Republic of the Seven United Netherlands
Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden
Motto: Eendracht maakt macht
("Unity makes strength")
Concordia res parvæ crescunt
("Small things flourish by concord")
Anthem: het Wilhelmus
Republic of the Seven United Netherlands in 1789
|Capital||Amsterdam government seated in The Hague|
|Common languages||Dutch, Dutch Low Saxon, West Frisian|
|Religion||Dutch Reformed (state), Catholicism, Judaism, Lutheranism|
|Johan de Witt|
|Laurens van de Spiegel|
• State council
|Council of State|
|Historical era||Early modern period|
|23 January 1579|
|26 July 1581|
|12 April 1588|
|30 January 1648|
|19 January 1795|
|Today part of|
The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or United Provinces (officially the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands), commonly referred to in historiography as the Dutch Republic, was a federal republic which existed from 1581 (during the Dutch Revolt) to 1795 (the Batavian Revolution). It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first fully independent Dutch nation state.
The republic was established after several Dutch provinces revolted against rule by Spain, as the Spanish Netherlands. The provinces formed a mutual alliance against Spain in 1579 (the Union of Utrecht) and declared their independence in 1581 (the Act of Abjuration).
Although the state was small and contained only around 1.5 million inhabitants, it controlled a worldwide network of seafaring trade routes. Through its trading companies, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (GWC), it established a Dutch colonial empire. The income from this trade allowed the Dutch Republic to compete militarily against much larger countries. It amassed a huge fleet of 2,000 ships, larger than the fleets of England and France combined. Major conflicts were fought in the Eighty Years' War against Spain (from the foundation of the Dutch Republic until 1648), the Dutch–Portuguese War (1602–1663), four Anglo-Dutch Wars against the Kingdom of England (1652–1654, 1665–1667, 1672–1674 and 1780–1784), the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678), and War of the Grand Alliance (1688–1697) against the Kingdom of France.
The republic was more tolerant of different religions and ideas than its contemporary states were, allowing freedom of thought to its residents. Artists flourished under this regime, including painters such as Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer and many others. So did scientists, such as Hugo Grotius and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. Because Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world during much of the 17th century, this period became known in Dutch history as the Dutch Golden Age.
The republic was a confederation of provinces each with a high degree of independence from the federal assembly, known as the States General. In the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) the republic gained approximately 20% more territory, located outside the member provinces, which was ruled directly by the States General as Generality Lands. Each province was led by an official known as the stadtholder (Dutch for 'steward'); this office was nominally open to anyone, but most provinces appointed a member of the House of Orange. The position gradually became hereditary, with the Prince of Orange simultaneously holding most or all of the stadtholderships, making them effectively the head of state. This created tension between political factions: the Orangists favoured a powerful stadtholder, while the Republicans favoured a strong States General. The Republicans forced two Stadtholderless Periods, 1650–1672 and 1702–1747, with the latter causing national instability and the end of Great Power status.
Economic decline led to a period of political instability known as the Patriottentijd (1780-87). This unrest was temporarily suppressed by a Prussian invasion in support of the stadtholder. The French Revolution and subsequent War of the First Coalition caused these tensions to reignite. Following military defeat by France, the stadtholder was expelled in the Batavian Revolution of 1795. This ended the Dutch Republic; it was succeeded by the Batavian Republic.
Until the 16th century, the Low Countries—corresponding roughly to the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg—consisted of a number of duchies, counties, and prince-bishoprics, almost all of which were under the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire, with the exception of the county of Flanders, most of which was under the Kingdom of France.
Most of the Low Countries had come under the rule of the House of Burgundy and subsequently the House of Habsburg. In 1549 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V issued the Pragmatic Sanction, which further unified the Seven Provinces under his rule. Charles was succeeded by his son, King Philip II of Spain. In 1568, the Netherlands, led by William I of Orange, revolted against Philip II because of high taxes, persecution of Protestants by the government, and Philip's efforts to modernize and centralize the devolved-medieval government structures of the provinces.This was the start of the Eighty Years' War. During the initial phase of the war, the revolt was largely unsuccessful. Spain regained control over most of the rebelling provinces. This period is known as the "Spanish Fury" due to the high number of massacres, instances of mass looting, and total destruction of multiple cities between 1572 and 1579.
