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    Free spirit of the Hollanders-Crimes of Charles the Fifth in Holland-Philip the Second and Bloody Mary-The Edict of 1550-Fearful persecutions-William the Silent-Hollanders flee to England, and the commerce of Holland declines-The preachers of the Reformation-Field preaching under guard-Camp-meetings in Holland-Composition of the Council of Blood-Deeds of the Council of Blood-All the inhabitants of Holland condemned to death-The siege of Leyden-Relief of Leyden-Founding of the Dutch Republic

    The dealings of Spain with Holland and the Netherlands are dyed in stains of deepest crimson. This chapter in the history of Spain is a tragedy of the most dreadful type. During the few short years in which this dependency of the Spanish crown struggled for freedom, crimes, monumental in their proportions and unnumbered for their multitude stand registered against the government and warfare of Spain.PRUS 61.1

    Of all the people of Europe, none were more brave than the Hollanders. To an unparalleled degree they were tenacious of liberty, both in things civil and in things religious. From time to time during their history they had wrested valuable charters of freedom from their masters. These had been won at great cost of blood and treasure, and at all times their owners showed a disposition to cling to them firmly. From the earliest days of their history, sovereignty had resided in the great assembly of the people, and this same assembly elected the village magistrates, and decided upon all matters of great importance. The government may have been a fierce democracy, but it was a democracy nevertheless.PRUS 61.2

    At length, however, Holland fell under the rule of Spain; and with the advent to the throne of Charles V. of Reformation fame, ill times began for the little land. This monarch made continued effort to drain their treasure, and to hamper their industry. He hated their ancient and dearly bought civil liberties, and did all in his power to restrict and overthrow them. The Netherlands at this time were divided into seventeen distinct and separate provinces; but this prince was determined to construct them into one kingdom, in order that he might rule them the more effectually with the iron hand of absolutism. 1The historical facts of this chapter are gathered mainly from Motley’s “History of the Dutch Republic.” I have not in all cases given the exact reference. It will be understood, however, that uncredited quotations are from his great work.PRUS 61.3

    His hand it was that planted the Inquisition in the Netherlands. For reading the Scriptures, for looking irreverently at a graven image, for even daring to hint that the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ was not present in the consecrated wafer, from fifty to one hundred thousand Dutch perished according to his edicts. Well has Motley said that his “name deserves to be handed down to eternal infamy, not only throughout the Netherlands, but in every land where a single heart beats for political or religious freedom.”PRUS 62.1

    But even in this life his crimes went not unpunished. “While he was preparing to crush, forever, the Protestant Church, with the arms which a bench of bishops were forging, lo, the rapid and desperate Maurice, with long red beard streaming like a meteor in the wind, dashing through the mountain passes, at the head of his lancers-arguments more convincing than all the dogmas of Granville! Disguised as an old woman, the emperor had attempted, on the 6th of April, to escape in a peasant’s wagon from Innspruck into Flanders. Saved for the time by the mediation of Ferdinand, he had, a few weeks later, after his troops had been defeated by Maurice at Fussen, again fled at midnight of the 22nd of May, 1555, almost unattended, sick in body and soul, in the midst of thunder, lightning, and rain, along the difficult Alpine passes from Innspruck into Carinthia.” Sad end indeed was this to all his greatness. Sick and tired of life, on the 25th of October, 1555, he abdicated the throne, and went to spend the rest of his life within the walls of a monastery. “This was a fitting end for a monarch who all his life had been false as water, who never possessed a lofty thought, or entertained a noble or generous sentiment.”PRUS 62.2

    He was succeeded in Spain and the Netherlands by Philip II, who married Bloody Mary of England. The tastes of these two certainly ran in the same direction. “To maintain the supremacy of the Church seemed to both of them the main object of existence; to execute unbelievers, the most sacred duty imposed by the Deity upon anointed princes; to convert their kingdom into a hell, the surest means of winning heaven for themselves.” Philip hated the Christian heretic with a more venemous hatred than any of his ancestors had ever manifested toward Jew or Moor. Yet in spite of all this pretended piety, he was so grossly licentious that his liaisons are the scandal of the annals of his state.PRUS 62.3

