Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XV. - The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland
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CHAP. XV. - 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 every great city in Holland, whether it be well or ill fortified, is able to defend itself against all force from without.
Every great city in Holland can subsist of itself,I Shall now endeavour to shew that each great city in Holland is able, no less than other republicks consisting of one city, to stand against all the potentates in the world. To which end this rule of politicians and engineers comes into my mind, that all great cities that can abide a siege of a whole season, must be counted invincible; because, tho’ all things succeed well with the besiegers, they can in no wise compensate the charges of the siege; and that that power and expence might with much more benefit and certainty be applied against cities which are not so strong nor so well fortified.
Because it-is able to stand out a winter’s siege.Besides which, for the taking such a city a very great force of men and money is required, which is seldom found among monarchs, because of their living so magnificently, and that the treasurers of kings and princes consume all their revenues; and we seldom find such republicks so foolish (unless they are ridden by some tyrant) to make such detrimental conquests. For an incredibly great army is necessary to surround so great a city; and while one side of it is attack’d with a great strength, those on the other side may make such terrible sallies, that the enemy shall not be able to keep any watch in the approaches or redoubts, so that thereby whole armies may be ruined.
In which time the city may be reliev’d or the siege raised.And lastly, tho’ all things succeed well with the besiegers, it is certain that scaling of walls causeth great destruction among the assailants, because the besieged, with the great military power which they have in readiness in the places of arms, or about the breaches, as a reserve, may easily beat back the assailants: therefore such places are usually taken by famine; and seeing the besiegers cannot without difficulty cast up lines of circumvallation, or intrench a city, and yet with more difficulty intrench themselves well in so great a compass of ground, as to be able to defend themselves against a great and populous city, and to supply their own army with all the necessaries requisite for the famishing of the city: we therefore see for the most part, that those obstinate besiegers do melt and consume away, and their great armies come to nothing. And moreover the neighbouring potentates are commonly very jealous, hodie tibi, cras mihi, of such formidable growing conquerors; so that in time succours happen to come from whence it is not look’d for, according to the proverb, time gained, much gained;Which is proved by examples. and in truth, the life of all men depends upon these political maxims, that no man will ruin himself to undo another: so that the contrary hereof is neither to be credited nor practised in the great cities of Holland, so as to make them continue in a defenceless posture.
For besides all the reasons abovementioned, this political rule is established by experience, that all great cities that can hold out the siege of a whole season, ought to be considered to be able to subsist for ever, seeing at this day many republicks, consisting of no more than one city, have maintained themselves some hundreds of years against all their enemies, altho’ many amongst them are but meanly fortified, and others tho stronger are but small.
And moreover among the said republicks, consisting but of one city, there are several republicks, wherein there are neither great nor fortified cities, and yet by their own government, the jealousy of their neighbours, and other circumstances, or human accidents, have stood very long. We are indeed strong when we dare be our own masters, and when the inhabitants begin to know the metal or strength of a people that will fight for their freedom, and when the people of a republick understand aright the weakness and mutableness of a monarchical war, and that the republicks do oftentimes ruin the great armies of monarchs by good fortifications and orders; or can quietly sit down, and be spectators of the great desolations, and ruinous revolutions which monarchs do continually cause among themselves by their field battels.
Moreover, supposing the great cities of Holland were so improvident, as that during their free government they should neglect the strengthening themselves with good fortifications, gates, walls, and grafts, but took care only to furnish themselves sufficiently with good arms for their inhabitants, and to exercise them thoroughly, those cities might subsist very well against all foreign power;Tho’ the great cities be not fort fied, yet might they resist foreign forces. and according to the political maxim which teacheth us, that all populous cities which can raise an army out of their own inhabitants, cannot be either besieged or conquered; because a dispersed army without shelter, must needs give way to one within that is united and sheltered by a city. Vis unita fortior dispersa [Editor: illegible text] an united force is stronger than a scatter’d one.
