20: Chapter XX
<< 19: Chapter XIX (1618-19) || 21: Chapter XXI (1619-23) >>
The Advocate had been removed within a few days after the arrest from the
chamber in Maurice's apartments, where he had originally been confined,
and was now in another building.
It was not a dungeon nor a jail. Indeed the commonplace and domestic
character of the scenery in which these great events were transacted has
in it something pathetic. There was and still remains a two-storied
structure, then of modern date, immediately behind the antique hall of
the old Counts within the Binnenhof. On the first floor was a courtroom
of considerable extent, the seat of one of the chief tribunals of justice
The story above was divided into three chambers with a narrow corridor
on each side. The first chamber, on the north-eastern side, was
appropriated for the judges when the state prisoners should be tried.
In the next Hugo Grotius was imprisoned. In the third was Barneveld.
There was a tower at the north-east angle of the building, within which
a winding and narrow staircase of stone led up to the corridor and so to
the prisoners' apartments. Rombout Hoogerbeets was confined in another
As the Advocate, bent with age and a life of hard work, and leaning on
his staff, entered the room appropriated to him, after toiling up the
steep staircase, he observed--
"This is the Admiral of Arragon's apartment."
It was true. Eighteen years before, the conqueror of Nieuwpoort had
assigned this lodging to the chief prisoner of war in that memorable
victory over the Spaniards, and now Maurice's faithful and trusted
counsellor at that epoch was placed in durance here, as the result of the
less glorious series of victories which had just been achieved.
It was a room of moderate dimensions, some twenty-five feet square, with
a high vaulted roof and decently furnished. Below and around him in the
courtyard were the scenes of the Advocate's life-long and triumphant
public services. There in the opposite building were the windows of the
beautiful "Hall of Truce," with its sumptuous carvings and gildings, its
sculptures and portraits, where he had negotiated with the
representatives of all the great powers of Christendom the famous Treaty
which had suspended the war of forty years, and where he was wont almost
daily to give audience to the envoys of the greatest sovereigns or the
least significant states of Europe and Asia, all of whom had been ever
solicitous of his approbation and support.
Farther along in the same building was the assembly room of the States-
General, where some of the most important affairs of the Republic and
of Europe had for years been conducted, and where he had been so
indispensable that, in the words of a contemporary who loved him not,
"absolutely nothing could be transacted in his absence, all great affairs
going through him alone."
There were two dull windows, closely barred, looking northward over an
irregular assemblage of tile-roofed houses and chimney-stacks, while
within a stone's throw to the west, but unseen, was his own elegant
mansion on the Voorhout, surrounded by flower gardens and shady pleasure
grounds, where now sat his aged wife and her children all plunged in deep
He was allowed the attendance of a faithful servant, Jan Franken by name,
and a sentinel stood constantly before his door. His papers had been
taken from him, and at first he was deprived of writing materials.
He had small connection with the outward world. The news of the
municipal revolution which had been effected by the Stadholder had not
penetrated to his solitude, but his wife was allowed to send him fruit
from their garden. One day a basket of fine saffron pears was brought to
him. On slicing one with a knife he found a portion of a quill inside
it. Within the quill was a letter on thinnest paper, in minutest
handwriting in Latin. It was to this effect.
"Don't rely upon the States of Holland, for the Prince of Orange has
changed the magistracies in many cities. Dudley Carleton is not your
A sergeant of the guard however, before bringing in these pears, had put
a couple of them in his pocket to take home to his wife. The letter,
copies of which perhaps had been inserted for safety in several of them,
was thus discovered and the use of this ingenious device prevented for
Secretary Ledenberg, who had been brought to the Hague in the early days
of September, was the first of the prisoners subjected to examination.
He was much depressed at the beginning of it, and is said to have
exclaimed with many sighs, "Oh Barneveld, Barneveld, what have you
brought us to!"
He confessed that the Waartgelders at Utrecht had been enlisted on
notification by the Utrecht deputies in the Hague with knowledge of
Barneveld, and in consequence of a resolution of the States in order to
prevent internal tumults. He said that the Advocate had advised in the
previous month of March a request to the Prince not to come to Utrecht;
that the communication of the message, in regard to disbanding the
Waartgelders, to his Excellency had been postponed after the deputies of
the States of Holland had proposed a delay in that disbandment; that
those deputies had come to Utrecht of their own accord; . . . . that
they had judged it possible to keep everything in proper order in Utrecht
if the garrison in the city paid by Holland were kept quiet, and if the
States of Utrecht gave similar orders to the Waartgelders; for they did
not believe that his Excellency would bring in troops from the outside.
He said that he knew nothing of a new oath to be demanded of the
garrison. He stated that the Advocate, when at Utrecht, had exhorted
the States, according to his wont, to maintain their liberties and
privileges, representing to them that the right to decide on the Synod
and the Waartgelders belonged to them. Lastly, he denied knowing who
was the author of The Balance, except by common report.
Now these statements hardly amounted to a confession of abominable and
unpardonable crimes by Ledenberg, nor did they establish a charge of
high-treason and corrupt correspondence with the enemy against Barneveld.
It is certain that the extent of the revelations seemed far from
satisfactory to the accusers, and that some pressure would be necessary
in order to extract anything more conclusive. Lieutenant Nythof told
Grotius that Ledenberg had accordingly been threatened with torture, and
that the executioner had even handled him for that purpose. This was
however denied by the judges of instruction who had been charged with the
That examination took place on the 27th September. After it had been
concluded, Ledenberg prayed long and earnestly on returning to prison.
He then entrusted a paper written in French to his son Joost, a boy of
eighteen, who did not understand that language. The youth had been
allowed to keep his father company in his confinement, and slept in the
The next night but one, at two o'clock, Joost heard his father utter a
deep groan. He was startled, groped in the darkness towards his bed and
felt his arm, which was stone cold. He spoke to him and received no
answer. He gave the alarm, the watch came in with lights, and it was
found that Ledenberg had given himself two mortal wounds in the abdomen
with a penknife and then cut his throat with a table-knife which he had
secreted, some days before, among some papers.
The paper in French given to his son was found to be to this effect.
"I know that there is an inclination to set an example in my person,
to confront me with my best friends, to torture me, afterwards to convict
me of contradictions and falsehoods as they say, and then to found an
ignominious sentence upon points and trifles, for this it will be
necessary to do in order to justify the arrest and imprisonment. To
escape all this I am going to God by the shortest road. Against a dead
man there can be pronounced no sentence of confiscation of property.
Done 17th September (o. s.) 1618."
The family of the unhappy gentleman begged his body for decent burial.
The request was refused. It was determined to keep the dead secretary
above ground and in custody until he could be tried, and, if possible,
convicted and punished. It was to be seen whether it were so easy to
baffle the power of the States-General, the Synod, and the Stadholder,
and whether "going to God by the shortest road" was to save a culprit's
carcass from ignominy, and his property from confiscation.
The French ambassadors, who had been unwearied in their endeavour to
restore harmony to the distracted Commonwealth before the arrest of the
prisoners, now exerted themselves to throw the shield of their
sovereign's friendship around the illustrious statesman and his fellow-
"It is with deepest sorrow," said de Boississe, "that I have witnessed
the late hateful commotions. Especially from my heart I grieve for the
arrest of the Seignior Barneveld, who with his discretion and wise
administration for the past thirty years has so drawn the hearts of all
neighbouring princes to himself, especially that of the King my master,
that on taking up my pen to apprize him of these events I am gravely
embarrassed, fearing to infringe on the great respect due to your
Mightinesses or against the honour and merits of the Seignior Barneveld.
. . . My Lords, take heed to your situation, for a great discontent is
smouldering among your citizens. Until now, the Union has been the chief
source of your strength. And I now fear that the King my master, the
adviser of your renowned Commonwealth, maybe offended that you have taken
this resolution after consulting with others, and without communicating
your intention to his ambassador . . . . It is but a few days that an
open edict was issued testifying to the fidelity of Barneveld, and can it
be possible that within so short a time you have discovered that you have
been deceived? I summon you once more in the name of the King to lay
aside all passion, to judge these affairs without partiality, and to
inform me what I am to say to the King. Such very conflicting accounts
are given of these transactions that I must beg you to confide to me the
secret of the affair. The wisest in the land speak so strongly of these
proceedings that it will be no wonder if the King my master should give
me orders to take the Seignior Barneveld under his protection. Should
this prove to be the case, your Lordships will excuse my course . . .
I beg you earnestly in your wisdom not to give cause of offence to
neighbouring princes, especially to my sovereign, who wishes from his
heart to maintain your dignity and interests and to assure you of his
The language was vigorous and sincere, but the Ambassador forgot that the
France of to-day was not the France of yesterday; that Louis XIII. was
not Henry IV.; that it was but a cheerful fiction to call the present
King the guide and counsellor of the Republic, and that, distraught as
she was by the present commotions, her condition was strength and
tranquillity compared with the apparently decomposing and helpless state
of the once great kingdom of France. De Boississe took little by his
On the 12th December both de Boississe and du Maurier came before the
States-General once more, and urged a speedy and impartial trial for the
illustrious prisoners. If they had committed acts of treason and
rebellion, they deserved exemplary punishment, but the ambassadors warned
the States-General with great earnestness against the dangerous doctrine
of constructive treason, and of confounding acts dictated by violence of
party spirit at an excited period with the crime of high-treason against
the sovereignty of the State.
"Barneveld so honourable," they said, "for his immense and long continued
services has both this Republic and all princes and commonwealths for his
witnesses. It is most difficult to believe that he has attempted the
destruction of his fatherland, for which you know that he has toiled so
They admitted that so grave charges ought now to be investigated. "To
this end," said the ambassadors, "you ought to give him judges who are
neither suspected nor impassioned, and who will decide according to the
laws of the land, and on clear and undeniable evidence . . . . So
doing you will show to the whole world that you are worthy to possess and
to administer this Commonwealth to whose government God has called you."
Should they pursue another and a sterner course, the envoys warned the
Assembly that the King would be deeply offended, deeming it thus proved
how little value they set upon his advice and his friendship.
The States-General replied on the 19th December, assuring the ambassadors
that the delay in the trial was in order to make the evidence of the
great conspiracy complete, and would not tend to the prejudice of the
prisoners "if they had a good consciousness of their innocence." They
promised that the sentence upon them when pronounced would give entire
satisfaction to all their allies and to the King of France in particular,
of whom they spoke throughout the document in terms of profound respect.
But they expressed their confidence that "his Majesty would not place the
importunate and unfounded solicitations of a few particular criminals or
their supporters before the general interests of the dignity and security
of the Republic."
On the same day the States-General addressed a letter filled with very
elaborate and courteous commonplaces to the King, in which they expressed
a certainty that his Majesty would be entirely satisfied with their
The official answer of the States-General to the ambassadors, just cited,
gave but little comfort to the friends of the imprisoned statesman and
his companions. Such expressions as "ambitious and factious spirits,"
--"authors and patrons of the faction,"--"attempts at novelty through
changes in religion, in justice and in the fundamental laws of all orders
of polity," and the frequent mention of the word "conspiracy" boded
Information of this condition of affairs was conveyed to Hoogerbeets and
Grotius by means of an ingenious device of the distinguished scholar, who
was then editing the Latin works of the Hague poet, Janus Secundus.
While the sheets were going through the press, some of the verses were
left out, and their place supplied by others conveying the intelligence
which it was desired to send to the prisoners. The pages which contained
the secret were stitched together in such wise that in cutting the book
open they were not touched but remained closed. The verses were to this
effect. "The examination of the Advocate proceeds slowly, but there is
good hope from the serious indignation of the French king, whose envoys
are devoted to the cause of the prisoners, and have been informed that
justice will be soon rendered. The States of Holland are to assemble on
the 15th January, at which a decision will certainly be taken for
appointing judges. The preachers here at Leyden are despised, and men
are speaking strongly of war. The tumult which lately occurred at
Rotterdam may bring forth some good."
The quick-wited Grotius instantly discovered the device, read the
intelligence thus communicated in the proofsheets of Secundus, and made
use of the system to obtain further intelligence.
Hoogerbeets laid the book aside, not taking much interest at that time
in the works of the Hague poet. Constant efforts made to attract his
attention to those poems however excited suspicion among his keepers,
and the scheme was discovered before the Leyden pensionary had found
the means to profit by it.'
The allusions to the trial of the Advocate referred to the preliminary
examination which took place, like the first interrogatories of Grotius
and Hoogerbeets, in the months of November and December.
The thorough manner in which Maurice had reformed the States of Holland
has been described. There was one department of that body however which
still required attention. The Order of Knights, small in number but
potential in influence, which always voted first on great occasions, was
still through a majority of its members inclined to Barneveld. Both his
sons-in-law had seats in that college. The Stadholder had long believed
in a spirit of hostility on the part of those nobles towards himself.
He knew that a short time before this epoch there had been a scheme for
introducing his young brother, Frederic Henry, into the Chamber of
Knights. The Count had become proprietor of the barony of Naaldwyk, a
property which he had purchased of the Counts of Arenberg, and which
carried with it the hereditary dignity of Great Equerry of the Counts of
Holland. As the Counts of Holland had ceased to exist, although their
sovereignty had nearly been revived and conferred upon William the
Silent, the office of their chief of the stables might be deemed a
sinecure. But the jealousy of Maurice was easily awakened, especially by
any movement made or favoured by the Advocate. He believed that in the
election of Frederic Henry as a member of the College of Knights a plan
lay concealed to thrust him into power and to push this elder brother
from his place. The scheme, if scheme it were, was never accomplished,
but the Prince's rancour remained.
He now informed the nobles that they must receive into their body Francis
Aerssens, who had lately purchased the barony of Sommelsdyk, and Daniel
de Hartaing, Seignior of Marquette. With the presence of this deadly
enemy of Barneveld and another gentleman equally devoted to the
Stadholder's interest it seemed probable that the refractory majority of
the board of nobles would be overcome. But there were grave objections
to the admission of these new candidates. They were not eligible. The
constitution of the States and of the college of nobles prescribed that
Hollanders only of ancient and noble race and possessing estates in the
province could sit in that body. Neither Aerssens nor Hartaing was born
in Holland or possessed of the other needful qualifications.
