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- The Life of John of Barneveld, 1618 - 1/14 -
Maurice revolutionizes the Provinces--Danckaert's libellous Pamphlet --Barneveld's Appeal to the Prince--Barneveld'a Remonstrance to the States--The Stadholder at Amsterdam--The Treaty of Truce nearly expired--King of Spain and Archduke Albert--Scheme for recovering the Provinces--Secret Plot to make Maurice Sovereign.
Early in the year (1618) Maurice set himself about revolutionizing the provinces on which he could not yet thoroughly rely. The town of Nymegen since its recovery from the Spaniards near the close of the preceding century had held its municipal government, as it were, at the option of the Prince. During the war he had been, by the terms of surrender, empowered to appoint and to change its magistracy at will. No change had occurred for many years, but as the government had of late fallen into the hands of the Barneveldians, and as Maurice considered the Truce to be a continuance of the war, he appeared suddenly, in the city at the head of a body of troops and surrounded by his lifeguard. Summoning the whole board of magistrates into the townhouse, he gave them all notice to quit, disbanding them like a company of mutinous soldiery, and immediately afterwards appointed a fresh list of functionaries in their stead.
This done, he proceeded to Arnhem, where the States of Gelderland were in session, appeared before that body, and made a brief announcement of the revolution which he had so succinctly effected in the most considerable town of their province. The Assembly, which seems, like many other assemblies at precisely this epoch, to have had an extraordinary capacity for yielding to gentle violence, made but little resistance to the extreme measures now undertaken by the Stadholder, and not only highly applauded the subjugation of Nymegen, but listened with sympathy to his arguments against the Waartgelders and in favour of the Synod.
Having accomplished so much by a very brief visit to Gelderland, the Prince proceeded, to Overyssel, and had as little difficulty in bringing over the wavering minds of that province into orthodoxy and obedience. Thus there remained but two provinces out of seven that were still "waartgeldered" and refused to be "synodized."
It was rebellion against rebellion. Maurice and his adherents accused the States' right party of mutiny against himself and the States-General. The States' right party accused the Contra-Remonstrants in the cities of mutiny against the lawful sovereignty of each province.
The oath of the soldiery, since the foundation of the Republic, had been to maintain obedience and fidelity to the States-General, the Stadholder, and the province in which they were garrisoned, and at whose expense they were paid. It was impossible to harmonize such conflicting duties and doctrines. Theory had done its best and its worst. The time was fast approaching, as it always must approach, when fact with its violent besom would brush away the fine-spun cobwebs which had been so long undisturbed.
"I will grind the Advocate and all his party into fine meal," said the Prince on one occasion.
A clever caricature of the time represented a pair of scales hung up in a great hall. In the one was a heap of parchments, gold chains, and magisterial robes; the whole bundle being marked the "holy right of each city." In the other lay a big square, solid, ironclasped volume, marked "Institutes of Calvin." Each scale was respectively watched by Gomarus and by Arminius. The judges, gowned, furred, and ruffed, were looking decorously on, when suddenly the Stadholder, in full military attire, was seen rushing into the apartment and flinging his sword into the scale with the Institutes.
The civic and legal trumpery was of course made to kick the beam.
Maurice had organized his campaign this year against the Advocate and his party as deliberately as he had ever arranged the details of a series of battles and sieges against the Spaniard. And he was proving himself as consummate master in political strife as in the great science of war.
He no longer made any secret of his conviction that Barneveld was a traitor to his country, bought with Spanish gold. There was not the slightest proof for these suspicions, but he asserted them roundly. "The Advocate is travelling straight to Spain," he said to Count Cuylenborg. "But we will see who has got the longest purse."
And as if it had been a part of the campaign, a prearranged diversion to the more direct and general assault on the entrenchments of the States' right party, a horrible personal onslaught was now made from many quarters upon the Advocate. It was an age of pamphleteering, of venomous, virulent, unscrupulous libels. And never even in that age had there been anything to equal the savage attacks upon this great statesman. It moves the gall of an honest man, even after the lapse of two centuries and a half, to turn over those long forgotten pages and mark the depths to which political and theological party spirit could descend. That human creatures can assimilate themselves so closely to the reptile, and to the subtle devil within the reptile, when a party end is to be gained is enough to make the very name of man a term of reproach.
