Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. III. - The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland
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CHAP. III. - 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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Wherein is examined, whether the reasons alledged in the two preceding chapters, receive any confirmation from experience.
HAVING thus laid before you the true interest of the republican and monarchical governments, relating to manufactures, fisheries, traffick, and shipping, and their dependencies; it is necessary that we relate historically what hath happened as to those maxims of our state, both in republican and monarchical governments, that so the reader may see, whether our former reasonings can be confirmed by experience. In order to this, it is very necessary to observe, that to the best of my knowledge, merchandizing, and the general staple of traffick, and publick exchange-banks were never found, or continued long under a monarchical or princely government.History teaches that trafick has thriven little in America Asia and Africa. See Acosta of the cities in America. So that manufactures, fisheries, traffick and navigation have thriven very little in those monarchical lands of America, Asia, and Africa, and that the great and strong cities of those lands have been enlarged by the residence of great monarchs courts, and consequently by the exhausting, plundering, and sacking of all adjacent countries, whether of enemies, or their own subjects. Which we may perceive by the cities of Cusco, Quito, and Mexico, &c. in America; as also in the Asiatick great cities of Japan, China, Persia, India; and lastly, by Morocco, Fez, Jerusalem,Ninive, Cairo, and other great cities on the coasts of Europe, or in Asia and Africa.The atlas of J. Blaw, and P. Martinus of China. And not at all but in republicks.
Moreover History tells us, that the flower of the traffick of these mighty countries is no where found but in republicks, as Sydon, Tyre, Carthage, Banda, Amboyna, &c. and that traffick hath exceedingly flourished in those lands, only so long as they enjoyed their free government. But because these three first places are known to be the first and most antient trafficking cities of the world, I shall therefore speak particularly of Sydon and Tyre, supposing it will not displease the reader to touch on them, seeing those matters are not much known abroad, and yet are very useful to confirm what we have advanced.
Gen. 10.Sydon being a city in Syria, upon a coast abounding with fish, and good havens, tho’ without rivers, built by Sydon a grandson of Cham, who was son to Noah, was in the earliest times that we have any notice of, a merchantile or trafficking city, which according to the Jewish computation of time, was in the year 2500 after the creation of the world;Josh. 11. and in the time of Joshua was so improved, that it was termed, the great city of Sydon.Judg. 18. And it appears that 220 years after, viz. in Sampson’s time, it was a very plentiful, strong, and well fortified city, whose inhabitants lived in profound peace and safety in a free republick, having no king or sovereign head over them, which might have weakned them. And about 210 years after Sampson, the Sydonians were much commended by Homer for great artists.
Isa. 23. Ezek. 16. 27, 28.And that Sydon afterwards in the time of the prophet Isaiah, and Ezekiel (who lived the first about 180 years after Homer, and the last about 225 years after Isaiah) was very famous for her traffick, we may see in their prophecies. Now this city of Sydon having flourished above 1500 years, and raised many colonies, it was about the year 3590 after the creation, besieged by Artaxerxes Ochus king of Persia, with a mighty land army, 300 galleys, and 500 ships of burden by sea, till they were betrayed by the chief head of the republick Tennis, as also by their general Mentor.As first of all at Sidon, when it was a free government. Diod. Sic. l. 16. So that the Sydonians seeing no way to escape, and bearing a deadly hatred to a general slavery or monarchy, they set their own city on fire, wherein 40000 of their inhabitants perished; and the king of Persia sold the rubbish of this incredibly rich city for many talents. And yet we read in Q. Curtius, that Sydon about 25 years after, became very considerable again;But under its heads of the republick it suffered much Just. l. 11 when as the head of the republick Strato, having first joined with Darius king of Persia, was afterwards compelled by the people to yield up the place to Alexander the Great, who in the room of Strato set up an inconsiderable person called Abdalonimus, giving him power of life and death over the citizens.
