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- The Life of John of Barneveld, 1610 - 1/14 -
Difficult Position of Barneveld--Insurrection at Utrecht subdued by the States' Army--Special Embassies to England and France--Anger of the King with Spain and the Archdukes--Arrangements of Henry for the coming War--Position of Spain--Anxiety of the King for the Presence of Barneveld in Paris--Arrival of the Dutch Commissioners in France and their brilliant Reception--Their Interview with the King and his Ministers--Negotiations--Delicate Position of the Dutch Government-- India Trade--Simon Danzer, the Corsair--Conversations of Henry with the Dutch Commissioners--Letter of the King to Archduke Albert-- Preparations for the Queen's Coronation, and of Henry to open the Campaign in person--Perplexities of Henry--Forebodings and Warnings --The Murder accomplished--Terrible Change in France--Triumph of Concini and of Spain--Downfall of Sully--Disputes of the Grandees among themselves--Special Mission of Condelence from the Republic-- Conference on the great Enterprise--Departure of van der Myle from Paris.
There were reasons enough why the Advocate could not go to Paris at this juncture. It was absurd in Henry to suppose it possible. Everything rested on Barneveld's shoulders. During the year which had just passed he had drawn almost every paper, every instruction in regard to the peace negotiations, with his own hand, had assisted at every conference, guided and mastered the whole course of a most difficult and intricate negotiation, in which he had not only been obliged to make allowance for the humbled pride and baffled ambition of the ancient foe of the Netherlands, but to steer clear of the innumerable jealousies, susceptibilities, cavillings, and insolences of their patronizing friends.
It was his brain that worked, his tongue that spoke, his restless pen that never paused. His was not one of those easy posts, not unknown in the modern administration of great affairs, where the subordinate furnishes the intellect, the industry, the experience, while the bland superior, gratifying the world with his sign-manual, appropriates the applause. So long as he lived and worked, the States-General and the States of Holland were like a cunningly contrived machine, which seemed to be alive because one invisible but mighty mind vitalized the whole.
And there had been enough to do. It was not until midsummer of 1609 that the ratifications of the Treaty of Truce, one of the great triumphs in the history of diplomacy, had been exchanged, and scarcely had this period been put to the eternal clang of arms when the death of a lunatic threw the world once more into confusion. It was obvious to Barneveld that the issue of the Cleve-Julich affair, and of the tremendous religious fermentation in Bohemia, Moravia, and Austria, must sooner or later lead to an immense war. It was inevitable that it would devolve upon the States to sustain their great though vacillating, their generous though encroaching, their sincere though most irritating, ally. And yet, thoroughly as Barneveld had mastered all the complications and perplexities of the religious and political question, carefully as he had calculated the value of the opposing forces which were shaking Christendom, deeply as he had studied the characters of Matthias and Rudolph, of Charles of Denmark and Ferdinand of Graz, of Anhalt and Maximilian, of Brandenburg and Neuburg, of James and Philip, of Paul V. and Charles Emmanuel, of Sully and Yilleroy, of Salisbury and Bacon, of Lerma and Infantado; adroitly as he could measure, weigh, and analyse all these elements in the great problem which was forcing itself on the attention of Europe--there was one factor with which it was difficult for this austere republican, this cold, unsuseeptible statesman, to deal: the intense and imperious passion of a greybeard for a woman of sixteen.
For out of the cauldron where the miscellaneous elements of universal war were bubbling rose perpetually the fantastic image of Margaret Montmorency: the fatal beauty at whose caprice the heroic sword of Ivry and Cahors was now uplifted and now sheathed.
Aerssens was baffled, and reported the humours of the court where he resided as changing from hour to hour. To the last he reported that all the mighty preparations then nearly completed "might evaporate in smoke" if the Princess of Conde should come back. Every ambassador in Paris was baffled. Peter Pecquius was as much in the dark as Don Inigo de Cardenas, as Ubaldini or Edmonds. No one save Sully, Aerssens, Barneveld, and the King knew the extensive arrangements and profound combinations which had been made for the war. Yet not Sully, Aerssens, Barneveld, or the King, knew whether or not the war would really be made.
Barneveld had to deal with this perplexing question day by day. His correspondence with his ambassador at Henry's court was enormous, and we have seen that the Ambassador was with the King almost daily; sleeping or waking; at dinner or the chase; in the cabinet or the courtyard.
But the Advocate was also obliged to carry in his arms, as it were, the brood of snarling, bickering, cross-grained German princes, to supply them with money, with arms, with counsel, with brains; to keep them awake when they went to sleep, to steady them in their track, to teach them to go alone. He had the congress at Hall in Suabia to supervise and direct; he had to see that the ambassadors of the new republic, upon which they in reality were already half dependent and chafing at their dependence, were treated with the consideration due to the proud position which the Commonwealth had gained. Questions of etiquette were at that moment questions of vitality. He instructed his ambassadors to leave the congress on the spot if they were ranked after the envoys of princes who were only feudatories of the Emperor. The Dutch ambassadors, "recognising and relying upon no superiors but God and their sword," placed themselves according to seniority with the representatives of proudest kings.
