Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. IV. - The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland
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CHAP. IV. - 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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Reasons why the inhabitants of Holland were no more damnified under the government of the captains-general or stadtholders.
Object. Has not Holland prospered under the conduct of captains general?BUT some may object, that all these reasons and examples cannot weigh down a contrary example taken from ourselves, viz. That Holland having a governour for life, or a continued captain-general, carrying on a constant war both by sea land, with a great army in pay, obtained the trade which removed from Antwerp, and keeps it still. That during the said form of government Holland hath advanced itself in all sorts of commerce, manufactures, fisheries, and navigation, incomparably above all other adjacent countries, and especially above Flanders and Brabant, where the trade of manufactures and traffick had some time before mightily flourished: so that the said form of government seems to consist very well with the interest of the country. Tho’ this objection is perhaps sufficiently refuted in the foregoing chapters, yet it will not be amiss to answer it distinctly.
First, it is to be noted in general, that at the time when Antwerp lost its traffick, as also afterwards, there were in all the adjacent countries much greater obstructions to trade than in Holland, viz.That flourishing state may be attributed to other causes, Namely to the monopolies and ill government of the bordering countries. among all the monarchs and princes, whose lavish government prays upon all burgers and peasants, and lays upon the merchant the intolerable burdens formerly mentioned, without toleration of religion, save only in Poland. And that in all the republicks on the Eastern sea, and land cities, all strangers were, by the monopolies of the burgership, and guilds, excluded from traffick, from being owners of ships, and medling in manufactures; and besides they tolerated but one religion. that at the beginning of the troubles especially,And the outward appearance of our republican government. So there being no such apparent monarchical government in Holland, but the shadow of liberty, the prince of Orange and his favourites, to encrease his party, and make them adhere more close to him, continually boasted that he had no other intent but to defend the common freedom, and to encrease it in these countries. And indeed there being at that time in Holland freedom of religion, burgership, and guilds, with small charge of convoy and customs applicable to the clearing of the seas, which were then very little infested; it is no wonder that traffick and navigation settled here.
For it is evident, that all the forementioned vexations, viz. that violent oppression of the lawful government, and all those taxes with which the common inhabitants are now burden’d, were introduced gradually, and from year to year increased; so that they were heaviest in the year 1650, in a profound peace;See the Deduction, part 2. chap. 1, § 22. and likely to continue so for ever, when the captain general openly set himself against his lawful sovereign, and not only impiously trampled upon his masters that paved him his wages, but also upon the sacred rights of the people, and their representatives; six of whom from the cities of Dort, Haerlem, Delft, Horne, and Medemblick, legally appearing at the assembly of the states of Holland and West-Friesland, his sovereign, he dared to imprison, only for having the courage to refuse to keep on foot some taxes for maintenance of the soldiery; which said representatives he released not till they had renounced all government in Holland: so that every one might see what a terrible thing a tyrannical monarch, prince during life, or stadtholder was in Holland, and how little appearance there was, that the inhabitants of the country should ever be eased of their taxes.
We ought to consider when the captains general, or stadtholders have done good or harm. And first as to prince William who placed his safety in some measure in Holland’s prosperity.Secondly, as to the captains general, or stadtholders in particular; I say, seeing these lands under our first captain-general, prince Willam of Orange, who was a prudent lord, were oblig’d to make war against their own puissant prince, who was irreconcilable to the captain-general, he was in no condition of saving either his own life or estate, but by promoting the prosperity of these small countries as far as he was able, in order to keep his footing in them. For in case the said general had in those days not been careful to gain the good will and affection of the rulers and inhabitants, by providing for their universal welfare and preservation, he had certainly run the risk, which might have ensued upon the people’s makking their peace with their sovereign; which how advantageous soever the terms might have been for the captain-general, yet it would necessarily have drawn on his ruin sooner or later.
And afterwards the earl of Leicester who did not so.Our second captain-general, the earl of Leicester, proved so detrimental to us during his two years government, that if he had not stood in awe of the states of Holland and Zealand, who were still obey’d by prince William’s lieutenant the count of Honelo, and had he not been afraid of the army, most of whom were not English, and dreaded queen Elizabeth of England, he would certainly, by continuing such maxims, have driven away our trade and republican government, and ruin’d the whole country.