    For national and popular rights he had a loathing which he never attempted to disguise. For the people itself,—“that vile and mischievous animal called the people,”—as far as their inalienable rights were concerned he entertained a most supreme contempt. It was during his reign that the great struggle for freedom in the Netherlands broke out. “It was a great episode,—the longest, the darkest, the bloodiest, the most important episode in the history of the religious reformation in Europe.” Spain was determined to put the Netherlands in a quarantine so effective that the religious pest of Protestantism should find no entrance. In the Netherlands the scaffold had many victims, but the numbers of its converts were few indeed. In that land there were men and women who dared and suffered much for conscience’ sake. They were not fanatics. “For them all was terrible reality. The emperor and his edicts were realities; the ax, the stake, were realities; and the heroism with which men took each other by the hand and walked into the flames, or with which women sang a song of triumph while the grave-digger was shoveling the earth upon their living faces, was a reality also.”PRUS 63.1

    Immediately after the accession of Philip, the terrible edict of 1550 was re-enacted. From this notable document an idea of Spain’s methods of governing her colonies may be gathered:—PRUS 63.2

    “No one shall print, write, copy, keep, conceal, sell, buy, or give in churches, streets, or other places, any book or writing made by Martin Luther, John Ecolampadius, Ulrich Zwinglius, Martin Bucer, John Calvin, or other heretics reprobated by the holy church; ... nor break, or otherwise injure the images of the Holy Virgin or canonized saints; ... nor in his house hold conventicles, or illegal gatherings, or be present at any such in which the adherents of the above-mentioned heretics teach, baptize, and form conspiracies against the holy church and the general welfare.... Moreover, we forbid all persons to converse or dispute concerning the Holy Scriptures, openly or secretly, especially on any doubtful or difficult matters, or to read, teach, or expound the Scriptures unless they have duly studied theology, and been approved by some renowned university; ... or to preach secretly, or openly, or to entertain any of the opinions of the above-mentioned heretics; ... on pain, should any be found to have contravened any of the points above mentioned, as perturbers of the state and of the general quiet, to be punished in the following manner: that such perturbators of the general quiet are to be executed; to wit, the men with the sword, and the women to be buried alive, if they do not persist in their errors; if they do persist in them, then they are to be executed with fire; all their property in both cases to be confiscated to the crown.”PRUS 63.3

    “Thus, the clemency of the sovereign permitted the repentant heretic to be beheaded or buried alive, instead of being burned.”PRUS 64.1

    All who in any way helped the heretic were in danger of, and liable to, the same punishment; for said the decree:—PRUS 64.2

    “We forbid all persons to lodge, entertain, furnish with food, fire, or clothing, or otherwise to favor any one holden or notoriously suspected of being a heretic; ... and any one failing to denounce any such, we ordain shall be liable to the above-mentioned punishments.” The edict went on to provide “that if any person, being not convicted of heresy or error, but greatly suspected thereof, and therefore condemned by the spiritual judge to abjure such heresy, or by the secular magistrate to make public fine or reparation, shall again become suspected or tainted with heresy-although it should not appear that he has contravened or violated any one of our abovementioned commands-nevertheless we do will and ordain that such person shall be considered as relapsed, and, as such, be punished with loss of life and property, without any hope of moderation or mitigation of the above-mentioned penalties.”PRUS 64.3

    And it was further decreed “that the spiritual judges desiring to proceed against any one for the crime of heresy shall request any of our sovereign courts or provincial councils to appoint any one of their college, or such other adjunct as the council shall select, to preside over the proceedings to be instituted against the suspected. All who know of any persons tainted with heresy are required to denounce them and give them up to all judges, officers of the bishops, or others having authority on the premises, on pain of being punished according to the pleasure of the judge. Likewise, all shall be obliged, who know of any place where such heretics keep themselves, to declare them to the authorities, on pain of being held as accomplices, and punished as such heretics themselves would be punished if apprehended.”PRUS 64.4

    In order to bring about the greatest number of arrests by means the most base, and by that which appeals powerfully to the most sordid attributes of our natures, it was further decreed that the informer, in the case of conviction, should be entitled to one half the property of the accused, if not more than one hundred pounds Flemish; if more, then ten per cent of all such excesses.PRUS 65.1

    Treachery to friends, brothers, and sisters was encouraged by a provision “that if any man being present at any secret conventicle shall afterwards come forward and betray his fellow members of the congregation, he shall receive full pardon.”PRUS 65.2

