Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands/Chapter II
|←Chapter I||Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands by
Of their Government
It is evident by what has been discoursed in the former Chapter concerning the Rise of this State, (which is to be dated from the Union of Utrecht,) that it cannot properly be styled a Commonwealth, but is rather a Confederacy of Seven Sovereign Provinces united together for their common and mutual defence, without any dependance one upon the other. But to discover the nature of their Government from the first springs and motions, It must be taken yet into smaller pieces, by which it will appear, that each of these Provinces is likewise composed of many little States or Cities, which have several marks of Sovereign Power within themselves, and are not subject to the Sovereignty of their Province; Not being concluded in many things by the majority, but only by the universal concurrence of Voices in the Provincial States. For as the States-General cannot make War or Peace, or any new Alliance, or Levies of Money, without the consent of every Province; so cannot the States-Provincial conclude of any of those points, without the consent of each of the Cities, that, by their Constitution, has a Voice in that Assembly. And though in many Civil Causes there lies an Appeal from the Common Judicature of the Cities, to the Provincial Courts of Justice; yet in Criminal, there lies none at all; nor can the Soveraignty of a Province exercise any Judicature, seize upon any Offender, or pardon any Offence within the Jurisdiction of a City, or execute any common Resolution or Law, but by the justice and Officers of the City itself. By this, a certain Soveraignty in each City is discerned, the chief marks whereof are, The Power of exercising Judicature, levying of Money, and making War and Peace: For the other, of Coining Money, is neither in particular Cities or Provinces, but in the generality of the Union, by common Agreement.
The main Ingredients therefore into the Composition of this State, are the Freedom of the Cities, the Soveraignty of the Provinces, the Agreements or Constitutions of the Union, and the Authority of the Princes of Orange; Which make the Order I shall follow in the Account intended of this Government. But whereas, the several Provinces in the Union, and the several Cities in each Province, as they have, in their Orders and Constitutions, some particular differences, as well as a general resemblance; and the account of each distinctly would swell this Discourse out of measure, and to little purpose; I shall confine my self to the account of Holland, as the richest, strongest, and of most Authority among the Provinces; and of Amsterdam, as that which has the same Preheminencies among the Cities.
The Soveraign Authority of the City of Amsterdam, consists, in the Decrees or Results of their Senate, which is composed of Six and thirty Men, by whom the Justice is administred, according to ancient forms; in the names of Officers, and Places of Judicature. But Monies are Levied by Arbitrary Resolutions, and Proportions, according to what appears convenient or necessary upon the change or emergency of occasions. These Senators are for their lives, and the Senate was anciently chosen by the Voices of the richer Burghers, or Freemen of the City, who upon the death of a Senator met together, either in a Church, a Market, or some other place spacious enough to receive their numbers; and there made an election of the person to succeed, by the majority of Voices. But about a hundred and thirty, or forty years ago, when the Towns of Holland began to increase in circuit, and in People, so as those frequent Assemblies grew into danger of tumult and disorders upon every occasion, by reason of their Numbers and Contention; This election of Senators came, by the resolution of the Burghers, in one of their General Assemblies, to be devolved for ever, upon the standing-Senate at that time; So, as ever since, when any one of their number dyes, a new one is chosen by the rest of the Senate, without any intervention of the other Burghers; Which makes the Government a sort of Oligarchy, and very different from a popular Government, as it is generally esteemed by those, who, passing or living in these Countries, content themselves with common Observations, or Inquiries. And this resolution of the Burghers, either was agreed upon, or followed by general Consent or Example, about the same time, in all the Towns of the Province, though with some difference in number of their Senators.
By this Senate are chosen the chief Magistrates of the Town, which are the Burgomasters, and the Eschevins: The Burgomasters of Amsterdam are Four, whereof three are chosen every year; so as one of them stays in Office two Years; but the three last chosen, are called the Reigning-Burgomasters for that Year, and preside by turns, after the first three Months; for so long after a new Election, the Burgomaster of the year before presides; in which time it is supposed the new ones will grow instructed in the Forms and Duties of their Office, and acquainted with the state of the Cities Affairs.
The Burgomasters are chosen by most voices of all those Persons in the Senate, who have been either Burgomasters or Eschevins; and their Authority resembles that of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen in our Cities. They represent the Dignity of the Government, and do the Honour of the City upon all occasions: They dispose of all Under-Offices that fall in their time; and issue out all Monies out of the common Stock or Treasure, judging alone what is necessary for the Safety, Convenience, or Dignity of the City. They keep the Key of the Bank of Amsterdam, (the common Treasure of so many Nations,) which is never open'd without the Presence of one of them; And they inspect and persue all the great Publick Works of the City, as the Ramparts and Stadt-house, now almost finished, with so great Magnificence, and so vast Expence.
