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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1573-74 - 1/11 -
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]
MOTLEY'S HISTORY OF THE NETHERLANDS, PG EDITION, VOLUME 22.
THE RISE OF THE DUTCH REPUBLIC
By John Lothrop Motley
ADMINISTRATION OF THE GRAND COMMANDER
1573-74 [CHAPTER I.]
Previous career of Requesens--Philip's passion for detail--Apparent and real purposes of government--Universal desire for peace-- Correspondence of leading royalists with Orange--Bankruptcy of the exchequer at Alva's departures--Expensive nature of the war-- Pretence of mildness on the part of the Commander--His private views--Distress of Mondragon at Middelburg--Crippled condition of Holland--Orange's secret negotiations with France--St. Aldegonde's views in captivity--Expedition to relieve Middelburg--Counter preparations of Orange--Defeat of the expedition--Capitulation of Mondragon--Plans of Orange and his brothers--An army under Count Louis crosses the Rhine--Measures taken by Requesens--Manoeuvres of Avila and of Louis--The two armies in face at Mook--Battle of Mook- heath--Overthrow and death of Count Louis--The phantom battle-- Character of Louis of Nassau--Painful uncertainty as to his fate-- Periodical mutinies of the Spanish troops characterized--Mutiny after the battle of Mook--Antwerp attacked and occupied,--Insolent and oppressive conduct of the mutineers--Offers of Requesens refused--Mutiny in the citadel--Exploits of Salvatierra--Terms of composition--Soldiers' feast on the mere--Successful expedition of Admiral Boisot
The horrors of Alva's administration had caused men to look back with fondness upon the milder and more vacillating tyranny of the Duchess Margaret. From the same cause the advent of the Grand Commander was hailed with pleasure and with a momentary gleam of hope. At any rate, it was a relief that the man in whom an almost impossible perfection of cruelty seemed embodied was at last to be withdrawn. it was certain that his successor, however ambitious of following in Alva's footsteps, would never be able to rival the intensity and the unswerving directness of purpose which it had been permitted to the Duke's nature to attain. The new Governor-General was, doubtless, human, and it had been long since the Netherlanders imagined anything in common between themselves and the late Viceroy.
Apart from this hope, however, there was little encouragement to be derived from anything positively known of the new functionary, or the policy which he was to represent. Don Luis de Requesens and Cuniga, Grand Commander of Castile and late Governor of Milan, was a man of mediocre abilities, who possessed a reputation for moderation and sagacity which he hardly deserved. His military prowess had been chiefly displayed in the bloody and barren battle of Lepanto, where his conduct and counsel were supposed to have contributed, in some measure, to the victorious result. His administration at Milan had been characterized as firm and moderate. Nevertheless, his character was regarded with anything but favorable eyes in the Netherlands. Men told each other of his broken faith to the Moors in Granada, and of his unpopularity in Milan, where, notwithstanding his boasted moderation, he had, in reality, so oppressed the people as to gain their deadly hatred. They complained, too, that it was an insult to send, as Governor-General of the provinces, not a prince of the blood, as used to be the case, but a simple "gentleman of cloak and sword."
Any person, however, who represented the royal authority in the provinces was under historical disadvantage. He was literally no more than an actor, hardly even that. It was Philip's policy and pride to direct all the machinery of his extensive empire, and to pull every string himself. His puppets, however magnificently attired, moved only in obedience to his impulse, and spoke no syllable but with his voice. Upon the table in his cabinet was arranged all the business of his various realms, even to the most minute particulars.
Plans, petty or vast, affecting the interests of empires and ages, or bounded within the narrow limits of trivial and evanescent detail, encumbered his memory and consumed his time. His ambition to do all the work of his kingdoms was aided by an inconceivable greediness for labor. He loved the routine of business, as some monarchs have loved war, as others have loved pleasure. The object, alike paltry and impossible, of this ambition, bespoke the narrow mind. His estates were regarded by him as private property; measures affecting the temporal and eternal interests of millions were regarded as domestic affairs, and the eye of the master was considered the only one which could duly superintend these estates and those interests. Much incapacity to govern was revealed in this inordinate passion to administer. His mind, constantly fatigued by petty labors, was never enabled to survey his wide domains from the height of majesty.
In Alva, certainly, he had employed an unquestionable reality; but Alva, by a fortunate coincidence of character, had seemed his second self. He was now gone, however, and although the royal purpose had not altered, the royal circumstances were changed. The moment had arrived when it was thought that the mask and cothurn might again be assumed with effect; when a grave and conventional personage might decorously make his appearance to perform an interlude of clemency and moderation with satisfactory results. Accordingly, the Great Commander, heralded by rumors of amnesty, was commissioned to assume the government which Alva had been permitted to resign.
