16: Chapter XVI (1618)
<< 15: Chapter XV || 17: Chapter XVII >>
Early in the year (1618) Maurice set himself about revolutionizing the
provinces on which he could not yet thoroughly rely. The town of Nymegen
since its recovery from the Spaniards near the close of the preceding
century had held its municipal government, as it were, at the option of
the Prince. During the war he had been, by the terms of surrender,
empowered to appoint and to change its magistracy at will. No change had
occurred for many years, but as the government had of late fallen into
the hands of the Barneveldians, and as Maurice considered the Truce to be
a continuance of the war, he appeared suddenly, in the city at the head
of a body of troops and surrounded by his lifeguard. Summoning the whole
board of magistrates into the townhouse, he gave them all notice to quit,
disbanding them like a company of mutinous soldiery, and immediately
afterwards appointed a fresh list of functionaries in their stead.
This done, he proceeded to Arnhem, where the States of Gelderland were in
session, appeared before that body, and made a brief announcement of the
revolution which he had so succinctly effected in the most considerable
town of their province. The Assembly, which seems, like many other
assemblies at precisely this epoch, to have had an extraordinary capacity
for yielding to gentle violence, made but little resistance to the
extreme measures now undertaken by the Stadholder, and not only highly
applauded the subjugation of Nymegen, but listened with sympathy to his
arguments against the Waartgelders and in favour of the Synod.
Having accomplished so much by a very brief visit to Gelderland, the
Prince proceeded, to Overyssel, and had as little difficulty in bringing
over the wavering minds of that province into orthodoxy and obedience.
Thus there remained but two provinces out of seven that were still
"waartgeldered" and refused to be "synodized."
It was rebellion against rebellion. Maurice and his adherents accused
the States' right party of mutiny against himself and the States-General.
The States' right party accused the Contra-Remonstrants in the cities of
mutiny against the lawful sovereignty of each province.
The oath of the soldiery, since the foundation of the Republic, had been
to maintain obedience and fidelity to the States-General, the Stadholder,
and the province in which they were garrisoned, and at whose expense they
were paid. It was impossible to harmonize such conflicting duties and
doctrines. Theory had done its best and its worst. The time was fast
approaching, as it always must approach, when fact with its violent besom
would brush away the fine-spun cobwebs which had been so long
"I will grind the Advocate and all his party into fine meal," said the
Prince on one occasion.
A clever caricature of the time represented a pair of scales hung up
in a great hall. In the one was a heap of parchments, gold chains, and
magisterial robes; the whole bundle being marked the "holy right of each
city." In the other lay a big square, solid, ironclasped volume, marked
"Institutes of Calvin." Each scale was respectively watched by Gomarus
and by Arminius. The judges, gowned, furred, and ruffed, were looking
decorously on, when suddenly the Stadholder, in full military attire, was
seen rushing into the apartment and flinging his sword into the scale
with the Institutes.
The civic and legal trumpery was of course made to kick the beam.
Maurice had organized his campaign this year against the Advocate and his
party as deliberately as he had ever arranged the details of a series of
battles and sieges against the Spaniard. And he was proving himself as
consummate master in political strife as in the great science of war.
He no longer made any secret of his conviction that Barneveld was a
traitor to his country, bought with Spanish gold. There was not the
slightest proof for these suspicions, but he asserted them roundly.
"The Advocate is travelling straight to Spain," he said to Count
Cuylenborg. "But we will see who has got the longest purse."
And as if it had been a part of the campaign, a prearranged diversion to
the more direct and general assault on the entrenchments of the States'
right party, a horrible personal onslaught was now made from many
quarters upon the Advocate. It was an age of pamphleteering, of
venomous, virulent, unscrupulous libels. And never even in that age had
there been anything to equal the savage attacks upon this great
statesman. It moves the gall of an honest man, even after the lapse of
two centuries and a half, to turn over those long forgotten pages and
mark the depths to which political and theological party spirit could
descend. That human creatures can assimilate themselves so closely to
the reptile, and to the subtle devil within the reptile, when a party end
is to be gained is enough to make the very name of man a term of
Day by day appeared pamphlets, each one more poisonous than its
predecessor. There was hardly a crime that was not laid at the door of
Barneveld and all his kindred. The man who had borne a matchlock in
early youth against the foreign tyrant in days when unsuccessful
rebellion meant martyrdom and torture; who had successfully guided the
councils of the infant commonwealth at a period when most of his accusers
were in their cradles, and when mistake was ruin to the republic; he on
whose strong arm the father of his country had leaned for support; the
man who had organized a political system out of chaos; who had laid down
the internal laws, negotiated the great indispensable alliances, directed
the complicated foreign policy, established the system of national
defence, presided over the successful financial administration of a state
struggling out of mutiny into national existence; who had rocked the
Republic in its cradle and ever borne her in his heart; who had made her
name beloved at home and honoured and dreaded abroad; who had been the
first, when the great Taciturn had at last fallen a victim to the
murderous tyrant of Spain, to place the youthful Maurice in his father's
place, and to inspire the whole country with sublime courage to persist
rather than falter in purpose after so deadly a blow; who was as truly
the founder of the Republic as William had been the author of its
independence,--was now denounced as a traitor, a pope, a tyrant, a venal
hucksterer of his country's liberties. His family name, which had long
been an ancient and knightly one, was defiled and its nobility disputed;
his father and mother, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, accused
of every imaginable and unimaginable crime, of murder, incest, robbery,
bastardy, fraud, forgery, blasphemy. He had received waggon-loads of
Spanish pistoles; he had been paid 120,000 ducats by Spain for
negotiating the Truce; he was in secret treaty with Archduke Albert
to bring 18,000 Spanish mercenaries across the border to defeat the
machinations of Prince Maurice, destroy his life, or drive him from the
country; all these foul and bitter charges and a thousand similar ones
were rained almost daily upon that grey head.
One day the loose sheets of a more than commonly libellous pamphlet were
picked up in the streets of the Hague and placed in the Advocate's hands.