He had to extemporize a system of free international communication with all the powers of the earth--with the Turk at Constantinople, with the Czar of Muscovy; with the potentates of the Baltic, with both the Indies. The routine of a long established and well organized foreign office in a time-honoured state running in grooves; with well-balanced springs and well oiled wheels, may be a luxury of civilization; but it was a more arduous task to transact the greatest affairs of a state springing suddenly into recognized existence and mainly dependent for its primary construction and practical working on the hand of one man.
Worse than all, he had to deal on the most dangerous and delicate topics of state with a prince who trembled at danger and was incapable of delicacy; to show respect for a character that was despicable, to lean on a royal word falser than water, to inhale almost daily the effluvia from a court compared to which the harem of Henry was a temple of vestals. The spectacle of the slobbering James among his Kars and Hays and Villiers's and other minions is one at which history covers her eyes and is dumb; but the republican envoys, with instructions from a Barneveld, were obliged to face him daily, concealing their disgust, and bowing reverentially before him as one of the arbiters of their destinies and the Solomon of his epoch.
A special embassy was sent early in the year to England to convey the solemn thanks of the Republic to the King for his assistance in the truce negotiations, and to treat of the important matters then pressing on the attention of both powers. Contemporaneously was to be despatched the embassy for which Henry was waiting so impatiently at Paris.
Certainly the Advocate had enough with this and other, important business already mentioned to detain him at his post. Moreover the first year of peace had opened disastrously in the Netherlands. Tremendous tempests such as had rarely been recorded even in that land of storms had raged all the winter. The waters everywhere had burst their dykes and inundations, which threatened to engulph the whole country, and which had caused enormous loss of property and even of life, were alarming the most courageous. It was difficult in many district to collect the taxes for the every-day expenses of the community, and yet the Advocate knew that the Republic would soon be forced to renew the war on a prodigious scale.
Still more to embarrass the action of the government and perplex its statesmen, an alarming and dangerous insurrection broke out in Utrecht.
In that ancient seat of the hard-fighting, imperious, and opulent sovereign archbishops of the ancient church an important portion of the population had remained Catholic. Another portion complained of the abolition of various privileges which they had formerly enjoyed; among others that of a monopoly of beer-brewing for the province. All the population, as is the case with all populations in all countries and all epochs, complained of excessive taxation.
A clever politician, Dirk Kanter by name, a gentleman by birth, a scholar and philosopher by pursuit and education, and a demagogue by profession, saw an opportunity of taking an advantage of this state of things. More than twenty years before he had been burgomaster of the city, and had much enjoyed himself in that position. He was tired of the learned leisure to which the ingratitude of his fellow-citizens had condemned him. He seems to have been of easy virtue in the matter of religion, a Catholic, an Arminian, an ultra orthodox Contra-Remonstrant by turns. He now persuaded a number of determined partisans that the time had come for securing a church for the public worship of the ancient faith, and at the same time for restoring the beer brewery, reducing the taxes, recovering lost privileges, and many other good things. Beneath the whole scheme lay a deep design to effect the secession of the city and with it of the opulent and important province of Utrecht from the Union. Kanter had been heard openly to avow that after all the Netherlands had flourished under the benign sway of the House of Burgundy, and that the time would soon come for returning to that enviable condition.
By a concerted assault the city hall was taken possession of by main force, the magistracy was overpowered, and a new board of senators and common council-men appointed, Kanter and a devoted friend of his, Heldingen by name, being elected burgomasters.
The States-Provincial of Utrecht, alarmed at these proceedings in the city, appealed for protection against violence to the States-General under the 3rd Article of the Union, the fundamental pact which bore the name of Utrecht itself. Prince Maurice proceeded to the city at the head of a detachment of troops to quell the tumults. Kanter and his friends were plausible enough to persuade him of the legality and propriety of the revolution which they had effected, and to procure his formal confirmation of the new magistracy. Intending to turn his military genius and the splendour of his name to account, they contrived to keep him for a time at least in an amiable enthralment, and induced him to contemplate in their interest the possibility of renouncing the oath which subjected him to the authority of the States of Utrecht. But the far-seeing eye of Barneveld could not be blind to the danger which at this crisis beset the Stadholder and the whole republic. The Prince was induced to return to the Hague, but the city continued by armed revolt to maintain the new magistracy. They proceeded to reduce the taxes, and in other respects to carry out the measures on the promise of which they had come into power. Especially the Catholic party sustained Kanter and his friends, and promised themselves from him and from his influence over Prince Maurice to obtain a power of which they had long been deprived.
The States-General now held an assembly at Woerden, and summoned the malcontents of Utrecht to bring before that body a statement of their grievances. This was done, but there was no satisfactory arrangement possible, and the deputation returned to Utrecht, the States-General to the Hague. The States-Provincial of Utrecht urged more strongly than ever
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