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THE RISE OF THE DUTCH REPUBLIC.*
R. MOTLEY has chosen, for his début on the historic stage, one of the most significant episodes in the whole of the early struggles of the modern era. The revolt of the Netherlands, against the political and ecclesiastical domination of Spain, was a part of that great contest carried on throughout the sixteenth century, between the Teutonic Protestant nations, with their decided tendency to intellectual freedom and territorial division, and the Romanic Catholic nations, with their no less decided bias towards intellectual acquiescence, and the unity of government. It was, however, a most pregnant part of this contest. All the influences of race, politics, and religion, which came in conflict in the general movements of the age, were concentrated in these lesser conflicts, and it is no exaggeration to say, that in the encounters which took place on the spongy sands, and amid the watery dykes of the Low Countries, were involved all the grand interests of the existing world. They rehearsed in little, if we may use the term, that gigantic drama of war and bloodshed, which, a few years later, convulsed the entire continent.
It is this fact which lends to the Dutch war its high importance in worldhistory. Had it been simply the struggle of a few oppressed provinces against a powerful invader, it would have found many a parallel in the course of the ages; but it was a great deal more than this: it was a direct and determining grapple between the controlling influences of the time, animated by its profoundest animosities, and containing in its results a magnificent or disastrous future. Ever since the accession of Charles V. to the crowns of Spain and the Empire, the real and pervading issue of Europe lay in the necessary antagonism of the principles of universality and absolutism in church and state, and the principles of national independence, and civil and moral freedom. The for
were asserted by the splendid monarchy of Spain, linked in with the religious hierarchy of Rome, while the latter found their chief adherents among the distracted northern states of Ger
many, and the no less distracted commercial provinces of the Netherlands. Charles V., and, subsequently, Philip II., who inherited his policy, if not his wisdom, in seeking the formation of a great state which should possess a common government, and a common religion, encountered their most formidable obstacles in the spirit which had been growing for centuries, of national independence, intellectual culture.commercial activity, and religious freedom. In Germany, the intellectual and moral element of this opposition was the strongest, and came to a head earlier in the outbreak of Luther; but in the Netherlands, the national and commercial clement prevailed, and was sometime longer in ripening. But wherever these principles came in contact, the encounter was deadly and fearful, and nowhere more so than in the Netherlands, because nowhere were the antagonisms more direct, universal, and inveterate.
The people of the Netherlands, mainly descended from the old Batavian and Belgic races, who, overcome by the superior forces of the. Romans, had contributed, for four centuries, the most effective arm to the legions of their conquerors, were earlier than the rest of Europe emancipated from the serfdom of the middle ages. Their favorable position on the north seas, and on the shores of navigable streams, outlets to the continent, gathering them into towns, had led them to a profitable commerce, and to a most flourishing external and political condition. The affluence flowing in upon them from east and west, attracted population, generated arts, enlivened society, and developed, while it fortified, the sense of individual dignity and worth. Along with the growing trade, therefore, a growing independence, entrenched behind municipal privileges, had inured them to self-trust and free exertion. As early as the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the power of the sovereign in the Netherlands was strictly limited by the power of the estates, in which the trades, as well as the nobility, were represented. Without their consent no law could be
The Rise of the Dutch Republic. A History. By JOHN LOTHROP MOTLEY. 3 vols. Harper & Brothers, 1856.
