Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. VI. - The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland
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CHAP. VI. - 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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What good fruits the beginnings of a free government have already produced, from the death of the last stadtholder and captain-general, to the year 1662.
Notwithstanding the foresaid remainders of the stadtholders government is is evident, The fruits enjoy’d by the free government are, first, the not taking up money at interest. The reducing of five to four, wherewith to discharge the capital taken up. To the loss of the rulers, and the great benefit of the merchants, &c.AND now that I may more fully shew, that notwithstanding the sad effects of the relicks of the former stadtholders, governors, and captain-generals; yet that our affairs since the death of the last, are by the prudent management and zeal of our faithful rulers, brought very far on towards the welfare of these provinces. And first, as an eminent token of it, it is worthy observation, that not only a vigorous opposition is made against that ruinous course of taking up excessive sums continually upon interest, but that in the year 1655, by the zeal of our good rulers, an expedient was found to discharge the said province of the one hundred and forty millions of guilders, viz. by reducing the yearly interest of the said sum from the 20th to the 25th penry, or from five to four per cent. and employing the yearly advance of it towards discharging those sums: which advance increasing yearly, that formidable sum of one hundred and forty millions, will, in twenty-one years (whereof a sixth part is now expired) under God’s blessing, be totally discharged.
But that which is most to be gloried in is, that tho’ the greatest part of the regents of that province have lent a considerable part of their estates to Holland and West-Fri stand, nevertheless the consideration of their own profit did not hinder them from cutting off a fifth part of their revenue for the necessary service of the publick, and among others to so many thousand merchants, artizans, and others, who have no estate in the hands of the government at interest: so is it also to be greatly lamented, that there are still inhabitants of Holland, who either cannot or will not be sensible of the benefit and necessity of so doing.It is a pity that many of our people comprehend not this benefit. They ought in truth to consider that this country is an orphan, and that the rulers being guardians, they cannot with a good conscience suffer money to run at so high an interest at the charge of that orphan,And understand not that this country’s guardians must give no higher interest for the orphans use than for their own. when the credit of the said orphan is so great, that he can take up money sufficient at 4 per cent. and it would above all be inexcusable in the guardians to keep their own money still at the orphan’s charge, and require 5 per cent. for the same, when others, and perhaps the elder brothers and sisters of the orphan, are ready to lend him their money at 4 per cent.
But above all they ought to consider, that the revenue of Holland in itself was of little or no value; and if it be now otherwise, it doth purely and merely depend on the blessing of God upon its commerce and traffick;Especially when the revenue of Holland by those high interests would have been swallow’d up. and that if any considerable diversion or diminution of it should happen, ’twere impossible to raise the seven millions from it, which before the foresaid reduction were yearly demanded by petition for payment of the foresaid one hundred and forty millions; which by continuation of such an oeconomy as was kept in the time of the stadtholders and captains-general, would in time have been so much increased, that at length it would have exceeded all the revenue and product of their trade: and the neat revenue of Holland, being, by this means, brought to less than nothing, and its credit thereby necessarily at a stand, the faid province must have sunk and come to nothing of a sudden.
I can compare those people to nothing better than to a certain crack’d-brain’d son of an industrious husbandman, who seeing his father once and again take a great quantity of corn out of his barn, and carry it to his land and scatter it upon the earth, his crazy understanding began greatly to murmur, saying,Howgreat the fruits of this discharge of the debts are, is set forth by a similitude. that they had wont to take the corn out of the barn only by the handful, to bake bread and cakes, whereof he, his brothers and sisters were daily to eat; but by this way of taking so much together, it would shrink and come to nothing; and that his father ought not to have denied them their former liberty.Viz. By seed-corn, which cast into the earth seems to be lost. But that silly fellow understood not that the corn scattered upon the land was in no wise wasted or destroyed, but sowed in the earth in order to a great increase the year following; and that his father had taken sufficient care to leave so much in the barn as would bring the year about without want:But afterwards produces abundance whereas if they had taken corn out of that barn from time to time for bread and cakes, without sowing any, it might indeed for some time have caused a merry life, but the event would have been sudden misery and famine.So does that reduction bring a great benefit to the country. Even so those weak people perceive not that that which seems to be withheld from them or their neighbours by the aforesaid reduction, is by no means squander’d away, but laid up as good seed, to produce more fruit from year to year, that it may, by the blessing of God, be truly said to be only our surplusage; and in case that be neglected, according to the fancy of such foolish persons as aforesaid, and the extremity be taken, we may for a time live in jollity, but at length the burden of it would have ruin’d us all.