Prince Maurice being young and so obedient to the states, did much good.As to our third captain-general, prince Maurice, it is confess’d, that in the 18th year of his age, when he became stadtholder of Holland and Zealand, by the conduct chiefly of John van Oldenbarnevelt; and because in his youth he followed that gentleman’s grave advice, and obey’d his masters the states, he did them great service, and help’d to conquer many of the enemies cities in a little time, and with small expence: but it is no less true, that the said prince, especially after the year 1600, being 32 years of age and following no longer the command of the states, nor the counsel of the said Barnevelt, of honourable memory, but his own maxims, or those of count William, he was hardly able, with much greater expence, to keep what he had gotten.
But grown older, and following bad counsel, did afterwards much harm.At least, as soon as the said prince conceiv’d that the countries under him could subsist against the king of Spain, he not only neglected, but opposed and withstood the welfare of the country, thinking thereby to increase his own. Thus did he set himself so violently against the truce with Spain, that in the year 1608 he wrote to the particular cities and members of the government of Holland, and to Henry IV. of France, contrary to the laws and order of the government, to perswade them and him against the treaty for a truce; yea, and threatned to continue the war against the king of Spain, tho he should have no assistance but that of Zealand only.See Negotiat. de Jeanin. Nor could the said truce be concluded till arch-duke Albert had first promised to pay him or his heirs the sum of three hundred thousand guilders, to take him off from his unrighteous designs, or from his unjust pretensions, as the ambassador Jeanin wrote to Henry IV. and that the states of these United Provinces had moreover engaged to continue him, during the suspension of arms, as they did formerly in the war, in all his military offices, and other advantages, which he receiv’d by the occasion of the war, and likewise in all his annual ordinary and extraordinary salaries or entertainments; and moreover presented him with a yearly hereditary revenue of twenty five thousand guilders, which at twenty years purchase would be five hundred thousand guilders, (see the negotiations of Jeanin, who as ambassador of France, was mediator in that treaty of truce.) And which is more, the said captain-general prosecuting severely several persons under pretext of establishing the true religion, the most zealous lovers of Holland’s we fare were forcibly ruin’d out of the government, imprisoned, and slaughtered, and many inhabitants driven out of the country.
See part. 2. chap. 1. of this book, &c. Under Henry’s government all Holland merchant ships, and fishers, were a continual prey to the Dunkirkers. He sought to continue a chargeable war by us, ’till a peace was concluded at Munster. Aitzma p. 233.In the time of the 4th captain general or stadtholder, the reader is desired maturely to consider, whether for twenty years together the clearing of the seas, in as much as it concerned the fisheries, manufactures, traffick and navigation of Holland, was not designedy neglected: and therefore whilst the Dunkirkers were very strong, and did us much damage by sea, those monies where withdrawn from the admiralties of Holland, which were necessarily designed for scouring the seas, and levied for that end on goods imported and exported. And moreover, we have seen those manifold imposts raised, all the forces of the land made use of, and also incredible sums of money taken up at interest, to make conquests as advantageous for the captain general as ever they were hurtful and chargeable for Holland. And how little the captain-general, or he who, in respect of his great age and unfitness, had then the administration, and really ruled in his stead, was inclined to this present peace with Spain, appears by this, that in the year 1646, the 25th of August Monsieur Knuyt made a report to the prince, and assured him, that he had covenanted at Munster for his own or his lady’s particular satisfaction, to have the value of upwards of five millions of guilders.Making clandestine covenants of several lordships to himself. Which if true, we may perceive that in the said private treaty of peace by the prince of Orange, his pretensions that were annihilated at the charge of the King of Spain, served only for a cloke to his frivolous actions, that under pretext of a treaty he might gain the lordships of Montfort, Sevenbergen and Turnhout, with the castle called Bank of Schoenbroek; as likewise a yearly increase of revenue of more lorships, to a very considerable sum.
