15: Chapter XV
<< 14: Chapter XIV || 16: Chapter XVI (1618) >>
It is not cheerful after widely contemplating the aspect of Christendom
in the year of supreme preparation to examine with the minuteness
absolutely necessary the narrow theatre to which the political affairs of
the great republic had been reduced.
That powerful commonwealth, to which the great party of the Reformation
naturally looked for guidance in the coming conflict, seemed bent on
self-destruction. The microcosm of the Netherlands now represented,
alas! the war of elements going on without on a world-wide scale. As the
Calvinists and Lutherans of Germany were hotly attacking each other
even in sight of the embattled front of Spain and the League, so the
Gomarites and the Arminians by their mutual rancour were tearing the
political power of the Dutch Republic to shreds and preventing her from
assuming a great part in the crisis. The consummate soldier, the
unrivalled statesman, each superior in his sphere to any contemporary
rival, each supplementing the other, and making up together, could they
have been harmonized, a double head such as no political organism then
existing could boast, were now in hopeless antagonism to each other. A
mass of hatred had been accumulated against the Advocate with which he
found it daily more and more difficult to struggle. The imperious,
rugged, and suspicious nature of the Stadholder had been steadily wrought
upon by the almost devilish acts of Francis Aerssens until he had come to
look upon his father's most faithful adherent, his own early preceptor in
statesmanship and political supporter, as an antagonist, a conspirator,
and a tyrant.
The soldier whose unrivalled ability, experience, and courage in the
field should have placed him at the very head of the great European army
of defence against the general crusade upon Protestantism, so constantly
foretold by Barneveld, was now to be engaged in making bloodless but
mischievous warfare against an imaginary conspiracy and a patriot foe.
The Advocate, keeping steadily in view the great principles by which his
political life had been guided, the supremacy of the civil authority in
any properly organized commonwealth over the sacerdotal and military,
found himself gradually forced into mortal combat with both. To the
individual sovereignty of each province he held with the tenacity of a
lawyer and historian. In that he found the only clue through the
labyrinth which ecclesiastical and political affairs presented. So close
was the tangle, so confused the medley, that without this slender guide
all hope of legal issue seemed lost.
No doubt the difficulty of the doctrine of individual sovereignty was
great, some of the provinces being such slender morsels of territory,
with resources so trivial, as to make the name of sovereignty ludicrous.
Yet there could be as little doubt that no other theory was tenable. If
so powerful a mind as that of the Advocate was inclined to strain the
theory to its extreme limits, it was because in the overshadowing
superiority of the one province Holland had been found the practical
remedy for the imbecility otherwise sure to result from such provincial
and meagre federalism.
Moreover, to obtain Union by stretching all the ancient historical
privileges and liberties of the separate provinces upon the Procrustean
bed of a single dogma, to look for nationality only in common subjection
to an infallible priesthood, to accept a Catechism as the palladium upon
which the safety of the State was to depend for all time, and beyond
which there was to be no further message from Heaven--such was not
healthy constitutionalism in the eyes of a great statesman. No doubt
that without the fervent spirit of Calvinism it would have been difficult
to wage war with such immortal hate as the Netherlands had waged it, no
doubt the spirit of republican and even democratic liberty lay hidden
within that rigid husk, but it was dishonour to the martyrs who had died
by thousands at the stake and on the battle field for the rights of
conscience if the only result of their mighty warfare against wrong had
been to substitute a new dogma for an old one, to stifle for ever the
right of free enquiry, theological criticism, and the hope of further
light from on high, and to proclaim it a libel on the Republic that
within its borders all heretics, whether Arminian or Papist, were safe
from the death penalty or even from bodily punishment. A theological
union instead of a national one and obtained too at the sacrifice of
written law and immemorial tradition, a congress in which clerical
deputations from all the provinces and from foreign nations should
prescribe to all Netherlanders an immutable creed and a shadowy
constitution, were not the true remedies for the evils of confederacy,
nor, if they had been, was the time an appropriate one for their
It was far too early in the world's history to hope for such
redistribution of powers and such a modification of the social compact
as would place in separate spheres the Church and the State, double the
sanctions and the consolations of religion by removing it from the
pollutions of political warfare, and give freedom to individual
conscience by securing it from the interference of government.
It is melancholy to see the Republic thus perversely occupying its
energies. It is melancholy to see the great soldier becoming gradually
more ardent for battle with Barneveld and Uytenbogaert than with Spinola
and Bucquoy, against whom he had won so many imperishable laurels. It is
still sadder to see the man who had been selected by Henry IV. as the one
statesman of Europe to whom he could confide his great projects for the
pacification of Christendom, and on whom he could depend for counsel and
support in schemes which, however fantastic in some of their details, had
for their object to prevent the very European war of religion against
which Barneveld had been struggling, now reduced to defend himself
against suspicion hourly darkening and hatred growing daily more insane.
The eagle glance and restless wing, which had swept the whole political
atmosphere, now caged within the stifling limits of theological casuistry
and personal rivalry were afflicting to contemplate.
The evils resulting from a confederate system of government, from a
league of petty sovereignties which dared not become a nation, were as
woefully exemplified in the United Provinces as they were destined to be
more than a century and a half later, and in another hemisphere, before
that most fortunate and sagacious of written political instruments, the
American Constitution of 1787, came to remedy the weakness of the old
articles of Union.
Meantime the Netherlands were a confederacy, not a nation. Their general
government was but a committee.
It could ask of, but not command, the separate provinces. It had no
dealings with nor power over the inhabitants of the country; it could say
"Thou shalt" neither to state nor citizen; it could consult only with
corporations--fictitious and many-headed personages--itself incorporate.