enacted, no war undertaken, no tax imposed, no change in the currency effected, and no foreigner allowed to take part in the government. This substantial liberty had been retained even under the rule of the powerful Dukes of Burgundy, who sought to reduce them to subjection. When the Emperor Maximilian, at a later day, backed by all the might of the Roman German empire, endeavored to inflict extraordinary taxes upon them, and to quarter his troops in the provinces, they instantly flew to arms, and made no scruple of seizing his person, and confining hin till they had attained satisfactory assurances of future security. They were republicans in spirit, if not in name. They prized that sturdy burgher independence which had made them what they were, and, at a time of almost universal war and universal abjectness, had not only raised their cities into cities of opulence, but had made them, also, cities of refuge for the world. Under these circumstances, the transition from civil to religious freedom was not difficult. At the oncoming of the Reformation, the Netherlanders were nominally Catholics; but nowhere were the new doctrines more gratefully welcomed than among them, or more rapidly spread. Introduced through a thousand channels-by the Protestant traders of Germany, by the English and French fugitives from persecution, by their own children educated at Geneva, by the Swiss mercenaries of the Emperor, even-they speedily diffused themselves over the land, like the waters of the sea when one of their dykes had broken. A hard-working people, they had little respect for the luxurious indolence of the monks; and a plain, simple-hearted people, they were more attracted by the intellectual charms of doctrine than by the sensuous splendors of ritual.
The Spanish nation, on the other hand, by nature arrogant, and by training superstitious and bigoted, was the willing slave of a double despotism, of a mighty but oppressive monarchy, and of an imposing but subtle and selfish ecclesiasticism. Its recent conquest of Grenada had rekindled its enthusiasm to the fiery pitch of the crusades, its discovery of the New World had given a vent to the most romantic spirit of adventure, as well as to the most ferocious cupidity; while the magnifiVOL. VII.-38
cent extent of its dominion filled it with unbounded audacity and pride. Every incident in the events of the time conspired to raise in the mind of the Spaniard the dangerous consciousness of his greatness. Master of half of Europe, and of nearly all America, with possessions in Africa, in Asia, and among the rich Spice Islands of the Indian seas, the favorite of the Holy Pontiff, himself the vicegerent of Christ, and the spiritual guide of a hundred million souls, he seemed to hold the keys to all the treasures of earth, and to all the glorious rewards of Heaven. He was the lord of man, and the man of the Lord; he had fused the powerful kingdoms of the peninsula into a single more powerful kingdom; he had driven the Saracen from Europe in the midst of a sanguinary resistance; he had been victorious over France; he had ravaged Italy; he had dared to beard the pope, and he had despoiled a new continent of its wealth. His statesmen were the ablest that had appeared since the most flourishing days of Greece, and his soldiers the bravest that had appeared since the most flourishing days of Rome. His soldiers, indeed, were brave with more than Roman bravery; for, to the animal courage and national ambition of the Roman, they added the romantic valor of chivalry and the impulsive zeal as well as the stoical endurance of religion. It was not surprising, then, that the Spaniard should pride himself on his superiority among the nations; yet, more than the triumph of his arms, and more than the seductions of his policy, he valued the steadfastness which had distinguished his faith, and rendered him its elected champion. At a time when the people everywhere were falling away from the ancient church, like leaves from a smitten tree when Germany, Holland, England, France, Sweden, and Switzerland, were stirred to their depths by religious schism, and even Italy was retained in the fold of the faithful only by the profound craft of a milder and more liberal policy on the part of Rome-the Spaniard remained unaffected. The result of the agitation, so far as man could see, had been to induce him to draw tighter the bands of intolerance, and to heap fresh fuel upon the fires of the inquisition. "Times of refreshing," as Macaulay says, "came to all neighboring countries;
but one people alone remained, like the fleece of the Hebrew warrior, dry in the midst of that benignant and fertilizing dew. Among the men of the sixteenth century, the Spaniard was the man of the fifteenth century, or of a still darker period-delighted to behold an auto da fé, or ready to volunteer on a crusade."
