Leyden, Haarlem, and most of the other towns followed the example of the nobles in receiving these pusillanimous counsels with approbation.
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
Amazed at the rapid advances of the invader, and dispirited by the symptoms of daily increasing aversion which the great body of the people manifested to his government, the courage of Jan de Witt at this crisis so entirely forsook him that he took upon himself the disgrace of being the first to propose to the States of Holland that they should implore mercy from the conqueror. The resolution was immediately adopted, and by them proposed to the States-General, where it was passed with the dissentient voice only of Zealand, who was of opinion that they should treat simultaneously with England, from whence that province had to apprehend the principal danger. A deputation was accordingly sent to Louis, at Keppel, near Doesburg, headed by De Groot, and commissioned to inquire upon what terms his majesty was inclined to grant peace to the republic. They were answered by Louvois, that the King was not disposed to restore any of the conquests he had made or to enter into any negotiation unless the deputies were furnished with full powers and instructions as to what the States intended to offer. Returning to The Hague, De Groot made his report to the States of Holland, and, representing the desperate condition of their affairs, recommended that Louis should be gratified with Maestricht and all the other towns of the generality; and that a sum should be offered him to defray the expenses of the war, provided the King would leave them in possession of their liberty and sovereignty. Leyden, Haarlem, and most of the other towns followed the example of the nobles in receiving these pusillanimous counsels with approbation.
Amsterdam, however, proved that the spirit of the “Gueux” was not yet utterly extinct in Holland. Prevailing with four towns of North Holland to follow their example, the Council of Amsterdam refused to send deputies to debate upon the question of granting full powers to the ambassadors, and made vigorous preparations for the defense of their city. They repaired the fortifications, and strengthened them with considerable outworks, the magistrates themselves being the first to sacrifice their magnificent country houses in the suburbs for this purpose; they assigned to each of the regiments of burgher guards, who were ten thousand in number, a portion of the city to watch; took into their pay as soldiers all those inhabitants whom the cessation of trade would throw out of employment; stationed outlyers in the Y, Amstel, Zuyder Zee, and Pampus, and, cutting the dikes, laid the country to a great distance round under water. They likewise passed a resolution that, though all the rest of Holland should make terms with the conqueror, they would sustain the siege single-handed till some friendly power should afford them assistance.
The causes which combined to expose the United Provinces to these terrible disasters by land had, happily, no influence on their affairs by sea. The fleet, commanded by De Ruyter, an officer surpassed by none of any age or nation in ability and courage, and of devoted fidelity to the present government, had been increased to ninety-one ships and frigates of war, fifty-four fire-ships, and twenty-three yachts. That of the allies, commanded by the Duke of York, comprised after the junction of the French squadron under the Count d’Etrées, one hundred forty-nine ships-of-war, besides the smaller vessels. Sailing in quest of the enemy, De Ruyter discovered them lying in Solebay, evidently unprepared for his approach. On this occasion was felt the disadvantage of entrusting an officer with the chief command without at the same time giving him sufficient authority to insure its beneficial exercise. In consequence of the presence on board of Cornelius de Witt, the deputy of the States, De Ruyter, instead of ordering an immediate attack, was obliged to call a council of war, and thus gave the English time to arrange themselves in order of battle, which they did with astonishing celerity.
The Dutch advanced in three squadrons, nearly in a line with each other; the Admiral Bankert on the left to the attack of the French; Van Gend on the right, with the purpose of engaging the blue squadron commanded by Montague, Earl of Sandwich; while De Ruyter in the middle directed his course toward the red flag of the English, and, pointing with his finger to the Duke of York’s vessel, said to his pilot, “There is our man.” The pilot instantly steered the ship right down upon that of the Duke, and a terrific broadside was returned with equal fury. After two hours’ incessant firing, the English admiral retreated, his ship being so damaged that he was obliged to transfer his flag on board the London. At the same time Braakel, a captain who had signalized himself in the burning of Chatham, with a vessel of sixty-two guns, attacked the Royal James, of one hundred four guns, the ship of the Earl of Sandwich, which he boarded and fired. Montague, refusing to surrender, was drowned in the attempt to escape in a boat. On the other hand, Van Gend, the admiral of the squadron engaged with the Earl’s, was killed in the beginning of the action. The contest was maintained with the daring and steady valor characteristic of both nations, from seven in the morning until nightfall. The French had received instructions to keep aloof from the fight, and allow the two fleets to destroy each other; and these they took care to carry out to the full. Thus, the only assistance they afforded to the English was to prevent the Dutch squadron engaged in watching their movements from acting, an advantage more than counterbalanced by the discouragement their behavior occasioned among their allies.
Though both parties claimed the victory, it undoubtedly inclined in favor of the Dutch, who sustained a loss somewhat inferior to that of their antagonists, and had the satisfaction, moreover, of preventing a descent upon Zealand by the combined fleets, which was to have been the immediate consequence of a defeat. This was, however, attempted about a month after, when the disasters attending the arms of the States by land, having induced them to diminish the number of their ships, De Ruyter received commands to remain in the ports and avoid an engagement. The whole of the English fleet appeared in the Texel provided with small craft for the purpose of landing. But, by a singular coincidence, it happened that, on the very day fixed for the attempt, the water continued, from some unknown cause, so low as to render it impossible for the vessels to approach the shore, and to impress the people with the idea that the ebb of the tide lasted for the space of twelve hours. Immediately after, a violent storm arose, which drove the enemy entirely away from the coasts.
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