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Southern Netherlands, Flanders, and Belgium with their capital in Brussels were ruled by the Spanish Empire from 1556 to 1714 and included the duchies of Brabant, Luxembourg, Limburg, and the upper part of Guelders; the counties of Flanders, Artois, Hainaut, and Namur; and the archdiocese of Mechelen. The Walloons in the Belgian portions spoke French and were distinguished from the Flemish who used Dutch. Yet court accounts were kept in Spanish.
Dutch resistance to Spanish imperialism and their struggle to maintain their independence went on from 1568 to 1648 in the Eighty Years’ War. By 1588 Belgium was devastated as the population of Brabant was reduced by half. In Gramont only one of every six burghers remained and only a quarter of the houses. By 1594 Gembloux had lost 100 of its 170 houses. Brambles covered the fields of Flanders which was infested with wolves and bandits. Only a tenth of the land was arable, and much of that was left fallow for anyone to cultivate.
The Duke Alejandro Farnesio of Parma governed the Spanish Netherlands 1578-92. Although Spain was preoccupied with its armada invasion of England that failed in 1588, the Duke of Parma had Spanish troops to fight the revolt in the south, east, and northeast Holland. He invaded France in 1590 and became ill in 1591. After his death on December 3, 1592 the States General of the Arras Union took control of the government and appointed the 75-year-old Peter Ernst von Mansfeld-Volderort interim governor-general. The Count Pedro Enriquez of Fuentes replaced Parma’s Italian advisors with Spaniards. Spain’s King Felipe II appointed his nephew Archduke Ernst of Austria to govern the Habsburg Netherlands in 1594, but he died on February 20, 1595. Fuentes filled in again, and the detained ships of Holland and Zeeland were released from Spanish and Portuguese ports in the spring.
In January 1596 Cardinal and Archduke Albrecht VII of Austria was appointed governor-general of the Habsburg Low Countries of Brabant, Limburg, Luxemburg, Guelders, Flanders, Artois, Burgundy, Hainaut, and Namur. His father-confessor was the influential Dominican monk Fray Iñigo de Brizuela. The synod of Mechelen prohibited any discussion of religious issues, and printers and booksellers were required to have a license from the Archbishop of Mechelen. Willem of Orange’s oldest son Filips Willem (1554-1618) was taken to Spain in 1568 to be raised as a Catholic, and he was kept there as a hostage until 1596 when he returned to the Netherlands to act as a mediator. Spain’s debt of 34 million ducats in 1575 had climbed to 100 million by 1596, and they declared a third bankruptcy in 1597. As a result of soldiers’ mutinies these lands suffered military disasters. On May 6, 1598 Felipe II announced that his daughter Isabella would marry Albrecht and that he would cede the Habsburg provinces of the Low Countries to them, but secret clauses allowed the war to continue. Felipe II died on September 13, 1598, and his son Felipe III continued the war policy in the Netherlands, mobilizing a force of 25,000 men.
Archduke Albrecht was a cardinal from Seville and used Jesuits to impose the Catholic Counter-Reformation in the south. Jesuits began arriving in 1588, and they founded and taught in more than thirty colleges. The number of Jesuits in Belgium increased from 420 in 1595 to 1,574 in 1626 when there were only 2,156 in all of France and 2,283 in Germany. That year in the Flandro-Belgian province 13,727 laypeople studied with the Jesuits. There were 60,000 priests and members of Catholic orders that also included Franciscans, Dominicans, Observant Recollects, Mendicant Minims, Barefooted Carmelites, Ursulines, Capuchins, and Brigitines. Celebratory festivals were replaced by pious processions of hooded penitents. In some areas the Catholic Church owned more than three-quarters of the land. Between 1590 and 1670 Ghent built 35 monasteries.
In 1609 the 12-year Truce began, and the Spanish regime banned religious discussions in public. Antwerp had a population of 54,000 by 1612 and facilitated much trade with the Dutch Republic. By 1613 the Antwerp Jesuit college had 600 students. Ghent and Bruges also prospered because of the Truce. Ghent had twenty convents, but in 1620 two-thirds of its people still refused to submit their children to catechism classes. No family could receive charity unless their children were instructed in Catholic dogma, and mothers wanting a midwife had to have their children baptized as Catholics. The state refused to recognize marriages performed by Protestant pastors, and their children could not hold a public office or have an honorable career. The first newspapers began in Antwerp in 1620 and were used for propaganda. When the 12-year Truce ended in April 1621, Spain increased the army of Flanders to 60,000 men. After Albrecht’s death on July 13, his widow Isabella Clara Eugenia governed until she died in 1633.
By 1650 few Calvinists remained in the Spanish Netherlands. As the number of Protestants decreased, the Catholic authorities prosecuted more people for witchcraft. Thousands of people were tortured until they made false confessions. In Luxembourg about 30,000 people were prosecuted, and 20,000 were given death sentences. Even swimming was banned as morally dangerous. Pamphlets and songs expressed hatred for Holland and France.
Hundreds of baroque churches and chapels were constructed, and they needed architects, sculptors, and painters. Thus many painters contributing religious art were also allowed to be creative in other ways. Probably the greatest master of Flemish baroque was Peter Paul Rubens who studied in Italy for eight years before returning to Antwerp. He established his reputation with the “Elevation of the Cross” and “Descent from the Cross.” In his studio he directed assistants who sketched pictures and enabled him to complete more than 2,000 paintings that included landscapes, portraits, and even nudes. His pupil Anthony van Dyck went to London to paint while his friend Jacob Jordaens stayed in Antwerp. Other fine artists of this era are Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Jan Breughel, David Teniers the Elder, Frans Snyders, Adrien Brouwer, and Jan Fyt.
The Belgian city and province of Liège managed to remain isolated from Catholic domination. By 1625 Liège was exporting metal goods to all of Europe, and they pioneered the more efficient use of coal to replace charcoal from wood. They mass-produced glass for windows, and mirrors became very popular. In 1630 Sebastion La Ruelle became the Burgomaster and led the anti-clerical Grignoux party, and he won a municipal election in 1633. On April 16, 1637 the Belgian refugee Count of Warfusee with sixty Spanish soldiers murdered La Ruelle at a banquet in order to get a pardon from the Spaniards. However, their attempt to seize control of Liège failed. The people of Liege, who resented the loss of La Ruelle, surrounded the banquet hall and massacred the Spaniards and hanged the corpse of Warfusee upside down. Then they destroyed the Jesuits’ property and killed the rector whom they blamed for initiating the assassination. They transformed Liège into a republic with a militia commanded by the Protestant Bartel Roland. Ten days later an election was held, and 200 people were killed. People stormed the bishop’s palace and killed the chancellor. After the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, a Bavarian army supported the bishop and occupied the city. They beheaded the burgomasters Roland and Hennet. Brussels was fortified, and taxes had to be raised.
During the Thirty Years’ War the population of Germany was greatly reduced, and the Netherlands’ exports declined. Agriculture improved, and they grew more root crops such as turnips, carrots, beets, and potatoes. They rotated these with forage crops to improve the soil. Canals and waterways were expanded to distribute fertilizers. Although they had less foreign trade and merchants, the population increased to more than two million people compared to 1.5 million in the Dutch Republic. Rural areas grew more rapidly than large cities. More people were becoming prosperous. In 1600 only three powerful people in Ghent had carriages, but by 1662 the city had more than a hundred carriages. Postal service had developed in the Low Countries by 1632.
Protestants who fled to the northern Dutch Republic include Dutch East India Company founder Pierre Platevoet, Jacques Lemaire from Tournai who discovered Tierra del Fuego in 1615, and Dutch West India Company founder Willem Usselinck. Walloons led by Jesse de Forest and Peter Minuit founded the colony of New Amsterdam in 1624. Admiral Pierre van den Broucke from Antwerp led the conquest of Guinea and the founding of Batavia on Java. Mathematician Simon Stevin fled from Bruges to Leiden, developing the metric system. From 1641 to 1647 two Portuguese diplomats governed the southern Netherlands.
