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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1574-76 - 1/8 -

By John Lothrop Motley


1574-1576 [CHAPTER III.]

Latter days of the Blood Council--Informal and insincere negotiations for peace--Characteristics of the negotiators and of their diplomatic correspondence--Dr. Junius--Secret conferences between Dr. Leoninus and Orange--Steadfastness of the Prince-- Changes in the internal government of the northern provinces-- Generosity and increasing power of the municipalities--Incipient jealousy in regard to Orange rebuked--His offer of resignation refused by the Estates--His elevation to almost unlimited power-- Renewed mediation of Maximilian--Views and positions of the parties --Advice of Orange--Opening of negotiations at Breda--Propositions and counter-propositions--Adroitness of the plenipotentiaries on both sides--Insincere diplomacy and unsatisfactory results--Union of Holland and Zealand under the Prince of Orange--Act defining his powers--Charlotte de Bourbon--Character, fortunes, and fate of Anna of Saxony--Marriage of Orange with Mademoiselle de Bourbon-- Indignation thereby excited--Horrible tortures inflicted upon Papists by Sonoy in North Holland--Oudewater and Schoonoven taken by Hierges--The isles of Zealand--A submarine expedition projected-- Details of the adventure--Its entire success--Death of Chiappin Vitelli--Deliberations in Holland and Zealand concerning the renunciation of Philip's authority--Declaration at Delft--Doubts as to which of the Great Powers the sovereignty should be offered-- Secret international relations--Mission to England--Unsatisfactory negotiations with Elizabeth--Position of the Grand Commander--Siege of Zieriekzee--Generosity of Count John--Desperate project of the Prince--Death and character of Requesens.

The Council of Troubles, or, as it will be for ever denominated in history, the Council of Blood, still existed, although the Grand Commander, upon his arrival in the Netherlands, had advised his sovereign to consent to the immediate abolition of so odious an institution. Philip accepting the advice of his governor and his cabinet, had accordingly authorized him by a letter of the 10th of March, 1574, to take that step if he continued to believe it advisable.

Requesens had made use of this permission to extort money from the obedient portion of the provinces. An assembly of deputies was held at Brussels on the 7th of June, 1574, and there was a tedious interchange of protocols, reports, and remonstrances. The estates, not satisfied with the extinction of a tribunal which had at last worn itself out by its own violence, and had become inactive through lack of victims, insisted on greater concessions. They demanded the departure of the Spanish troops, the establishment of a council of Netherlanders in Spain for Netherland affairs, the restoration to offices in the provinces of natives and natives only; for these drawers of documents thought it possible, at that epoch, to recover by pedantry what their brethren of Holland and Zealand were maintaining with the sword. It was not the moment for historical disquisition, citations from Solomon, nor chopping of logic; yet with such lucubrations were reams of paper filled, and days and weeks occupied. The result was what might have been expected. The Grand Commander obtained but little money; the estates obtained none of their demands; and the Blood Council remained, as it were, suspended in mid- air. It continued to transact business at intervals during the administration of Requesens, and at last, after nine years of existence, was destroyed by the violent imprisonment of the Council of State at Brussels. This event, however, belongs to a subsequent page of this history.

Noircarmes had argued, from the tenor of Saint Aldegonde's letters, that the Prince would be ready to accept his pardon upon almost any terms. Noircarmes was now dead, but Saint Aldegonde still remained in prison, very anxious for his release, and as well disposed as ever to render services in any secret negotiation. It will be recollected that, at the capitulation of Middelburg, it had been distinctly stipulated by the Prince that Colonel Mondragon should at once effect the liberation of Saint Aldegonde, with certain other prisoners, or himself return into confinement. He had done neither the one nor the other. The patriots still languished in prison, some of them being subjected to exceedingly harsh treatment, but Mondragon, although repeatedly summoned as an officer and a gentleman, by the Prince, to return to captivity, had been forbidden by the Grand Commander to redeem his pledge.

Saint Aldegonde was now released from prison upon parole, and despatched on a secret mission to the Prince and estates. As before, he was instructed that two points were to be left untouched--the authority of the King and the question of religion. Nothing could be more preposterous than to commence a negotiation from which the two important points were thus carefully eliminated. The King's authority and the question of religion covered the whole ground upon which the Spaniards and the Hollanders had been battling for six years, and were destined to battle for three-quarters of a century longer. Yet, although other affairs might be discussed, those two points were to be reserved for the more conclusive arbitration of gunpowder. The result of negotiations upon such a basis was easily to be foreseen. Breath, time, and paper were profusely wasted and nothing gained. The Prince assured his friend, as he had done secret agents previously sent to him, that he was himself ready to leave the land, if by so doing he could confer upon it the blessing of peace; but that all hopes of reaching a reasonable conclusion from the premises established was futile. The envoy treated also with the estates, and received from them in return an elaborate report, which was addressed immediately to the King. The style of this paper was bold and blunt, its substance bitter and indigestible. It informed Philip what he had heard often enough before, that the Spaniards must go and the exiles come back, the inquisition be abolished and the ancient privileges restored, the Roman Catholic religion renounce its supremacy, and the Reformed religion receive permission to exist unmolested, before he could call himself master of that little hook of sand in the North Sea. With this paper, which was entrusted to Saint Aldegonde, by him to be delivered to the Grand Commander, who was, after reading it, to forward it to its destination, the negotiator returned to his prison. Thence he did not emerge again till the course of events released him, upon the 15th of October, 1574.

