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Five centuries of isolation succeed. In the Netherlands, as throughout Europe, a thousand obscure and slender rills are slowly preparing the great stream of universal culture. Five dismal centuries of feudalism: during which period there is little talk of human right, little obedience to divine reason. Rights there are none, only forces; and, in brief, three great forces, gradually arising, developing themselves, acting upon each other, and upon the general movement of society.

The sword—the first, for a time the only force: the force of iron. The "land's master," having acquired the property in the territory and in the people who feed thereon, distributes to his subalterns, often but a shade beneath him in power, portions of his estate, getting the use of their faithful swords in return. Vavasours subdivide again to vassals, exchanging land and cattle, human or otherwise, against fealty, and so the iron chain of a military hierarchy, forged of mutually interdependent links, is stretched over each little province. Impregnable castles, here more numerous than in any other part of Christendom, dot the level surface of the country. Mail-clad knights, with their followers, encamp permanently upon the soil. The fortunate fable of divine right is invented to sanction the system; superstition and ignorance give currency to the delusion. Thus the grace of God, having conferred the property in a vast portion of Europe upon a certain idiot in France, makes him competent to sell large fragments of his estate, and to give a divine, and, therefore, most satisfactory title along with them. A great convenience to a man, who had neither power, wit, nor will to keep the property in his own hands. So the Dirks of Holland get a deed from Charles the Simple, and, although the grace of God does not prevent the royal grantor himself from dying a miserable, discrowned captive, the conveyance to Dirk is none the less hallowed by almighty fiat. So the Roberts and Guys, the Johns and Baldwins, become sovereigns in Hainault, Brabant, Flanders and other little districts, affecting supernatural sanction for the authority which their good swords have won and are ever ready to maintain. Thus organized, the force of iron asserts and exerts itself. Duke, count, seignor and vassal, knight and squire, master and man swarm and struggle amain. A wild, chaotic, sanguinary scene. Here, bishop and baron contend, centuries long, murdering human creatures by ten thousands for an acre or two of swampy pasture; there, doughty families, hugging old musty quarrels to their heart, buffet each other from generation to generation; thus they go on, raging and wrestling among themselves, with all the world, shrieking insane war-cries which no human soul ever understood—red caps and black, white hoods and grey, Hooks and Kabbeljaws, dealing destruction, building castles and burning them, tilting at tourneys, stealing bullocks, roasting Jews, robbing the highways, crusading—now upon Syrian sands against Paynim dogs, now in Frisian quagmires against Albigenses, Stedingers, and other heretics— plunging about in blood and fire, repenting, at idle times, and paying their passage through, purgatory with large slices of ill-gotten gains placed in the ever-extended dead-hand of the Church; acting, on the whole, according to their kind, and so getting themselves civilized or exterminated, it matters little which. Thus they play their part, those energetic men-at-arms; and thus one great force, the force of iron, spins and expands itself, century after century, helping on, as it whirls, the great progress of society towards its goal, wherever that may be.

Another force—the force clerical—the power of clerks, arises; the might of educated mind measuring itself against brute violence; a force embodied, as often before, as priestcraft—the strength of priests: craft meaning, simply, strength, in our old mother-tongue. This great force, too, develops itself variously, being sometimes beneficent, sometimes malignant. Priesthood works out its task, age after age: now smoothing penitent death-beds, consecrating graves! feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, incarnating the Christian precepts, in an, age of rapine and homicide, doing a thousand deeds of love and charity among the obscure and forsaken—deeds of which there shall never be human chronicle, but a leaf or two, perhaps, in the recording angel's book; hiving precious honey from the few flowers of gentle, art which bloom upon a howling wilderness; holding up the light of science over a stormy sea; treasuring in convents and crypts the few fossils of antique learning which become visible, as the extinct Megatherium of an elder world reappears after the gothic deluge; and now, careering in helm and hauberk with the other ruffians, bandying blows in the thickest of the fight, blasting with bell, book, and candle its trembling enemies, while sovereigns, at the head of armies, grovel in the dust and offer abject submission for the kiss of peace; exercising the same conjury over ignorant baron and cowardly hind, making the fiction of apostolic authority to bind and loose, as prolific in acres as the other divine right to have and hold; thus the force of cultivated intellect, wielded by a chosen few and sanctioned by supernatural authority, becomes as potent as the sword.

