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19: Chapter XIX (1618-19)

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During this dark and mournful winter the internal dissensions and, as a matter of course, the foreign intrigues had become more dangerous than ever. While the man who for a whole generation had guided the policy of the Republic and had been its virtual chief magistrate lay hidden from all men's sight, the troubles which he had sought to avert were not diminished by his removal from the scene. The extreme or Gomarist party which had taken a pride in secret conventicles where they were in a minority, determined, as they said, to separate Christ from Belial and, meditating the triumph which they had at last secured, now drove the Arminians from the great churches. Very soon it was impossible for these heretics to enjoy the rights of public worship anywhere. But they were not dismayed. The canons of Dordtrecht had not yet been fulminated. They avowed themselves ready to sacrifice worldly goods and life itself in defence of the Five Points. In Rotterdam, notwithstanding a garrison of fifteen companies, more than a thousand Remonstrants assembled on Christmas-day in the Exchange for want of a more appropriate place of meeting and sang the 112th Psalm in mighty chorus. A clergyman of their persuasion accidentally passing through the street was forcibly laid hands upon and obliged to preach to them, which he did with great unction. The magistracy, where now the Contra-Remonstrants had the control, forbade, under severe penalties, a repetition of such scenes. It was impossible not to be reminded of the days half a century before, when the early Reformers had met in the open fields or among the dunes, armed to the teeth, and with outlying pickets to warn the congregation of the approach of Red Rod and the functionaries of the Holy Inquisition.

In Schoonhoven the authorities attempted one Sunday by main force to induct a Contra-Remonstrant into the pulpit from which a Remonstrant had just been expelled. The women of the place turned out with their distaffs and beat them from the field. The garrison was called out, and there was a pitched battle in the streets between soldiers, police officers, and women, not much to the edification certainly of the Sabbath-loving community on either side, the victory remaining with the ladies.

In short it would be impossible to exaggerate the rancour felt between the different politico-religious parties. All heed for the great war now raging in the outside world between the hostile elements of Catholicism and Protestantism, embattled over an enormous space, was lost in the din of conflict among the respective supporters of conditional and unconditional damnation within the pale of the Reformed Church. The earthquake shaking Europe rolled unheeded, as it was of old said to have done at Cannae, amid the fierce shock of mortal foes in that narrow field.

The respect for authority which had so long been the distinguishing characteristic of the Netherlanders seemed to have disappeared. It was difficult--now that the time-honoured laws and privileges in defence of which, and of liberty of worship included in them, the Provinces had made war forty years long had been trampled upon by military force--for those not warmed by the fire of Gomarus to feel their ancient respect for the magistracy. The magistracy at that moment seemed to mean the sword.

The Spanish government was inevitably encouraged by the spectacle thus presented. We have seen the strong hopes entertained by the council at Madrid, two years before the crisis now existing had occurred. We have witnessed the eagerness with which the King indulged the dream of recovering the sovereignty which his father had lost, and the vast schemes which he nourished towards that purpose, founded on the internal divisions which were reducing the Republic to impotence. Subsequent events had naturally made him more sanguine than ever. There was now a web of intrigue stretching through the Provinces to bring them all back under the sceptre of Spain. The imprisonment of the great stipendiary, the great conspirator, the man who had sold himself and was on the point of selling his country, had not terminated those plots. Where was the supposed centre of that intrigue? In the council of state of the Netherlands, ever fiercely opposed to Barneveld and stuffed full of his mortal enemies. Whose name was most familiar on the lips of the Spanish partisans engaged in these secret schemes? That of Adrian Manmaker, President of the Council, representative of Prince Maurice as first noble of Zealand in the States-General, chairman of the committee sent by that body to Utrecht to frustrate the designs of the Advocate, and one of the twenty-four commissioners soon to be appointed to sit in judgment upon him.

The tale seems too monstrous for belief, nor is it to be admitted with certainty, that Manmaker and the other councillors implicated had actually given their adhesion to the plot, because the Spanish emissaries in their correspondence with the King assured him of the fact. But if such a foundation for suspicion could have been found against Barneveld and his friends, the world would not have heard the last of it from that hour to this.