Nevertheless, the Prince, who had just remodelled all the municipalities
throughout the Union which offered resistance to his authority, was not
to be checked by so trifling an impediment as the statutes of the House
of Nobles. He employed very much the same arguments which he had used to
"good papa" Hooft. "This time it must be so." Another time it might not
be necessary. So after a controversy which ended as controversies are
apt to do when one party has a sword in his hand and the other is seated
at a green-baize-covered table, Sommelsdyk and Marquette took their seats
among the knights. Of course there was a spirited protest. Nothing was
easier for the Stadholder than to concede the principle while trampling
it with his boot-heels in practice.
"Whereas it is not competent for the said two gentlemen to be admitted to
our board," said the nobles in brief, "as not being constitutionally
eligible, nevertheless, considering the strong desire of his Excellency
the Prince of Orange, we, the nobles and knights of Holland, admit them
with the firm promise to each other by noble and knightly faith ever in
future for ourselves and descendants to maintain the privileges of our
order now violated and never again to let them be directly or indirectly
And so Aerssens, the unscrupulous plotter, and dire foe of the Advocate
and all his house, burning with bitter revenge for all the favours he had
received from him during many years, and the author of the venomous
pamphlets and diatribes which had done so much of late to blacken the
character of the great statesman before the public, now associated
himself officially with his other enemies, while the preliminary
proceedings for the state trials went forward.
Meantime the Synod had met at Dordtrecht. The great John Bogerman, with
fierce, handsome face, beak and eye of a bird of prey, and a deluge of
curly brown beard reaching to his waist, took his seat as president.
Short work was made with the Armenians. They and their five Points were
soon thrust out into outer darkness.
It was established beyond all gainsaying that two forms of Divine worship
in one country were forbidden by God's Word, and that thenceforth by
Netherland law there could be but one religion, namely, the Reformed or
It was settled that one portion of the Netherlanders and of the rest of
the human race had been expressly created by the Deity to be for ever
damned, and another portion to be eternally blessed. But this history
has little to do with that infallible council save in the political
effect of its decrees on the fate of Barneveld. It was said that the
canons of Dordtrecht were likely to shoot off the head of the Advocate.
Their sessions and the trial of the Advocate were simultaneous, but not
technically related to each other.
The conclusions of both courts were preordained, for the issue of the
great duel between Priesthood and State had been decided when the
military chieftain threw his sword into the scale of the Church.
There had been purposely a delay, before coming to a decision as to the
fate of the state prisoners, until the work of the Synod should have
It was thought good that the condemnation of the opinions of the
Arminians and the chastisement of their leaders should go hand-in-hand.
On the 23rd April 1619, the canons were signed by all the members of the
Synod. Arminians were pronounced heretics, schismatics, teachers of
false doctrines. They were declared incapable of filling any clerical or
academical post. No man thenceforth was to teach children, lecture to
adolescents, or preach to the mature, unless a subscriber to the
doctrines of the unchanged, unchangeable, orthodox church. On the 30th
April and 1st May the Netherland Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism
were declared to be infallible. No change was to be possible in either
Schools and pulpits were inexorably bound to the only true religion.
On the 6th May there was a great festival at Dordtrecht in honour of the
conclusion of the Synod. The canons, the sentence, and long prayers and
orations in Latin by President Bogerman gladdened the souls of an immense
multitude, which were further enlivened by the decree that both Creed and
Catechism had stood the test of several criticisms and come out unchanged
by a single hair. Nor did the orator of the occasion forget to render
thanks "to the most magnanimous King James of Great Britain, through
whose godly zeal, fiery sympathy, and truly royal labour God had so often
refreshed the weary Synod in the midst of their toil."
The Synod held one hundred and eighty sessions between the 13th November
1618 and 29th May 1619, all the doings of which have been recorded in
chronicles innumerable. There need be no further mention of them here.
Barneveld and the companions of his fate remained in prison.
On the 7th March the trial of the great Advocate began. He had sat in
prison since the 18th of the preceding August. For nearly seven months
he had been deprived of all communication with the outward world save
such atoms of intelligence as could be secretly conveyed to him in the
inside of a quill concealed in a pear and by other devices. The man who
had governed one of the most important commonwealths of the world for
nearly a generation long--during the same period almost controlling the
politics of Europe--had now been kept in ignorance of the most
insignificant everyday events. During the long summer-heat of the dog-
days immediately succeeding his arrest, and the long, foggy, snowy, icy
winter of Holland which ensued, he had been confined in that dreary
garret-room to which he had been brought when he left his temporary
imprisonment in the apartments of Prince Maurice.
There was nothing squalid in the chamber, nothing specially cruel or
repulsive in the arrangements of his captivity. He was not in fetters,
nor fed upon bread and water. He was not put upon the rack, nor even
threatened with it as Ledenberg had been. He was kept in a mean,
commonplace, meagerly furnished, tolerably spacious room, and he was
allowed the services of his faithful domestic servant John Franken. A
sentinel paced day and night up the narrow corridor before his door. As
spring advanced, the notes of the nightingale came through the prison-
window from the neighbouring thicket. One day John Franken, opening the
window that his master might the better enjoy its song, exchanged
greeting with a fellow-servant in the Barneveld mansion who happened to
be crossing the courtyard. Instantly workmen were sent to close and
barricade the windows, and it was only after earnest remonstrances and
pledges that this resolve to consign the Advocate to darkness was
He was not permitted the help of lawyer, clerk, or man of business.
Alone and from his chamber of bondage, suffering from bodily infirmities
and from the weakness of advancing age, he was compelled to prepare his
defence against a vague, heterogeneous collection of charges, to meet
which required constant reference, not only to the statutes, privileges,
and customs of the country and to the Roman law, but to a thousand minute
incidents out of which the history of the Provinces during the past dozen
years or more had been compounded.
It is true that no man could be more familiar with the science and
practice of the law than he was, while of contemporary history he was
himself the central figure. His biography was the chronicle of his
country. Nevertheless it was a fearful disadvantage for him day by day
to confront two dozen hostile judges comfortably seated at a great table
piled with papers, surrounded by clerks with bags full of documents and
with a library of authorities and precedents duly marked and dog's-eared
and ready to their hands, while his only library and chronicle lay in his
brain. From day to day, with frequent intermissions, he was led down
through the narrow turret-stairs to a wide chamber on the floor
immediately below his prison, where a temporary tribunal had been
arranged for the special commission.
There had been an inclination at first on the part of his judges to
treat him as a criminal, and to require him to answer, standing, to the
interrogatories propounded to him. But as the terrible old man advanced
into the room, leaning on his staff, and surveying them with the air of
haughty command habitual to him, they shrank before his glance; several
involuntarily, rising uncovered, to salute him and making way for him to
the fireplace about which many were standing that wintry morning.
He was thenceforth always accommodated with a seat while he listened to
and answered 'ex tempore' the elaborate series of interrogatories which
had been prepared to convict him.
Nearly seven months he had sat with no charges brought against him. This
was in itself a gross violation of the laws of the land, for according to
all the ancient charters of Holland it was provided that accusation
should follow within six weeks of arrest, or that the prisoner should go
free. But the arrest itself was so gross a violation of law that respect
for it was hardly to be expected in the subsequent proceedings. He was a
great officer of the States of Holland. He had been taken under their
especial protection. He was on his way to the High Council. He was in
no sense a subject of the States-General. He was in the discharge of his
official duty. He was doubly and trebly sacred from arrest. The place
where he stood was on the territory of Holland and in the very sanctuary
of her courts and House of Assembly. The States-General were only as
guests on her soil, and had no domain or jurisdiction there whatever.
He was not apprehended by any warrant or form of law. It was in time of
peace, and there was no pretence of martial law. The highest civil
functionary of Holland was invited in the name of its first military
officer to a conference, and thus entrapped was forcibly imprisoned.
At last a board of twenty-four commissioners was created, twelve from
Holland and two from each of the other six provinces. This affectation
of concession to Holland was ridiculous. Either the law 'de non
evocando'--according to which no citizen of Holland could be taken out
of the province for trial--was to be respected or it was to be trampled
upon. If it was to be trampled upon, it signified little whether more
commissioners were to be taken from Holland than from each of the other
provinces, or fewer, or none at all. Moreover it was pretended that a
majority of the whole board was to be assigned to that province. But
twelve is not a majority of twenty-four. There were three fascals or
prosecuting officers, Leeuwen of Utrecht, Sylla of Gelderland, and Antony
Duyck of Holland. Duyck was notoriously the deadly enemy of Barneveld,
and was destined to succeed to his offices. It would have been as well
to select Francis Aerssens himself.
It was necessary to appoint a commission because there was no tribunal
appertaining to the States-General. The general government of the
confederacy had no power to deal with an individual. It could only
negotiate with the sovereign province to which the individual was
responsible, and demand his punishment if proved guilty of an offence.
There was no supreme court of appeal. Machinery was provided for
settling or attempting to settle disputes among the members of the
confederacy, and if there was a culprit in this great process it was
Holland itself. Neither the Advocate nor any one of his associates had
done any act except by authority, express or implied, of that sovereign
State. Supposing them unquestionably guilty of blackest crimes against
the Generality, the dilemma was there which must always exist by the very
nature of things in a confederacy. No sovereign can try a fellow
sovereign. The subject can be tried at home by no sovereign but his own.
The accused in this case were amenable to the laws of Holland only.
It was a packed tribunal. Several of the commissioners, like Pauw and
Muis for example, were personal enemies of Barneveld. Many of them were
totally ignorant of law. Some of them knew not a word of any language
but their mother tongue, although much of the law which they were to
administer was written in Latin.
Before such a court the foremost citizen of the Netherlands, the first
living statesman of Europe, was brought day by day during a period of
nearly three months; coming down stairs from the mean and desolate room
where he was confined to the comfortable apartment below, which had been
fitted up for the commission.
There was no bill of indictment, no arraignment, no counsel. There were
no witnesses and no arguments. The court-room contained, as it were,
only a prejudiced and partial jury to pronounce both on law and fact
without a judge to direct them, or advocates to sift testimony and
contend for or against the prisoner's guilt. The process, for it could
not be called a trial, consisted of a vast series of rambling and tangled
interrogatories reaching over a space of forty years without apparent
connection or relevancy, skipping fantastically about from one period to
another, back and forthwith apparently no other intent than to puzzle the
prisoner, throw him off his balance, and lead him into self-
The spectacle was not a refreshing one. It was the attempt of a
multitude of pigmies to overthrow and bind the giant.
Barneveld was served with no articles of impeachment. He asked for a
list in writing of the charges against him, that he might ponder his
answer. The demand was refused. He was forbidden the use of pen and ink
or any writing materials. His papers and books were all taken from him.
He was allowed to consult neither with an advocate nor even with a single
friend. Alone in his chamber of bondage he was to meditate on his
defence. Out of his memory and brain, and from these alone, he was to
supply himself with the array of historical facts stretching over a
longer period than the lifetime of many of his judges, and with the
proper legal and historical arguments upon those facts for the
justification of his course. That memory and brain were capacious and
powerful enough for the task. It was well for the judges that they had
bound themselves, at the outset, by an oath never to make known what
passed in the courtroom, but to bury all the proceedings in profound
secrecy forever. Had it been otherwise, had that been known to the
contemporary public which has only been revealed more than two centuries
later, had a portion only of the calm and austere eloquence been heard in
which the Advocate set forth his defence, had the frivolous and ignoble
nature of the attack been comprehended, it might have moved the very
stones in the streets to mutiny. Hateful as the statesman had been made
by an organized system of calumny, which was continued with unabated
vigour and increased venom sine he had been imprisoned, there was enough
of justice and of gratitude left in the hearts of Netherlanders to resent
the tyranny practised against their greatest man, and the obloquy thus
brought against a nation always devoted to their liberties and laws.
That the political system of the country was miserably defective was no
fault of Barneveld. He was bound by oath and duty to administer, not
make the laws. A handful of petty feudal sovereignties such as had once
covered the soil of Europe, a multitude of thriving cities which had
wrested or purchased a mass of liberties, customs, and laws from their
little tyrants, all subjected afterwards, without being blended together,
to a single foreign family, had at last one by one, or two by two,
shaken off that supremacy, and, resuming their ancient and as it were
decapitated individualities, had bound themselves by treaty in the midst
of a war to stand by each other, as if they were but one province, for
purposes of common defence against the common foe.
There had been no pretence of laying down a constitution, of enacting an
organic law. The day had not come for even the conception of a popular
constitution. The people had not been invented. It was not provinces
only, but cities, that had contracted with each other, according to the
very first words of the first Article of Union. Some of these cities,
like Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, were Catholic by overwhelming majority, and
had subsequently either fallen away from the confederacy or been
And as if to make assurance doubly sure, the Articles of Union not only
reserved to each province all powers not absolutely essential for
carrying on the war in common, but by an express article (the 13th),
declared that Holland and Zealand should regulate the matter of religion
according to their own discretion, while the other provinces might
conform to the provisions of the "Religious Peace" which included mutual
protection for Catholics and Protestants--or take such other order as
seemed most conducive to the religious and secular rights of the
inhabitants. It was stipulated that no province should interfere with
another in such matters, and that every individual in them all should
remain free in his religion, no man being molested or examined on account
of his creed. A farther declaration in regard to this famous article was
made to the effect that no provinces or cities which held to the Roman
Catholic religion were to be excluded from the League of Union if they
were ready to conform to its conditions and comport themselves
patriotically. Language could not be devised to declare more plainly
than was done by this treaty that the central government of the League
had neither wish nor right to concern itself with the religious affairs
of the separate cities or provinces. If it permitted both Papists and
Protestants to associate themselves against the common foe, it could
hardly have been imagined, when the Articles were drawn, that it would
have claimed the exclusive right to define the minutest points in a
single Protestant creed.
And if the exclusively secular parts of the polity prevailing in the
country were clumsy, irregular, and even monstrous, and if its defects
had been flagrantly demonstrated by recent events, a more reasonable
method of reforming the laws might have been found than the imprisonment
of a man who had faithfully administered them forty years long.
A great commonwealth had grown out of a petty feudal organism, like an
oak from an acorn in a crevice, gnarled and distorted, though wide-
spreading and vigorous. It seemed perilous to deal radically with such a
polity, and an almost timid conservatism on the part of its guardians in
such an age of tempests might be pardonable.