There was no first magistrate, no supreme court, no commander-in-chief,
no exclusive mint nor power of credit, no national taxation, no central
house of representation and legislation, no senate. Unfortunately it had
one church, and out of this single matrix of centralism was born more
discord than had been produced by all the centrifugal forces of
There had been working substitutes found, as we well know, for the
deficiencies of this constitution, but the Advocate felt himself bound to
obey and enforce obedience to the laws and privileges of his country so
long as they remained without authorized change. His country was the
Province of Holland, to which his allegiance was due and whose servant he
was. That there was but one church paid and sanctioned by law, he
admitted, but his efforts were directed to prevent discord within that
church, by counselling moderation, conciliation, mutual forbearance, and
abstention from irritating discussion of dogmas deemed by many thinkers
and better theologians than himself not essential to salvation. In this
he was much behind his age or before it. He certainly was not with the
And thus, while the election of Ferdinand had given the signal of war
all over Christendom, while from the demolished churches in Bohemia the
tocsin was still sounding, whose vibrations were destined to be heard a
generation long through the world, there was less sympathy felt with the
call within the territory of the great republic of Protestantism than
would have seemed imaginable a few short years before. The capture of
the Cloister Church at the Hague in the summer of 1617 seemed to minds
excited by personal rivalries and minute theological controversy a more
momentous event than the destruction of the churches in the Klostergrab
in the following December. The triumph of Gomarism in a single Dutch
city inspired more enthusiasm for the moment than the deadly buffet to
European Protestantism could inspire dismay.
The church had been carried and occupied, as it were, by force, as if an
enemy's citadel. It seemed necessary to associate the idea of practical
warfare with a movement which might have been a pacific clerical success.
Barneveld and those who acted with him, while deploring the intolerance
out of which the schism had now grown to maturity, had still hoped for
possible accommodation of the quarrel. They dreaded popular tumults
leading to oppression of the magistracy by the mob or the soldiery and
ending in civil war. But what was wanted by the extreme partisans on
either side was not accommodation but victory.
"Religious differences are causing much trouble and discontents in many
cities," he said. "At Amsterdam there were in the past week two
assemblages of boys and rabble which did not disperse without violence,
crime, and robbery. The brother of Professor Episcopius (Rem Bischop)
was damaged to the amount of several thousands. We are still hoping that
some better means of accommodation may be found."
The calmness with which the Advocate spoke of these exciting and painful
events is remarkable. It was exactly a week before the date of his
letter that this riot had taken place at Amsterdam; very significant in
its nature and nearly tragical in its results. There were no Remonstrant
preachers left in the city, and the people of that persuasion were
excluded from the Communion service. On Sunday morning, 17th February
(1617), a furious mob set upon the house of Rem Bischop, a highly
respectable and wealthy citizen, brother of the Remonstrant professor
Episcopius, of Leyden. The house, an elegant mansion in one of the
principal streets, was besieged and after an hour's resistance carried by
storm. The pretext of the assault was that Arminian preaching was going
on within its walls, which was not the fact. The mistress of the house,
half clad, attempted to make her escape by the rear of the building, was
pursued by the rabble with sticks and stones, and shrieks of "Kill the
Arminian harlot, strike her dead," until she fortunately found refuge in
the house of a neighbouring carpenter. There the hunted creature fell
insensible on the ground, the master of the house refusing to give her
up, though the maddened mob surged around it, swearing that if the
"Arminian harlot"--as respectable a matron as lived in the city--were not
delivered over to them, they would tear the house to pieces. The hope of
plunder and of killing Rem Bischop himself drew them at last back to his
mansion. It was thoroughly sacked; every portable article of value,
linen, plate, money, furniture, was carried off, the pictures and objects
of art destroyed, the house gutted from top to bottom. A thousand
spectators were looking on placidly at the work of destruction as they
returned from church, many of them with Bible and Psalm-book in their
hands. The master effected his escape over the roof into an adjoining
building. One of the ringleaders, a carpenter by trade, was arrested
carrying an armful of valuable plunder. He was asked by the magistrate
why he had entered the house. "Out of good zeal," he replied; "to help
beat and kill the Arminians who were holding conventicle there." He was
further asked why he hated the Arminians so much. "Are we to suffer such
folk here," he replied, "who preach the vile doctrine that God has
created one man for damnation and another for salvation?"--thus ascribing
the doctrine of the church of which he supposed himself a member to the
Arminians whom he had been plundering and wished to kill.
Rem Bischop received no compensation for the damage and danger; the
general cry in the town being that the money he was receiving from
Barneveld and the King of Spain would make him good even if not a stone
of the house had been left standing. On the following Thursday two
elders of the church council waited upon and informed him that he must
in future abstain from the Communion service.
It may well be supposed that the virtual head of the government liked
not the triumph of mob law, in the name of religion, over the civil
authority. The Advocate was neither democrat nor demagogue. A lawyer,
a magistrate, and a noble, he had but little sympathy with the humbler
classes, which he was far too much in the habit of designating as rabble
and populace. Yet his anger was less against them than against the
priests, the foreigners, the military and diplomatic mischief-makers, by
whom they were set upon to dangerous demonstrations. The old patrician
scorned the arts by which highborn demagogues in that as in every age
affect adulation for inferiors whom they despise. It was his instinct to
protect, and guide the people, in whom he recognized no chartered nor
inherent right to govern. It was his resolve, so long as breath was in
him, to prevent them from destroying life and property and subverting the
government under the leadership of an inflamed priesthood.
It was with this intention, as we have just seen, and in order to avoid
bloodshed, anarchy, and civil war in the streets of every town and
village, that a decisive but in the Advocate's opinion a perfectly legal
step had been taken by the States of Holland. It had become necessary to
empower the magistracies of towns to defend themselves by enrolled troops
against mob violence and against an enforced synod considered by great
lawyers as unconstitutional.
Aerssens resided in Zealand, and the efforts of that ex-ambassador were
unceasing to excite popular animosity against the man he hated and to
trouble the political waters in which no man knew better than he how to
cast the net.
"The States of Zealand," said the Advocate to the ambassador in London,
"have a deputation here about the religious differences, urging the
holding of a National Synod according to the King's letters, to which
some other provinces and some of the cities of Holland incline. The
questions have not yet been defined by a common synod, so that a national
one could make no definition, while the particular synods and clerical
personages are so filled with prejudices and so bound by mutual
engagements of long date as to make one fear an unfruitful issue.
We are occupied upon this point in our assembly of Holland to devise
some compromise and to discover by what means these difficulties may
be brought into a state of tranquillity."