It was the work of the drunken notary Danckaerts already mentioned, then
resident in Amsterdam, and among the papers thus found was a list of
wealthy merchants of that city who had contributed to the expense of its
publication. The opposition of Barneveld to the West India Corporation
could never be forgiven. The Advocate was notified in this production
that he was soon to be summoned to answer for his crimes. The country
was weary of him, he was told, and his life was forfeited.
Stung at last beyond endurance by the persistent malice of his enemies,
he came before the States of Holland for redress. Upon his remonstrance
the author of this vile libel was summoned to answer before the upper
tribunal at the Hague for his crime. The city of Amsterdam covered him
with the shield 'de non evocando,' which had so often in cases of less
consequence proved of no protective value, and the notary was never
punished, but on the contrary after a brief lapse of time rewarded as for
a meritorious action.
Meantime, the States of Holland, by formal act, took the name and honour
of Barneveld under their immediate protection as a treasure belonging
specially to themselves. Heavy penalties were denounced upon the authors
and printers of these libellous attacks, and large rewards offered for
their detection. Nothing came, however, of such measures.
On the 24th April the Advocate addressed a frank, dignified, and
conciliatory letter to the Prince. The rapid progress of calumny against
him had at last alarmed even his steadfast soul, and he thought it best
to make a last appeal to the justice and to the clear intellect of
William the Silent's son.
"Gracious Prince," he said, "I observe to my greatest sorrow an entire
estrangement of your Excellency from me, and I fear lest what was said
six months since by certain clerical persons and afterwards by some
politicians concerning your dissatisfaction with me, which until now I
have not been able to believe, must be true. I declare nevertheless with
a sincere heart to have never willingly given cause for any such feeling;
having always been your very faithful servant and with God's help hoping
as such to die. Ten years ago during the negotiations for the Truce I
clearly observed the beginning of this estrangement, but your Excellency
will be graciously pleased to remember that I declared to you at that
time my upright and sincere intention in these negotiations to promote
the service of the country and the interests of your Excellency, and that
I nevertheless offered at the time not only to resign all my functions
but to leave the country rather than remain in office and in the country
to the dissatisfaction of your Excellency."
He then rapidly reviewed the causes which had produced the alienation of
which he complained and the melancholy divisions caused by the want of
mutual religious toleration in the Provinces; spoke of his efforts to
foster a spirit of conciliation on the dread subject of predestination,
and referred to the letter of the King of Great Britain deprecating
discussion and schism on this subject, and urging that those favourable
to the views of the Remonstrants ought not to be persecuted. Referring
to the intimate relations which Uytenbogaert had so long enjoyed with the
Prince, the Advocate alluded to the difficulty he had in believing that
his Excellency intended to act in opposition to the efforts of the States
of Holland in the cause of mutual toleration, to the manifest detriment
of the country and of many of its best and truest patriots and the
greater number of the magistrates in all the cities.
He reminded the Prince that all attempts to accommodate these fearful
quarrels had been frustrated, and that on his departure the previous year
to Utrecht on account of his health he had again offered to resign all
his offices and to leave Holland altogether rather than find himself in
perpetual opposition to his Excellency.
"I begged you in such case," he said, "to lend your hand to the procuring
for me an honourable discharge from My Lords the States, but your
Excellency declared that you could in no wise approve such a step and
gave me hope that some means of accommodating the dissensions would yet
"I went then to Vianen, being much indisposed; thence I repaired to
Utrecht to consult my old friend Doctor Saulo Saul, in whose hands I
remained six weeks, not being able, as I hoped, to pass my seventieth
birthday on the 24th September last in my birthplace, the city of
Amersfoort. All this time I heard not one single word or proposal of
accommodation. On the contrary it was determined that by a majority
vote, a thing never heard of before, it was intended against the solemn
resolves of the States of Holland, of Utrecht, and of Overyssel to bring
these religious differences before the Assembly of My Lords the States-
General, a proceeding directly in the teeth of the Act of Union and other
treaties, and before a Synod which people called National, and that
meantime every effort was making to discredit all those who stood up for
the laws of these Provinces and to make them odious and despicable in the
eyes of the common people.
"Especially it was I that was thus made the object of hatred and contempt
in their eyes. Hundreds of lies and calumnies, circulated in the form of
libels, seditious pamphlets, and lampoons, compelled me to return from
Utrecht to the Hague. Since that time I have repeatedly offered my
services to your Excellency for the promotion of mutual accommodation and
reconciliation of differences, but without success."
He then alluded to the publication with which the country was ringing,
'The Necessary and Living Discourse of a Spanish Counsellor', and which
was attributed to his former confidential friend, now become his
deadliest foe, ex-Ambassador Francis Aerssens, and warned the Prince that
if he chose, which God forbid, to follow the advice of that seditious
libel, nothing but ruin to the beloved Fatherland and its lovers, to the
princely house of Orange-Nassau and to the Christian religion could be
the issue. "The Spanish government could desire no better counsel,"
he said, "than this which these fellows give you; to encourage distrust
and estrangement between your Excellency and the nobles, the cities, and
the magistrates of the land and to propose high and haughty imaginings
which are easy enough to write, but most difficult to practise, and which
can only enure to the advantage of Spain. Therefore most respectfully I
beg your Excellency not to believe these fellows, but to reject their
counsels . . . . Among them are many malignant hypocrites and
ambitious men who are seeking their own profit in these changes of
government--many utterly ragged and beggarly fellows and many infamous
traitors coming from the provinces which have remained under the dominion
of the Spaniard, and who are filled with revenge, envy, and jealousy at
the greater prosperity and bloom of these independent States than they
find at home.
"I fear," he said in conclusion, "that I have troubled your Excellency
too long, but to the fulfilment of my duty and discharge of my conscience
I could not be more brief. It saddens me deeply that in recompense for
my long and manifold services I am attacked by so many calumnious, lying,
seditious, and fraudulent libels, and that these indecencies find their
pretext and their food in the evil disposition of your Excellency towards
me. And although for one-and-thirty years long I have been able to live
down such things with silence, well-doing, and truth, still do I now find
myself compelled in this my advanced old age and infirmity to make some
utterances in defence of myself and those belonging to me, however much
against my heart and inclinations."