Moreover, as before remarked, the apparent imbecility resulting from
confederacy and municipalism combined was for a season remedied by the
actual preponderance of Holland. Two-thirds of the total wealth and
strength of the seven republics being concentrated in one province, the
desired union seemed almost gained by the practical solution of all in
that single republic. But this was one great cause of the general
It would be a thankless and tedious task to wander through the wilderness
of interrogatories and answers extending over three months of time, which
stood in the place of a trial. The defence of Barneveld was his own
history, and that I have attempted to give in the preceding pages. A
great part of the accusation was deduced from his private and official
correspondence, and it is for this reason that I have laid such copious
extracts from it before the reader. No man except the judges and the
States-General had access to those letters, and it was easy therefore, if
needful, to give them a false colouring. It is only very recently that
they have been seen at all, and they have never been published from that
day to this.
Out of the confused mass of documents appertaining to the trial, a few
generalizations can be made which show the nature of the attack upon him.
He was accused of having permitted Arminius to infuse new opinions into
the University of Leyden, and of having subsequently defended the
appointment of Vorstius to the same place. He had opposed the National
Synod. He had made drafts of letters for the King of Great Britain to
sign, recommending mutual toleration on the five disputed points
regarding predestination. He was the author of the famous Sharp
Resolution. He had recommended the enlistment by the provinces and towns
of Waartgelders or mercenaries. He had maintained that those mercenaries
as well as the regular troops were bound in time of peace to be obedient
and faithful, not only to the Generality and the stadholders, but to the
magistrates of the cities and provinces where they were employed, and to
the states by whom they were paid. He had sent to Leyden, warning the
authorities of the approach of the Prince. He had encouraged all the
proceedings at Utrecht, writing a letter to the secretary of that
province advising a watch to be kept at the city gates as well as in the
river, and ordering his letter when read to be burned. He had received
presents from foreign potentates. He had attempted to damage the
character of his Excellency the Prince by declaring on various occasions
that he aspired to the sovereignty of the country. He had held a
ciphered correspondence on the subject with foreign ministers of the
Republic. He had given great offence to the King of Great Britain by
soliciting from him other letters in the sense of those which his Majesty
had written in 1613, advising moderation and mutual toleration. He had
not brought to condign punishment the author of 'The Balance', a pamphlet
in which an oration of the English ambassador had been criticised, and
aspersions made on the Order of the Garter. He had opposed the formation
of the West India Company. He had said many years before to Nicolas van
Berk that the Provinces had better return to the dominion of Spain. And
in general, all his proceedings had tended to put the Provinces into a
There was however no accusation that he had received bribes from the
enemy or held traitorous communication with him, or that he had committed
any act of high-treason.
His private letters to Caron and to the ambassadors in Paris, with which
the reader has been made familiar, had thus been ransacked to find
treasonable matter, but the result was meagre in spite of the minute and
microscopic analysis instituted to detect traces of poison in them.
But the most subtle and far-reaching research into past transactions was
due to the Greffier Cornelis Aerssens, father of the Ambassador Francis,
and to a certain Nicolas van Berk, Burgomaster of Utrecht.
The process of tale-bearing, hearsay evidence, gossip, and invention went
back a dozen years, even to the preliminary and secret conferences in
regard to the Treaty of Truce.
Readers familiar with the history of those memorable negotiations are
aware that Cornelis van Aerssens had compromised himself by accepting a
valuable diamond and a bill of exchange drawn by Marquis Spinola on a
merchant in Amsterdam, Henry Beekman by name, for 80,000 ducats. These
were handed by Father Neyen, the secret agent of the Spanish government,
to the Greffier as a prospective reward for his services in furthering
the Truce. He did not reject them, but he informed Prince Maurice and
the Advocate of the transaction. Both diamond and bill of exchange were
subsequently deposited in the hands of the treasurer of the States-
General, Joris de Bie, the Assembly being made officially acquainted with
the whole course of the affair.
It is passing strange that this somewhat tortuous business, which
certainly cast a shade upon the fair fame of the elder Aerssens, and
required him to publish as good a defence as he could against the
consequent scandal, should have furnished a weapon wherewith to strike
at the Advocate of Holland some dozen years later.
But so it was. Krauwels, a relative of Aerssens, through whom Father
Neyen had first obtained access to the Greffier, had stated, so it
seemed, that the monk had, in addition to the bill, handed to him another
draft of Spinola's for 100,000 ducats, to be given to a person of more
consideration than Aerssens. Krauwels did not know who the person was,
nor whether he took the money. He expressed his surprise however that
leading persons in the government "even old and authentic beggars"--
should allow themselves to be so seduced as to accept presents from the
enemy. He mentioned two such persons, namely, a burgomaster at Delft and
a burgomaster at Haarlem. Aerssens now deposed that he had informed the
Advocate of this story, who had said, "Be quiet about it, I will have it
investigated," and some days afterwards on being questioned stated that
he had made enquiry and found there was something in it.
So the fact that Cornelis Aerssens had taken bribes, and that two
burgomasters were strongly suspected by Aerssens of having taken bribes,
seems to have been considered as evidence that Barneveld had taken a
bribe. It is true that Aerssens by advice of Maurice and Barneveld had
made a clean breast of it to the States-General and had given them over
the presents. But the States-General could neither wear the diamond nor
cash the bill of exchange, and it would have been better for the Greffier
not to contaminate his fingers with them, but to leave the gifts in the
monk's palm. His revenge against the Advocate for helping him out of his
dilemma, and for subsequently advancing his son Francis in a brilliant
diplomatic career, seems to have been--when the clouds were thickening
and every man's hand was against the fallen statesman--to insinuate that
he was the anonymous personage who had accepted the apocryphal draft for
The case is a pregnant example of the proceedings employed to destroy the
The testimony of Nicolas van Berk was at any rate more direct.
On the 21st December 1618 the burgomaster testified that the Advocate had
once declared to him that the differences in regard to Divine Worship
were not so great but that they might be easily composed; asking him at
the same time "whether it would not be better that we should submit
ourselves again to the King of Spain." Barneveld had also referred, so
said van Berk, to the conduct of the Spanish king towards those who had
helped him to the kingdom of Portugal. The Burgomaster was unable
however to specify the date, year, or month in which the Advocate had
held this language. He remembered only that the conversation occurred
when Barneveld was living on the Spui at the Hague, and that having been
let into the house through the hall on the side of the vestibule, he had
been conducted by the Advocate down a small staircase into the office.
The only fact proved by the details seems to be that the story had lodged
in the tenacious memory of the Burgomaster for eight years, as Barneveld
had removed from the Spui to Arenberg House in the Voorhout in the year
No other offers from the King of Spain or the Archdukes had ever been
made to him, said van Berk, than those indicated in this deposition
against the Advocate as coming from that statesman. Nor had Barneveld
ever spoken to him upon such subjects except on that one occasion.
It is not necessary and would be wearisome to follow the unfortunate
statesman through the long line of defence which he was obliged to make,
in fragmentary and irregular form, against these discursive and confused
assaults upon him. A continuous argument might be built up with the
isolated parts which should be altogether impregnable. It is
Always instructive to his judges as he swept at will through the record
of nearly half a century of momentous European history, in which he was
himself a conspicuous figure, or expounding the ancient laws and customs
of the country with a wealth and accuracy of illustration which testified
to the strength of his memory, he seemed rather like a sage expounding
law and history to a class of pupils than a criminal defending himself
before a bench of commissioners. Moved occasionally from his austere
simplicity, the majestic old man rose to a strain of indignant eloquence
which might have shaken the hall of a vast assembly and found echo in the
hearts of a thousand hearers as he denounced their petty insults or
ignoble insinuations; glaring like a caged lion at his tormentors, who
had often shrunk before him when free, and now attempted to drown his
voice by contradictions, interruptions, threats, and unmeaning howls.
He protested, from the outset and throughout the proceedings, against the
jurisdiction of the tribunal. The Treaty of Union on which the Assembly
and States-General were founded gave that assembly no power over him.
They could take no legal cognizance of his person or his acts. He had
been deprived of writing materials, or he would have already drawn up his
solemn protest and argument against the existence of the commission. He
demanded that they should be provided for him, together with a clerk to
engross his defence. It is needless to say that the demand was refused.
It was notorious to all men, he said, that on the day when violent
hands were laid upon him he was not bound to the States-General by oath,
allegiance, or commission. He was a well-known inhabitant of the Hague,
a householder there, a vassal of the Commonwealth of Holland, enfeoffed
of many notable estates in that country, serving many honourable offices
by commission from its government. By birth, promotion, and conferred
dignities he was subject to the supreme authority of Holland, which for
forty years had been a free state possessed of all the attributes of
sovereignty, political, religious, judicial, and recognizing no superior
save God Almighty alone.
He was amenable to no tribunal save that of their Mightinesses the States
of Holland and their ordinary judges. Not only those States but the
Prince of Orange as their governor and vassal, the nobles of Holland,
the colleges of justice, the regents of cities, and all other vassals,
magistrates, and officers were by their respective oaths bound to
maintain and protect him in these his rights.
After fortifying this position by legal argument and by an array of
historical facts within his own experience, and alluding to the repeated
instances in which, sorely against his will, he had been solicited and
almost compelled to remain in offices of which he was weary, he referred
with dignity to the record of his past life. From the youthful days when
he had served as a volunteer at his own expense in the perilous sieges of
Haarlem and Leyden down to the time of his arrest, through an unbroken
course of honourable and most arduous political services, embassies, and
great negotiations, he had ever maintained the laws and liberties of the
Fatherland and his own honour unstained.
That he should now in his seventy-second year be dragged, in violation of
every privilege and statute of the country, by extraordinary means,
before unknown judges, was a grave matter not for himself alone but for
their Mightinesses the States of Holland and for the other provinces.
The precious right 'de non evocando' had ever been dear to all the
provinces, cities, and inhabitants of the Netherlands. It was the most
vital privilege in their possession as well in civil as criminal, in
secular as in ecclesiastical affairs.
When the King of Spain in 1567, and afterwards, set up an extraordinary
tribunal and a course of extraordinary trials, it was an undeniable fact,
he said, that on the solemn complaint of the States all princes, nobles,
and citizens not only in the Netherlands but in foreign countries, and
all foreign kings and sovereigns, held those outrages to be the foremost
and fundamental reason for taking up arms against that king, and
declaring him to have forfeited his right of sovereignty.
Yet that monarch was unquestionably the born and accepted sovereign
of each one of the provinces, while the General Assembly was but a
gathering of confederates and allies, in no sense sovereign. It was an
unimaginable thing, he said, that the States of each province should
allow their whole authority and right of sovereignty to be transferred to
a board of commissioners like this before which he stood. If, for
example, a general union of France, England, and the States of the United
Netherlands should be formed (and the very words of the Act of Union
contemplated such possibility), what greater absurdity could there be
than to suppose that a college of administration created for the specific
purposes of such union would be competent to perform acts of sovereignty
within each of those countries in matters of justice, polity, and
It was known to mankind, he said, that when negotiations were entered
into for bestowing the sovereignty of the Provinces on France and on
England, special and full powers were required from, and furnished by,
the States of each individual province.
Had the sovereignty been in the assembly of the States-General, they
might have transferred it of their own motion or kept it for themselves.
Even in the ordinary course of affairs the commissioners from each
province to the General Assembly always required a special power from
their constituents before deciding any matter of great importance.
In regard to the defence of the respective provinces and cities, he had
never heard it doubted, he said, that the states or the magistrates of
cities had full right to provide for it by arming a portion of their own
inhabitants or by enlisting paid troops. The sovereign counts of Holland
and bishops of Utrecht certainly possessed and exercised that right for
many hundred years, and by necessary tradition it passed to the states
succeeding to their ancient sovereignty. He then gave from the stores of
his memory innumerable instances in which soldiers had been enlisted by
provinces and cities all over the Netherlands from the time of the
abjuration of Spain down to that moment. Through the whole period of
independence in the time of Anjou, Matthias, Leicester, as well as under
the actual government, it had been the invariable custom thus to provide
both by land and sea and on the rivers against robbers, rebels, pirates,
mischief-makers, assailing thieves, domestic or foreign. It had been
done by the immortal William the Silent on many memorable occasions, and
in fact the custom was so notorious that soldiers so enlisted were known
by different and peculiar nicknames in the different provinces and towns.
That the central government had no right to meddle with religious
matters was almost too self-evident an axiom to prove. Indeed the
chief difficulty under which the Advocate laboured throughout this whole
process was the monstrous assumption by his judges of a political and
judicial system which never had any existence even in imagination. The
profound secrecy which enwrapped the proceedings from that day almost to
our own and an ignorant acquiescence of a considerable portion of the
public in accomplished facts offer the only explanation of a mystery
which must ever excite our wonder. If there were any impeachment at all,
it was an impeachment of the form of government itself. If language
could mean anything whatever, a mere perusal of the Articles of Union
proved that the prisoner had never violated that fundamental pact. How
could the general government prescribe an especial formulary for the
Reformed Church, and declare opposition to its decrees treasonable, when
it did not prohibit, but absolutely admitted and invited, provinces and
cities exclusively Catholic to enter the Union, guaranteeing to them
entire liberty of religion?
Barneveld recalled the fact that when the stadholdership of Utrecht
thirty years before had been conferred on Prince Maurice the States of
that province had solemnly reserved for themselves the disposition over
religious matters in conformity with the Union, and that Maurice had
sworn to support that resolution.
Five years later the Prince had himself assured a deputation from Brabant
that the States of each province were supreme in religious matters, no
interference the one with the other being justifiable or possible. In
1602 the States General in letters addressed to the States of the
obedient provinces under dominion of the Archdukes had invited them to
take up arms to help drive the Spaniards from the Provinces and to join
the Confederacy, assuring them that they should regulate the matter of
religion at their good pleasure, and that no one else should be allowed
to interfere therewith.
The Advocate then went into an historical and critical disquisition, into
which we certainly have no need to follow him, rapidly examining the
whole subject of predestination and conditional and unconditional
damnation from the days of St. Augustine downward, showing a thorough
familiarity with a subject of theology which then made up so much of the
daily business of life, political and private, and lay at the bottom of
the terrible convulsion then existing in the Netherlands. We turn from
it with a shudder, reminding the reader only how persistently the
statesman then on his trial had advocated conciliation, moderation, and
kindness between brethren of the Reformed Church who were not able to
think alike on one of the subtlest and most mysterious problems that
casuistry has ever propounded.
For fifty years, he said, he had been an enemy of all compulsion of the
human conscience. He had always opposed rigorous ecclesiastical decrees.