And further, to discover the difference between the present frugal and the former lavish government, we may remember that in our time there was another reduction made of rents and interests from 16 to 20, and from 6 ¼ to 5 per cent. But the benefit of it presently dropt through our fingers, even to the raising of more horse and foot, that were employed contrary to the desire of most of the honest rulers of Holland, and to the great detriment of that province sacrificed to the ambition of the captain-general;Which under the stadtholder were converted to the levying of many needless soldiers. so that the foresaid reduction may be truly said, not to have served to the easing of the country, but to a new and heavy taxing of the commonalty.
Yet out of its profit, had it been managed, Holland would now have been out of debt.And had we then been so fortunate, that the good rulers at that time had been able to have made use of the advance of the foresaid reduction (as they do now) for discharge of the capital sum, and reducing the yearly charge (with the interest upon interest) without running ourselves again into new negotiations to the prejudice of Holland, we should in lieu of being so vastly in debt as at present, have been free and on even ground.And have subsisted without any imposts on consumption. And if therewith we can discharge ourselves of seven millions of yearly imposts, and all taxes on consumption, which lie so heavy upon the commonalty, and do so remarkably hinder the increase of our trade and commerce, and withal a good part of the poundage upon lands and houses, and of the customs and convoys, and yet after that have a better and clearer revenue than we have at present; besides the benefit we should enjoy of having all handycrafts-men, manufacturers and traders, who would resort to us from other countries, under the advantages of having the foresaid taxes discharged:To the unutterable benefit of all trades. if this were, I say, so ordered, this state would, humanly speaking, have been already, or at least in a few years be the most considerable, puissant, and most formidable republick of the whole world.
And as we should certainly have possessed and tasted that prosperity, in case the former government had had the freedom of making the best use of the interest of Holland; so in all probability we may yet enjoy and be sensible of it in our own persons, or at least our children after us, if we do not shamefully suffer that golden liberty which is put into our hands by heaven, to be plucked from us, and don’t with the sow return to the mire.Which blessing we hope, preserving our liberty, to bequeath to posterity. This certainly no generous Hollander can rightly consider, without being inflamed with an ardent zeal to hazard his estate and life for the preservation of the present government, and maintaining our true liberty, and thereby to leave our children at leastwise that happiness which we, in case our predecessors could have effected that which in our times, as aforesaid, is so commendably settled, should now effectually enjoy.
Let none imagine that during the war with the king of Spain, it would have been impracticable to employ the advance of the foresaid reduction for discharging part of the monies taken up at interest, and to continue it till the whole were paid off, and the country out of debt; seeing the contrary hath effectually appeared, that during the forementioned eastern war, where in proportion of time there was more than twice as much extraordinarily raised and paid by the province of Holland as, since the foresaid first reduction, ever happened in the war with Spain;The third fruit of this free government is, a great part of the superfluous soldiery &c. is disbanded whereby Holland saves yearly 500000 guilders. yet the last reduction from five to four in the hundred, by the care and vigilance of the present rulers, hath continued by the yearly advance thereof, without any intermission or diversion, and is employed for the discharge of the capital debt.