He ended by enclosing a copy of the solemn state paper which he was about
to lay before the States of Holland in defence of his honour, and
subscribed himself the lifelong and faithful servant of the Prince.
The Remonstrance to the States contained a summary review of the
political events of his life, which was indeed nothing more nor less than
the history of his country and almost of Europe itself during that
period, broadly and vividly sketched with the hand of a master. It was
published at once and strengthened the affection of his friends and the
wrath of his enemies. It is not necessary to our purpose to reproduce or
even analyse the document, the main facts and opinions contained in it
being already familiar to the reader. The frankness however with which,
in reply to the charges so profusely brought against him of having grown
rich by extortion, treason, and corruption, of having gorged himself with
plunder at home and bribery from the enemy, of being the great pensioner
of Europe and the Marshal d'Ancre of the Netherlands--he alluded to the
exact condition of his private affairs and the growth and sources of his
revenue, giving, as it were, a kind of schedule of his property, has in
it something half humorous, half touching in its simplicity.
He set forth the very slender salaries attached to his high offices of
Advocate of Holland, Keeper of the Seals, and other functions. He
answered the charge that he always had at his disposition 120,000 florins
to bribe foreign agents withal by saying that his whole allowance for
extraordinary expenses and trouble in maintaining his diplomatic and
internal correspondence was exactly 500 florins yearly. He alluded to
the slanders circulated as to his wealth and its sources by those who
envied him for his position and hated him for his services.
"But I beg you to believe, My Lords," he continued, "that my property is
neither so great nor so small as some people represent it to be.
"In the year '75 I married my wife," he said. "I was pleased with her
person. I was likewise pleased with the dowry which was promptly paid
over to me, with firm expectation of increase and betterment . . . .
I ac knowledge that forty-three years ago my wife and myself had got
together so much of real and personal property that we could live
honourably upon it. I had at that time as good pay and practice as any
advocate in the courts which brought me in a good 4000 florins a year;
there being but eight advocates practising at the time, of whom I was
certainly not the one least employed. In the beginning of the year '77
I came into the service of the city of Rotterdam as 'Pensionary. Upon my
salary from that town I was enabled to support my family, having then but
two children. Now I can clearly prove that between the years 1577 and
1616 inclusive I have inherited in my own right or that of my wife, from
our relatives, for ourselves and our children by lawful succession, more
than 400 Holland morgens of land (about 800 acres), more than 2000
florins yearly of redeemable rents, a good house in the city of Delft,
some houses in the open country, and several thousand florins in ready
money. I have likewise reclaimed in the course of the past forty years
out of the water and swamps by dyking more than an equal number of acres
to those inherited, and have bought and sold property during the same
period to the value of 800,000 florins; having sometimes bought 100,000
florins' worth and sold 60,000 of it for 160,000, and so on."
It was evident that the thrifty Advocate during his long life had
understood how to turn over his money, and it was not necessary to
imagine "waggon-loads of Spanish pistoles" and bribes on a gigantic scale
from the hereditary enemy in order to account for a reasonable opulence
on his part.
"I have had nothing to do with trade," he continued, "it having been the
custom of my ancestors to risk no money except where the plough goes. In
the great East India Company however, which with four years of hard work,
public and private, I have helped establish, in order to inflict damage
on the Spaniards and Portuguese, I have adventured somewhat more than
5000 florins . . . . Now even if my condition be reasonably good, I
think no one has reason to envy me. Nevertheless I have said it in your
Lordships' Assembly, and I repeat it solemnly on this occasion, that I
have pondered the state of my affairs during my recent illness and found
that in order to leave my children unencumbered estates I must sell
property to the value of 60,000 or 70,000 florins. This I would rather
do than leave the charge to my children. That I should have got thus
behindhand through bad management, I beg your Highnesses not to believe.
But I have inherited, with the succession of four persons whose only heir
I was and with that of others to whom I was co-heir, many burthens as
well. I have bought property with encumbrances, and I have dyked and
bettered several estates with borrowed money. Now should it please your
Lordships to institute a census and valuation of the property of your
subjects, I for one should be very well pleased. For I know full well
that those who in the estimates of capital in the year 1599 rated
themselves at 50,000 or 60,000 florins now may boast of having twice as
much property as I have. Yet in that year out of patriotism I placed
myself on the list of those liable for the very highest contributions,
being assessed on a property of 200,000 florins."
The Advocate alluded with haughty contempt to the notorious lies
circulated by his libellers in regard to his lineage, as if the vast
services and unquestioned abilities of such a statesman would not have
illustrated the obscurest origin. But as he happened to be of ancient
and honourable descent, he chose to vindicate his position in that
"I was born in the city of Amersfoort," he said, "by the father's side
an Oldenbarneveld; an old and noble race, from generation to generation
steadfast and true; who have been duly summoned for many hundred years
to the assembly of the nobles of their province as they are to this day.
By my mother's side I am sprung from the ancient and knightly family of
Amersfoort, which for three or four hundred years has been known as
foremost among the nobles of Utrecht in all state affairs and as landed
It is only for the sake of opening these domestic and private lights upon
an historical character whose life was so pre-eminently and almost
exclusively a public one that we have drawn some attention to this
stately defence made by the Advocate of his birth, life, and services to
the State. The public portions of the state paper belong exclusively to
history, and have already been sufficiently detailed.
The letter to Prince Maurice was delivered into his hands by Cornelis van
der Myle, son-in-law of Barneveld.
