consume all the manufactures and superfluous products of the inhabitants of the other provinces at high rates, and they receive out of Holland all that they want at easy rates: whereas Holland on the other side, in case of a war with this or that province, would not be sensible, or suffer in its traffick or consumption. And besides we see, that from the provinces of Guelderland, Friesland, Overyssel, &c. the poor young men and maids that are not able to live there by their trades and service, subsist in Holland very well. So that all the provinces are sensible, that a good and firm peace is at least as much necessary for them as for us, to maintain the prosperity of both. And yet it might happen, that some provinces may be so ill advised as to be drawn aside to make war against Holland; and therefore I must consider, and take a view of all the United Provinces in particular, viz.
Groningen and Friesland are now both by interest of government and situation, separated from Holland.Groningen and Friesland, with the conquered places of the generality, Bourtagne, Bellingwolde, Langakkerschans and Coeverden; which they have found means to bring under their particular power. Now, seeing they appoint or chuse their commanders there, remove or change their garrisons, and give commissions to their military officers, whereby it appears they need nothing of ours; and that they can sufficiently defend themselves against all foreign force. So that if they have a governor in chief, which in time might induce them to take mischievous resolutions, we might expect a destructive war to both parties most from that quarter, if it had not pleased God to divide us by the Zuyder-Sea, and the provinces of Utrecht, Guelderland, and Overyssel. So that from that side we need expect no hurt; and the rather, seeing by our strength of navigation we may presently stop all the commerce and navigation of Groningen and Friesland.
Overyssel being without a head can never make war upon Holland.As to Overyssel, it is well known that it is divided from Holland by Guelderland, and has no communication with us but by the Zuyder-Sea: and moreover, the strength of Overyssel is so inconsiderable, and their land behind lies so open, that they cannot make war against us but by sea; nor so neither, without hazarding their sudden ruin by the loss and want of all their traffick.And being now a free republick, will probably never chuse a head. So that while they have a free government, we are not to expect it. And if they duly consider the horrid intestine and foreign wars and discords, which they suffered in the times of their bishops, and governors of their republicks, and likewise the violent usurpation that they suffered afterwards under their lords and stadtholders, there is not the least appearance that they will ever consent to the choice of such a head or ruler; but if it should so happen, and they be prest by a contentious governor to war against us, it would be strange if such a war should be long-lived; for it is evident they could endamage Holland but little, if Holland would use its force against them.
Guelderland may make war upon us,As for Guelderland, it is manifest it hath much more communion with Holland than any of the foresaid provinces; for it joins to Holland about Asperen and Gorcum, and towards Bommelar is divided only by the Maese from the land of Heusden and Altena. Moreover it joins to the Zuyder-Sea, and hath under its power the mighty rivers of the Yssel, Rhine, Waal and Maese; whereby it should seem those of Guelderland are able to infest the traffick of Holland through the Zuyder-Sea, and by means of the said rivers to stop all traffick from above: and besides, the men of Guelderland were of old famous for their soldiery, especially for horsemen. So that it seems to lie conveniently for gaining of great booty from Holland by sudden incursions, and to make war upon us.
But on the other side it is as evident, that Holland having all the passages into the sea from the said rivers under their power, would straiten Guelderland more in all its traffick;But not without greater damage to itself. for Holland could carry all its fine goods in carts above the confines of Guelderland towards the Maese and Rhine, and there likewise receive the fine upland goods. And considering Harderwyk and Elburg are the only sea-ports of Guelderland, which notwithstanding are without havens, their robberies at sea would signify little, and besides be easily over-powered by Holland’s great maritime strength. As to their incursions by land, whether with horse, or foot; it is clearly impracticable by reason of Holland’s populousness, and being so full of canals, which would easily put a stop to the Guelderlanders.