All which appears by examples.All that hath been said, whether of fortified or unfortified populous cities, that provide their inhabitants with arms sufficient, and train them up in the use of them, is strengthened by experience: and we shall say, that lately, during that great devastation of countries and cities of the great and potent electors and princes of the empire, all the free imperial cities have very well secur’d themselves, as Francfort, Strasburg, Ulm, Nuremburg, Breslaw, Lubeck, Hamburg, Bremen, Cologn, &c. against the emperor, Spain, France, &c. except poor innocent Straelsond, which tho’ really impregnable, yet terrore pannico, dreading the imperial victorious arms, took in a Swedish garison for its defence, but in truth leap’d from the smoak into the fire, and so lost her dear liberty.Of the free imperial cities of Germany. Thus have those inconsiderable, or small Switzer republicks and cities, viz. Zurich, Bern, Bazil, Schaffhuisen, Friburgh, Lucerne, Solothurn, St. Gal, &c. preserved themselves some hundreds of years successively against Austria, Spain, France, Savoy, and Burgundy;The Cantons of Switzerland. yea, even little Geneva hath done the like.
Ragousa.Thus that small city of Ragousa subsisted very well against the great Turk, Austria and Venice, which is not above 2000 paces in circumference, and in its greatest prosperity could not be inhabited by more than ten thousand souls, men, women, and children.Lucca. Thus subsists little Lucca, which hath not above twenty-four thousand souls in it; yet by its republican government, and good fortifications, keeps its ground against the Pope and Genoa, and the duke of Tuscany, and the king of Spain as duke of Milan.
It is not strange to see such incredible fruits of a free government: because for a man to be his own master, and consequently to feed, clothe, arm and defend his own body, which he always unfeignedly loves, and will provide for and defend to the utmost, is certainly an incomparable, if not an infinite advantage above slavery, where a single person hath the charge, takes care of or neglects other mens lives, healths, and safeties, according to his own will and pleasure.
The cities of Holland can better subsist than those forenamed.And if this be true, as it certainly appears to be, we ought in my judgment to esteem that not only all our great cities of Holland which are situated on havens and great rivers, are impregnable, yea not to be besieged or approach’d to, if once they can put themselves into a state of good defence, and convince their inhabitants, that their own strength is sufficient to repel all foreign force:Vid. Strad. l. 7. Which the example of Harlem taken in 1573. by the Spaniards doth not contradict. But methinks it is also consequently true, that all our great inland cities, as Harlem, Delft, Leyden, Alkmaer, &c. are sufficiently able to defend themselves against all force from without, under a free government, in case they neglect not to provide themselves with all necessaries according to their power.
And tho’ it may be objected, that Harlem being formerly besieged a whole winter by the Spaniard, was yet taken at last. I answer, that Don Frederico, who commanded there in chief, repented oft that ever he began that siege; and he himself was for abandoning it, and would so have done, had it not been for that obstinate and impolitick duke of Alva’s son, who wrote him contumelious and reflecting letters about it, and thereby compelled him to continue that siege. And besides it is notorious, that some such imprudent sieges, as that of Alkmaer, Leyden and Zierickzee, did occasion the breaking of the Spanish power, and the mutinies of the soldiers at that time, as it did afterwards to arch-duke Albert when he besieged other cities. And moreover, Haerlem at that time had not half the strength and number of men as it has now; for being newly revolted from its mighty prince the king of Spain, and the Romish religion at once, it must necessarily, by reason of that new government and religion, and especially by treating the Spanish and Romish inhabitants too hardly and reproachfully, have been at that time much divided and weakned, and not well able to bridle those discontented inhabitants. And yet with that divided force, and their weak walls, they were able to keep off the army of their old sovereign a long time.Because our cities have great advantages above others, therefore is that maxim the stranger. So that this example of Harlem seems rather to strengthen than weaken the said maxim, that all the great Holland cities continuing in a free state, that are able to form a well-armed and disciplined army out of their own inhabitants, are impregnable. And we lie in so cold a climate, that it is impossible, unless the enemy design to consume a whole army, to hold out a winter’s siege. Besides, those cities lie not above a league and a half from the sea on low and plain lands, which for the most part may be put under water in the winter: so that they have naturally and of themselves great advantages, and besides might easily be fortified; and men to defend such fortifications are easy to be found here from our own inhabitants, and those of neighbouring countries. These are natural advantages, which are not to be acquired by art or money; but all other necessaries depend on the provident care of the rulers, who I conceive ought ever to be employed about that work during their free government, without further loss of time; for (chi a tempo, non aspetti tempo) he that has time, and does not improve it, shall never be wealthy. If hereafter a stadtholder or captain-general be obtruded upon them, and they would then possibly make it their business to fortify themselves, they might have cause to fear his displeasure for it.