In 1579, a number of the northern provinces of the Low Countries signed the Union of Utrecht, in which they promised to support each other in their defence against the Army of Flanders. This was followed in 1581 by the Act of Abjuration, the declaration of independence of the provinces from Philip II. Dutch colonialism began at this point, as the Netherlands was able to swipe a number of Portuguese and Spanish colonies, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. After the assassination of William of Orange on 10 July 1584, both Henry III of France and Elizabeth I of England declined offers of sovereignty. However, the latter agreed to turn the United Provinces into a protectorate of England (Treaty of Nonsuch, 1585), and sent the Earl of Leicester as governor-general. This was unsuccessful and in 1588 the provinces became a confederacy. The Union of Utrecht is regarded as the foundation of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, which was not recognized by Spain until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
During the Anglo-French War (1778), the internal territory was divided into two groups: the Patriots, who were pro-French and pro-American, and the Orangists, who were pro-British.The Republic of the United Provinces faced a series of republican revolutions in 1783–1787. During this period, republican forces occupied several major Dutch cities. Initially on the defence, the Orangist forces received aid from Prussian troops and retook the Netherlands in 1787. The republican forces fled to France, but then successfully re-invaded alongside the army of the French Republic (1793–1795), ousting stadtholder William V, abolishing the Dutch Republic, and replacing it with the Batavian Republic (1795–1806). After the French Republic became the French Empire under Napoleon, the Batavian Republic was replaced by the Napoleonic Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810).
The Netherlands regained independence from France in 1813. In the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 the names "United Provinces of the Netherlands" and "United Netherlands" were used. In 1815, it was rejoined with the Austrian Netherlands and Liège (the "Southern provinces") to become the Kingdom of the Netherlands, informally known as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, to create a strong buffer state north of France. On 16 March 1815, the son of stadtholder William V crowned himself King William I of the Netherlands. Between 1815 and 1890, the King of the Netherlands was also in a personal union the Grand Duke of the sovereign Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. After Belgium gained its independence in 1830, the state became unequivocally known as the "Kingdom of the Netherlands", as it remains today.
During the Dutch Golden Age in the late-16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch Republic dominated world trade, conquering a vast colonial empire and operating the largest fleet of merchantmen of any nation. The County of Holland was the wealthiest and most urbanized region in the world. In 1650 the urban population of the Dutch Republic as a percentage of total population was 31.7 percent, while that of the Spanish Netherlands was 20.8 percent, of Portugal 16.6 percent, and of Italy 14 percent. In 1675 the urban population density of Holland alone was 61 percent, that of the rest of the Dutch Republic 27 percent.[ clarification needed ]
The free trade spirit of the time was augmented by the development of a modern, effective stock market in the Low Countries.The Netherlands has the oldest stock exchange in the world, founded in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company, while Rotterdam has the oldest bourse in the Netherlands. The Dutch East-India Company exchange went public in six different cities. Later, a court ruled that the company had to reside legally in a single city, so Amsterdam is recognized as the oldest such institution based on modern trading principles. While the banking system evolved in the Low Countries, it was quickly incorporated by the well-connected English, stimulating English economic output.
During the period of Proto-industrialization, the empire received 50% of textiles and 80% of silks import from the Indian Mughal Empire, chiefly from its most developed region known as Bengal Subah.
The Dutch Republic was a master of banking, often compared to with Florence during the 14th century. When Southern Europe was experiencing poor harvests, surplus of grain from Poland was sold by the Dutch for sky high prices.
|History of the Low Countries|
Gallia Belgica (55 BC – 5th c. AD)
Germania Inferior (83 – 5th c.)
|Saxons|| Salian Franks |
| Frisian Kingdom |
|Frankish Kingdom (481–843)—Carolingian Empire (800–843)|
|Middle Francia (843–855)|| West|
| Kingdom of Lotharingia (855– 959)|
Duchy of Lower Lorraine (959–)
Burgundian Netherlands (1384–1482)
Habsburg Netherlands (1482–1795)
(Seventeen Provinces after 1543)
United States of Belgium
Batavian Republic (1795–1806)
Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810)
associated with French First Republic (1795–1804)
part of First French Empire (1804–1815)
Princip. of the Netherlands (1813–1815)
|United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830)|
Gr D. L.