    Nor was this any mere fanatical decree for the purpose of inspiring terror, for the sovereign continued to ordain:—PRUS 65.3

    “To the end that the judges and officers may have no reason, under pretext that the penalties are too great and heavy, and only devised to terrify delinquents, to punish them less severely than they deserve-that the punished be really punished by the penalties above declared; forbidding all judges to alter or moderate the penalties in any manner; forbidding any one, of whatsoever condition, to ask of us, or of any one having authority, to grant pardon, or to present any petition in favor of such heretics, exiles, or fugitives, on penalty of being declared forever incapable of civil and military office, and of being arbitrarily punished besides.” 2This edict can be read in Motley, “Rise of the Dutch Republic,” part 2, chap. 1.PRUS 65.4

    Such was one of the most famous decrees, having for its main object the trampling into the dust the religious and civil rights and liberties of the people of Holland. It would almost seem that if the archfiend himself had set about it to create a more awful ordinance, he would have paled before the magnitude of the task. And it can never be said that this was done in the Dark Ages, and that the monarch was the only creature of the times in which he lived. It was done during the days when the Renaissance and the Reformation were at their height. It was done during an age in which men were supposed to have come out of darkness into great and marvelous light. And to make the whole transaction the more horrible, it was ordered and decreed that this edict should be published forever, once in every six months, in every city, and in every village of the Netherlands. And this by a monarch who said of himself that he had always, “from the beginning of his government, followed the path of clemency, according to his natural disposition, so well known to all the world.”PRUS 65.5

    And now the Inquisition was set in motion as the instrument whereby this decree should be carried into effect. It has been well said that, however classified or entitled, the Inquisition was only a machine for inquiring into a man’s thoughts, and for burning him if the result was not satisfactory. The Inquisition was that part of the church which caused the savages of India and America to shudder and turn chill at the very name of Christianity.PRUS 66.1

    It is said that one day the secular sheriff, familiarly known as Red-rod, from the color of his wand of office, met upon the high road, Titelmann, the great inquisitor of Holland, and thus addressed him:—PRUS 66.2

    “How can you venture to go about alone, or at most with one attendant or two, arresting people on every side, while I dare not attempt to execute my office, except at the head of a strong force, armed in proof, and then only at the peril of my life?”PRUS 66.3

    “Ah! Red-rod,” answered Titelmann, laughing, “you deal with bad people. I have nothing to fear, for I seize only the innocent and the virtuous, who make no resistance, and let themselves be taken like lambs.”PRUS 66.4

    “Mighty well,” said the other; “but if you arrest all the good people, and I all the bad,’ t is difficult to say who in the world is to escape chastisement.”PRUS 66.5

    There was no end to the horrors of this horrible time. One Bertrand was seized by Titelmann for having insulted the host. He was dragged on a hurdle, his mouth closed with an iron gag, to the market-place. Here his right hand and his right foot were burned and twisted off between two red-hot irons. Then his tongue was torn out by the roots, and because he still endeavored to call upon God, the iron gag was again applied. His arms and legs were fastened together behind his back; he was hooked by the middle of his body to an iron chain, and made to swing to and fro over a slow fire till he was entirely roasted. His life lasted almost to the end of these ingenious tortures, but “his fortitude lasted as long as his life.”PRUS 66.6

    At Ryssel, in Flanders, Titelmann caused one Robert Ogier to be arrested, together with his wife and two sons. The accusation brought against them was that they did not go to mass, and that they had private worship in their own home. They were asked what rites they practised in their own house. One of the children answered: “We fall on our knees, and pray to God that he may enlighten our hearts, and forgive our sins. We pray for our sovereign, that his reign may Toe prosperous, and his life peaceful. We also pray for the magistrates and others in authority, that God may protect and preserve them all.” The simplicity of the boy drew tears from even some of those who sat in judgment upon his case. Nevertheless the father and the older child were condemned to the flames. “O God!” prayed the youth at the stake, “Eternal Father, accept the sacrifice of our lives, in the name of thy beloved Son.” “Thou liest, scoundrel!” interrupted the pious monk, who was lighting the fire; “God is not your Father, ye are the devil’s children.” As the flames rose high above them, the poor child once more cried out, “Look, my father, all heaven is opening, and I see ten hundred thousand angels rejoicing over us. Let us be glad, for we are dying for the truth.” “Thou liest! thou liest!” again roared the monk; “all hell is opening, and you see ten hundred thousand devils thrusting you into eternal fire.” Only eight days after this the wife of Ogier and the other child were burned, and this once happy family exterminated.PRUS 66.7