This Office is a Charge of the greatest Trust, Authority, and Dignity; and so much the greater, by not being of Profit or Advantage, but only as a way to other constant employments in the City, that are so. The Salary of a Burgomaster of Amsterdam, is but Five hundred Gilders a year, though there are Offices worth Five thousand in their disposal; But yet none of them known to have taken Money upon such occasions, which would lose all their Credit in the Town, and thereby their Fortunes by any Publick Employments. They are obliged to no sort of expence, more than ordinary modest Citizens, in their Habits, their Attendance, their Tables, or any part of their own Domestick. They are upon all Publick Occasions waited on by Men in Salary from the Town; and whatever Feasts they make upon Solemn days, or for the Entertainment of any Princes or Foreign Ministers, the Charge is defrayed out of the Common Treasure; but proportioned by their own discretion. At other times, they appear in all places with the simplicity and modesty of other private Citizens. When the Burgomaster's Office expires, they are of course disposed into the other Charges or Employments of the Town, which are very many and beneficial; unless they lose their Credit with the Senate, by any want of Diligence or Fidelity in the discharge of their Office, which seldom arrives.
The Eschevins are the Court of Justice in every Town. They are at Amsterdam nine in Number; of which Seven are chosen Annually; but two of the preceding year continue in Office. A double number is named by the Senate, out of which the Burgomasters now chuse, as the Prince of Orange did in the former Constitution. They are Soveraign Judges in all Criminal Causes. In Civil, after a certain value, there lies Appeal to the Court of Justice of the Province. But they pass sentence of Death upon no Man, without first advising with the Burgomasters; though, after that form is past, they proceed themselves, and are not bound to follow the Burgomasters opinion, but are left to their own: This being only a care or favour of Supererogation to the Life of Man, which is so soon cut off, and never to be retrieved or made amends for.
Under these Soveraign Magistrates, the chief subordinate Officers of the Town, are the Treasurers, who receive and issue out all Moneys that are properly the Revenues or Stock of the City: The Scout, who takes care of the Peace, seizes all Criminals, and sees the Sentences of justice executed, and whose Authority is like that of a Sheriff in a County with us, or a Constable in a Parish. The Pensioner, who is a Civil-Lawyer, verst in the Customs, and Records, and Privileges of the Town, concerning which he informs the Magistracy upon occasion, and vindicates them upon disputes with other Towns; He is a Servant of the Senate and the Burgomasters, delivers their Messages, makes their Harangues upon all Publick Occasions, and is not unlike the Recorder in one of our Towns.
In this City of Amsterdam is the famous Bank, which is the greatest Treasure, either real or imaginary, that is known any where in the World. The place of it is a great Vault under the Stadthouse, made strong with all the circumstances of Doors and Locks, and other appearing cautions of safety, that can be: And 'tis certain, that whoever is carried to see the Bank, shall never fail to find the appearance of a mighty real Treasure, in Barrs of Gold and Silver, Plate and infinite Bags of Metals, which are supposed to be all Gold and Silver, and may be so for ought I know. But the Burgomasters only having the inspection of this Bank, and no Man ever taking any particular account of what issues in and out, from Age to Age, 'tis impossible to make any calculation, or guess what proportion the real Treasure may hold to the Credit of it. Therefore the security of the Bank lies not only in the effects that are in it, but in the Credit of the whole Town or State of Amsterdam, whose Stock and Revenue is equal to that of some Kingdoms; and who are bound to make good all Moneys that are brought into their Bank; The Tickets or Bills hereof make all the usual great Payments, that are made between Man and Man in the Town; and not only in most other places of the United Provinces, but in many other Trading-parts of the World. So as this Bank is properly a general Cash, where every Man lodges his Money, because he esteems it safer, and easier paid in and out, than if it were in his Coffers at home: And the Bank is so far from paying any Interest for what is there brought in, that Money in the Bank is worth something more in common Payments, than what runs current in Coyn from Hand to Hand; No other Money passing in the Bank, but in the species of Coyn the best known, the most ascertain'd, and the most generally current in all parts of the Higher as well as the Lower Germany.
