Louis, upon the appointment of the Prince to the office of stadtholder, was liberal in offers of honor and advantages to his person and family, and among the rest was one which he considered could scarcely fail of its effect; that, namely, of making him sovereign of the provinces under the protection of France and England.
Continuing The Dutch Crisis 1672,our selection from History of Holland and the Dutch, 900 – 1799 by C.M. Davies. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Dutch Crisis 1672.
Time: 1672 – 78
Unquestionably the Dutch, while thus parting with their liberties, reaped in some degree the benefits usually attendant on such a sacrifice, in the increased firmness and activity of a government conducted by a sole responsible head. At the time of the embassy of Peter de Groot to solicit peace from the King of France, the Prince had so far partaken of the general dejection as to ask permission of the States to nominate a deputy to treat of his particular interests; but no sooner was he created stadtholder than he began to adopt bolder and more spirited resolutions for the safety of a country to which he felt himself attached by new and stronger ties. Being invited by the Assembly of the States to give his opinion on the terms offered by the allied monarchs, he declared that their acceptance would entail upon them certain ruin, and that the very listening to such was pernicious in the highest degree to affairs, as tending to disunite and dispirit the people.
He encouraged them to hope for speedy assistance from his allies; pointed out the resources which yet existed for the support of the war; and persuaded them rather to resolve, if they were driven to extremity, to embark on board their vessels and found a new nation in the East Indies, than accept the conditions. At the same time he spurned with indignation the flattering proposals made him both by the Kings of France and England; for — so singularly are men appointed to work out their own destiny — these monarchs now vied with each other, and were in fact principally instrumental, in exalting the power and dignity of a prince who ere long was to hurl the brother of the one from the throne of his ancestors, and prepare for the other an old age of vexation and disgrace, if not to lay the first foundation of the ruin of his kingdom in the next century.
Louis, upon the appointment of the Prince to the office of stadtholder, was liberal in offers of honor and advantages to his person and family, and among the rest was one which he considered could scarcely fail of its effect; that, namely, of making him sovereign of the provinces under the protection of France and England. William, however, was found wholly immovable on this point, declaring that he would rather retire to his lands in Germany, and spend his life in hunting, than sell his country and liberty to France. Nor were the dispiriting representations made by the English ambassadors, that Holland was utterly lost unless he consented to the terms proposed, at all more influential; “I have thought of a means,” he replied, “to avoid beholding the ruin of my country — to die in the last ditch.”
Neither, indeed, was the state of the country, though sufficiently deplorable, such as to leave him no choice but to become the vassal of her haughty enemies. The progress of the invader in Holland was effectually arrested by the state of defence into which that province had been put. Imitating the noble example set them by Amsterdam, the other towns readily opened the sluices of the Lek, Meuse, Yssel, and Vecht, inundating by that means the whole of the intervening tracts of land.
The Dutch army was stationed at the five principal posts of the provinces; Prince Maurice John being placed at Muyden and Weesp; Field Marshal Wurtz at Gorcum; the Count of Horn at the Goejanverwellen Sluys; another detachment occupied Woerden; and the Prince himself took up his head-quarters at Bodergrave and Nieuwerburg.
At length, finding his army increased by the addition of subsidies from Spain to twenty-four thousand men, William determined to infuse new vigor into the public mind by the commencement of offensive hostilities. He first formed the design of surprising Naarden and Woerden, both of which attempts, however, proved unsuccessful. He then marched toward Maestricht, captured and demolished the fort of Valckenburg, by which that town was straitened, and, with the view of diverting the force of the enemy by carrying the war into his own territory, advanced to the siege of Charleroi. But the middle of winter having already arrived before he commenced the enterprise, he was soon after compelled, by the severity of the weather, to abandon it and retire to Holland, which, during his absence, had, from the same cause, been exposed to imminent danger.
The Duke of Luxemburg, who had been left in command of the forces in Utrecht on the departure of the King of France, for Paris, finding that the ice with which the land-water was covered, was sufficiently strong to bear the passage of cavalry, marched with a strong body of troops to Zwammerdam, and thence to Bodergrave, both of which were abandoned. The purpose of the French commander was to advance directly upon The Hague, and to force the States to acknowledge the sovereignty of the King of France; a measure which would, he conceived, involve the immediate submission of the whole of the provinces. But, happily, his project was defeated by a sudden thaw, which obliged him to return to Utrecht; and had it not been that the fort of Nieuwerburg, situated on the dike, which afforded the only passage thither, was deserted by the commander, Pain-et-Vin, his retreat must have been cut off, and his army exposed to almost certain destruction. Before his departure, Luxemburg revenged himself on the luckless villages he had captured, which he pillaged and burned to the ground.[*] Pain-et-Vin was afterward tried for breach of duty and executed.
[* The accounts given by the Dutch historians of the revolting outrages and barbarities exercised by the invaders on this expedition are strenuously denied by the writers on the French side; their conduct in Utrecht, however, which we shall have occasion hereafter to notice, affords but too ample evidence that there was some truth in the accusations. On the other hand, that the Dutch authors are guilty of exaggeration may be easily believed, since one of them gravely puts into the mouth of the Duke of Luxemburg the following address to his soldiers: “Go, my children, plunder, murder, destroy, and if it be possible to commit yet greater cruelties, be not negligent therein, that I may see I am not deceived in my choice of the flower of the king’s troops.”]
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