    These were some of the things which were done in the Netherlands for the purpose of obliterating civil and religious freedom in this dependency of Spain. It is no wonder that such things bred revolt, and that the Hollanders, slow to rise, but terrible and determined when at last they did rise, should make one terrible effort to throw off the accursed yoke. And it must ever be remembered that the whole object of these wicked proceedings was to extort money and property unjustly from the people, and to bring about the incorporation of a number of free and liberty-loving states into one compact and centrally governed kingdom, to be farmed for the benefit of the crown of Spain.PRUS 67.1

    General police regulations were issued at the same time, “by which heretics were to be excluded from all share in the usual conveniences of society, and were in fact to be strictly excommunicated. Inns were to receive no guests, schools no children, almshouses no paupers, graveyards no dead bodies, unless guests, children, paupers, and dead bodies were furnished with the most satisfactory proofs of orthodoxy. Midwives of unsuspected Romanism were alone to exercise their functions, and were bound to give notice within twenty-four hours of every birth which occurred; the parish clerks were as regularly to record every such addition to the population, and the authorities to see that Catholic baptism was administered in each case with the least possible delay. Births, deaths, and marriages could only occur with validity under the shadow of the church. No human being could consider himself born or defunct unless provided with a priest’s certificate. The heretic was excluded, so far as ecclesiastical dogma could exclude him, from the pale of humanity, from consecrated earth, and from eternal salvation.” 3Motley “Rise of the Dutch Republic,” part 2, chap. 5.PRUS 67.2

    To the famous William of Orange, better known as William the Silent, or Father William, the great work of leading the revolt for freedom was by right assigned. His is one of the most noble characters of which all history boasts. In 1564 he took the ground that the time for speaking out had arrived, and that brave and honest men could no longer keep still. He argued that an envoy of high rank should be sent to the king of Spain in his native land, and that he should be told in unequivocal terms how the people of the Netherlands felt toward him and his rule. “Let him,” were his words, “be unequivocally informed that this whole machinery of placards and scaffolds, of new bishops and old hangmen, of decrees, inquisitors, and informers, must once and forever be abolished.”PRUS 68.1

    Even while the envoy was absent in Spain, the oppressive measures were pushed forward with unabated fury. Such a state of things was produced by this great wickedness, that the ordinary business of mankind was almost entirely suspended. Commerce came to a dead standstill. The great commercial city of Antwerp “shook as with an earthquake.” Merchants from other lands, manufacturers, and artisans fled away, and the grass began to grow in the streets. Contemporaneous records tell how that “famine reigned in the land. Emigration, caused not by overpopulation, but by persecution, was fast weakening the country. It was no wonder that not only foreign merchants should be scared from the great commercial cities by the approaching disorders, but that every industrious artisan who could find the means of escape should seek refuge among strangers, wherever an asylum could be found. That asylum was afforded by Protestant England, who received these intelligent and unfortunate wanderers with cordiality, and learned with eagerness the lessons in mechanical skill which they had to teach. Already thirty thousand emigrant Netherlander were established in Sandwich, Norwich, and other places, assigned to them by Elizabeth.” 4Pasquier de la Barre, MSS. 1vo, “Correspondence de Philippe II,” 1, 392.PRUS 68.2

    “It had always, however, been made a condition of the liberty granted to these foreigners for practising their handiwork that each house should employ at least one English apprentice.” 5“Renom de France,” MSS. “Thus,” said a Walloon historian, splenetically, “by this regulation, and by means of heavy duties on foreign manufactures, have the English built up their own fabrics, and prohibited those of the Netherlands. Thus have they drawn over to their own country our skilful artisans to practise their industry, not at home but abroad, and our poor people are thus losing the means of earning their livelihood. Thus has cloth-making, silk-making, and the art of dyeing declined in our country, and would have been quite extinguished but by our wise countervailing edicts.” 6“Renom de France,” MSS.PRUS 69.1