No reply to it was ever sent, but several days afterwards the Stadholder
called from his open window to van der Myle, who happened to be passing
by. He then informed him that he neither admitted the premises nor the
conclusion of the Advocate's letter, saying that many things set down in
it were false. He furthermore told him a story of a certain old man who,
having in his youth invented many things and told them often for truth,
believed them when he came to old age to be actually true and was ever
ready to stake his salvation upon them. Whereupon he shut the window and
left van der Myle to make such application of the parable as he thought
proper, vouchsafing no further answer to Barneveld's communication.
Dudley Carleton related the anecdote to his government with much glee,
but it may be doubted whether this bold way of giving the lie to a
venerable statesman through his son-in-law would have been accounted
as triumphant argumentation anywhere out of a barrack.
As for the Remonstrance to the States of Holland, although most
respectfully received in that assembly except by the five opposition
cities, its immediate effect on the public was to bring down a fresh
"snow storm"--to use the expression of a contemporary--of pamphlets,
libels, caricatures, and broadsheets upon the head of the Advocate.
In every bookseller's and print shop window in all the cities of the
country, the fallen statesman was represented in all possible ludicrous,
contemptible, and hateful shapes, while hags and blind beggars about the
streets screeched filthy and cursing ballads against him, even at his
The effect of energetic, uncompromising calumny has rarely been more
strikingly illustrated than in the case of this statesman. Blackened
daily all over by a thousand trowels, the purest and noblest character
must have been defiled, and it is no wonder that the incrustation upon
the Advocate's fame should have lasted for two centuries and a half. It
may perhaps endure for as many more: Not even the vile Marshal d'Ancre,
who had so recently perished, was more the mark of obloquy in a country
which he had dishonoured, flouted, and picked to the bone than was
Barneveld in a commonwealth which he had almost created and had served
faithfully from youth to old age. It was even the fashion to compare him
with Concini in order to heighten the wrath of the public, as if any
parallel between the ignoble, foreign paramour of a stupid and sensual
queen, and the great statesman, patriot, and jurist of whom civilization
will be always proud, could ever enter any but an idiot's brain.
Meantime the Stadholder, who had so successfully handled the Assembly of
Gelderland and Overyssel, now sailed across the Zuiderzee from Kampen to
Amsterdam. On his approach to the stately northern Venice, standing full
of life and commercial bustle upon its vast submerged forest of Norwegian
pines, he was met by a fleet of yachts and escorted through the water
gates of the into the city.
Here an immense assemblage of vessels of every class, from the humble
gondola to the bulky East Indianian and the first-rate ship of war, gaily
bannered with the Orange colours and thronged from deck to topmast by
enthusiastic multitudes, was waiting to receive their beloved stadholder.
A deafening cannonade saluted him on his approach. The Prince was
escorted to the Square or Dam, where on a high scaffolding covered with
blue velvet in front of the stately mediaeval town-hall the burgomasters
and board of magistrates in their robes of office were waiting to receive
him. The strains of that most inspiriting and suggestive of national
melodies, the 'Wilhelmus van Nassouwen,' rang through the air, and when
they were silent, the chief magistrate poured forth a very eloquent and
tedious oration, and concluded by presenting him with a large orange in
solid gold; Maurice having succeeded to the principality a few months
before on the death of his half-brother Philip William.
The "Blooming in Love," as one of the Chambers of "Rhetoric " in which
the hard-handed but half-artistic mechanics and shopkeepers of the
Netherlands loved to disport themselves was called, then exhibited upon
an opposite scaffold a magnificent representation of Jupiter astride upon
an eagle and banding down to the Stadholder as if from the clouds that
same principality. Nothing could be neater or more mythological.
The Prince and his escort, sitting in the windows of the town-hall, the
square beneath being covered with 3000 or 4000 burgher militia in full
uniform, with orange plumes in their hats and orange scarves on their
breasts, saw still other sights. A gorgeous procession set forth by the
"Netherlandish Academy," another chamber of rhetoric, and filled with
those emblematic impersonations so dear to the hearts of Netherlanders,
had been sweeping through all the canals and along the splendid quays of
the city. The Maid of Holland, twenty feet high, led the van, followed
by the counterfeit presentment of each of her six sisters. An orange
tree full of flowers and fruit was conspicuous in one barge, while in
another, strangely and lugubriously enough, lay the murdered William the
Silent in the arms of his wife and surrounded by his weeping sons and
daughters all attired in white satin.
In the evening the Netherland Academy, to improve the general hilarity,
and as if believing exhibitions of murder the most appropriate means of
welcoming the Prince, invited him to a scenic representation of the
assassination of Count Florence V. of Holland by Gerrit van Velsen and
other nobles. There seemed no especial reason for the selection, unless
perhaps the local one; one of the perpetrators of this crime against an
ancient predecessor of William the Silent in the sovereignty of Holland
having been a former lord proprietor of Amsterdam and the adjacent
territories, Gysbrecht van Amatel.
Maurice returned to the Hague. Five of the seven provinces were entirely
his own. Utrecht too was already wavering, while there could be no doubt
of the warm allegiance to himself of the important commercial metropolis
of Holland, the only province in which Barneveld's influence was still
Owing to the watchfulness and distrust of Barneveld, which had never
faltered, Spain had not secured the entire control of the disputed
duchies, but she had at least secured the head of a venerated saint.
"The bargain is completed for the head of the glorious Saint Lawrence,
which you know I so much desire," wrote Philip triumphantly to the
Archduke Albert. He had, however, not got it for nothing.
The Abbot of Glamart in Julich, then in possession of that treasure, had
stipulated before delivering it that if at any time the heretics or other
enemies should destroy the monastery his Majesty would establish them in
Spanish Flanders and give them the same revenues as they now enjoyed in
Julich. Count Herman van den Berg was to give a guarantee to that
Meantime the long controversy in the duchies having tacitly come to a
standstill upon the basis of 'uti possidetis,' the Spanish government had
leisure in the midst of their preparation for the general crusade upon
European heresy to observe and enjoy the internal religious dissensions
in their revolted provinces. Although they had concluded the convention
with them as with countries over which they had no pretensions, they had
never at heart allowed more virtue to the conjunction "as," which really
contained the essence of the treaty, than grammatically belonged to it.
