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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Revolt Of The Netherlands - Other Encroachments On The Constitution Of The Netherlands
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The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Other Encroachments On The Constitution Of The Netherlands Post by :frenzy Category :Nonfictions Author :Frederich Schiller Date :May 2012 Read :2740

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The Revolt Of The Netherlands - Other Encroachments On The Constitution Of The Netherlands

No wonder if so unnatural a tribunal, which had proved intolerable even to the more submissive spirit of the Spaniard, drove a free state to rebellion. But the terror which it inspired was increased by the Spanish troops, which, even after the restoration of peace, were kept in the country, and, in violation of the constitution, garrisoned border towns. Charles V. had been forgiven for this introduction of foreign troops so long as the necessity of it was evident, and his good intentions were less distrusted. But now men saw in these troops only the alarming preparations of oppression and the instruments of a detested hierarchy. Moreover, a considerable body of cavalry, composed of natives, and fully adequate for the protection of the country, made these foreigners superfluous. The licentiousness and rapacity, too, of the Spaniards, whose pay was long in arrear, and who indemnified themselves at the expense of the citizens, completed the exasperation of the people, and drove the lower orders to despair. Subsequently, when the general murmur induced the government to move them from the frontiers and transport them into the islands of Zealand, where ships were prepared for their deportation, their excesses were carried to such a pitch that the inhabitants left off working at the embankments, and preferred to abandon their native country to the fury of the sea rather than to submit any longer to the wanton brutality of these lawless bands.

Philip, indeed, would have wished to retain these Spaniards in the country, in order by their presence to give weight to his edicts, and to support the innovations which he had resolved to make in the constitution of the Netherlands. He regarded them as a guarantee for the submission of the nation and as a chain by which he held it captive. Accordingly, he left no expedient untried to evade the persevering importunity of the states, who demanded the withdrawal of these troops; and for this end he exhausted all the resources of chicanery and persuasion. At one time he pretended to dread a sudden invasion by France, although, torn by furious factions, that country could scarce support itself against a domestic enemy; at another time they were, he said, to receive his son, Don Carlos, on the frontiers; whom, however, he never intended should leave Castile. Their maintenance should not be a burden to the nation; he himself would disburse all their expenses from his private purse. In order to detain them with the more appearance of reason he purposely kept back from them their arrears of pay; for otherwise he would assuredly have preferred them to the troops of the country, whose demands he fully satisfied. To lull the fears of the nation, and to appease the general discontent, he offered the chief command of these troops to the two favorites of the people, the Prince of Orange and Count Egmont. Both, however, declined his offer, with the noble-minded declaration that they could never make up their minds to serve contrary to the laws of the country. The more desire the king showed to have his Spaniards in the country the more obstinately the states insisted on their removal. In the following Diet at Ghent he was compelled, in the very midst of his courtiers, to listen to republican truth. "Why are foreign hands needed for our defence?" demanded the Syndic of Ghent. "Is it that the rest of the world should consider us too stupid, or too cowardly, to protect ourselves? Why have we made peace if the burdens of war are still to oppress us? In war necessity enforced endurance; in peace our patience is exhausted by its burdens. Or shall we be able to keep in order these licentious bands which thine own presence could not restrain? Here, Cambray and Antwerp cry for redress; there, Thionville and Marienburg lie waste; and, surely, thou hast not bestowed upon us peace that our cities should become deserts, as they necessarily must if thou freest them not from these destroyers? Perhaps then art anxious to guard against surprise from our neighbors? This precaution is wise; but the report of their preparations will long outrun their hostilities. Why incur a heavy expense to engage foreigners who will not care for a country which they must leave to-morrow? Hast thou not still at thy command the same brave Netherlanders to whom thy father entrusted the republic in far more troubled times? Why shouldest thou now doubt their loyalty, which, to thy ancestors, they have preserved for so many centuries inviolate? Will not they be sufficient to sustain the war long enough to give time to thy confederates to join their banners, or to thyself to send succor from the neighboring country?" This language was too new to the king, and its truth too obvious for him to be able at once to reply to it. "I, also, am a foreigner," he at length exclaimed, "and they would like, I suppose, to expel me from the country!" At the same time he descended from the throne, and left the assembly; but the speaker was pardoned for his boldness. Two days afterwards he sent a message to the states that if he had been apprised earlier that these troops were a burden to them he would have immediately made preparation to remove them with himself to Spain. Now it was too late, for they would not depart unpaid; but he pledged them his most sacred promise that they should not be oppressed with this burden more than four months. Nevertheless, the troops remained in this country eighteen months instead of four; and would not, perhaps, even then have left it so soon if the exigencies of the state had not made their presence indispensable in another part of the world.

The illegal appointment of foreigners to the most important offices of the country afforded further occasion of complaint against the government. Of all the privileges of the provinces none was so obnoxious to the Spaniards as that which excluded strangers from office, and none they had so zealously sought to abrogate. Italy, the two Indies, and all the provinces of this vast Empire, were indeed open to their rapacity and ambition; but from the richest of them all an inexorable fundamental law excluded them. They artfully persuaded their sovereign that his power in these countries would never be firmly established so long as he could not employ foreigners as his instruments. The Bishop of Arras, a Burgundian by birth, had already been illegally forced upon the Flemings; and now the Count of Feria, a Castilian, was to receive a seat and voice in the council of state. But this attempt met with a bolder resistance than the king's flatterers had led him to expect, and his despotic omnipotence was this time wrecked by the politic measures of William of Orange and the firmness of the states.

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