    The cause given by this writer undoubtedly gives a wrong view of the case. This expatriation of these poor people came about on account of the sufferings imposed upon them in their native land. Where such terrible edicts were being daily enforced, where civil liberties were mocked at and trampled in the dust, it is only reasonable to suppose that commerce and manufactures would make their escape out of a doomed land with the utmost possible despatch.PRUS 69.2

    But neither edict, nor famine, nor persecutions could shake the purpose of the sturdy Hollanders. They were determined to do as they pleased in things religious, and not to be oppressed in their civil rights so to do. In the early summer of 1566, “many thousands of burghers, merchants, peasants, and gentlemen were seen mustering and marching through the fields of every province, armed with arquebus, javelin, pike, and broadsword. For what purpose were these gatherings?—Only to hear sermons and sing hymns in the open air, as it was unlawful to profane the churches with such rites. This was the first great popular phase of the Netherland rebellion. Notwithstanding the edicts and the inquisitions with their hecatombs, notwithstanding the special publication at this time throughout the country by the duchess regent that all the sanguinary statutes concerning religion were in as great vigor as ever, notwithstanding that Margaret offered a reward of seven hundred crowns to the man who would bring her a preacher dead or alive, the popular thirst for the exercises of the reformed religion could no longer be slaked at the obscure and hidden fountains where their priests had so long privately ministered....PRUS 69.3

    “Apostate priests were not the only preachers. To the ineffable disgust of the conservatives in church and state, there were men with little education, utterly devoid of Hebrew, of lowly station,-hatters, curriers, tanners, dyers, and the like,-who began to preach also; remembering, unseasonably perhaps, that the early disciples, selected by the founder of Christianity, had not all been doctors of theology with diplomas from a ‘renowned university.’ But if the nature of such men were subdued to what it worked in, that charge could not be brought against ministers with the learning and accomplishments of Ambrose Willie, Marnier, Guy de Bray, or Francis Junius, the man whom Scaliger called the ‘greatest of all theologians since the days of the apostles.’ An aristocratic sarcasm could not be leveled against Peregrine de la Grange, of a noble family in Provence, with the fiery blood of southern France in his veins, brave as his nation, learned, eloquent, enthusiastic, who galloped to his field-preaching on horseback, and fired a pistol shot as signal for his congregation to give attention.PRUS 70.1

    “On the 28th of June, 1566, at eleven o’clock at night, there was an assemblage of six thousand people near Tournay, at the bridge of Ernonville, to hear a sermon from Ambrose Willie, a man who had studied theology in Geneva, at the feet of Calvin, and who with a special price upon his head, was preaching the doctrines he had learned. Two days afterward ten thousand people assembled at the same spot to hear Peregrine de la Grange. Governor Moulbasis thundered forth a proclamation from the citadel, warning all men that the edicts were as rigorous as ever, and that every man, woman, or child who went to these preachings was incurring the penalty of death. The people became only the more ardent and excited. Upon Sunday, the 7th of July, twenty thousand persons assembled at the same bridge to hear Ambrose Willie. One man in three was armed. Some had arquebuses, others pistols, pikes, swords, pitchforks, poniards, clubs. The preacher, for whose apprehension a fresh reward had been offered, was escorted to his pulpit by a hundred mounted troopers. He begged his audience not to be scared from the Word of God by menace; assured them that although but a poor preacher himself, he held a divine commission, and that he had no fear of death; that should he fall, there were many better than he to supply his place, and fifty thousand men to avenge his murder.PRUS 70.2

    “The duchess sent forth proclamations by hundreds. She ordered the instant suppression of these armed assemblies, and the arrest of the preachers: but of what avail were proclamations against such numbers with weapons in their hands? Why irritate to madness these hordes of enthusiasts, who were now entirely pacific, and who marched back to the city at the conclusion of divine service with perfect decorum? All classes of the population went eagerly to the sermons. The gentry of the place, the rich merchants, the notables, as well as the humble artisans and laborers, all had received the infection. The professors of the reformed religion outnumbered the Catholics by five or six to one. On Sunday and other holidays, during the hours of service, Tournay was literally emptied of its inhabitants. The streets were as silent as if war or pestilence had swept the place. The duchess sent orders, but she sent no troops. The train bands of the city, the crossbowmen of St. Maurice, the archers of St. Sebastian, the sword-players of St. Christopher, could not be ordered from Tournay to suppress the preaching, for they had all gone to the preaching themselves. How idle, therefore, to send peremptory orders without a matchlock to enforce the command!PRUS 71.1