A third force, developing itself more slowly, becomes even more potent than the rest: the power of gold. Even iron yields to the more ductile metal. The importance of municipalities, enriched by trade, begins to be felt. Commerce, the mother of Netherland freedom, and, eventually, its destroyer—even as in all human history the vivifying becomes afterwards the dissolving principle—commerce changes insensibly and miraculously the aspect of society. Clusters of hovels become towered cities; the green and gilded Hanse of commercial republicanism coils itself around the decaying trunk of feudal despotism. Cities leagued with cities throughout and beyond Christendom-empire within empire-bind themselves closer and closer in the electric chain of human sympathy and grow stronger and stronger by mutual support. Fishermen and river raftsmen become ocean adventurers and merchant princes. Commerce plucks up half- drowned Holland by the locks and pours gold into her lap. Gold wrests power from iron. Needy Flemish weavers become mighty manufacturers. Armies of workmen, fifty thousand strong, tramp through the swarming streets. Silk-makers, clothiers, brewers become the gossips of kings, lend their royal gossips vast sums and burn the royal notes of hand in fires of cinnamon wood. Wealth brings strength, strength confidence. Learning to handle cross-bow and dagger, the burghers fear less the baronial sword, finding that their own will cut as well, seeing that great armies—flowers of chivalry—can ride away before them fast enough at battles of spurs and other encounters. Sudden riches beget insolence, tumults, civic broils. Internecine quarrels, horrible tumults stain the streets with blood, but education lifts the citizens more and more out of the original slough. They learn to tremble as little at priestcraft as at swordcraft, having acquired something of each. Gold in the end, unsanctioned by right divine, weighs up the other forces, supernatural as they are. And so, struggling along their appointed path, making cloth, making money, making treaties with great kingdoms, making war by land and sea, ringing great bells, waving great banners, they, too—these insolent, boisterous burghers—accomplish their work. Thus, the mighty power of the purse develops itself and municipal liberty becomes a substantial fact. A fact, not a principle; for the old theorem of sovereignty remains undisputed as ever. Neither the nation, in mass, nor the citizens, in class, lay claim to human rights. All upper attributes—legislative, judicial, administrative—remain in the land- master's breast alone. It is an absurdity, therefore, to argue with Grotius concerning the unknown antiquity of the Batavian republic. The republic never existed at all till the sixteenth century, and was only born after long years of agony. The democratic instincts of the ancient German savages were to survive in the breasts of their cultivated descendants, but an organized, civilized, republican polity had never existed. The cities, as they grew in strength, never claimed the right to make the laws or to share in the government. As a matter of fact, they did make the laws, and shared, beside, in most important functions of sovereignty, in the treaty-making power, especially. Sometimes by bargains; sometimes by blood, by gold, threats, promises, or good hard blows they extorted their charters. Their codes, statutes, joyful entrances, and other constitutions were dictated by the burghers and sworn to by the monarch. They were concessions from above; privileges private laws; fragments indeed of a larger liberty, but vastly, better than the slavery for which they had been substituted; solid facts instead of empty abstractions, which, in those practical and violent days, would have yielded little nutriment; but they still rather sought to reconcile themselves, by a rough, clumsy fiction, with the hierarchy which they had invaded, than to overturn the system. Thus the cities, not regarding themselves as representatives or aggregations of the people, became fabulous personages, bodies without souls, corporations which had acquired vitality and strength enough to assert their existence. As persons, therefore—gigantic individualities—they wheeled into the feudal ranks and assumed feudal powers and responsibilities. The city of Dort; of Middelburg, of Ghent, of Louvain, was a living being, doing fealty, claiming service, bowing to its lord, struggling with its equals, trampling upon its slaves.

Thus, in these obscure provinces, as throughout Europe, in a thousand remote and isolated corners, civilization builds itself up, synthetically and slowly; yet at last, a whole is likely to get itself constructed. Thus, impelled by great and conflicting forces, now obliquely, now backward, now upward, yet, upon the whole, onward, the new Society moves along its predestined orbit, gathering consistency and strength as it goes. Society, civilization, perhaps, but hardly humanity. The people has hardly begun to extricate itself from the clods in which it lies buried. There are only nobles, priests, and, latterly, cities. In the northern Netherlands, the degraded condition of the mass continued longest. Even in Friesland, liberty, the dearest blessing of the ancient Frisians, had been forfeited in a variety of ways. Slavery was both voluntary and compulsory. Paupers sold themselves that they might escape starvation. The timid sold themselves that they might escape violence. These voluntary sales, which were frequent, wore usually made to cloisters and ecclesiastical establishments, for the condition of Church-slaves was preferable to that of other serfs. Persons worsted in judicial duels, shipwrecked sailors, vagrants, strangers, criminals unable to pay the money-bote imposed upon them, were all deprived of freedom; but the prolific source of slavery was war. Prisoners were almost universally reduced to servitude. A free woman who intermarried with a slave condemned herself and offspring to perpetual bondage. Among the Ripuarian Franks, a free woman thus disgracing herself, was girt with a sword and a distaff. Choosing the one, she was to strike her husband dead; choosing the other, she adopted the symbol of slavery, and became a chattel for life.

