Dutch Revolt, 1579-1609 First Era of Liberty

The Golden Age of the Dutch Republic : 1609-1648

A.) Political Events, 1609-1648

Foreign Policy : In 1609, a truce was signed which lasted until 1621 (12 Year Truce); from 1621 to 1649 the Republic and Spain again were at war. Early on, the Spanish achieved minor successes (taking Breda in 1625); in 1632 Republican troops took Roermond and Maastricht. The Dutch Republic hesitated when it came to further expansion, as the Dutch did not want to use force in order to convert the population of liberated territory, and resented to gain more Catholic subjects. The liberated, predominantly Catholic areas (States Flanders, States Brabant, States Limburg) were placed under military administration (Generality Lands). During the Thirty Years War, the Dutch Republic found herself in a natural alliance with France, Denmark and Sweden, as they all fought Habsburg Spain, Austria and the Catholic League, and England s ympathized with the Dutch Republic.
A vigorous policy of expansion, mainly at the expense of the Portuguese, was pursued by the V.O.C. and W.I.C.; Batavia (Java) was acquired in 1619, Taiwan in 1624, Malacca in 1641; a W.I.C. expedition took Northeastern Brazil in 1630. In the Peace of Westphalia, Spain recognized the independence of the Dutch Republic (1648).

Domestic Policy : The Dutch Republic was a federation of 7 provinces - Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, Groningen, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel. The central institution was the parliament, called Estates General, to which the individual provinces sent deputations. The individual provinces had parliaments of their own, the estates (Staten), which had grown out of the old territorial estates, but had undergone changes during the Dutch Revolt. These estates were dominated by the cities' Regents and, of the inland provinces, by the countryside nobility which supported the House of Orange. The princes of the House of Orange, because of their personal contribution to the struggle of independence and their large property in the Dutch Republic, were regarded the only eligible candidates for the position of Stadholder.
The office of stadholder was a provincial one. During the revolt, William I. and his son Maurice were appointed stadholder of all 7 provinces - in 7 individual acts. The stadholder was the commander of the army. In order to pay his troops, however, the stadholder depended on the budget granted to him by the Estates General.
Although 7 provinces were represented in the Estates General, the deputation of Holland dominated, as it accounted for 57 % of the budget (for comparison : Overijssel 3.5 %). The strong man in the Estates of Holland was Johan van Oldenbarneveld (until 1618). After his execution, the Estates of Holland created the office of Raadspensionaris (Grand Pensionary), which emerged as the other powerful office next to the stadholder.
The Dutch Republic never developed a written constitution. The constitution, for the next 100 years, was to go through further changes, as the Republic's institutions were not fixed.

As long as the Spanish threat had been imminent, the coalition of wealthy Calvinist regents and the House of Orange and his supporters held. During the 12 year truce (1609-1621) serious disagreement about the way the state should be governed emerged. In the cities of Holland (with the highest tax rates in Europe) the regents' hold on the city administration came under criticism; the Flemish immigrants, many of whom worked in textile manufacturing and suffered from competition with inmports from Flanders during the truce, were among the more vocal critics.
A religious dispute arose in the Calvinist church; Arminius questioned the concept of predestination and argued for complete independence of the church from the state. The regents of Holland, among them Oldenbarneveldt, sided with the Arminians. The opposing side, the Contraremonstrants, lead by Franciscus Gomarus, refused to even discuss the concept of predestination; Stadholder Prince Maurice sided with them.
In 1618, Lands's Advocate of Holland, Johan van Oldenbarneveldt, leader of the regents' party, in 1618 was arrested, tried for treason and executed in 1619. Jurist Hugo Grotius, also arrested, escaped from prison in 1621. The Synod of Dordt (1618-1619) established the core belief of Calvinism, and marks the end of the process of Calvinist reformation. At the Synod, Arminianism, the teachings of Prof. Arminius at the Univ. of Leiden, were condemned. Stadholder Prince Maurice of Orange was, during the years 1619-1621, clearly in charge, but failed to establish a viable constitution. When the war was resumed in 1621, the opportunity had slipped away. Prince Maurice died in 1625. In 1637 the Statenbijbel, the bible translation commissioned by the Calvinists at the Synod of Dordt, was published.

Economy . Economically, the years from 1600 onward saw a period of prosperity. In 1600 the first Dutch ship returned from a trip to India, bringing a cargo of spices and other highly priced products. Amsterdam profitted most, the city's population more than tripled from ca. 30.000 in 1565 to ca. 100.000 in 1630, as many of the refugees from Antwerp settled down here; much of Emden's community of exiles also moved here. In 1602 the V.O.C. was established to cover the risk of India traders and to prevent ruinous competition. In 1621, the W.I.C. was formed as a counterpart to the V.O.C. for the West Indies trade. The Dutch call the period between 1600 and 1672 their Golden Age. A part of the profits made were invested in land reclamation : Windmills were built, the wind energy applied to drain lakes in Holland - the Beemster in 1612, the Purmer in 1622, the Wormer in 1626, the Schermer in 1636. Yet incoming profits were large and investors looked for other fields to invest in. The central element of the Dutch economy was the Bourse of Amsterdam (stock exchange). Here, demand and supply decided on the price; the Dutch Republic interfered much less in trade (via regulations and taxation) than the traditional state did. The bourse was a great success and served as the model for stock markets everywhere. But lessons had to be learned, too : during the years between 1634 and 1637, the bourse went through a frenzy called the Tulipomania - rare breeds of tulip bulbs at the height of the frenzy achieved prices of hfl 6.000,-. For comparison : the W.I.C. paid a mere hfl 60,- plus some glass beads for the entire island of Manhattan in 1625. In the early 17th century, numerous 'porcelain' factories emerged at Rotterdam and Delft, producing the Delft Blue ware, in imitation of Chinese porcelain.
Prosperity came to be concentrated heavily on the province of Holland, which accounted for 57 % of the Dutch Republic's budget, Zeeland and Friesland 11 % each, Overijssel a mere 3.5 %. This was a heavy imbalance; in the Estates General, the Representatives of Holland always placed their interests first, and Hollanders were proud of their land. This is one of the causes for the frequent confusion of Holland and the (northern) Netherlands.

