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Spain and the Netherlands; the Armada. page 3

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Dutch prosperity and power grew apace. The ships of Holland were doing the chief carrying-trade of Europe. Her "India Company" was formed in 1596. The Jews driven from Spain and Portugal found a refuge in the new republic. Tillage and manufactures began to thrive again; skill, industry, and courage were reaping their reward; and all things gave token of the arrival of a happier age. The new king of Spain, Philip III., son of the late monarch, was his very opposite in regard to the business of government. Philip II. had striven to do everything: his son and successor would do nothing, and left all to his minister the duke of Lerma. Spanish pride and bigotry could not, however, even now formally relinquish what had been a prey, and the Archduke Albert continued the struggle in the Netherlands. In 1600 Maurice gained the decisive battle of Nieuport over Albert, striving to raise the Dutchman's siege of the town, and a great moral effect was produced. The famous Spinola, of Genoa, one of the greatest military captains of the age, was summoned by Albert to the command, and the siege of Ostend, one of the longest of modern times, took the attention of Europe from 1601 to 1604. The operations were a sort of school of war, especially in engineering, to military visitors from all parts of Europe, and mining and bombardment reduced the place to ruins before it was surrendered to Albert's forces. Maurice and Spinola manoeuvred in the field with indecisive results. At sea, the Dutch defeated the Spanish fleet off Dover, in 1606 Spanish ships were victorious off Cape St. Vincent, and again, in 1607, the Dutch fleet had a brilliant success in Gibraltar Bay. Spain was growing weary of the war. Her resources were becoming exhausted, and, in spite of the opposition, in a conference at the Hague, of the ambitious Prince Maurice and a war-party, against Barneveldt and those who wished for peace, a truce was made between Spain and Holland in 1609, couched in vague terms, to save Spanish pride, as regarded independence for the Seven Provinces.

Peace continued for the space of 12 years, and the troubles of Holland were only internal, but these were of a character disgraceful to a free Protestant state. The curse of the time was religious bigotry, and Prince Maurice used it for his own ambitious ends. Away from the field of war, this son of the great William of Orange was a vulgar character - rough, cruel, and despotic. The object of his hatred was the excellent and patriotic Barneveldt, the greatest man ever produced by Holland, except only William of Orange, and his descendant, William III. of England. At this time, all reasonable men in the country were deafened and disgusted by the loud, angry theological disputes between the Calvinists, led by Francis Gomar, a professor of theology at the new University of Leyden, founded in honour of the grand defence of the town against the Spaniards, and his colleague Arminius. The national energies were turned from the noble objects of consolidating civil and religious freedom into the barren field of metaphysical theology. Barneveldt supported Arminius; Prince Maurice, for his own ends, sided with Gomar. Arminius was mild, courteous, and pure in life. Gomar was learned, violent, and rigid, a bad copy of his master Calvin. Arminius, after triumphing over his opponent in disputations held before the States-General, died in 1609. Serious riots occurred in several towns, and the religious rivalry became a public nuisance and peril. Our own pedantic sovereign, James I., plunged into the controversy as a stout "Gomarist," while all men of sound judgment and the favourers of religious toleration were laughing at both sides. The Catholics of Europe were, of course, delighted at the scenes exhibited in this Protestant bear-garden of angry bigots. Barneveldt, meanwhile, as civil administrator and diplomatist, rendered good service by obtaining from England the restoration of the two important towns of Brill and Flushing, held as security for Holland's debt incurred to the niggardly and cautious Elizabeth when she furnished funds for the maintenance of the struggle against Philip. About one-third of the money due was paid to James for a receipt in full. After this great service, some of Barneveldt's ungrateful countrymen began to accuse him of treacherous views in the interest of Spain, and Prince Maurice, now aiming at sovereignty, and knowing that Barneveldt was the main obstacle to his projects, plotted the great statesman's ruin. His influence gained complete success for the Calvinist party, and the Arminians were persecuted with many outrages. Against this treatment Barneveldt vainly appealed to the prince, and the magistrates of some towns, at Barneveldt's suggestion, called out the national militia to maintain the public peace. Civil war was in prospect, when in 1617 Prince Maurice took a violent course in seizing Brill, and declaring that Barneveldt meant to deliver the town to the Spaniards. This calumny was widely believed, and Barneveldt only consented to retain office at the entreaty of the States-General, and issued a dignified "Apology," addressed to the States, or assembly, of the province of Holland. Maurice, who had now become prince of Orange by his elder brother's death, arrested Barneveldt, treading public justice under foot, and acting with despotic power. The Synod of Dort met in November, 1618, and closed in May, 1619, after an absurd display of theological mysticism, and of conduct disgraceful to religion. Proscription, banishment, and execution of theological opponents (Arminians) followed, and even the Calvinists of France, Germany, and Geneva were shocked. The fate of Barneveldt was now sealed. After a mock-trial before a packed body of 24 prejudiced judges, accused and convicted of treason against the public liberties which he had passed his noble life in vindicating, Olden Barneveldt died by beheading in May, 1619. No fouler judicial murder stains the annals of any country. It stamped an indelible mark on the memory of Prince Maurice, and has left Barneveldt enshrined as one of the purest and greatest of patriots.