The ferocious inroads of the Normans scared many weak and timid persons into servitude. They fled, by throngs, to church and monastery, and were happy, by enslaving themselves, to escape the more terrible bondage of the sea-kings. During the brief dominion of the Norman Godfrey, every free Frisian was forced to wear a halter around his neck. The lot of a Church-slave was freedom in comparison. To kill him was punishable by a heavy fine. He could give testimony in court, could inherit, could make a will, could even plead before the law, if law could be found. The number of slaves throughout the Netherlands was very large; the number belonging to the bishopric of Utrecht, enormous.

The condition of those belonging to laymen was much more painful. The Lyf-eigene, or absolute slaves, were the most wretched. They were mere brutes. They had none of the natural attributes of humanity, their life and death were in the master's hands, they had no claim to a fraction of their own labor or its fruits, they had no marriage, except under condition of the infamous 'jus primoe noctis'. The villagers, or villeins, were the second class and less forlorn. They could commute the labor due to their owner by a fixed sum of money, after annual payment of which, the villein worked for himself. His master, therefore, was not his absolute proprietor. The chattel had a beneficial interest in a portion of his own flesh and blood.

The crusades made great improvement in the condition of the serfs. He who became a soldier of the cross was free upon his return, and many were adventurous enough to purchase liberty at so honorable a price. Many others were sold or mortgaged by the crusading knights, desirous of converting their property into gold, before embarking upon their enterprise. The purchasers or mortgagees were in general churches and convents, so that the slaves, thus alienated, obtained at least a preferable servitude. The place of the absent serfs was supplied by free labor, so that agricultural and mechanical occupations, now devolving upon a more elevated class, became less degrading, and, in process of time, opened an ever-widening sphere for the industry and progress of freemen. Thus a people began to exist. It was, however; a miserable people, with personal, but no civil rights whatever. Their condition, although better than servitude, was almost desperate. They were taxed beyond their ability, while priest and noble were exempt. They had no voice in the apportionment of the money thus contributed. There was no redress against the lawless violence to which they were perpetually exposed. In the manorial courts, the criminal sat in judgment upon his victim. The functions of highwayman and magistrate were combined in one individual.

By degrees, the class of freemen, artisans, traders, and the like, becoming the more numerous, built stronger and better houses outside the castle gates of the "land's master" or the burghs of the more powerful nobles. The superiors, anxious to increase their own importance, favored the progress of the little boroughs. The population, thus collected, began to divide themselves into guilds. These were soon afterwards erected by the community into bodies corporate; the establishment of the community, of course, preceding, the incorporation of the guilds. Those communities were created by charters or Keuren, granted by the sovereign. Unless the earliest concessions of this nature have perished, the town charters of Holland or Zeland are nearly a century later than those of Flanders, France, and England.

The oldest Keur, or act of municipal incorporation, in the provinces afterwards constituting the republic, was that granted by Count William the First of Holland and Countess Joanna of Flanders, as joint proprietors of Walcheren, to the town of Middelburg. It will be seen that its main purport is to promise, as a special privilege to this community, law, in place of the arbitrary violence by which mankind, in general, were governed by their betters.

"The inhabitants," ran the Charter, "are taken into protection by both counts. Upon fighting, maiming, wounding, striking, scolding; upon peace-breaking, upon resistance to peace-makers and to the judgment of Schepens; upon contemning the Ban, upon selling spoiled wine, and upon other misdeeds fines are imposed for behoof of the Count, the city, and sometimes of the Schepens.......To all Middelburgers one kind of law is guaranteed. Every man must go to law before the Schepens. If any one being summoned and present in Walcheren does not appear, or refuses submission to sentence, he shall be banished with confiscation of property. Schout or Schepen denying justice to a complainant, shall, until reparation, hold no tribunal again.......A burgher having a dispute with an outsider (buiten mann) must summon him before the Schepens. An appeal lies from the Schepens to the Count. No one can testify but a householder. All alienation of real estate must take place before the Schepens. If an outsider has a complaint against a burgher, the Schepens and Schout must arrange it. If either party refuses submission to them, they must ring the town bell and summon an assembly of all the burghers to compel him. Any one ringing the town bell, except by general consent, and any one not appearing when it tolls, are liable to a fine. No Middelburger can be arrested or held in durance within Flanders or Holland, except for crime."

This document was signed, sealed, and sworn to by the two sovereigns in the year 1217. It was the model upon which many other communities, cradles of great cities, in Holland and Zeland, were afterwards created.