And how much the exchanging of some meaner lordships belonging to the prince of Orange, has tended by a fair pretext to gain the mighty strong city and marquisate of Bergen op Zoom, may be guessed, if it be observed that the countess of Hohensolern, being unwilling to quit her right to the marquisate, and he in the mean while dying, the executors of the succeeding, and now reigning prince of Orange, in October 1651, adjusted with the king of Spain upon that point, viz. that the prince of Orange should continue in possession of all those lorships which by exchange were covenanted to him, and moreover should receive in money the sum of two hundred thousand guilders; and 5 months after the signing of the covenant, three hundred thousand guilders more: and lastly, besides these five hundred thousand guilders, a yearly rent of eighty thousand guilders for twenty years to come. So that it seems by this covenanted exchange of some lordships against the marquisate of Bergen alone, the said prince should receive the value of twenty one hundred thousand guilders.
Of the king of Spain’s.And therefore it is evident, that the king of Spain has been oblig’d to do much to move the prince in particular to agree to this present peace; which for many years has been so frequently offered to Holland by the king, and was so necessary for us: as those continual and extraordinary robberies of the Dunkirkers, and the taking of our fishermen in great numbers, and our exhausted and indebted treasury do at this day testify. But if nevertheless it should be objected, that it is lawful and commendable for any man, and consequently for the prince of Orange, to obstruct a peace which would be disadvantageous to himself, and afterwards during the treaty of Munster privately to covenant with the enemy of this state for his particular profit, to obtain as much as possibly he could, I desire it may be observed, that the states of Holland and West Friesland give quite another construction of this affair, viz.Part 1. ch. 7. §7. Which tho’ contrary to the instructions given with an oath, yet,
“That when Monsieur Knuyt, plenipotentiary of this state, at the treaty of Munster, by command and instruction of the prince of Orange, of laudable memory, without the knowledge of the state, managed and concluded the forementioned treaty; he was nevertheless bound up to the instructions agreed on for him, and the other plenipotentiaries of this state upon the 28th of October 1645, viz. That no secret instruction, without the previous knowledge of the states of the respective provinces, should either be given, or sent to the ambassadors extraordinary, and p’enipotentiaries. And in case either of the provinces, or any other person, should beyond expectation attempt or endeavour such a thing; they the ambassadors extraordinary, and plenipotentiaries, shall not receive, but forthwith reject it, and give immediate notice thereof to the states general. And that the said Monsieur Knuyt in pursuance of the 91st article of the forementioned instructions, had solemnly sworn thereunto.” Whereunto the said states of Holland and West-Friesland in the 9th chapter do add.
“§. 8 That the states and the respective provinces, were certainly well informed, what great care and vigilancy hath been us’d on behalf of the state, that in all places, none excepted, comprehended in the treaty of peace to be made with the king of Spain, it should be covenanted, that the sovereign disposal in matters of religion should remain in the states;For the magnifying of himself to the detriment of the United Netherlands, especially of Holland, it was carried on and effected. and by what serious and express orders the foresaid intention of the state was recommended to the said ambassadors extraordinary, and plenipotentiaries, and consequently to Monsieur Knuyt. Nevertheless the states, and the respective provinces do find in the foresaid treaty of the 8th of January 1647, that the said Monsieur Knuyt, in the name of his said highness, did expresly grant and agree, that in all places which by the said treaty were conceded and granted, either to his said highness, or to his lady the princess of Orange, the Roman catholick religion should be maintained, as the same was at the time of concluding of the foresaid treaty; and also the spiritual persons should be maintain’d in their estates, functions, free exercises, and immunities.
And unknown to the states, there was promised on the prince’s behalf to the king of Spain, that the Romish religion should be maintain’d in several places.“§ 9. So that in regard of the city of Sevenbergen only (over and above the other places in the foresaid treaty mentioned) the said city being within the province of Holland, and lying under the sovereign command of those states; there was granted much more to the king of Spain, than was made over by the act of seclusion to the said lord protector.
“§. 10. It is unquestionable that the most valuable effect of the sovereignty consists in the free disposal of matters of religion; which by the said treaty, as far as it is there specified, is quitted, and yielded up to the king of Spain.
