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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Revolt Of The Netherlands - Alva's First Measures, And Departure Of The Duchess Of Parma
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The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Alva's First Measures, And Departure Of The Duchess Of Parma Post by :frenzy Category :Nonfictions Author :Frederich Schiller Date :May 2012 Read :2922

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The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Alva's First Measures, And Departure Of The Duchess Of Parma

Alva's first step, after securing the most suspected of the nobles, was to restore the Inquisition to its former authority, to put the decrees of Trent again in force, abolish the "moderation," and promulgate anew the edicts against heretics in all their original severity. The court of Inquisition in Spain had pronounced the whole nation of the Netherlands guilty of treason in the highest degree, Catholics and heterodox, loyalists and rebels, without distinction; the latter as having offended by overt acts, the former as having incurred equal guilt by their supineness. From this sweeping condemnation a very few were excepted, whose names, however, were purposely reserved, while the general sentence was publicly confirmed by the king. Philip declared himself absolved from all his promises, and released from all engagements which the regent in his name had entered into with the people of the Netherlands, and all the justice which they had in future to expect from him must depend on his own good-will and pleasure. All who had aided in the expulsion of the minister, Granvella, who had taken part in the petition of the confederate nobles, or had but even spoken in favor of it; all who had presented a petition against the decrees of Trent, against the edicts relating to religion, or against the installation of the bishops; all who had permitted the public preachings, or had only feebly resisted them; all who had worn the insignia of the Gueux, had sung Geusen songs, or who in any way whatsoever had manifested their joy at the establishment of the league; all who had sheltered or concealed the reforming preachers, attended Calvinistic funerals, or had even merely known of their secret meetings, and not given information of them; all who had appealed to the national privileges; all, in fine, who had expressed an opinion that they ought to obey God rather than man; all these indiscriminately were declared liable to the penalties which the law imposed upon any violation of the royal prerogative, and upon high treason; and these penalties were, according to the instruction which Alva had received, to be executed on the guilty persons without forbearance or favor; without regard to rank, sex, or age, as an example to posterity, and for a terror to all future times. According to this declaration there was no longer an innocent person to be found in the whole Netherlands, and the new viceroy had it in his power to make a fearful choice of victims. Property and life were alike at his command, and whoever should have the good fortune to preserve one or both must receive them as the gift of his generosity and humanity. By this stroke of policy, as refined as it was detestable, the nation was disarmed, and unanimity rendered impossible. As it absolutely depended on the duke's arbitrary will upon whom the sentence should be carried in force which had been passed without exception upon all, each individual kept himself quiet, in order to escape, if possible, the notice of the viceroy, and to avoid drawing the fatal choice upon himself. Every one, on the other hand, in whose favor he was pleased to make an exception stood in a degree indebted to him, and was personally under an obligation which must be measured by the value he set upon his life and property. As, however, this penalty could only be executed on the smaller portion of the nation, the duke naturally secured the greater by the strongest ties of fear and gratitude, and for one whom he sought out as a victim he gained ten others whom he passed over. As long as he continued true to this policy he remained in quiet possession of his rule, even amid the streams of blood which he caused to flow, and did not forfeit this advantage till the want of money compelled him to impose a burden upon the nation which oppressed all indiscriminately.