In the next place we may observe, as a singular effect of the present free government, that by their prudence and good direction a good part of the supernumerary and useless land-forces, and especially of the foreign soldiery, is reduced and discharged, to the ease of the province of Holland in particular, of the sum of near five hundred thousand guilders per annum. Concerning which it is specially to be noted, that the foresaid reduction and discharge was effected by the good conduct of Holland, with the universal satisfaction and approbation of all the other provinces. Whence therefore (by comparing it with what passed in the year 1650) may be inferred, that the present time is much better than that, when our own captain-general thrust his sword into our bowels, for no other reason, but because the upright and faithful rulers, according to justice and duty, did only disband and reduce some part of the said forces for ease of the country, and as preparatory to the necessary disburdening of the poor commonalty.
The profit of which is converted to the discharge of debts.It is also at present firmly resolved for our good, that the benefit of the said reduction, as also that of rents and interests, shall be employed for discharging that intolerable burden which the ambition of our captain-general laid upon our backs.
Whereby the sums that opprest Holland will be the sooner discharged.By this means the above-levied capital sums will be sooner paid by six years than otherwise they could: so that now in that respect about a full fifth part of the time requisite for the payment of the whole is expired; besides, that a part of the above-said one hundred and forty millions, which were many years since negotiated upon rents for life, and likewise grow less every day, will infallibly expire in a few years. So that we do visibly approach the land of promise;The fourth fruit of this government is, that all contentions of cities and provinces are ended to satisfaction. and if by reason of our unthankfulness, and murmuring against the Almighty, and against our Moses, he does not cast us back into the Egyptian slavery, the remainder of the journey through the wilderness will soon be at an end.
Fourthly, Let us observe, as another singular effect of the present free government, that tho’ it was formerly judged and maintained by many, that it would be impossible, without stadtholders or governors of the provinces, to compose and reconcile the differences and disputes of province against province, quarters against quarters, cities against cities, and rulers in cities with one another, which will infallibly arise from time to time; and that by this means the state for want of such stadtholders and governors, will e’er long fall into great dissentions and civil wars, and in time come to ruin;Tho’ such differences are mostly coused by such as affect slavery. yet experience hath taught us, that on the contrary, the many and great disputes and differences that have broken out, and were mostly caused by the instigation of those that long after slavery, have since the death of the last prince of Orange been laid down and appeased with much better order and effect than formerly. Yea, and which is wonderful, almost all the foresaid differences and disputes were so well allied, by the authority and good conduct of the lawful government, that at one and the same time the differing parties have found their satisfaction and contentment in laying them aside.
Whereas on the other hand the stadtholders caused many differences, and generally wrong’d the injur’d parties.Whereas, on the other hand, we have formerly seen, that the stadtholder irritated and stirred up such differences, at least cherished them, when it was for his interest and advantage; and at last made the parties who had most right, submit to the sword, because he knew best how to arrive at his ends by those who least regarded right, and consequently made little conscience, so they could please him in obstructing justice, and the welfare of the land: it being the maxim of all great persons, divide & impera; for in troubled waters they have best fishing.
All which appears by examples, viz. by the amnesty of 1651.If ever any governor or stadtholder, and his adherents, had had such cause of offence as was given to the province of Holland, anno 1650, and in case the same stadtholder and his adherents had had the same power to revenge themselves as the states of Holland had after the death of the last prince of Orange; who can doubt but their desire of revenge would have made the whole state to tremble, and that much christian-blood would have been sacrificed to their passion? But seeing the common good is more regarded and pursued by the rulers of a free republick, than the satisfying of any violent passion; and that by executing that revenge, or rather just punishment, it would have sustained a signal damage, the said crime was wisely and prudently buried by a general amnesty or pardon; and so that great breach, made on purpose to keep the whole state a long time in a troublesome alarm, was presently repaired.
And the allaying the dissension in Over-Yssel.The most considerable dissension and rent which in the memory of man hath happened in these United Provinces, was that of the province of Over-yssel into two considerable parties about the beginning of the year 1654;Which had broke out into an open war, which was of such a nature, that both the differing parties behaved themselves as states, and as the lawful sovereign powers of that province, insomuch that they made war against one another in that quality, and after such a manner, that the city of Hasseld was, after a formal siege, taken by one of the parties. In this dissension (according to the forementioned maxim of great men) the stadtholder of Friesland had concerned himself, and was received by one of the parties for stadtholder, governor, and captain-general of Over-yssel, by which the dissention was brought to that extremity, and lasted between three and four years.