Spain still chose to regard the independence of the Seven Provinces as a
pleasant fiction to be dispelled when, the truce having expired by its
own limitation, she should resume, as she fully meant to do, her
sovereignty over all the seventeen Netherlands, the United as well as
the obedient. Thus at any rate the question of state rights or central
sovereignty would be settled by a very summary process. The Spanish
ambassador was wroth, as may well be supposed, when the agent of the
rebel provinces received in London the rank, title, and recognition of
ambassador. Gondemar at least refused to acknowledge Noel de Caron as
his diplomatic equal or even as his colleague, and was vehement in his
protestations on the subject. But James, much as he dreaded the Spanish
envoy and fawned upon his master, was not besotted enough to comply with
these demands at the expense of his most powerful ally, the Republic of
the Netherlands. The Spanish king however declared his ambassador's
proceedings to be in exact accordance with his instructions. He was
sorry, he said, if the affair had caused discontent to the King of Great
Britain; he intended in all respects to maintain the Treaty of Truce of
which his Majesty had been one of the guarantors, but as that treaty had
but a few more years to run, after which he should be reinstated in his
former right of sovereignty over all the Netherlands, he entirely
justified the conduct of Count Gondemar.
It may well be conceived that, as the years passed by, as the period of
the Truce grew nearer and the religious disputes became every day more
envenomed, the government at Madrid should look on the tumultuous scene
with saturnine satisfaction. There was little doubt now, they thought,
that the Provinces, sick of their rebellion and that fancied independence
which had led them into a whirlpool of political and religious misery,
and convinced of their incompetence to govern themselves, would be only
too happy to seek the forgiving arms of their lawful sovereign. Above
all they must have learned that their great heresy had carried its
chastisement with it, that within something they called a Reformed Church
other heresies had been developed which demanded condign punishment at
the hands of that new Church, and that there could be neither rest for
them in this world nor salvation in the next except by returning to the
bosom of their ancient mother.
Now was the time, so it was thought, to throw forward a strong force of
Jesuits as skirmishers into the Provinces by whom the way would be opened
for the reconquest of the whole territory.
"By the advices coming to us continually from thence," wrote the King of
Spain to Archduke Albert, "we understand that the disquiets and
differences continue in Holland on matters relating to their sects, and
that from this has resulted the conversion of many to the Catholic
religion. So it has been taken into consideration whether it would not
be expedient that some fathers of the company of Jesuits be sent secretly
from Rome to Holland, who should negotiate concerning the conversion of
that people. Before taking a resolution, I have thought best to give an
account of this matter to your Highness. I should be glad if you would
inform me what priests are going to Holland, what fruits they yield, and
what can be done for the continuance of their labours. Please to advise
me very particularly together with any suggestions that may occur to you
in this matter."
The Archduke, who was nearer the scene, was not so sure that the old
religion was making such progress as his royal nephew or those who spoke
in his name believed. At any rate, if it were not rapidly gaining
ground, it would be neither for want of discord among the Protestants
nor for lack of Jesuits to profit by it.
"I do not understand," said he in reply, "nor is it generally considered
certain that from the differences and disturbances that the Hollanders
are having among themselves there has resulted the conversion of any of
them to our blessed Catholic faith, because their disputes are of certain
points concerning which there are different opinions within their sect.
There has always been a goodly number of priests here, the greater part
of whom belong to the Company. They are very diligent and fervent, and
the Catholics derive much comfort from them. To send more of them would
do more harm than good. It might be found out, and then they would
perhaps be driven out of Holland or even chastised. So it seems better
to leave things as they are for the present."
The Spanish government was not discouraged however, but was pricking up
its ears anew at strange communications it was receiving from the very
bosom of the council of state in the Netherlands. This body, as will be
remembered, had been much opposed to Barneveld and to the policy pursued
under his leadership by the States of Holland. Some of its members were
secretly Catholic and still more secretly disposed to effect a revolution
in the government, the object of which should be to fuse the United
Provinces with the obedient Netherlands in a single independent monarchy
to be placed under the sceptre of the son of Philip III.
A paper containing the outlines of this scheme had been sent to Spain,
and the King at once forwarded it in cipher to the Archduke at Brussels
for his opinion and co-operation.
"You will see," he said, "the plan which a certain person zealous for the
public good has proposed for reducing the Netherlanders to my obedience.
. . . . You will please advise with Count Frederic van den Berg and
let me know with much particularity and profound secrecy what is thought,
what is occurring, and the form in which this matter ought to be
negotiated, and the proper way to make it march."
Unquestionably the paper was of grave importance. It informed the King
of Spain that some principal personages in the United Netherlands,
members of the council of state, were of opinion that if his Majesty or
Archduke Albert should propose peace, it could be accomplished at that
moment more easily than ever before. They had arrived at the conviction
that no assistance was to be obtained from the King of France, who was
too much weakened by tumults and sedition at home, while nothing good
could be expected from the King of England. The greater part of the
Province of Gelderland, they said, with all Friesland, Utrecht,
Groningen, and Overyssel were inclined to a permanent peace. Being all
of them frontier provinces, they were constantly exposed to the brunt of
hostilities. Besides this, the war expenses alone would now be more than
3,000,000 florins a year. Thus the people were kept perpetually
harassed, and although evil-intentioned persons approved these burthens
under the pretence that such heavy taxation served to free them from the
tyranny of Spain, those of sense and quality reproved them and knew the
contrary to be true. "Many here know," continued these traitors in the
heart of the state council, "how good it would be for the people of the
Netherlands to have a prince, and those having this desire being on the
frontier are determined to accept the son of your Majesty for their
ruler." The conditions of the proposed arrangement were to be that the
Prince with his successors who were thus to possess all the Netherlands
were to be independent sovereigns not subject in any way to the crown of
Spain, and that the great governments and dignities of the country were
to remain in the hands then holding them.