Kingdom of the Netherlands (1839–)
Kingdom of Belgium (1830–)
| Gr D. of|
The republic was a confederation of seven provinces, which had their own governments and were very independent, and a number of so-called Generality Lands. The latter were governed directly by the States General, the federal government. The States General were seated in The Hague and consisted of representatives of each of the seven provinces. The provinces of the republic were, in official feudal order:
There was an eighth province, the County of Drenthe, but this area was so poor that it was exempt from paying federal taxes, and as a consequence, it was denied representation in the States General. Each province was governed by the Provincial States, the main executive official (though not the official head of state) was a raadspensionaris . In times of war, the stadtholder, who commanded the army, would have more power than the raadspensionaris.
In theory, the stadtholders were freely appointed by and subordinate to the states of each province. However, in practice the princes of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau, beginning with William the Silent, were always chosen as stadtholders of most of the provinces. Zeeland and usually Utrecht had the same stadtholder as Holland. There was a constant power struggle between the Orangists, who supported the stadtholders and specifically the princes of Orange, and the Republicans, who supported the States General and hoped to replace the semi-hereditary nature of the stadtholdership with a true republican structure.
After the Peace of Westphalia, several border territories were assigned to the United Provinces. They were federally governed Generality Lands. These were Staats-Brabant, Staats-Vlaanderen, Staats-Overmaas, and (after the Treaty of Utrecht) Staats-Opper-Gelre. The States General of the United Provinces were in control of the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, but some shipping expeditions were initiated by some of the provinces, mostly Holland and Zeeland.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution were influenced by the Constitution of the Republic of the United Provinces, as Federalist No. 20, by James Madison, shows.Such influence appears, however, to have been of a negative nature, as Madison describes the Dutch confederacy as exhibiting "Imbecility in the government; discord among the provinces; foreign influence and indignities; a precarious existence in peace, and peculiar calamities from war." Apart from this, the American Declaration of Independence is similar to the Act of Abjuration, essentially the declaration of independence of the United Provinces, but concrete evidence that the latter directly influenced the former is absent.
In the Union of Utrecht of 20 January 1579, Holland and Zeeland were granted the right to accept only one religion (in practice, Calvinism). Every other province had the freedom to regulate the religious question as it wished, although the Union stated every person should be free in the choice of personal religion and that no person should be prosecuted based on religious choice.William of Orange had been a strong supporter of public and personal freedom of religion and hoped to unite Protestants and Catholics in the new union, and, for him, the Union was a defeat. In practice, Catholic services in all provinces were quickly forbidden, and the Dutch Reformed Church became the "public" or "privileged" church in the Republic.
During the Republic, any person who wished to hold public office had to conform to the Reformed Church and take an oath to this effect. The extent to which different religions or denominations were persecuted depended much on the time period and regional or city leaders. In the beginning, this was especially focused on Roman Catholics, being the religion of the enemy. In 17th-century Leiden, for instance, people opening their homes to services could be fined 200 guilders (a year's wage for a skilled tradesman) and banned from the city.Throughout this, however, personal freedom of religion existed and was one factor—along with economic reasons—in causing large immigration of religious refugees from other parts of Europe.
In the first years of the Republic, controversy arose within the Reformed Church, mainly around the subject of predestination. This has become known as the struggle between Arminianism and Gomarism, or between Remonstrants and Contra-Remonstrants. In 1618, the Synod of Dort tackled this issue, which led to the banning of the Remonstrant faith.
Beginning in the 18th century, the situation changed from more or less active persecution of religious services to a state of restricted toleration of other religions, as long as their services took place secretly in private churches.
Long-term rivalry between the two main factions in Dutch society, the Staatsgezinden (Republicans) and the Prinsgezinden (Royalists or Orangists), sapped the strength and unity of the country. Johan de Witt and the Republicans did reign supreme for a time at the middle of the 17th century (the First Stadtholderless Period) until his overthrow and murder in 1672. Subsequently, William III of Orange became stadtholder. After a 22-year stadtholderless era, the Orangists regained power, and his first problem was to survive the Franco-Dutch War (with the derivative Third Anglo-Dutch war), when France, England, Münster, and Cologne united against this country.
Wars to contain the expansionist policies of France in various coalitions after the Glorious Revolution, mostly including England and Scotland—after 1707, Great Britain—burdened the republic with huge debts, although little of the fighting after 1673 took place on its own territory. The necessity to maintain a vast army against France meant that less money could be spent on the navy, weakening the Republic's economy. After William III's death in 1702 the Second Stadtholderless Period was inaugurated. Despite having contributed much in the War of Spanish Succession, the Dutch Republic gained little from the peace talks in Utrecht (1713). The end of the War of Austrian Succession in 1748, and Austria becoming allies with France against Prussia, marked the end of the republic as a major military power.