These charters are certainly not very extensive, even for the privileged municipalities which obtained them, when viewed from an abstract stand- point. They constituted, however, a very great advance from the stand- point at which humanity actually found itself. They created, not for all inhabitants, but for great numbers of them, the right, not to govern them selves but to be governed by law: They furnished a local administration of justice. They provided against arbitrary imprisonment. They set up tribunals, where men of burgher class were to sit in judgment. They held up a shield against arbitrary violence from above and sedition from within. They encouraged peace-makers, punished peace-breakers. They guarded the fundamental principle, 'ut sua tanerent', to the verge of absurdity; forbidding a freeman, without a freehold, from testifying— a capacity not denied even to a country slave. Certainly all this was better than fist-law and courts manorial. For the commencement of the thirteenth century, it was progress.

The Schout and Schepens, or chief magistrate and aldermen, were originally appointed by the sovereign. In process of time, the election of these municipal authorities was conceded to the communities. This inestimable privilege, however, after having been exercised during a certain period by the whole body of citizens, was eventually monopolized by the municipal government itself, acting in common with the deans of the various guilds.

Thus organized and inspired with the breath of civic life, the communities of Flanders and Holland began to move rapidly forward. More and more they assumed the appearance of prosperous little republics. For this prosperity they were indebted to commerce, particularly with England and the Baltic nations, and to manufactures, especially of wool.

The trade between England and the Netherlands had existed for ages, and was still extending itself, to the great advantage of both countries. A dispute, however, between the merchants of Holland and England, towards the year 12l5, caused a privateering warfare, and a ten years' suspension of intercourse. A reconciliation afterwards led to the establishment of the English wool staple, at Dort. A subsequent quarrel deprived Holland of this great advantage. King Edward refused to assist Count Florence in a war with the Flemings, and transferred the staple from Dort to Bruges and Mechlin.

The trade of the Netherlands with the Mediterranean and the East was mainly through this favored city of Bruges, which, already in the thirteenth century, had risen to the first rank in the commercial world. It was the resting-place for the Lombards and other Italians, the great entrepot for their merchandise. It now became, in addition, the great marketplace for English wool, and the woollen fabrics of all the Netherlands, as well as for the drugs and spices of the East. It had, however, by no means reached its apogee, but was to culminate with Venice, and to sink with her decline. When the overland Indian trade fell off with the discovery of the Cape passage, both cities withered. Grass grew in the fair and pleasant streets of Bruges, and sea-weed clustered about the marble halls of Venice. At this epoch, however, both were in a state of rapid and insolent prosperity.

The cities, thus advancing in wealth and importance, were no longer satisfied with being governed according to law, and began to participate, not only in their own, but in the general government. Under Guy of Flanders, the towns appeared regularly, as well as the nobles, in the assembly of the provincial estates. (1386-1389, A.D.) In the course of the following century, the six chief cities, or capitals, of Holland (Dort, Harlem, Delft, Leyden, Goads, and Amsterdam) acquired the right of sending their deputies regularly to the estates of the provinces. These towns, therefore, with the nobles, constituted the parliamentary power of the nation. They also acquired letters patent from the count, allowing them to choose their burgomasters and a limited number of councillors or senators (Vroedschappen).

Thus the liberties of Holland and Flanders waxed, daily, stronger. A great physical convulsion in the course of the thirteenth century came to add its influence to the slower process of political revolution. Hitherto there had been but one Friesland, including Holland, and nearly all the territory of the future republic. A slender stream alone separated the two great districts. The low lands along the Vlie, often threatened, at last sank in the waves. The German Ocean rolled in upon the inland Lake of Flevo. The stormy Zuyder Zee began its existence by engulfing thousands of Frisian villages, with all their population, and by spreading a chasm between kindred peoples. The political, as well as the geographical, continuity of the land was obliterated by this tremendous deluge. The Hollanders were cut off from their relatives in the east by as dangerous a sea as that which divided them from their Anglo-Saxon brethren in Britain. The deputies to the general assemblies at Aurich could no longer undertake a journey grown so perilous. West Friesland became absorbed in Holland. East Friesland remained a federation of rude but self-governed maritime provinces, until the brief and bloody dominion of the Saxon dukes led to the establishment of Charles the Fifth's authority. Whatever the nominal sovereignty over them, this most republican tribe of Netherlanders, or of Europeans, had never accepted feudalism. There was an annual congress of the whole confederacy. Each of the seven little states, on the other hand, regulated its own internal affairs. Each state was subdivided into districts, each district governed by a Griet-mann (greatman, selectman) and assistants. Above all these district officers was a Podesta, a magistrate identical, in name and functions, with the chief officer of the Italian republics. There was sometimes but one Podesta; sometimes one for each province. He was chosen by the people, took oath of fidelity to the separate estates, or, if Podesta-general, to the federal diet, and was generally elected for a limited term, although sometimes for life. He was assisted by a board of eighteen or twenty councillors. The deputies to the general congress were chosen by popular suffrage in Easter-week. The clergy were not recognized as a political estate.