It had been industriously circulated that a change of policy was intended. It was even supposed by the more sanguine that the Duke had retired in disgrace. A show of coldness was manifested towards him on his return by the King, while Vargas, who had accompanied the Governor, was peremptorily forbidden to appear within five leagues of the court. The more discerning, however, perceived much affectation in this apparent displeasure. Saint Goard, the keen observer of Philip's moods and measures, wrote to his sovereign that he had narrowly observed the countenances of both Philip and Alva; that he had informed himself as thoroughly as possible with regard to the course of policy intended; that he had arrived at the conclusion that the royal chagrin was but dissimulation, intended to dispose the Netherlanders to thoughts of an impossible peace, and that he considered the present merely a breathing time, in which still more active preparations might be made for crushing the rebellion. It was now evident to the world that the revolt had reached a stage in which it could be terminated only by absolute conquest or concession.
To conquer the people of the provinces, except by extermination, seemed difficult--to judge by the seven years of execution, sieges and campaigns, which had now passed without a definite result. It was, therefore, thought expedient to employ concession. The new Governor accordingly, in case the Netherlanders would abandon every object for which they had been so heroically contending, was empowered to concede a pardon. It was expressly enjoined upon him, however, that no conciliatory measures should be adopted in which the King's absolute supremacy, and the total prohibition of every form of worship but the Roman Catholic, were not assumed as a basis. Now, as the people had been contending at least ten years long for constitutional rights against prerogative, and at least seven for liberty of conscience against papistry, it was easy to foretell how much effect any negotiations thus commenced were likely to produce.
Yet, no doubt, in the Netherlands there was a most earnest longing for peace. The Catholic portion of the population were desirous of a reconciliation with their brethren of the new religion. The universal vengeance which had descended upon heresy had not struck the heretics only. It was difficult to find a fireside, Protestant or Catholic, which had not been made desolate by execution, banishment, or confiscation. The common people and the grand seigniors were alike weary of the war. Not only Aerschot and Viglius, but Noircarmes and Berlaymont, were desirous that peace should be at last compassed upon liberal terms, and the Prince of Orange fully and unconditionally pardoned. Even the Spanish commanders had become disgusted with the monotonous butchery which had stained their swords. Julian Romero; the fierce and unscrupulous soldier upon whose head rested the guilt of the Naarden massacre, addressed several letters to William of Orange, full of courtesy, and good wishes for a speedy termination of the war, and for an entire reconciliation of the Prince with his sovereign. Noircarmes also opened a correspondence with the great leader of the revolt; and offered to do all in his power to restore peace and prosperity to the country. The Prince answered the courtesy of the Spaniard with equal, but barren, courtesy; for it was obvious that no definite result could be derived from such informal negotiations. To Noircarmes he responded in terms of gentle but grave rebuke, expressing deep regret that a Netherland noble of such eminence, with so many others of rank and authority, should so long have supported the King in his tyranny. He, however, expressed his satisfaction that their eyes, however late, had opened to the enormous iniquity which had been practised in the country, and he accepted the offers of friendship as frankly as they had been made. Not long afterwards, the Prince furnished his correspondent with a proof of his sincerity, by forwarding to him two letters which had been intercepted; from certain agents of government to Alva, in which Noircarmes and others who had so long supported the King against their own country, were spoken of in terms of menace and distrust. The Prince accordingly warned his new correspondent that, in spite of all the proofs of uncompromising loyalty which he had exhibited, he was yet moving upon a dark and slippery-pathway, and might, even like Egmont and Horn, find a scaffold- as the end and the reward of his career. So profound was that abyss of dissimulation which constituted the royal policy, towards the Netherlands, that the most unscrupulous partisans of government could only see doubt and danger with regard to their future destiny, and were sometimes only saved by an opportune death from disgrace and the hangman's hands.
Such, then, were the sentiments of many eminent personages, even among the most devoted loyalists. All longed for peace; many even definitely expected it, upon the arrival of the Great Commander. Moreover, that functionary discovered, at his first glance into the disorderly state of the exchequer, that at least a short respite was desirable before proceeding with the interminable measures of hostility against the rebellion. If any man had been ever disposed to give Alva credit for administrative ability, such delusion must have vanished at the spectacle of confusion and bankruptcy which presented, itself at the termination of his government. He resolutely declined to give his successor any information whatever as to his financial position. So far from
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