William III., 1672-1702 William IV. and V., 1748-1787

The Second Era of Liberty (1702-1747)

Foreign Policy . When King William III. died in 1702, the Estates of Holland declared, to the surprise of some, that they did not intend to elect another stadholder for the time being, opting for a second stadholderless period (= Era of Liberty) instead. The United Kingdom and the Dutch Republic, from 1689 to 1702 in Personal Union, and both fighting on the same side in the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), continued to pursue a common foreign policy until Antonius Heinsius, Grand Pensionary of Holland, terminated it in 1710. The War ended in 1714; the Spanish Netherlands became Austrian. The Barrier Fortresses in the Austrian Netherlands (Tournai, Meenen, Veurne, Dendermonde) were garrisoned by Dutch troops.
In 1747 French troops invaded the Dutch Republic, laying siege to Bergen op Zoom.

Domestic Policy . William III. had been the last inspiring polititian of the Dutch Republic. He had pursued the policy of a great power, although he started out as the stadholder of a medium-size country. The Estates of Holland, aware that they could not afford the costs of continuing such a policy, therefore opted for a stadholderless period.
As opposed to the First Era of Liberty, the second one is characterized by a lack of charismatic leaders, as well as of ideological debate. In fact, the regents, which had been active participants in the Dutch Revolt as well as the pillar of the First Era of Liberty, had beoame conservative, themselves an obstacle to reform and progress, degenerated into a quasi-nobility enjoying their privileged position and living off the interest of a capital accumulated by earlier generations. For the Netherlands were a Republic, however only a small elite was allowed to participate in the process of policy-making.
The provinces of Drente and Overijssel in 1722 elected William Charles Hendrik Friso of Orange stadholder; he was already stadholder of Groningen and Friesland.
Simon van Slingelandt was Grand Pensionary of Holland 1727-36.

The Economy . The population of the most prosperous province, Holland, had peaked in the late 17th century, and from then on slowly declined; now other provinces, lesser taxed, such as Friesland and Overijssel, experienced a population growth, which fell far short from the dramatic increase Holland went through during much of the 17th century. The reasons for this development lay in the huge tax burden the inhabitants of Holland had to bear (which was estimated at over 35 % of the income of unskilled labour in the early 18th century; de Vries/van der Woude p.97), the overseas trade of Holland no longer increasing, as by now many other European countries established chartered East and West India Companies modelled after the V.O.C., which, in combination with mercantilist policies such as the Navigation Act, cut into traditionally Dutch markets, and in the lack of vigorous new industries.
By comparison with other European countries or regions, the Dutch Republic was still prosperous; it generated a considerably larger tax revenue than the Austrian Netherlands. The cities of the Dutch Republic attracted migrant labour from Westphalia; the V.O.C. and W.I.C. continued to employ sailors from abroad, as they did not find sufficient numbers of sailors at home willing to accept the wages they paid.

Culture . Amsterdam continued to be a European center of bookprinting, many of the books printed in languages other than Dutch, especially in French, as censorship regulations in France provided obstacles to publishers. In 1734 the first Masonic Lodge was established in the Netherlands. It was instrumental in spreading Freemasonry further into continental Europe.

Article Antonius Heinsius, from Wikipedia Dutch edition
Dutch Republic History Site, bibliography, compiled at Univ. Leiden
De belangrijkste gebeurtenissen uit de periode 1702-1749, from geschiedenis.com, detailed chronological list, in Dutch
Het Beleg van Bergen op Zoom 1747, by Christ Peters
De Slag van Lafelt 1747, from Gemeente Riemst
Kristof Selleslach, Amicitie sincere ? Het prinsbisdom Munster en de Haagse Alliantie tijdens de Spaanse Successieoorlog (Sincere Friendship ? The Princebishopric of Münster and the Den Haag Alliance during the War of Spanish Succession), posted by ethesis, in Dutch
DOCUMENTS List of Grand Pensionaries of Holland, from Wikipedia
List of Stadholders, from Wikipedia
World Statesmen : Netherlands, by Ben Cahoon
Pamphlet : Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid Vertonende de Opkomst, Voortgang en Ondergaand Actie, Bubbel en Windnegotie, gepleegd in den Jaare MDCC(XX), from English Caricature Prints 1720-1820 from Haley & Steele, a commercial site
Het Verleden in Beeld : Picturing the Past, from GeneaKnowHow, illustrations of occupations
Les dessins a la sanguine des medailles du regne de Louis XV attribues a Edme Bouchardon, posted by Archives Monetaires, French language site posting images of medals minted under Louis XV.; nos. 107,108 on the conquest of Bergen-op-Zoom
Consent tot introductie van een Familiegeldt in de Provincie van Hollandt en Westvrieslandt, tot verval van de schulden en lasten van den laetsten oorlogh, Gedragen den 19. April 1715, posted by Hermann de Wit
REFERENCES The Decline of the Dutch Republic, pp.271-273 in : John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe
H.P.H. Jansen, Kalendarium. Geschiedenis van de Lage Landen in Jaartallen (History of the Low Countries by Years), Utrecht : Prisma (1971) 4th edition 1979
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

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on May 13th 2006

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