It is superfluous to say that the Prince was entirely foreign to these plans. He had never been mentioned as privy to the little arrangements of Councillor du Agean and others, although he was to benefit by them. In the Spanish schemes he seems to have been considered as an impediment, although indirectly they might tend to advance him.

"We have managed now, I hope, that his Majesty will be recognized as sovereign of the country," wrote the confidential agent of the King of Spain in the Netherlands, Emmanuel Sueyro, to the government of Madrid. "The English will oppose it with all their strength. But they can do nothing except by making Count Maurice sovereign of Holland and duke of Julich and Cleve. Maurice will also contrive to make himself master of Wesel, so it is necessary for the Archduke to be beforehand with him and make sure of the place. It is also needful that his Majesty should induce the French government to talk with the Netherlanders and convince them that it is time to prolong the Truce."

This was soon afterwards accomplished. The French minister at Brussels informed Archduke Albert that du Maurier had been instructed to propose the prolongation, and that he had been conferring with the Prince of Orange and the States-General on the subject. At first the Prince had expressed disinclination, but at the last interview both he and the States had shown a desire for it, and the French King had requested from the Archduke a declaration whether the Spanish government would be willing to treat for it. In such case Lewis would offer himself as mediator and do his best to bring about a successful result.

But it was not the intention of the conspirators in the Netherlands that the Truce should be prolonged. On the contrary the negotiation for it was merely to furnish the occasion for fully developing their plot. "The States and especially those of Zealand will reply that they no longer wish the Truce," continued Sueyro, "and that they would prefer war to such a truce. They desire to put ships on the coast of Flanders, to which the Hollanders are opposed because it would be disagreeable to the French. So the Zealanders will be the first to say that the Netherlanders must come back to his Majesty. This their President Hanmaker has sworn. The States of Overyssel will likewise give their hand to this because they say they will be the first to feel the shock of the war. Thus we shall very easily carry out our design, and as we shall concede to the Zealanders their demands in regard to the navigation they at least will place themselves under the dominion of his Majesty as will be the case with Friesland as well as Overyssel."

It will be observed that in this secret arrangement for selling the Republic to its ancient master it was precisely the Provinces and the politicians most steadily opposed to Barneveld that took the lead. Zealand, Friesland, Overyssel were in the plot, but not a word was said of Utrecht. As for Holland itself, hopes were founded on the places where hatred to the Advocate was fiercest.

"Between ourselves," continued the agent, "we are ten here in the government of Holland to support the plan, but we must not discover ourselves for fear of suffering what has happened to Barneveld."

He added that the time for action had not yet come, and that if movements were made before the Synod had finished its labours, "The Gomarists would say that they were all sold." He implored the government at Madrid to keep the whole matter for the present profoundly secret because "Prince Maurice and the Gomarists had the forces of the country at their disposition." In case the plot was sprung too suddenly therefore, he feared that with the assistance of England Maurice might, at the head of the Gomarists and the army, make himself sovereign of Holland and Duke of Cleve, while he and the rest of the Spanish partisans might be in prison with Barneveld for trying to accomplish what Barneveld had been trying to prevent.

The opinions and utterances of such a man as James I. would be of little worth to our history had he not happened to occupy the place he did. But he was a leading actor in the mournful drama which filled up the whole period of the Twelve Years' Truce. His words had a direct influence on great events. He was a man of unquestionable erudition, of powers of mind above the average, while the absolute deformity of his moral constitution made him incapable of thinking, feeling, or acting rightly on any vital subject, by any accident or on any occasion. If there were one thing that he thoroughly hated in the world, it was the Reformed religion. If in his thought there were one term of reproach more loathsome than another to be applied to a human creature, it was the word Puritan. In the word was subversion of all established authority in Church and State--revolution, republicanism, anarchy. "There are degrees in Heaven," he was wont to say, "there are degrees in Hell, there must be degrees on earth."

