Table of Contents

The Rise of the Dutch Kingdom



BY Hendrik Willem van Loon,


This little book, telling the story of our national usurpation by a foreign enemy during the beginning of the nineteenth century, appears at a moment when our nearest neighbours are suffering the same fate which befell us more than a hundred years ago.

I dedicate my work to the five soldiers of the Belgian army who saved my life near Waerloos.

I hope that their grandchildren may read a story of national revival which will be as complete and happy as that of our own land.

Brussels, Belgium,

Christmas night, 1914.


And for those other faults of barbarism, Doric dialect, extemporanean style, tautologies, apish imitation, a rhapsody of rags gathered together from several dung-hills, excrements of authors, toys and fopperies confusedly tumbled out, without art, invention, judgment, wit, learning, harsh, raw, rude, fantastical, absurd, insolent, indiscreet, ill-composed, indigested, vain, scurrile, idle, dull, and dry, I confess all ('tis partly affected); thou canst not think worse of me than I do of myself.

So that as a river runs, sometimes precipitate and swift, then dull and slow; now direct, then per ambages; now deep, then shallow; now muddy, then clear; now broad, then narrow; doth my style flow: now serious, then light; now comical, then satirical; now more elaborate, then remiss, as the present subject required or as at that time I was affected. And if thou vouchsafe to read this treatise, it shall seem no otherwise to thee than the way to an ordinary traveller, sometimes fair, sometimes foul, here champaign, there enclosed; barren in one place, better soil in another.

Anatomy of Melancholy.—Burton.


This foreword is an afterthought. It was written when the first proofs of the book had gone back to the printer. And this is how it took its origin:

A few days ago I received a copy of a Dutch historical magazine containing a violent attack upon one of my former books. The reviewer, who evidently neither had taken the time to read my book nor had taken the trouble to understand what I was trying to say, accused me among other things of a haughty contempt for my forefathers during their time of decline. Haughty contempt, indeed! Nay, Brother of the Acrid Pen, was it not the truth which hurt thee so unexpectedly rather than my scornful irony?

There are those who claim that reviews do not matter. There are those who, when their work is talked about with supercilious ignorance, claim that an author ought to forget what has been said about his work. Pious wish! The writer who really cares for his work can no more forget an undeserved insult to the product of his brain than he can forgive a harsh word given unmerited to one of his children. The thing rankles. And in my desire to see a pleasant face, to talk this hurt away, as soon as I arrived this morning in New York I went to see a friend. He has an office downtown. It overlooks the harbour. From its window one beholds the Old World entering the new one by way of the Ellis Island ferryboat.

It was early and I had to wait. Over the water there hung a low, thin mist. Sea-gulls, very white against the gray sky, were circling about. And then suddenly, in the distance, there appeared a dark form coming sliding slowly through the fog. And through a window, opened to get over the suffocating effect of the steam-heat, there sounded the vibrating tones of a hoarse steam-whistle—a sound which brought back to me my earliest years spent among ships and craft of all sorts, and queer noises of water and wind and steam. And then, after a minute, I recognized by its green and white funnel that it was one of our own ships which was coming up the harbour.

And at that instant everything upon which I had been brooding became so clear to me that I took to the nearest typewriter, and there, in front of that same open window, I sit and write what I have understood but a moment ago.

Once, we have been a very great people. We have had a slow decline and we have had a fall which we caused by our own mistakes and during which we showed the worst sides of our character. But now all this has changed. And at the present moment we have a better claim to a place on the honour-list of nations than the mere fact that once upon a time, some three centuries ago, our ancestors did valiant deeds.

For, more important, because more difficult of accomplishment, there stands this one supreme fact: we have come back.

What I shall have to tell you in the following pages, if you are inclined to regard it as such, will read like a mockery of one's own people.

But who is there that has studied the events of those years between 1795-1815 who did not feel the utter indignation, the terrible shame, of so much cowardice, of such hopeless vacillation in the hour of need, of such indifference to civic duties? Who has ever tried to understand the events of the year of Restoration who does not know that there was very little glory connected with an event which the self-contented contemporary delighted to compare to the great days of the struggle against Spanish tyranny? And who that has studied the history of the early nineteenth century does not know how for two whole generations after the Napoleonic wars our country was no better than a negative power, tolerated because so inoffensive? And who, when he compares what was one hundred years ago with what is to-day, can fail to see what a miracle of human energy here has happened? I have no statistics at hand to tell you about our shipping, our imports and exports, or to show you the very favourable place which the next to the smallest among the nations occupies. Nor can I, without looking it up, write down for your benefit what we have invented, have written, have painted. Nor is it my desire to show you in detail how the old neglected inheritance of the East India Company has been transformed into a colonial empire where not only the intruding Hollander but where the native, too, has a free chance to develop and to prosper.