Thus, in those lands which a niggard nature had apparently condemned to perpetual poverty and obscurity, the principle of reasonable human freedom, without which there is no national prosperity or glory worth contending for, was taking deepest and strongest root. Already in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries Friesland was a republic, except in name; Holland, Flanders, Brabant, had acquired a large share of self- government. The powerful commonwealth, at a later period to be evolved out of the great combat between centralized tyranny and the spirit of civil and religious liberty, was already foreshadowed. The elements, of which that important republic was to be compounded, were germinating for centuries. Love of freedom, readiness to strike and bleed at any moment in her cause, manly resistance to despotism, however overshadowing, were the leading characteristics of the race in all regions or periods, whether among Frisian swamps, Dutch dykes, the gentle hills and dales of England, or the pathless forests of America. Doubtless, the history of human liberty in Holland and Flanders, as every where else upon earth where there has been such a history, unrolls many scenes of turbulence and bloodshed; although these features have been exaggerated by prejudiced historians. Still, if there were luxury and insolence, sedition and uproar, at any rate there was life. Those violent little commonwealths had blood in their veins. They were compact of proud, self-helping, muscular vigor. The most sanguinary tumults which they ever enacted in the face of day, were better than the order and silence born of the midnight darkness of despotism. That very unruliness was educating the people for their future work. Those merchants, manufacturers, country squires, and hard-fighting barons, all pent up in a narrow corner of the earth, quarrelling with each other and with all the world for centuries, were keeping alive a national pugnacity of character, for which there was to be a heavy demand in the sixteenth century, and without which the fatherland had perhaps succumbed in the most unequal conflict ever waged by man against oppression.

To sketch the special history of even the leading Netherland provinces, during the five centuries which we have thus rapidly sought to characterize, is foreign to our purpose. By holding the clue of Holland's history, the general maze of dynastic transformations throughout the country may, however, be swiftly threaded. From the time of the first Dirk to the close of the thirteenth century there were nearly four hundred years of unbroken male descent, a long line of Dirks and Florences. This iron-handed, hot-headed, adventurous race, placed as sovereign upon its little sandy hook, making ferocious exertions to swell into larger consequence, conquering a mile or two of morass or barren furze, after harder blows and bloodier encounters than might have established an empire under more favorable circumstances, at last dies out. The courtship falls to the house of Avennes, Counts of Hainault. Holland, together with Zeland, which it had annexed, is thus joined to the province of Hainault. At the end of another half century the Hainault line expires. William the Fourth died childless in 1355. His death is the signal for the outbreak of an almost interminable series of civil commotions. Those two great, parties, known by the uncouth names of Hook and Kabbeljaw, come into existence, dividing noble against noble, city against city, father against son, for some hundred and fifty years, without foundation upon any abstract or intelligible principle. It may be observed, however, that, in the sequel, and as a general rule, the Kabbeljaw, or cod-fish party, represented the city or municipal faction, while the Hooks (fish-hooks), that were to catch and control them, were the nobles; iron and audacity against brute number and weight.

Duke William of Bavaria, sister's son—of William the Fourth, gets himself established in 1354. He is succeeded by his brother Albert; Albert by his son William. William, who had married Margaret of Burgundy, daughter of Philip the Bold, dies in 1417. The goodly heritage of these three Netherland provinces descends to his daughter Jacqueline, a damsel of seventeen. Little need to trace the career of the fair and ill-starred Jacqueline. Few chapters of historical romance have drawn more frequent tears. The favorite heroine of ballad and drama, to Netherlanders she is endued with the palpable form and perpetual existence of the Iphigenias, Mary Stuarts, Joans of Arc, or other consecrated individualities. Exhausted and broken-hearted, after thirteen years of conflict with her own kinsmen, consoled for the cowardice and brutality of three husbands by the gentle and knightly spirit of the fourth, dispossessed of her father's broad domains, degraded from the rank of sovereign to be lady forester of her own provinces by her cousin, the bad Duke of Burgundy, Philip surnamed "the Good," she dies at last, and the good cousin takes undisputed dominion of the land. (1437.)

The five centuries of isolation are at end. The many obscure streams of Netherland history are merged in one broad current. Burgundy has absorbed all the provinces which, once more, are forced to recognize a single master. A century and a few years more succeed, during which this house and its heirs are undisputed sovereigns of the soil.