In order to be equal to this bloody occupation, the details of which were fast accumulating, and to be certain of not losing a single victim through the want of instruments; and, on the other hand, to render his proceedings independent of the states, with whose privileges they were so much at variance, and who, indeed, were far too humane for him, he instituted an extraordinary court of justice. This court consisted of twelve criminal judges, who, according to their instructions, to the very letter of which they must adhere, were to try and pronounce sentence upon those implicated in the past disturbances. The mere institution of such a board was a violation of the liberties of the country, which expressly stipulated that no citizen should be tried out of his own province; but the duke filled up the measure of his injustice when, contrary to the most sacred privileges of the nation, he proceeded to give seats and votes in that court to Spaniards, the open and avowed enemies of Belgian liberty. He himself was the president of this court, and after him a certain licentiate, Vargas, a Spaniard by birth, of whose iniquitous character the historians of both parties are unanimous; cast out like a plague-spot from his own country, where he had violated one of his wards, he was a shameless, hardened villain, in whose mind avarice, lust, and the thirst for blood struggled for ascendancy. The principal members were Count Aremberg, Philip of Noircarmes, and Charles of Barlaimont, who, however, never sat in it; Hadrian Nicolai, chancellor of Gueldres; Jacob Mertens and Peter Asset, presidents of Artois and Flanders; Jacob Hesselts and John de la Porte, counsellors of Ghent; Louis del Roi, doctor of theology, and by birth a Spaniard; John du Bois, king's advocate; and De la'Torre, secretary of the court. In compliance with the representations of Viglius the privy council was spared any part in this tribunal; nor was any one introduced into it from the great council at Malines. The votes of the members were only recommendatory, not conclusive, the final sentence being reserved by the duke to himself. No particular time was fixed for the sitting of the court; the members, however, assembled at noon, as often as the duke thought good. But after the expiration of the third month Alva began to be less frequent in his attendance, and at last resigned his place entirely to his favorite, Vargas, who filled it with such odious fitness that in a short time all the members, with the exception merely of the Spanish doctor, Del Rio, and the secretary, De la Torre, weary of the atrocities of which they were compelled to be both eyewitnesses and accomplices, remained away from the assembly.

(The sentences passed upon the most eminent persons (for example, the sentence of death passed upon Strahlen, the burgomaster of Antwerp), were signed only by Vargas, Del Rio, and De la Torre.)

It is revolting to the feelings to think how the lives of the noblest and best were thus placed at the mercy of Spanish vagabonds, and how even the sanctuaries of the nation, its deeds and charters, were unscrupulously ransacked, the seals broken, and the most secret contracts between the sovereign and the state profaned and exposed.

(For an example of the unfeeling levity with which the most important matters, even decisions in cases of life and death, were treated in this sanguinary council, it may serve to relate what is told of the Counsellor Hesselts. He was generally asleep during the meeting, and when his turn came to vote on a sentence of death he used to cry out, still half asleep: "Ad patibulum! Ad patibulum!" so glibly did his tongue utter this word. It is further to be remarked of this Hesselts, that his wife, a daughter of the President Viglius, had expressly stipulated in the marriage- contract that he should resign the dismal office of attorney for the king, which made him detested by the whole nation. Vigl. ad Hopp. lxvii., L.)

From the council of twelve (which, from the object of its institution, was called the council for disturbances, but on account of its proceedings is more generally known under the appellation of the council of blood, a name which the nation in their exasperation bestowed upon it), no appeal was allowed. Its proceedings could not be revised. Its verdicts were irrevocable and independent of all other authority. No other tribunal in the country could take cognizance of cases which related to the late insurrection, so that in all the other courts justice was nearly at a standstill. The great council at Malines was as good as abolished; the authority of the council of state entirely ceased, insomuch that its sittings were discontinued. On some rare occasions the duke conferred with a few members of the late assembly, but even when this did occur the conference was held in his cabinet, and was no more than a private consultation, without any of the proper forms being observed. No privilege, no charter of immunity, however carefully protected, had any weight with the council for disturbances.

(Vargas, in a few words of barbarous Latin, demolished at once the boasted liberties of the Netherlands. "Non curamus vestros privilegios," he replied to one who wished to plead the immunities of the University of Louvain.)

It compelled all deeds and contracts to be laid before it, and often forced upon them the most strained interpetations and alterations. If the duke caused a sentence to be drawn out which there was reason to fear might be opposed by the states of Brabant, it was legalized without the Brabant seal. The most sacred rights of individuals were assailed, and a tyranny without example forced its arbitrary will even into the circle of domestic life. As the Protestants and rebels had hitherto contrived to strengthen their party so much by marriages with the first families in the country, the duke issued an edict forbidding all Netherlanders, whatever might be their rank or office, under pain of death and confiscation of property, to conclude a marriage without previously obtaining his permission.