But in regard Alexander soon after died, and his monarchy was so rent and divided under his several chief commanders, that most of all the republicks by him conquered, recovered their freedom;Strabo lib. 1. Geog. we may therefore suppose the Sydonians did the same: for Strabo, who lived about 340 years after, says, that Sydon was in all respects comparable to Tyre in greatness, skill in navigation, and many other sciences and arts relating to traffick. And in regard he writes at large of these two cities at once, it may be understood of the Sydonians, who are by him spoken of in common, tho’ with more regard to those of Tyre, viz.Lib. 16. ib. That they were not only left to their freedom in the time of the old kings of Phænicia, and had their own government; but that under the Romans, by giving a small sum of money, they preserved their liberty.
It lost all its trade by sea, when it fell under a monarchDuring the reign of the Roman emperors there was little mention of Sydon, nor yet in the time of the Saracens afterwards, or of the Christian kings of Syria, save that that city was taken, sometimes by one, and sometimes by another, ’till at last with their hereditary prince, formerly tributary to the Saracens, and the Mamalukes of Cairo, they were upon the same conditions brought under the monarchy of the Turks, about the year of Christ 1517.
And tho’ since its old flourishing state, viz. about the year 600 after Christ’s birth, the silk-worms in those parts, and afterwards the Turkish yarn came to be known; so that now much silk is found there, and in the adjacent places of Begbasar and Angori, much of the yarn of goats-hair is spun, and therefore they are able to set up a much more considerable traffick and navigation, by means of the manufacturies and fisheries: yet on the other side it is certain that Sydon now yields no manufactures of their own, nor ships, nor traffick, because the inhabitants under the present monarchical government could not peaceably possess their wealth, and follow their trades; insomuch that most of their traffick in raw silk is now driven by strangers, who have their own consuls, and are always ready to depart from thence, when by the government they find themselves too much oppressed: and it is said, that there are continually at least 200 French factors that reside there to manage that important silk trade.
Tyre lying within sixteen English miles of Sydon, was first built upon the continent; from whence the inhabitants fled to an island lying within a quarter of a mile of it, to withdraw themselves from the attempts of the Israelites who were then possessing the land of Canaan under the conduct of Joshua, where they built Tyre, who by taking of the purple fish which were mostly in those seas,At Tyrus traffick and navigation flourished, so long as it kept its free government. Josh. 19. and thereupon dealing in the dying of purple, making of garments after the manner of Tyre, and trafficking or using navigation, became so famous during their free government, as you may see in the holy scriptures, where Tyre is said to be a crown of glory, or pearl of cities, and her merchants princes, and her traders the noblest of those lands. That city and the traffick thereof, is likewise mentioned by Ezekiel, of whose ruin he likewise prophesied, which happened after it had flourished 880 years, about 3360 years after the creation;Isa. 23. Ezek. ch. 26, 27, 28. at which time the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnizzar, after thirteen years siege, took the said city and destroyed it.
We read also, that about this time the men of Tyre had in their republick two officers called Suffetes, or yearly burgomasters and rulers, who served in the chief magistracy: and that this republick soon after got its head above water again;Q. Curt. l. 4. Diod. Sic. for about the year of the world 3615, and when about 255 years were expired, viz. in the time of Alexander the Great, it was according to Q Curtius, and Diodorus Siculus, the greatest and most renowned city of all Syria; and so considerable in respect of its navigation, that the people and council of Tyre had the courage to repulse that victorious commander from their city, which in no less than seven months siege, and incredible opposition, was at last overpowered and burnt, and almost all the inhabitants were either destroyed or sold. Nevertheless the men of Tyre, in a short time after the death of Alexander the Great, by means of their old free government, diligence and frugality, arrived to their former power and riches.Just l. 18. Strab. Geogr. l. 16. We likewise read in Strabo, that this city of Tyre during their republican government, and in the process of 350 years after, arrived at its antient lustre and riches, by means of traffick and navigation.