He had done his best to further, and did not deny having inspired, the
advice given in the famous letters from the King of Great Britain to the
States in 1613, that there should be mutual toleration and abstinence
from discussion of disputed doctrines, neither of them essential to
salvation. He thought that neither Calvin nor Beza would have opposed
freedom of opinion on those points. For himself he believed that the
salvation of mankind would be through God's unmerited grace and the
redemption of sins though the Saviour, and that the man who so held and
persevered to the end was predestined to eternal happiness, and that his
children dying before the age of reason were destined not to Hell but to
Heaven. He had thought fifty years long that the passion and sacrifice
of Christ the Saviour were more potent to salvation than God's wrath and
the sin of Adam and Eve to damnation. He had done his best practically
to avert personal bickerings among the clergy. He had been, so far as
lay in his power, as friendly to Remonstrants as to Contra-Remonstrants,
to Polyander and Festus Hommius as to Uytenbogaert and Episcopius. He
had almost finished a negotiation with Councillor Kromhout for the
peaceable delivery of the Cloister Church on the Thursday preceding the
Sunday on which it had been forcibly seized by the Contra-Remonstrants.
When asked by one of his judges how he presumed to hope for toleration
between two parties, each of which abhorred the other's opinions, and
likened each other to Turks and devil-worshippers, he replied that he had
always detested and rebuked those mutual revilings by every means in his
power, and would have wished to put down such calumniators of either
persuasion by the civil authority, but the iniquity of the times and the
exasperation of men's humours had prevented him.
Being perpetually goaded by one judge after another as to his
disrespectful conduct towards the King of Great Britain, and asked why
his Majesty had not as good right to give the advice of 1617 as the
recommendation of tolerance in 1613, he scrupulously abstained, as he had
done in all his letters, from saying a disrespectful word as to the
glaring inconsistency between the two communications, or to the hostility
manifested towards himself personally by the British ambassador. He had
always expressed the hope, he said, that the King would adhere to his
original position, but did not dispute his right to change his mind, nor
the good faith which had inspired his later letters. It had been his
object, if possible, to reconcile the two different systems recommended
by his Majesty into one harmonious whole.
His whole aim had been to preserve the public peace as it was the duty of
every magistrate, especially in times of such excitement, to do. He
could never comprehend why the toleration of the Five Points should be a
danger to the Reformed religion. Rather, he thought, it would strengthen
the Church and attract many Lutherans, Baptists, Catholics, and other
good patriots into its pale. He had always opposed the compulsory
acceptance by the people of the special opinions of scribes and doctors.
He did not consider, he said, the difference in doctrine on this disputed
point between the Contra-Remonstrants and Remonstrants as one-tenth the
value of the civil authority and its right to make laws and ordinances
regulating ecclesiastical affairs.
He believed the great bulwark of the independence of the country to be
the Reformed Church, and his efforts had ever been to strengthen that
bulwark by preventing the unnecessary schism which might prove its ruin.
Many questions of property, too, were involved in the question--the
church buildings, lands and pastures belonging to the Counts of Holland
and their successors--the States having always exercised the right of
church patronage--'jus patronatus'--a privilege which, as well as
inherited or purchased advowsons, had been of late flagrantly interfered
He was asked if he had not said that it had never been the intention of
the States-General to carry on the war for this or that religion.
He replied that he had told certain clergymen expressing to him their
opinion that the war had been waged solely for the furtherance of their
especial shade of belief, that in his view the war had been undertaken
for the conservation of the liberties and laws of the land, and of its
good people. Of that freedom the first and foremost point was the true
Christian religion and liberty of conscience and opinion. There must be
religion in the Republic, he had said, but that the war was carried on to
sustain the opinion of one doctor of divinity or another on--differential
points was something he had never heard of and could never believe. The
good citizens of the country had as much right to hold by Melancthon as
by Calvin or Beza. He knew that the first proclamations in regard to the
war declared it to be undertaken for freedom of conscience, and so to
his, own knowledge it had been always carried on.
He was asked if he had not promised during the Truce negotiations so to
direct matters that the Catholics with time might obtain public exercise
of their religion.
He replied that this was a notorious falsehood and calumny, adding that
it ill accorded with the proclamation against the Jesuits drawn up by
himself some years after the Truce. He furthermore stated that it was
chiefly by his direction that the discourse of President Jeannin--urging
on part of the French king that liberty of worship might be granted to
the Papists--was kept secret, copies of it not having been furnished even
to the commissioners of the Provinces.
His indignant denial of this charge, especially taken in connection with
his repeated assertions during the trial, that among the most patriotic
Netherlanders during and since the war were many adherents of the ancient
church, seems marvellously in contradiction with his frequent and most
earnest pleas for liberty of conscience. But it did not appear
contradictory even to his judges nor to any contemporary. His position
had always been that the civil authority of each province was supreme in
all matters political or ecclesiastical. The States-General, all the
provinces uniting in the vote, had invited the Catholic provinces on more
than one occasion to join the Union, promising that there should be no
interference on the part of any states or individuals with the internal
affairs religious or otherwise of the provinces accepting the invitation.
But it would have been a gross contradiction of his own principle if he
had promised so to direct matters that the Catholics should have public
right of worship in Holland where he knew that the civil authority was
sure to refuse it, or in any of the other six provinces in whose internal
affairs he had no voice whatever. He was opposed to all tyranny over
conscience, he would have done his utmost to prevent inquisition into
opinion, violation of domicile, interference with private worship,
compulsory attendance in Protestant churches of those professing the
Roman creed. This was not attempted. No Catholic was persecuted on
account of his religion. Compared with the practice in other countries
this was a great step in advance. Religious tolerance lay on the road to
religious equality, a condition which had hardly been imagined then and
scarcely exists in Europe even to this day. But among the men in history
whose life and death contributed to the advancement of that blessing, it
would be vain to deny that Barneveld occupies a foremost place.
Moreover, it should be remembered that religious equality then would have
been a most hazardous experiment. So long as Church and State were
blended, it was absolutely essential at that epoch for the preservation
of Protestantism to assign the predominance to the State. Should the
Catholics have obtained religious equality, the probable result would
before long have been religious inequality, supremacy of the Catholics
in the Church, and supremacy of the Church over the State. The fruits of
the forty years' war would have become dust and ashes. It would be mere
weak sentimentalism to doubt--after the bloody history which had just
closed and the awful tragedy, then reopening--that every spark of
religious liberty would have soon been trodden out in the Netherlands.
The general onslaught of the League with Ferdinand, Maximilian of
Bavaria, and Philip of Spain at its head against the distracted,
irresolute, and wavering line of Protestantism across the whole of Europe
was just preparing. Rather a wilderness to reign over than a single
heretic, was the war-cry of the Emperor. The King of Spain, as we have
just been reading in his most secret, ciphered despatches to the Archduke
at Brussels, was nursing sanguine hopes and weaving elaborate schemes for
recovering his dominion over the United Netherlands, and proposing to
send an army of Jesuits thither to break the way to the reconquest.
To play into his hands then, by granting public right of worship to the
Papists, would have been in Barneveld's opinion like giving up Julich and
other citadels in the debatable land to Spain just as the great war
between Catholicism and Protestantism was breaking out. There had been
enough of burning and burying alive in the Netherlands during the century
which had closed. It was not desirable to give a chance for their
In regard to the Synod, Barneveld justified his course by a simple
reference to the 13th Article of the Union. Words could not more plainly
prohibit the interference by the States-General with the religious
affairs of any one of the Provinces than had been done by that celebrated
clause. In 1583 there had been an attempt made to amend that article by
insertion of a pledge to maintain the Evangelical, Reformed, religion
solely, but it was never carried out. He disdained to argue so self-
evident a truth, that a confederacy which had admitted and constantly
invited Catholic states to membership, under solemn pledge of
noninterference with their religious affairs, had no right to lay down
formulas for the Reformed Church throughout all the Netherlands. The
oath of stadholder and magistrates in Holland to maintain the Reformed
religion was framed before this unhappy controversy on predestination had
begun, and it was mere arrogant assumption on the part of the Contra-
Remonstrants to claim a monopoly of that religion, and to exclude the
Remonstrants from its folds.
He had steadily done his utmost to assuage those dissensions while
maintaining the laws which he was sworn to support. He had advocated a
provincial synod to be amicably assisted by divines from neighbouring
countries. He had opposed a National Synod unless unanimously voted by
the Seven Provinces, because it would have been an open violation of the
fundamental law of the confederacy, of its whole spirit, and of liberty
of conscience. He admitted that he had himself drawn up a protest on the
part of three provinces (Holland, Utrecht, and Overyssel) against the
decree for the National Synod as a breach of the Union, declaring it to
be therefore null and void and binding upon no man. He had dictated the
protest as oldest member present, while Grotius as the youngest had acted
as scribe. He would have supported the Synod if legally voted, but would
have preferred the convocation, under the authority of all the provinces,
of a general, not a national, synod, in which, besides clergy and laymen
from the Netherlands, deputations from all Protestant states and churches
should take part; a kind of Protestant oecumenical council.
As to the enlistment, by the States of a province, of soldiers to keep
the peace and suppress tumults in its cities during times of political
and religious excitement, it was the most ordinary of occurrences. In
his experience of more than forty years he had never heard the right even
questioned. It was pure ignorance of law and history to find it a
To hire temporarily a sufficient number of professional soldiers, he
considered a more wholesome means of keeping the peace than to enlist one
portion of the citizens of a town against another portion, when party and
religious spirit was running high. His experience had taught him that
the mutual hatred of the inhabitants, thus inflamed, became more lasting
and mischievous than the resentment caused through suppression of
disorder by an armed and paid police of strangers.
It was not only the right but the most solemn duty of the civil authority
to preserve the tranquillity, property, and lives of citizens committed
to their care. "I have said these fifty years," said Barneveld, "that it
is better to be governed by magistrates than mobs. I have always
maintained and still maintain that the most disastrous, shameful, and
ruinous condition into which this land can fall is that in which the
magistrates are overcome by the rabble of the towns and receive laws
from them. Nothing but perdition can follow from that."
There had been good reason to believe that the French garrisons as
well as some of the train bands could not be thoroughly relied upon
in emergencies like those constantly breaking out, and there had been
advices of invasion by sympathizers from neighbouring countries. In many
great cities the civil authority had been trampled upon and mob rule had
prevailed. Certainly the recent example in the great commercial capital
of the country--where the house of a foremost citizen had been besieged,
stormed, and sacked, and a virtuous matron of the higher class hunted
like a wild beast through the streets by a rabble grossly ignorant of the
very nature of the religious quibble which had driven them mad, pelted
with stones, branded with vilest names, and only saved by accident from
assassination, while a church-going multitude looked calmly on--with
constantly recurring instances in other important cities were sufficient
reasons for the authorities to be watchful.
He denied that he had initiated the proceedings at Utrecht in
conversation with Ledenberg or any one else, but he had not refused, he
said, his approval of the perfectly legal measures adopted for keeping
the peace there when submitted to him. He was himself a born citizen of
that province, and therefore especially interested in its welfare, and
there was an old and intimate friendship between Utrecht and Holland. It
would have been painful to him to see that splendid city in the control
of an ignorant mob, making use of religious problems, which they did not
comprehend, to plunder the property and take the lives of peaceful
citizens more comfortably housed than themselves.
He had neither suggested nor controlled the proceedings at Utrecht. On
the contrary, at an interview with the Prince and Count William on the
13th July, and in the presence of nearly thirty members of the general
assembly, he had submitted a plan for cashiering the enlisted soldiery
and substituting for them other troops, native-born, who should be sworn
in the usual form to obey the laws of the Union. The deputation from
Holland to Utrecht, according to his personal knowledge, had received no
instructions personal or oral to authorize active steps by the troops of
the Holland quota, but to abstain from them and to request the Prince
that they should not be used against the will and commands of the States
of Utrecht, whom they were bound by oath to obey so long as they were in
No man knew better than he whether the military oath which was called
new-fangled were a novelty or not, for he had himself, he said, drawn it
up thirty years before at command of the States-General by whom it was
then ordained. From that day to this he had never heard a pretence that
it justified anything not expressly sanctioned by the Articles of Union,
and neither the States of Holland nor those of Utrecht had made any
change in the oath. The States of Utrecht were sovereign within their
own territory, and in the time of peace neither the Prince of Orange
without their order nor the States-General had the right to command the
troops in their territory. The governor of a province was sworn to obey
the laws of the province and conform to the Articles of the General
He was asked why he wrote the warning letter to Ledenberg, and why he was
so anxious that the letter should be burned; as if that were a deadly
He said that he could not comprehend why it should be imputed to him
as a crime that he wished in such turbulent times to warn so important
a city as Utrecht, the capital of his native province, against tumults,
disorders, and sudden assaults such as had often happened to her in times
past. As for the postscript requesting that the letter might be put in
the fire, he said that not being a member of, the government of that
province he was simply unwilling to leave a record that "he had been too
curious in aliens republics, although that could hardly be considered a
In regard to the charge that he had accused Prince Maurice of aspiring to
the sovereignty of the country, he had much to say. He had never brought
such accusation in public or private. He had reason to believe however--
he had indeed convincing proofs--that many people, especially those
belonging to the Contra-Remonstrant party, cherished such schemes. He
had never sought to cast suspicion on the Prince himself on account of
those schemes. On the contrary, he had not even formally opposed them.
What he wished had always been that such projects should be discussed
formally, legally, and above board. After the lamentable murder of the
late Prince he had himself recommended to the authorities of some of the
cities that the transaction for bestowing the sovereignty of Holland upon
William, interrupted by his death, "should be completed in favour of
Prince Maurice in despite of the Spaniard." Recently he had requested
Grotius to look up the documents deposited in Rotterdam belonging to this
affair, in order that they might be consulted.
He was asked whether according to Buzenval, the former French ambassador,
Prince Maurice had not declared he would rather fling himself from the
top of the Hague tower than accept the sovereignty. Barneveld replied
that the Prince according to the same authority had added "under the
conditions which had been imposed upon his father;" a clause which
considerably modified the self-denying statement. It was desirable
therefore to search the acts for the limitations annexed to the
Three years long there had been indications from various sources that a
party wished to change the form of government. He had not heard nor ever
intimated that the Prince suggested such intrigues. In anonymous
pamphlets and common street and tavern conversations the Contra-
Remonstrants were described by those of their own persuasion as
"Prince's Beggars" and the like. He had received from foreign countries
information worthy of attention, that it was the design of the Contra-
Remonstrants to raise the Prince to the sovereignty. He had therefore in
1616 brought the matter before the nobles and cities in a communication
setting forth to the best of his recollection that under these religious
disputes something else was intended. He had desired ripe conclusions on
the matter, such as should most conduce to the service of the country.