The Revenues of Amsterdam arise out of the constant Excise upon all sorts of Commodities bought and sold within the Precinct: Or, out of the Rents of those Houses or Lands that belong in common to the City: Or, out of certain Duties and Impositions upon every House, towards the uses of Charity, and the Repairs, or Adornments, or Fortifications, of the place: Or else, out of extraordinary Levies consented to by the Senate, for furnishing their part of the Publick Charge that is agreed to by their Deputies in the Provincial-States, for the use of the Province: Or by the Deputies of the States of Holland in the States-General, for support of the Union. And all these Payments are made into one Common Stock of the Town, not, as many of ours are, into that of the Parish, so as attempts may be easier made at the calculations of their whole Revenue: And I have heard it affirmed, That what is paid of all kinds to Publick Uses of the States-General, the Province, and the City in Amsterdam, amounts to above Sixteen hundred thousand pounds Sterling a year. But I enter into no Computations, nor give these for any thing more, than what I have heard from Men who pretended to make such Enquiries, which, I confess, I did not. 'Tis certain, that, in no Town, Strength, Beauty, and Convenience, are better provided for, nor with more unlimited Expence, than in this, by the Magnificence of their Publick Buildings, as Stadthouse and Arsenals; The Number and Spaciousness, as well as Order and Revenues of their many Hospitals; The commodiousness of their Canals, running through the chief Streets of passage; The mighty strength of their Bastions and Ramparts; And the neatness, as well as convenience, of their Streets, so far as can be compassed in so great a confluence of industrious People: All which could never be atchieved without a Charge much exceeding what seems proportioned to the Revenue of one single Town.
The Senate chuses the Deputies, which are sent from this City to the States of Holland; The Soveraignty whereof is represented by Deputies of the Nobles and Towns, composing Nineteen Voices; Of which the Nobles have only the first, and the Cities eighteen, according to the number of those which are called Stemms; The other Cities and Towns of the Province having no voice in the States. These Cities were originally but Six, Dort, Haerlem, Delf, Leyden, Amsterdam, and Tergou. But were encreased by Prince William of Nassaw, to the number of Eighteen, by the addition of Rotterdam, Gorcum, Schedam, Schonoven, Briel, Alcmaer, Horne, Enchusen, Edam, Moninckdam, Medenblick, and Permeren. This makes as great an inequality in the Government of the Province, by such a small City as Permeren having an equal voice in the Provincial-States with Amsterdam, (which pays perhaps half of all charges of the Province,) as seems to be in the States-General by so small a Province as Overyssel having an equal voice in the States-General, with that of Holland, which contributes more than half to the general charge of the Union. But this was by some Writers of that Age interpreted to be done by the Prince's Authority, to lessen that of the Nobles, and balance that of the greater Cities, by the voices of the smaller, whose dependences were easier to be gained and secured.
The Nobles, though they are few in this Province, yet are not represented by all their number, but by Eight or Nine, who as Deputies from their Body have Session in the States-Provincial; and who, when one among them dyes, chuse another to succeed him. Though they have all together but one voice equal to the smallest Town; yet they are very considerable in the Government, by possessing many of the best Charges both Civil and Military, by having the direction of all the Ecclesiastical Revenue that was seized by the State upon the change of Religion; and by sending their Deputies to all the Councils both of the Generalty and the Province, and by the nomination of one Counsellor in the two great Courts of Justice. They give their Voice first in the Assembly of the States, and thereby a great weight to the business in consultation. The Pensioner of Holland is seated with them, delivers their Voice for them, and assists at all their Deliberations, before they come to the Assembly. He is, properly, but Minister or Servant of the Province, and so his Place or Rank is behind all their Deputies; but has always great Credit, because he is perpetual, or seldom discharged; though of right he ought to be chosen or renewed every fifth year. He has place in all the several Assemblies of the Province, and in the States proposes all Affairs, gathers the Opinions, and forms or digests the Resolutions; pretending likewise a Power, not to conclude any very important Affair by plurality of Voices, when he judges in his Conscience he ought not to do it, and that it will be of ill consequence or prejudice to the Province. He is likewise one of their constant Deputies in the States General.
The Deputies of the Cities are drawn out of the Magistrates and Senate of each Town: Their Number is uncertain and Arbitrary, according to the Customs or Pleasure of the Cities that send them, because they have all together but one Voice, and are all maintained at their Cities charge: But commonly one of the Burgomasters, and the Pensioner are of the number.