In 1621 the 12 years' truce expired, and Maurice and Spinola again faced each other in the field two years later. The Dutch people, weakened by their dissensions, cooled in their hatred of Spain, and with an army unused to war, were by no means eager for a renewal of conflict.. Maurice was growing old, and the financial condition of the country was unsound. The prince was becoming hateful in his despotism. The two sons of Barneveldt laid a plot against his life, having been deprived of their offices, and reduced to destitution and despair. The matter was betrayed, and one son escaped, the other was executed. In 1623 Spinola had begun the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom, the fortress commanding the navigation of the Maas and the coasts of the Zealand archipelago, and Maurice, rushing to its rescue, forced him away, after desperate efforts on both sides, with heavy loss. Frederick Henry of Nassau, Maurice's half-brother, marched into Brabant, and ravaged the country to the gates of Mechlin, Brussels, and Louvain, levying a heavy contribution in money. By this time the Thirty Years' War was in progress in Germany, Holland aiding the Protestant cause with money. In 1625 Prince Maurice died, and just before the end of his blighted life, he cried, in allusion to his victim Barneveldt, "As long as the old rascal was alive, we had counsels and money; now we can find neither one nor the other."

Frederick Henry of Nassau then assumed power as Stadtholder, and found matters in a bad condition. Discontent and disunion prevailed; heavy taxes crushed the industries of the country; the frontiers were almost defenceless; and only in maritime affairs, in the East Indies, and, for some time, in the Western world, was the country flourishing. The new ruler, now in his 42nd year, showed his wisdom in a policy of religious tolerance and consideration, and the evil spirit of the past was by degrees exorcised. In 1626 some towns were taken from Spinola, and in the two following years Spanish treasure-fleets were plundered in the New World. The resources thus acquired enabled the republic to raise needful land-forces, and in 1629 Frederick Henry and other commanders defeated the enemy in the south, during Spinola's absence in Italy, at all points. Many towns of the Spanish Netherlands were taken, and Holland was freed from the danger of invasion. In 1632 almost all the fortresses on the Maas, including Maestricht, fell into the hands of the Dutch. In 1635 Richelieu, the French minister, made an offensive and defensive alliance with the republic. In concert with a French army, great success was won in the Spanish Netherlands. After some changes of fortune Breda was retaken in 1637, and in 1639 the famous Van Tromp gained a splendid victory in the Downs over the Spanish fleet, taking, sinking, or burning 50 ships In 1641 Charles I. of England gave his daughter Mary in marriage to Frederick's son William. The Stadtholder had gained so much credit by his wise and energetic rule, that his office was made hereditary by the States-General, and the House of Orange was firmly established. In the civil war of England Frederick Henry aided the Royalist cause, but the people generally took part with the Parliamentarians, and remonstrated with their ruler. In 1647 he died; leaving a high character for integrity, prudence, toleration, and courage. It was his glory to leave completed the task which his illustrious father had begun, and which the skill and courage of his half-brother Maurice had carried on. On January 30th, 1648, the Treaty of Munster between Spain and Holland renounced all Spanish claims, and fully recognised Dutch independence, after the lapse of 80 years from the first revolt. A more splendid triumph of the cause of freedom against enormous odds does not adorn the page of history.

We turn now to our country's share in the great contest against Philip II. of Spain. British readers need no details of the Spanish Armada and its defeat. The victory, so glorious for England, was at once our Marathon and Salamis, the decisive event of a contest in which the future of the world was involved. It rendered possible the existence not only of the United States, but of great commonwealths beyond the Atlantic, and in Australasian seas, which are main portions of our vast empire. We need only note that the Dutch fleet played an important part in the preservation of our forefathers, blockading Parma in his harbours and preventing him from crossing to our shores while Hawkins, Drake, Frobisher, the Catholic Lord Howard, and our other gallant countrymen, were battering the Spanish ships during their course up the Channel. With this grand event really begins our modern history. England therewith takes a new character and a new place in the world. The defeat of the Armada was the last act of a historical drama which had been played in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Gulf of Mexico, where English adventurers, Drake and Hawkins and their compeers, had long been contesting the Spaniards' monopoly of the New World, harrying their commerce, attacking their seaboard towns, and capturing their great galleons laden with the riches of Mexican and Peruvian mines. A new race of Englishmen, formed by a maritime career, a race of sea-heroes not before existing in the British Isles, met and repulsed, in destructive and conquering strength, the attack of the Spanish masters of the New World. With Drake and Hawkins began the British love of roaming the seas; with Raleigh and Humphrey Gilbert arose the impulse and genius for colonisation. A new England, at once commercial and warlike, appears upon the stage of history, and henceforth we have the close connection between war and trade, during the two succeeding centuries, which has so largely affected the course of modern history. The motto "Trade follows the flag " was turned into action, commerce leading to war, and war fostering commerce. The mediaeval state of affairs in Europe came to an end. The industrial ages began, and the western European nations, France and England, entered into a contest for the possession of the vast regions beyond the Atlantic.

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