This had been in good faith both to the Prince and the Provinces, in
order that, should a change in the government be thought desirable,
proper and peaceful means might be employed to bring it about. He had
never had any other intention than to sound the inclinations of those
with whom he spoke, and he had many times since that period, by word of
mouth and in writing, so lately as the month of April last assured the
Prince that he had ever been his sincere and faithful servant and meant
to remain so to the end of his life, desiring therefore that he would
explain to him his wishes and intentions.
Subsequently he had publicly proposed in full Assembly of Holland that
the States should ripely deliberate and roundly declare if they were
discontented with the form of government, and if so, what change they
would desire. He had assured their Mightinesses that they might rely
upon him to assist in carrying out their intentions whatever they might
be. He had inferred however from the Prince's intimations, when he had
broached the subject to him in 1617, that he was not inclined towards
these supposed projects, and had heard that opinion distinctly expressed
from the mouth of Count William.
That the Contra-Remonstrants secretly entertained these schemes,
he had been advised from many quarters, at home and abroad. In the year
1618 he had received information to that effect from France. Certain
confidential counsellors of the Prince had been with him recently to
confer on the subject. He had told them that, if his Excellency chose
to speak to him in regard to it, would listen to his reasoning about it,
both as regarded the interests of the country and the Prince himself,
and then should desire him to propose and advocate it before the
Assembly, he would do so with earnestness, zeal, and affection. He had
desired however that, in case the attempt failed, the Prince would allow
him to be relieved from service and to leave the country. What he wished
from the bottom of his heart was that his Excellency would plainly
discover to him the exact nature of his sentiments in regard to the
He fully admitted receiving a secret letter from Ambassador Langerac,
apprising him that a man of quality in France had information of the
intention of the Contra-Remonstrants throughout the Provinces, should
they come into power, to raise Prince Maurice to the sovereignty. He
had communicated on the subject with Grotius and other deputies in order
that, if this should prove to be the general inclination, the affair
might be handled according to law, without confusion or disorder. This,
he said, would be serving both the country and the Prince most
He was asked why he had not communicated directly with Maurice. He
replied that he had already seen how unwillingly the Prince heard him
allude to the subject, and that moreover there was another clause in
the letter of different meaning, and in his view worthy of grave
consideration by the States.
No question was asked him as to this clause, but we have seen that it
referred to the communication by du Agean to Langerac of a scheme for
bestowing the sovereignty of the Provinces on the King of France. The
reader will also recollect that Barneveld had advised the Ambassador to
communicate the whole intelligence to the Prince himself.
Barneveld proceeded to inform the judges that he had never said a word to
cast suspicion upon the Prince, but had been actuated solely by the
desire to find out the inclination of the States. The communications
which he had made on the subject were neither for discrediting the Prince
nor for counteracting the schemes for his advancement. On the contrary,
he had conferred with deputies from great cities like Dordtrecht,
Enkhuyzen, and Amsterdam, most devoted to the Contra-Remonstrant party,
and had told them that, if they chose to propose the subject themselves,
he would conduct himself to the best of his abilities in accordance with
the wishes of the Prince.
It would seem almost impossible for a statesman placed in Barneveld's
position to bear himself with more perfect loyalty both to the country
and to the Stadholder. His duty was to maintain the constitution and
laws so long as they remained unchanged. Should it appear that the
States, which legally represented the country, found the constitution
defective, he was ready to aid in its amendment by fair public and legal
If Maurice wished to propose himself openly as a candidate for the
sovereignty, which had a generation before been conferred upon his
father, Barneveld would not only acquiesce in the scheme, but propose it.
Should it fail, he claimed the light to lay down all his offices and go
He had never said that the Prince was intriguing for, or even desired,
the sovereignty. That the project existed among the party most opposed
to himself, he had sufficient proof. To the leaders of that party
therefore he suggested that the subject should be publicly discussed,
guaranteeing freedom of debate and his loyal support so far as lay within
This was his answer to the accusation that he had meanly, secretly, and
falsely circulated statements that the Prince was aspiring to the
[Great pains were taken, in the course of the interrogatories, to
elicit proof that the Advocate had concealed important diplomatic
information from the Prince. He was asked why, in his secret
instructions to Ambassador Langerac, he ordered him by an express
article to be very cautious about making communications to the
Prince. Searching questions were put in regard to these secret
instructions, which I have read in the Archives, and a copy of which
now lies before me. They are in the form of questions, some of them
almost puerile ones, addressed to Barneveld by the Ambassador then
just departing on his mission to France in 1614, with the answers
written in the margin by the Advocate. The following is all that
has reference to the Prince:
"Of what matters may I ordinarily write to his Excellency?"
Answer--"Of all great and important matters."
It was difficult to find much that was treasonable in that.]
Among the heterogeneous articles of accusation he was asked why he had
given no attention to those who had so, frequently proposed the formation
of the West India Company.
He replied that it had from old time been the opinion of the States of
Holland, and always his own, that special and private licenses for
traffic, navigation, and foreign commerce, were prejudicial to the
welfare of the land. He had always been most earnestly opposed to them,
detesting monopolies which interfered with that free trade and navigation
which should be common to all mankind. He had taken great pains however
in the years 1596 and 1597 to study the nature of the navigation and
trade to the East Indies in regard to the nations to be dealt with in
those regions, the nature of the wares bought and sold there, the
opposition to be encountered from the Spaniards and Portuguese against
the commerce of the Netherlanders, and the necessity of equipping vessels
both for traffic and defence, and had come to the conclusion that these
matters could best be directed by a general company. He explained in
detail the manner in which he had procured the blending of all the
isolated chambers into one great East India Corporation, the enormous
pains which it had cost him to bring it about, and the great commercial
and national success which had been the result. The Admiral of Aragon,
when a prisoner after the battle of Nieuwpoort, had told him, he said,
that the union of these petty corporations into one great whole had been
as disastrous a blow to the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal as the Union
of the Provinces at Utrecht had been. In regard to the West India
Company, its sole object, so far as he could comprehend it, had been to
equip armed vessels, not for trade but to capture and plunder Spanish
merchantmen and silver fleets in the West Indies and South America. This
was an advantageous war measure which he had favoured while the war
lasted. It was in no sense a commercial scheme however, and when the
Truce had been made--the company not having come into existence--he
failed to comprehend how its formation could be profitable for the
Netherlanders. On the contrary it would expressly invite or irritate the
Spaniards into a resumption of the war, an object which in his humble
opinion was not at all desirable.
Certainly these ideas were not especially reprehensible, but had they
been as shallow and despicable as they seem to us enlightened, it is
passing strange that they should have furnished matter for a criminal
It was doubtless a disappointment for the promoters of the company, the
chief of whom was a bankrupt, to fail in obtaining their charter, but it
was scarcely high-treason to oppose it. There is no doubt however that
the disapprobation with which Barneveld regarded the West India Company,
the seat of which was at Amsterdam, was a leading cause of the deadly
hostility entertained for him by the great commercial metropolis.
It was bad enough for the Advocate to oppose unconditional predestination
and the damnation of infants, but to frustrate a magnificent system of
privateering on the Spaniards in time of truce was an unpardonable crime.
The patience with which the venerable statesman submitted to the taunts,
ignorant and insolent cross-questionings, and noisy interruptions of his
judges, was not less remarkable than the tenacity of memory which enabled
him thus day after day, alone, unaided by books, manuscripts, or friendly
counsel, to reconstruct the record of forty years, and to expound the
laws of the land by an array of authorities, instances, and illustrations
in a manner that would be deemed masterly by one who had all the
resources of libraries, documents, witnesses, and secretaries at command.
Only when insidious questions were put tending to impute to him
corruption, venality, and treacherous correspondence with the enemy--for
they never once dared formally to accuse him of treason--did that almost
superhuman patience desert him.
He was questioned as to certain payments made by him to a certain van der
Vecken in Spanish coin. He replied briefly at first that his money
transactions with that man of business extended over a period of twenty
or thirty years, and amounted to many hundred thousands of florins,
growing out of purchases and sales of lands, agricultural enterprises on
his estates, moneys derived from his professional or official business
and the like. It was impossible for him to remember the details of every
especial money payment that might have occurred between them.
Then suddenly breaking forth into a storm of indignation; he could mark
from these questions, he said, that his enemies, not satisfied with
having wounded his heart with their falsehoods, vile forgeries, and
honour-robbing libels, were determined to break it. This he prayed that
God Almighty might avert and righteously judge between him and them.
It was plain that among other things they were alluding to the stale and
senseless story of the sledge filled with baskets of coin sent by the
Spanish envoys on their departure from the Hague, on conclusion of the
Truce, to defray expenses incurred by them for board and lodging of
servants, forage of horses, and the like-which had accidentally stopped
at Barneveld's door and was forthwith sent on to John Spronssen,
superintendent of such affairs. Passing over this wanton bit of calumny
with disgust, he solemnly asserted that he had never at any period of his
life received one penny nor the value of one penny from the King of
Spain, the Archdukes, Spinola, or any other person connected with the
enemy, saving only the presents publicly and mutually conferred according
to invariable custom by the high contracting parties, upon the respective
negotiators at conclusion of the Treaty of Truce. Even these gifts
Barneveld had moved his colleagues not to accept, but proposed that they
should all be paid into the public treasury. He had been overruled, he
said, but that any dispassionate man of tolerable intelligence could
imagine him, whose whole life had been a perpetual offence to Spain,
to be in suspicious relations with that power seemed to him impossible.
The most intense party spirit, yea, envy itself, must confess that he had
been among the foremost to take up arms for his country's liberties, and
had through life never faltered in their defence. And once more in that
mean chamber, and before a row of personal enemies calling themselves
judges, he burst into an eloquent and most justifiable sketch of the
career of one whom there was none else to justify and so many to assail.
From his youth, he said, he had made himself by his honourable and
patriotic deeds hopelessly irreconcilable with the Spaniards. He was one
of the advocates practising in the Supreme Court of Holland, who in the
very teeth of the Duke of Alva had proclaimed him a tyrant and had sworn
obedience to the Prince of Orange as the lawful governor of the land. He
was one of those who in the same year had promoted and attended private
gatherings for the advancement of the Reformed religion. He had helped
to levy, and had contributed to, funds for the national defence in the
early days of the revolt. These were things which led directly to the
Council of Blood and the gibbet. He had borne arms himself on various
bloody fields and had been perpetually a deputy to the rebel camps. He
had been the original mover of the Treaty of Union which was concluded
between the Provinces at Utrecht. He had been the first to propose and
to draw up the declaration of Netherland independence and the abjuration
of the King of Spain. He had been one of those who had drawn and passed
the Act establishing the late Prince of Orange as stadholder. Of the
sixty signers of these memorable declarations none were now living save
himself and two others. When the Prince had been assassinated, he had
done his best to secure for his son Maurice the sovereign position of
which murder had so suddenly deprived the father. He had been member of
the memorable embassies to France and England by which invaluable support
for the struggling Provinces had been obtained.
And thus he rapidly sketched the history of the great war of independence
in which he had ever been conspicuously employed on the patriotic side.
When the late King of France at the close of the century had made peace
with Spain, he had been sent as special ambassador to that monarch, and
had prevailed on him, notwithstanding his treaty with the enemy, to
continue his secret alliance with the States and to promise them a large
subsidy, pledges which had been sacredly fulfilled. It was on that
occasion that Henry, who was his debtor for past services, professional,
official, and perfectly legitimate, had agreed, when his finances should
be in better condition, to discharge his obligations; over and above the
customary diplomatic present which he received publicly in common with
his colleague Admiral Nassau. This promise, fulfilled a dozen years
later, had been one of the senseless charges of corruption brought
against him. He had been one of the negotiators of the Truce in which
Spain had been compelled to treat with her revolted provinces as with
free states and her equals. He had promoted the union of the Protestant
princes and their alliance with France and the United States in
opposition to the designs of Spain and the League. He had organized and
directed the policy by which the forces of England, France, and
Protestant Germany had possessed themselves of the debateable land. He
had resisted every scheme by which it was hoped to force the States from
their hold of those important citadels. He had been one of the foremost
promoters of the East India Company, an organization which the Spaniards
confessed had been as damaging to them as the Union of the Provinces
itself had been.
The idiotic and circumstantial statements, that he had conducted
Burgomaster van Berk through a secret staircase of his house into his
private study for the purpose of informing him that the only way for the
States to get out of the war was to submit themselves once more to their
old masters, so often forced upon him by the judges, he contradicted with
disdain and disgust. He had ever abhorred and dreaded, he said, the
House of Spain, Austria, and Burgundy. His life had passed in open
hostility to that house, as was known to all mankind. His mere personal
interests, apart from higher considerations, would make an approach to
the former sovereign impossible, for besides the deeds he had already
alluded to, he had committed at least twelve distinct and separate acts,
each one of which would be held high-treason by the House of Austria, and
he had learned from childhood that these are things which monarchs never
forget. The tales of van Berk were those of a personal enemy, falsehoods
scarcely worth contradicting.
He was grossly and enormously aggrieved by the illegal constitution of
the commission. He had protested and continued to protest against it.
If that protest were unheeded, he claimed at least that those men should
be excluded from the board and the right to sit in judgment upon his
person and his deeds who had proved themselves by words and works to be
his capital enemies, of which fact he could produce irrefragable
evidence. He claimed that the Supreme Court of Holland, or the High
Council, or both together, should decide upon that point. He held as his
personal enemies, he said, all those who had declared that he, before or
since the Truce down to the day of his arrest, had held correspondence
with the Spaniards, the Archdukes, the Marquis Spinola, or any one on
that side, had received money, money value, or promises of money from
them, and in consequence had done or omitted to do anything whatever.
He denounced such tales as notorious, shameful, and villainous
falsehoods, the utterers and circulators of them as wilful liars, and
this he was ready to maintain in every appropriate way for the
vindication of the truth and his own honour. He declared solemnly before
God Almighty to the States-General and to the States of Holland that his
course in the religious matter had been solely directed to the
strengthening of the Reformed religion and to the political security of
the provinces and cities. He had simply desired that, in the awful and
mysterious matter of predestination, the consciences of many preachers
and many thousands of good citizens might be placed in tranquillity, with
moderate and Christian limitations against all excesses.