The States of Holland have their Session in the Court at the Hague, and assemble ordinarily four times a year, in February, June, September, and November. In the former Sessions, they provide for the filling up of all vacant Charges, and for renewing the Farms of all the several Taxes, and for consulting about any matters that concern either the general good of the Province, or any particular differences arising between the Towns. But in November, they meet purposely to resolve upon the continuance of the Charge which falls to the share of their Province the following year, according to what may have been agreed upon by the Deputies of the States-General, as necessary for the support of the State or Union.
For extraordinary occasions, they are convoked by a Council called the Gecommitteerde Raeden, or the Commissioned Counsellors, who are properly a Council of State, of the Province, composed of several Deputies; One from the Nobles; One from each of the chief Towns; And but One from three of the smaller Towns, each of the three chusing him by turns. And this Council sits constantly at the Hague, and both proposes to the Provincial-States, at their extraordinary Assemblies, the matters of deliberation; and executes their Resolutions.
In these Assemblies, though all are equal in Voices, and any one hinders a result; yet it seldom happens, but that united by one common bond of Interest, and having all one common End of Publick Good; They come after full Debates to easie Resolutions; yeilding to the power of Reason, where it is clear and strong; And suppressing all private Passions or Interests, so as the smaller part seldom contests hard or long, what the greater agrees of. When the Deputies of the States agree in Opinion, they send some of their number to their respective Towns, proposing the Affair and the Reasons alledged, and desiring Orders from them to conclude; Which seldom fails, if the necessity or utility be evident: If it be more intricate, or suffers delay, The States adjourn for such a time, as admits the return of all the Deputies to their Towns; where their influence and interest, and the impressions of the Debates in their Provincial Assemblies, make the consent of the Cities easier gain'd.
Besides the States and Council mention'd, the Province has likewise a Chamber of Accounts, who manage the general Revenues of the Province: And, besides this Trust, they have the absolute disposition of the ancient Demesn of Holland, without giving any account to the States of the Province. Only at times, either upon usual intervals, or upon a necessity of Money, the States call upon them for a Subsidy of Two or Three Hundred Thousand Crowns, or more, as they are prest, or conceive the Chamber to be grown rich, beyond what is proportioned to the general design of encreasing the ease and fortunes of those Persons who compose it. The States of Holland dispose of these charges to Men grown aged in their service, and who have passed through most of the Employments of State, with the esteem of Prudence and Integrity; and such persons find here an honourable and profitable retreat.
The Provinces of Holland and Zealand, as they used formerly to have one Governour in the time of the House of Burgundy and Austria; so they have long had one common Judicature, which is exercised by two Courts of Justice, each of them common to both the Provinces. The first is composed of Twelve Counsellors, Nine of Holland, and Three of Zealand, of whom the Governor of the Provinces is the Head; by the old Constitution used to preside whenever he pleased, and to name all the Counsellors except one, who was chosen by the Nobles. This Court judges without appeal in all Criminal Causes; but in Civil, there lyes appeal to the other Court, which is called the High Council, from which there is no Appeal, but only by Petition to the States of the Province for a revision: When these judge there is reason for it, they grant Letters-Patents to that purpose, naming some Syndiques out of the Towns, who being added to the Counsellors of the two former Courts, revise and judge the Cause in the last resort. And this course seems to have been instituted by way of supply or imitation of the Chamber of Mechlyn, to which, before the Revolt of the Provinces, there lay an Appeal, by way of Revision, from all or most of the Provincial Courts of Justice, as there still doth in the Spanish Provinces of the Netherlands.
The Union is made up of the Seven Soveraign Provinces before named, who chuse their respective Deputies, and send them to the Hague, for the composing of three several Colledges, called, The States-General, The Council of State, and the Chamber of Accounts. The Soveraign Power of this United-State lyes effectively in the Assembly of the States-General, which used at first to be convoked upon extraordinary occasions, by the Council of State; but that seldom, in regard they usually consisted of above Eight hundred Persons, whose meeting together in one place, from so many several parts, gave too great a shake to the whole Body of the Union; made the Debates long, and sometimes confused; the Resolutions slow, and, upon sudden occasions, out of time. In the absence of the States-General, the Council of State represented their Authority, and executed their Resolutions, and judged of the necessity of a new Convocation: Till after the Earl of Leicester's departure from the Government, the Provincial-States desired of the General, That they might, by their constant respective Deputies, continue their Assemblies under the Name of States-General, which were never after assembled but at Bergen ap Zoom, for ratifying, with more solemn form and Authority, the Truce concluded with Duke Albert and Spain.