It was the mistake of Philip II., when he came to reign over these two peoples, more remote from each other in their spiritual affinities than in their local positions, to suppose that he could transfer the institutions of the one to the soil of the other, and change, by the stroke of a pen, the inwrought results of centuries. Receiving the Provinces at the moment of their highest bloom, when they contained more flourishing towns than there were days in the year, when the revenues exacted from them were more copious than all the mines of South America, when the temper of the people, made moderate by plenty and content, was remarkably placable, there was nothing easier for him than to have retained their allegiance and support. He had only, like a wise statesman, to adapt his ineasures to the inevitable exigencies of the situation. But Philip was not a statesman. A Spaniard of the Spaniards, with the worst traits of his nation, aggravated by the gloomy, monkish education he had received, dark, revengeful, and superstitious, without one generous sentiment, or a single noble ambition, he had conceived an ideal of government better fitted to the satraps of an oriental tyrant than to the court of a Christian monarch. His father, Charles V., though scarcely less a despot in action than he, was a despot who had tempered his rule by seeming friendly concessions, and extinguished the perception of his wrongs amid the blaze of his brilliant exploits. Born among the Flemings, he had surrounded his person with Flemings; and the Flemings received some of the reflected lustre of his glory. He was arbitrary, but arbitrary from policy, and not, as Philip was, from preference. Narrowness, bigotry, and hatred were the inborn qualities of the son, who had achieved no great deeds to awaken admiration, and who exhibited no tenderness to conciliate love. Distrusted and disliked by his northern subjects, from the very hour when, a young man, he bad shown himself reserved and haughty
amid the genial festivities of the celebrated abdication, he returned their aversion with a double venom. He never comprehended the sturdy citizen independence of those prosperous burghers; he never sympathzied in their pursuits, nor admired their lowly citizenlike virtues; he was impatient of their traditional privileges; he was piqued by their boasts of freedom; he was jealous of those among their nobles whom he did not despise, and he scorned their seeming feebleness. Had they never aroused his deep religious enmities, they would not have been his favorites; but when they gave an eager entrance to the Reformation, when, in the natural over-action of a new movement which had been long suppressed, their rabble broke the images of his saints, and scattered the sacred relics of his sanctuary, they were, from that instant, doomed to an unheard of vengeance. They were doomed, however, not in a frenzy of exasperation, not in the heat of outraged prejudices nor in a sudden burst of unreasoning resentment, but with slow, cold, calculating, subtle, and implacable malignity. For with him the name of heretic was the synonym of miscreant, wretch, criminal, outcast, and of whatever else is odious to man, and abandoned of God. The inhuman theology of the time he sincerely believed, and he was prepared to enforce its remorseless sanctions with all the cowled treacheries of the inquisition, and all the overbearing energies of the first of states. Active in brain, but inactive in body, his movements were wily, rather than impetuous, though he always contrived that they should be fatal. If he hastened his purposes, it was only to anticipate the chances of possible escape; and when he tarried in them, it was only to render the means more sure, and the execution final. Thus, it is impossible to read his memoirs without thinking of him, as he sat amid the schemes of his far-reaching empire, as of some sullen and gigantic spider in the midst of his web, entrapping his poor victims on every hand, and darting forth only when their struggles threaten to break through the infernal meshes.
The agents whom Philip selected, for the execution of his vengeance upon the offending Netherlands, were the fit implements of his double nature, as a churchman and a king. They were first the Cardinal Granville, and afterwards
the Duke of Alva-the one as subtle an ecclesiastic as ever concealed the fires of hell beneath the smiles of heaven, and the other as inflexible a soldier as ever stalked through rivers of blood to do a master's will. Granville, whose real name was Anthony Peronet, was a Frenchman by birth, and had taken his first lessons in state-craft under Charles V., as his deputy at the Council of Trent. He had served the Emperor, also, in subsequent negotiations, and had had the adroitness to get himself retained in the service of the son. Secretary to Margaret of Parma, the nominal regent of the Netherlands, he speedily made himself the real regent. To a mind of rare penetration and comprehensiveness, he united great learning, great diligence, great patience, and the most remarkable facility in devising and unraveling of plots. He was always at his post and always prepared for the event. Penetrating to the depths of his master's mind, he apprehended his wishes almost before they were formed, and he carried them into effect with a graceful audacity, which flattered the imperial self-love, without surprising its vanity. Devoted to the throne, more even than to the church, fertile in expedients, indefatigable in labor, and of polished and insinuating manners, he grew the indispensable confidant of Philip. But he was more successful in gaining the friendship of his sovereign, than he was in appeasing the discontents of his subjects. All the acts of the government being charged to him, he became an intolerable offense to the nobles as well as to the people; and, after much delay, and with great reluctance on the part of the king, but not until he had sowed the seeds of irreconcilable divisions, he was compelled to retire before the storm which they raised against him. As a foreigner, his official existence there was a violation of the ancient constitution. Surrounding himself with foreigners, he had repulsed the entire body of the native aristocracy; retaining an extraordinary force of Spanish troops in the country, he had to bear the brunt of their repeated misconduct; quartering a multitude of new bishops on the dioceses, he had offended religious prejudices and increased the taxes; and, favoring secretly the processes of the inquisition, he had alarmed the suspicions and fears of the the people, through whom the very name of that tribunal sent a thrill horror.
