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- History of the United Netherlands, 1598 - 1/12 -
Mission of the States to Henry to prevent the consummation of peace with Spain--Proposal of Henry to elevate Prince Maurice to the sovereignty, of the States--Embarkation of the States' envoys for England--Their interview with Queen Elizabeth--Return of the envoys from England--Demand of Elizabeth for repayment of her advances to the republic--Second embassy to England--Final arrangement between the Queen and the States.
The great Advocate was now to start on his journey in order to make a supreme effort both with Henry and with Elizabeth to prevent the consummation of this fatal peace. Admiral Justinus of Nassau, natural son of William the Silent, was associated with Barneveld in the mission, a brave fighting man, a staunch patriot, and a sagacious counsellor; but the Advocate on this occasion, as in other vital emergencies of the commonwealth, was all in all.
The instructions of the envoys were simple. They were to summon the king to fulfil his solemnly sworn covenants with the league. The States- General had never doubted, they said, that so soon as the enemy had begun to feel the effects, of that league he would endeavour to make a composition with one or other of the parties in order to separate them, and to break up that united strength which otherwise he could never resist. The king was accordingly called upon to continue the war against the common enemy, and the States-General offered, over and above the four hundred and fifty thousand florins promised by them for the support of the four thousand infantry for the year 1598, to bring their whole military power, horse and foot, into the field to sustain his Majesty in the war, whether separately or in conjunction, whether in the siege of cities or in open campaigns. Certainly they could hardly offer fairer terms than these.
Henry had complained, and not unreasonably, that Elizabeth had made no offers of assistance for carrying on the war either to Fonquerolles or to Hurault de Maisse; but he certainly could make no reproach of that nature against the republic, nor assign their lukewarmness as an excuse for his desertion.
The envoys were ready to take their departure for France on the last day of January.
It might be a curious subject to consider how far historical events are modified and the world's destiny affected by the different material agencies which man at various epochs has had at his disposal. The human creature in his passions and ambitions, his sensual or sordid desires, his emotional and moral nature, undergoes less change than might be hoped from age to age. The tyrant; the patriot, the demagogue, the voluptuary, the peasant, the trader, the intriguing politician, the hair-splitting diplomatist, the self-sacrificing martyr, the self-seeking courtier, present essentially one type in the twelfth, the sixteenth, the nineteenth, or any other century. The human tragi-comedy seems ever to repeat itself with the same bustle, with the same excitement for immediate interests, for the development of the instant plot or passing episode, as if the universe began and ended with each generation--as in reality it would appear to do for the great multitude of the actors. There seems but a change of masks, of costume, of phraseology, combined with a noisy but eternal monotony. Yet while men are produced and are whirled away again in endless succession, Man remains, and to all appearance is perpetual and immortal even on this earth. Whatever science acquires man inherits. Whatever steadfastness is gained for great moral truths which change not through the ages--however they may be thought, in dark or falsely brilliant epochs, to resolve themselves into elemental vapour--gives man a securer foothold in his onward and upward progress. The great, continuous history of that progress is not made up of the reigns of kings or the lives of politicians, with whose names history has often found it convenient to mark its epochs. These are but milestones on the turnpike. Human progress is over a vast field, and it is only at considerable intervals that a retrospective view enables us to discern whether the movement has been slow or rapid, onward or retrograde.
The record of our race is essentially unwritten. What we call history is but made up of a few scattered fragments, while it is scarcely given to human intelligence to comprehend the great whole. Yet it is strange to reflect upon the leisurely manner in which great affairs were conducted in the period with which we are now occupied, as compared with the fever and whirl of our own times, in which the stupendous powers of steam and electricity are ever-ready to serve the most sublime or the most vulgar purposes of mankind. Whether there were ever a critical moment in which a rapid change might have been effected in royal or national councils, had telegraphic wires and express trains been at the command of Henry, or Burghley, or Barneveld, or the Cardinal Albert, need not and cannot be decided. It is almost diverting, however, to see how closely the intrigues of cabinets, the movements of armies, the plans of patriots, were once dependent on those natural elements over which man has now gained almost despotic control.
Here was the republic intensely eager to prevent, with all speed, the consummation of a treaty between its ally and its enemy--a step which it was feared might be fatal to its national existence, and concerning which there seemed a momentary hesitation. Yet Barneveld and Justinus of Nassau, although ready on the last day of January, were not able to sail from the Brill to Dieppe until the 18th March, on account of a persistent south-west wind.