He forbade the Calvinist Churches of Scotland to hold their customary Synod in 1610, passionately reviling them and their belief, and declaring "their aim to be nothing else than to deprive kings and princes of their sovereignty, and to reduce the whole world to a popular form of government where everybody would be master."

When the Prince of Neuburg embraced Catholicism, thus complicating matters in the duchies and strengthening the hand of Spain and the Emperor in the debateable land, he seized the occasion to assure the agent of the Archduke in London, Councillor Boissetot, of his warm Catholic sympathies. "They say that I am the greatest heretic in the world!" he exclaimed; "but I will never deny that the true religion is that of Rome even if corrupted." He expressed his belief in the real presence, and his surprise that the Roman Catholics did not take the chalice for the blood of Christ. The English bishops, he averred, drew their consecration through the bishops in Mary Tudor's time from the Pope.

As Philip II., and Ferdinand II. echoing the sentiments of his illustrious uncle, had both sworn they would rather reign in a wilderness than tolerate a single heretic in their dominions, so James had said "he would rather be a hermit in a forest than a king over such people as the pack of Puritans were who overruled the lower house."

For the Netherlanders he had an especial hatred, both as rebels and Puritans. Soon after coming to the English throne he declared that their revolt, which had been going on all his lifetime and of which he never expected to see the end, had begun by petition for matters of religion. "His mother and he from their cradles," he said, "had been haunted with a Puritan devil, which he feared would not leave him to his grave. And he would hazard his crown but he would suppress those malicious spirits." It seemed a strange caprice of Destiny that assigned to this hater of Netherlanders, of Puritans, and of the Reformed religion, the decision of disputed points between Puritans and anti-Puritans in the Reformed Church of the Netherlands.

It seemed stranger that his opinions should be hotly on the side of the Puritans.

Barneveld, who often used the expression in later years, as we have seen in his correspondence, was opposed to the Dutch Puritans because they had more than once attempted subversion of the government on pretext of religion, especially at the memorable epoch of Leicester's government.

The business of stirring up these religious conspiracies against the magistracy he was apt to call "Flanderizing," in allusion to those disastrous days and to the origin of the ringleaders in those tumults. But his main object, as we have seen, was to effect compromises and restore good feeling between members of the one church, reserving the right of disposing over religious matters to the government of the respective provinces.

But James had remedied his audacious inconsistency by discovering that Puritanism in England and in the Netherlands resembled each other no more than certain letters transposed into totally different words meant one and the same thing. The anagrammatic argument had been neatly put by Sir Dudley Carleton, convincing no man. Puritanism in England "denied the right of human invention or imposition in religious matters." Puritanism in the Netherlands denied the right of the legal government to impose its authority in religious matters. This was the great matter of debate in the Provinces. In England the argument had been settled very summarily against the Puritans by sheriffs' officers, bishops' pursuivants, and county jails.

As the political tendencies, so too the religious creed and observances of the English Puritans were identical with that of the Contra- Remonstrants, whom King James had helped to their great triumph. This was not very difficult to prove. It so happened that there were some English Puritans living at that moment in Leyden. They formed an independent society by themselves, which they called a Congregational Church, and in which were some three hundred communicants. The length of their residence there was almost exactly coeval with the Twelve Years' Truce. They knew before leaving England that many relics of the Roman ceremonial, with which they were dissatisfied, and for the discontinuance of which they had in vain petitioned the crown--the ring, the sign of the cross, white surplices, and the like--besides the whole hierarchical system, had been disused in the Reformed Churches of France, Switzerland, and the United Provinces, where the forms of worship in their view had been brought more nearly to the early apostolic model. They admitted for truth the doctrinal articles of the Dutch Reformed Churches. They had not come to the Netherlands without cause. At an early period of King James's reign this congregation of seceders from the establishment had been wont to hold meetings at Scrooby in Nottinghamshire, once a manor of the Archbishop of York, but then the residence of one William Brewster. This was a gentleman of some fortune, educated at Cambridge, a good scholar, who in Queen Elizabeth's time had been in the service of William Davison when Secretary of State. He seemed to have been a confidential private secretary of that excellent and unlucky statesman, who found him so discreet and faithful as to deserve employment before all others in matters of trust and secrecy. He was esteemed by Davison "rather as a son than a servant," and he repaid his confidence by doing him many faithful offices in the time of his troubles. He had however long since retired from connection with public affairs, living a retired life, devoted to study, meditation, and practical exertion to promote the cause of religion, and in acts of benevolence sometimes beyond his means.