But what I can say and will say with all emphasis is this: Look where you will, in whatever quarter of the globe you desire, and you will find Holland again upholding her old traditions for efficiency, energy, and tenacity of purpose.

Pay a visit to the Hollander at home and you will find that he is trying to solve with the same ancient industry of research the eternal problems of nature, while with the utmost spirit of modern times he attempts to reconstruct the relationship between those who have and those who have not, until a basis mutually more beneficial shall have been established. Then you will see how upon all sides there has been a return to a renewed interest in life and to a desire to do cheerfully those tasks which the country has been set to do.

And then you will understand how the year 1913, proud of what has been achieved, though not content that the goal has been reached, can well afford to tell the truth about the year 1813. For after a century and a half of decline Holland once more has aspired to be great in everything in which a small nation can be great.

New York, N.Y., October 31, 1913.


DRAMATIS PERSONÆ (in order of their appearance).

CURTAIN: December, 1795.

William V: Last hereditary Stadholder, futile, well-meaning, but without any conception of the events which during the latter half of the eighteenth century brought about the new order of things. Unable to institute the highly necessary centralization of the country and emancipate the middle classes, which for the last three centuries have been cut totally out of all political power. He is driven out by the French Revolution more than by his own discontented countrymen. Dies, forgotten, on his country estates in Germany.

The Patriots: Mildly revolutionary party, since the middle of the eighteenth century working for a more centralized and somewhat more representative government. Belong almost without exception to the professional and higher middle classes. Represented in the new Batavian Assemblies mostly under the name of Unionists.

The Regents: The old plutocratic oligarchy. Disappear with the triumph of the Patriots. Continue opposition to the centralizing process, but for all intents and purposes they have played their little rôle when the old republic ceases to be.

The Federalists: Combine all the opposition elements in the new Batavian Republic which work to maintain the old decentralization.

Daendels: Lawyer, cart-tail orator, professional exile. Fallen hero of the Patriotic struggles; flees to Belgium when the Prussians in 1787 restore William V to his old dignities. Returns in 1795 as quite a hero and a French major-general. Later with French help organizes a number of coups d'état which finally remove the opposing Federalists and give the power to the Unionists. A capable man in many ways. An enthusiast who spared others as little as he did himself.

Krayenhoff: Doctor, physicist, experiments in new medical theories with same cheer he does in the new science of politics. Able and efficient in everything he undertakes. Too much of a man of principle and honesty to make much of a career during revolutionary days.

Pieter Paulus: The sort of man who twenty years before might have saved the Republic if only the Stadholder had known how to avail himself of such a simple citizen possessed of so much common sense. Trained thoroughly in the intricate working of the Republic's government. Scrupulously honest. So evidently the One and Only Man to lead the new Batavian Republic that he was killed immediately by overwork.

Schimmelpenninck: Lawyer, man of unselfish patriotism, honest, careful, no sense of humour, but a very sober sense of the practically possible. No lover of extremes, but in no way blind to the impossibility of maintaining the old, outworn system of government. Tries at his own private inconvenience to save the country, but when he fails keeps the everlasting respect of both his enemies and those who were supposed to be his friends.

France, or, rather, the French Revolution, regards the Republic in the same way in which a poor man looks upon a rich man with a beefsteak. Being possessed of a strong club, it hits the rich man on the head, grabs his steak, his clothes, everything he possesses, and then makes him turn about and fight his former friends.

Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity: Trademark patented by the French Republic between the years 1790 and 1809. The goods covered by this trademark soon greatly deteriorate and finally cover a rank imitation of the original article.

Napoleon Bonaparte: Chief salesman of the above article for the territory abroad. Further references unnecessary. Gets a controlling hold of the firm in which at first he was a subordinate. Removes the article which made him successful from the market and introduces a new brand, covered merely with a big N. Firm fails in 1815. The involuntary customers pay the deficit.

England: Chief enemy of above. In self-defence against the Franco-Dutch combination, it takes all of the Republic's outlying territories.