But Philip had dallied and equivocated in regard to his removal, until the discontents had spread through all classes of the nobility, and down among the lowest ranks of the populace. A timelier intervention might have relieved the state of affairs; but, on the recall of Granville, matters had gone so far that the slight concessions announced but whetted the rage for more, and there remained no alternative for Philip, but to yield to an extent which would have damaged his supremacy, or to settle the difficulties at once, with the iron hand. True to his nature, he made choice of a governor, to supersede the feeble and trembling Margaret, whose selection, apart from the enormous power with which he was invested, would have shown to which side of this alternative he inclined. The Duke of Alva was sent into the Netherlands, after a pompous preliminary parade, and at the head of ten thousand men. A person better adapted to the execution of Philip's designs did not then exist. He was the foremost warrior of Europe, who had triumphed on every field but one; and as distinguished for the asperity of his manners as he was for the intrepidity of his valor. "As a man," says Mr. Motley, somewhat naively, "his character was simple. He did not combine a great variety of vices, but those which he had were colossal, and he possessed no virtues. He was neither lustful nor intemperate, but his professed eulogists admitted his enormous avarice, while the world has agreed that such an amount of stealth and ferocity, of patient vindictiveness and universal bloodthirstiness, were never found in a savage beast of the forest, and but rarely in a human bosom."
Inexperienced as a statesman, and without talent, save in his profession, this soulless, cast-iron man was master of the methods of the soldier, which move "straightforward, like a cannon-ball,” to their ends, and he joined to them the craftier methods of the inquisition. His administration, beginning with the Judas-like betrayal of Counts Egmont and Horn, followed by their worse than Pilate-like trial and execution-murders almost unparalleled, for the pathetic interest which clings to the victims, and for the reckless atrocity in the perpetrators -was marked throughout by every vice that may proclaim a tyranny. Mr. Motley has summed up the results in the fol
lowing terrific, but not exaggerated passage:
"As an administrator of the civil and judicial affairs of the country, Alva at once reduced its institutions to a frightful simplicity. In the place of the ancient laws of which the Netherlands were so proud, he substituted the BloodCouncil. This tribunal was even more arbitrary than the Inquisition. Never was a simpler apparatus for tyranny devised than this great labor-saving machine. Never was so great a quantity of murder and robbery achieved with such dispatch and regularity. Sentences, executions and confiscations, to an incredible extent, were turned out daily with appalling precision. For this invention, Alva alone is responsible. The tribunal and its counselors were the work and the creatures of his hand, and faithfully did they accomplish the dark purpose of their existence. Nor can it be urged, in extenuation of the Governor's crimes, that he was but the blind and fanatically loyal slave of his sovereign. A noble nature could not have contaminated itself with such slaughter-house work, but might have sought to mitigate the royal policy without forswearing allegiance. A nature less rigid than iron would at least have manifested compunction, as it found itself converted into a fleshless instrument of massacre. More decided than his master, however, he seemed, by his promptness, to rebuke the dilatory genius of Philip. The king seemed, at times, to loiter over his work, teasing and tantalizing bis appetite for vengeance, before it should be gratified. Alva, rapid and brutal, scorned such epicureanism. He strode with gigantic steps over haughty statutes and popular constitutions; crushing alike the magnates who claimed a bench of monarchs for the rjury, and the ignoble artisans who could appeal only to the laws of their land. From the pompous and theatrical scaffolds of Egmont and Horn, to the nineteen halters prepared by Master Karl, to hang up the chief bakers and brewers of Brussels on their own thresholds-from the beheading of the twenty nobles on the Horsemarket, in the opening of the Governor's career, to the roasting alive of Uitenhoove at its close-from the block on which fell the honored head of Anthony Straalen, to the obscure chair in which the ancient gentlewoman of Amsterdam suffered death for an act of vicarious mercy -from one year's end to another's-from the most signal to the most squalid scenes of sacrifice, the eye and hand of the great master directed, without weariness, the task imposed by the sovereign.
