Page images




The Dutch an inde

At the time of Hudson's grand discovery, the United Netherlands had just taken the rank of an independent

nation. For more than forty years they had maintained pendent nation when an unequal strife against the bigotry and despotism of mnade dis Spain. The confederation of the Provinces, in 1579, had their serv- been followed, in 1581, by the noblest political act which

the world had then ever witnessed—the declaration of their national independence. Queen Elizabeth, who had warmly espoused the cause of the revolted provinces the year before the Union of Utrecht, formally opened diplomatic relations with the States General in 1585, and even sent troops to their succor, under the command of her favorite, the Earl of Leicester. In 1604, James I. not only received ambassadors from the states, but, in conjunction with Henry IV. of France, agreed to use his best efforts to procure the recognition of their independence by Spain. A large number of the people of England, at the same time, were warmly in favor of an alliance with the Netherlands. The naturally unambitious character of the Dutch and the convenience of their country for trading, rendered them safe and profitable allies; while the difficulty of securing the English coast from their attacks, and the English merchant vessels from their privateers, would have rendered them equally mischievous and formidable enemies. Yet James himself, though he agreed to permit contingents of troops to be raised within his kingdom for their defense, heartily disliked the Dutch; and the more so, because he found that the English soldiers who served in the Netherlands, returned home filled with notions of popular rights CHAP. II. and civil liberty which they had imbibed in the repub

1609. lican provinces.*

But Providence had determined that the soldiery of England were to learn in Holland, during the reign of James, lessons in human freedom and government, which were soon afterward to receive a stern application in the reign of James's unfortunate son.

Three years more of varied war, in which the successes of Spinola's armies on land were splendidly overbalanced by the victories of the Dutch fleets at sea, and the King of Spain, wearied with an apparently interminable contest, which had baffled all his calculations, and nearly drained his treasury, sent ambassadors to the Hague early in 1607, to open negotiations for a peace with the Netherlands. But the Dutch were not yet unanimous for a cessation of hostilities. Since their triumphs over the Spaniards, they had begun to imbibe a spirit of ambition and conquest alien to their former sober national character; and, from being patient traders and brave defenders of their country against invasion, they had become adventurous and victorious aggressors. Perceiving these changes in the habits of the people, and fearing still greater and more inconvenient modifications, Barneveldt, the Advocate of Holland, and many other patriotic statesmen, ardently wished for peace. But the clergy, who mistrusted the bigotry of Philip, deemed an equitable treaty with Spain impracticable; and the stadtholder, Prince Maurice of Nassau, naturally opposed the termination of a war in which he was gaining both laurels and emolument as general-in-chief. A large party sided with Maurice, urging that war was more safe and advantageous for the provinces than peace, which would, at any rate, throw out of employment vast numbers of people ; and many of the merchants feared that with the end of hostilities the trade and commerce, which had been transferred to Amsterdam, would return to more commodiously-situated Antwerp. Fortunately the counsels of peace prevailed, and the negotiations which were

* Davies, ii., 384, 385.

Chap. II. opened by the Spanish ambassadors, requesting a tempora

ry truce, received unexpected emphasis from Heemskerk's 1609.

splendid victory over D'Avila, before Gibraltar, on the twenty-fifth of April, 1607. But Philip, though he agreed to acknowledge the sovereignty and independence of the provinces, refused to grant them, by treaty, a freedom of trade to India; while the states, on the other hand, were determined, at all hazards, to insist upon their right to a commerce in which they employed upward of one hundred and fifty ships and eight thousand men, and the annual returns of which were estimated at forty-three millions of guilders. With the acknowledgment of their political independence, they claimed the recognition of the consequence of independence-the free navigation of the seas. Upon this tender, point, the progress of the negotiations was arrested.*

At length, after two years of discussion and vicissitude, the conferences which had kept Europe in suspense resulted in the signing, at the Town Hall at Antwerp, on the ninth of April, 1609, of a truce for a term of twelve years, instead of a definitive peace. The fulfillment of the treaty was guaranteed by England and France; the United Netherlands were declared to be "free countries, provinces, and states," upon which Philip and the archdukes had no claim; mutual freedom of trade between the contracting parties was established; and, by a secret article, the King of Spain engaged to offer no interruption to the commerce of the Dutch with India. The truce, after being ratified by the archdukes at Brussels, and by the States General,

who were specially convened at Bergen-op-Zoom, was pub15 April. licly proclaimed at Antwerp and the other chief towns of

Flanders, amid demonstrations of universal joy, the ringing of bells, and salvos of artillery. The great bell at Antwerp, which had not sounded for many years, was rung by twenty-four men, and its glad peal was heard twelve miles off, at Ordam and Lillo. The priests chaunted" Te Deum

9 April.

* Grotius, XV., 716 ; Van Meteren, xxviii., 608 ; xxix., 626-630; Watson's Philip II.. iii., 217, 241 ; Davies, ii., 405-427.

