Finis ergo reipublicae revera libertas est.The Dutch Republic (Nederlandse Republiek) is an independent nation in Europe existing from 1581, when part of the Netherlands separated from Spanish rule. The republic borders the lands of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince-Bishopric of Liège and the Spanish Netherlands.
(Benedictus de Spinoza , Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, chapter 20, paragraph 6)
The Dutch Republic also known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden) or Republic of the United Netherlands. Alternative names include the United Provinces (Verenigde Provinciën), Seven Provinces (Zeven Provinciën), Federated Dutch Provinces (Foederatae Belgii Provinciae), and Dutch Federation (Belgica Foederata).
The Dutch Republic was at war with several European Empires: Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), Anglo–Spanish War (1625–1630), Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654), Dano-Swedish War of 1658–60, Second Northern War (1655–60, often intervened against Sweden), Dutch–Portuguese War (1662-1661) and overseas possessions: Malayan–Portuguese war (1511–1641) and various conflicts with China. It has kept close military and diplomatic alliances with the Commonwealth of England and Sweden.
In the War of Devolution (1667–68) the Dutch Republic was part of the Triple Alliance along the Commonwealth and Sweden for the defense of the Spanish Netherlands from the French. when the French armies overrun the Habsburg-controlled Spanish Netherlands and the Franche-Comté. The Triple Alliance was renew in the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-1678.
The year 1672, when a full invasion of French and German forces took much of the Dutch Republic by surprise, is often referred to as het Rampjaar ("the Disaster Year"). The fast advance and defeat of several Dutch regiments put the whole of the Republic open for the French and German. Panic broke out in the cities in Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht. Lower and middle-class people stood up against the government, demanded appointment of Prince William III and punishment of those responsible for the war and the state of the army. The English also pressed for his nomination as Captain-General and Stadtholder. The government of the regents fell, Johan de Witt and others resigned and partisans (Orangists) of William III took over marking the end of the Stadtholderless Period (1650–73).
The French failed to prevent the Dutch from starting to inundate the Dutch Water Line and Williams III's small army from withdrawing behind it. Before they came to understand the nature and importance of this defence system their further advance was blocked by an impassable water and mud barrier. This small success for the Dutch was followed by others. The arrival of the British Expeditionary Army commanded by James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth sent to Flanders to support the Dutch and Spanish armies against the French changed the tide in the War. The Dutch and British fleet had already defeated the French fleet at the Battle of Solebay, and the German Bishop of Münster, Bernhard von Galen, withdrew from the siege of Groningen. On the diplomatic front, the Holy Roman Empire and Spain took the side of the Netherlands. In 1673 Bonn fell to a Dutch army. This made the French retreat from most of the Republic. Münster and Cologne made peace in 1674; the French fought on until 1678. Peace negotiations had begun as early as 1676, but nothing was agreed to and signed before 1678 by the Treaties of Peace of Nijmegen. The treaties ended various interconnected wars among France, the Dutch Republic, Spain, Brandenburg, Sweden, Denmark, the Prince-Bishopric of Münster, and the Holy Roman Empire. The most significant of the treaties was the first, which established peace between France and the Dutch Republic, and placed the northern border of France in very nearly its modern position. The Peace solved nothing. Louis continued his aggressive policies for the rest of his life.
The experience of the Rampjaar had a considerable influence on the direction of Dutch foreign policy. William III saw it as his life's work to defend the Republic and Europe against French hegemony. In all the wars of Louis XIV the Dutch, along the Commonwealth, would support his adversaries.
Stadtholder William III
The proclamation of William III as Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel and the appointment of Gaspar Fagel as Grand Pensionary by the States of Holland brought back the United Provinces to the state of affairs of 1650. Fagel had proposed to treat the liberated provinces of Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel as conquered territory (Generality Lands), as punishment for their quick surrender to the enemy. William refused but obtained a special mandate from the States General to newly appoint all delegates in the States of these provinces. With an Orangist majority in the States General William III and Gaspar Fagel pushed a series of reforms taking advantage of the Orangist political and military triumph in the war in detriment of the Republicans. The foremost was the unification of the five Dutch admiralties under a Committee for Naval Affairs named by the Stadtholders and the States General that would be in charge of the construction plans shipyards, commission and decommission of ships and nomination of admirals. Organisational and logistical reforms in the States Army. The reforms of 1677-1678 gave the Council of State more executive powers and the elevation Staats-Bramant to province and representation to Drenthe in the States General. These reforms downgraded the political importance of Holland. However there was resistance to make the office of Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht hereditary in the House of Orange.
The Orangists were William's strongest supporters, so he favored them in the high posts of the Republic and provinces. His victory at the Franco-Dutch War gave him wide powers to reorganize the provinces. However he did not fully tried to alienate Republican. One key policy that he borrowed from them was free trade and freedom of the seas.
The military assistance of the Commonwealth brought a closer alliance of both countries against France. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) and the exodus of French Huguenots to the Netherlands sparked an economic resurge and a wave of colonization to the New Netherlands and Cape Colony.