Louis Napoleon: Second brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. Only gentleman of the family. Made King of Holland in anticipation of a complete French annexation. Makes an honest but useless attempt to prevent this annexation. Wife (Napoleon's stepdaughter) no good. Son, Napoleon III, Emperor of the French.

Le Brun, Duke of Plaisance: Governor of the annexed Republic. Makes the very best of a rather odious job. Far superior to the corps of brigands who were his subordinates.

Van Hogendorp: Incarnation of the better elements of the old order; supporter of William V, although very much aware of the uselessness of that prince. Has seen a little more of the world than most of his contemporaries. During the Batavian Republic and annexation refuses to have anything to do with what he considers an illegitimate form of government. Man of great strength who, practically alone, arranges the Revolution of 1813, which drives out the French before the European allies can conquer the Republic.

William I: First constitutional King of Holland, oldest son of William V, has learned a good deal abroad, but only during the last ten years of his exile. Personally a man of the Old Régime, but with too excellent a business sense not to see that the times have changed. Rather too much a business man and too little a statesman. Excellent organizer. In many ways too energetic. Pity he did not live a hundred years later.

Of the real people we shall see very little. A small minority, very small indeed, will try to make a noise like Jacobins. But their little comedy is abruptly ended by the great French stage manager every time he thinks that such rowdy acting is no longer suitable. Unfortunately for themselves, they began their particular acting three years later than Paris, and, fortunately for the rest of us, the sort of plays written around the guillotine were no longer popular in France when the managers in Holland wished to introduce them. The majority of the people, however, gradually impoverished by eternal taxation, without the old revenues from the colonies, with their sons enlisted and serving a bad cause in foreign armies—the majority takes to a disastrous way of vegetating at home, takes to leading an introspective and non-constructive religious life, finally despairing of everything save paternal despotism.

In the country everything becomes Frenchified. The fashions are the fashions of Paris (two years late). Furniture, books, literature, everything except an old-fashioned and narrow orthodoxy becomes a true but clumsy copy of the French.

The other actors in our little play are foreigners: Sansculottes, French soldiers of all arms, British and Russian invaders, captives from all of the Lord's countries, French customs officers, French policemen, French spies, adventurers of every sort and nationality; French bands playing the "Carmagnole" and "Marseillaise," ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

Finally Cossacks, Russian Infantry, Blücher Hussars, followed by a sudden and wild crowd of citizens waving orange colours. And then, once more for many years, dull, pious citizens, taking no interest in anything but their own respectability, looking at the world from behind closed curtains, so terribly hit by adversity that they no longer dare to be active. Until this generation gradually takes the road to the welcome cemetery, the curtains are pulled up, the windows are opened, and a fresh spirit of energy and enterprise is allowed to blow through the old edifice, and the old fear of living is replaced by the desire to take an active part in the work of the greater world.

The Rise of the Dutch Kingdom


And now—behold the scene changes.

The old Republic of the United Netherlands, once the stronghold of an incipient liberty, the asylum to which for many centuries fled all those who were persecuted—this same republic will be regarded by the disciples of the great French Revolution as another Bastille of usurped power, as the incarnation of all despotic principles, and will soon be demolished by its own eager citizens. The ruins will be carted away as so much waste material, unworthy of being used in the great New Temple now to be constructed to the truly divine principles of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. The old Stadholder, last representative of the illustrious House of Orange, alternately the Father of his Country and the Beast of the Book of Revelation, will flee for his life and will spend the rest of his days in England or Germany, nobody knows and nobody cares where. Their High and Mightinesses of the Estates, proud little potentates once accustomed to full sovereign honours, refusing to receive the most important communication unless provided with their full and correct titles, these same High and Mightinesses will have to content themselves with the even greater honour of being called Citizen Representatives. Their ancient meeting hall, too sacred to allow the keeping of official records of their meetings, will be the sight of the town and will be patronized by the loafers to whom the rights of men mean a Maypole, the tricolor, free gin, and a brass band. Why go on with a minute recital? The end of the world has come. The days of tyranny, of indignity to the sovereign sanctity of the individual, are over. Regents, coal-heavers, patriots, fish peddlers, officers and soldiers, soon they are all to be of the same human clay. The vote of one is as good as that of the other. Wherefore, in the name of Equality, give them all a chance and see what will come of it. If a constitution does not suit at the first attempt, use it to feed a patriotic bonfire. After all, what else is it but some woodpulp and printer's ink? If the parliament of to-day does not please the voters of to-morrow, dissolve it, close it with the help of gendarmes. If the members resist, call out the reserves or borrow some soldiers from the great sister republic, which is now teaching her blessed creed to all the world. They (the soldiers) are there for the asking (and for the paying). They are a little out at the elbows, very much out in regard to shoes, and they have not seen a real piece of money for many a weary month, but for a square meal and a handful of paper greenbacks they will dismiss a parliament, rob a museum, or levy taxes, with the utmost fidelity to their orders and with strict discipline to their master's commands.