This desire of the Provinces was grounded upon the pretences, That the Council of State convoked them but seldom, and at will; and that being to execute all in their absence, they thereby arrogated to themselves too great an Authority in the State. But a more secret reason had greater weight in this Affair, which was, That the English Ambassador had, by agreement with Queen Elisabeth, a constant place in their Council of State; And upon the distasts arising between the Provinces and the Earl of Leicester, with some jealousies of the Queen's disposition to make a Peace with Spain, They had no mind that Her Ambassador should be present any longer in the first digestion of their Affairs which was then usually made in the Council of State. And hereupon they first framed the ordinary Council, called the States-General, which has ever since passed by that Name, and sits constantly in the Court at the Hague, represents the Soveraignty of the Union, gives Audience and Dispatches to all Foreign Ministers; but yet is indeed only a representative of the States-General, the Assemblies whereof are wholly disused.
The Council of State, the Admiralty, and the Treasury are all subordinate to this Council; All which are continued in as near a resemblance, as could be, to the several Councils used in the time when the Provinces were subject to their several Principalities; or united under One in the Houses of Burgundy and Austria: Only the several Deputies (composing one voice) now succeeding the single Persons employed under the former Governments: And the Hague, which was the ancient Seat of the Counts of Holland, still continues to be so of all these Councils; where the Palace of the former Soveraigns lodges the Prince of Orange as Governour, and receives these several Councils as attending still upon the Soveraignty, represented by the States-General.
The Members of all these Councils are placed and changed by the several Provinces, according to their different or agreeing Customs. To the States-General every one sends their Deputies, in what number they please; some Two, some Ten or Twelve; Which makes no difference, because all matters are carried, not by the Votes of Persons, but of Provinces; and all the Deputies from one Province, how few or many soever, have one single Vote. The Provinces differ likewise in the time fixed for their Deputation; some sending for a Year, some for more, and others for life. The Province of Holland, send to the States-General one of their Nobles, who is perpetual; Two Deputies chosen out of their Eight chief Towns; and One out of North-Holland; and with these, Two of their Provincial Council of State, and their Pensioner.
Neither Stadtholder or Governour, or any person in Military charge, has Session in the States-General. Every Province presides their week in turns, and by the most qualified Person of the Deputies of that Province: He sits in a Chair with Arms, at the middle of a long Table, capable of holding about Thirty Persons; For about that number this Council is usually composed of. The Greffier, who is in nature of a Secretary, sits at the lower end of the Table: When a Foreign Minister has Audience, he is seated at the middle of this Table, over against the President: Who proposes all matters in this Assembly; Makes the Greffier read all Papers; Puts the Question; Calls the Voices of the Provinces; And forms the Conclusion. Or, if he refuses to conclude according to the plurality, he is obliged to resign his Place to the President of the ensuing week, who concludes for him.
This is the course in all Affairs before them, except in cases of Peace and War, of Foreign Alliances, of Raising, or Coining, of Monies, or the Priviledges of each Province or Member of the Union. In all which, All the Provinces must concur, Plurality being not at all weighed or observed. This Council is not Soveraign, but only represents the Soveraignty; and therefore, though Ambassadors are both received and sent in their Name; yet neither are their own chosen, nor Foreign Ministers answered, nor any of those mentioned Affairs resolved, without consulting first the States of each Province by their respective Deputies, and receiving Orders from them; And in other important Matters, though decided by Plurality, They frequently consult with the Council of State.
Nor has this Method or Constitution ever been broken since their State began, excepting only in one Affair, which was in January 1668, when His Majesty sent me over to propose a League of Mutual Defence with this State, and another for the preservation of Flanders from the invasion of France, which had already conquered a great part of the Spanish Provinces, and left the rest at the mercy of the next Campania. Upon this occasion I had the fortune to prevail with the States-General, to conclude three Treaties, and upon them draw up and sign the several Instruments, in the space of Five days; Without passing the essential Forms of their Government by any recourse to the Provinces, which must likewise have had it to the several Cities; There, I knew, those Foreign Ministers, whose Duty and Interest it was to oppose this Affair, expected to meet, and to elude it, which could not have failed, in case it had run that circle, since engaging the Voice of one City must have broken it. 'Tis true, that in concluding these Alliances without Commission from their Principals, The Deputies of the States-General ventur'd their Heads, if they had been disowned by their Provinces; but being all unanimous, and led by the clear evidence of so direct, and so important an Interest, (which must have been lost by the usual delays,) They all agreed to run the hazard; and were so far from being disowned, that they were applauded by all the Members of every Province; Having thereby changed the whole face of Affairs in Christendom, and laid the foundation of the Triple-Alliance, and the Peace of Aix, (which were concluded about Four Months after.) So great has the force of Reason and Interest ever proved in this State, not only to the uniting of all Voices in their Assemblies, but to the absolving of the greatest breach of their Original Constitutions; Even in a State, whose Safety and Greatness has been chiefly founded upon the severe and exact observance of Order and Method, in all their Counsels and Executions. Nor have they ever used, at any other time, any greater means to agree and unite the several Members of their Union, in the Resolutions necessary, upon the most pressing occasions, than for the agreeing-Provinces to name some of their ablest persons to go and confer with the dissenting, and represent those Reasons and Interests, by which they have been induced to their Opinions.