By 1588 the northern Dutch Republic included the six provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Friesland, and Overijssel. In 1585 Maurits (Maurice) of Nassau, second son of the famous Willem the Silent of Orange, had become Governor (Stadtholder) of Holland and Zeeland while his cousin Willem Lodewijk (Louis) was stadtholder of Friesland. In April 1588 England’s Queen Elizabeth stopped supporting the anti-Holland factions and ordered them to cooperate with Maurits. In August the English still had 5,660 men in eight garrisons in the Netherlands. Garrisons from Groningen, Steenwijk, and Coevorden invaded Friesland, but Parma’s Spaniards could not capture Berge-op-Zoom. An English force of 1,500 men arrived to relieve the siege of Berge-op-Zoom, and the Spaniards departed in November. After 1588 the Council of State had little control over foreign policy.
In December 1587 the Earl of Leicester had left his English troops without pay and adequate provisions, and they resented his departure. In April 1589 the English garrison betrayed Geertruidenberg in southern Holland. Parma’s Spanish forces had also recaptured Groningen, Drente, North Brabant, Limburg, and parts of Gelderland, Overijssel, and Zeeland. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt had led the opposition against Leicester, and he still had opponents in Utrecht, Friesland, Zeeland, and Overjissel. Friesland’s Willem Lodewijk was also opposed by many towns and the Reformed clergy because he had turned against Leicester.
The humanist Justus Lipsius (1547-1606) taught at the University of Leiden for eleven years. Although in 1583 he had advocated Stoic ethics as harmonious with Christianity in On Constancy, in 1589 he published his treatise on politics (Politicorum Libri Sex) urging civil peace under a monarch and arguing that the state should recognize only one religion. Many of the Dutch criticized these views, and in 1590 he fled to Mainz and was reconciled with the Catholic Church. In 1598 his De Magnitudine Romana admired the military organization and discipline of the Roman Empire.
Adolf van Nieuwenaar was Stadtholder of Overijssel, Guelders, and Utrecht until he was killed by an explosion while testing artillery on October 18. After Maurits had failed in September to surprise Nijmegen, he captured several towns before raiding Brabant. Oldenbarnevelt recommended Maurits of Nassau as Nieuwenaar’s successor, and he was selected in February 1590, making him Stadtholder over five provinces at the age of 23. That year the States General published their first military code that was read to recruits each year.
Maurits began by capturing Breda on March 4, and in the spring of 1591 his army of 26,000 men advanced up the Ijssel seizing forts and taking Zutphen and Deventer. Willem Lodewijk operated in the north while Maurits ignored Oldenbarnevelt’s plan adopted by the States General to move south into northern Brabant but instead helped Lodewijk besiege Steenwijk which capitulated after 44 days, followed by Coevorden which surrendered after six weeks of bombarding. Also in 1590 Spain’s Felipe II lifted the embargo against the Dutch trading with Portugal. Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal began settling in the Netherlands in 1593.
In June 1593 Maurits captured Geertruidenberg in the south before campaigning in Friesland. His engineers devised wooden mats to prevent their guns from sinking in the mud. On May 13, 1594 his forces besieged Groningen which surrendered on July 23. The conditions of his Treaty of Reduction united Groningen with the Ommelands in the “City and Land” province with his cousin Willem Lodewijk as stadtholder, and the Catholic religion was banned. On September 2 the Dutch Republic reduced the value of some gold and silver coins used in trading with France and that were circulating in Middelburg which refused to publish the change until they were sent to other countries at a higher rate, causing a shortage of gold coins.
Also in 1594 Lodewijk adapted the ancient Roman javelin volleys by using lines of infantry moving through the ranks firing and reloading in turn. The same year Simon Stevin published his treatise on fortifications. Maurits improved the discipline of army camps, made sure the soldiers were paid, and ended the corruption of using “blind names” that enabled officers to collect pay for men that existed only on paper.
The Dutch army had increased to 32,000 men, and led by Maurits they captured large portions of Guelders, Overijssel, Drenthe, Groningen, and north Brabant. The States General selected Lodewijk stadtholder of the new province of Groningen. In August the Dutch fleet commanded by Admiral Duivenvoorde combined with an English fleet and defeated a Spanish squadron in the Cadiz harbor, capturing booty.
Holland’s commerce and wages increased greatly in the 1590s. Dutch merchants had expanded their trade through the Straits of Gibraltar as far as Venice by 1590 and in the Atlantic to the Cape Verde Islands and the coast of Guinea. Dutch sailors found their way around the Cape of Good Hope to Madagascar and east to Java by June 1596. In 1598 they sent 22 vessels to the East Indies, and two ships commanded by Olivier van Noort sailed around the world. That year Spain banned trading with Dutch ships. In 1599 Amsterdam received wares from 640 ships.
In 1596 the Dutch formed a triple alliance with France and England. Oldenbarnevelt united the republic by bringing more frontier provinces under the States General in November, and in the winter Maurits liberated Guelders, Overijssel, and Drenthe and stopped Spanish raids. He advanced along the Rhine River and captured Rheinberg in 1597. On April 28, 1598 Oldenbarnevelt persuaded France’s Henri IV to keep on subsidizing the Dutch war effort with a million écus for the next four years. From 1590 to 1598 the number of military engineers in the Council of State (Raad van State) increased from 13 to 25.
Spain made peace with France in a treaty at Vervins on May 2, 1598. To fight the Spaniards the United Netherlands raised funds by taxing trade in 1599 for a fleet of seventy ships. Oldenbarnevelt organized an invasion of Flanders by an army of 10,000 men on June 22, 1600 led by the reluctant Count Maurits; but on the 30th they were trapped at Nieuwpoort by Spanish veterans and suffered heavy losses. Maurits led a retreat back to Zeeland. By 1600 the largest cities in the United Netherlands were Amsterdam with 60,000, Haarlem with 30,000, and Leiden with 26,000.
The economic boom of the 1590s helped pay the interest on the Netherlands’ debt. Henric Laurenszoon Spieghel summarized his work on ethics in his poem Hertspiegel (The Mirror of the Heart) which he wrote by 1600, though it was not published until 1614. The Dutch Republic took over funding of charitable institutions from the churches. In 1598 Haarlem put the city’s almoners in charge of the city’s poor relief; but paupers not born in Haarlem were expelled, and they prohibited begging, vagrancy, and private alms. A large home was built for orphans at Middelburg in 1602. Amsterdam was supporting about 2,500 families by 1616.
In 1600 a faction opposing the Friesland government of Willem Lodewijk met at Franeker and accused the towns of trying to enslave those in the countryside. Lodewijk was also criticized in Drenthe by the bailiff Caspar van Ewsum and successful farmers. The new Count Enno III (r. 1599-1625) of East Friesland was even more Lutheran and opposed to Calvinists and the Spanish than his father.
The Republic’s army of 10,000 infantry and 1,400 cavalry under Maurits and the English brothers Horace and Francis Vere invaded Dunkirk, and on July 2, 1600 the Archduke Albrecht with 7,700 foot soldiers and 1,200 horseman fought them on beaches near Nieuwpoort. The Spaniards had 500 more casualties and 600 men captured, but Maurits failed to take Nieuwpoort and withdrew. After 1600 Albrecht no longer convened the southern States General. Twelve Spanish warships from Dunkirk in August destroyed 36 busses of the South Holland herring fleet in the North Sea.
On July 5, 1601 Albrecht and the Spaniards besieged Ostend, where the Anglo-Dutch garrison grew to 5,675 men by March 1602. That year Spain and Emperor Rudolf II supported the siege of Emden by Enno III of East Frisia, but in 1603 the Dutch forced Enno to accept their occupation of Emden and the Reformed Church there. In September 1602 Maurits had captured the Grave fortress in northern Brabant; but the next year he failed to take ‘s-Hertogenbosch, though he besieged Sluice for three months until it surrendered in August 1604. Spain’s General Ambrogio Spinola brought men he hired and took command of the Ostend siege on September 29, 1603, giving Spain about 20,000 more men than the Dutch Republic had. The siege cost Holland 100,000 guilders per month and lasted three years and 73 days until September 15, 1604. Both sides suffered casualties of 30,000 men or more; but the Dutch and the English finally capitulated as 15,000 soldiers and 30,000 civilians were taken prisoners.