Which cannot be confuted by the incursion of Martin van Rossem, and the booty he made in Holland.Their bold presumption of plundering the Hague, and carrying away the booty thereof in the year 1528, does not contradict what I say. For tho’ the duke of Guelder gave those of Utrecht assistance against their bishop, and for that end sent his general, Martin van Rossem, with armed men into that town; and that on the other side, the emperor Charles assisted the bishop against Utrecht; yet was there no open war between Guelderland and Holland: but the duke found it good to begin the first hostility, or be the aggressor, by Martin van Rossem, and to cause 1300 soldiers out of that garrison to fall suddenly into Holland, and having gotten a rich booty declared war against it. So that the Guelderlanders were then to be accounted to have made an unexpected treacherous incursion upon Holland from that bishoprick, when Holland had but few inhabitants, and was weakned by the Hoeksche and Cabbeljeausche factions; nay was indeed indefensible by reason the emperor Charles employed only the gentry and soldiery of Holland in his Italian, and other foreign wars. Besides it may be said, and not without reason, that Martin van Rossem did this by the privity of the emperor Charles the fifth earl of Holland, or the connivance of Margaret, because the states would not at that time consent to the money she would have Holland to raise:See Meer Beck Hist. p. 78. and Lamb. Hortens, p. 140. for the said emperor, or his governess Margaret, would send no soldiery to suppress the said Guelderlanders, nor suffer the Hollanders to pursue them. Besides, Martin van Rossem did not the least prejudice to the ministers of the court, nor to the officers of the earldom.
Guelderland lies perfectly open to Holland.And on the contrary it is well known, that all Guelderland, except the city of Zutphen, and the district of Nimeguen, lies wholly open to Holland; so that from Lovestein one might plunder the whole Bommelerwaad, yea and cut down its banks; and it would be the same with the Tielerwaad and Betuwe, and that quarter of the Veluwe must always expect incursions, and plunderings by our shipping. So that this war, which would be more prejudicial to Guelderland than Holland, would soon be ended by a firm peace on both sides, while they continue under a free government, and while the respective cities of Guelderland, especially Nimeguen, the chief of that province, do now find the sweetness of their own government, after having felt the weight of the late yoke of the stadtholders, or that of captain-generals, and must again suffer their legally elected magistrates to be violently turned out. Therefore ’tis to be believed that they will not precipitately elect a tyrannical head over them.
The province of Utrecht wholly indefensible.As to the province of Utrecht, it is well known that it lies wholly open, and jetting into Holland, and subsists purely by husbandry; and in that it bounds upon the Lek and Zuyder-Sea, seems in some measure to be able to disturb the trade of Holland, and for a great way to disturb the champion country. But he that will take notice of the great strength of Holland’s shipping, may easily conceive that the Lek, and Zuyder-Sea, lying before the province, might be made useless to them by our soldiers ravaging those parts by their sudden incursions and shipping. And that Holland being a broken country, by reason of its many waters, might not only plunder their open country much more, but also because it runs or jets so far into Holland, it may be absolutely seiz’d and kept by them, by which means those of Utrecht will be deprived of their best champion country.
Besides it is very observable, that all the cities of that province are wholly undefensible, without any appearance that they shall ever be fortified:And so will always continue. for Amersfort, Reenen, Wyk, and Montfort, are not only unable to bear the charge of it; and the city of Utrecht will not bestow their money to fortify cities, which afterwards will have less dependance on them; nay possibly they might injure that undefensible city the sooner: for we ought to know that that long square inland city being deprived of the sea, and all great rivers, will be ever chargeable to fortify and keep. And as if this were not enough to bridle that great city, their bishops of old suffered houses to be built without the gates; whence came those four very great suburbs upon all their considerable avenues, by which their fortifications are made of no use. And tho’ every one may see that this is the usual polity of the heads of a republick to weaken cities that are too strong for their purpose; yet afterwards when men have the good luck of having a compleat free government, it continues remediless.It will never make war upon Holland or endanger her liberty by such a head And accordingly I shall conclude, that the province of Utrecht being wholly undefensible, will never make war against Holland. And seeing it is the interest of Holland ever to seek after peace, and that all sparks of war so soon as they arise may be supprest during a free government: and seeing the mighty city of Utrecht of old, in the time of its episcopal government, and in the time of the last wars against the king of Spain, felt more than any town in the Netherlands, the manifold tumults and mischiefs caused by their bishops of the house of Burgundy, and other great families, and afterwards by the usurpation of the captain generals, or stadtholders, over their lawful government: it is therefore most unlikely that they will easily dissolve their free government by electing such a ruler over them.