And tho’ the emperor Septimus Severus about 170 years after sacked the city of Tyrus, and demolished it, yet Ulpianus about thirty years after this tells us, namely about 220 years after Christ, “That Tyre, his native city, was an ally of the Roman empire, and was very considerable and mighty for war.Dig. l. 50. Tit. 15. l. 1 And that they of Tyre had obtained of the emperor Alexander Severus, the right of the free citizens of Italy; and according as a free state had power of chusing and making their own laws and magistrates.After that it lost all its traffick. And to this day Tyre hath been exposed to all the same accidents by monarchical governments, which those lands were subject to in the following times of the Saracens, Christians, and Turks, which we before mentioned at Sydon: so that Tyre is now inhabited by almost none but strangers and merchants, who for some small time reside there; among whom are many Frenchmen that deal in silk.
Q Curt. l. 4. Strabo. l. 16.And thus we see these two republicks lost their traffick and navigation, not by wars or earthquakes, by which they were more than once overthrown and ruined; but by the loss of their free government, whereas otherwise they as often resettled themselves.As is seen by Sandys his voyage, p. 209, to 214. And in what condition those two cities are at this time, we may be inform’d by the travels of that worthy English writer Sandys, who says, “That the Emer, or hereditary prince of Sydon and Tyre, was sprung from the old French that went thither with the Christian king Godfrey de Bouillon to conquer the holy land; who besides several taxes and imposts he exacted of his subjects, takes the fifth part of their revenue.” And tho’ he takes for custom but three per cent. of foreign merchants for their imported and exported goods, yet we may easily observe how little traffick and navigation can prosper there, seeing, as Mr. Sandys says, “The said Christian tributary prince, named Facardyn, keeps continually in his service forty thousand soldiers, and lately, viz. in 1611, caused false Holland lion dollars to be coined, and made them pass current in receipts and payments as if they had been made of good alloy; and that it is usual with him to seize the goods of merchants that die there, yea even the goods of foreign factors, so that the right owners, or inheritors cannot get them out of his hands, unless they agree to pay him half the value. And besides, those cities are wholly unfortified, having only a castle for the prince to keep his court in.” It is not therefore to be wondred at what Sandys says, “That these two cities are so ruined, that they scarce retain a shadow of their antient grandeur and renown; therefore they deserve to have no more said of them.”
I should leave off here, but that I foresee it will be objected, That Sydon had certainly one supreme visible head of their republick. And besides, the kings of Tyrus are by sacred and profane history represented as very famous: from whence we may conclude, that such a government very well consists with the flourishing of trade and navigation. I I answer, that the said histories do clearly inform us, that the said sovereign princes of Sydon, namely Tennis, Mentor and Strato, were in their respective times the ruin of Tyrus. And as to the king whom Diodorus Siculus, and Arrianus report in in their histories to have been in Tyrus when Alexander the Great besieged that city, the learned affirm, that ’tis a mistake, and must be understood of Sydon, and its last government.
And that we may clearly expound what the holy scripture speaks of the kings of Tyre, without contradicting what I affirm of their being a free state, I shall translate a passage out of the 16th book of that authentick writer Strabo; and the rather, since I conceive that the state of these two republicks are there well express’d. “Next to Sydon, Tyre, says he, “is the greatest and oldest city of Phœnicia, may be compared with it for largeness, beauty and antiquity, and is famous in many histories. And tho’ poets extol Sydon more, yea and so far, that Homer makes no mention of Tyre at all; yet is Tyre by its colonies extending as far as Africa and Spain, without the straits of Gibralter, become more famous. So that these cities, both now as well as of antient times, are so eminent for gallantry, lustre, and antiquity, that at this day it is unquestioned which of them ought to be accounted the chief city of Phœnicia. Sydon lies on a sea-haven, on the continent; but Tyre is an island, and is almost as well inhabited as Aradus; it is joined to the continent by a bank or causey made by Alexander when he besieged this city. It has two havens, one of which was called the inclosed haven, the other named the Egyptian, or open haven. It is said, that the houses here have more stories than those at Rome, and therefore that city was sometimes well nigh destroyed by earthquakes, as it was by Alexander. But it overcame all those disasters, and restored it self by means of its navigation, wherein, as also for its purple dye, those of Phœnicia exceeded all other nations. The purple of Tyre is accounted the best, and that fishery lies very near them, as do all the other necessaries for dying; and tho’ the great number of dyers made the city uneasy to other inhabitants, yet they were thereby enriched. They did not only under their kings preserve their own free state, and power of making what laws they pleased, but also among the Romans, who for a small tribute established their council. Hercules is extravagantly honoured by them. How powerful they were at sea, appears by their numerous and large colonies.” So much of Tyrus.