From all these reasons, he said, the commissioners, the States-General,
the Prince, and every man in the land could clearly see, and were bound
to see, that he was the same man now that he was at the beginning of the
war, had ever been, and with God's help should ever remain.
The proceedings were kept secret from the public and, as a matter of
course, there had been conflicting rumours from day to day as to the
probable result of these great state trials. In general however it was
thought that the prisoner would be acquitted of the graver charges, or
that at most he would be permanently displaced from all office and
declared incapable thenceforth to serve the State. The triumph of the
Contra-Remonstrants since the Stadholder had placed himself at the head
of them, and the complete metamorphosis of the city governments even in
the strongholds of the Arminian party seemed to render the permanent
political disgrace of the Advocate almost a matter of certainty.
The first step that gave rise to a belief that he might be perhaps more
severely dealt with than had been anticipated was the proclamation by the
States-General of a public fast and humiliation for the 17th April.
In this document it was announced that "Church and State--during several
years past having been brought into great danger of utter destruction
through certain persons in furtherance of their ambitious designs--had
been saved by the convocation of a National Synod; that a lawful sentence
was soon to be expected upon those who had been disturbing the
Commonwealth; that through this sentence general tranquillity would
probably be restored; and that men were now to thank God for this result,
and pray to Him that He would bring the wicked counsels and stratagems of
the enemy against these Provinces to naught."
All the prisoners were asked if they too would like in their chambers
of bondage to participate in the solemnity, although the motive for the
fasting and prayer was not mentioned to them. Each of them in his
separate prison room, of course without communication together, selected
the 7th Psalm and sang it with his servant and door-keeper.
From the date of this fast-day Barneveld looked upon the result of his
trial as likely to be serious.
Many clergymen refused or objected to comply with the terms of this
declaration. Others conformed with it greedily, and preached lengthy
thanksgiving sermons, giving praise to God that, He had confounded the
devices of the ambitious and saved the country from the "blood bath"
which they had been preparing for it.
The friends of Barneveld became alarmed at the sinister language of this
proclamation, in which for the first time allusions had been made to a
forthcoming sentence against the accused.
Especially the staunch and indefatigable du Maurier at once addressed
himself again to the States-General. De Boississe had returned to
France, having found that the government of a country torn, weakened, and
rendered almost impotent by its own internecine factions, was not likely
to exert any very potent influence on the fate of the illustrious
The States had given him to understand that they were wearied with his
perpetual appeals, intercessions, and sermons in behalf of mercy. They
made him feel in short that Lewis XIII. and Henry IV. were two entirely
Du Maurier however obtained a hearing before the Assembly on the 1st May,
where he made a powerful and manly speech in presence of the Prince,
urging that the prisoners ought to be discharged unless they could be
convicted of treason, and that the States ought to show as much deference
to his sovereign as they had always done to Elizabeth of England. He
made a personal appeal to Prince Maurice, urging upon him how much it
would redound to his glory if he should now in generous and princely
fashion step forward in behalf of those by whom he deemed himself to have
been personally offended.
His speech fell upon ears hardened against such eloquence and produced no
Meantime the family of Barneveld, not yet reduced to despair, chose to
take a less gloomy view of the proclamation. Relying on the innocence of
the great statesman, whose aims, in their firm belief, had ever been for
the welfare and glory of his fatherland, and in whose heart there had
never been kindled one spark of treason, they bravely expected his
triumphant release from his long and, as they deemed it, his iniquitous
On this very 1st of May, in accordance with ancient custom, a may-pole
was erected on the Voorhout before the mansion of the captive statesman,
and wreaths of spring flowers and garlands of evergreen decorated the
walls within which were such braised and bleeding hearts. These
demonstrations of a noble hypocrisy, if such it were, excited the wrath,
not the compassion, of the Stadholder, who thought that the aged matron
and her sons and daughters, who dwelt in that house of mourning, should
rather have sat in sackcloth with ashes on their heads than indulge in
these insolent marks of hope and joyful expectation.
It is certain however that Count William Lewis, who, although most
staunch on the Contra-Remonstrant side, had a veneration for the Advocate
and desired warmly to save him, made a last and strenuous effort for that
It was believed then, and it seems almost certain, that, if the friends
of the Advocate had been willing to implore pardon for him, the sentence
would have been remitted or commuted. Their application would have been
successful, for through it his guilt would seem to be acknowledged.
Count William sent for the Fiscal Duyck. He asked him if there were no
means of saving the life of a man who was so old and had done the country
so much service. After long deliberation, it was decided that Prince
Maurice should be approached on the subject. Duyck wished that the Count
himself would speak with his cousin, but was convinced by his reasoning
that it would be better that the Fiscal should do it. Duyck had a long
interview accordingly with Maurice, which was followed by a very secret
one between them both and Count William. The three were locked up
together, three hours long, in the Prince's private cabinet. It was
then decided that Count William should go, as if of his own accord,
to the Princess-Dowager Louise, and induce her to send for some one of
Barneveld's children and urge that the family should ask pardon for him.
She asked if this was done with the knowledge of the Prince of Orange, or
whether he would not take it amiss. The Count eluded the question, but
implored her to follow his advice.
The result was an interview between the Princess and Madame de
Groeneveld, wife of the eldest son. That lady was besought to apply,
with the rest of the Advocate's children, for pardon to the Lords States,
but to act as if it were done of her own impulse, and to keep their
interview profoundly secret.
Madame de Groeneveld took time to consult the other members of the family
and some friends. Soon afterwards she came again to the Princess, and
informed her that she had spoken with the other children, and that they
could not agree to the suggestion. "They would not move one step in it--
no, not if it should cost him his head."
The Princess reported the result of this interview to Count William, at
which both were so distressed that they determined to leave the Hague.
There is something almost superhuman in the sternness of this
stoicism. Yet it lay in the proud and highly tempered character of
the Netherlanders. There can be no doubt that the Advocate would have
expressly dictated this proceeding if he had been consulted. It was
precisely the course adopted by himself. Death rather than life with a
false acknowledgment of guilt and therefore with disgrace. The loss of
his honour would have been an infinitely greater triumph to his enemies
than the loss of his head.
There was no delay in drawing up the sentence. Previously to this
interview with the widow of William the Silent, the family of the
Advocate had presented to the judges three separate documents, rather in
the way of arguments than petitions, undertaking to prove by elaborate
reasoning and citations of precedents and texts of the civil law that the
proceedings against him were wholly illegal, and that he was innocent of
No notice had been taken of those appeals.
Upon the questions and answers as already set forth the sentence soon
followed, and it may be as well that the reader should be aware, at this
point in the narrative, of the substance of that sentence so soon to be
pronounced. There had been no indictment, no specification of crime.
There had been no testimony or evidence. There had been no argument for
the prosecution or the defence. There had been no trial whatever. The
prisoner was convicted on a set of questions to which he had put in
satisfactory replies. He was sentenced on a preamble. The sentence was
a string of vague generalities, intolerably long, and as tangled as the
interrogatories. His proceedings during a long career had on the whole
tended to something called a "blood bath"--but the blood bath had never
With an effrontery which did not lack ingenuity, Barneveld's defence was
called by the commissioners his confession, and was formally registered
as such in the process and the sentence; while the fact that he had not
been stretched upon the rack during his trial, nor kept in chains for the
eight months of his imprisonment, were complacently mentioned as proofs
of exceptionable indulgence.
"Whereas the prisoner John of Barneveld," said the sentence, "without
being put to the torture and without fetters of iron, has confessed . .
. . to having perturbed religion, greatly afflicted the Church of God,
and carried into practice exorbitant and pernicious maxims of State . .
. . inculcating by himself and accomplices that each province had the
right to regulate religious affairs within its own territory, and that
other provinces were not to concern themselves therewith"--therefore and
for many other reasons he merited punishment.
He had instigated a protest by vote of three provinces against the
National Synod. He had despised the salutary advice of many princes and
notable personages. He had obtained from the King of Great Britain
certain letters furthering his own opinions, the drafts of which he had
himself suggested, and corrected and sent over to the States' ambassador
in London, and when written out, signed, and addressed by the King to the
States-General, had delivered them without stating how they had been
Afterwards he had attempted to get other letters of a similar nature from
the King, and not succeeding had defamed his Majesty as being a cause of
the troubles in the Provinces. He had permitted unsound theologians to
be appointed to church offices, and had employed such functionaries in
political affairs as were most likely to be the instruments of his own
purposes. He had not prevented vigorous decrees from being enforced in
several places against those of the true religion. He had made them
odious by calling them Puritans, foreigners, and "Flanderizers," although
the United Provinces had solemnly pledged to each other their lives,
fortunes, and blood by various conventions, to some of which the prisoner
was himself a party, to maintain the Reformed, Evangelical, religion
only, and to, suffer no change in it to be made for evermore.
In order to carry out his design and perturb the political state of the
Provinces he had drawn up and caused to be enacted the Sharp Resolution
of 4th August 1617. He had thus nullified the ordinary course of
justice. He had stimulated the magistrates to disobedience, and advised
them to strengthen themselves with freshly enlisted military companies.
He had suggested new-fangled oaths for the soldiers, authorizing them to
refuse obedience to the States-General and his Excellency. He had
especially stimulated the proceedings at Utrecht. When it was understood
that the Prince was to pass through Utrecht, the States of that province
not without the prisoner's knowledge had addressed a letter to his
Excellency, requesting him not to pass through their city. He had
written a letter to Ledenberg suggesting that good watch should be held
at the town gates and up and down the river Lek. He had desired that
Ledenberg having read that letter should burn it. He had interfered with
the cashiering of the mercenaries at Utrecht. He had said that such
cashiering without the consent of the States of that province was an act
of force which would justify resistance by force.
Although those States had sent commissioners to concert measures
with the Prince for that purpose, he had advised them to conceal their
instructions until his own plan for the disbandment could be carried out.
At a secret meeting in the house of Tresel, clerk of the States-General,
between Grotius, Hoogerbeets, and other accomplices, it was decided that
this advice should be taken. Report accordingly was made to the
prisoner. He had advised them to continue in their opposition to the
He had sought to calumniate and blacken his Excellency by saying
that he aspired to the sovereignty of the Provinces. He had received
intelligence on that subject from abroad in ciphered letters.
He had of his own accord rejected a certain proposed, notable alliance
of the utmost importance to this Republic.
[This refers, I think without doubt, to the conversation between
King James and Caron at the end of the year 1815.]
He had received from foreign potentates various large sums of money and
All "these proceedings tended to put the city of Utrecht into a blood-
bath, and likewise to bring the whole country, and the person of his
Excellency into the uttermost danger."
This is the substance of the sentence, amplified by repetitions and
exasperating tautology into thirty or forty pages.
It will have been perceived by our analysis of Barneveld's answers to the
commissioners that all the graver charges which he was now said to have
confessed had been indignantly denied by him or triumphantly justified.
It will also be observed that he was condemned for no categorical crime--
lese-majesty, treason, or rebellion. The commissioners never ventured to
assert that the States-General were sovereign, or that the central
government had a right to prescribe a religious formulary for all the
United Provinces. They never dared to say that the prisoner had been
in communication with the enemy or had received bribes from him.
Of insinuation and implication there was much, of assertion very little,
of demonstration nothing whatever.
But supposing that all the charges had been admitted or proved, what
course would naturally be taken in consequence? How was a statesman who
adhered to the political, constitutional, and religious opinions on which
he had acted, with the general acquiescence, during a career of more than
forty years, but which were said to be no longer in accordance with
public opinion, to be dealt with? Would the commissioners request him
to retire honourably from the high functions which he had over and over
again offered to resign? Would they consider that, having fairly
impeached and found him guilty of disturbing the public peace by
continuing to act on his well-known legal theories, they might deprive
him summarily of power and declare him incapable of holding office again?
The conclusion of the commissioners was somewhat more severe than either
of these measures. Their long rambling preamble ended with these
"Therefore the judges, in name of the Lords States-General, condemn the
prisoner to be taken to the Binnenhof, there to be executed with the
sword that death may follow, and they declare all his property
The execution was to take place so soon as the sentence had been read to
After the 1st of May Barneveld had not appeared before his judges. He
had been examined in all about sixty times.
In the beginning of May his servant became impatient. "You must not be
impatient," said his master. "The time seems much longer because we get
no news now from the outside. But the end will soon come. This delay
cannot last for ever."
Intimation reached him on Saturday the 11th May that the sentence was
ready and would soon be pronounced.
"It is a bitter folk," said Barneveld as he went to bed. "I have
nothing good to expect of them." Next day was occupied in sewing up and
concealing his papers, including a long account of his examination, with
the questions and answers, in his Spanish arm-chair. Next day van der
Meulen said to the servant, "I will bet you a hundred florins that you'll
not be here next Thursday."
The faithful John was delighted, not dreaming of the impending result.
It was Sunday afternoon, 12th May, and about half past five o'clock.
Barneveld sat in his prison chamber, occupied as usual in writing,
reviewing the history of the past, and doing his best to reduce into
something like order the rambling and miscellaneous interrogatories, out
of which his trial had been concocted, while the points dwelt in his
memory, and to draw up a concluding argument in his own defence. Work
which according to any equitable, reasonable, or even decent procedure
should have been entrusted to the first lawyers of the country--preparing
the case upon the law and the facts with the documents before them, with
the power of cross-questioning witnesses and sifting evidence, and
enlightened by constant conferences with the illustrious prisoner
himself--came entirely upon his own shoulders, enfeebled as he was
by age, physical illness, and by the exhaustion of along imprisonment.
Without books, notes of evidence, or even copies of the charges of which
he stood accused, he was obliged to draw up his counter-arguments against
the impeachment and then by aid of a faithful valet to conceal his
manuscript behind the tapestry of the chamber, or cause them to be sewed
up in the lining of his easy-chair, lest they should be taken from him by
order of the judges who sat in the chamber below.
While he was thus occupied in preparations for his next encounter with
the tribunal, the door opened, and three gentlemen entered. Two were the
prosecuting officers of the government, Fiscal Sylla and Fiscal van
Leeuwen. The other was the provost-marshal, Carel de Nijs. The servant
was directed to leave the room.