Fierce competition for trade and colonies, especially from France and England, furthered the economic downturn of the country. The three Anglo-Dutch Wars and the rise of mercantilism had a negative effect on Dutch shipping and commerce.
The Union of Utrecht was a treaty signed on 23 January 1579 in Utrecht, Netherlands, unifying the northern provinces of the Netherlands, until then under the control of Habsburg Spain.
In the Low Countries, stadtholder was an office of steward, designated a medieval official and then a national leader. The stadtholder was the replacement of the duke or earl of a province during the Burgundian and Habsburg period.
William II was sovereign Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, Overijssel and Groningen in the United Provinces of the Netherlands from 14 March 1647 until his death three years later. His only child, William III, reigned as King of England, Ireland, and Scotland.
William IV was Prince of Orange from birth and the first hereditary Stadtholder of all the United Provinces of the Netherlands from 1747 till his death in 1751. During his whole life he was furthermore ruler of the Principality of Orange-Nassau within the Holy Roman Empire.
The Eighty Years' War or Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648) was a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces of what are today the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg against Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. After the initial stages, Philip II deployed his armies and regained control over most of the rebelling provinces. Under the leadership of the exiled William the Silent, the northern provinces continued their resistance. They eventually were able to oust the Habsburg armies, and in 1581 they established the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The war continued in other areas, although the heartland of the republic was no longer threatened. This included the origins of the Dutch colonial empire, which began with Dutch attacks on Portugal's overseas territories. At the time, this was conceived as carrying the war with the Spanish Empire overseas due to Portugal and Spain's being in a dynastic union.
In Dutch history, the year 1672 is referred to as the Rampjaar. In May 1672, following the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War and its peripheral conflict the Third Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch Republic was invaded by France, supported by Münster and Cologne, with such success it was nearly overrun. While at the same time, it faced the threat of an English naval blockade in support of the French endeavor. This attempt was however abandoned following the Battle of Solebay, thanks to the sagacious leadership of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter. A famous Dutch saying coined that year describes the Dutch people as redeloos, its government as radeloos, and the country as reddeloos: senseless, desperate, and irrecoverable, respectively. Fed up with reduced military spending, the cities of the remaining coastal provinces of Holland, Zealand and Frisia underwent a political transition: the city governments were taken over by Orangists, opposed to the republican regime of the Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt, soon ending the First Stadtholderless Period.
The Patriottentijd was a period of political instability in the Dutch Republic between approximately 1780 and 1787. Its name derives from the Patriots (Patriotten) faction who opposed the rule of the stadtholder, William V, Prince of Orange, and his supporters who were known as Orangists (Orangisten)
The Twelve Years' Truce was the name given to the cessation of hostilities between the Habsburg rulers of Spain and the Southern Netherlands and the Dutch Republic as agreed in Antwerp on 9 April 1609. It was a watershed in the Eighty Years' War, marking the point from which the independence of the United Provinces received formal recognition by outside powers. For Spain the Truce was seen as a humiliating defeat as they were forced to make several sacrifices but they scarcely got anything in return. For the time of its duration however the Truce allowed King Philip III and his favorite minister the Duke of Lerma to disengage from the conflict in the Low Countries and devote their energies to the internal problems of the Spanish Monarchy. The Archdukes Albert and Isabella used the years of the Truce to consolidate Habsburg rule and to implement the Counter-Reformation in the territories under their sovereignty.
The Batavian Revolution was a time of political, social and cultural turmoil at the end of the 18th century that marked the end of the Dutch Republic and saw the proclamation of the Batavian Republic. The period of Dutch history that followed the revolution is referred to as the "Batavian-French era" (1795–1813) even though the time spanned was only 20 years, of which three were under French occupation under Napoleon Bonaparte.
A referendum on the constitution of the Batavian Republic was held on August 8, 1797. The draft constitution was rejected, eventually culminating in a coup d'état.