Philip the Good had already acquired the principal Netherlands, before dispossessing Jacqueline. He had inherited, beside the two Burgundies, the counties of Flanders and Artois. He had purchased the county of Namur, and had usurped the duchy of Brabant, to which the duchy of Limburg, the marquisate of Antwerp, and the barony of Mechlin, had already been annexed. By his assumption of Jacqueline's dominions, he was now lord of Holland, Zeland, and Hainault, and titular master of Friesland. He acquired Luxemburg a few years later.

Lord of so many opulent cities and fruitful provinces, he felt himself equal to the kings of Europe. Upon his marriage with Isabella of Portugal, he founded, at Bruges, the celebrated order of the Golden Fleece. What could be more practical or more devout than the conception? Did not the Lamb of God, suspended at each knightly breast, symbolize at once the woollen fabrics to which so much of Flemish wealth and Burgundian power was owing, and the gentle humility of Christ, which was ever to characterize the order? Twenty-five was the limited number, including Philip himself, as grand master. The chevaliers were emperors, kings, princes, and the most illustrious nobles of Christendom; while a leading provision, at the outset, forbade the brethren, crowned heads excepted, to accept or retain the companionship of any other order.

The accession of so potent and ambitious a prince as the good Philip boded evil to the cause of freedom in the Netherlands. The spirit of liberty seemed to have been typified in the fair form of the benignant and unhappy Jacqueline, and to be buried in her grave. The usurper, who had crushed her out of existence, now strode forward to trample upon all the laws and privileges of the provinces which had formed her heritage.

At his advent, the municipal power had already reached an advanced stage of development. The burgher class controlled the government, not only of the cities, but often of the provinces, through its influence in the estates. Industry and wealth had produced their natural results. The supreme authority of the sovereign and the power of the nobles were balanced by the municipal principle which had even begun to preponderate over both. All three exercised a constant and salutary check upon each other. Commerce had converted slaves into freemen, freemen into burghers, and the burghers were acquiring daily, a larger practical hold upon the government. The town councils were becoming almost omnipotent. Although with an oligarchical tendency, which at a later period was to be more fully developed, they were now composed of large numbers of individuals, who had raised themselves, by industry and intelligence, out of the popular masses. There was an unquestionably republican tone to the institutions. Power, actually, if not nominally, was in the hands of many who had achieved the greatness to which they had not been born.

The assemblies of the estates were rather diplomatic than representative. They consisted, generally, of the nobles and of the deputations from the cities. In Holland, the clergy had neither influence nor seats in the parliamentary body. Measures were proposed by the stadholder, who represented the sovereign. A request, for example, of pecuniary, accommodation, was made by that functionary or by the count himself in person. The nobles then voted upon the demand, generally as one body, but sometimes by heads. The measure was then laid before the burghers. If they had been specially commissioned to act upon the matter; they voted, each city as a city, not each deputy, individually. If they had received no instructions, they took back the proposition to lay before the councils of their respective cities, in order to return a decision at an adjourned session, or at a subsequent diet. It will be seen, therefore, that the principle of national, popular representation was but imperfectly developed. The municipal deputies acted only under instructions. Each city was a little independent state, suspicious not only of the sovereign and nobles, but of its sister cities. This mutual jealousy hastened the general humiliation now impending. The centre of the system waging daily more powerful, it more easily unsphered these feebler and mutually repulsive bodies.

Philip's first step, upon assuming the government, was to issue a declaration, through the council of Holland, that the privileges and constitutions, which he had sworn to as Ruward, or guardian, during the period in which Jacqueline had still retained a nominal sovereignty, were to be considered null and void, unless afterwards confirmed by him as count. At a single blow he thus severed the whole knot of pledges, oaths and other political complications, by which he had entangled himself during his cautious advance to power. He was now untrammelled again. As the conscience of the smooth usurper was, thenceforth, the measure of provincial liberty, his subjects soon found it meted to them more sparingly than they wished. From this point, then, through the Burgundian period, and until the rise of the republic, the liberty of the Netherlands, notwithstanding several brilliant but brief laminations, occurring at irregular intervals, seemed to remain in almost perpetual eclipse.

The material prosperity of the country had, however, vastly increased. The fisheries of Holland had become of enormous importance. The invention of the humble Beukelzoon of Biervliet, had expanded into a mine of wealth. The fisheries, too, were most useful as a nursery of seamen, and were already indicating Holland's future naval supremacy. The fishermen were the militia of the ocean, their prowess attested in the war with the Hanseatic cities, which the provinces of Holland and Zeland, in Philip's name, but by their own unassisted exertions, carried on triumphantly at this epoch. Then came into existence that race of cool and daring mariners, who, in after times, were to make the Dutch name illustrious throughout the world, the men, whose fierce descendants, the "beggars of the sea," were to make the Spanish empire tremble, the men, whose later successors swept the seas with brooms at the mast-head, and whose ocean-battles with their equally fearless English brethren often lasted four uninterrupted days and nights.