    “Throughout Flanders similar scenes were enacted. The meetings were encampments, for the reformers now came to their religious services armed to the teeth, determined, if banished from the churches, to defend their right to the field. Barricades of upturned wagons, branches, and planks were thrown up around the camp. Strong guards of mounted men were stationed at every avenue. Outlying scouts gave notice of approaching danger, and guarded the faithful into the enclosure. Pedlers and hawkers plied the trade upon which the penalty of death was fixed, and sold the forbidden hymn-books to all who chose to purchase. A strange and contradictory spectacle! An army of criminals doing deeds which could only be expiated at the stake; an entrenched rebellion, bearding the government with pikes, matchlocks, javelin, and barricade, and all for no more deadly purpose than to listen to the precepts of the pacific Jesus.PRUS 71.2

    “Thus the preaching spread through the Walloon provinces to the northern Netherlands. Toward the end of July an apostate monk, Peter Gabriel by name, was announced to preach at Overwen, near Harlem. This was the first field meeting which had taken place in Holland. The people were wild with enthusiasm, the authorities beside themselves with apprehension. People from the country flocked into the town by thousands. The other cities were deserted, Harlem was filled to overflowing. Multitudes encamped upon the ground the night before. The magistrates ordered the gates to be kept closed in the morning till long after the usual hour. It was of no avail Bolts and bars were but small impediments to enthusiasts who had traveled so many miles on foot or horseback to listen to a sermon. They climbed the walls, swam the moat, and thronged to the place of meeting long before the doors had been opened. When these could no longer be kept closed without a conflict, for which the magistrates were not prepared, the whole population poured out of the city with a single impulse. Tens of thousands were assembled upon the field. The bulwarks were erected as usual. The guards were posted. The necessary precautions taken. But upon this occasion, and in that region, there was but little danger to be apprehended. The multitudes of reformers made the edicts impossible, so long as no foreign troops were there to enforce them. The congregation was encamped and arranged in an orderly manner. The women, of whom there were many, were placed next the pulpit, which, upon this occasion, was formed of a couple of spears thrust into the earth, sustaining a cross-piece, against which the preacher might lean his back. The services commenced with the singing of a psalm by the whole vast assembly. Clement Marot’s verses, recently translated by Dathenus, were then new and popular. The strains of the monarch minstrel, chanted thus in their homely but nervous mother tongue by a multitude who had but recently learned that all the poetry and rapture of devotion were not irrevocably coffined with a buried language, or immured in the precincts of a church, had never produced a more elevating effect. No anthem from the world renowned organ in that ancient city ever awakened more lofty emotion than did those ten thousand human voices, ringing from the grassy meadows in that fervid midsummer noon. When all was silent again, the preacher rose,-a little meager man, who looked as if he might rather melt away beneath the blazing sunshine of July than hold the multitude enchained four uninterrupted hours long, by the magic of his tongue. His text was the eighth, ninth, and tenth verses of the second chapter of Ephesians; and as the slender monk spoke to his simple audience of God’s grace, and of faith in Jesus, who had descended from above to save the lowliest and the most abandoned, if they would but put their trust in him, his hearers were alternately exalted with fervor or melted into tears. He prayed for all conditions of men-for themselves, their friends, their enemies, for the government which had persecuted them, for the king whose face was turned upon them in anger. At times, according to one who was present, not a dry eye was to be seen in the crowd. When the minister had finished, he left his congregation abruptly, for he had to travel all night in order to reach Alkmaar, where he was to preach upon the following day.PRUS 72.1

    “By the middle of July the custom was established outside all the principal cities. Camp-meetings were held in some places; as, for instance, in the neighborhood of Antwerp, where the congregation numbered over fifteen thousand; and on some occasions was estimated at between twenty and thirty thousand persons at a time, ‘very many of them,’ said an eye-witness, ‘the best and wealthiest in the town.” 7Motley, “Rise of the Dutch Republic,” part 2, chap. 6.PRUS 73.1