All whom the council for disturbances thought proper to summon before it were compelled to appear, clergy as well as laity; the most venerable heads of the senate, as well as the reprobate rabble of the Iconoclasts. Whoever did not present himself, as indeed scarcely anybody did, was declared an outlaw, and his property was confiscated; but those who were rash or foolish enough to appear, or who were so unfortunate as to be seized, were lost without redemption. Twenty, forty, often fifty were summoned at the same time and from the same town, and the richest were always the first on whom the thunderbolt descended. The meaner citizens, who possessed nothing that could render their country and their homes dear to them, were taken unawares and arrested without any previous citation. Many eminent merchants, who had at their disposal fortunes of from sixty thousand to one hundred thousand florins, were seen with their hands tied behind their backs, dragged like common vagabonds at the horse's tail to execution, and in Valenciennes fifty-five persons were decapitated at one time. All the prisons--and the duke immediately on commencing his administration had built a great number of them--were crammed full with the accused; hanging, beheading, quartering, burning were the prevailing and ordinary occupations of the day; the punishment of the galleys and banishment were more rarely heard of, for there was scarcely any offence which was reckoned too trival to be punished with death. Immense sums were thus brought into the treasury, which, however, served rather to stimulate the new viceroy's and his colleagues' thirst for gold than to quench it. It seemed to be his insane purpose to make beggars of the whole people, and to throw all their riches into the hands of the king and his servants. The yearly income derived from these confiscations was computed to equal the revenues of the first kingdoms of Europe; it is said to have been estimated, in a report furnished to the king, at the incredible amount of twenty million of dollars. But these proceedings were the more inhuman, as they often bore hardest precisely upon the very persons who were the most peaceful subjects, and most orthodox Roman Catholics, whom they could not want to injure. Whenever an estate was confiscated all the creditors who had claims upon it were defrauded. The hospitals, too, and public institutions, which such properties had contributed to support, were now ruined, and the poor, who had formerly drawn a pittance from this source, were compelled to see their only spring of comfort dried up. Whoever ventured to urge their well-grounded claims on the forfeited property before the council of twelve (for no other tribunal dared to interfere with these inquiries), consumed their substance in tedious and expensive proceedings, and were reduced to beggary before they saw the end of them. The histories of civilized states furnish but one instance of a similar perversion of justice, of such violation of the rights of property, and of such waste of human life; but Cinna, Sylla, and Marius entered vanquished Rome as incensed victors, and practised without disguise what the viceroy of the Netherlands performed under the venerable veil of the laws.

Up to the end of the year 1567 the king's arrival had been confidently expected, and the well-disposed of the people had placed all their last hopes on this event. The vessels, which Philip had caused to be equipped expressly for the purpose of meeting him, still lay in the harbor of Flushing, ready to sail at the first signal; and the town of Brussels had consented to receive a Spanish garrison, simply because the king, it was pretended, was to reside within its walls. But this hope gradually vanished, as he put off the journey from one season to the next, and the new viceroy very soon began to exhibit powers which announced him less as a precursor of royalty than as an absolute minister, whose presence made that of the monarch entirely superfluous. To compete the distress of the provinces their last good angel was now to leave them in the person of the regent. From the moment when the production of the duke's extensive powers left no doubt remaining as to the practical termination of her own rule, Margaret had formed the resolution of relinquishing the name also of regent. To see a successor in the actual possession of a dignity which a nine years' enjoyment had made indispensable to her; to see the authority, the glory, the splendor, the adoration, and all the marks of respect, which are the usual concomitants of supreme power, pass over to another; and to feel that she had lost that which she could never forget she had once held, was more than a woman's mind could endure; moreover, the Duke of Alva was of all men the least calculated to make her feel her privation the less painful by a forbearing use of his newly-acquired dignity. The tranquillity of the country, too, which was put in jeopardy by this divided rule, seemed to impose upon the duchess the necessity of abdicating. Many governors of provinces refused, without an express order from the court, to receive commands from the duke and to recognize him as co-regent.