The main strength of Holland was derived from the ocean, from whose destructive grasp she had wrested herself, but in whose friendly embrace she remained. She was already placing securely the foundations of commercial wealth and civil liberty upon those shifting quicksands which the Roman doubted whether to call land or water. Her submerged deformity, as she floated, mermaid-like, upon the waves was to be forgotten in her material splendor. Enriched with the spoils of every clime, crowned with the divine jewels of science and art, she was, one day, to sing a siren song of freedom, luxury, and power.

As with Holland, so with Flanders, Brabant, and the other leading provinces. Industry and wealth, agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, were constantly augmenting. The natural sources of power were full to overflowing, while the hand of despotism was deliberately sealing the fountain.

For the house of Burgundy was rapidly culminating and as rapidly curtailing the political privileges of the Netherlands. The contest was, at first, favorable to the cause of arbitrary power; but little seeds were silently germinating, which, in the progress of their gigantic development, were, one day, to undermine the foundations of Tyranny and to overshadow the world. The early progress of the religious reformation in the Netherlands will be outlined in a separate chapter. Another great principle was likewise at work at this period. At the very epoch when the greatness of Burgundy was most swiftly ripening, another weapon was secretly forging, more potent in the great struggle for freedom than any which the wit or hand of man has ever devised or wielded. When Philip the Good, in the full blaze of his power, and flushed with the triumphs of territorial aggrandizement, was instituting at Bruges the order of the Golden Fleece, "to the glory of God, of the blessed Virgin, and of the holy Andrew, patron saint of the Burgundian family," and enrolling the names of the kings and princes who were to be honored with its symbols, at that very moment, an obscure citizen of Harlem, one Lorenz Coster, or Lawrence the Sexton, succeeded in printing a little grammar, by means of movable types. The invention of printing was accomplished, but it was not ushered in with such a blaze of glory as heralded the contemporaneous erection of the Golden Fleece. The humble setter of types did not deem emperors and princes alone worthy his companionship. His invention sent no thrill of admiration throughout Christendom; and yet, what was the good Philip of Burgundy, with his Knights of the Golden Fleece, and all their effulgent trumpery, in the eye of humanity and civilization, compared with the poor sexton and his wooden types?

Philip died in February, 1467. The details of his life and career do not belong to our purpose. The practical tendency of his government was to repress the spirit of liberty, while especial privileges, extensive in nature, but limited in time, were frequently granted to corporations. Philip, in one day, conferred thirty charters upon as many different bodies of citizens. These were, however, grants of monopoly not concessions of rights. He also fixed the number of city councils or Vroedschappen in many Netherland cities, giving them permission to present a double list of candidates for burgomasters and judges, from which he himself made the appointments. He was certainly neither a good nor great prince, but he possessed much administrative ability. His military talents were considerable, and he was successful in his wars. He was an adroit dissembler, a practical politician. He had the sense to comprehend that the power of a prince, however absolute, must depend upon the prosperity of his subjects. He taxed severely the wealth, but he protected the commerce and the manufactures of Holland and Flanders. He encouraged art, science, and literature. The brothers, John and Hubert Van Eyck, were attracted by his generosity to Bruges, where they painted many pictures. John was even a member of the duke's council. The art of oil-painting was carried to great perfection by Hubert's scholar, John of Bruges. An incredible number of painters, of greater or less merit, flourished at this epoch in the Netherlands, heralds of that great school, which, at a subsequent period, was to astonish the world with brilliant colors; profound science, startling effects, and vigorous reproductions of Nature. Authors, too, like Olivier de la Marche and Philippe de Comines, who, in the words of the latter, "wrote, not for the amusement of brutes, and people of low degree, but for princes and other persons of quality," these and other writers, with aims as lofty, flourished at the court of Burgundy, and were rewarded by the Duke with princely generosity. Philip remodelled and befriended the university of Louvain. He founded at Brussels the Burgundian library, which became celebrated throughout Europe. He levied largely, spent profusely, but was yet so thrifty a housekeeper, as to leave four hundred thousand crowns of gold, a vast amount in those days, besides three million marks' worth of plate and furniture, to be wasted like water in the insane career of his son.