The pastor of the Scrooby Church, one John Robinson, a graduate of Cambridge, who had been a benefited clergyman in Norfolk, was a man of learning, eloquence, and lofty intellect. But what were such good gifts in the possession of rebels, seceders, and Puritans? It is needless to say that Brewster and Robinson were baited, persecuted, watched day and night, some of the congregation often clapped into prison, others into the stocks, deprived of the means of livelihood, outlawed, famished, banned. Plainly their country was no place for them. After a few years of such work they resolved to establish themselves in Holland, where at least they hoped to find refuge and toleration.

But it proved as difficult for them to quit the country as to remain in it. Watched and hunted like gangs of coiners, forgers, or other felons attempting to flee from justice, set upon by troopers armed with "bills and guns and other weapons," seized when about to embark, pillaged and stripped by catchpoles, exhibited as a show to grinning country folk, the women and children dealt with like drunken tramps, led before magistrates, committed to jail; Mr. Brewster and six other of the principal ones being kept in prison and bound over to the assizes; they were only able after attempts lasting through two years' time to effect their escape to Amsterdam. After remaining there a year they had removed to Leyden, which they thought "a fair and beautiful city, and of a sweet situation."

They settled in Leyden in the very year in which Arminius was buried beneath the pavement of St. Peter's Church in that town. It was the year too in which the Truce was signed. They were a singularly tranquil and brotherly community. Their pastor, who was endowed with remarkable gentleness and tact in dealing with his congregation, settled amicably all their occasional disputes. The authorities of the place held them up as a model. To a Walloon congregation in which there were many troublesome and litigious members they said: "These English have lived among us ten years, and yet we never had any suit or accusation against any of them, but your quarrels are continual."

Although many of them were poor, finding it difficult to earn their living in a foreign land among people speaking a strange tongue, and with manners and habits differing from their own, and where they were obliged to learn new trades, having most of them come out of an agricultural population, yet they enjoyed a singular reputation for probity. Bakers and butchers and the like willingly gave credit to the poorest of these English, and sought their custom if known to be of the congregation. Mr. Brewster, who had been reduced almost to poverty by his charities and munificent aid to his struggling brethren, earned his living by giving lessons in English, having first composed a grammar according to the Latin model for the use of his pupils. He also set up a printing establishment, publishing many controversial works prohibited in England, a proceeding which roused the wrath of Carleton, impelling him to do his best to have him thrown into prison.

It was not the first time that this plain, mechanical, devout Englishman, now past middle age, had visited the Netherlands. More than twenty-five years before he had accompanied William Davison on his famous embassy to the States, as private secretary.

When the keys of Flushing, one of the cautionary towns, were committed to the Ambassador, he confided them to the care of Brewster, who slept with them under his pillow. The gold chain which Davison received as a present from the provincial government on leaving the country was likewise placed in his keeping, with orders to wear it around his neck until they should appear before the Queen. To a youth of ease and affluence, familiar with ambassadors and statesmen and not unknown at courts, had succeeded a mature age of obscurity, deep study, and poverty. No human creature would have heard of him had his career ended with his official life. Two centuries and a half have passed away and the name of the outlawed Puritan of Scrooby and Leyden is still familiar to millions of the English race.

All these Englishmen were not poor. Many of them occupied houses of fair value, and were admitted to the freedom of the city. The pastor with three of his congregation lived in a comfortable mansion, which they had purchased for the considerable sum of 8000 florins, and on the garden of which they subsequently erected twenty-one lesser tenements for the use of the poorer brethren.

