Second Era of Liberty, 1702-1747 The Patriots, 1780-1795

William IV. and V., 1748-1787

Foreign and Domestic Policies During the Second Era of Liberty (1702-1747), Dutch politics saw two major factions, the advocates of liberty (i.e. the non-appointment of a stadholder) and the Orangists, which supported the House of Orange and wanted their representative to hold the position of stadholder.
William IV. was declared of full age in 1729 and appointed stadholder by the 4 Orangist provinces ( Friesland, Groningen, Gelderland, Overijssel); he married the daughter of King George II. of England in 1734. When Austrian troops in 1747 attacked States Flanders (in order to force the Dutch Republic to end the Blockade of Antwerp) Orangist rallies broke out in Zeeland. In May 1748, William IV. was proclaimed Stadholder in all 7 provinces.

Once stadholder, William IV. received many petitions protesting against Tax Farming, the sales of offices. The Riflemen's Guilds (the Doelists) asked for the re-introduction of the (assumed earlier) democracy. William IV. approved to most demands; yet the reform was not reaching far enough.
The House of Orange was granted Hereditary Stadholdership. The Austrian threat was dealt with diplomatically, the Blockade of Antwerp continued. William IV. died in 1751, his son William V. was a minor until 1766. During the Seven Years War (1756-1763) the Dutch Republic declared Neutrality, a neutrality which was little respected by the British navy; hundreds of Dutch merchant ships were confiscated. The regents governing for the minor stadholder were weak, unable to push through both reforms and demands for taxes. William V. was finally declared of age in 1766; in 1767 he was married to Wilhelmina of Prussia.
While the (North) American Colonies fought for their independence (1776-1783), many Dutch patriots sympathized with the Americans. The British, meanwhile, approached the Dutch for military assistance. The stadholder pursued a policy of neutrality; the British navy again molested Dutch merchant shipping. In Dec. 1780 the Dutch Republic declared war on Britain ( Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, 1780-1784). Dutch merchant shipping suffered heavily. In 1781 the British took St. Eustasius (Caribbean). In 1782 the Dutch Republic officially recognized the United States of America. In 1784 the Peace of Paris was signed; the Dutch Republic ceded Negapatnam (India's Coromandel Coast, V.O.C. possession) to the United Kingdom and permitted British ships to sail to the Moluccas (East Indies, V.O.C. sphere of interest).

The Economy . Ever since the late 17th century, the Dutch bore the highest tax rates in Europe - mainly the residents of the maritime provinces (Holland, Zeeland, Friesland). Their urban economies were heavily dependent on maritime trade, which had been stagnating or even declining since the Golden Age. As a consequence, the population of the urban centers of Holland etc. had stopped. Causes for this development were manifold; increased competition in Transoceanic trade, often by companies founded abroad by Dutch merchants who were barred from entering this trade in the Dutch Republic by the monopolies the V.O.C. and W.I.C. held; the fact that the Dutch Republic, since 1672, could not afford to keep up in the naval arms race of the 18th century (i.e. to build ships of the line), with the result that Dutch shipping was at the mercy of the British navy, and not the least the Mercantilist policies pursued by the European trading partners of the Dutch Republic, designed to reduce imports from the Dutch Republic.
While Amsterdam, in her role as Europe's leading market for imports from overseas, found more and more competition, the city remained a European center of banking and bookprinting.
The Dutch policy of Neutrality was dictated by the insight that the country could not afford to fight a war. In 1747 and 1780 the Republic was provoked/driven into entering the war by bullying neighbours.
The Dutch economy suffered from high wages and taxes, the Republic from a huge accumulated debt the interest payments requiring more than half of state revenue. When, in the latter half of the 19th century, due to sustained population growth (Agricultural, and the beginning Industrial Revolution), the European economy expanded, the Dutch Republic benefitted less than other European polities.
While England and Scotland entered the Industrial Revolution, the Netherlands stagnated. For one, the Dutch Republic completely lacked a mining and metal industry, due to her geography (the Southern Netherlands had both, and Belgium would become the first country on the European continent to go through the Industrial Revolution). Another reason - while the Industrial Revolution, and the Agricultural Revolution preceding her, to a significant extent were pushed forward by a landowning gentry trying to optimize the profits of their estates, the Dutch nobility in the 18th century, having smaller estates, and fewer, if any, serfs to dispose of (the institution of serfdom was historically insignificant in Dutch history), responded to the situation by having less children; by the end of the century, fewer noblemen were alive, many noble estates empty - noble property had concentrated in the hands of a few. As there were few serfs, little could be gained by setting them free.
Not that there were no changes; the potato did become staple food in the Netherlands in the course of the 18th century.

Culture . During her Golden Age, the Dutch Republic saw the influx of numerous religious refugees, because the Dutch Republic was unique in pursuing the policy of Religious Tolerance (and underwent an economic boom). Her economic boom was based on the tradition of Dutch shipbuilding and seafaring, on cannon technology, and on a successful capitalist economy (Amsterdam Stock Exchange); the V.O.C. was the most successful chartered colonial company of her time.
By the late 18th century, most European countries had followed the Dutch model; the Enlightenment thinkers and economists of the time had recognized the benefits of a policy of religious toleration; by noe the English built the best ships of the time; stock exchanges and V.O.C.-type chartered companies had emerged in other countries; being less special and economically successful, the Dutch Republic had lost attraction to refugees/would be emigrants.

Articles William IV., Prince of Orange, William V., Prince of Orange, Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, from Wikipedia English edition
Articles Schutterij (Riflemen's Guild), from Wikipedia Dutch edition
De belangrijkste gebeurtenissen uit de periode 1750 - 1795, from, detailed chronological list, in Dutch
Biography Jan Ingenhousz, from BBC Online
DOCUMENTS Map : Les sept Provinces Unies des Pays-Bas, ou la Hollande avec les Pays-Bas Autrichiens, from Bonne, Atlas Encyclopedique, 1787-1788, low resolution
English Treaties with the States General (Chalmers, Vol.1) : May 20th 1784 The Definitive Treaty of Peace and Friend-Ship, 20th May, 1784, pp.191ff
April 15th 1788, The Treaty of Defensive Alliance, 15th April, 1788, pp.199ff
Pamphlet : Toestand der Engelsche (1780, Cow Caricature), from English Caricature Prints, 1720-1820 from Haley & Steele, a commercial site
Über die Katholiken in Holland, anonymous article in : Berlinische Monatsschrift 1784, Vol.2, pp.187-188, posted by Universität Bielefeld, enter 1784 vol.2, click position no.20
Medal : Stadholder Willem IV., 1747, from Medal Web, Collection Benjamin Weiss
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, in Dutch, [G]
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 12th 2006

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics