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of justice; all attainders were reversed, and eight cautionary towns were put into their hands1.
This treaty of pacification, which was the fifth concluded with the Hugonots, gave the highest disgust to the Catholics, and afforded the duke of Guise the desired pretence of declaming against the conduct of the king, and of laying the foundation of that famous LEAGUE, projected by his uncle, the cardinal of Lorrain; an association which, without paying any regard to the royal authority, aimed at the entire suppression of the new doctrines. In order to divert the force of the League from the throne, and even to obstruct its efforts against the Hugonots, Henry A. D. 1577 declared himself at the head of that seditious confederacy, and took the field as leader of the Catholics; but his dilatory and feeble measures discovered his reluctance to the undertaking, and some unsuccessful enterprizes brought on a new peace, which, though less favourable than the former to the Protestants, gave no satisfaction to the followers of the ancient religion. The animosity of party, daily whetted by theological controversy, was become too keen to admit of toleration: the king's moderation appeared criminal to one faction, and suspicious to both; while the plain, direct, and avowed conduct of the duke of Guise on one side, and of the king of Navarre on the other, engaged by degrees the bulk of the nation to enlist themselves under one or other of those great leaders. Religious hate set at nought all civil regulations, and every private injury became the ground of a public quarrel2.
These commotions, though of a domestic nature, were too important to be overlooked by foreign princes. Elizabeth queen of England, who always considered her interest so connected with the prosperity of the French Protestants and the depression of the house of Guise, had repeatedly supplied the Hugonots with considerable sums of money,
1. Davila. `D'Aubigne. Mezeray.
2. Thuanus. Davilanotwith
notwithstanding her negociations with the court of France. Philip II. of Spain, on the other hand, had declared himself protector of the League, had entered into the closest correspondence with the duke of Guise, and employed all his authority in supporting the credit of that factious leader. The subjection of the Hugonots, he flattered himself, would be followed by the submission of the Flemings; and the same political motives which induced Elizabeth to assist the French reformers, would have led her to aid the distressed Protestants in the Low Countries; but the mighty power of Philip, and the great force which he maintained in those mutinous provinces, had hitherto kept her in awe, and made her still preserve some appearance of friendship with that monarch3.
Elizabeth, however, had given protection to all the Flemish exiles, who took shelter in her dominions; and as many of these were the most industrious inhabitants of the Netherlands, then so celebrated for its manufactures, they brought along with them several useful arts, hitherto unknown, or but little cultivated, in England. The queen had also permitted the Flemish privateers to enter the English harbours, and there dispose of their prizes. But, on the remonstrance of the Spanish ambassador, she withdrew that liberty+; a measure which, in the issue, proved extremely prejudicial to the interests of Philip, and which naturally leads us back to the history of the civil wars in the Low Countries.
The Guex, or beggars, as the Flemish sea-adventurers were called, being shut out from the English harbours, were under the necessity of attempting to secure one of their own. They accordingly attacked, in 1572, the Brille, a sea-port town in Holland; and by a furious assault, made themselves masters of the place'.
Unimportant as this conquest may seem, it alarmed the duke of Alva; who, putting a stop to those bloody execu
5. Crotius, lib. ii.
tions, which he was making on the defenceless Flemings, in order to enforce his oppressive taxes, withdrew the garrison from Brussels, and detached it against the Guex. Experience soon proved that his fears were well grounded. The people in the neighbourhood of the Brille, rendered desperate by that complication of cruelty, oppression, insolence, usurpation, and persecution, under which they and all their countrymen laboured, flew to arms on the approach of a military force; defeated the Spanish detachment, and put themselves under the protection of the prince of Orange; who, though unsuccessful in his former attempt, still medi tated the relief of the Netherlands. He inflamed the inhabitants by every motive which religious zeal, resentment, or love of freedom, could inspire. In a short time almost the whole province of Holland, and also that of Zealand, threw off the Spanish yoke"; and the prince, by uniting the revolted towns in a league, laid the foundation of that illustrious republic, whose arms and policy long made so considerable a figure in the transactions of Europe, and whose commerce frugality, and persevering industry, is still the wonder of the world.