    Looking back through the mist of time, we think how easy it would have been for Spain to have saved herself much trouble and travail, and to have imparted great happiness to a frugal, industrious, and peaceable people by simply letting them worship according to the dictates of conscience, and regulate their own local affairs in whatever manner would have been most satisfactory to them. This would have been a simple solution, to be sure; but lust and greed of gain were against it, and to these monsters principle was sacrificed.PRUS 73.2

    In 1567 the Duke of Alva, with a powerful army, was sent to look after the interests of Spain in the Netherlands. He was instructed to organize and preside over that terrible court, forever to be known in history as the Blood-Council. It was a mere informal club, of which the duke was perpetual president, while all the other members were appointed by himself; and of these other members there were only two who had the right to vote; the remainder were not permitted to vote at all. This infamous court carried on its proceedings in defiance of all law and all reason. Information was lodged against one man or against one hundred men in a single document, and execution was frequently done upon the one man or upon the hundred men within forty-eight hours after the information had been lodged. The proceedings of the council were also ex parte, and an information was almost invariably followed by a death-warrant. Sometimes the sentences were in advance of the docket. Upon one occasion a man’s case was called for trial, but before the investigation had commenced, it was discovered that he had already been executed. Moreover, upon examination, it was found that he had committed no crime. “No matter for that,” said Vargas, gaily, “if he has died innocently, it will be all the better for him when he takes his trial in the other world.”PRUS 74.1

    However, according to the rules which defined and constituted guilt, it was almost impossible for a man to be innocent before such a court. People were daily executed upon the most frivolous pretexts. “Thus Peter de Witt, of Amsterdam, was beheaded because at one of the tumults in that city he had persuaded a rioter not to shoot a magistrate. This was taken as sufficient evidence that he was a man in authority among the rebels, and he was accordingly put to death.” “Madame Juriaen, who in 1566 had struck with her slipper a little wooden image of the Virgin, together with her maid servant, who had witnessed, without denouncing, the crime, were both drowned by the hangman in a hogshead placed on the scaffold.”PRUS 74.2

    “Death, even, did not in all cases place a criminal beyond the reach of the executioner. Egbert Meynartzoon, a man of high official rank, had been condemned, together with two colleagues, on an accusation of collecting money in a Lutheran church. He died in prison, of dropsy. The sheriff was indignant with the physician, because, in spite of cordials and strengthening prescriptions, the culprit had slipped through his fingers before he had felt those of the hangman. He consoled himself by placing the body on a chair, and having the dead man beheaded in company with his colleagues.PRUS 74.3

    “Thus the whole country became a charnel-house; the death-bell tolled hourly in every village; not a family but was called to mourn for its dearest relatives, while the survivors stalked listlessly about, the ghosts of their former selves, among the wrecks of their former homes. The spirit of the nation, within a few months after the arrival of Alva, seemed hopelessly broken. The blood of its best and bravest had already stained the scaffold; the men to whom it had been accustomed to look for guidance and protection were dead, in prison, or in exile. Submission had ceased to be of any avail, flight was impossible, and the spirit of vengeance had alighted at every fireside. The mourners went daily about the streets, for there was hardly a house which had not been made desolate. The scaffolds, the gallows, the funeral piles, which had been sufficient in ordinary times, furnished now an entirely inadequate machinery for the incessant executions. Columns and stakes in every street, the door-posts of private houses, the fences in the fields, were laden with human carcasses, strangled, burned, beheaded. The orchards in the country bore on many a tree the hideous fruit of human bodies.PRUS 75.1

    “Thus the Netherlands were crushed, and but for the stringency of the tyranny which had now closed their gates, would have been depopulated. The grass began to grow in the streets of those cities which had recently nourished so many artisans. In all those great manufacturing and industrial marts, where the tide of human life had throbbed so vigorously, there now reigned the silence and darkness of midnight. It was at this time that the learned Vigilius wrote to his friend Hopper that all venerated the prudence and gentleness of the Duke of Alva. Such were among the first-fruits of that prudence and that gentleness.PRUS 75.2