After forty-six days of waiting, the envoys, accompanied by Buzanval, Henry's resident at the Hague, were at last, on the 18th March, enabled to set sail with a favourable breeze. As it was necessary for travellers in that day to provide themselves with every possible material for their journey--carriages, horses, hosts of servants, and beds, fortunate enough if they found roads and occasionally food--Barneveld and Nassau were furnished with three ships of war, while another legation on its way to England had embarked in two other vessels of the same class. A fleet of forty or fifty merchantmen sailed under their convoy. Departing from the Brill in this imposing manner, they sailed by Calais, varying the monotony of the voyage by a trifling sea-fight with some cruisers from that Spanish port, neither side receiving any damage.
Landing at Dieppe on the morning of the 20th, the envoys were received with much ceremony at the city gates by the governor of the place, who conducted them in a stately manner to a house called the king's mansion, which he politely placed at their disposal. "As we learned, however," says Barneveld, with grave simplicity; "that there was no furniture whatever in that royal abode, we thanked his Excellency, and declared that we would rather go to a tavern."
After three days of repose and preparation in Dieppe, they started at dawn on their journey to Rouen, where they arrived at sundown.
On the next morning but one they set off again on their travels, and slept that night at Louviers. Another long day's journey brought them to Evreux. On the 27th they came to Dreux, on the 28th to Chartres, and on the 29th to Chateaudun. On the 30th, having started an hour before sunrise, they were enabled after a toilsome journey to reach Blois at an hour after dark. Exhausted with fatigue, they reposed in that city for a day, and on the 1st April proceeded, partly by the river Loire and partly by the road, as far as Tours. Here they were visited by nobody, said Barneveld, but fiddlers and drummers, and were execrably lodged. Nevertheless they thought the town in other respects agreeable, and apparently beginning to struggle out of the general desolation of, France. On the end April they slept at Langeais, and on the night of the 3rd reached Saumur, where they were disappointed at the absence of the illustrious Duplessis Mornay, then governor of that city. A glance at any map of France will show the course of the journey taken by the travellers, which, after very hard work and great fatigue, had thus brought them from Dieppe to Saumur in about as much time as is now consumed by an average voyage from Europe to America. In their whole journey from Holland to Saumur, inclusive of the waiting upon the wind and other enforced delays, more than two months had been consumed. Twenty-four hours would suffice at present for the excursion.
At Saumur they received letters informing them that the king was "expecting them with great devotion at Angiers." A despatch from Cecil, who was already with Henry, also apprised them that he found "matters entirely arranged for a peace." This would be very easily accomplished, he said, for France and England, but the great difficulty was for the Netherlands. He had come to France principally for the sake of managing affairs for the advantage of the States, but he begged the envoys not to demean themselves as if entirely bent on war.
They arrived at Angiers next day before dark, and were met at a league's distance from the gates by the governor of the castle, attended by young Prince Frederic Henry of Nassau; followed by a long train of nobles and mounted troops. Welcomed in this stately manner on behalf of the king, the envoys were escorted to the lodgings provided for them in the city. The same evening they waited on the widowed princess of Orange, Louisa of Coligny, then residing temporarily with her son in Angiera, and were informed by her that the king's mind was irrevocably fixed on peace. She communicated, however, the advice of her step-son in law, the Duke of Bouillon, that they should openly express their determination to continue the war, notwithstanding that both their Majesties of England and France wished to negotiate. Thus the counsels of Bouillon to the envoys were distinctly opposed to those of Cecil, and it was well known to them that the duke was himself sincerely anxious that the king should refuse the pacific offers of Spain.
Next morning, 5th April, they were received at the gates of the castle by the governor of Anjou and the commandant of the citadel of Angiers, attended by a splendid retinue, and were conducted to the king, who was walking in the garden of the fortress. Henry received them with great demonstrations of respect, assuring them that he considered the States- General the best and most faithful friends that he possessed in the world, and that he had always been assisted by them in time of his utmost need with resoluteness and affection.
The approach of the English ambassador, accompanied by the Chancellor of France and several other persons, soon brought the interview to a termination. Barneveld then presented several gentlemen attached to the mission, especially his son and Hugo Grotius, then a lad of fifteen, but who had already gained such distinction at Leyden that Scaliger, Pontanus; Heinsius, Dousa, and other professors, foretold that he would become more famous than Erasmus. They were all very cordially received by the king, who subsequently bestowed especial marks of his consideration upon the youthful Grotius.
The same day the betrothal of Monsieur Caesar with the daughter of the Duke of Mercoeur was celebrated, and there was afterwards much dancing and banqueting at the castle. It was obvious enough to the envoys that the matter of peace and war was decided. The general of the Franciscans, sent by the pope, had been flitting very busily for many months between Rome, Madrid, Brussels, and Paris, and there could be little doubt that every detail of the negotiations between France and Spain had been arranged while Olden-Barneveld and his colleague had been waiting for the head-wind to blow itself out at the Brill.
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