Day by day appeared pamphlets, each one more poisonous than its predecessor. There was hardly a crime that was not laid at the door of Barneveld and all his kindred. The man who had borne a matchlock in early youth against the foreign tyrant in days when unsuccessful rebellion meant martyrdom and torture; who had successfully guided the councils of the infant commonwealth at a period when most of his accusers were in their cradles, and when mistake was ruin to the republic; he on whose strong arm the father of his country had leaned for support; the man who had organized a political system out of chaos; who had laid down the internal laws, negotiated the great indispensable alliances, directed the complicated foreign policy, established the system of national defence, presided over the successful financial administration of a state struggling out of mutiny into national existence; who had rocked the Republic in its cradle and ever borne her in his heart; who had made her name beloved at home and honoured and dreaded abroad; who had been the first, when the great Taciturn had at last fallen a victim to the murderous tyrant of Spain, to place the youthful Maurice in his father's place, and to inspire the whole country with sublime courage to persist rather than falter in purpose after so deadly a blow; who was as truly the founder of the Republic as William had been the author of its independence,--was now denounced as a traitor, a pope, a tyrant, a venal hucksterer of his country's liberties. His family name, which had long been an ancient and knightly one, was defiled and its nobility disputed; his father and mother, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, accused of every imaginable and unimaginable crime, of murder, incest, robbery, bastardy, fraud, forgery, blasphemy. He had received waggon-loads of Spanish pistoles; he had been paid 120,000 ducats by Spain for negotiating the Truce; he was in secret treaty with Archduke Albert to bring 18,000 Spanish mercenaries across the border to defeat the machinations of Prince Maurice, destroy his life, or drive him from the country; all these foul and bitter charges and a thousand similar ones were rained almost daily upon that grey head.
One day the loose sheets of a more than commonly libellous pamphlet were picked up in the streets of the Hague and placed in the Advocate's hands. It was the work of the drunken notary Danckaerts already mentioned, then resident in Amsterdam, and among the papers thus found was a list of wealthy merchants of that city who had contributed to the expense of its publication. The opposition of Barneveld to the West India Corporation could never be forgiven. The Advocate was notified in this production that he was soon to be summoned to answer for his crimes. The country was weary of him, he was told, and his life was forfeited.
Stung at last beyond endurance by the persistent malice of his enemies, he came before the States of Holland for redress. Upon his remonstrance the author of this vile libel was summoned to answer before the upper tribunal at the Hague for his crime. The city of Amsterdam covered him with the shield 'de non evocando,' which had so often in cases of less consequence proved of no protective value, and the notary was never punished, but on the contrary after a brief lapse of time rewarded as for a meritorious action.
Meantime, the States of Holland, by formal act, took the name and honour of Barneveld under their immediate protection as a treasure belonging specially to themselves. Heavy penalties were denounced upon the authors and printers of these libellous attacks, and large rewards offered for their detection. Nothing came, however, of such measures.
On the 24th April the Advocate addressed a frank, dignified, and conciliatory letter to the Prince. The rapid progress of calumny against him had at last alarmed even his steadfast soul, and he thought it best to make a last appeal to the justice and to the clear intellect of William the Silent's son.
"Gracious Prince," he said, "I observe to my greatest sorrow an entire estrangement of your Excellency from me, and I fear lest what was said six months since by certain clerical persons and afterwards by some politicians concerning your dissatisfaction with me, which until now I have not been able to believe, must be true. I declare nevertheless with a sincere heart to have never willingly given cause for any such feeling; having always been your very faithful servant and with God's help hoping as such to die. Ten years ago during the negotiations for the Truce I clearly observed the beginning of this estrangement, but your Excellency will be graciously pleased to remember that I declared to you at that time my upright and sincere intention in these negotiations to promote the service of the country and the interests of your Excellency, and that I nevertheless offered at the time not only to resign all my functions but to leave the country rather than remain in office and in the country to the dissatisfaction of your Excellency."
He then rapidly reviewed the causes which had produced the alienation of which he complained and the melancholy divisions caused by the want of mutual religious toleration in the Provinces; spoke of his efforts to foster a spirit of conciliation on the dread subject of predestination, and referred to the letter of the King of Great Britain deprecating discussion and schism on this subject, and urging that those favourable to the views of the Remonstrants ought not to be persecuted. Referring to the intimate relations which Uytenbogaert had so long enjoyed with the Prince, the Advocate alluded to the difficulty he had in believing that his Excellency intended to act in opposition to the efforts of the States of Holland in the cause of mutual toleration, to the manifest detriment of the country and of many of its best and truest patriots and the greater number of the magistrates in all the cities.
He reminded the Prince that all attempts to accommodate these fearful quarrels had been frustrated, and that on his departure the previous year to Utrecht on account of his health he had again offered to resign all his offices and to leave Holland altogether rather than find himself in perpetual opposition to his Excellency.
"I begged you in such case," he said, "to lend your hand to the procuring for me an honourable discharge from My Lords the States, but your Excellency declared that you could in no wise approve such a step and gave me hope that some means of accommodating the dissensions would yet be proposed."
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