“§. 11. Besides, the aforesaid resignation is made by, and on behalf of them who have no disposal thereof at all. So that the foresaid contractors did as much as in them lay clandestinely, to deprive the states of so sensible a share of their sovereignty.
“§. 13. That tho’ the states being afterwards inform’d of the contents of the said particular treaty, did expresly declare, that they would not be subject to the said intolerable stipulation, in respect of the practice of the said religion in Sevenbergen; yet they afterwards fell into many inconveniencies by that means.
And lastly, the said states of Holland and West-Friesland do say:
“§. 15. That so notable a part of their sovereignty and right as the free disposal of matters of religion within their dominons without their knowledge, by him who had not the least power or qualification to grant it, was without any apparent cause yielded to the King of Spain.
So that it doth unanswerable appear, that our captain-general and stadtholder, his secret treaty was concluded for his private benefit, and to the prejudice of Holland and the peace thereof.
’Tis well known that she ruin of Holland was design’d by our last stadtholder.Yea, after the last captain-general had in a full peace seized and imprisoned six deputies of Holland assembled upon summons at the Hague, because according to their duty they had dared to refuse the payment of some companies of soldiers, and to resolve to disbind them as far as concerned the province of Holland, he miscarried in the design of seizing our principal city by surprize. So that if he had not died about three weeks after, we should in a few years have seen that Holland, and Amsterdam first of all, would have lost all their traffick, by contending against their own Governnor and captain-general, or would have been compelled to submit to his yoke; as formerly Flander., Bruges, Brabant and Antwerp were bereft of their traffick by the quarrels between them and the arch-duke Maximilian, and king Philip.
For tho’ our said captain-general’s attempt on Amsterdam succeeded not, yet all the flourishing cities of Holland that were unarm’d, and much more those many cities which had garisons mostly of foreign soldiery at his command, would have been forced eternally to have submitted to his monarchical yoke, if his unexpected death had not delivered them from that slavery.
Deduct. of 1654 part 2. ch. 2. § 13. &c.He that doubts of this, let him hear the states of Holland and West-Friesland, as speaking of this matter to their allies: “But especially let the said provinces please to remember what happened in the year 1650, within our own body. Did not in the same year the rulers of the city of Amsterdam, to prevent greater evils, grant by capitulation to his highness prince William of immortal memory, father of the present prince of Orange, that the Heeren Andries, and Cornelis Bikkers, should quit their offices of burgermasters and counsellors, and become private men, and never be readmitted into the government? And were not the cities of Dort, Haerlem, Delft, Horn and Medemblick, because of some honest regents, or magistrates in their cities, compelled afterwards to do the like?Who domineer’d extremely over Holland. Altho’ God Almighty so ordered matters by his providence, that some few days after the same persons were restored to their former dignities. Those were the true tokens of an usurped power; and so much the more intolerable, because he to whom such conditions were granted, was, by the nature and virtue of his commission, and likewise by his oath therewith taken, only a subject of that body, whose members he thus endeavoured to bring under subjection. It was then indeed the true time for unfeigned patriots, and true lovers of liberty to appear upon the stage, and with heart and hand to make head against such usurpation. But what zeal did the foresaid provinces then exert? were not they the men, who on June 5. of the foresaid year 1650, granted that authority to be lawful, at least so far, that under pretext thereof the said prince of Orange undertook those actions? and were not they also the men who afterwards, when those actions were in part executed, did by special resolution or letters missive declare, that they judged the resolution aforesaid of the 5th of June 1650 to be applicable thereunto: and who in pursuance thereof expresly avowed, approved, and commended the foresaid actions; yea even thanked his highness for it, and besought him (tho’ ’tis scarcely to be believed) to persevere in such a a laudable zeal?
And had the thanks of the other provinces for it.All which being true, and the rulers of the other provinces, who ought to have offered their helping hand to Holland against these violent oppressions, having on the contrary either of necessity or willingly flattered the prince in this, and sought to bring our province to a greater thraldom: no rational man could have expected but that traffick and navigation, &c. would have had its overthrow here, as in other monarchical countries; and that consequently all the inhabitants of Holland in a few years would necessarily have sunk into unexpressible misery.