And yet by intercession of the H. R. pensionary it was first stopt,But at last those lords observing, that their disputes were infinitely multiplied, so that the wound was almost incurable, they submitted at the mediation of the pensioner of Holland, to refer all their differences to the decision and determination of two persons appointed by the states of the same province, who were the Heer van Polsbroek burgo-master of the city of Amsterdam, and the said pensioner; who reconciled the contending parties of the said province in most of their differing points in an amicable manner:And afterward amitably ended. and afterwards all the necessary regulations, orders, instructions and affidavits as to affairs of the government of the said province, being set down in writing, a solemn sentence and decision was made and pronounced upon the 20th of August 1657, of all the said differences, in the name of the states of Holland and West-Friesland, and all confirmed under the great seal of the said states, inserting therein the foresaid regulations, orders, instructions and oaths, for preventing the like inconveniencies for the future; and all with that prudence and moderation, that both parties received entire satisfaction. Hereupon the divided government was immediately consolidated and healed up, and the quiet and peace of the said province restored, and so continues to this very day.
What happened in Groningen is worthy observation.In the province of Groningen and Ommelanden, there arose likewise a notable dissension at the beginning of 1655, and again at the end of 1656; insomuch that the body of the foresaid Ommelanden, and half of the province being divided, all government and administration of justice was at a stand. Upon this occasion it manifestly appeared whether such dissentions could be best composed and quieted by stadtholders, or by the authority and conduct of other rulers.Where the stadtholder not able to allay the differences desir’d the states to do it by their deputies. The states general having gotten information of those differences at two several times, did immediately desire the stadtholder of that province to be present in person, and allay the difference if possible. But experience taught us, that it was but like oil cast into the fire: so that the stadtholder was necessitated to return answer to the states general, that he found it impracticable, and desired the states would depute some of their number for that end. Which having performed, those deputies composed and allayed the said differences, to the satisfaction and contentment of both parties; and the government of the country was settled and confirmed, in the name, and under the seal of the states general, with consent of the said country.Which also was amicably effected.
It would be too tedious to mention circumstances, how prudently and happily, by the wise direction of the states of Holland or those authorized by them, all the commotions that happened in the cities of the same province, and all differences, as well between the said cities against one another, as between the rulers of one and the same city, were every time extinguished and allayed.And in Holland many differences that arose have been happily ended. Yea even old disputes, that from the time of the last troubles had been carried on with much heat between some members, and which under the stadtholders could never be allayed, were by the states of Holland amicably decided to the satisfaction of the parties concerned.At Dort, Enchuysen, Gornichem, Rotterdam, Briel, &c. Which examples in respect of the commotions that have heretofore, and now lately happened at Dort, Enchuysen and Medenblick, as likewise the appeasing of the differences between the governors of Gornichem and Schoonhoven, about the chusing of their magistrates; and of those of Rotterdam, and the Briel, about the pilotage of the Maese, and the passage into Goeree;As also in West-Friesland, and the North quarter. as also the old disputes about the investiture of the colleges of the generality, between the members of West-Friesland and the north quarter, which were depending beyond the memory of man, are very notable instances.
Where the beginnings of mischief were contriv’d by our last stadholder.Here might also be shewn, that the beginnings of all the said commotions and dissentions were first designed or contrived by the last deceased stadtholder; and others were excited and fomented by his creatures that he left behind him: so that all that are lovers of peace and quiet, and would rather have all discords composed by wife and mild conduct, than carried on and increased by passion, or decided by the sword, have need carefully to beware of electing a stadtholder or new baitmaker.