So that the rulers ought not to suffer suburbs to be built.For in the first place, the suburbs of cities in times of peace having all the privileges of cities, and paying no taxes, are like wens in the body, which attract much nourishment, and are very troublesome, and yet good for nothing; and on the other hand, the same suburbs in time of war do not defend the city from the enemy, but are commonly the occasion of their being lost, and so may be likened to cancers, which cannot be cut or burnt off but with the hazard of a man’s life, a great charge, loss and pain, to which extremities people are not commonly willing to come but when ’tis too late; so that one may truly say, that that maxim can never be sufficiently commended, that the rulers of free cities should prevent all out-buildings, or suburbs, under what pretext soever.
And to keep vacant places within the city,And consequently the second thing to be taken care of by rulers, is in time to enlarge their respective cities according to the increase of their inhabitants, or traffick, and continually to have many void places to set out for buildings within their walls, as for all publick known uses and accommodations, so for other unexpected occasions, whether in peace or war, and especially against a siege, to secure and harbour the country people with their cattle, fodder, corn and firing; which sort of people during a siege, can dig, and undergo rain, wind, cold and heat, and so may be singularly useful, while they have left the land round about them naked to the enemy;Which are necessary both in war and peace. who otherwise would, by the assistance of themselves and their provisions, be enabled to continue the siege longer, and to starve the city. And moreover by this method, if a city in time of war be well fortified, many inhabitants of the weaker neighbouring cities may there have protection, and many of them will afterwards settle there in time of peace, when by their losses they have learned the great advantages which in times of war, and the great conveniences and pleasure which in times of peace the inhabitants of great and strong cities do enjoy, above those small and weak ones. Rents would likewise be always kept low by reserving of ground in cities, to the exceeding benefit of them in times of peace, seeing thereby traffick and trades might be followed at a cheaper rate, and the inhabitants might dwell in healthful, convenient, and pleasant houses.
The magistrates ought to fortify their cities well,The third care of rulers ought to be to surround their cities with good walls and flankings, and provide great gates, and convenient watch-houses; and also that each gate have a fit place to draw up the soldiery in: and in the middle or heart of the city, near the town-hall, (whence all the vigour and strength must be dispersed over the whole body of the city) there ought to be placed the great guard, and place of assembly, with sufficient ground to draw up some thousands of men in order to lead them out thence, where they shall be most useful, whether against insurrections within, or assaults from without.
And to provide all necessaries against any enemy.The fourth care of rulers ought to be, to build houses for arms, and in time to provide them with all sorts of offensive and defensive weapons. It is probable that every great city would require 250 pieces of ordnance, and arms for ten thousand men: shovels, spades, waggons, spars and deals, are in such cases also necessary; as are likewise publick buildings for provisions, corn and fewel. This being once done, it might be maintained with very small charge. But provisions are perishable wares; corn is preserved with great charge; turf may always be had in a short time out of the country, so that in time of peace barns seem to be sufficient, which may be let out to the inhabitants at a small rent, who oft-times would themselves fill them with corn, seeing the traffick of Holland, and small or low interest, added to the free hire of garrets, might possibly cause many that live on their rents, when the prices of corn are low, to lay out their money upon it, in hopes of profit by raising of its price.