“The Sydonians are famous for their manifold and excellent arts, whereof Homer also speaketh; they are moreover renowned for their philosophy, astronomy and arithmetick, having begun it upon observations and sailing by night: for those two arts are proper for traffick and navigation. It’s said the Egyptians found out the measuring of land, which is needful to set limits and bounds to every man’s ground, when the overflowing of the Nile destroys the landmarks. It is believed, that this art came to the Greeks from the Egyptians, as the Grecians learned astronomy and arithmetick from the Phœnicians; and all the other parts of philosophy may be fetch’d out of those two cities: yea if we may believe Possidonius, that ancient learned piece (de Atomis) concerning the indivisible parts of all bodies, was written by Moschus a Sydonian, who lived before the Trojan war. But I shall let these old things pass and say, that in our time Boethius, with whom we practised Aristotle’s philosophy, and his brother Diodorus, both excellent philosophers, were Sydonians. Antipater was of Tyrus, as also Apollonius, a little before our time, who made a catalogue or list of all the philosophers, and of the books of Zeno, and of all them that followed his philosophy.” Thus far Strabo.
I shall now turn to the other republicks of Asia; amongst which those small islands of Banda and Amboyna are very remarkable, because they were formerly governed in an aristocratical manner by the most considerable inhabitants of those respective islands; which during that government drove so great a trade in their spices, of cloves, mace, nutmegs, and the return and dependencies of them, that tho’ the third part of the spices were not carried by shipping to Calicut, that great staple or storehouse of India;Grot. Hist. l. 15. The inhabitants of Banda and Amboyna great merchants during their republican government. Maffei Hist. Ind. Grot. l. 11. and being sold, were carried to Bassora, and from thence to Cairo, with caravans; and lastly from thence transported to Europe by shipping: nevertheless the sultans of Syria and Egypt, through whose lands the same were brought hither, as also the cloves of the Molucca islands, were wont to receive yearly above eighty thousand ducats for custom; so that the said islands flourished then in riches.
But in 1512, when the Portuguese first navigated those seas, and afterwards fought with the people of Banda, the inhabitants were so terrified by these new people, and their unheard of military art, that, conceiving themselves unable to withstand that formidable outlandish power, they rashly agreed to elect out of their own people the most considerable persons for their better defence, and thereby immediately lost much of their freedom; and afterward they were, partly by the jealousy they had of each other, viz. of the free inhabitants against their respective heads, and of such superiors among themselves; and being in part likewise overcome by the Portuguese, they were at length forced to submit to that foreign yoke.
And lastly, there was some freedom still remaining in those islands, when the Netherlanders that were enemies to the Portuguese began to frequent them; and these people of Banda, who greatly affect their liberty, looked upon the Dutch as angels sent from heaven to defend them, and to deliver the other islands from the slavery of the Portuguese. For which end the natives entered into alliances with us for common defence;Grot. Hist. ib. covenanting, that we might not only build houses and warehouses, and dwell there to trade in their spices, but expresly agreeing that they of Banda and Amboyna should sell their spices to no other people: whence proceeded all that usually happens when weak states or potentates call in too powerful assistants, viz. that not only the Portuguese lost their power over these islands, but the natives lost their free government and trade, and are now under the dominion of the Dutch East-India company.And are now under a miserable subjection. Grot. l. 15. It is also very observable, that the spices of those islands, when brought into Europe by way of Portugal, produced yearly to the king above two hundred thousand ducats. But the said islands being ruin’d by the forces of the Portuguese, and those of the Dutch East-India company, and the said company destroying their spices which produced too great a quantity for them to vent, their plenty by degrees decay’d, and their commerce is now mightily diminished, as we may understand by the histories of India, and from those that have been lately there.