The First Stadtholderless Period or Era is the period in the history of the Dutch Republic in which the office of a Stadtholder was absent in five of the seven Dutch provinces. It happened to coincide with the period when it reached the zenith of its economic, military and political Golden Age. The term has acquired a negative connotation in 19th-century Orangist Dutch historiography, but whether such a negative view is justified is debatable. Republicans argue that the Dutch state functioned very well under the regime of Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt, despite the fact that it was forced to fight two major wars with England, and several minor wars with other European powers. Thanks to friendly relations with France, a cessation of hostilities with Spain, and the relative weakness of other European great powers, the Republic for a while was able to play a pivotal role in the "European Concert" of nations, even imposing a pax nederlandica in the Scandinavian area. A convenient war with Portugal enabled the Dutch East India Company to take over the remnants of the Portuguese empire in Ceylon and South India. After the end of the war with Spain in 1648, and the attendant end of the Spanish embargo on trade with the Republic that had favored the English, Dutch commerce swept everything before it, in the Iberian Peninsula, the Mediterranean Sea and the Levant, as well as in the Baltic region. Dutch industry, especially textiles, was as yet not hindered by protectionism. As a consequence, the Republic's economy enjoyed its last great economic boom.
The Perpetual Edict was a resolution of the States of Holland passed on 5 August 1667 which abolished the office of Stadtholder in the province of Holland. At approximately the same time, a majority of provinces in the States General of the Netherlands agreed to declare the office of stadtholder incompatible with the office of Captain general of the Dutch Republic.
The Second Stadtholderless Period or Era is the designation in Dutch historiography of the period between the death of stadtholder William III on March 19, 1702 and the appointment of William IV as stadtholder and captain general in all provinces of the Dutch Republic on May 2, 1747. During this period the office of stadtholder was left vacant in the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht, though in other provinces that office was filled by members of the House of Nassau-Dietz during various periods. During the period the Republic lost its Great-Power status and its primacy in world trade, processes that went hand-in-hand, the latter causing the former. Though the economy declined considerably, causing deindustralization and deurbanization in the maritime provinces, a rentier-class kept accumulating a large capital fund that formed the basis for the leading position the Republic achieved in the international capital market. A military crisis at the end of the period caused the fall of the States-Party regime and the restoration of the Stadtholderate in all provinces. However, though the new stadtholder acquired near-dictatorial powers, this did not improve the situation.
The Dutch Revolt (1566–1648) was the revolt in the Low Countries against the rule of the Habsburg King Philip II of Spain, hereditary ruler of the provinces. The northern provinces eventually separated from the southern provinces, which continued under Habsburg Spain until 1714. The northern provinces adopted Calvinism and Republicanism whereas the southern provinces became wholly Catholic again due to the expulsion of Protestants and the efforts of the Counter-Reformation and remained under absolutist rule. The Dutch Revolt has been viewed as the seedbed of the great democratic revolutions from England, to America to France.
In the history of the Dutch Republic, Orangism or prinsgezindheid was a political force opposing the Staatsgezinde (pro-Republic) party. Orangists supported the princes of Orange as Stadtholders and military commanders of the Republic, as a check on the power of the regenten. The Orangist party drew its adherents largely from traditionalists – mostly farmers, soldiers, noblemen and orthodox Catholic and Protestant preachers, though its support fluctuated heavily over the course of the Republic's history and there were never clear-cut socioeconomic divisions.
The Dutch Republic was a confederation of seven provinces, which had their own governments and were very independent, and a number of so-called Generality Lands. These latter were governed directly by the States-General, the federal government. The States-General were seated in The Hague and consisted of representatives of each of the seven provinces.
The Dutch States Party was a political faction of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. This republican faction is usually (negatively) defined as the opponents of the Orangist, or Prinsgezinde faction, who supported the monarchical aspirations of the stadtholders, who were usually members of the House of Orange-Nassau. The two factions existed during the entire history of the Republic since the Twelve Years' Truce, be it that the role of "usual opposition party" of the States party was taken over by the Patriots after the Orangist revolution of 1747. The States party was in the ascendancy during the First Stadtholderless Period and the Second Stadtholderless Period.
The Act of Guarantee of the hereditary stadtholderate was a document from 1788, in which the seven provinces of the States General and the representative of Drenthe declared, amongst other things, that the admiralty and captain-generalship were hereditary, and together with the hereditary stadtholderate would henceforth be an integrated part of the constitution of the Dutch Republic. Moreover, members of the House of Orange-Nassau would have the exclusive privilege to hold the office. The Act was in force until the Batavian Republic was established in 1795.
Bengal ... was rich in the production and export of grain, salt, fruit, liquors and wines, precious metals and ornaments besides the output of its handlooms in silk and cotton. Europe referred to Bengal as the richest country to trade with.