No doubt the work of almost indiscriminate massacre had been duly mapped out. Not often in history has a governor arrived to administer the affairs of a province where the whole population, three millions strong, had been formally sentenced to death. As time wore on, however, he even surpassed the bloody instructions which he had received. He waived aside the recommendations of the Blood-Council to mer
cy; he dissuaded the monarch from attempting the path of clemency, which, for secret reasons, Philip was inclined at one period to attempt. The Governor had, as he assured the King, been using gentleness in vain, and he was now determined to try what a little wholesome severity could effect. These words were written immediately after the massacre at Harlem.
"With all the bloodshed at Mons, and Naar den, and Mechlin, and by the Council of Tu
mults, daily, for six years long, still crying from the ground, he taxed himself with a misplaced and foolish tenderness to the people. He assured the King that when Alkmaar should be taken, he would not spare a 'living soul among its whole population; and, as his parting advice, he recommended that every city in the Netherlands should be burned to the ground, except a few which could be occupied permanently by the royal troops. On the whole. so finished a picture of a perfect and absolute tyranny has rarely been presented to mankind by history, as in Alva's administration of the Netherlands.
"The tens of thousands in those miserable provinces who fell victims to the gallows, the sword, the stake, the living grave, or to living banishment, have never been counted; for those statistics of barbarity are often effaced from human record. Enough, however, is known, and enough has been recited in the preceding pages. No mode in which human beings have ever caused their fellow-creatures to suffer, was omitted from daily practice. Men, women, and children, old and young, nobles and paupers, opulent burghers, hospital patients, lunatics, dead bodies, all were indiscriminately made to furnish food for the scaffold and the stake. Men were tortured, beheaded, hanged by the neck and by the legs, burned before slow fires, pinched to death with red hot tongs, broken upon the wheel, starved, and flayed alive. Their skins stripped from the living body, were stretched upon drums, to be beaten in the march of their brethren to the gallows. The bodies of many who had died a natural death were exhumed, and their festering remains hanged upon the gibbet, on pretext that they had died without receiving the sacra ment, but in reality that their property might become the legitimate prey of the treasury. Marriages of long standing were dissolved by order of government, that rich heiresses might be married against their will to foreigners whom they abhorred. Women and children were executed for the crime of assisting their fugitive husbands and parents with a penny in their utmost need, and even for consoling them with a letter in their exile. Such was the regular course of affairs as administered by the BloodCouncil. The additional barbarities committed amid the sack and ruin of those blazing and starving cities are almost beyond belief; unborn infants were torn from the living bodies of their mothers; women and children were violated by thousands; and whole populations burned and hacked to pieces by soldiers in every mode which cruelty, in its wanton ingenuity, could devise."
While we shudder at the contemplation of such a character, and are oppressed with fears lest his ruthless persecution should extinguish the innocent people of the Netherlands, we are relieved by the appearance of another personage, of William Prince of Orange, who, emerging brightly from the earlier scenes of these gloomy troubles, grows more luminous and beautiful, as the darkness thickens, and disasters accumulate. The heir of a noble house, opulent and sumptuous, but refined and accomplished in all the humanities of