All political factions favored good terms but the British Navigation Acts were the main obstacle for a true understanding specially in the trade with the American colonies and India. However Willem III's state visit to the Commonwealth in July 1681 thawed relations between both countries. A series of negociations, headed by Lambert and Bentinck ended in the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Concord (Engels–Nederlandse Eendracht) of 1683, that relaxed the Navigation Acts for the Dutch and established andn alliance of both states.
The States General
Under the Union of Utrecht (1579) the republic is a confederation of eight provinces, which have their own governments and are very independent, and a number of so-called Generality Lands. The latter are governed directly by the States General (Staten-Generaal).
The States General are the supreme authority of the Netherland and consists of representatives of each of the seven provinces each having one vote. Under the Union of Utrecht the States General are formally the sovereign power. They represent the Republic in foreign affairs, make treaties with foreign monarchs, declared war and peace, administered the army and navy, appointment of the commander of the Republic's armies (Captain General of the Union), budget of the republic, and levy tariffs.
As a confederation most government functions remained with the provincial States (and local authorities). The delegates act with a mandate limited by instruction and obligatory consultation. The States General took on many executive functions after the Council of State of the Netherlands had temporarily come under English influence (1598-1625). The presidency of the States General is rotated weekly among the senior representatives of the provinces. The States General are seated in The Hague. The reforms of 1677 gave voting right in the States General to the provinces of Dretch and North Bramant (former Staats-Bramant).
The Council of State (Raad van State) functions as an executive committee of the Union, and carried out its executive functions. The Council is made up of members appointed by the States-General on the nomination of the Provincial States (usually about 12) and the stadtholders of the provinces as ex officio members. The executive powers of the Council were limited to military policy (both on land and sea); administering the Dutch States Army's financial aspects (naval affairs were administered by the five Admiralties); and formulating and executing tax policy for the Generality Lands. The Governor-General (Landvoogden) who would act as a sort of Head of State presides the council, the post was vacant between 1588-1679.
The Council of State was reformed in 1679 with the Governor-General elected by the General States and given more control of the budget, treasury, army, navy, tax policy and foreign relations becoming a true executive body of the United Provinces, with its members elected for a period of five years, with the Stadtholders that are ex officio members. The reform downgraded the importance of the Grand Pensionary of Holland and most of its staff became part of the chancellery of the Governor-General.
The most important Dutch officials are:
- Stadtholder of the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overrijssel and North Bramant
- Willem II. Prince of Orange (1647-1650)
- (vacant 1650-1673)
- Willem III Prince of Orange (1673-...), also Captain-General since 1672
- Governor-General (Landvoogden)
- Gaspar Fagel (1679-1684)
- Hieronymus van Beverningh (1684-1689)
- Anthonie Heinsius (1690-1690)
- Hans William Bentinck (1690-...)
- Grand Pensionary of the province of Holland
- Johan de Witt (1653-1673)
- Gaspar Fagel (1673-...)
Each province is governed by the Provincial States (Dutch: staten), the assembly of all the commons and nobles. The main executive official (though not the official head of state) is a Grand Pensionary (raadspensionaris) along the Deputed-Estates (called Delegated Councilors in Holland). The states of the provinces cannot make major decisions without consulting back with their principals in the various cities and towns.
An important office is the stadtholder, named for life and hold usually hold by the princes Orange. In times of war, the stadtholder, who commands the army, would have more power than the Grand Pensionary. Between 1651-1672 the majority of the States voted to leave the office of stadtholder vacant indefinitely, and assume its powers. The office was re-established in 1672 along revamped Deputed-Estates in each province.
After the Peace of Westphalia (1648) several border territories were assigned to the United Provinces. They are federally governed Generality Lands (Generaliteitslanden). These territories are administered by a President and a Council both named by States-General and subordinated to it.
The eight provinces and three generality land are:
|Coat of Arms|
|Capital||Councilors of State||Status||stadtholder (member of)|
|1||Duchy of Guelders (Gelderland in Dutch)||Geldern||1||Province with representation in the States General||House of Orange|
|2||County of Holland||The Hague||3||Province with representation in the States General||House of Orange|
|3||County of Zeeland||Middelburg||3 (2 until 1677)||Province with representation in the States General||House of Orange|
|4||Lordship of Utrecht||Utrecht||2||Province with representation in the States General||House of Orange|
|5||Lordship of Overijssel||Zwolle||1||Province with representation in the States General||House of Orange|
|6||Lordship of Friesland||Leeuwarden||1||Province with representation in the States General||House of Nassau-Dietz. Office hereditary since 1675.|
|7||Lordship of Groningen and Ommelanden||Groningen||1||Province with representation in the States General||House of Nassau-Dietz. Office hereditary since 1675.|
|8||County of Drenthe||Assen||1 (after 1677)||Province with no representation in the States General until 1677||House of Nassau-Dietz.|
|9||North Bramant (Staats-Bramant until 1677)||'s-Hertogenbosch||2 (After 1677)||Province, former Generality Land until 1677||States of North Brabant elected stadtholder for a five year term from either the House of Nassau-Dietz or Orange|
|--||Staats-Vlaanderen (until 1677)||(none)||/||Annexed to Zeeland, former Generality Land until 1677|
Before 1677 the County of Drenthethe, was exempt from paying federal taxes because of its general state of impoverishment and as a consequence is denied representation in the States General. The reforms of 1677 gave it representation in the States General and Council of State and also elevated to province the former Generality Land of Staats-Bramant (now called North Bramants). The Generality Land of Staats-Vlaanderen was annexed to the province of Zeeland.