This last condition was obviously inserted in the plan for the special
benefit of Prince Maurice and Count Lewis, although there is not an atom
of evidence that they had ever heard of the intrigue or doubt that, if
they had, they would have signally chastised its guilty authors.
It was further stated that the Catholics having in each town a church and
free exercise of their religion would soon be in a great majority. Thus
the political and religious counter-revolution would be triumphantly
It was proposed that the management of the business should be entrusted
to some gentleman of the country possessing property there who "under
pretext of the public good should make people comprehend what a great
thing it would be if they could obtain this favour from the Spanish King,
thus extricating themselves from so many calamities and miseries, and
obtaining free traffic and a prince of their own." It would be necessary
for the King and Archduke to write many letters and promise great rewards
to persons who might otherwise embarrass the good work.
The plot was an ingenious one. There seemed in the opinion of these
conspirators in the state council but one great obstacle to its success.
It should be kept absolutely concealed from the States of Holland. The
great stipendiary of Spain, John of Barneveld, whose coffers were filled
with Spanish pistoles, whose name and surname might be read by all men in
the account-books at Brussels heading the register of mighty bribe-
takers, the man who was howled at in a thousand lampoons as a traitor
ever ready to sell his country, whom even Prince Maurice "partly
believed" to be the pensionary of Philip, must not hear a whisper of this
scheme to restore the Republic to Spanish control and place it under the
sceptre of a Spanish prince.
The States of Holland at that moment and so long as he was a member of
the body were Barneveld and Barneveld only; thinking his thoughts,
speaking with his tongue, writing with his pen. Of this neither friend
nor foe ever expressed a doubt. Indeed it was one of the staple
accusations against him.
Yet this paper in which the Spanish king in confidential cipher and
profound secrecy communicated to Archduke Albert his hopes and his
schemes for recovering the revolted provinces as a kingdom for his son
contained these words of caution.
"The States of Holland and Zealand will be opposed to the plan," it said.
"If the treaty come to the knowledge of the States and Council of Holland
before it has been acted upon by the five frontier provinces the whole
plan will be demolished."
Such was the opinion entertained by Philip himself of the man who was
supposed to be his stipendiary. I am not aware that this paper has ever
been alluded to in any document or treatise private or public from the
day of its date to this hour. It certainly has never been published, but
it lies deciphered in the Archives of the Kingdom at Brussels, and is
alone sufficient to put to shame the slanderers of the Advocate's
Yet let it be remembered that in this very summer exactly at the moment
when these intrigues were going on between the King of Spain and the
class of men most opposed to Barneveld, the accusations against his
fidelity were loudest and rifest.
Before the Stadholder had so suddenly slipped down to Brielle in order
to secure that important stronghold for the Contra-Remonstrant party,
reports had been carefully strewn among the people that the Advocate
was about to deliver that place and other fortresses to Spain.
Brielle, Flushing, Rammekens, the very cautionary towns and keys to the
country which he had so recently and in such masterly manner delivered
from the grasp of the hereditary ally he was now about to surrender to
the ancient enemy.
The Spaniards were already on the sea, it was said. Had it not been for
his Excellency's watchfulness and promptitude, they would already under
guidance of Barneveld and his crew have mastered the city of Brielle.
Flushing too through Barneveld's advice and connivance was open at a
particular point, in order that the Spaniards, who had their eye upon it,
might conveniently enter and take possession of the place. The air was
full of wild rumours to this effect, and already the humbler classes who
sided with the Stadholder saw in him the saviour of the country from the
treason of the Advocate and the renewed tyranny of Spain.
The Prince made no such pretence, but simply took possession of the
fortress in order to be beforehand with the Waartgelders. The Contra-
Remonstrants in Brielle had desired that "men should see who had the
hardest fists," and it would certainly have been difficult to find harder
ones than those of the hero of Nieuwpoort.
Besides the Jesuits coming in so skilfully to triumph over the warring
sects of Calvinists, there were other engineers on whom the Spanish
government relied to effect the reconquest of the Netherlands.
Especially it was an object to wreak vengeance on Holland, that head and
front of the revolt, both for its persistence in rebellion and for the
immense prosperity and progress by which that rebellion had been
rewarded. Holland had grown fat and strong, while the obedient
Netherlands were withered to the marrow of their bones. But there was a
practical person then resident in Spain to whom the Netherlands were well
known, to whom indeed everything was well known, who had laid before the
King a magnificent scheme for destroying the commerce and with it the
very existence of Holland to the great advantage of the Spanish finances
and of the Spanish Netherlands. Philip of course laid it before the
Archduke as usual, that he might ponder it well and afterwards, if
approved, direct its execution.
The practical person set forth in an elaborate memoir that the Hollanders
were making rapid progress in commerce, arts, and manufactures, while the
obedient provinces were sinking as swiftly into decay. The Spanish
Netherlands were almost entirely shut off from the sea, the rivers
Scheldt and Meuse being hardly navigable for them on account of the
control of those waters by Holland. The Dutch were attracting to their
dominions all artisans, navigators, and traders. Despising all other
nations and giving them the law, they had ruined the obedient provinces.
Ostend, Nieuwpoort, Dunkerk were wasting away, and ought to be restored.