During a plague in 1602 the Reformed preacher Petrus Plancius incited hatred against Lutherans, but Amsterdam soon followed Hamburg’s example of letting Lutherans co-exist with Calvinists. Lutherans held their first synod in Amsterdam in 1605.
Dutch trade with Asia had increased in the late 1590s, and only half of the 22 ships equipped in 1600 returned. The Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC) was founded on March 20, 1602 and was granted a monopoly on the Asian trade for 21 years. Returning commanders had to submit a report to the States General, and companies paid the States £25,000 for the charter. The Company’s capital of 6,500,000 guilders was divided into unequal shares. The first fleet of 17 ships did not return for five years. Admiral Wybrand van Warwyck sent ships to Banda Aceh, Johor, Borneo, Siam, and China, and returned with rich cargo in June 1607. Admiral Steven van der Hagen attacked the Portuguese in India, and in 1605 the Company’s forces took from the Portuguese the spice islands of Ternate, Tidore, and Amboina in Indonesia. In 1609 Hugo Grotius defended the right of the Dutch to explore and trade in Asia in his Latin book The Free Sea (Mare Librum).
In 1604 England made a treaty with Spain, and they resumed trading. The English agreed not to carry Dutch goods to Spanish or Portuguese ports, and Spanish authorities began confiscating goods suspected of being Dutch. In the next two years Spinola’s Spanish army captured Oldenzaal, Lochem, Lingen, Rheinberg, and Groenlo in the eastern Netherlands and Germany, and they were forced to pay tribute to Spain. In September 1606 Oldenbarnevelt secretly warned the States of Holland that the Republic’s financial situation was untenable. In December he told Spinola the United Provinces of the Dutch Republic would leave the Indies in exchange for complete peace and recognition, and on March 13, 1607 Spinola communicated the secret message of Duke Albrecht and Isabella that they would negotiate. They agreed to a cease-fire in April, but the document did not include the Dutch concession. Spain offered a truce for 12 years if Catholics in Dutch provinces would be publicly tolerated, but Oldenbarnevelt rejected that.
The Dutch army had 51,000 men by 1607, and that year they had major garrisons in more than twenty towns. Spending on fortifications had multiplied by five sine 1597. On April 25, 1607 the Dutch navy defeated the Spaniards at Gibraltar, destroying or capturing more than thirty vessels without losing a ship. After that the armies were exhausted and confined themselves to raiding. France’s Henri IV sent the Dutch envoy François van Aerssen to the States to ask what they expected if he would be their sovereign. Holland’s debt had risen to 26 million guilders, and Maurits admitted in August that they could not continue the war.
Finally the Dutch agreed not to start a West India Company and to stop the VOC attacks on the Portuguese in Asia, and the Twelve-year Truce was signed at Antwerp on April 9, 1609. After it came into effect, the Dutch army was reduced to 29,000 men. The Flanders army of 60,000 was diminished to less than 20,000. The United Provinces were recognized by many European nations and by a few in the Near East and North Africa. The truce allowed more trade, but exploitation by merchants lowered wages and increased rent.
In 1609 Duke Johann Wilhelm of Jülich-Cleves-Berg died without an heir. The next year Dutch and French forces took over Jülich, and Dutch troops provided a garrison. A treaty gave Jülich and Berg to the Duke of Neuberg who was backed by Lutherans and Spain while Cleves and Mark went to the Elector of Brandenburg who was supported by Calvinists and the Dutch. In 1614 Spaniards expelled the Brandenburgers from Düsseldorf, and in August the Spanish led by General Ambrogio Spinola defeated the Calvinists in Aachen and occupied Orsoy and Wesel, a Calvinist town of 6,000. The Dutch were upset, and Maurits brought an army that occupied Emmerich, Hamm, and Lippstadt. In November a new treaty confirmed the previous one and the Spanish and Dutch garrisons.
After Denmark’s Kristian IV interfered with shipping in 1611, the Dutch increased the Sound tolls and formed alliances with Sweden and the Hansa towns in 1613-14. In 1614 the English Cockayne project tried to prevent unfinished English cloth from being exported; but the States of the United Provinces and the Amsterdam city council reacted by banning the importation of finished cloth from England, damaging the English textile industry so much that James I canceled the project. In 1615 Friedrich Ulrich of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and King Kristian besieged the city of Brunswick; but Frederik Hendrik with an army of 7,000 Dutch forced Denmark in November to accept a treaty which led in 1616 to ten German cities allowing the Dutch to trade in the North and Baltic seas.
In 1609 the Company sent Hendrik Hudson to look for a northwest passage to Asia, and he went up the river named after him to what is now Albany, New York. Pieter Both was the Company’s first governor-general 1609-14, and in 1611 Fort Nassau was built on the Gold Coast. In 1613 the Dutch attacks on Portuguese colonies resumed, and in 1614 the States General blamed the fighting in the Moluccas on Spain and ended the truce in the East Indies. In 1619 the fourth governor-general Jan Pietersz Coen captured Jakarta and made it the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company in Asia, renaming it Batavia. He massacred people in the Banda Islands in order to get control of clove production, and he was criticized by Laurens Reael and others.
Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) began preaching in Amsterdam in 1588 and was ordained the next year. He preached against the Calvinist doctrine of predestination and was first summoned by Amsterdam’s burgomasters in 1591. That year his colleague Petrus Plancius began to challenge his ideas. Arminius in 1600 wrote the oration “On Reconciling the Dissensions among Christians.” He was appointed to the chair of theology at Leiden in 1603 and preached freedom of the individual will. In the summer of 1605 deputies from the north and south synods of Holland warned him not to publish his criticisms of established dogma. Arminius refused to speak to them and would not talk publicly outside his lecture room. In 1607 Arminius and his nemesis, the Flemish and strict Calvinist Franciscus Gomarus (1563-1641), presented their cases before the Holland High Council of Justice, and the next year they spoke at length before the assembly of the States of Holland. Arminius suffered from bad health and died on October 19, 1609.
On January 14, 1610 Johannes Uyttenbogaert and 47 others who agreed with the ideas of Arminius favoring free will met at The Hague and eventually wrote down their views in “Five Articles of Remonstrance,” which they all signed in July. They were called Remonstrants, and Holland granted them protection. They objected to the doctrine of pre-determined election of those who would be saved while others would be damned. In July the Arminians submitted “The Remonstrance” signed by 44 public preachers which Oldenbarnevelt presented to the States General.
The Calvinist Dirk Canter led a revolt in Utrecht in January 1610, but Oldenbarnevelt and the Holland States persuaded the States General to send troops to suppress the rebellion in May, restoring the faction called “libertines.” The Remonstrants were opposed by the Gomarists who defended Calvinist predestination. The next year the Contra-Remonstrants persuaded the States of Holland to summon a conference with six ministers on each side. The Contra-Remonstrants were led by Festus Hommius of Leiden and Plancius, and they urged others to petition the States General to convene a national synod. Also in 1611 England’s King James objected to Konrad Vorstius having been appointed to the chair of Arminius in Leiden. Gomarus resigned his position at Leiden and went to Middelburg to preach and teach. Hugo Grotius defended the right of civil authorities to appoint university faculty. In August 1612 a synod at Utrecht argued that “toleration was asserted by a law of state and church.” Another debate at Delft in February 1613 lasted two days. Uyttenbogaert sought reconciliation and published the pamphlet Defense of the Resolution for the Peace of the Church. The number of pamphlets in Dutch on this issue increased from about 50 in 1613 to 300 in 1618.