Barneveld had stepped into his dressing-room on hearing footsteps, but
came out again with his long furred gown about him as the three entered.
He greeted them courteously and remained standing, with his hands placed
on the back of his chair and with one knee resting carelessly against the
arm of it. Van Leeuwen asked him if he would not rather be seated, as
they brought a communication from the judges. He answered in the
negative. Von Leeuwen then informed him that he was summoned to appear
before the judges the next morning to hear his sentence of death.
"The sentence of death!" he exclaimed, without in the least changing his
position; "the sentence of death! the sentence of death!" saying the
words over thrice, with an air of astonishment rather than of horror.
"I never expected that! I thought they were going to hear my defence
again. I had intended to make some change in my previous statements,
having set some things down when beside myself with choler."
He then made reference to his long services. Van Leeuwen expressed
himself as well acquainted with them. "He was sorry," he said, "that his
lordship took this message ill of him."
"I do not take it ill of you," said Barneveld, "but let them," meaning
the judges, "see how they will answer it before God. Are they thus to
deal with a true patriot? Let me have pen, ink, and paper, that for the
last time I may write farewell to my wife."
"I will go ask permission of the judges," said van Leenwen, "and I cannot
think that my lord's request will be refused."
While van Leeuwen was absent, the Advocate exclaimed, looking at the
other legal officer:
"Oh, Sylla, Sylla, if your father could only have seen to what uses they
would put you!"
Sylla was silent.
Permission to write the letter was soon received from de Voogt, president
of the commission. Pen, ink, and paper were brought, and the prisoner
calmly sat down to write, without the slightest trace of discomposure
upon his countenance or in any of his movements.
While he was writing, Sylla said with some authority, "Beware, my lord,
what you write, lest you put down something which may furnish cause for
not delivering the letter."
Barneveld paused in his writing, took the glasses from his eyes, and
looked Sylla in the face.
"Well, Sylla," he said very calmly, "will you in these my last moments
lay down the law to me as to what I shall write to my wife?"
He then added with a half-smile, "Well, what is expected of me?"
"We have no commission whatever to lay down the law," said van Leeuwen.
"Your worship will write whatever you like."
While he was writing, Anthony Walaeus came in, a preacher and professor
of Middelburg, a deputy to the Synod of Dordtrecht, a learned and amiable
man, sent by the States-General to minister to the prisoner on this
supreme occasion; and not unworthy to be thus selected.
The Advocate, not knowing him, asked him why he came.
"I am not here without commission," said the clergyman. "I come to
console my lord in his tribulation."
"I am a man," said Barneveld; "have come to my present age, and I know
how to console myself. I must write, and have now other things to do."
The preacher said that he would withdraw and return when his worship was
"Do as you like," said the Advocate, calmly going on with his writing.
When the letter was finished, it was sent to the judges for their
inspection, by whom it was at once forwarded to the family mansion in the
Voorhout, hardly a stone's throw from the prison chamber.
Thus it ran:
"Very dearly beloved wife, children, sons-in-law, and grandchildren,
I greet you altogether most affectionately. I receive at this moment the
very heavy and sorrowful tidings that I, an old man, for all my services
done well and faithfully to the Fatherland for so many years (after
having performed all respectful and friendly offices to his Excellency
the Prince with upright affection so far as my official duty and vocation
would permit, shown friendship to many people of all sorts, and wittingly
injured no man), must prepare myself to die to-morrow.
"I console myself in God the Lord, who knows all hearts, and who will
judge all men. I beg you all together to do the same. I have steadily
and faithfully served My Lords the States of Holland and their nobles and
cities. To the States of Utrecht as sovereigns of my own Fatherland I
have imparted at their request upright and faithful counsel, in order to
save them from tumults of the populace, and from the bloodshed with which
they had so long been threatened. I had the same views for the cities of
Holland in order that every one might be protected and no one injured.
"Live together in love and peace. Pray for me to Almighty God, who will
graciously hold us all in His holy keeping.
"From my chamber of sorrow, the 12th May 1619.
"Your very dear husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather,
"JOHN OF BARNEVELD."
It was thought strange that the judges should permit so simple and clear
a statement, an argument in itself, to be forwarded. The theory of his
condemnation was to rest before the public on his confessions of guilt,
and here in the instant of learning the nature of the sentence in a few
hours to be pronounced upon him he had in a few telling periods declared
his entire innocence. Nevertheless the letter had been sent at once to
So soon as this sad business had been disposed of, Anthony Walaeus
returned. The Advocate apologized to the preacher for his somewhat
abrupt greeting on his first appearance. He was much occupied and did
not know him, he said, although he had often heard of him. He begged
him, as well as the provost-marshal, to join him at supper, which was
Barneveld ate with his usual appetite, conversed cheerfully on various
topics, and pledged the health of each of his guests in a glass of beer.
Contrary to his wont he drank at that repast no wine. After supper he
went out into the little ante-chamber and called his servant, asking him
how he had been faring. Now John Franken had just heard with grief
unspeakable the melancholy news of his master's condemnation from two
soldiers of the guard, who had been sent by the judges to keep additional
watch over the prisoner. He was however as great a stoic as his master,
and with no outward and superfluous manifestations of woe had simply
implored the captain-at-arms, van der Meulen, to intercede with the
judges that he might be allowed to stay with his lord to the last.
Meantime he had been expressly informed that he was to say nothing to the
Advocate in secret, and that his master was not to speak to him in a low
tone nor whisper in his ear.
When the Advocate came out into the ante-chamber and looking over his
shoulder saw the two soldiers he at once lowered his voice.
"Hush-speak low," he whispered; "this is too cruel." John then informed
him of van der Meulen's orders, and that the soldiers had also been
instructed to look to it sharply that no word was exchanged between
master and man except in a loud voice.
"Is it possible," said the Advocate, "that so close an inspection is held
over me in these last hours? Can I not speak a word or two in freedom?
This is a needless mark of disrespect."
The soldiers begged him not to take their conduct amiss as they were
obliged strictly to obey orders.
He returned to his chamber, sat down in his chair, and begged Walaeus to
go on his behalf to Prince Maurice.
"Tell his Excellency," said he, "that I have always served him with
upright affection so far as my office, duties, and principles permitted.
If I, in the discharge of my oath and official functions, have ever done
anything contrary to his views, I hope that he will forgive it, and that
he will hold my children in his gracious favour."
It was then ten o'clock. The preacher went downstairs and crossed the
courtyard to the Stadholder's apartments, where he at once gained
Maurice heard the message with tears in his eyes, assuring Walaeus that
he felt deeply for the Advocate's misfortunes. He had always had much
affection for him, he said, and had often warned him against his mistaken
courses. Two things, however, had always excited his indignation. One
was that Barneveld had accused him of aspiring to sovereignty. The other
that he had placed him in such danger at Utrecht. Yet he forgave him
all. As regarded his sons, so long as they behaved themselves well they
might rely on his favour.
As Walaeus was about to leave the apartment, the Prince called him back.
"Did he say anything of a pardon?" he asked, with some eagerness.
"My Lord," answered the clergyman, "I cannot with truth say that I
understood him to make any allusion to it."
Walaeus returned immediately to the prison chamber and made his report of
the interview. He was unwilling however to state the particulars of the
offence which Maurice declared himself to have taken at the acts of the
But as the prisoner insisted upon knowing, the clergyman repeated the
"His Excellency has been deceived in regard to the Utrecht business,"
said Barneveld, "especially as to one point. But it is true that I had
fear and apprehension that he aspired to the sovereignty or to more
authority in the country. Ever since the year 1600 I have felt this fear
and have tried that these apprehensions might be rightly understood."
While Walaeus had been absent, the Reverend Jean la Motte (or Lamotius)
and another clergyman of the Hague had come to the prisoner's apartment.
La Motte could not look upon the Advocate's face without weeping, but the
others were more collected. Conversation now ensued among the four; the
preachers wishing to turn the doomed statesman's thought to the
consolations of religion.
But it was characteristic of the old lawyer's frame of mind that even now
he looked at the tragical position in which he found himself from a
constitutional and controversial point of view. He was perfectly calm
and undaunted at the awful fate so suddenly and unexpectedly opened
before his eyes, but he was indignant at what he esteemed the ignorance,
injustice, and stupidity of the sentence to be pronounced against him.
"I am ready enough to die," he said to the three clergymen, "but I cannot
comprehend why I am to die. I have done nothing except in obedience to
the laws and privileges of the land and according to my oath, honour, and
"These judges," he continued, "come in a time when other maxims prevail
in the State than those of my day. They have no right therefore to sit
in judgment upon me."
The clergymen replied that the twenty-four judges who had tried the case
were no children and were conscientious men; that it was no small thing
to condemn a man, and that they would have to answer it before the
Supreme Judge of all.
"I console myself," he answered, "in the Lord my God, who knows all
hearts and shall judge all men. God is just.
"They have not dealt with me," he continued, "as according to law and
justice they were bound to deal. They have taken away from me my own
sovereign lords and masters and deposed them. To them alone I was
responsible. In their place they have put many of my enemies who were
never before in the government, and almost all of whom are young men who
have not seen much or read much. I have seen and read much, and know
that from such examples no good can follow. After my death they will
learn for the first time what governing means."
"The twenty-four judges are nearly all of them my enemies. What they
have reproached me with, I have been obliged to hear. I have appealed
against these judges, but it has been of no avail. They have examined me
in piecemeal, not in statesmanlike fashion. The proceedings against
me have been much too hard. I have frequently requested to see the notes
of my examination as it proceeded, and to confer upon it with aid and
counsel of friends, as would be the case in all lands governed by law.
The request was refused. During this long and wearisome affliction and
misery I have not once been allowed to speak to my wife and children.
These are indecent proceedings against a man seventy-two years of age,
who has served his country faithfully for three-and-forty years. I bore
arms with the volunteers at my own charges at the siege of Haarlem and
barely escaped with life."
It was not unnatural that the aged statesman's thoughts should revert in
this supreme moment to the heroic scenes in which he had been an actor
almost a half-century before. He could not but think with bitterness of
those long past but never forgotten days when he, with other patriotic
youths, had faced the terrible legions of Alva in defence of the
Fatherland, at a time when the men who were now dooming him to a
traitor's death were unborn, and who, but for his labours, courage,
wisdom, and sacrifices, might have never had a Fatherland to serve,
or a judgment-seat on which to pronounce his condemnation.
Not in a spirit of fretfulness, but with disdainful calm, he criticised
and censured the proceedings against himself as a violation of the laws
of the land and of the first principles of justice, discussing them as
lucidly and steadily as if they had been against a third person.
The preachers listened, but had nothing to say. They knew not of such
matters, they said, and had no instructions to speak of them. They had
been sent to call him to repentance for his open and hidden sins and to
offer the consolations of religion.
"I know that very well," he said, "but I too have something to say
notwithstanding." The conversation then turned upon religious topics,
and the preachers spoke of predestination.
"I have never been able to believe in the matter of high predestination,"
said the Advocate. "I have left it in the hands of God the Lord. I hold
that a good Christian man must believe that he through God's grace and by
the expiation of his sin through our Redeemer Jesus Christ is predestined
to be saved, and that this belief in his salvation, founded alone on
God's grace and the merits of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, comes to him
through the same grace of God. And if he falls into great sins, his firm
hope and confidence must be that the Lord God will not allow him to
continue in them, but that, through prayer for grace and repentance, he
will be converted from evil and remain in the faith to the end of his
These feelings, he said, he had expressed fifty-two years before to three
eminent professors of theology in whom he confided, and they had assured
him that he might tranquilly continue in such belief without examining
further. "And this has always been my creed," he said.
The preachers replied that faith is a gift of God and not given to all
men, that it must be given out of heaven to a man before he could be
saved. Hereupon they began to dispute, and the Advocate spoke so
earnestly and well that the clergymen were astonished and sat for
a time listening to him in silence.
He asked afterwards about the Synod, and was informed that its decrees
had not yet been promulgated, but that the Remonstrants had been
"It is a pity," said he. "One is trying to act on the old Papal system,
but it will never do. Things have gone too far. As to the Synod, if My
Lords the States of Holland had been heeded there would have been first a
provincial synod and then a national one."--"But," he added, looking the
preachers in the face, "had you been more gentle with each other, matters
would not have taken so high a turn. But you have been too fierce one
against the other, too full of bitter party spirit."
They replied that it was impossible for them to act against their
conscience and the supreme authority. And then they asked him if there
was nothing that troubled him in, his conscience in the matters for which
he must die; nothing for which he repented and sorrowed, and for which he
would call upon God for mercy.
"This I know well," he said, "that I have never willingly done wrong to
any man. People have been ransacking my letters to Caron--confidential
ones written several years ago to an old friend when I was troubled and
seeking for counsel and consolation. It is hard that matter of
impeachment against me to-day should be sought for thus."
And then he fell into political discourse again on the subject of the
Waartgelders and the State rights, and the villainous pasquils and libels
that had circulated so long through the country.
"I have sometimes spoken hastily, I confess," he said; "but that was
when I was stung by the daily swarm of infamous and loathsome pamphlets,
especially those directed against my sovereign masters the States of
Holland. That I could not bear. Old men cannot well brush such things
aside. All that was directly aimed at me in particular I endeavoured to
overcome with such patience as I could muster. The disunion and mutual
enmity in the country have wounded me to the heart. I have made use
of all means in my power to accommodate matters, to effect with all
gentleness a mutual reconciliation. I have always felt a fear lest
the enemy should make use of our internal dissensions to strike a blow
against us. I can say with perfect truth that ever since the year '77
I have been as resolutely and unchangeably opposed to the Spaniards and
their adherents, and their pretensions over these Provinces, as any man
in the world, no one excepted, and as ready to sacrifice property and
shed my blood in defence of the Fatherland. I have been so devoted to
the service of the country that I have not been able to take the
necessary care of my own private affairs."
So spoke the great statesman in the seclusion of his prison, in the
presence of those clergymen whom he respected, at a supreme moment, when,
if ever, a man might be expected to tell the truth. And his whole life
which belonged to history, and had been passed on the world's stage
before the eyes of two generations of spectators, was a demonstration of
the truth of his words.
But Burgomaster van Berk knew better. Had he not informed the twenty-
four commissioners that, twelve years before, the Advocate wished to
subject the country to Spain, and that Spinola had drawn a bill of
exchange for 100,000 ducats as a compensation for his efforts?