Culture . The Dutch Republic pursued a policy of religious tolerance; the official confession of Calvinism was not imposed on others. Public offices were restricted to Calvinist burghers. Other Protestants and Jews were better treated than Catholics, but despite of the Catholic diocesan administration being destroyed, the Catholic community in the Netherlands continued to thrive as an underground church, Catholic priests receiving their education outside of the country.
In the Dutch Republic, the last perceived witch was burnt in 1597.
For a combination of reasons, which include both the religious toleration practiced and economic prosperity, the Dutch Republic attracted refugees and immigrants, among them the parents of philosopher Baruch Spinoza (of Portuguese Jewish ancestry) and Jan Amos Comenius, who moved to the Netherlands in 1656. The Pilgrim Fathers, before sailing to Massachusetts, stayed in Holland (Leiden, Rotterdam) for 12 years (1609-1621).

Article Dutch Golden Age, Synod of Dordt, Arminianism, Johan van Oldenbarneveldt, Hugo Grotius, Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, from Wikipedia English edition
Dutch Republic History Site, bibliography, compiled at Univ. Leiden
Hugo Grotius website (Works, Biographt, Essays) from Yale; Biography of Hugo Grotius from orst; Hugo Grotius : Naturalist, Eclectic or Theonomist ?, essay by William Greene, mcu
Biography of Hugo Grotius, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis, in English
On Tulipomania from Historyhouse, from bulb.com, from flowerbulbs.nl
The 17th century : the trading network of the Dutch, from Money Museum
The "States Bible" - the bible translation of 1637, from History of the Dutch Language
The Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis
The Story of the Elzevirs, Writers and Scholars, by Judith Taylor, on publications of the early 17th century
Timeline of the Netherlands and Scandinavia relating to North America, posted by New Netherland Museum
Timelines 1618-1619, 1647-1648, from Digitale Atlas Geschiedenis, in Dutch; not a geographic Atlas
DOCUMENTS Hugo Grotius, On the Law of War and Peace, from UCLA
A pamphlet warning against Tulipomania (1637), from Agrarian Univ. Wageningen (NL); Tulipanen, naar het leven getekent (Tulips painted after life) by P. Cos, from Agrarian Univ. Wageningen, scanned online, described and illustrates Tulip breeds with actual prices given.
The Canons of the Synod of Dordt, 1618-19, from the Modern History Sourcebook
Letter by Axel Oxenstjerna, to King Gustavus Adolphus, 1616, mentioning the Dutch (Oldenbarneveld, van Brederode), from Riksarkivet, se, in Latin
Map : The Low Countries 1556-1648, from Historical and Political Maps of the Modern Age
Portrait of Johan van Oldenbarneveld etc., from Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, collection, 1250 major exhibits, encyclopedia, o, Johan van Oldenbarneveld, thumbnail images
Images related with Prince Maurice, from Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, collection, 1250 major exhibits, encyclopedia, m, stadholder maurice (portrait c.1615, sailing chariot 1603)
Sir William Temple, Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands">, from Modern History Sourcebook, Sir W. Temple was English ambassador to the Dutch Republic
Map : Leo Hollandicus, by N.I. Visscher 1648, from Map Forum
Copper engravings from Theatrum Europaeum, posted by Univ. Augsburg : Prince Maurice, 1619; Johan van Oldenbarnevelt">, 1619; Jacobus Arminius, 1619; Hugo Grotius
Medal : Death of William II., Prince of Orange, 1650, from Medal Web, Collection Benjamin Weiss
REFERENCE Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, pp.260-271 in : John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, 1996
John Lothrop Motley, Life of John of Barneveld, 1609-1623, from Historical Text Archive, Online Book
John Lothrop Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic, Pt.I, from Historical Text Archive, Online Book
John Lothrop Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic, Pt.II, from Historical Text Archive, Online Book
Maarten Prak, The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century, Cambridge : UP 2005, KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.2 P898d
Jan de Vries and Ad van der Woude, The First Modern Economy. Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500-1815, Cambridge : UP 1997, KMLA Lib.Sign. 330.9492 V982f
Charles Butler, The Life of Hugo Grotius, with Brief Minutes of the Civil, Ecclesiastical, and Literary History of the Netherlands (1826), posted by Gutenberg Library Online

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First posted in 2000, last revised on October 28th 2007

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