In April 1616 the States General sent an embassy led by Grotius to Amsterdam to ask them to stop opposing the government’s church policies. Grotius wrote a long oration he gave to the city council which warned that the Gomarists could break the public Church into fighting factions. He argued that in regard to predestination confessional uniformity was unnecessary. In August a major riot broke at in Delft where a crisis in the brewing industry had ruined the economy. In Utrecht and other Holland towns those objecting to strict Calvinism walked out of town to meet and were called “Mud Beggars.” During that summer about 700 people each Sunday walked out of The Hague to hear Rosaeus preach at Rijswijk. In September the States of Friesland required every Reformed preacher appointed to sign and swear to the Netherlands Confession. By the end of 1616 Stadtholder Maurits believed that the controversy could only be decided by arms.
Rebellion grew in January 1617 at The Hague and Brill. Contra-Remonstrants in February became a mob in Amsterdam as youths attacked Remonstrant conventicles. On May 3 a crowd of artisans forced the Arminian city council of Oudewater to reverse the dismissal of a Contra-Remonstrant preacher. On July 9 Contra-Remonstrants took over an unused Cloister Church in The Hague and formed a congregation. On August 4 the States of Holland passed the Sharp Resolution over the objection of Amsterdam and five other cities which authorized towns to mobilize troops to maintain order and declared that Holland’s regular army was to obey the provincial States rather than the States General. Stadtholder Maurits announced his opposition to this. Utrecht raised troops and purged their militia of Contra-Remonstrant militants. Leiden barricaded the heart of the city in September, and fighting broke out on October 3 with several soldiers wounded and one person killed.
Also in 1617 Gerbrand Adriaenszoon Bredero’s comedy The Spanish Brabanter was first performed, portraying the virtues and vices of Dutch society in Amsterdam through the experience of a man from Brabant and the beggar he hires as a servant. These main characters are freely adapted from the anonymous picaresque novella Lazarillo de Tormes published in Spanish at Burgos, Alcala, and Antwerp in 1554. In this comedy Jerolimo has come from Antwerp to Amsterdam where he hires Robbeknol and mixes with the common people in Holland’s largest city. They meet two strumpets who tell how they came to join the oldest profession. Robbeknol tells of his difficult life, and three older men describe each other’s faults. An official emerges from city hall and proclaims a new law against begging and idleness that is praised by all but the poor. Catholic Jerolimo makes money reading the Bible to three spinsters and sends his servant to buy food which they eat voraciously. This attracts neighbors and the landlord with a sheriff to collect the movable property from the house Jerolimo has rented, but they find the two men gone and the house completely empty. A bawd explains that people “are no longer to be trusted” because “Today it’s but a race for money; ‘tis the world’s way.”1 The humor is earthy and realistic, and it was perhaps the most popular Dutch play.
In January 1618 Leiden regents required militia soldiers to take an oath, and more than 500 soldiers were purged for refusing. Maurits went to Nijmegen with Gelderland’s Chancellor Gerlach van der Capellen and a Contra-Remonstrant leader from Zutphen, and they purged the Arminians from the city council. Then the new city council fired three Arminian preachers. Garrisons at Brill, Heusden, and Raden refused to obey town councils. On February 20 Philips Willem died, and his younger half-brother Maurits of Nassau, stadtholder of five provinces, became the Prince of Orange. Maurits mobilized the army in five provinces against Holland and Utrecht, and in March he attended the States of Gelderland and persuaded them to reject Holland’s protests. In May he went to the States of Overijssel and gained their support, and they joined Friesland, Groningen, Zeeland, and Gelderland who in 1617 had called for a national synod. Grotius and other Remonstrant argued that the vote of the States General was illegal because they had no authority over religion.
On July 9 the States General considered disbanding the troops raised in Holland and Utrecht, and it passed five provinces to two. Maurits led troops to Utrecht and disarmed the city’s 900 soldiers. He added seven Contra-Remonstrants to its city council, and delegates of the States were purged. Utrecht was no longer a Remonstrant city. In the Dutch Republic many Arminian city councilors were replaced. The Netherlands Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism stated that public churches which did not conform to the “pure Reformed Christian Religion” such as Remonstrantism were a separate religion. In late August the cities of Leiden, Rotterdam, and others disbanded their soldiers. On the 28th the States General secretly authorized Maurits and a Generality commission to investigate subversion in Holland and Utrecht. On the next day Maurits had Johan van Oldenbarneveldt, Hugo Grotius, and the jurist Rombout Hogerbeets arrested at the Binnenhof in The Hague.
Maurits replaced two sons-in-law of Oldenbarneveldt in the States of Holland as well as François van Aerssen and his close friend Van den Bouchorst. In early September 1618 Arminians were purged from the town councils of Schoonhoven and Brill and then from many others in the fall. On October 18 Maurits entered Alkmaar with 180 musketeers and removed sixteen regents. Two days later his troops arrived in Leiden, and on October 23 they replaced 22 regents. In Haarlem he expelled 13 regents and in Rotterdam 15. Most of the new men had less education and experience. Oldenbarneveldt’s position of Advocate was eliminated.
The National Synod of Dordrecht met on November 13, 1618 at Amsterdam’s town hall and included English, Swiss, and Germans. Uyttenbogaert had fled, but a few prominent Remonstrants attended. On January 19, 1619 they expelled the dissidents. By the end of the Synod on May 9 the 31 Dutch and 28 foreign theologians condemned Arminian ideas, and they authorized a Dutch translation of the Bible by experts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
In March 1619 rioting erupted in Hoorn and Alkmaar, and Maurits sent a force to restore order. The troops stayed there and in Schoonhoven for several months. Also in March a Remonstrant synod met secretly in Rotterdam. Disturbances there and in Hoorn, Alkmaar, and Kampen were suppressed by troops.
Oldenbarneveldt, Grotius, and Hogerbeets were tried by 24 judges with twelve from Holland and two from each of the other six provinces. All three were found guilty of treason on May 12, and the next day Oldenbarneveldt was beheaded. Grotius and Hogerbeets were sentenced to life in prison. Grotius escaped and lived in Paris.
In 1619 about 200 Remonstrants had their right to preach taken away. Only about 40 submitted to the formula, and 70 signed an agreement not to preach or debate theology. More than 80 refused and were banished from the Dutch Republic. Uyttenbogaert summoned a Remonstrant synod in Antwerp that was allowed by Archduke Albrecht. About 40 preachers attended, and they organized the Remonstrant Church. Denmark’s Kristian IV let a community settle at Glückstadt in Holstein. Funds were raised for Remonstrant preachers, and in 1621 they secretly collected more than 20,000 guilders in Holland. Most of the Remonstrants in Spanish Netherlands left after the Truce expired in April 1621.
Maurits and his advisors now had much more trouble governing the United Netherlands. The number of Catholics in Holland had begun increasing in 1616, and their numbers in Amsterdam would rise from 14,000 in 1635 to 30,000 in 1656 and in Rotterdam from 3,000 to 6,500, but during that period the number of Catholics in Groningen, Deventer, Kampen, Zutphen, and Harderwijk fell by about half. A university had been founded in Groningen in 1614 with the local historian Ubbo Emmius was the first rector. In November 1619 Maurits controlled the elections in the Remonstrant towns of Gouda, Hoorn, Alkmaar, and Kampen, and troops had to be maintained in Utrecht, Hoorn, Schoonhoven, Alkmaar, and Oudewater. Stadtholder Willem Lodewijk died in June 1620 and was replaced by the Contra-Remonstrant Ernst Casimir in Friesland, but Groningen and Drenthe elected Maurits. He supported the Bohemian revolt by sending them 50,000 guilders monthly. Maurits managed to keep the negotiation on renewing the Truce secret. On March 25, 1621 the States General increased its power over the provinces. After the Truce expired in April, Maurits asked the Brussels government to make concessions. Archduke Albrecht died in July.