It will be observed that in all these most private and confidential
utterances of the Advocate a tone of extreme moderation, an anxious wish
to save the Provinces from dissensions, dangers, and bloodshed, is
distinctly visible. Never is he betrayed into vindictive, ambitious, or
self-seeking expressions, while sometimes, although rarely, despondent in
mind. Nor was his opposition to a general synod absolute. He was
probably persuaded however, as we have just seen, that it should of
necessity be preceded by provincial ones, both in due regard to the laws
of the land and to the true definition of the points to be submitted to
its decision. He had small hope of a successful result from it.
The British king gave him infinite distress. As towards France so
towards England the Advocate kept steadily before him the necessity of
deferring to powerful sovereigns whose friendship was necessary to the
republic he served, however misguided, perverse, or incompetent those
monarchs might be.
"I had always hoped," he said, "that his Majesty would have adhered to
his original written advice, that such questions as these ought to be
quietly settled by authority of law and not by ecclesiastical persons,
and I still hope that his Majesty's intention is really to that effect,
although he speaks of synods."
A month later he felt even more encouraged. "The last letter of his
Majesty concerning our religious questions," he said, "has given rise to
various constructions, but the best advised, who have peace and unity at
heart, understand the King's intention to be to conserve the state of
these Provinces and the religion in its purity. My hope is that his
Majesty's good opinion will be followed and adopted according to the most
Can it be believed that the statesman whose upright patriotism,
moderation, and nobleness of purpose thus breathed through every word
spoken by him in public or whispered to friends was already held up by
a herd of ravening slanderers to obloquy as a traitor and a tyrant?
He was growing old and had suffered much from illness during this
eventful summer, but his anxiety for the Commonwealth, caused by these
distressing and superfluous squabbles, were wearing into him more deeply
than years or disease could do.
"Owing to my weakness and old age I can't go up-stairs as well
as I used," he said,--[Barneveld to Caron 31 July and 21 Aug. 1617.
(H. Arch. MS.)]--"and these religious dissensions cause me sometimes
such disturbance of mind as will ere long become intolerable, because of
my indisposition and because of the cry of my heart at the course people
are pursuing here. I reflect that at the time of Duke Casimir and the
Prince of Chimay exactly such a course was held in Flanders and in Lord
Leicester's time in the city of Utrecht, as is best known to yourself.
My hope is fixed on the Lord God Almighty, and that He will make those
well ashamed who are laying anything to heart save his honour and glory
and the welfare of our country with maintenance of its freedom and laws.
I mean unchangeably to live and die for them . . . . Believe firmly
that all representations to the contrary are vile calumnies."
Before leaving for Vianen in the middle of August of this year (1617)
the Advocate had an interview with the Prince. There had been no open
rupture between them, and Barneveld was most anxious to avoid a quarrel
with one to whose interests and honour he had always been devoted. He
did not cling to power nor office. On the contrary, he had repeatedly
importuned the States to accept his resignation, hoping that perhaps
these unhappy dissensions might be quieted by his removal from the scene.
He now told the Prince that the misunderstanding between them arising
from these religious disputes was so painful to his heart that he would
make and had made every possible effort towards conciliation and amicable
settlement of the controversy. He saw no means now, he said, of bringing
about unity, unless his Excellency were willing to make some proposition
for arrangement. This he earnestly implored the Prince to do, assuring
him of his sincere and upright affection for him and his wish to support
such measures to the best of his ability and to do everything for the
furtherance of his reputation and necessary authority. He was so
desirous of this result, he said, that he would propose now as he did at
the time of the Truce negotiations to lay down all his offices, leaving
his Excellency to guide the whole course of affairs according to his
best judgment. He had already taken a resolution, if no means of
accommodation were possible, to retire to his Gunterstein estate and
there remain till the next meeting of the assembly; when he would ask
leave to retire for at least a year; in order to occupy himself with a
revision and collation of the charters, laws, and other state papers of
the country which were in his keeping, and which it was needful to bring
into an orderly condition. Meantime some scheme might be found for
arranging the religious differences, more effective than any he had been
able to devise.
His appeal seems to have glanced powerlessly upon the iron reticence of
Maurice, and the Advocate took his departure disheartened. Later in the
autumn, so warm a remonstrance was made to him by the leading nobles and
deputies of Holland against his contemplated withdrawal from his post
that it seemed a dereliction of duty on his part to retire. He remained
to battle with the storm and to see "with anguish of heart," as he
expressed it, the course religious affairs were taking.
The States of Utrecht on the 26th August resolved that on account of
the gathering of large masses of troops in the countries immediately
adjoining their borders, especially in the Episcopate of Cologne, by aid
of Spanish money, it was expedient for them to enlist a protective force
of six companies of regular soldiers in order to save the city from
sudden and overwhelming attack by foreign troops.
Even if the danger from without were magnified in this preamble, which is
by no means certain, there seemed to be no doubt on the subject in the
minds of the magistrates. They believed that they had the right to
protect and that they were bound to protect their ancient city from
sudden assault, whether by Spanish soldiers or by organized mobs
attempting, as had been done in Rotterdam, Oudewater, and other towns, to
overawe the civil authority in the interest of the Contra-Remonstrants.
Six nobles of Utrecht were accordingly commissioned to raise the troops.
A week later they had been enlisted, sworn to obey in all things the
States of Utrecht, and to take orders from no one else. Three days later
the States of Utrecht addressed a letter to their Mightinesses the
States-General and to his Excellency the Prince, notifying them that for
the reasons stated in the resolution cited the six companies had been
levied. There seemed in these proceedings to be no thought of mutiny or
rebellion, the province considering itself as acting within its
unquestionable rights as a sovereign state and without any exaggeration
of the imperious circumstances of the case.
Nor did the States-General and the Stadholder at that moment affect to
dispute the rights of Utrecht, nor raise a doubt as to the legality of
the proceedings. The committee sent thither by the States-General, the
Prince, and the council of state in their written answer to the letter of
the Utrecht government declared the reasons given for the enrolment of
the six companies to be insufficient and the measure itself highly
dangerous. They complained, but in very courteous language, that the
soldiers had been levied without giving the least notice thereof to the
general government, without asking its advice, or waiting for any
communication from it, and they reminded the States of Utrecht that they
might always rely upon the States-General and his Excellency, who were
still ready, as they had been seven years before (1610), to protect them
against every enemy and any danger.