It was eleven o'clock. Barneveld requested one of the brethren to say an
evening prayer. This was done by La Motte, and they were then requested
to return by three or four o'clock next morning. They had been directed,
they said, to remain with him all night. "That is unnecessary," said the
Advocate, and they retired.
His servant then helped his master to undress, and he went to bed as
usual. Taking off his signet-ring, he gave it to John Franken.
"For my eldest son," he said.
The valet sat down at the head of his bed in order that his master might
speak to him before he slept. But the soldiers ordered him away and
compelled him to sit in a distant part of the room.
An hour after midnight, the Advocate having been unable to lose himself,
his servant observed that Isaac, one of the soldiers, was fast asleep.
He begged the other, Tilman Schenk by name, to permit him some private
words with his master. He had probably last messages, he thought, to
send to his wife and children, and the eldest son, M. de Groeneveld,
would no doubt reward him well for it. But the soldier was obstinate in
obedience to the orders of the judges.
Barneveld, finding it impossible to sleep, asked his servant to read to
him from the Prayer-book. The soldier called in a clergyman however,
another one named Hugo Bayerus, who had been sent to the prison, and who
now read to him the Consolations of the Sick. As he read, he made
exhortations and expositions, which led to animated discussion, in which
the Advocate expressed himself with so much fervour and eloquence that
all present were astonished, and the preacher sat mute a half-hour long
at the bed-side.
"Had there been ten clergymen," said the simple-hearted sentry to the
valet, "your master would have enough to say to all of them."
Barneveld asked where the place had been prepared in which he was to die.
"In front of the great hall, as I understand," said Bayerus, "but I don't
know the localities well, having lived here but little."
"Have you heard whether my Grotius is to die, and Hoogerbeets also?" he
I have heard nothing to that effect," replied the clergyman.
"I should most deeply grieve for those two gentlemen," said Barneveld,
"were that the case. They may yet live to do the land great service.
That great rising light, de Groot, is still young, but a very wise and
learned gentleman, devoted to his Fatherland with all zeal, heart, and
soul, and ready to stand up for her privileges, laws, and rights. As for
me, I am an old and worn-out man. I can do no more. I have already done
more than I was really able to do. I have worked so zealously in public
matters that I have neglected my private business. I had expressly
ordered my house at Loosduinen" [a villa by the seaside] "to be got
ready, that I might establish myself there and put my affairs in order.
I have repeatedly asked the States of Holland for my discharge, but could
never obtain it. It seems that the Almighty had otherwise disposed of
He then said he would try once more if he could sleep. The clergyman and
the servant withdrew for an hour, but his attempt was unsuccessful.
After an hour he called for his French Psalm Book and read in it for
some time. Sometime after two o'clock the clergymen came in again and
conversed with him. They asked him if he had slept, if he hoped to meet
Christ, and if there was anything that troubled his conscience.
"I have not slept, but am perfectly tranquil," he replied. "I am ready
to die, but cannot comprehend why I must die. I wish from my heart that,
through my death and my blood, all disunion and discord in this land may
He bade them carry his last greetings to his fellow prisoners. "Say
farewell for me to my good Grotius," said he, "and tell him that I must
The clergymen then left him, intending to return between five and six
He remained quiet for a little while and then ordered his valet to cut
open the front of his shirt. When this was done, he said, "John, are you
to stay by me to the last?"
"Yes," he replied, "if the judges permit it."
"Remind me to send one of the clergymen to the judges with the request,"
said his master.
The faithful John, than whom no servant or friend could be more devoted,
seized the occasion, with the thrift and stoicism of a true Hollander, to
suggest that his lord might at the same time make some testamentary
disposition in his favour.
"Tell my wife and children," said the Advocate, "that they must console
each other in mutual love and union. Say that through God's grace I am
perfectly at ease, and hope that they will be equally tranquil. Tell my
children that I trust they will be loving and friendly to their mother
during the short time she has yet to live. Say that I wish to recommend
you to them that they may help you to a good situation either with
themselves or with others. Tell them that this was my last request."
He bade him further to communicate to the family the messages sent that
night through Walaeus by the Stadholder.
The valet begged his master to repeat these instructions in presence of
the clergyman, or to request one of them to convey them himself to the
family. He promised to do so.
"As long as I live," said the grateful servant, "I shall remember your
lordship in my prayers."
"No, John," said the Advocate, "that is Popish. When I am dead, it is
all over with prayers. Pray for me while I still live. Now is the time
to pray. When one is dead, one should no longer be prayed for."
La Motte came in. Barneveld repeated his last wishes exactly as he
desired them to be communicated to his wife and children. The preacher
made no response. "Will you take the message?" asked the prisoner. La
Motte nodded, but did not speak, nor did he subsequently fulfil the
Before five o'clock the servant heard the bell ring in the apartment of
the judges directly below the prison chamber, and told his master he had
understood that they were to assemble at five o'clock.
"I may as well get up then," said the Advocate; "they mean to begin
early, I suppose. Give me my doublet and but one pair of stockings."
He was accustomed to wear two or three pair at a time.
He took off his underwaistcoat, saying that the silver bog which was in
one of the pockets was to be taken to his wife, and that the servant
should keep the loose money there for himself. Then he found an
opportunity to whisper to him, "Take good care of the papers which are in
the apartment." He meant the elaborate writings which he had prepared
during his imprisonment and concealed in the tapestry and within the
linings of the chair.
As his valet handed him the combs and brushes, he said with a smile,
"John, this is for the last time."
When he was dressed, he tried, in rehearsal of the approaching scene, to
pull over his eyes the silk skull-cap which he usually wore under his
hat. Finding it too tight he told the valet to put the nightcap in his
pocket and give it him when he should call for it. He then swallowed a
half-glass of wine with a strengthening cordial in it, which he was wont
The clergymen then re-entered, and asked if he had been able to sleep.
He answered no, but that he had been much consoled by many noble things
which he had been reading in the French Psalm Book. The clergymen said
that they had been thinking much of the beautiful confession of faith
which he had made to them that evening. They rejoiced at it, they said,
on his account, and had never thought it of him. He said that such had
always been his creed.
At his request Walaeus now offered a morning prayer Barneveld fell on his
knees and prayed inwardly without uttering a sound. La Motte asked when
he had concluded, "Did my Lord say Amen?"--"Yes, Lamotius," he replied;
"Amen."--"Has either of the brethren," he added, "prepared a prayer to be
offered outside there?"
La Motte informed him that this duty had been confided to him. Some
passages from Isaiah were now read aloud, and soon afterwards Walaeus
was sent for to speak with the judges. He came back and said to the
prisoner, "Has my Lord any desire to speak with his wife or children, or
any of his friends?" It was then six o'clock, and Barneveld replied:
"No, the time is drawing near. It would excite a new emotion." Walaeus
went back to the judges with this answer, who thereupon made this
"The husband and father of the petitioners, being asked if he desired
that any of the petitioners should come to him, declared that he did not
approve of it, saying that it would cause too great an emotion for
himself as well as for them. This is to serve as an answer to the
Now the Advocate knew nothing of the petition. Up to the last moment his
family had been sanguine as to his ultimate acquittal and release. They
relied on a promise which they had received or imagined that they had
received from the Stadholder that no harm should come to the prisoner in
consequence of the arrest made of his person in the Prince's apartments
on the 8th of August. They had opened this tragical month of May with
flagstaffs and flower garlands, and were making daily preparations to
receive back the revered statesman in triumph.
The letter written by him from his "chamber of sorrow," late in the
evening of 12th May, had at last dispelled every illusion. It would be
idle to attempt to paint the grief and consternation into which the
household in the Voorhout was plunged, from the venerable dame at its
head, surrounded by her sons and daughters and children's children, down
to the humblest servant in their employment. For all revered and loved
the austere statesman, but simple and benignant father and master.
No heed had been taken of the three elaborate and argumentative petitions
which, prepared by learned counsel in name of the relatives, had been
addressed to the judges. They had not been answered because they were
difficult to answer, and because it was not intended that the accused
should have the benefit of counsel.
An urgent and last appeal was now written late at night, and signed by
each member of the family, to his Excellency the Prince and the judge
commissioners, to this effect:
"The afflicted wife and children of M. van Barneveld humbly show that
having heard the sorrowful tidings of his coming execution, they humbly
beg that it may be granted them to see and speak to him for the last
The two sons delivered this petition at four o'clock in the morning into
the hands of de Voogd, one of the judges. It was duly laid before the
commission, but the prisoner was never informed, when declining a last
interview with his family, how urgently they had themselves solicited the
Louise de Coligny, on hearing late at night the awful news, had been
struck with grief and horror. She endeavoured, late as it was, to do
something to avert the doom of one she so much revered, the man on whom
her illustrious husband had leaned his life long as on a staff of iron.
She besought an interview of the Stadholder, but it was refused. The
wife of William the Silent had no influence at that dire moment with her
stepson. She was informed at first that Maurice was asleep, and at four
in the morning that all intervention was useless.
The faithful and energetic du Maurier, who had already exhausted himself
in efforts to save the life of the great prisoner, now made a last
appeal. He, too, heard at four o'clock in the morning of the 13th that
sentence of death was to be pronounced. Before five o'clock he made
urgent application to be heard before the Assembly of the States-General
as ambassador of a friendly sovereign who took the deepest interest in
the welfare of the Republic and the fate of its illustrious statesman.
The appeal was refused. As a last resource he drew up an earnest and
eloquent letter to the States-General, urging clemency in the name of his
king. It was of no avail. The letter may still be seen in the Royal
Archives at the Hague, drawn up entirely in du Maurier's clear and
beautiful handwriting. Although possibly a, first draft, written as it
was under such a mortal pressure for time, its pages have not one erasure
It was seven o'clock. Barneveld having observed by the preacher (La
Motte's) manner that he was not likely to convey the last messages which
he had mentioned to his wife and children, sent a request to the judges
to be allowed to write one more letter. Captain van der Meulen came back
with the permission, saying he would wait and take it to the judges for
The letter has been often published.
"Must they see this too? Why, it is only a line in favour of John," said
the prisoner, sitting quietly down to write this letter:
"Very dear wife and children, it is going to an end with me. I am,
through the grace of God, very tranquil. I hope that you are equally so,
and that you may by mutual love, union, and peace help each other to
overcome all things, which I pray to the Omnipotent as my last request.
John Franken has served me faithfully for many years and throughout all
these my afflictions, and is to remain with me to the end. He deserves
to be recommended to you and to be furthered to good employments with you
or with others. I request you herewith to see to this.
"I have requested his Princely Excellency to hold my sons and children in
his favour, to which he has answered that so long as you conduct
yourselves well this shall be the case. I recommend this to you in the
best form and give you all into God's holy keeping. Kiss each other and
all my grandchildren, for the last time in my name, and fare you well.
Out of the chamber of sorrow, 13th May 1619. Your dear husband and
JOHN OF BARNEVELD.
"P.S. You will make John Franken a present in memory of me."
Certainly it would be difficult to find a more truly calm, courageous,
or religious spirit than that manifested by this aged statesman at an
hour when, if ever, a human soul is tried and is apt to reveal its
innermost depths or shallows. Whatever Gomarus or Bogerman, or the whole
Council of Dordtrecht, may have thought of his theology, it had at least
taught him forgiveness of his enemies, kindness to his friends, and
submission to the will of the Omnipotent. Every moment of his last days
on earth had been watched and jealously scrutinized, and his bitterest
enemies had failed to discover one trace of frailty, one manifestation of
any vacillating, ignoble, or malignant sentiment.
The drums had been sounding through the quiet but anxiously expectant
town since four o'clock that morning, and the tramp of soldiers marching
to the Inner Court had long been audible in the prison chamber.
Walaeus now came back with a message from the judges. "The high
commissioners," he said, "think it is beginning. Will my Lord please to
"Very well, very well," said the prisoner. "Shall we go at once?"
But Walaeus suggested a prayer. Upon its conclusion, Barneveld gave his
hand to the provost-marshal and to the two soldiers, bidding them adieu,
and walked downstairs, attended by them, to the chamber of the judges.
As soon as he appeared at the door, he was informed that there had been a
misunderstanding, and he was requested to wait a little. He accordingly
went upstairs again with perfect calmness, sat down in his chamber again,
and read in his French Psalm Book. Half an hour later he was once more
summoned, the provost-marshal and Captain van der Meulen reappearing to
escort him. "Mr. Provost," said the prisoner, as they went down the
narrow staircase, "I have always been a good friend to you."--"It is
true," replied that officer, "and most deeply do I grieve to see you in
He was about to enter the judges' chamber as usual, but was informed
that the sentence would be read in the great hall of judicature. They
descended accordingly to the basement story, and passed down the narrow
flight of steps which then as now connected the more modern structure,
where the Advocate had been imprisoned and tried, with what remained of
the ancient palace of the Counts of Holland. In the centre of the vast
hall--once the banqueting chamber of those petty sovereigns; with its
high vaulted roof of cedar which had so often in ancient days rung with
the sounds of mirth and revelry--was a great table at which the twenty-
four judges and the three prosecuting officers were seated, in their
black caps and gowns of office. The room was lined with soldiers and
crowded with a dark, surging mass of spectators, who had been waiting
there all night.
A chair was placed for the prisoner. He sat down, and the clerk of the
commission, Pots by name, proceeded at once to read the sentence.
A summary of this long, rambling, and tiresome paper has been already
laid before the reader. If ever a man could have found it tedious to
listen to his own death sentence, the great statesman might have been in
that condition as he listened to Secretary Pots.
During the reading of the sentence the Advocate moved uneasily on his
seat, and seemed about to interrupt the clerk at several passages which
seemed to him especially preposterous. But he controlled himself by a
strong effort, and the clerk went steadily on to the conclusion.
Then Barneveld said:
"The judges have put down many things which they have no right to draw
from my confession. Let this protest be added."
"I thought too," he continued, "that My Lords the States-General would
have had enough in my life and blood, and that my wife and children might
keep what belongs to them. Is this my recompense for forty-three years'
service to these Provinces?"
President de Voogd rose:
"Your sentence has been pronounced," he said. "Away! away! "So saying
he pointed to the door into which one of the great windows at the south-
eastern front of the hall had been converted.
Without another word the old man rose from his chair and strode, leaning
on his staff, across the hall, accompanied by his faithful valet and the
provost and escorted by a file of soldiers. The mob of spectators flowed
out after him at every door into the inner courtyard in front of the
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