When the Truce was not renewed in April 1621, the Spanish embargo on the Dutch Republic was reimposed. Baltic trade was reduced, and lack of salt from the Caribbean hurt the herring industry in the North Sea. The States General chartered the Dutch West India Company (WIC) in June, and they were given a monopoly for 24 years. To counter an increased Spanish army the Dutch standing army was expanded from 30,000 men to 48,000, and Maurits and the States General increased taxes sharply. Envoys were sent to Paris to ask for aid but got none. Yet the Dutch continued to support the Protestants in Germany who were fighting the Habsburg Empire. Also in 1621 inequality in wealth and a bad crop led to a famine in Drenthe, and a plague killed 2,500 horses, 10,000 cattle, and 50,000 sheep.
In early 1622 General Spinola’s Flanders army captured Jülich, but on October 2 they had to give up the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom because of severe losses. Mansfeld’s army in East Friesland was confined to the Dutch border. However, Christian of Brunswick had taken Lippstadt and swelled his army with Protestants in Lower Saxony. The States General sent money to support his army; but on August 6, 1623 they were defeated by Tilly’s imperial army at Stadtlohn, and thousands of soldiers and Protestants fled into Gelderland and Overijssel. In the next few weeks two dozen ships carried refugees from Amsterdam to northern German ports.
The health of Maurits had seriously declined by 1623, and he delegated authority to the Gecommitteerde Raden and the Pensionary Anthonie Duyck of Holland. Van den Bouchorst quarreled with Van Aerssen and sent him to Venice. Then Maurits sent Van den Bouchorst to Paris, and Louis XIII in the June treaty of Compiegne promised to grant the Dutch Republic one million guilders annually. Amsterdam’s regent Reinier Pauw opposed the Remonstrants but had lost power by 1624. Holland imposed a butter tax in June that caused riots in Delft, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, The Hague, Amsterdam, and Haarlem, and that year a stamp tax on all legal contracts and documents was invented in Holland and imposed by the States. In 1624 plague carried off 11,795 people in Amsterdam and 9,897 in Leiden. Between 1626 and 1650 the University of Leiden had about 11,000 students including 3,016 Germans, 672 from Britain, 621 Scandinavians, 434 French, 354 from Poland, and 231 from Hungary but only 19 Italians, 3 Spaniards, and 3 Portuguese.
Spinola’s army ravaged Grave and Moers and besieged Breda on August 28, 1624. Stadtholder Maurits died on April 23, 1625. His half-brother Frederik Hendrik was the youngest son of the famous Willem of Orange and Louise de Coligny, and he became Captain-general of the United Provinces and tried to rescue Breda in May; but the city capitulated to the Spaniards on June 5. The States General elected Frederik stadtholder on July 5, and he was inaugurated twenty days later. On April 4, 1625 he had married Amalia, daughter of the Count of Solms-Braunfels in Hesse. She had been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia and a refugee at the court in The Hague. Frederik had been tutored by the Arminian Uyttenbogaert, and he chose as his chief advisors the former secretary of the Raad van State, Constantijn Huygens, and the poet Simon van Beaumont who was Middelberg Pensioner. However, Van den Bouchorst in Holland, Ploos in Utrecht, Van Haersolte in Overijssel, and Goosen Schaffer in Groningen had served Maurits and still held their prominent positions. Duyck, Van den Bouchorst, and Schaffer were on the committee that negotiated an alliance with England in October 1625.
That year imperial Spain imposed a river blockade that lasted until Spanish defeats in 1629, but this was moderated by increased crops. Privateers from Dunkirk and Ostend seized many Dutch ships in the North Sea, raising Dutch freight rates. Spain’s finances were also difficult, and in May 1625 the Council in Madrid stopped offensive campaigns against the Dutch on land, ordered the Flanders army to act only defensively and reduced their funds from Spain by one-sixth. In March 1626 Frederik ordered the Dutch army increased to 55,000 men, and the next year the States General added 3,000 more men. In 1628 the army of the Catholic League and the Habsburg Empire invaded East Friesland, and the States General sent forces there, ordering them to be defensive.
Moderate Remonstrants called themselves Arminians and sought political accommodation and religious tolerance. They became predominant in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and other town councils. They opposed the war and favored the sovereignty of Holland. Uyttenbogaert from Rouen wrote that the Arminians would not challenge the Synod of Dordrecht or the public Church as long as they could practice their beliefs. Grotius also wanted to moderate the influence of the Remonstrants.
In 1625 the poetic dramatist Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) published his play Palamedes which portrayed a judicial murder (like that of Oldenbarneveldt) by Agamemnon who resembled Maurits, and Amsterdam magistrates imposed a heavy fine on Vondel who became a Catholic in 1641. In 1647 his play Lion Fallers celebrated peace. All together Vondel wrote 26 plays mostly about Biblical and historical figures; but apparently only Lucifer (1654) has been translated into English because it influenced Milton’s Paradise Lost. Also in 1625 one of Rembrandt van Rijn’s first paintings, the “Stoning of St. Stephen,” was taken by many as a comment on the execution of Oldenbarneveldt.
On June 2, 1625 Frederik Hendrik was inaugurated at Waalwijk as Stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland, and nobles who had managed Overijssel and Gelderland for Maurits also came to Waalwijk to commission Frederik as stadtholder of their provinces. However, the states of Groningen and Drenthe rejected Frederik and elected Frisia’s Stadtholder Ernst Casimir. Utrecht was divided, but they reached a compromise and installed Frederik in November. Contra-Remonstrants were still strong in Utrecht and in Haarlem, Leiden, Enkhuizen, Nijmegen, and Kampen. In February 1626 Frederik informed officers in Utrecht that he would not send troops to interfere with peace Remonstrants, and in April the Prince denied the Schoonhoven City Council troops unless there was violence. On April 13 Amsterdam’s strictly Calvinist preacher Adriaen Smout aroused people to break up Sunday prayer meetings of Remonstrants, and a mob demolished a house used by Remonstrant worshippers. The militia refused to obey the Arminian City Council (vroedschap) who ordered them to control the crowd, and elder preachers declined to calm the mob. Uyttenbogaert returned from France in September and was protected by Frederik, though he did not meet with him. He and Episcopius wanted Frederik to ban the placards prohibiting Remonstrant prayer meetings; he refused to do so, but he did not enforce the placards. In 1627 Frederik captured Grol.
In February 1628 Amsterdam elected two Arminians burgomasters, but on March 8 another Remonstrant service was disturbed by rioting. The burgomasters appealed to Frederik who arrived with an Arminian and a Contra-Remonstrant from the Gecommitteerde Raden to mediate and calm the situation. Later when an Arminian replaced a Contra-Remonstrant as militia captain, many of the 800 men in the Amsterdam militia refused to serve under him. Physician Carel Leenaertsz led Contra-Remonstrants to The Hague to protest before the States of Holland. They denounced Grotius for his Apology for the Legitimate Government of Holland which the States General had banned in November 1622. The Amsterdam City Council appealed to Stadtholder Frederik for troops because they agreed with Grotius that the civic militia had no right to enforce Church policies. Frederik sent six companies of soldiers, and they arrested the leaders of the protest. Leenaertsz was convicted, fined, and banished for life. The militia was purged and had to take a new oath.
Remonstrants wanted toleration for themselves, but they also favored it for Contra-Remonstrant Calvinists, Lutherans, Mennonites, Catholics, and Jews. Simon Episcopius (1583-1643) published Confession and Declaration in 1622, Free Religion in 1627, and Apologia pro Confessione Remonstrantium in 1629. Free Religion is a dialog between a Remonstrant and a Contra-Remonstrant on various aspects of Dutch life. The Contra-Remonstrant wants his religion to be backed by the state while the Arminian would allow freedom to all churches. Episcopius argued that tolerance strengthens the state and makes citizens more secure. When the state supports only one religious sect, resentment and hypocrisy grow. No human conscience should judge another. Coercion prevents a true inquiry and does not respect individual freedom.
In 1627 the Zeeland Chamber approved the Flushing merchant Van Pere sending sixty men to settle the Berbice colony on the Wild Coast of Guiana in South America. In 1628 Spain went to war with France over Mantua, and the West India Company (WIC) led by Piet Heyn captured 11,000,000 guilders of silver from Mexico off the coast of Cuba at Matanzas. In 1629 Amsterdam offered as much land as people could settle in New Amsterdam, but the Company restricted the island of Manhattan to its own tenants. WIC captured Olinda north of Recife in Pernambuco, Brazil on March 3, 1630. They established a permanent base in the Caribbean Sea when they took Curaçao from the Spaniards in 1634. Dutch captains trafficked in slaves off the coast of Guinea in west Africa and on the island of Curaçao.