Mr. Robinson was himself chosen a member of the famous university and admitted to its privileges. During his long residence in Leyden, besides the daily care of his congregation, spiritual and temporal, he wrote many learned works.

Thus the little community, which grew gradually larger by emigration from England, passed many years of tranquillity. Their footsteps were not dogged by constables and pursuivants, they were not dragged daily before the magistrates, they were not thrown into the town jails, they were not hunted from place to place with bows and bills and mounted musketeers. They gave offence to none, and were respected by all. "Such was their singleheartedness and sincere affection one towards another," says their historian and magistrate, "that they came as near the primitive pattern of the first churches as any other church of these later times has done, according to their rank and quality."

Here certainly were English Puritans more competent than any men else in the world to judge if it were a slander upon the English government to identify them with Dutch Puritans. Did they sympathize with the party in Holland which the King, who had so scourged and trampled upon themselves in England, was so anxious to crush, the hated Arminians? Did they abhor the Contra-Remonstrants whom James and his ambassador Carleton doted upon and whom Barneveld called "Double Puritans" and "Flanderizers?"

Their pastor may answer for himself and his brethren.

"We profess before God and men," said Robinson in his Apologia, "that we agree so entirely with the Reformed Dutch Churches in the matter of religion as to be ready to subscribe to all and each of their articles exactly as they are set forth in the Netherland Confession. We acknowledge those Reformed Churches as true and genuine, we profess and cultivate communion with them as much as in us lies. Those of us who understand the Dutch language attend public worship under their pastors. We administer the Holy Supper to such of their members as, known to us, appear at our meetings." This was the position of the Puritans. Absolute, unqualified accordance with the Contra-Remonstrants.

As the controversy grew hot in the university between the Arminians and their adversaries, Mr. Robinson, in the language of his friend Bradford, became "terrible to the Arminians . . . . who so greatly molested the whole state and that city in particular."

When Episcopius, the Arminian professor of theology, set forth sundry theses, challenging all the world to the onset, it was thought that "none was fitter to buckle with them" than Robinson. The orthodox professor Polyander so importuned the English Puritan to enter the lists on behalf of the Contra-Remonstrants that at last he consented and overthrew the challenger, horse and man, in three successive encounters. Such at least was the account given by his friend and admirer the historian. "The Lord did so help him to defend the truth and foil this adversary as he put him to an apparent nonplus in this great and public audience. And the like he did a second or third time upon such like occasions," said Bradford, adding that, if it had not been for fear of offending the English government, the university would have bestowed preferments and honours upon the champion.

We are concerned with this ancient and exhausted controversy only for the intense light it threw, when burning, on the history which occupies us.

Of the extinct volcano itself which once caused such devastation, and in which a great commonwealth was well-nigh swallowed up, little is left but slag and cinders. The past was made black and barren with them. Let us disturb them as little as possible.

The little English congregation remained at Leyden till toward the end of the Truce, thriving, orderly, respected, happy. They were witnesses to the tumultuous, disastrous, and tragical events which darkened the Republic in those later years, themselves unobserved and unmolested. Not a syllable seems to remain on record of the views or emotions which may have been excited by those scenes in their minds, nor is there a trace left on the national records of the Netherlands of their protracted residence on the soil.

They got their living as best they might by weaving, printing, spinning, and other humble trades; they borrowed money on mortgages, they built houses, they made wills, and such births, deaths, and marriages as occurred among them were registered by the town-clerk.

And at last for a variety of reasons they resolved to leave the Netherlands. Perhaps the solution of the problem between Church and State in that country by the temporary subjection of State to Church may have encouraged them to realize a more complete theocracy, if a sphere of action could be found where the experiment might be tried without a severe battle against time-hallowed institutions and vested rights. Perhaps they were appalled by the excesses into which men of their own religious sentiments had been carried by theological and political passion. At any rate depart they would; the larger half of the congregation remaining behind however till the pioneers should have broken the way, and in their own language "laid the stepping-stones."