The most considerable fruit of this free government is, that the powers of Holland are disposed to strengthen our naval forces.But the greatest and most valuable benefit of the present free government, is, that now, according to the true interest of Holland, all the revenues of the land, both ordinary and extraordinary, that remain over and above the payments of the principal and interest of the publick debts, are applied for the increasing and strengthening our naval power; whereas it was heretofore wasted upon unprofitable, nay and oft-times pernicious sieges and other expeditions, according to the vain glory of the captain-general. It is particularly observable, that at present the ordinary naval power of this state is above three or four times more formidable than ever it was during the war with the king of Spain. And as after the conclusion of the peace with the said king, during the life of the prince of Orange, the first design was (as I formerly mentioned) to sell the most considerable of our ships; so after his death, one of the first cares of the states was, to put the colleges of the admiralty in a posture of acting offensively at sea:Considering that in two years, 60 new ships of war were built. the states having (which is a thing incredible) during the chargeable war against England, from 1652 to 1654, built in the space of two years, sixty new capital ships of war, of such dimensions and force, as were never before used in the service of this state.And new magazines built, provided with all necessaries for shipping, cannon &c. And thus they have proceeded with the like provident care to build other ships, to buy cannon, to erect vast magazines and store-houses for securing and preserving naval stores, and making of publick rope allies, and the like, and for providing all things necessary for the equipping and setting of ships to sea; and generally have done all that’s fit for the strengthning of our naval power, which hath been continued diligently from time to time.
This is known to be the only means whereby, under the blessing of God, this state may progressively increase in fishing, commerce and navigation, and draw an incredible concourse of people out of all countries, as we daily experience to our great joy.Whereby much pirating by sea will be prevented, For who can be ignorant, that the awful regard to our foresaid naval power alone hath, next under God, been the cause of putting a stop to the aforementioned intolerable piracies of the French in the Mediterranean seas, by which the government is brought into a posture to be able, yea and did resolve to attack, take and destroy, not only common pirates, but even the king’s ships of war which were made use of for that end? so that two of the king of France’s ships being taken by vice-admiral de Ruyter in the Mediterranean in 1657, his majesty, who had caused all our ships and effects throughout his dominions to be seized, was thereby readily brought to free us from that inconveniency.Especially in the Mediterranean.
And the Eastern affairs dispatched.Without the influence of this naval power, it would in all human probability have been impossible to deliver our selves with any reputation out of the Eastern war formerly mentioned, without being expos’d to many more difficulties.And our traffick and navigation considerably encreased. In short, by this means the commerce and navigation of these provinces have, notwithstanding the heavy burdens forementioned, been kept in a tolerable good posture and condition, and do now considerable improve.
The stupidity of those who complain of our affairs is inexcusable,So that the folly or malice of some people is intolerable, who dare complain of our present state of affairs, and esteem the former times better than the present. If those stupid or ill meaning people cannot or will not be at the pains to consider the noble effects of the present free government, yet they should at least suffer themselves to be convinced by the evident prosperity of the cities of Holland. What could they answer if they were asked, whether it be not a manifest token of prosperity, that the most considerable and greatest mercantile city of the province, viz. Amsterdam, hath been enlarged two parts in three; and that none can observe, that either the houses or inheritances are thereby lessened in value;Seeing the prosperity of the country appears by other symptoms. yea that it is so augmented in buildings of houses, that the imposts on the bulky goods of that city only, in the last farm, yielded above thirty thousand guilders more than in the former, and yet the said impost was in the foregoing years considerably improved? We may affirm the same of Leyden and Dort, and other cities in proportion.By laying out the ground of cities. And that the riches, and plenty of many cannot be kept within the walls of their houses; but that over and above their costly and stately buildings, they are visible in their coaches, horses, and other tokens of plenty in every part.Gallantry and magnificence of the inhabitants. There are but very few in the cities of the foresaid province, that do not yearly increase their capital. Yea, if the foresaid complainers and murmurers look but into their own books, I assure myself that most of them (unless they are profuse, negligent and debauched)And the few bankrupts of honest merchants. shall find their stock, one year with another, considerably increased.