Then, if constitutions and parliaments have failed in an equal degree, humbly beg for a king from among that remarkable family the father of which was a little pettifogging lawyer in a third-rate Italian city, and the members of which now rule one half of the European continent.

After the rights of men, the rights of a single man.

In the great melting pot of the Bonapartistic empire all Hollanders at last become equal in the real sense of the word. They all have the same chance at promotion, at riches, and the pursuit of happiness. Devotion to the master, and devotion to him alone, will bring recognition from the new divinity who issues orders signed with a single gigantic N. Old Republic of the United Netherlands, enlightened Republic of the Free Batavian Proconsulate, Kingdom of Holland, it's all the same to the man who regards this little land as so much mud, deposited by his own, his French, rivers.

Vainly and desperately the bankrupt little Kingdom of Brother Louis has struggled to maintain a semblance of independence.

A piece of paper, a big splotchy N, and the whole comedy is over.

The High and Mightinesses, the Citizen Representatives, First Consul, Royal Majesty, all the big and little political wirepullers of fifteen years of unstable government, are swept away, are told to hold their peace, and to contribute money and men, money and men, more money and men, to carry the glory of the capital N to the uttermost corners of the world. Never mind about their government, their language, the remembrance of the old days of glorious renown. The old days are over for good. The language has no right to exist save as a patois for rustic yokels. As for the government, gold-laced adventurers, former barkeepers, and prize-fighters, now bearers of historic titles, will be sent to look after that. They come with an army of followers, tax-gatherers, policemen, and spies. They execute their duties in the most approved Napoleonic fashion. There is war in Spain and there is war in Russia. There is murder to be done in Portugal, and there is plunder to be gathered in Germany. The Hollander does not care for this sort of work. Never mind his private likes and dislikes! Hang a few, shoot a few, and the rest will march fast enough! And so, up and down the Spanish peninsula, up but not down the Russian steppes, the Hollander who cared too much for trade to bother about politics is forced to march for the glory of that letter N. Amsterdam is reduced from the richest city in Europe to a forgotten nest, where the grass grows on the streets and where half of the population is kept alive by public charity. What matters it? His Majesty has reviewed the new Polish and Lithuanian regiments and is highly contented with their appearance. The British have taken all the colonies, and the people eat grass for bread and drink chiccory for coffee. Who cares? His Majesty has bought a new goat cart for the King of Rome, his august son, and is tremendously pleased with the new acquisition. The country is bankrupt. Such a simple matter! Some more paper, another scrawly N, and the State debt is reduced by two thirds. A hundred thousand families are ruined, but his Majesty sleeps as well as ever and indeed never felt better in his life. Until this capital letter goes the way of all big and small letters of the historical alphabet, and is put away in Clio's box of enormities for all time—

And then, O patient reader, who wonders what all this rhetoric is leading to, what shall we then have to tell you?

How out of the ruin of untried schemes, the terrible failures, the heartbreaking miseries of these two decades of honest enthusiasm and dishonest exploitation, there arose a new State, built upon a firmer ground than ever before, ready and willing to take upon itself the burden and the duties of a modern community, and showing in the next century that nothing is lost as long as the spirit of hopefulness and cheerful work and the firm belief in one's own destiny are allowed to survive material ruin. Amen.




It is the year of grace 1795, and the eighth of the glorious French Revolution. For almost a century there has been friction between the different parts of the population. A new generation has grown up in an atmosphere of endless political debate—finally of mere political scandal. But now the days of idle discussions are over. More than forty years before, manifestly in the year 1745, the intelligent middle classes began their agitation for a share in the government, a government which during the days of great commercial prosperity has fallen entirely into the hands of the capitalistic classes. In this struggle, reasonable enough in itself, they have looked for guidance to the House of Orange.

