« PreviousContinue »
power, and it did not, like the Spanish Inquisition, veil itse in secrecy
Philip, however, was desirous of introducing the latter tribunal into the Netherlands, since it appeared to him the instrument best adapted to destroy the spirit of this people, and to prepare them for a despotic government. He began, therefore, by increasing the rigour of the religious ordinances of his father; by gradually extending the power of the inquisitors; by making the proceedings more arbitrary, and more independent of the civil jurisdiction. The tribunal soon wanted little more than the name, and the Dominicans, to resenible, in every point, the Spanish Inquisition. Bare suspicion was enough to snatch a citizen from the bosom of public tranquillity, and from his domestic circle; and the weakest evidence was a sufficient justification for the use of the rack. Whoever fell into its abyss, returned no more to the world. All the benefits of the laws ceased for him; the maternal care of justice no longer noticed him; beyond the pale of his former world, malice and stupidity judged him according to laws which were never intended for man. The delinquent never knew his accuser, and very seldom his crime, a flagitious, devilish artifice, which constrained the unhappy victim to guess at his error, and in the delirium of the rack, or in the weariness of a long living interment, to acknowledge transgressions which, perhaps, had never been committed, or, at least, had never come to the knowledge of his judges. The goods of the condemned were confiscated, and the informer encouraged by letters of grace and rewards No privilege, no civil jurisdiction, was valid against the holy power; the secular arm lost for ever all whom that power bad once touched. Its only share in the judicial duties of the latter, was to execute its sentences with humble submissive
The consequences of such an institution were, of necessity, unnatural and horrible; the whole temporal happiness, the life itself, of an innocent man, was at the mercy of any worthless fellow. Every secret enemy, every envious person, had now the perilous temptation of an unseen and unfailing revenge. The security of property, the sincerity of intercourse, were gone; all the ties of interest were dis solved; all of blood and of affection were irreparably broken An infectious distrust envenomed social life; the dreaded
presence of a spy terrified the eye from seeing, and choked the voice in the midst of utterance. No one believed in the existence of an honest man, or passed for one himself. Good name, the ties of country, brotherhood, even oaths, and all that man holds sacred, were fallen in estimation. Such was the destiny to which a great and flourishing commercial town was subjected, where 100,000 industrious men had been brought together by the single tie of mutual confidence :-every one indispensable to his neighbour, and yet every one distrusted and distrustful :-all attracted by the spirit of gain, and repelled from each other by fear :-all the props of society torn away, where social union was the basis of all life and all existence,
OTHER ENCROACHMENTS ON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE
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 in. spired 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 armies, 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 propared 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 maintenanco 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 other. wise, 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 favourites 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 Syndio of Ghent. “Is it that the rest of the world should con. sider 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 thou art anxious to guard against surprise from our neighbours ? 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 succour from the neighbouring 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 fo reigner,” 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 indis pensable 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 und 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 tu expect, and his despotic omnipotence was this time wrecked by the politic measures of William of Orange, and the firin ness of the states.
WILLIAM OF ORANGE AND COUNT EGMONT.
By such measures, did Philip usher in his government of the Netherlands, and such were the grievances of the nation when he was preparing to leave them. He had long been impatient to quit a country where he was a stranger, where there was so much that opposed his secret wishes, and where his despotio mind found such undaunted monitors to remind him of the laws of freedom. The peace with France, at last, rendered a longer stay unnecessary; the armaments of Soliman required his presence in the south, and the Spaniards also began to miss their long-absent king. The choice of a supreme Stadtholder for the Netherlands, was the principal matter which still detained him. Emanuel Phili. bert, Duke of Savoy, had filled this place since the resignation of Mary, Queen of Hungary, which, however, so long as the king himself was present, conferred more honour than real influence. His absence would make it the most important office in the monarchy, and the most splendid aim for the ambition of a subject. It had now become vacant through the departure of the duke, whom the peace of Chateau Cam bray had restored to his dominions. The almost unlimited power with which the supreme Statholder would be entrusted, the capacity and experience which so extensive and delicato an appointment required, but, especially, the daring designs waich the Government had in contemplation against the freedom of the country, the execution of which would devolve or him, necessarily einbarrassed the choice. The law, which