This report was far from agreeable to the Governor, and it became the object of a fresh correspondence between his confidential agent, Champagny, and the learned and astute Junius de Jonge, representative of the Prince of Orange and Governor of Yeere. The communication of De Jonge consisted of a brief note and a long discourse. The note was sharp and stinging, the discourse elaborate and somewhat pedantic. Unnecessarily historical and unmercifully extended, it was yet bold, bitter, and eloquent: The presence of foreigners was proved to have been, from the beginning of Philip's reign, the curse of the country. Doctor Sonnius, with his batch of bishops, had sowed the seed of the first disorder. A prince, ruling in the Netherlands, had no right to turn a deaf ear to the petitions of his subjects. If he did so, the Hollanders would tell him, as the old woman had told the Emperor Adrian, that the potentate who had no time to attend to the interests of his subjects, had not leisure enough to be a sovereign. While Holland refused to bow its neck to the Inquisition, the King of Spain dreaded the thunder and lightning of the Pope. The Hollanders would, with pleasure, emancipate Philip from his own thraldom, but it was absurd that he, who was himself a slave to another potentate, should affect unlimited control over a free people. It was Philip's councillors, not the Hollanders, who were his real enemies; for it was they who held him in the subjection by which his power was neutralized and his crown degraded.

It may be supposed that many long pages, conceived in this spirit and expressed with great vigor, would hardly smooth the way for the more official negotiations which were soon to take place, yet Doctor Junius fairly and faithfully represented the sentiment of his nation.

Towards the close of the year, Doctor Elbertus Leoninus, professor of Louvain, together with Hugo Bonte, ex-pensionary of Middelburg, was commissioned by the Grand Commander to treat secretly with the Prince. He was, however, not found very tractable when the commissioners opened the subject of his own pardon and reconciliation with the King, and he absolutely refused to treat at all except with the cooperation of the estates. He, moreover, objected to the use of the word "pardon" on the ground that he had never done anything requiring his Majesty's forgiveness. If adversity should visit him, he cared but little for it; he had lived long enough, he said, and should die with some glory, regretting the disorders and oppressions which had taken place, but conscious that it had not been in his power to remedy them. When reminded by the commissioners of the King's power, he replied that he knew his Majesty to be very mighty, but that there was a King more powerful still--even God the Creator, who, as he humbly hoped, was upon his Side.

At a subsequent interview with Hugo Bonte, the Prince declared it almost impossible for himself or the estates to hold any formal communication with the Spanish government, as such communications were not safe. No trust could be reposed either in safe conducts or hostages. Faith had been too often broken by the administration. The promise made by the Duchess of Parma to the nobles, and afterwards violated, the recent treachery of Mondragon, the return of three exchanged prisoners from the Hague, who died next day of poison administered before their release, the frequent attempts upon his own life--all such constantly recurring crimes made it doubtful, in the opinion of the Prince, whether it would be possible to find commissioners to treat with his Majesty's government. All would fear assassination, afterwards to be disavowed by the King and pardoned by the Pope. After much conversation in this vein, the Prince gave the Spanish agents warning that he might eventually be obliged to seek the protection of some foreign power for the provinces. In this connection he made use of the memorable metaphor, so often repeated afterwards, that "the country was a beautiful damsel, who certainly did not lack suitors able and willing to accept her and defend her against the world." As to the matter of religion, he said he was willing to leave it to be settled by the estates-general; but doubted whether anything short of entire liberty of worship would ever satisfy the people.

Subsequently there were held other conferences, between the Prince and Doctor Leoninus, with a similar result, all attempts proving fruitless to induce him to abandon his position upon the subject of religion, or to accept a pardon on any terms save the departure of the foreign troops, the assembling of the estates-general, and entire freedom of religion. Even if he were willing to concede the religious question himself, he observed that it was idle to hope either from the estates or people a hand's-breadth of concession upon that point. Leoninus was subsequently admitted to a secret conferenc with the estates of Holland, where his representations were firmly met by the same arguments as those already used by the Prince.

These proceedings on the part of Saint Aldegonde, Champagny, Junius, and Elbertus Leoninus extended through the whole summer and autumn of 1574, and were not terminated until January of the following year.

Changes fast becoming necessary in the internal government of the provinces, were also undertaken during this year. Hitherto the Prince had exercised his power under the convenient fiction of the King's authority, systematically conducting the rebellion in the name of his Majesty, and as his Majesty's stadholder. By this process an immense

The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1574-76 - 1/8

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