And constantly to exercise the rich citizens in arms.The fifth care of rulers ought to be, thoroughly to exercise their wealthy inhabitants in arms, for those you have always at hand in time of need; and the rich citizens will serve faithfully without pay to defend the lawful government and their dear-bought liberty, and will steadfully endeavour the preservation of other mens goods from all violence, whether domestick or foreign. The poor inhabitants ought in time of war to be taken into pay, tho’ it be but small, thereby to prevent their inclination of making mutinies or uproars, and they should be commanded by none but rich and trusty citizens.
Lastly to have in store some tho’ not much money.The sixth and last care of the magistrates of cities ought to be, to have some money, tho’ not much beforehand. And since some may wonder, considering that in the general opinion of men, money is the sinews of war, that I put it in the last place, and besides that I presume to advise the keeping only some money in cash: I shall therefore add, that the maxim, that money is the sinews of war, is never true, but where all means of defence and offence is provided. For every one knows, that toothless and unarmed gold cannot be defended but by sharp iron: and that great and unarmed treasures, or chests of money, entice mutineers within, and all enemies from without, to plunder.Because our government consists of too few to be long burdened with needless impositions, and not be subject to tumults. At least that maxim hath seldom any place but to make field-armies stand to it in sieges, or to cause men to keep their station at advantageous passes, and thereby to outstand or famish an enemy, and when the enemy gives way, to attack them. But in cities that maxim holds not, unless they have already provided themselves with that for which men gathered or laid up money. And seeing in governments where so few are rulers, as in the cities of Holland, money is so oft measured and striked, and so much of it sticks to the measure and striker as the rulers please; so that good regents and patriots must take special care, that the money be immediately imployed about things necessary to the durable welfare, ease and ornament, of the city, before it be expended through alteration of the government by indigent rulers, and haters of the liberty of our native country, to our ruin in building tyrannical castles, or by letting it drop through their fingers into the blew-bag.And that money may otherwise be ill expended.
And being provided with all necessaries, the rulers ought to lay up a stock against unexpected accidents.And when men have gotten all these necessaries, it’s then time to gather a stock of money. For in times of adversity, when things run cross, and unexpected accidents happen, money is very necessary to procure all that was neglected or esteemed useless in time of peace. But for great treasures, the cities of Holland should not aim at them, for these would cause great imposts and heavy taxes, which would make the rulers of a rich mercantile city, consisting of a small number of people, so hateful, that by such impositions, when necessity requires not, they would be lookt on by the subject as plunderers of the commonalty, and run the risque of being kickt out of the government. The people would easily think, that they had reason to believe, that if the rulers sought only the welfare of the subject, and accordingly depended on their defence, and to that end gathered of their own inhabitants the money thereunto necessary, that they could then also subsist with such small imposts as other republicks do. And the rulers ought to know, that many republicks have subsisted a long time against very potent neighbours without any imposts; and some with very few, but none in the world by such vast ones as are levied in the cities of Holland. So that it will be a miracle from heaven if it be long borne by cities that cannot live upon their own fund, or country, or unalterable situation, but where all the inhabitants must subsist and live upon fickle traffick, and the uncertain consumption of manufactures and fishing.
Little concern needful for good alliances,Lastly we may add what has been said already, that the rulers of the great Holland cities ought to provide themselves with good allies of some of the neighbouring cities and lands, who are most concern’d in their safety. But when all things are so well provided, such cities are usually helped without previous alliances or mutual obligations; but when unprovided, there is nothing for all their care and charge to be gotten but good words under hand and seal, which are all but feeble things, and are construed according to the sense of the strongest, or of him that hath no need of assistance. So that such alliances before necessity requires, need not be too anxiously sought after, especially with the advance of much money. Moreover it is well known how strictly and well bound all the United Provinces are by the union of Utrecht, and all the Holland cities by the provincial government.
For jealousy will occasion them of itself.And if the worst should happen, yet nevertheless all the great Holland inland cities by their vicinity, and communication with the North sea, might expect from thence in their extremity some succours; and if the besieged behaved themselves any thing well, one or other of the cities of Holland lying at a sea port, will be inclined to help them, were it but for enjoying the benefit of the consumption or transportation of their commodities, which they either supply them with or receive of them. But when all is well considered, it is most advisable for all rulers to provide themselves so well of all necessaries, as if none in the world would or were able to help them but themselves, which is a thing feasible enough, as hath appeared by what I have already laid down.