The conflict between a single province of the confederacy and the
authority of the general government had thus been brought to a direct
issue; to the test of arms. For, notwithstanding the preamble to the
resolution of the Utrecht Assembly just cited, there could be little
question that the resolve itself was a natural corollary of the famous
"Sharp Resolution," passed by the States of Holland three weeks before.
Utrecht was in arms to prevent, among other things at least, the forcing
upon them by a majority of the States-General of the National Synod to
which they were opposed, the seizure of churches by the Contra-
Remonstrants, and the destruction of life and property by inflamed mobs.
There is no doubt that Barneveld deeply deplored the issue,
but that he felt himself bound to accept it. The innate absurdity of a
constitutional system under which each of the seven members was sovereign
and independent and the head was at the mercy of the members could not be
more flagrantly illustrated. In the bloody battles which seemed
impending in the streets of Utrecht and in all the principal cities of
the Netherlands between the soldiers of sovereign states and soldiers of
a general government which was not sovereign, the letter of the law and
the records of history were unquestionably on the aide of the provincial
and against the general authority. Yet to nullify the authority of the
States-General by force of arms at this supreme moment was to stultify
all government whatever. It was an awful dilemma, and it is difficult
here fully to sympathize with the Advocate, for he it was who inspired,
without dictating, the course of the Utrecht proceedings.
With him patriotism seemed at this moment to dwindle into provincialism,
the statesman to shrink into the lawyer.
Certainly there was no guilt in the proceedings. There was no crime in
the heart of the Advocate. He had exhausted himself with appeals in
favour of moderation, conciliation, compromise. He had worked night
and day with all the energy of a pure soul and a great mind to assuage
religious hatreds and avert civil dissensions. He was overpowered.
He had frequently desired to be released from all his functions, but as
dangers thickened over the Provinces, he felt it his duty so long as he
remained at his post to abide by the law as the only anchor in the storm.
Not rising in his mind to the height of a national idea, and especially
averse from it when embodied in the repulsive form of religious
uniformity, he did not shrink from a contest which he had not provoked,
but had done his utmost to avert. But even then he did not anticipate
civil war. The enrolling of the Waartgelders was an armed protest,
a symbol of legal conviction rather than a serious effort to resist the
general government. And this is the chief justification of his course
from a political point of view. It was ridiculous to suppose that with a
few hundred soldiers hastily enlisted--and there were less than 1800
Waartgelders levied throughout the Provinces and under the orders of
civil magistrates--a serious contest was intended against a splendidly
disciplined army of veteran troops, commanded by the first general of the
From a legal point of view Barneveld considered his position impregnable.
The controversy is curious, especially for Americans, and for all who are
interested in the analysis of federal institutions and of republican
principles, whether aristocratic or democratic. The States of Utrecht
replied in decorous but firm language to the committee of the States-
General that they had raised the six companies in accordance with their
sovereign right so to do, and that they were resolved to maintain them.
They could not wait as they had been obliged to do in the time of the
Earl of Leicester and more recently in 1610 until they had been surprised
and overwhelmed by the enemy before the States-General and his Excellency
the Prince could come to their rescue. They could not suffer all the
evils of tumults, conspiracies, and foreign invasion, without defending
Making use, they said, of the right of sovereignty which in their
province belonged to them alone, they thought it better to prevent in
time and by convenient means such fire and mischief than to look on while
it kindled and spread into a conflagration, and to go about imploring aid
from their fellow confederates who, God better it, had enough in these
times to do at home. This would only be to bring them as well as this
province into trouble, disquiet, and expense. "My Lords the States of
Utrecht have conserved and continually exercised this right of
sovereignty in its entireness ever since renouncing the King of Spain.
Every contract, ordinance, and instruction of the States-General has been
in conformity with it, and the States of Utrecht are convinced that the
States of not one of their confederate provinces would yield an atom of
They reminded the general government that by the 1st article of the
"Closer Union" of Utrecht, on which that assembly was founded, it was
bound to support the States of the respective provinces and strengthen
them with counsel, treasure, and blood if their respective rights, more
especially their individual sovereignty, the most precious of all, should
be assailed. To refrain from so doing would be to violate a solemn
contract. They further reminded the council of state that by its
institution the States-Provincial had not abdicated their respective
sovereignties, but had reserved it in all matters not specifically
mentioned in the original instruction by which it was created.
Two days afterwards Arnold van Randwyck and three other commissioners
were instructed by the general government to confer with the States of
Utrecht, to tell them that their reply was deemed unsatisfactory, that
their reasons for levying soldiers in times when all good people should
be seeking to restore harmony and mitigate dissension were insufficient,
and to request them to disband those levies without prejudice in so doing
to the laws and liberties of the province and city of Utrecht.
Here was perhaps an opening for a compromise, the instruction being not
without ingenuity, and the word sovereignty in regard either to the
general government or the separate provinces being carefully omitted.
Soon afterwards, too, the States-General went many steps farther in the
path of concession, for they made another appeal to the government of
Utrecht to disband the Waartgelders on the ground of expediency,
and in so doing almost expressly admitted the doctrine of provincial
sovereignty. It is important in regard to subsequent events to observe
this virtual admission.
"Your Honours lay especial stress upon the right of sovereignty as
belonging to you alone in your province," they said, "and dispute
therefore at great length upon the power and authority of the Generality,
of his Excellency, and of the state council. But you will please to
consider that there is here no question of this, as our commissioners
had no instructions to bring this into dispute in the least, and most
certainly have not done so. We have only in effect questioned whether
that which one has an undoubted right to do can at all times be
appropriately and becomingly done, whether it was fitting that your
Honours, contrary to custom, should undertake these new levies upon a
special oath and commission, and effectively complete the measure without
giving the slightest notice thereof to the Generality."
It may fairly be said that the question in debate was entirely conceded
in this remarkable paper, which was addressed by the States-General, the
Prince-Stadholder, and the council of state to the government of Utrecht.