The city of Carthage kept its navigation and trade so long as it enjoy’d its free government.Hitherto I have at large insisted upon the causes of the ruin of traffick, and navigation in the republicks before mentioned, because they were not common. But seeing the cases of the following republicks, together with their navigation and commerce, are sufficiently known by most men, I shall use no more words about them than may serve to the purpose we aim at. It is well known that the city of Carthage was built by a colony from Tyrus, about the year of the world 2940; and that it was governed by its own free popular government, under two Suffetes, or yearly burgomasters, and judges, who jointly for that time were supreme magistrates, and had a council consisting of some hundreds of persons, without any supreme head; and about 800 years successively was very famous for navigation and commerce, and became incredibly wealthy and populous. So that after the said republick and city by manifold wars, and especially by its last against the Romans, had lost an infinite number of burghers in several unfortunate battels, and was near its ruin, yet by what Strabo credible testifieth, there were remaining in Carthage at least seven hundred thousand inhabitants, who also at the same time in a very short space, built and made an extraordinary number of ships, and arms.Geogr. l. 17. And besides, it is well known, that the Carthaginians, living in great plenty, were by their two powerful nobility involv’d in many wars, to make conquests, by which at last they were so overborne by the Romans, who were more warlike than they, that Carthage was wholly destroyed;And lost by war, and the slavery thereupon following, all traffick and navigation. and tho it were afterwards rebuilt, and again ruined, yet being divested of its free government by the Romans, and the succeeding monarchs, it was never afterwards famous for merchandize or navigation. Those that desire to know more of Carthage, let them read Justin, Diodorus, Polybius, Livy, Strabo, and especially Appianus Alexandrinus.
Thus went matters with the traffick of the Grecians,Afterwards, commerce and navigation did incredible flourish in the Grecian republicks and islands; amongst which Athens and Rhodes were very considerable. And it deserves our notice, that all that country, when under the Romans as their allys, did still retain a great part of their government, together with their commerce and navigation; but lost all after they were brought to submit to the succeeding monarchs.
And the Italians.After this, commerce, navigation and manufactures, settled and continued in the Italian republicks, so long as they enjoyed their liberty.Viz. Milan, Florence, Pisa &c. have lost their liberty and traffick. But we may easily perceive, that Florence and Milan, tho’ they became the courts of monarchs or stadtholders, did much decrease in their commerce during the monarchical government. It is also known that Pisa under a free government was famous for a foreign trade, but now since its subjection has lost all its commerce;Genoa, Lucca, and Venice, retaintheir liberty and trade. and so in truth have all the old great Italian cities since the loss of their free government, so that they are fallen almost to nothing, unless where the princes or stadtholders by their train, and the consumption of their courts or families, have in some measure prevented the same. Whereas those two-ill situated towns, Venice and Genoa, by their free government, notwithstanding the loss and removal of the India trade, have preserved their greatness and traffick, as much as possible, and little Lucca keeps her trade still.
And the Hans towns.It’s known that afterwards by the conversion of Prussia and Liefland, much foreign traffick and navigation settled in the Hans republicks; and that all those that were not able to hold and preserve their freedom in former ages, lost all their traffick; so that Straelsond, Riga, Stetin, Koningsberg, and other cities which are under a monarchical government, or have lost their liberty, can expect no more trade than what necessarily depends on their own situation. Whereas on the contrary, Lubeck and Hamburgh, with a free government, have had a greater trade and navigation than their situation necessarily required. As we see it still in Germany that Bremen, Embden, Munster, &c. being continually put to wrestle or contend with their prince or head, are much obstructed in their trade; and that the traffick there could not keep its footing in any monarchical inland cities, but only in the free imperial towns, as Nuremburg, Ausburg, Frankfort, &c.