In the Dutch Republic the power struggle is between two main political factions are:
- the Prinsgezinde (Orangists), who support the monarchical stadtholders (the Princes of Orange-Nassau), and
- the Staatsgezinden (Republicans), who support the States-General and hoped to replace the semi-hereditary nature of the stadtholdership with a true republican structure.
Both are loosely aligned groupings of interests and families that sought power in the State and provinces. Many of the people and groupings that were part of one faction could as easily be found at later times in different factions as their interests and family alliances changed.
After independence the Dutch Republic adopted Calvinism as a quasi state religion (although never formally), but practiced a degree of religious tolerance toward non-Calvinists. Chiefly Anabaptists, Lutherans and Remonstrants. It became considerably safe for Jewish and Protestant refugees from Flanders, France (Huguenots), Germany and England (religious dissents). However Catholics are systematically and official discriminated against.
The Netherlands Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, NGK, 1571) is the Presbyterian organized Reformed Christian denomination in the Dutch Republic. In 1579 by the Union of Utrecht, it enjoys the status of "public" or "privileged" church. The Union of Utrecht explicitly states that people and towns of other religions could continue to practice their religion, as long as they were loyal to the Republic, and had respect for the NGK.
The NGK is not formally adopted as the state religion, but the law demands that every public official should be a communicant member. Consequently, the Church has close relations with the Dutch government. A privilege of members of the NGK is that they could have their businesses open on Sundays, otherwise considered a religious day and not one for business.
The NGK as the following privileges:
- Pastors of the NGK baptized all children, regardless of the faith of the parents. Public servants who protested could be removed from office under pressure from the government.
- Marriages had to be done in this church.
- Pastors are paid with public money and Church buildings were built with public money.
- Schools were managed by the from the NGK (Children learn the alphabet, so that the Bible and the Heidelberg Catechism could read.)
- The public education and Latin schools have religious teachers from the NGK.
- The NGK often reviews certain government appointments if the candidate is religious suspected (Antipapism)
But, people were not automatically members of the NGK, and the number of professing church members is therefore relatively small in different parts of the country.
The Dutch Republic as the following overseas territories, with indication of the chartered company that administers it:
In North America (Dutch West India Company)
- New Netherland in North America
- Dutch Antilles (Nederlandse Antillen) comprising various islands around the Caribbean principally colonized or seized by the Dutch from the Spanish
In South America (Dutch West India Company)
- New Holland (or Dutch Brazil (until 1654, formally ceded to Portugal in 1661)
By the Dutch West India Company
- Dutch Gold Coast
- Dutch Slave Coast or Dutch Guinea
By the Dutch East India Company
- Cape Colony (Dutch East India Company)
In Indian Ocean (Dutch East India Company)
- Dutch Mauritius
In Southern Asia (Dutch East India Company)
- Dutch Malabar
- Dutch Governorate of Ceylon
- Dutch Coromandel
- Dutch Suratte
- Dutch Bengal
In Southeastern Asia (Dutch East India Company)
- Dutch East Indies (Batavia)
- Dutch City and Fort of Malacca
- Governorate of Ambon
Eastern Asia (Dutch East India Company)
- Dutch Formosa (1624-1662, 1668-...)
- Dejima,in Japan
- Fort Keelung in Formosa (1664-1668)
Australasia (Dutch East India Company)
- New Holland (claimed)
- Van Diemen's Land (claimed)
The Dutch Republic dominates world trade in the 17th century, conquering a vast colonial empire and operating the largest fleet of merchantmen of any nation. The free trade spirit of the time received a strong augmentation through the development of a modern, effective stock market in the Low Countries. The Netherlands has the oldest stock exchange in the world, founded in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company. While Rotterdam has the oldest bourse in the Netherlands, the world's first stock exchange – that of the Dutch East-India Company – went public in six different cities. Later, a court ruled that the company had to reside legally in a single city, so Amsterdam is recognized as the oldest such institution based on modern trading principles. While the banking system evolved in the Low Countries, it was quickly incorporated by the well-connected English, stimulating English economic output.
The States General of the United Provinces are in control of the two main chartered companies: the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC). Some shipping expeditions were initiated by some of the provinces, mostly Holland and/or Zeeland.
The VOC and WIC are the pillars of Dutch "merchant capitalism" which is based on trading, shipping and finance rather than manufacturing or agriculture and marked the transition of the Dutch economy to a new stage.