The conclusion of this chapter, that every great city can subsist of itself.And therefore I hope by what is before alledg’d, it is evident, that every great city of Holland, no less than other republicks consisting but of one city, may very well defend it self again all the potentates of the world; so that it is at last made evident that this republick, or all the gentry and cities of Holland and West-Friesland conjoined, may very well be able to defend themselves against all foreign power whatsoever: which is the thing I had undertaken to prove.
Thus having in the first part observed the interest and maxims of Holland in relation to its inhabitants within the country;That fisheries, manufactures, traffick, &c. chiefly ought to be indulged. and in the second part duly considered Holland’s interest as to all foreign powers, I shall now end this second part, laying before the reader a short view of all that has been said at once, and shew him the inferences and conclusions which every one ought to make from the same; viz. That in the first place, and before all other matters, fisheries, manufactures, traffick and navigation ought to be indulged and favoured.
Toleration in religion very useful to that end.And Secondly, That to that end, the freedom of all religions for all people is very necessary, viz. such freedom whereby all the rulers should be of the publick reformed religion, who are bound to defend and favour the same by all lawful means; yet so that the other religions may not be persecuted by placaet, but publickly tolerated or favoured, and defended against all the violence of the rabble.
Liberty for strangers,Thirdly, That necessary freedom be given to all strangers to dwell in Holland.
And all handicraft traders to deal with us.Fourthly, That it is necessary that every inhabitant of Holland have the liberty to follow and exercise merchandize, their own occupation, and mechanick trades, without the controul of any other inhabitants.
Freedom from imposts, &c.Fifthly, It is above all things necessary, that the rulers be prudently wary and cautious, how they lay imposts upon consumption, and especially that they be circumspect in charging of merchandize, or levying any convoy-money upon ships or goods imported or exported, without distinction, as also in charging of ships let to freight.
Impartial justice.Sixthly, That the justice of Holland be accommodated or framed, not to the benefit of the officers of justice, but of the inhabitants, as also e mercaturæ bono, more to the interest of the merchant.
Seventhly, Here is also shewn that which is necessary for all sorts of governments, and especially for republicks, which cannot subsist without continual attracting or alluring in of fresh inhabitants, and to keep them employed about manufactures, fisheries, traffick and shipping;Colonies. above all, it is absolutely necessary in Holland, to make new colonies in foreign parts, that from time to time they may discharge their supernumerary, poor, straitned, and discontented inhabitants with honour, convenience and profit, whereby also they may encrease commerce.
To keep the sea uninfested from rovers.And forasmuch as in the second part we have handled Hollana’s just aud true maxims relating to foreign powers; it is in the first place clear, that the narrow seas ought to be kept intirely free from pirates, and that merchants ships in the Spanish and midland seas be continually defended, and freed by ships of war from Turkish piracies.To pursue peace. As also that peace should by all means be sought with all people: but yet that Holland must not seek its preservation from alliances;And that Holland be fortified; which has all not only appear’d to to be necessary and true, for this is the sheet-anchor of the weakest republicks and potentates, whereas Holland subsists not by the jealousy of its neighbours, but by its own strength. And therefore not only the other provinces and the generality, but especially all the frontiers of Holland ought to be fortified and provided with all things necessary against any foreign attack or surprize. And above all, those great and strong cities of Holland ought to be put into a posture to hold out a year’s siege; because then they will be held impregnable, or at least stronger than many republicks of single inlandcities, situated in a hilly mountainous country, and therefore cannot be so well fortified.But been manifested by many examples to be so. As for example, all the free imperial cities of Germany, the Cantons, Geneva, Ragousa, Lucca; yea even those cities that are under princes, as Parma, Mantua, Modena, which must be somewhat the weaker by reason of their own princes, for one sword keeps another in the scabbard; and in this sense it is true, that two curst dogs don’t bite one another, but the good natur’d toothless ones are always bitten by the curst curs.
The End of the Second Part.