Alas! those princes who so often have led the people, who have made this nation what it is, whose name has come to stand for the very land of which they are the hired executives—these princes now no longer are in direct touch with the basic part of the nation. This time they have failed to see their manifest duty. Left to their own devices, the reformers, the Patriots as they are commonly called, have fallen into bad hands. They have mistaken mere rhetoric for action. They have allowed themselves to be advised by hot-headed young men, raw boys, filled with undigested philosophies borrowed from their better-instructed neighbours. As their allies they have taken experienced politicians who were willing to use this party of enthusiasts for their own selfish purposes. More through the mistakes of their enemies than through the virtue of their own partisans, the Patriots have gained a victory in the Chambers of the old Estates, where the clumsy machinery of the republican government, outworn and ill-fitted for modern demands, rolls on like some forgotten water-wheel in an ancient forest.

This victory, however, has been won too easily to be of any value to the conqueror. The Patriots, believing themselves safe behind their wall of mere words, have gone out of their way to insult the hereditary Stadholder. What is worse, they have given offence to his wife, the sister of the King of Prussia. Ten years before, in the last English war, through a policy of criminal ignorance, they risked their country's last bit of naval strength in an uneven quarrel. This time (we mean the year 1787) they bring upon themselves the military strength of the best-drilled country of the western world. In less than one week the Prussians have blown together this card-house of the Dutch Patriots. Their few untrained soldiers have fled without firing a single shot. Stadholder William once more drives in state to his ancestral palace in the woods, and again his clumsy fingers try to unravel the perplexing maze of this antiquated government—with the same result as before. He cannot do it. Truth is, that the old government is hopelessly beyond repair. Demolition and complete reconstruction alone will save the country from anarchy. But where is the man with the courage and the tenacity of purpose to undertake this gigantic task? Certainly it is not William, to whom a new cockade on the cap of his soldiers is of vastly more importance than a reform of the legislative power. Nor can anything be hoped from old Van den Spiegel, the Raadpensionaris, a man nearing the seventies, who desires more the rest of his comfortable Zeeland estate than the hopeless management of an impossible government. There is, of course, the Princess Wilhelmina, the wife of William, a woman possessed of all the strength and executive ability of her great-uncle Frederick, the late King of Prussia. But just now she is regarded as the arch-traitress, the Jezebel of the country. Alone she can do nothing, and among the gold-laced brethren who doze in the princely anterooms there is not a man of even mediocre ability.

For a short while a young man, trained abroad, capable observer, shrewd in the judgment of his fellow-men, and willing to make personal sacrifices for his principles, has supported her with vigorous counsel. But he, too, has given up the hopeless task of inciting the Stadholder to deeds of energy, and we shall not hear the name of Gysbrecht Karel van Hogendorp until twenty years later, when in the quiet of his study he shall prepare the first draft of the constitution of the new Kingdom of the Netherlands and shall make ready for the revolution which must overthrow the French yoke.

In Rotterdam, leading the uneventful life of a civilian director of the almost defunct Admiralty, there is Pieter Paulus, who for a moment promised to play the rôle of a Dutch Mirabeau. He, too, however, found no elements with which he could do any constructive work. He has retired to his books and vouchers, trying to solve the puzzle of how to pay captains and sailors out of an empty treasury.

A country of a million and a half of people, a country which for more than a century has led the destinies of Europe, cannot be devoid of capable men in so short a time? Then—where are they? Most of them are still within the boundaries of the old republic. But disheartened by the disgrace of foreign invasion, by the muddling of Patriot and regent, they sulk at home and await the things that are bound to come. Many citizens, some say 40,000, but probably less than 30,000, have fled the country and are exiled abroad. They fill the little Belgian cities along the Dutch frontier. They live from hand to mouth. They petition the government in Paris, they solicit help from the government in London, they will appeal to everybody who may have anything to give, be he friend or enemy. When support is not forthcoming—and usually the petitioned party turns a deaf ear—they run up a bill at the little political club where their credit is good, until the steward himself shall go into bankruptcy. Then they renew their old appeals, until finally they receive a few grudging guilders, and as barroom politicians they await the day of vengeance and a return to the fraternal fleshpots.

Meanwhile in The Hague, where, as of old, the Stadholder plays at being a little monarch, what is being done? Nothing!

The year 1789 comes and brings the beginning of the great French Revolution. The government of the republic thinks of the frightful things that might have happened if the Patriots, instead of the Prussians, had been successful in 1787, and it draws the lines of reaction tighter than before. At the same time a new business depression sets in. Large banking houses fail. The West India Company of glorious memory is dissolved and put into the receiver's hands.