The rapid change of their point of attraction could not be met by the courtiers so composedly and imperturbably but that the duchess observed the alteration, and bitterly felt it. Even the few who, like State Counsellor Viglius, still firmly adhered to her, did so less from attachment to her person than from vexation at being displaced by novices and foreigners, and from being too proud to serve a fresh apprenticeship under a new viceroy. But far the greater number, with all their endeavors to keep an exact mean, could not help making a difference between the homage they paid to the rising sun and that which they bestowed on the setting luminary. The royal palace in Brussels became more and more deserted, while the throng at Kuilemberg house daily increased. But what wounded the sensitiveness of the duchess most acutely was the arrest of Horn and Egmont, which was planned and executed by the duke without her knowledge or consent, just as if there had been no such person as herself in existence. Alva did, indeed, after the act was done, endeavor to appease her by declaring that the design had been purposely kept secret from her in order to spare her name from being mixed up in so odious a transaction; but no such considerations of delicacy could close the wound which had been inflicted on her pride. In order at once to escape all risk of similar insults, of which the present was probably only a forerunner, she despatched her private secretary, Macchiavell, to the court of her brother, there to solicit earnestly for permission to resign the regency. The request was granted without difficulty by the king, who accompanied his consent with every mark of his highest esteem. He would put aside (so the king expressed himself) his own advantage and that of the provinces in order to oblige his sister. He sent a present of thirty thousand dollars, and allotted to her a yearly pension of twenty thousand.

(Which, however, does not appear to have been very punctually paid, if a pamphlet maybe trusted which was printed during her lifetime. (It bears the title: Discours sur la Blessure de Monseigneur Prince d'Orange, 1582, without notice of the place where it was printed, and is to be found in the Elector's library at Dresden.) She languished, it is there stated, at Namur in poverty, and so ill- supported by her son (the then governor of the Netherlands), that her own secretary, Aldrobandin, called her sojourn there an exile. But the writer goes on to ask what better treatment could she expect from a son who, when still very young, being on a visit to her at Brussels, snapped his fingers at her behind her back.)

At the same time a diploma was forwarded to the Duke of Alva, constituting him, in her stead, viceroy of all the Netherlands, with unlimited powers.

Gladly would Margaret have learned that she was permitted to resign the regency before a solemn assembly of the states, a wish which she had not very obscurely hinted to the king. But she was not gratified. She was particularly fond of solemnity, and the example of the Emperor, her father, who had exhibited the extraordinary spectacle of his abdication of the crown in this very city, seemed to have great attractions for her. As she was compelled to part with supreme power, she could scarcely be blamed for wishing to do so with as much splendor as possible. Moreover, she had not failed to observe how much the general hatred of the duke had effected in her own favor, and she looked, therefore, the more wistfully forward to a scene, which promised to be at once so flattering to her and so affecting. She would have been glad to mingle her own tears with those which she hoped to see shed by the Netherlanders for their good regent. Thus the bitterness of her descent from the throne would have been alleviated by the expression of general sympathy. Little as she had done to merit the general esteem during the nine years of her administration, while fortune smiled upon her, and the approbation of her sovereign was the limit to all her wishes, yet now the sympathy of the nation had acquired a value in her eyes as the only thing which could in some degree compensate to her for the disappointment of all her other hopes. Fain would she have persuaded herself that she had become a voluntary sacrifice to her goodness of heart and her too humane feelings towards the Netherlanders. As, however, the king was very far from being disposed to incur any danger by calling a general assembly of the states, in order to gratify a mere caprice of his sister, she was obliged to content herself with a farewell letter to them. In this document she went over her whole administration, recounted, not without ostentation, the difficulties with which she had had to struggle, the evils which, by her dexterity, she had prevented, and wound up at last by saying that she left a finished work, and had to transfer to her successor nothing but the punishment of offenders. The king, too, was repeatedly compelled to hear the same statement, and she left nothing undone to arrogate to herself the glory of any future advantages which it might be the good fortune of the duke to realize. Her own merits, as something which did not admit of a doubt, but was at the same time a burden oppressive to her modesty, she laid at the feet of the king.

Dispassionate posterity may, nevertheless; hesitate to subscribe unreservedly to this favorable opinion. Even though the united voice of her contemporaries, and the testimony of the Netherlands themselves vouch for it, a third party will not be denied the right to examine her claims with stricter scrutiny. The popular mind, easily affected, is but too ready to count the absence of a vice as an additional virtue, and, under the pressure of existing evil, to give excess of praise for past benefits.