The love of liberty transformed into heroes, men little accustomed to arms, and naturally averse from war. The prince of Orange took Mechlin, Oudenarde, and Dendermonde; and the desperate defence of Haarlem, which nothing but the most extreme famine could overcome, convinced the duke of Alva of the pernicious effects of his violent counsels. He entreated the Hollanders, whom his severities had only exasperated, to lay down their arms, and rely on the king's generosity; and he gave the strongest assurances, that the utmost lenity would be shown to those who did not obstinately persist in their rebellion. But the people were not disposed to confide in promises so often violated, nor to throw themselves on the clemency of a prince and governor,
6. Le Clerc. Temple. Grotius.
who had shewn themselves equally perfidious and inhuman. Now reduced to despair, they expected the worst that could happen, and bid defiance to fortuné. Alva, enraged at their firmness, laid siege to Alcmaer, where the Spaniards were finally repulsed, 1573 : a great fleet, which he had fitted out was defeated by the Zealanders; he petitioned to be recalled from his government, and boasted at his departure, that in the course of five years, he had made eighteen thousand heretics perish by the hands of the public executioner'.
Alva was succeeded in the Low Countries by Requesens, commendator of Castile, who began his government with pulling down the insulting statue of his predecessor, erected at Antwerp. But neither this popular act, nor the mild disposition of the new governor, could reconcile the revolted Hollanders to the Spanish dominion. Their injuries were too recent, and too grievous to be soon forgot. The war continued as obstinate as ever. The success was various. Middleburg was taken by the Zealanders, in 1574, while Lewis of Nassau, with a considerable body of troops, intended as a reinforcement to his brother, the prince of Orange, was surprized near a village called Noock, and his army defeated. Lewis and two of his brothers were left dead on the field of battle. The siege of Leyden was formed by the Spaniards, and the most amazing examples of valour and constancy were displayed on both sides. The Dutch opened the dykes and sluices, in order to drive the besiegers from that enterprize; and the Spaniards had the hardiness to continue their purpose, and to attempt to drain off the inundation. The besieged suffered every species of misery, and were at last so reduced by famine, as to be obliged to feed on the dead bodies of their fellow-citizens But they did not suffer in vain. A violent south-west wind drove the inundation with fury against the works of the besiegers, when every human hope seemed to fail; and Valdes, the
7. Grotius, lib. ii.
Spanish general, in danger of being swallowed up by the waves, was constrained to raise the siege, after having lost the flower of his armys.
The repulse at Leyden was followed by the conferences at Breda, in 1575. There the emperor, Rodolph II. endeavoured to mediate a reconciliation between his cousin the king of Spain, and the states of the Low Countries, originally subject to the empire, and over which the imperial jurisdiction was still supreme. But these negociations proving unsuccessful, hostilities were renewed, and pushed with vigour by the Spaniards. They met with a proportional resistance in many places; particularly at Woerde, the reduction of which they were obliged to abandon, after a siege of several months, and a great loss of men'.
But the contest was unequal, between a mighty monarchy and two small provinces, however fortified by nature, or defended by the desperate valour of the inhabitants. The Spaniards made themselves masters of the island of Finart, east of Zealand; they entered Zealand itself, in spite of all opposition; they reduced Ziriczee, after an obstinate resistance; and, as a last blow, were projecting the reduction of Holland'.
Now it was that the revolted provinces saw the necessity of foreign assistance, in order to preserve them from final ruin; and they sent a solemn embassy to Elizabeth, their most natural ally, offering her the sovereignty of Holland and Zealand, if she would employ her power in their defence. But that princess, though inclined by many strong motives to accept of so liberal an offer, prudently rejected it. Though magnanimous, she had never entertained the ambition of making conquests, or of acquiring, by any other means an accession of territory. The sole purpose of her vigilent and active politics was to maintain, by the most fru