Justinus van Nassau was an illegitimate son of Willem of Orange and the daughter of a Breda burgher, and he governed Breda 1601-25. In 1616 Count Johann of Nassau founded a military academy at Siegen that promoted Dutch methods. Holland’s share of the generality taxes remained stable at nearly 60%, but the truce in 1609 reduced Zeeland’s transit traffic, and their tax share fell from about 14% to 9%. Friesland’s share was about 12% and Utrecht’s 6%. The Republic had 67 customs posts in 1600, and by 1650 there were 91.
Zeelander Willem Teellinck (1579-1629) was influenced by English Puritans, and he published Zions Basuyne in 1621 supporting military methods to reform morals. In 1627 his Noodwendigh Vertoogh suggested that God was punishing Europeans in the Long War because of their bad morals. He also wrote books against the Catholic Church and the Arminians. Intolerant Calvinists also persecuted Jews and Lutherans.
By April 1629 the Dutch Republic’s army had 77,000 men. Stadtholder Frederik Hendrik commanded a field army of 28,000 who besieged ‘s-Hertogenbosch in Brabant on April 30. Spanish Netherlands’ governor Isabella appealed to the Habsburg Empire which sent 16,000 men led by Count Montecuccoli. His imperial forces and the Spaniards crossed the Ijssel to terrorize Holland, but the Dutch mobilized armies reported to have 128,000 men. Amersfoort surrendered to the imperial army and for a time allowed Catholic services. Dutch troops led by Van Gendt van Dieden seized Wesel in Cleves on August 19, and ‘s-Hertogenbosch’s garrison of 3,000 soldiers surrendered on September 14. Spain offered a truce, but the States of Holland were equally divided in a vote on December 9.
In January 1630 Amsterdam banished the provocative preacher Smout, and two other Calvinists left the city in protest. Stadtholder Frederik favored the truce. After having the fortifications of Wesel and ‘s-Hertogenbosch repaired in 1630, the next year he invaded Flanders with 30,000 men and eighty cannons using 3,000 ships on the rivers and the Bruges-Ghent canal. When a large Spanish force appeared, he quarreled with the States General’s deputies over strategy and ordered a retreat. That summer Rembrandt moved his studio from Leiden to Amsterdam. Grotius returned to Rotterdam in November and visited the statue of Erasmus whom he believed led the correct Reformation. Arminians proposed that the States of Holland grant Grotius amnesty, but the Counter-Remonstrants outvoted them 12-7.
On September 12-13, 1631 at the Slaak Channel of Volkerak a Dutch fleet of 50 ships from Zeeland led by Marinus Hollare defeated a larger Spanish fleet led by the Marquis of Aytona and Jan van Nassau Siegen, destroying or capturing 80 vessels and taking 4,000 prisoners. The Spanish side also suffered 1,500 casualties while Dutch lost only a few men.
By 1631 Amsterdam had ten citizens with at least 300,000 guilders each, and two of them were widows. The painter Rembrandt earned more than 2,000 guilders a year, but his students Gerrit Dou, Govert Flinck, and Ferdinand Bol earned much more. Other great painters during this Dutch golden age included Frans Hals, Salomon van Ruysdael, and Jan Josephszoon van Goyen. Universities were established at Utrecht in 1636 and at Harderwijk in 1648.
On May 22, 1632 the States General published an appeal to those in the southern provinces to rise up against the oppressive Spaniards. Frederik Hendrik led an invasion of the Maas Valley and seized Venlo in June and then Roermond, Sittard, and Straelen. He allowed the Catholics to keep their property and revenues as long as each town turned over one church for Reformed services. The Stadtholder besieged Maastricht on June 8. Isabella had relieved Count Van den Bergh of command in 1631, and now in Liege he urged the nobility to rebel against the arrogant Spaniards. Spain sent the Palatinate army, and Emperor Ferdinand II contributed an army led by Field Marshal Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim. Dutch bombardment and mines destroyed the walls of Maastricht which capitulated on August 23. Also in 1632 Holland revised their land tax and began proportional assessments on house and land rents.
Southern states persuaded Isabella to convene a States General which met for the first time since 1600 on September 9, 1632 at Brussels, and they would never meet again under Spanish rule. They wanted to end the war if they could maintain their Catholic religion. They sent the Duke of Aerschot and the Archbishop of Mechelen to meet the northern deputies at Maastricht. Olivares considered this usurpation of the royal prerogative and secretly canceled the negotiation, but Stadtholder Frederik urged the northern provinces to participate. All the Arminians were willing; but Counter-Remonstrant towns only wanted to hear proposals, and they would not negotiate with Spain’s King Felipe IV. The Dutch States General agreed in November, and they began talking at The Hague in December. Reinier’s son Adriaen Pauw supported Frederik and was elected Pensionary of Holland on April 9, 1631. Counter-Remonstrants demanded that southern provinces tolerate the Reformed Church. Isabella insisted that the Dutch abandon their WIC colony in Brazil and offered Breda and money as compensation for WIC. Zeelanders wanted a share of the administration of Flemish ports.
In April 1633 Pauw offered moderate demands that only four provinces approved. Stadtholder Frederik went off in May to attack Cleve’s fortress at Rheinberg. By June the talks were about to collapse, and Arminians urged more concessions for peace. During the summer Cardinal Richelieu urged Frederik to accept an alliance with France against Spain, and by November the Stadtholder was opposing Pauw and the Arminians. On December 9 the States General voted 5-2 to stop negotiating as Frederik led the war party. King Louis XIII offered the Dutch a partnership with subsidies, but Arminian towns objected to the obligation to negotiate with the French against Spain. The Dutch were split, and each side campaigned to win over towns. Van den Bouchorst won over Holland, and François van Aerssen also supported the Prince of Orange.
Governor Isabella died on December 1, 1633, and negotiations were broken off by the end of the year. She was succeeded by Felipe IV’s 24-year-old brother Fernando de Austria, the Cardinal Infante of Spain. Before going to Brussels his army helped the Habsburg’s imperial forces defeat the Swedes at Nordlingen in September 1634. Meanwhile in November 1633 Brussels had sent Archbishop Aerschot of Mechelen to Madrid, but in April 1634 he was put in prison. This news went to Brussels with Felipe IV’s order to dissolve the States General as Felipe III had done in 1600.
On April 15, 1634 the States General of the Dutch Republic accepted a subsidy treaty with France and promised not to negotiate with Spain for at least one year. Uprisings protested the collection of taxes in Gelderland and Friesland where soldiers sent by the States General restored order. Cities demanded the right to appoint their own officials, and this reform was enacted. In February 8, 1635 the Dutch formed an alliance with France, and each side promised to invade the Spanish Netherlands with 30,000 men. France declared war on Spain on May 25, and that month their army of 20,000 men was in Luxembourg. Famine and disease devastated the French-Dutch army at Roermond in July. Spanish forces attacked Schenkenschanz, and Fernando’s army occupied Goch, Cleves, and Gennep before he returned to Brussels.
In March 1636 Holland Pensionary Pauw was replaced by Jacob Cats, and prominent Dutch politicians worked secretly to help renew the French alliance and received bribes from Richelieu. Van den Bouchorst of Holland and Ploos van Amstel of Utrecht each received 10,000 livres; States General court clerk Cornelis Musch got 20,000, his father-in-law Jacob Cats 6,000, and Johan de Knuyt of Zeeland 5,000. Cats also wrote poetry and published illustrated “emblem books” with aphorisms that were popular. His Mirror of the Old and New Time was published in 1632. In this decade Van Aerssen became the second richest man in The Hague after Frederik himself. The southern Netherlands was urged to revolt and was offered freedom of religion, but much of its territory would be annexed by either the Dutch Republic or France. Yet Richelieu would not allow public Calvinism so as not to offend the Pope. The States General stopped offering tolerance to Catholics in the south.