They had thought of the lands beneath the Equator, Raleigh having recently excited enthusiasm by his poetical descriptions of Guiana. But the tropical scheme was soon abandoned. They had opened negotiations with the Stadholder and the States-General through Amsterdam merchants in regard to settling in New Amsterdam, and offered to colonize that country if assured of the protection of the United Provinces. Their petition had been rejected. They had then turned their faces to their old master and their own country, applying to the Virginia Company for a land-patent, which they were only too happy to promise, and to the King for liberty of religion in the wilderness confirmed under his broad seal, which his Majesty of course refused. It was hinted however that James would connive at them and not molest them if they carried themselves peaceably. So they resolved to go without the seal, for, said their magistrate very wisely, "if there should be a purpose or desire to wrong them, a seal would not serve their turn though it were as broad as the house-floor."

Before they left Leyden, their pastor preached to them a farewell sermon, which for loftiness of spirit and breadth of vision has hardly a parallel in that age of intolerance. He laid down the principle that criticism of the Scriptures had not been exhausted merely because it had been begun; that the human conscience was of too subtle a nature to be imprisoned for ever in formulas however ingeniously devised; that the religious reformation begun a century ago was not completed; and that the Creator had not necessarily concluded all His revelations to mankind.

The words have long been familiar to students of history, but they can hardly be too often laid to heart.

Noble words, worthy to have been inscribed over the altar of the first church to be erected by the departing brethren, words to bear fruit after centuries should go by. Had not the deeply injured and misunderstood Grotius already said, "If the trees we plant do not shade us, they will yet serve for our descendants?"

Yet it is passing strange that the preacher of that sermon should be the recent champion of the Contra-Remonstrants in the great controversy; the man who had made himself so terrible to the pupils of the gentle and tolerant Arminius.

And thus half of that English congregation went down to Delftshaven, attended by the other half who were to follow at a later period with their beloved pastor. There was a pathetic leave-taking. Even many of the Hollanders, mere casual spectators, were in tears.

Robinson, kneeling on the deck of the little vessel, offered a prayer and a farewell. Who could dream that this departure of an almost nameless band of emigrants to the wilderness was an epoch in the world's history? Yet these were the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, the founders of what was to be the mightiest republic of modern history, mighty and stable because it had been founded upon an idea.

They were not in search of material comfort and the chances of elevating their condition, by removing from an overpeopled country to an organized Commonwealth, offering a wide field for pauper labourers. Some of them were of good social rank and highest education, most of them in decent circumstances, none of them in absolute poverty. And a few years later they were to be joined by a far larger company with leaders and many brethren of ancient birth and landed possessions, men of "education, figure; and estate," all ready to convert property into cash and to place it in joint-stock, not as the basis of promising speculation, but as the foundation of a church.

It signifies not how much or how little one may sympathize with their dogma or their discipline now. To the fact that the early settlement of that wilderness was by self-sacrificing men of earnestness and faith, who were bent on "advancing the Gospel of Christ in remote parts of the world," in the midst of savage beasts, more savage men, and unimaginable difficulties and dangers, there can be little doubt that the highest forms of Western civilization are due. Through their provisional theocracy, the result of the independent church system was to establish the true purport of the Reformation, absolute religious equality. Civil and political equality followed as a matter of course.

Two centuries and a half have passed away.

There are now some seventy or eighty millions of the English-speaking race on both sides the Atlantic, almost equally divided between the United Kingdom and the United Republic, and the departure of those outcasts of James has interest and significance for them all.

Most fitly then, as a distinguished American statesman has remarked, does that scene on board the little English vessel, with the English pastor uttering his farewell blessing to a handful of English exiles for conscience sake; depicted on canvas by eminent artists, now adorn the halls of the American Congress and of the British Parliament. Sympathy with one of the many imperishable bonds of union between the two great and scarcely divided peoples.

We return to Barneveld in his solitary prison.

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