If the two vassal cities in Zealand depend on the first Noble, then is Holland not only by situation but interest almost divided from Zealand.As for Zealand, it is known to consist in very fruitful populous islands, separated by mighty streams of the sea from all its neighbours; and besides it hath acquired by its power, divers cities and strong places, lying on the land of the generalities in Flanders and Brabant: so that the lords of Zealand have the disposal of the commands, and changing of the garisons of Lillo, Liefkenshoek, Axel, ter Neuse, and Biervliet. Insomuch that Zealand seems to be able to defend itself very well against all its neighbours with its own strength: besides which, the two good havens of Walcheren, Flushing and Veer, lie very commodiously to annoy the trade of Holland to the westward with their men of war.
On the other hand it is also true, that the inhabitants of Middleburgh and Flushing drive a great trade by sea;However it could not make war upon us but to its own ruin. and that those of Zierickzee and Veer do subsist most by their fishing; all which would be immediately ruined by the great naval power of Holland, which would be far more considerable against them, than their ships of war against us. And it is as certain, that the traffick of Zealand will produce them greater and more certain profit than any privateering at sea can do. Moreover, Holland hath by Bommene sure footing on Schouwen, whereby they might ruin all the rich husbandry of that island. Goes would at least have no benefit by that war, and is not able to resist the naval power of Holland in case they came to plunder it, or to burn their harvest. And on the other side, the Zealand islands have not strength of shipping sufficient to land and plunder Holland: wherefore I conceive that under their free government, every one would be ready to cry out, in a case of a war, nulla salus bello, peace is best for both parties.
Which by means of a chief lord might happen.But some may perhaps say, that the prince of Orange might, by means of the cities of Flushing and Veer, and possibly hereafter, by being the chief lord, and giving his vote first, in name of all the gentry in all the assemblies of the states, and in all colleges of the provincial government, having the first and the two last voices: so that having three of the seven, he must be thought sufficient to overrule that whole province;Tho’ come which will Holland can easily repel Zealand’s force and therefore the welfare or adversity of the people of that province, whether in peace or war, will not come so much into consideration as the interest of some court sycophants, and of such a powerful lord, who having so great a stroke in the government of Zealand, would be able to carry on very mischievous resolutions. I shall not need answer any thing to this, save that from what has been said already it appears, that Zealand would not really have more, but much less power by such a supreme governor, than by a free republican government; and that accordingly it would soon appear, Vana sine viribus ira, that Zealand could not repel the power of Holland, but Holland could very well repel the power of Zealand.
And the conquered cities being on the generality’s fund, are less able to make war against Holland.As to the conquered lands in Flanders, and about the Rhine and the Maese, it is evident, that they are so far distant from Holland, and so divided from one another, that they cannot hurt Holland. But Holland is much concerned in the conquered cities of Brabant, which are very strong: and altho’ Holland hath born most of all the charges to subdue and fortify them, yet during the former government of the captain-generals or stadtholders, they would and could keep Holland so low, that this province which bears most of the charges of the common union, was not allowed in any one place of the generality any separate power; whereas nevertheless those provinces that contribute so little in respect of Holland, as Zealand and Friesland do, have so many fortified places belonging to the generality, to dispose of separately, and whereof the other allies have no power to take cognizance. But God be praised that our frontiers are so well fortified against Brabant, that they cannot be taken by the towns of the generality any otherwise than by treachery: and besides we are so well divided and separated from Brabant by the Maese, Biesbos, and arms of the sea, that we need fear no enemy that way, altho’ those cities should rebel, yea revolt to the king of Spain.So that Holland is able to subsist against them all. So that by what has been said it appears, that Holland alone is well able to stand against all its neighbours.