In 1634 Felipe IV had sent his younger brother, the Cardinal-Infante Fernando of Austria, to govern the southern Netherlands, and he brought 11,000 Spanish troops to Brussels. Spain’s Prime Minister, Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, advised the strategy of attacking the Dutch while defending against the French. The army of Flanders was increased to more than 70,000 men, and Fernando managed to defeat the Dutch invasion in 1635. Stadtholder Frederik besieged Schenckenschans and stayed through the winter. Spain sent the painter Rubens to mediate a truce with the Dutch in Amsterdam, but the Stadtholder declined to let him enter the United Provinces. Schenckenschans capitulated in April 1636. That year Zeeland independently resumed trade with Antwerp.
The States of Holland managed to get cuts in military spending and troops in early 1637; but Pensionary Cats refused to do more in December even though 15 of 18 towns had voted for that. That year Spain recaptured Breda, and the Dutch were suffering a recession because of lack of trade with southern Europe. The States General imposed heavy war-time tolls and tariffs on the south. However, colonial trade helped the Dutch East India Company (VOC) share values to rise spectacularly on the Amsterdam Exchange. The Amsterdam Chamber’s shares doubled in value during the 1630s. This included a speculative boom in tulip bulbs in 1636 and 1637, the year Frederik Hendrik’s income from farms in north Brabant and south Holland rose to 650,000 guilders.
The States General began calling the Prince of Orange “Highness.” During this era he improved his palaces, gardens, and art collections. In 1637 his army regained Breda, and the VOC invaded Ceylon (Sri Lanka) 1638-41. Antonie van Diemen governed the Moluccas and the East Indies for the Company from 1636 to 1645. He made a treaty with the Sultan of Ternate in 1638, but Antonie Caen commanded a war of subjection that destroyed a fleet from Macassar in 1643. By 1644 Van Diemen controlled Malacca and two cinnamon ports in Ceylon.
Count Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen governed in Brazil for the Dutch West Indies Company (WIC) 1637-44 and expanded their colony to the north, giving WIC half of Brazil’s 14 captaincies, though his attack on Bahia in 1638 with 3,600 Europeans and 1,000 Indians was disastrous. In West Africa WIC took Elmina from the Portuguese in 1637, Chama and Boutry in 1640, and Axim in 1642, giving the Dutch control of the Guinea coast. Between 1636 and 1645 the Dutch sold slaves from West Africa for nearly 7,000,000 guilders.
WIC captain Pieter Jol took 3,000 men from Brazil in May 1641 and captured Angola, but the Portuguese forced the garrison to surrender in 1648. By then the Dutch controlled the six islands of the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. In March of that year Witte de With arrived in Brazil, increasing the Dutch army there to 6,000 men, but the Portuguese defeated the Dutch at Guararapes in April and again in February 1649.
In 1638 Denmark’s Kristian IV began attacking Dutch ships and raised severely tolls on foreign ships, and the States General sent an embassy to Copenhagen. Kristian rejected their demands and allied with Spain, enforcing Spanish embargoes.
In 1639 the physician Johan van Beverwijck wrote On the Excellence of the Female Sex in which he argued that women are superior to men and described 700 examples, though he did not foresee women emerging beyond their domestic roles.
In February 1639 a Dutch squadron of 11 ships led by Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp defeated 20 Spanish vessels. On October 21 his fleet of 106 ships in the battle of the Downs defeated the Spanish navy that lost about 40 ships, 5,000 men killed and 1,800 taken prisoner. However, that year and the next Stadtholder Frederik suffered several military defeats. In 1640 Frisian stadtholder Hendrik Casimir was killed during the unsuccessful siege of Hulst, and the Frisians elected his son Willem Frederik over Prince Frederik of Orange, who was appointed in Drenthe. On May 2, 1641 Prince Frederik’s 15-year-old son William married 9-year-old Mary Henrietta, the daughter of England’s King Charles. In 1642 Amsterdam persuaded the States General to reduce the army from 70,000 men to 60,000. In November they prohibited the export of military aid to either side in the English Civil War, but in January 1643 a squadron taking Mary Henrietta back to England carried troops and provisions for King Charles. In August the States of Holland forbade their delegates from discussing war, alliances, and diplomacy except as they instructed them. They also reduced their army to 46,000 men.
In 1643 the States General offered peace to Spain if they would cede all of the Meierij, recognize Dutch colonies, accept closure of the Scheldt to shipping, allow Zeeland tariffs in Flemish ports, and end embargoes on Dutch trade. In early 1644 the Dutch renewed their French alliance with Cardinal Mazarin. In March all but one of the seven provinces agreed that not all conditions had to be fulfilled.
In 1642 about 3,000 vessels sailed between Hamburg and the Netherlands. During the Danish war in 1644 Dutch merchants complained they were losing 100,000 guilders a day in spoiled cargo while their Baltic fleet of 702 ships was trapped in the Vlie seaway until a squadron of 40 warships led by Admiral Witte de With released them in July. On April 19, 1645 the States General sent a fleet of 50 ships with 5,000 men to protect their commerce in the Baltic Sea, and De With escorted 300 merchants in June to join the Swedes in the war against Denmark which then lowered their tolls. Piracy in the Mediterranean Sea in the 1640s averaged almost one million guilders a year. Stadtholder Frederik led the siege of Hulst which capitulated on November 5 after they had lost 2,500 men; Dutch losses were 1,600 men.
In the spring of 1646 Holland refused to approve the military budget until issues were resolved to make peace with Spain. Prince Frederik attacked Antwerp one more time in August and failed again, but by the end of the year the negotiation between the Dutch and the Spanish at Münster was successful. In January 1647 the French envoy Abel Servien returned to Münster with 30,000 livres to use for bribes to get a treaty with the Dutch. Stadtholder Frederik Hendrik became ill and died on March 14. Prince Willem II of Orange succeeded his father as stadtholder of the republic and in five provinces.
The Münster treaty signed on January 31, 1648 ending the Thirty Years’ War also included an agreement between the Dutch and Spain, and the States General ratified it by a majority vote on April 4. Utrecht and Zeeland also agreed within a few weeks. The Netherlands was still divided, but the Eighty Years’ War for Dutch independence was over. The population of Amsterdam had grown to 140,000 while Antwerp had diminished from 100,000 to 50,000.
Huig de Groot, known by the Latin form Hugo Grotius, was born in Delft, Holland on April 10, 1583 during the era in which the Netherlands was attempting to free itself from political and religious domination by Spain. His mother was Catholic, and his father was a Protestant burgomaster and curator of the University of Leyden. By the age of eight Hugo was writing Latin poetry, and by the time he was twelve he had converted his mother and entered the university, studying under the great scholar, Joseph Scaliger. At fifteen he left the university, and serving the statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, he traveled on a diplomatic mission to France, where Henri IV called him the “Miracle of Holland.” He was admitted to the bar and in 1600 settled at The Hague to practice law with Oldenbarnevelt and the Dutch East India merchants. In 1604 Grotius was asked to defend the Dutch East India Company after one of its ships captured a richly laden Portuguese ship in the Straits of Malacca, where the Portuguese were trying to exclude the Dutch. After the Prize Commission decided in favor of the Company, a leading Anabaptist, opposed to violence, sold his stock.
Grotius developed his ideas on international law by writing a long Commentary on the Law of Prize; the complete manuscript was not discovered and published until 1868, though he anonymously published its twelfth chapter in 1609 as Mare Liberum (Freedom of the Seas). In this book he challenged the claims of England, Spain, and Portugal to rule over portions of the ocean, arguing that the liberty of the sea is essential to the right of nations to communicate with each other and that no nation can monopolize ocean highways because of the immensity of the sea and its lack of stability and fixed limits.