The exploits of that son require but few words of illustration. Hardly a chapter of European history or romance is more familiar to the world than the one which records the meteoric course of Charles the Bold. The propriety of his title was never doubtful. No prince was ever bolder, but it is certain that no quality could be less desirable, at that particular moment in the history of his house. It was not the quality to confirm a usurping family in its ill-gotten possessions. Renewed aggressions upon the rights of others justified retaliation and invited attack. Justice, prudence, firmness, wisdom of internal administration were desirable in the son of Philip and the rival of Louis. These attributes the gladiator lacked entirely. His career might have been a brilliant one in the old days of chivalry. His image might have appeared as imposing as the romantic forms of Baldwin Bras de Fer or Godfrey of Bouillon, had he not been misplaced in history. Nevertheless, he imagined himself governed by a profound policy. He had one dominant idea, to make Burgundy a kingdom. From the moment when, with almost the first standing army known to history, and with coffers well filled by his cautious father's economy, he threw himself into the lists against the crafty Louis, down to the day when he was found dead, naked, deserted, and with his face frozen into a pool of blood and water, he faithfully pursued this thought. His ducal cap was to be exchanged for a kingly crown, while all the provinces which lay beneath the Mediterranean and the North Sea, and between France and Germany, were to be united under his sceptre. The Netherlands, with their wealth, had been already appropriated, and their freedom crushed. Another land of liberty remained; physically, the reverse of Holland, but stamped with the same courageous nationality, the same ardent love of human rights. Switzerland was to be conquered. Her eternal battlements of ice and granite were to constitute the great bulwark of his realm. The world knows well the result of the struggle between the lord of so many duchies and earldoms, and the Alpine mountaineers. With all his boldness, Charles was but an indifferent soldier. His only merit was physical courage. He imagined himself a consummate commander, and, in conversation with his jester, was fond of comparing himself to Hannibal. "We are getting well Hannibalized to-day, my lord," said the bitter fool, as they rode off together from the disastrous defeat of Gransen. Well "Hannibalized" he was, too, at Gransen, at Murten, and at Nancy. He followed in the track of his prototype only to the base of the mountains.

As a conqueror, he was signally unsuccessful; as a politician, he could out-wit none but himself; it was only as a tyrant within his own ground, that he could sustain the character which he chose to enact. He lost the crown, which he might have secured, because he thought the emperor's son unworthy the heiress of Burgundy; and yet, after his father's death, her marriage with that very Maximilian alone secured the possession of her paternal inheritance. Unsuccessful in schemes of conquest, and in political intrigue, as an oppressor of the Netherlands, he nearly carried out his plans. Those provinces he regarded merely as a bank to draw upon. His immediate intercourse with the country was confined to the extortion of vast requests. These were granted with ever-increasing reluctance, by the estates. The new taxes and excises, which the sanguinary extravagance of the duke rendered necessary, could seldom be collected in the various cities without tumults, sedition, and bloodshed. Few princes were ever a greater curse to the people whom they were allowed to hold as property. He nearly succeeded in establishing a centralized despotism upon the ruins of the provincial institutions. His sudden death alone deferred the catastrophe. His removal of the supreme court of Holland from the Hague to Mechlin, and his maintenance of a standing army, were the two great measures by which he prostrated the Netherlands. The tribunal had been remodelled by his father; the expanded authority which Philip had given to a bench of judges dependent upon himself, was an infraction of the rights of Holland. The court, however, still held its sessions in the country; and the sacred privilege—de non evocando—the right of every Hollander to be tried in his own land, was, at least, retained. Charles threw off the mask; he proclaimed that this council—composed of his creatures, holding office at his pleasure—should have supreme jurisdiction over all the charters of the provinces; that it was to follow his person, and derive all authority from his will. The usual seat of the court he transferred to Mechlin. It will be seen, in the sequel, that the attempt, under Philip the Second, to enforce its supreme authority was a collateral cause of the great revolution of the Netherlands.

Charles, like his father, administered the country by stadholders. From the condition of flourishing self-ruled little republics, which they had, for a moment, almost attained, they became departments of an ill- assorted, ill-conditioned, ill-governed realm, which was neither commonwealth nor empire, neither kingdom nor duchy; and which had no homogeneousness of population, no affection between ruler and people, small sympathies of lineage or of language.

His triumphs were but few, his fall ignominious. His father's treasure was squandered, the curse of a standing army fixed upon his people, the trade and manufactures of the country paralyzed by his extortions, and he accomplished nothing. He lost his life in the forty-fourth year of his age (1477), leaving all the provinces, duchies, and lordships, which formed the miscellaneous realm of Burgundy, to his only child, the Lady Mary. Thus already the countries which Philip had wrested from the feeble hand of Jacqueline, had fallen to another female. Philip's own granddaughter, as young, fair, and unprotected as Jacqueline, was now sole mistress of those broad domains.

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