The Netherlander seems to have concentrated all his hatred upon the Spanish name. To lay the blame of the national evils on the regent would tend to remove from the king and his minister the curses which he would rather shower upon them alone and undividedly; and the Duke of Alva's government of the Netherlands was, perhaps, not the proper point of view from which to test the merits of his predecessor. It was undoubtedly no light task to meet the king's expectations without infringing the rights of the people and the duties of humanity; but in struggling to effect these two contradictory objects Margaret had accomplished neither. She had deeply injured the nation, while comparatively she had done little service to the king. It is true that she at last crushed the Protestant faction, but the accidental outbreak of the Iconoclasts assisted her in this more than all her dexterity. She certainly succeeded by her intrigues in dissolving the league of the nobles, but not until the first blow had been struck at its roots by internal dissensions. The object, to secure which she had for many years vainly exhausted her whole policy, was effected at last by a single enlistment of troops, for which, however, the orders were issued from Madrid. She delivered to the duke, no doubt, a tranquillized country; but it cannot be denied that the dread of his approach had the chief share in tranquillizing it. By her reports she led the council in Spain astray; because she never informed it of the disease, but only of the occasional symptoms; never of the universal feeling and voice of the nation, but only of the misconduct of factions. Her faulty administration, moreover, drew the people into the crime, because she exasperated without sufficiently awing them. She it was that brought the murderous Alva into the country by leading the king to believe that the disturbances in the provinces were to be ascribed, not so much to the severity of the royal ordinances, as to the unworthiness of those who were charged with their execution. Margaret possessed natural capacity and intellect; and an acquired political tact enabled her to meet any ordinary case; but she wanted that creative genius which, for new and extraordinary emergencies, invents new maxims, or wisely oversteps old ones. In a country where honesty was the best policy, she adopted the unfortunate plan of practising her insidious Italian policy, and thereby sowed the seeds of a fatal distrust in the minds of the people. The indulgence which has been so liberally imputed to her as a merit was, in truth, extorted from her weakness and timidity by the courageous opposition of the nation; she had never departed from the strict letter of the royal commands by her own spontaneous resolution; never did the gentle feelings of innate humanity lead her to misinterpret the cruel purport of her instructions. Even the few concessions to which necessity compelled her were granted with an uncertain and shrinking hand, as if fearing to give too much; and she lost the fruit of her benefactions because she mutilated them by a sordid closeness. What in all the other relations of her life she was too little, she was on the throne too much--a woman! She had it in her power, after Granvella's expulsion, to become the benefactress of the Belgian nation, but she did not. Her supreme good was the approbation of her king, her greatest misfortune his displeasure; with all the eminent qualities of her mind she remained an ordinary character because her heart was destitute of native nobility. She used a melancholy power with much moderation, and stained her government with no deed of arbitrary cruelty; nay, if it had depended on her, she would have always acted humanely. Years afterwards, when her idol, Philip II., had long forgotten her, the Netherlanders still honored her memory; but she was far from deserving the glory which her successor's inhumanity reflected upon her.

She left Brussels about the end of December, 1567. The duke escorted her as far as the frontiers of Brabant, and there left her under the protection of Count Mansfeld in order to hasten back to the metropolis and show himself to the Netherlanders as sole regent.

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The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Trial And Execution Of Counts Egmont And Horn The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Trial And Execution Of Counts Egmont And Horn

The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Trial And Execution Of Counts Egmont And Horn
The two counts were a few weeks after their arrest conveyed to Ghent under an escort of three thousand Spaniards they were confined in the citadel for more than eight months. Their trial commenced in due form before the council of twelve, and the solicitor-general, John Du Bois, conducted the proceedings. The indictment against Egmont consisted of ninety counts, and that against Horn of sixty. It would occupy too much space to introduce them here. Every action, however innocent, every omission of duty, was interpreted on the principle which had been laid down in the opening of the indictment, "that

The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Alva's Armament And Expedition To The Netherlands The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Alva's Armament And Expedition To The Netherlands

The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Alva's Armament And Expedition To The Netherlands
But it was otherwise determined in the council at Madrid. The minister, Granvella, who, even while absent himself, ruled the Spanish cabinet by his adherents; the Cardinal Grand Inquisitor, Spinosa, and the Duke of Alva, swayed respectively by hatred, a spirit of persecution, or private interest, had outvoted the milder councils of the Prince Ruy Gomes of Eboli, the Count of Feria, and the king's confessor, Fresneda. The insurrection, it was urged by the former, was indeed quelled for the present, but only because the rebels were awed by the rumor of the king's armed approach; it was to fear of