It should be observed, too, that while distinctly repudiating the
intention of disputing the sovereignty of that province, they carefully
abstain from using the word in relation to themselves, speaking only of
the might and authority of the Generality, the Prince, and the council.
There was now a pause in the public discussion. The soldiers were not
disbanded, as the States of Utrecht were less occupied with establishing
the soundness of their theory than with securing its practical results.
They knew very well, and the Advocate knew very well, that the intention
to force a national synod by a majority vote of the Assembly of the
States-General existed more strongly than ever, and they meant to resist
it to the last. The attempt was in their opinion an audacious violation
of the fundamental pact on which the Confederacy was founded. Its
success would be to establish the sacerdotal power in triumph over the
During this period the Advocate was resident in Utrecht. For change of
air, ostensibly at least, he had absented himself from the seat of
government, and was during several weeks under the hands of his old
friend and physician Dr. Saul. He was strictly advised to abstain
altogether from political business, but he might as well have attempted
to abstain from food and drink. Gillis van Ledenberg, secretary of the
States of Utrecht, visited him frequently. The proposition to enlist the
Waartgelders had been originally made in the Assembly by its president,
and warmly seconded by van Ledenberg, who doubtless conferred afterwards
with Barneveld in person, but informally and at his lodgings.
It was almost inevitable that this should be the case, nor did the
Advocate make much mystery as to the course of action which he deemed
indispensable at this period. Believing it possible that some sudden and
desperate attempt might be made by evil disposed people, he agreed with
the States of Utrecht in the propriety of taking measures of precaution.
They were resolved not to look quietly on while soldiers and rabble under
guidance perhaps of violent Contra-Remonstrant preachers took possession
of the churches and even of the city itself, as had already been done in
The chief practical object of enlisting the six companies was that the
city might be armed against popular tumults, and they feared that the
ordinary military force might be withdrawn.
When Captain Hartvelt, in his own name and that of the other officers
of those companies, said that they were all resolved never to use their
weapons against the Stadholder or the States-General, he was answered
that they would never be required to do so. They, however, made oath to
serve against those who should seek to trouble the peace of the Province
of Utrecht in ecclesiastical or political matters, and further against
all enemies of the common country. At the same time it was deemed
expedient to guard against a surprise of any kind and to keep watch and
"I cannot quite believe in the French companies," said the Advocate in a
private billet to Ledenberg. "It would be extremely well that not only
good watch should be kept at the city gates, but also that one might from
above and below the river Lek be assuredly advised from the nearest
cities if any soldiers are coming up or down, and that the same might be
done in regard to Amersfoort." At the bottom of this letter, which was
destined to become historical and will be afterwards referred to, the
Advocate wrote, as he not unfrequently did, upon his private notes, "When
read, burn, and send me back the two enclosed letters."
The letter lies in the Archives unburned to this day, but, harmless as it
looked, it was to serve as a nail in more than one coffin.
In his confidential letters to trusted friends he complained of "great
physical debility growing out of heavy sorrow," and described himself as
entering upon his seventy-first year and no longer fit for hard political
labour. The sincere grief, profound love of country, and desire that
some remedy might be found for impending disaster, is stamped upon all
his utterances whether official or secret.
"The troubles growing out of the religious differences," he said, "are
running into all sorts of extremities. It is feared that an attempt will
be made against the laws of the land through extraordinary ways, and by
popular tumults to take from the supreme authority of the respective
provinces the right to govern clerical persons and regulate clerical
disputes, and to place it at the disposition of ecclesiastics and of a
"It is thought too that the soldiers will be forbidden to assist the
civil supreme power and the government of cities in defending themselves
from acts of violence which under pretext of religion will be attempted
against the law and the commands of the magistrates.
"This seems to conflict with the common law of the respective provinces,
each of which from all times had right of sovereignty and supreme
authority within its territory and specifically reserved it in all
treaties and especially in that of the Nearer Union . . . . The
provinces have always regulated clerical matters each for itself. The
Province of Utrecht, which under the pretext of religion is now most
troubled, made stipulations to this effect, when it took his Excellency
for governor, even more stringent than any others. As for Holland, she
never imagined that one could ever raise a question on the subject . .
. . All good men ought to do their best to prevent the enemies to the
welfare of these Provinces from making profit out of our troubles."
The whole matter he regarded as a struggle between the clergy and the
civil power for mastery over the state, as an attempt to subject
provincial autonomy to the central government purely in the interest of
the priesthood of a particular sect. The remedy he fondly hoped for was
moderation and union within the Church itself. He could never imagine
the necessity for this ferocious animosity not only between Christians
but between two branches of the Reformed Church. He could never be made
to believe that the Five Points of the Remonstrance had dug an abyss too
deep and wide ever to be bridged between brethren lately of one faith as
of one fatherland. He was unceasing in his prayers and appeals for
"mutual toleration on the subject of predestination." Perhaps the
bitterness, almost amounting to frenzy, with which abstruse points of
casuistry were then debated, and which converted differences of opinion
upon metaphysical divinity into deadly hatred and thirst for blood, is
already obsolete or on the road to become so. If so, then was Barneveld
in advance of his age, and it would have been better for the peace of the
world and the progress of Christianity if more of his contemporaries had
placed themselves on his level.
He was no theologian, but he believed himself to be a Christian, and he
certainly was a thoughtful and a humble one. He had not the arrogance to
pierce behind the veil and assume to read the inscrutable thoughts of the
Omnipotent. It was a cruel fate that his humility upon subjects which he
believed to be beyond the scope of human reason should have been tortured
by his enemies into a crime, and that because he hoped for religious
toleration he should be accused of treason to the Commonwealth.
"Believe and cause others to believe," he said, "that I am and with the
grace of God hope to continue an upright patriot as I have proved myself
to be in these last forty-two years spent in the public service. In the
matter of differential religious points I remain of the opinions which I
have held for more than fifty years, and in which I hope to live and die,
to wit, that a good Christian man ought to believe that he is predestined
to eternal salvation through God's grace, giving for reasons that he
through God's grace has a firm belief that his salvation is founded
purely on God's grace and the expiation of our sins through our Saviour
Jesus Christ, and that if he should fall into any sins his firm trust is
that God will not let him perish in them, but mercifully turn him to
repentance, so that he may continue in the same belief to the last."