In the Netherlands merchandizing and navigation have been both advanc’d and ruined.In the Netherland provinces it is manifest by the manufactures, fisheries, and foreign traffick, that commerce thrives best in free governments. For when the earls or dukes were so weak and illarmed, that they were forced to submit to those cities that flourished by traffick, and could not oppose the true interest of the merchants, merchandize flourished: but when the earls or dukes became so powerful as to make war against the great trading cities, cloth-trade, fishery and traffick, were by little and little driven out of the land. Thus about the year 1300, and after, the cities of Gent, Bruges, and Ipres lost much of their trade in manufactures; and about the year 1490, the city of Bruges lost most of her trade by sea, when the arch-duke Maximilian brought that town into subjection. And lastly, all the other Flemish sea-ports lost their fishery, when they were forced to submit to the king of Spain; and yet during our wars, they would rather turn all their force to invade us by land, than bestow their money to clear the seas for their own inhabitants, by which they could have done Holland and Zealand much more mischief.
In Brabant manufactures and trade did formerly flourish.Thus those of Brabant also, particularly in Brussels, Tienen and Lovain, lost much of their trade in manufactures about the years 1300 and 1400; and in the following age under the house of Burgundy, when those dukes were so powerful as to force those towns. Thus we saw in the following age, that the duke of Anjou being an illustrious prince, and a great warrior, was no sooner become duke of Brabant, than the mighty mercantile city of Antwerp run a great hazard by the French fury of losing all its traffick.Likewise in Holland manufactures throve whilst the earls were weak. And lastly, it actually lost all its traffick by sea about the year 1585, when Philip II. took the city by the prince of Parma: and built a castle with a Spanish garrison there, without ever endeavouring to restore to the merchants their trade, by opening the Scheld.
Thus were most of the antient cities of Holland opprest, so long as they had their particular lords, who used to curb the cities, and open country, by forts and castles, but would not suffer them to be walled and fortified for the security of the inhabitants; as appears by Haerlem, Deift, Leyden, Amsterdam, Goude, Gorcum, &c. But those cities afterwards enjoying more freedom under their indigent unarmed earls, when they made use of them to overpower the antient Holland gentry and nobility, who likewise oppressed their small cities; they did about the year 1300 begin to gain the Flemish and Brabant manufacturies, which forsook their places of abode; and they lost most of them again about the year 1450, or soon after, when our earls and dukes of Burgundy were able by their forces to subdue all those citys. And tho during the last troubles, and compulsion in matters of religion, many Flemish and Brabant clothiers and merchants retired and settled in Holland about the year 1586, yet were they presently in great danger of being driven out again by the zealous, and seemingly pious activity of our captain-general, otherwise called the government of the earl of Leicester, who by the interest of the clergy with his courtiers, and English soldiery, endeavoured to make himself lord of the country: and for that end having reviled the states, and the merchants for libertines, and despicable interlopers, issued very prejudicial placaets against traffick and navigation; and lastly, design’d by surprizal to have taken and seized the three greatest trading citys, viz. Amsterdam, Leyden, and Enchuysen.
At last the the stadtholders would have driven away traffick out of Holland but were prevented.So that if this governour and captain-general had not perceived that our soldiery were incensed against the English forces under him, and that the government of the land was by this means able to oppose him, by setting up another military head, whether it were count Hobenlo or count Maurice of Nassau: and again, if this earl of Leicester had not ben a subject to queen Elizabeth of England, whose favour he much needed to make himself sovereign here; and besides, if afterwards he had not found himself constrained to leave these lands by command of the said queen, he had certainly by this his monarchical government, driven away our manufacturies, fisheries, traffick, and navigation.
The same were afterwards in great danger under the succeeding captain-generals (when we might have had a peace) by the continual high convoy-monies, and the no less formidable piracies of the Dunkirkers upon our merchant-men and fishers, and also by the needless and intolerable imposts raised in the year 1618, but especially in the year 1650, at which time the cities were brought under by our own hired military forces, as is yet fresh in memory.