"I have profoundly studied forty years long the subjects of commerce and
navigation," said the practical person, "and I have succeeded in
penetrating the secrets and acquiring, as it were, universal knowledge--
let me not be suspected of boasting--of the whole discovered world and of
the ocean. I have been assisted by study of the best works of geography
and history, by my own labours, and by those of my late father, a man of
illustrious genius and heroical conceptions and very zealous in the
The modest and practical son of an illustrious but anonymous father, then
coming to the point, said it would be the easiest thing in the world to
direct the course of the Scheldt into an entirely new channel through
Spanish Flanders to the sea. Thus the Dutch ports and forts which had
been constructed with such magnificence and at such vast expense would be
left high and dry; the Spaniards would build new ones in Flanders, and
thus control the whole navigation and deprive the Hollanders of that
empire of the sea which they now so proudly arrogated. This scheme was
much simpler to carry out than the vulgar might suppose, and, when.
accomplished, it would destroy the commerce, navigation, and fisheries of
the Hollanders, throwing it all into the hands of the Archdukes. This
would cause such ruin, poverty, and tumults everywhere that all would be
changed. The Republic of the United States would annihilate itself and
fall to pieces; the religious dissensions, the war of one sect with
another, and the jealousy of the House of Nassau, suspected of plans
hostile to popular liberties, finishing the work of destruction. "Then
the Republic," said the man of universal science, warming at sight of the
picture he was painting, "laden with debt and steeped in poverty, will
fall to the ground of its own weight, and thus debilitated will crawl
humbly to place itself in the paternal hands of the illustrious house
It would be better, he thought, to set about the work, before the
expiration of the Truce. At any rate, the preparation for it, or the
mere threat of it, would ensure a renewal of that treaty on juster terms.
It was most important too to begin at once the construction of a port on
the coast of Flanders, looking to the north.
There was a position, he said, without naming it, in which whole navies
could ride in safety, secure from all tempests, beyond the reach of the
Hollanders, open at all times to traffic to and from England, France,
Spain, Norway, Sweden, Russia--a perfectly free commerce, beyond the
reach of any rights or duties claimed or levied by the insolent republic.
In this port would assemble all the navigators of the country, and it
would become in time of war a terror to the Hollanders, English, and all
northern peoples. In order to attract, protect, and preserve these
navigators and this commerce, many great public edifices must be built,
together with splendid streets of houses and impregnable fortifications.
It should be a walled and stately city, and its name should be
Philipopolis. If these simple projects, so easy of execution, pleased
his Majesty, the practical person was ready to explain them in all their
His Majesty was enchanted with the glowing picture, but before quite
deciding on carrying the scheme into execution thought it best to consult
The reply of Albert has not been preserved. It was probably not
enthusiastic, and the man who without boasting had declared himself to
know everything was never commissioned to convert his schemes into
realities. That magnificent walled city, Philipopolis, with its gorgeous
streets and bristling fortresses, remained unbuilt, the Scheldt has
placidly flowed through its old channel to the sea from that day to this,
and the Republic remained in possession of the unexampled foreign trade
with which rebellion had enriched it.
These various intrigues and projects show plainly enough however the
encouragement given to the enemies of the United Provinces and of
Protestantism everywhere by these disastrous internal dissensions. But
yesterday and the Republic led by Barneveld in council and Maurice of
Nassau in the field stood at the head of the great army of resistance to
the general crusade organized by Spain and Rome against all unbelievers.
And now that the war was absolutely beginning in Bohemia, the Republic
was falling upon its own sword instead of smiting with it the universal
It was not the King of Spain alone that cast longing eyes on the fair
territory of that commonwealth which the unparalleled tyranny of his
father had driven to renounce his sceptre. Both in the Netherlands and
France, among the extreme orthodox party, there were secret schemes, to
which Maurice was not privy, to raise Maurice to the sovereignty of the
Provinces. Other conspirators with a wider scope and more treasonable
design were disposed to surrender their country to the dominion of
France, stipulating of course large rewards and offices for themselves
and the vice-royalty of what should then be the French Netherlands to
The schemes were wild enough perhaps, but their very existence, which is
undoubted, is another proof, if more proof were wanted, of the lamentable
tendency, in times of civil and religious dissension, of political
passion to burn out the very first principles of patriotism.
It is also important, on account of the direct influence exerted by these
intrigues upon subsequent events of the gravest character, to throw a
beam of light on matters which were thought to have been shrouded for
ever in impenetrable darkness.
Langerac, the States' Ambassador in Paris, was the very reverse of his
predecessor, the wily, unscrupulous, and accomplished Francis Aerssens.
The envoys of the Republic were rarely dull, but Langerac was a
simpleton. They were renowned for political experience, skill,
familiarity with foreign languages, knowledge of literature, history,
and public law; but he was ignorant, spoke French very imperfectly,
at a court where not a human being could address him in his own tongue,
had never been employed in diplomacy or in high office of any kind,
and could carry but small personal weight at a post where of all others
the representative of the great republic should have commanded deference
both for his own qualities and for the majesty of his government. At a
period when France was left without a master or a guide the Dutch
ambassador, under a becoming show of profound respect, might really have
governed the country so far as regarded at least the all important
relations which bound the two nations together. But Langerac was a mere
picker-up of trifles, a newsmonger who wrote a despatch to-day with
information which a despatch was written on the morrow to contradict,
while in itself conveying additional intelligence absolutely certain to
be falsified soon afterwards. The Emperor of Germany had gone mad;
Prince Maurice had been assassinated in the Hague, a fact which his
correspondents, the States-General, might be supposed already to know, if
it were one; there had been a revolution in the royal bed-chamber; the
Spanish cook of the young queen had arrived from Madrid; the Duke of
Nevers was behaving very oddly at Vienna; such communications, and others
equally startling, were the staple of his correspondence.
Still he was honest enough, very mild, perfectly docile to Barneveld,
dependent upon his guidance, and fervently attached to that statesman so
long as his wheel was going up the hill. Moreover, his industry in
obtaining information and his passion for imparting it made it probable
that nothing very momentous would be neglected should it be laid before
him, but that his masters, and especially the Advocate, would be enabled
to judge for themselves as to the attention due to it.