These expressions were contained in a letter to Caron with the intention
doubtless that they should be communicated to the King of Great Britain,
and it is a curious illustration of the spirit of the age, this picture
of the leading statesman of a great republic unfolding his religious
convictions for private inspection by the monarch of an allied nation.
More than anything else it exemplifies the close commixture of theology,
politics, and diplomacy in that age, and especially in those two
Formerly, as we have seen, the King considered a too curious fathoming of
divine mysteries as highly reprehensible, particularly for the common
people. Although he knew more about them than any one else, he avowed
that even his knowledge in this respect was not perfect. It was matter
of deep regret with the Advocate that his Majesty had not held to his
former positions, and that he had disowned his original letters.
"I believe my sentiments thus expressed," he said, "to be in accordance
with Scripture, and I have always held to them without teasing my brains
with the precise decrees of reprobation, foreknowledge, or the like, as
matters above my comprehension. I have always counselled Christian
moderation. The States of Holland have followed the spirit of his
Majesty's letters, but our antagonists have rejected them and with
seditious talk, sermons, and the spreading of infamous libels have
brought matters to their present condition. There have been excesses on
the other side as well."
He then made a slight, somewhat shadowy allusion to schemes known to be
afloat for conferring the sovereignty upon Maurice. We have seen that at
former periods he had entertained this subject and discussed it privately
with those who were not only friendly but devoted to the Stadholder, and
that he had arrived at the conclusion that it would not be for the
interest of the Prince to encourage the project. Above all he was
sternly opposed to the idea of attempting to compass it by secret
intrigue. Should such an arrangement be publicly discussed and legally
completed, it would not meet with his unconditional opposition.
"The Lord God knows," he said, "whether underneath all these movements
does not lie the design of the year 1600, well known to you. As for me,
believe that I am and by God's grace hope to remain, what I always was,
an upright patriot, a defender of the true Christian religion, of the
public authority, and of all the power that has been and in future may be
legally conferred upon his Excellency. Believe that all things said,
written, or spread to the contrary are falsehoods and calumnies."
He was still in Utrecht, but about to leave for the Hague, with health
somewhat improved and in better spirits in regard to public matters.
"Although I have entered my seventy-first year," he said, "I trust still
to be of some service to the Commonwealth and to my friends . . . .
Don't consider an arrangement of our affairs desperate. I hope for
Soon after his return he was waited upon one Sunday evening, late in
October--being obliged to keep his house on account of continued
indisposition--by a certain solicitor named Nordlingen and informed that
the Prince was about to make a sudden visit to Leyden at four o'clock
Barneveld knew that the burgomasters and regents were holding a great
banquet that night, and that many of them would probably have been
indulging in potations too deep to leave them fit for serious business.
The agitation of people's minds at that moment made the visit seem rather
a critical one, as there would probably be a mob collected to see the
Stadholder, and he was anxious both in the interest of the Prince and the
regents and of both religious denominations that no painful incidents
should occur if it was in his power to prevent them.
He was aware that his son-in-law, Cornelis van der Myle, had been invited
to the banquet, and that he was wont to carry his wine discreetly. He
therefore requested Nordlingen to proceed to Leyden that night and seek
an interview with van der Myle without delay. By thus communicating the
intelligence of the expected visit to one who, he felt sure, would do his
best to provide for a respectful and suitable reception of the Prince,
notwithstanding the exhilarated condition in which the magistrates would
probably find themselves, the Advocate hoped to prevent any riot or
tumultuous demonstration of any kind. At least he would act conformably
to his duty and keep his conscience clear should disasters ensue.
Later in the night he learned that Maurice was going not to Leyden but to
Delft, and he accordingly despatched a special messenger to arrive before
dawn at Leyden in order to inform van der Myle of this change in the
Prince's movements. Nothing seemed simpler or more judicious than these
precautions on the part of Barneveld. They could not fail, however, to
be tortured into sedition, conspiracy, and treason.
Towards the end of the year a meeting of the nobles and knights of
Holland under the leadership of Barneveld was held to discuss the famous
Sharp Resolution of 4th August and the letters and arguments advanced
against it by the Stadholder and the council of state. It was
unanimously resolved by this body, in which they were subsequently
followed by a large majority of the States of Holland, to maintain that
resolution and its consequences and to oppose the National Synod. They
further resolved that a legal provincial synod should be convoked by the
States of Holland and under their authority and supervision. The object
of such synod should be to devise "some means of accommodation, mutual
toleration, and Christian settlement of differences in regard to the Five
Points in question."
In case such compromise should unfortunately not be arranged, then it was
resolved to invite to the assembly two or three persons from France, as
many from England, from Germany, and from Switzerland, to aid in the
consultations. Should a method of reconciliation and mutual toleration
still remain undiscovered, then, in consideration that the whole
Christian world was interested in composing these dissensions, it was
proposed that a "synodal assembly of all Christendom," a Protestant
oecumenical council, should in some solemn manner be convoked.
These resolutions and propositions were all brought forward by the
Advocate, and the draughts of them in his handwriting remain. They are
the unimpeachable evidences of his earnest desire to put an end to these
unhappy disputes and disorders in the only way which he considered
Before the close of the year the States of Holland, in accordance with
the foregoing advice of the nobles, passed a resolution, the minutes of
which were drawn up by the hand of the Advocate, and in which they
persisted in their opposition to the National Synod. They declared by a
large majority of votes that the Assembly of the States-General without
the unanimous consent of the Provincial States were not competent
according to the Union of Utrecht--the fundamental law of the General
Assembly--to regulate religious affairs, but that this right belonged to
the separate provinces, each within its own domain.
They further resolved that as they were bound by solemn oath to maintain
the laws and liberties of Holland, they could not surrender this right to
the Generality, nor allow it to be usurped by any one, but in order to
settle the question of the Five Points, the only cause known to them of
the present disturbances, they were content under: their own authority to
convoke a provincial synod within three months, at their own cost, and to
invite the respective provinces, as many of them as thought good, to send
to this meeting a certain number of pious and learned theologians.