Grotius married in 1608 after he became official historian of the United Provinces and advocate-general of the Fisc of Holland and Zeeland. The next year the Dutch made a twelve-year truce with Spain, and in 1610 Grotius justified their revolt against Spain’s Felipe II in his history of Holland entitled The Antiquity of the Batavian Republic. In that work he also presented skillful arguments for a Dutch monopoly on East Indian trade even though this advocacy directly contradicted the principles he formulated in his Mare Liberum. In 1613 he was appointed to the high legal office of pensionary of Rotterdam, becoming its chief magistrate and representative in the States General of the United Netherlands. Grotius went to England on a diplomatic mission concerning the freedom of the sea. Speaking for a group from his country, Grotius urged King James to convene an international council to work on reuniting the divided Christian churches.
In Holland again Grotius became involved in the Arminian controversy under the leadership of Oldenbarneveldt in a political struggle against more conservative Calvinists. He took the side of free will against the theory of predestination. Grotius wrote a passionate appeal in support of the Edict of Pacification which recommended tolerance. However, the political leader Maurits allied himself with the Church and fanatical peasants against the Pacification Edict. Representing the States of Holland, Grotius publicly addressed the authorities of Amsterdam in favor of tolerating the two theological opinions; considering the political danger to the country and the religious danger to Protestantism, he pleaded for tolerance and peace. However, these were intolerant times, and his address was treated with contempt and suppressed by force. Though his family and friends advised him to give up the struggle, he devised a new formula for peace to be signed by both parties that did not contradict Calvinism and proposed a council to settle the question peacefully. This also was rejected by the fanatics and Stadtholder Maurits.
In 1618 the orthodox Calvinists took control of the government, and Oldenbarnevelt and Grotius were arrested for treason against the state. The next year Oldenbarnevelt was executed, and Grotius was sentenced to life imprisonment. His wife was allowed to live with him in the fortress castle of Loevestein and to provide him with writing materials and books. While imprisoned Grotius began writing an Introduction to Dutch Jurisprudence, which was published in 1631 and became a standard textbook in Holland and the law code for South Africa from 1859 to 1901. In 1621 his wife concealed him in a chest for books, and he escaped to Paris, where she later joined him. He then wrote a letter to the Netherlands authorities, declaring that no one had been bribed to aid his escape, that he did not consider himself guilty of any crime against his country, and that nothing had happened to cause him to love his country any less.
Barely surviving on a small and irregular pension from Louis XIII, Grotius began in 1623 his great work, De Jure Belli ac Pacis (The Law of War and Peace), which was published in 1625. Two years later the Catholic Church proscribed the work in the Index. The influence of the work spread though during the Thirty Years’ War. Grotius and his wife returned to Holland in 1631; but another decree by the States General offered a reward for his arrest, causing them to leave Amsterdam and go to Hamburg. He had written a poem in prison and translated it into Latin, publishing it at Paris in 1627 as On the Truth of the Christian Religion. The book was enormously popular among Catholics and various Protestant sects because it focused on the essential teachings of Christianity rather than the sectarian questions which divided Christians. The Latin poem has been translated into French five times, into German three times, and into English, Swedish, Danish, Flemish, Greek, Chinese, Malay, Persian, Arabic, and Urdu.
Sweden’s King Gustav Adolf kept a copy of The Law of War and Peace next to his Bible under his soldier’s pillow during the campaigns of the war. He commended Grotius before his death on the battlefield in 1632, and Grotius was selected as an ambassador of Sweden to help Chancellor Oxenstierna negotiate a new alliance with France. Preoccupied with writing religious dramas and poetry, Grotius was put off by Cardinal Richelieu’s arrogance, and they quarreled over precedence and court etiquette. Grotius tried but failed to negotiate a treaty to end the Thirty Years’ War. In 1641 he wrote his brother that Richelieu hated him solely because he loved peace; he suggested that if Christian princes would choose fair arbitrators, there would be no more war among them. In 1644 he was recalled to Stockholm by Queen Kristina who liked to patronize scholars and philosophers. However, Grotius decided to go home; his ship was caught in a storm, and he fell ill and died at Rostock on August 28, 1645.
Although he believed that there could be a “just war” (unlike Erasmus and other pacifists), Grotius made a tremendous contribution toward international law and to more just and moral conduct during wars. Living during an age of cruel and lawless religious and national warfare, The Law of War and Peace delineated codes of justice for protecting innocent non-combatants, discerning rights of persons and property, and arranging methods for truces, treaties, and humane treatment of hostages and prisoners. In the Prolegomena he suggested that there is a common law among nations that is valid for war. Then he asserted the need for these principles.
Throughout the Christian world I observed
a lack of restraint in relation to war,
such as even a barbarous race should be ashamed of;
I observed that men rush to arms for slight causes,
or no cause at all,
and that when arms have once been taken up
there is no longer any respect for law, divine or human;
it is as if, in accordance with a general decree,
frenzy had openly been let loose
for the committing of all crimes.2
Grotius began by noting that “controversies among those who are not held together by the common bond of municipal law”3 are questions of war and peace. These occur when people either have not yet formed a nation or belong to different nations. The law of nations that is beyond the municipal law evolves over time and is customary. Grotius quoted numerous classical and biblical sources but derived his principles using human reason from natural law and the law of nations, which are universally accepted. A civil right derives from the laws of a sovereign state; but he asserted that the law of nations is a more extensive right because it derives its authority from the consent of all nations, or at least of many. He believed that if authorities issue an order that is contrary to natural law, it should not be carried out.
The most obvious and natural way
of discovering the truth is by referring to laws,
which derive their efficacy
from the general consent of mankind.4
Grotius distinguished public wars from private wars but noted that some wars are a combination of the two; he held that any of them could be justified in some circumstances. However, in any war no more than one side can be in the right, and in some wars neither side is justified. He delineated three justifiable causes for war. The first is self-defense; the second is defense of property; and third, serious offenses may justify punishment through war. Every effort should be made for a peaceful settlement, including arbitration. Especially in doubtful cases we must listen to our conscience, which can guide human actions in accordance with justice and reason. He believed that God gave conscience a judicial power to guide human actions and that to despise its admonitions is to stupefy the mind with brutal hardness. He quoted Cicero to show that the failure to use human reason reduces humans to the violence of brutes. Wars over religion cannot be justified because religion is a question of conscience and inner conviction which cannot be forced on anyone. Therefore wars against infidel nations or heretics are unjust, and no law can make a belief or disbelief a crime.
Grotius acknowledged the historian Polybius as the first to distinguish justifiable causes for war from persuasive arguments that he considered mere pretexts. Thus those who go to war without a justifiable cause, such as Alexander did against the Persians, are actually robbers. When causes are doubtful, war should be obviated by a conference in which the adversaries may negotiate a settlement or secondly by arbitration through a compromise or thirdly by lot or single combat. When the doubts on either side are equal, the one with possession has the greater claim. He advised that it is often better to relinquish a right than to try to enforce it. In arbitration he emphasized that it is important to choose a just judge who has integrity.
In the third book Grotius discussed the general rules derived from natural law as to what is permissible in the conduct of war. He allowed for the means to the end and other justifiable causes that may develop during the war. He found deceit allowable in some circumstances of war, but falsehood is not justifiable in making promises or in oaths. He required a formal declaration for a public war, and it may be conditional. Grotius considered it a violation to poison weapons or waters. By the law of nations he considered those captured in war to be slaves, though he noted that Christians and Muslims do not treat them as slaves but may sell them for ransom or make the captives work. Grotius advised moderation in killing and destroying during a just war. Finally he discussed the making of truces and peace treaties to end war, and he noted the rights of those not involved in the war. He urged that peace be kept and concluded his work with a prayer to God.
1. The Spanish Brabanter: A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Social Satire in Five Acts by G. A. Bredero tr. H. David Brumble III, lines 1907-1908, p. 111.
2. On the Law of War and Peace Prolegomena 28 by Hugo Grotius, tr. Francis W. Kelsey, p. 20.
3. Ibid., Book 1, Chapter 1, §1, p. 33.
4. Ibid., Book 2, Chapter 11, §6.