    “Upon the 16th of February, 1568, a sentence of the holy office condemned all the inhabitants of the Netherlands to death as heretics. From this universal doom only a few persons especially named, were excepted. A proclamation of the king, dated ten days later, confirmed this decree of the Inquisition, and ordered it to be carried into instant execution, without regard to age, sex, or condition. This is probably the most concise death-warrant that was ever framed. Three millions of people, men, women, and children, were sentenced to the scaffold in three lines; and, as it was well known that these were not harmless thunders, like some bulls of the Vatican, but serious and practical measures, which it was intended should be enforced, the horror which they produced may be easily imagined.PRUS 75.3

    “And under this new decree the executions certainly did not slacken. Men in the highest and humblest positions were daily and hourly dragged to the stake. Alva, in a single letter to Philip, coolly estimated the number of executions which had taken place after the expiration of holy week, ‘at eight hundred heads.’ Many a citizen, convicted of a hundred thousand florins, and no other crime, saw himself suddenly tied to a horse’s tail, with his hands fastened behind him and so dragged to the gallows.... The tongue of each prisoner was screwed into an iron ring, and then seared with a hot iron. The swelling and inflammation, which were the immediate result, prevented the tongue from slipping through the ring, and of course effectually precluded all possibility of speech.”PRUS 76.1

    Still the sturdy Hollanders were not crushed. Fear ne’er sat upon their breasts; and never did they stack their arms until the Duke of Alva had been forced to leave the country. But there was no peace even then; Spain kept up the fight, and the people of the Netherlands contended against the most fearful odds which history has to record. Then came the far-famed siege of Leyden. The beleaguered city endured sufferings untold, and it seemed impossible for their brethren to bring them relief. Leyden was not upon the sea, but they resolved to send the sea to Leyden. “Better a drowned land than a lost land,” was the cry of the patriots. They determined to pierce the dikes that kept back the ocean, and drown their land in the waves. The Spaniards mocked at the very idea. The idea that any people could love liberty sufficiently to purchase it at such an awful price was foreign to their lust-loving and greedy souls. “Go up to the tower, ye beggars,” was their frequent and taunting cry, “go up to the tower, and tell us if you can see the ocean coming over the dry land to your relief.” “And day after day they did go up to the ancient tower of Hengist, with heavy heart and anxious eye, watching, hoping, fearing, praying, and at last almost despairing of relief by God or man.” Once, fearing that they had been forgotten, they addressed a despairing letter to the estates; but back came the reply: “Rather will we see our whole land and all our possessions perish in the waves than forsake thee, Leyden. We know full well, moreover, that with Leyden all Holland must perish also.”PRUS 76.2

    Once during the siege a crowd of those who had grown fainthearted during the long and terrific struggle came to Adrain van der Werf, the burgomaster. They assailed him with threats and reproaches. He waved his hand for silence, and spoke as follows: “What would ye, my friends? Why do ye murmur that we do not break our vows, and surrender the city to the Spaniards, a fate more horrible than the agony which she now endures? I tell you I have made an oath to hold the city, and may God give me strength to keep my oath! I can die but once; whether by your hands, the enemy’s, or by the hand of God. My own fate is indifferent to me, not so the city entrusted to my care. I know that we shall starve if not soon relieved; but starvation is preferable to the dishonored death which is the only alternative. Your menaces move me not; my life is at your disposal; here is my sword, plunge it into my breast, and divide my flesh among you. Take my body to appease your hunger, but expect no surrender so long as I remain alive.” His words inspired courage, and a shout of applause went up from the assembled throng.PRUS 77.1

    At length the last dike was pierced, and the ocean, aided by a strong equinoctial gale, swept over the land. In a light flotilla came the relieving force with supplies for the people of Leyden. Terror took possession of the Spaniards, and in the gray light of the early morning they poured out of their entrenchments, and fled toward The Hague. They were none too early in their flight. Rapidly did their narrow path vanish in the waves, and hundreds sank beneath the deepening and treacherous flood. Leyden was relieved.PRUS 77.2

    It is needless for me to write here of the Dutch Republic which followed, when the Netherlands gained their freedom and separation from the crown of Spain. Suffice to say that before the advent of the United States upon the stage of earth’s history, the little Dutch republic was the home of the oppressed of all Europe; and it is significant that Leyden was the home of the Pilgrim Fathers before they sailed upon that memorable voyage which landed them upon Plymouth Rock, where they were destined to lay the foundation stone of a new and greater Republic, which was to take up the work so gallantly commenced by Holland, and bear it forward to perfection.PRUS 77.3

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