"With this you will be apprised of some very high and weighty matters,"
he wrote privately and in cipher to Barneveld, "which you will make use
of according to your great wisdom and forethought for the country's
He requested that the matter might also be confided to M. van der Myle,
that he might assist his father-in-law, so overburdened with business, in
the task of deciphering the communication. He then stated that he had
been "very earnestly informed three days before by M. du Agean"--member
of the privy council of France--"that it had recently come to the King's
ears, and his Majesty knew it to be authentic, that there was a secret
and very dangerous conspiracy in Holland of persons belonging to the
Reformed religion in which others were also mixed. This party held very
earnest and very secret correspondence with the factious portion of the
Contra-Remonstrants both in the Netherlands and France, seeking under
pretext of the religious dissensions or by means of them to confer the
sovereignty upon Prince Maurice by general consent of the Contra-
Remonstrants. Their object was also to strengthen and augment the force
of the same religious party in France, to which end the Duc de Bouillon
and M. de Chatillon were very earnestly co-operating. Langerac had
already been informed by Chatillon that the Contra-Remonstrants had
determined to make a public declaration against the Remonstrants, and
come to an open separation from them.
"Others propose however," said the Ambassador, "that the King himself
should use the occasion to seize the sovereignty of the United Provinces
for himself and to appoint Prince Maurice viceroy, giving him in marriage
Madame Henriette of France." The object of this movement would be to
frustrate the plots of the Contra-Remonstrants, who were known to be
passionately hostile to the King and to France, and who had been
constantly traversing the negotiations of M. du Maurier. There was a
disposition to send a special and solemn embassy to the States, but it
was feared that the British king would at once do the same, to the
immense disadvantage of the Remonstrants. "M. de Barneveld," said the
envoy, "is deeply sympathized with here and commiserated. The Chancellor
has repeatedly requested me to present to you his very sincere and very
hearty respects, exhorting you to continue in your manly steadfastness
and courage." He also assured the Advocate that the French ambassador,
M. du Maurier, enjoyed the entire confidence of his government, and of
the principal members of the council, and that the King, although
contemplating, as we have seen, the seizure of the sovereignty of the
country, was most amicably disposed towards it, and so soon as the peace
of Savoy was settled "had something very good for it in his mind."
Whether the something very good was this very design to deprive it of
independence, the Ambassador did not state. He however recommended the
use of sundry small presents at the French court--especially to Madame de
Luynes, wife of the new favourite of Lewis since the death of Concini, in
which he had aided, now rising rapidly to consideration, and to Madame du
Agean--and asked to be supplied with funds accordingly. By these means
he thought it probable that at least the payment to the States of the
long arrears of the French subsidy might be secured.
Three weeks later, returning to the subject, the Ambassador reported
another conversation with M. du Agean. That politician assured him,
"with high protestations," as a perfectly certain fact that a Frenchman
duly qualified had arrived in Paris from Holland who had been in
communication not only with him but with several of the most confidential
members of the privy council of France. This duly qualified gentleman
had been secretly commissioned to say that in opinion of the conspirators
already indicated the occasion was exactly offered by these religious
dissensions in the Netherlands for bringing the whole country under the
obedience of the King. This would be done with perfect ease if he would
only be willing to favour a little the one party, that of the Contra-
Remonstrants, and promise his Excellency "perfect and perpetual authority
in the government with other compensations."
The proposition, said du Agean, had been rejected by the privy
councillors with a declaration that they would not mix themselves up with
any factions, nor assist any party, but that they would gladly work with
the government for the accommodation of these difficulties and
differences in the Provinces.
"I send you all this nakedly," concluded Langerac, "exactly as it has
been communicated to me, having always answered according to my duty and
with a view by negotiating with these persons to discover the intentions
as well of one side as the other."
The Advocate was not profoundly impressed by these revelations. He was
too experienced a statesman to doubt that in times when civil and
religious passion was running high there was never lack of fishers in
troubled waters, and that if a body of conspirators could secure a
handsome compensation by selling their country to a foreign prince, they
would always be ready to do it.
But although believed by Maurice to be himself a stipendiary of Spain,
he was above suspecting the Prince of any share in the low and stupid
intrigue which du Agean had imagined or disclosed. That the Stadholder
was ambitious of greater power, he hardly doubted, but that he was
seeking to acquire it by such corrupt and circuitous means, he did not
dream. He confidentially communicated the plot as in duty bound to some
members of the States, and had the Prince been accused in any
conversation or statement of being privy to the scheme, he would have
thought himself bound to mention it to him. The story came to the ears
of Maurice however, and helped to feed his wrath against the Advocate,
as if he were responsible for a plot, if plot it were, which had been
concocted by his own deadliest enemies. The Prince wrote a letter
alluding to this communication of Langerac and giving much alarm to that
functionary. He thought his despatches must have been intercepted and
proposed in future to write always by special courier. Barneveld thought
that unnecessary except when there were more important matters than those
appeared to him to be and requiring more haste.
"The letter of his Excellency," said he to the Ambassador, "is caused in
my opinion by the fact that some of the deputies to this assembly to whom
I secretly imparted your letter or its substance did not rightly
comprehend or report it. You did not say that his Excellency had any
such design or project, but that it had been said that the Contra-
Remonstrants were entertaining such a scheme. I would have shown the
letter to him myself, but I thought it not fair, for good reasons, to
make M. du Agean known as the informant. I do not think it amiss for you
to write yourself to his Excellency and tell him what is said, but
whether it would be proper to give up the name of your author, I think
doubtful. At all events one must consult about it. We live in a strange
world, and one knows not whom to trust."
He instructed the Ambassador to enquire into the foundation of these
statements of du Agean and send advices by every occasion of this affair
and others of equal interest. He was however much more occupied with
securing the goodwill of the French government, which he no more
suspected of tampering in these schemes against the independence of the
Republic than he did Maurice himself. He relied and he had reason to
rely on their steady good offices in the cause of moderation and
reconciliation. "We are not yet brought to the necessary and much
desired unity," he said, "but we do not despair, hoping that his
Majesty's efforts through M. du Maurier, both privately and publicly,
will do much good. Be assured that they are very agreeable to all
rightly disposed people . . . . My trust is that God the Lord will
give us a happy issue and save this country from perdition." He approved
of the presents to the two ladies as suggested by Langerac if by so doing
the payment of the arrearages could be furthered. He was still hopeful
and confident in the justice of his cause and the purity of his
conscience. "Aerssens is crowing like a cock," he said, "but the truth
will surely prevail."
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