Laudamus;" the inhabitants of the towns promenaded Chap. 11. outside of the walls, like newly-liberated prisoners; and

1609. boat-loads of passengers came through the canals, from Zealand and Holland, to visit friends whom they had not seen for a long generation. But the now martial people of the Northern United Provinces tempered their triumph by a recollection of the sufferings which they and their fathers had undergone. The States General proclaimed a solemn fast; and the day was religiously celebrated in all 6 May. the churches of the United Netherlands by hearty prayers " that the Provinces might be maintained and preserved in a firm union, amity, and correspondence, under a properly authorized government."*

By foreign nations, the publication of the truce was received with astonishment and admiration. They could scarcely persuade themselves that the haughty Spaniard could ever be forced to acknowledge the independence and sovereignty of his rebel subjects, and tacitly allow them a free trade to India. But no sooner had the ratifications of the treaty been exchanged, than the powers of Europe and Asia formed new estimates of the resources of the Dutch, and of the wisdom and energy of their counsels, and immediately began to vie with each other in courting their alliance and invoking their support. Soon after the signature of the treaty, the States General sent the Sieur de Schoonewalle on an embassy to England. The king received him at once " as ambassador of a free country 12 July. and state," and immediately commissioned his Master of Requests, Sir Ralph Winwood, to reside in Holland as his ordinary ambassador. Thenceforward, the Dutch were universally esteemed “as a free and independent people. Having gained immortal honor by the magnanimity which they had displayed during the continuance of the war, they were now considered as having obtained the reward


* Corps Dip., V., 99-102 ; Grotius, xviii., 812 ; Van Meteren, xxx., 658. The proclamation by government authority, in this state, of days of fasting and days of thanksgiving, was a custom derived from Holland. Frequent instances in which the directors of New Netherland imitated the pious example of the Fatherland, will be found in the following pages.

CHAP. II. which their virtue merited, and were every where respect

ed and admired. Their ministers at foreign courts were 1609,

now received with the same distinction as those of other sovereign powers."* It is a somewhat singular coincidence, that the treaty was signed just three days after Hudson had sailed from the Texel on his voyage of discovery. So far, therefore, as England, France, and Spain were concerned, the nationality and sovereignty of the United Provinces were recognized with sufficient distinctness at the period of Hudson's voyage; and the Dutch were certainly, from that time forward, abundantly competent to take and enjoy any rights derived from discovery under the law of nations.

Hudson himself never revisited the pleasant lands he had discovered and extolled. The hardy mariner, still intent on solving the problem of the northern passage to China, and prevented by the jealousy of English authority from leaving his native country to engage again in enterprises for the benefit of foreigners, re-entered the service of his early London patrons, and sailed from the Thames

in “ The Discovery," on his last and fatal voyage to the 1610. north, in the spring of 1610. Passing Iceland, where he 17 April

saw the famous Hecla “cast out much fire,” he doubled the southern Cape of Greenland, and penetrated through Davis's Straits into the vast and gloomy waters beyond. While Hudson's récent companions in the Half Moon were, under another chief, renewing a happy intercourse with the native savages along the River of the Mountains, the intrepid navigator himself was buffeting with arctic tempests, in fruitless efforts to explore the “labyrinth without

last voyage
to the
north, in

* Van Meteren, xxxi., 662; Watson, iii., 278; Davies, ii., 427-439.

+ Chalmers, Pol. Ann., 568, intimates doubts on this subject. But this biased annalist, though a standard authority on many points, must be read with great caution in all that he writes with reference to the early history of New York. His strong English prej. udices constantly led him into serious misstatements in regard to the discoveries of other nations. The shores of New Jersey and New York had certainly not been “often explored” before Hudson's voyage. Cabot can not strictly and fairly he said to have a plored” a coast which he seems to have seen only occasionally. And what is the evidence that he took “ formal possession" of any part south of Newfoundland ? Of Europeans, Verazzano alone, who merely looked into the beautiful harbor of New York, was really the predecessor of Hudson.. Holmes, i., 135, 136, follows Chalmers, and repeats his errors.


« PreviousContinue »