It is difficult to see why the course thus unanimously proposed by the
nobles of Holland, under guidance of Barneveld, and subsequently by a
majority of the States of that province, would not have been as expedient
as it was legal. But we are less concerned with that point now than with
the illustrations afforded by these long buried documents of the
patriotism and sagacity of a man than whom no human creature was
ever more foully slandered.
It will be constantly borne in mind that he regarded this religious
controversy purely from a political, legal, and constitutional--and not
from a theological-point of view. He believed that grave danger to the
Fatherland was lurking under this attempt, by the general government, to
usurp the power of dictating the religious creed of all the provinces.
Especially he deplored the evil influence exerted by the King of England
since his abandonment of the principles announced in his famous letter to
the States in the year 1613. All that the Advocate struggled for was
moderation and mutual toleration within the Reformed Church. He felt
that a wider scheme of forbearance was impracticable. If a dream of
general religious equality had ever floated before him or before any one
in that age, he would have felt it to be a dream which would be a reality
nowhere until centuries should have passed away. Yet that moderation,
patience, tolerance, and respect for written law paved the road to that
wider and loftier region can scarcely be doubted.
Carleton, subservient to every changing theological whim of his master,
was as vehement and as insolent now in enforcing the intolerant views of
James as he had previously been in supporting the counsels to tolerance
contained in the original letters of that monarch.
The Ambassador was often at the Advocate's bed-side during his illness
that summer, enforcing, instructing, denouncing, contradicting. He was
never weary of fulfilling his duties of tuition, but the patient
Barneveld; haughty and overbearing as he was often described to be,
rarely used a harsh or vindictive word regarding him in his letters.
"The ambassador of France," he said, "has been heard before the Assembly
of the States-General, and has made warm appeals in favour of union and
mutual toleration as his Majesty of Great Britain so wisely did in his
letters of 1613 . . . . If his Majesty could only be induced to write
fresh letters in similar tone, I should venture to hope better fruits
from them than from this attempt to thrust a national synod upon our
necks, which many of us hold to be contrary to law, reason, and the Act
So long as it was possible to hope that the action of the States of
Holland would prevent such a catastrophe, he worked hard to direct them
in what he deemed the right course.
"Our political and religious differences," he said, "stand between hope
The hope was in the acceptance of the Provincial Synod--the fear lest the
National Synod should be carried by a minority of the cities of Holland
combining with a majority of the other Provincial States.
"This would be in violation," he said, "of the so-called Religious Peace,
the Act of Union, the treaty with the Duke of Anjou, the negotiations of
the States of Utrecht, and with Prince Maurice in 1590 with cognizance of
the States-General and those of Holland for, the governorship of that
province, the custom of the Generality for the last thirty years
according to which religious matters have always been left to the
disposition of the States of each province . . . . Carleton is
strenuously urging this course in his Majesty's name, and I fear that
in the present state of our humours great troubles will be the result."
The expulsion by an armed mob, in the past year, of a Remonstrant
preacher at Oudewater, the overpowering of the magistracy and the forcing
on of illegal elections in that and other cities, had given him and all
earnest patriots grave cause for apprehension. They were dreading, said
Barneveld, a course of crimes similar to those which under the Earl of
Leicester's government had afflicted Leyden and Utrecht.
"Efforts are incessant to make the Remonstrants hateful," he said to
Caron, "but go forward resolutely and firmly in the conviction that our
friends here are as animated in their opposition to the Spanish dominion
now and by God's grace will so remain as they have ever proved themselves
to be, not only by words, but works. I fear that Mr. Carleton gives too
much belief to the enviers of our peace and tranquillity under pretext of
religion, but it is more from ignorance than malice."
Those who have followed the course of the Advocate's correspondence,
conversation, and actions, as thus far detailed, can judge of the
gigantic nature of the calumny by which he was now assailed. That this
man, into every fibre of whose nature was woven undying hostility to
Spain, as the great foe to national independence and religious liberty
throughout the continent of Europe, whose every effort, as we have seen,
during all these years of nominal peace had been to organize a system of
general European defence against the war now actually begun upon
Protestantism, should be accused of being a partisan of Spain, a creature
of Spain, a pensioner of Spain, was enough to make honest men pray that
the earth might be swallowed up. If such idiotic calumnies could be
believed, what patriot in the world could not be doubted? Yet they were
believed. Barneveld was bought by Spanish gold. He had received whole
boxes full of Spanish pistoles, straight from Brussels! For his part in
the truce negotiations he had received 120,000 ducats in one lump.
"It was plain," said the greatest man in the country to another great
man, "that Barneveld and his party are on the road to Spain."
"Then it were well to have proof of it," said the great man.
"Not yet time," was the reply. "We must flatten out a few of them
Prince Maurice had told the Princess-Dowager the winter before (8th
December 1616) that those dissensions would never be decided except by
use of weapons; and he now mentioned to her that he had received
information from Brussels, which he in part believed, that the Advocate
was a stipendiary of Spain. Yet he had once said, to the same Princess
Louise, of this stipendiary that "the services which the Advocate had
rendered to the House of Nassau were so great that all the members of
that house might well look upon him not as their friend but their
father." Councillor van Maldere, President of the States of Zealand, and
a confidential friend of Maurice, was going about the Hague saying that
"one must string up seven or eight Remonstrants on the gallows; then
there might be some improvement."
As for Arminius and Uytenbogaert, people had long told each other and
firmly believed it, and were amazed when any incredulity was expressed in
regard to it, that they were in regular and intimate correspondence with
the Jesuits, that they had received large sums from Rome, and that both
had been promised cardinals' hats. That Barneveld and his friend
Uytenbogaert were regular pensioners of Spain admitted of no dispute
whatever. "It was as true as the Holy Evangel." The ludicrous chatter
had been passed over with absolute disdain by the persons attacked, but
calumny is often a stronger and more lasting power than disdain. It
proved to be in these cases.
"You have the plague mark on your flesh, oh pope, oh pensioner," said one
libeller. "There are letters safely preserved to make your process for
you. Look out for your head. Many have sworn your death, for it is more
than time that you were out of the world. We shall prove, oh great
bribed one, that you had the 120,000 little ducats." The preacher
Uytenbogaert was also said to have had 80,000 ducats for his share.
"Go to Brussels," said the pamphleteer; "it all stands clearly written
out on the register with the names and surnames of all you great bribe-
These were choice morsels from the lampoon of the notary Danckaerts.
"We are tortured more and more with religious differences," wrote
Barneveld; "with acts of popular violence growing out of them the more
continuously as they remain unpunished, and with ever increasing
jealousies and suspicions. The factious libels become daily more
numerous and more impudent, and no man comes undamaged from the field.
I, as a reward for all my troubles, labours, and sorrows, have three
double portions of them. I hope however to overcome all by God's grace
and to defend my actions with all honourable men so long as right and
reason have place in the world, as to which many begin to doubt. If his
Majesty had been pleased to stick to the letters of 1613, we should never
have got into these difficulties . . . . It were better in my opinion
that Carleton should be instructed to negotiate in the spirit of those
epistles rather than to torment us with the National Synod, which will do
more harm than good."
It is impossible not to notice the simplicity and patience with which the
Advocate, in the discharge of his duty as minister of foreign affairs,
kept the leading envoys of the Republic privately informed of events
which were becoming day by day more dangerous to the public interests and
his own safety. If ever a perfectly quiet conscience was revealed in the
correspondence of a statesman, it was to be found in these letters.
Calmly writing to thank Caron for some very satisfactory English beer
which the Ambassador had been sending him from London, he proceeded to
speak again of the religious dissensions and their consequences. He sent
him the letter and remonstrance which he had felt himself obliged to
make, and which he had been urged by his ever warm and constant friend
the widow of William the Silent to make on the subject of "the seditious
libels, full of lies and calumnies got up by conspiracy against him."
These letters were never published, however, until years after he had
been in his grave.
"I know that you are displeased with the injustice done me," he said,
"but I see no improvement. People are determined to force through the
National Synod. The two last ones did much harm. This will do ten times
more, so intensely embittered are men's tempers against each other."
Again he deplored the King's departure from his letters of 1613, by
adherence to which almost all the troubles would have been spared.
It is curious too to observe the contrast between public opinion in Great
Britain, including its government, in regard to the constitution of the
United Provinces at that period of domestic dissensions and incipient
civil war and the general impressions manifested in the same nation two
centuries and a half later, on the outbreak of the slavery rebellion, as
to the constitution of the United States.
The States in arms against the general government on the other side of
the Atlantic were strangely but not disingenuously assumed to be
sovereign and independent, and many statesmen and a leading portion of
the public justified them in their attempt to shake off the central
government as if it were but a board of agency established by treaty and
terminable at pleasure of any one of among sovereigns and terminable at
pleasure of any one of them.
Yet even a superficial glance at the written constitution of the Republic
showed that its main object was to convert what had been a confederacy
into an Incorporation; and that the very essence of its renewed political
existence was an organic law laid down by a whole people in their
primitive capacity in place of a league banding together a group of
independent little corporations. The chief attributes of sovereignty--
the rights of war and peace, of coinage, of holding armies and navies, of
issuing bills of credit, of foreign relations, of regulating and taxing
foreign commerce--having been taken from the separate States by the
united people thereof and bestowed upon a government provided with a
single executive head, with a supreme tribunal, with a popular house of
representatives and a senate, and with power to deal directly with the
life and property of every individual in the land, it was strange indeed
that the feudal, and in America utterly unmeaning, word Sovereign should
have been thought an appropriate term for the different States which had
fused themselves three-quarters of a century before into a Union.
When it is remembered too that the only dissolvent of this Union was the
intention to perpetuate human slavery, the logic seemed somewhat perverse
by which the separate sovereignty of the States was deduced from the
constitution of 1787.
On the other hand, the Union of Utrecht of 1579 was a league of petty
sovereignties; a compact less binding and more fragile than the Articles
of Union made almost exactly two hundred years later in America, and the
worthlessness of which, after the strain of war was over, had been
demonstrated in the dreary years immediately following the peace of 1783.
One after another certain Netherland provinces had abjured their
allegiance to Spain, some of them afterwards relapsing under it, some
having been conquered by the others, while one of them, Holland, had for
a long time borne the greater part of the expense and burthen of the war.
"Holland," said the Advocate, "has brought almost all the provinces to
their liberty. To receive laws from them or from their clerical people
now is what our State cannot endure. It is against her laws and customs,
in the enjoyment of which the other provinces and his Excellency as
Governor of Holland are bound to protect us."
And as the preservation of chattel slavery in the one case seemed a
legitimate ground for destroying a government which had as definite an
existence as any government known to mankind, so the resolve to impose a
single religious creed upon many millions of individuals was held by the
King and government of Great Britain to be a substantial reason for
imagining a central sovereignty which had never existed at all. This was
still more surprising as the right to dispose of ecclesiastical affairs
and persons had been expressly reserved by the separate provinces in
perfectly plain language in the Treaty of Union.
"If the King were better informed," said Barneveld, "of our system and
laws, we should have better hope than now. But one supposes through
notorious error in foreign countries that the sovereignty stands with the
States-General which is not the case, except in things which by the
Articles of Closer Union have been made common to all the provinces,
while in other matters, as religion, justice, and polity, the sovereignty
remains with each province, which foreigners seem unable to comprehend."
Early in June, Carleton took his departure for England on leave of
absence. He received a present from the States of 3000 florins, and went
over in very ill-humour with Barneveld. "Mr. Ambassador is much offended
and prejudiced," said the Advocate, "but I know that he will religiously
carry out the orders of his Majesty. I trust that his Majesty can admit
different sentiments on predestination and its consequences, and that in
a kingdom where the supreme civil authority defends religion the system
of the Puritans will have no foothold."
Certainly James could not be accused of allowing the system of the
Puritans much foothold in England, but he had made the ingenious
discovery that Puritanism in Holland was a very different thing from
Puritanism in the Netherlands.
<< 14: Chapter XIV || 16: Chapter XVI (1618) >>