The Council of State is composed of Deputies from the several Provinces, but after another manner than the States-General, the number being fixed. Gelderland sends Two, Holland Three, Zealand and Utrecht Two apiece, Friezeland, Overyssel and Groninghen, each of them One, making in all Twelve. They Vote not by Provinces, but by Personal Voices; and every Deputy presides by turns. In this Council the Governour of the Provinces has Session, and a decisive voice; And the Treasurer-General, Session, but a voice only deliberative; yet he has much credit here, being for life; and so is the person deputed to this Council from the Nobles of Holland, and the Deputies of the Province of Zealand. The rest are but for two, three, or four years.
The Council of State executes the Resolution of the States-General; consults and proposes to them the most expedient ways of raising Troops, and levying Monies, as well as the proportions of both, which they conceive necessary in all Conjunctures and Revolutions of the State: Superintends the Milice, the Fortifications, the Contributions out of Enemies Country, the forms and disposal of all Passports, and the Affairs, Revenues, and Government of all places conquered since the Union; which, being gain'd by the common Arms of this State, depend upon the States-General, and not upon any particular Province.
Towards the end of every year, this Council forms a state of the Expence they conceive will be necessary for the year ensuing; Presents it to the States-General, desiring them to demand so much of the States-Provincial, to be raised according to the usual Proportions, which are of 100000 Grs.
This Petition, as 'tis called, is made to the States-General, in the Name of the Governour and Council of State, which is but a continuance of the forms used in the time of their Soveraigns, and still by the Governors and Council of State in the Spanish-Netherlands: Petition signifying barely asking or demanding, though implying the thing demanded to be wholly in the right and power of them that give. It was used by the first Counts, only upon extraordinary occasions, and necessities; but in the line of the Houses of Burgundy and Austria, grew to he a thing of course, and Annual, as it is still in the Spanish Provinces.
The Council of State disposes of all sums of Money destin'd for all extraordinary Affairs, and expedites the Orders for the whole expence of the State, upon the Resolutions first taken, in the main, by the States-General. The Orders must be Signed by Three Deputies of several Provinces, as well as by the Treasurer-General, and then Registred in the Chamber of Accounts, before the Receiver-General pays them, which is then done without any difficulty, charge, or delay.
Every Province raises what Monies it pleases, and by what ways or means; sends its Quota, or share, of the general charge, to the Receiver-General, and converts the rest to the present use, or reserves it for the future occasions, of the Province.
The Chamber of Accounts was erected about Sixty years ago, for the ease of the Council of State, to Examine and state all accounts of all the several Receivers, to Controul and Register the Orders of the Council of State, which disposes of the Finances: And this Chamber is composed of two Deputies from each Province, who are changed every Three years.
Besides these Colledges, is the Council of the Admiralty; who, when the States-General, by Advice of the Council of State, have destin'd a Fleet of such a number and force to be set out, have the absolute disposition of the Marine Affairs, as well in the choice and equipage of all the several Ships, as in issuing the Monies allotted for that Service.
This Colledge is subdivided into Five, of which three are in Holland, viz. One in Amsterdam, another at Rotterdam, and the third at Horn: The Fourth is at Middlebourgh in Zealand, and the Fifth at Harlinguen in Friezeland. Each of these is composed of Seven Deputies, Four of that Province where the Colledge resides; and Three named by the other Provinces. The Admiral, or, in his absence, the Vice-Admiral, has Session in all these Colledges, and presides when he is present. They take cognizance of all Crimes committed at Sea; judge all Pirats that are taken, and all Frauds or Negligences in the payment or collections of the Customs; which are particularly affected to the Admiralty, and appliable to no other use. This Fond being not sufficient in times of Wars, is supplied by the States with whatever more is necessary from other Fonds; but in time of Peace, being little exhausted by other constant charge, besides that of Convoys to their several Fleets of Merchants in all parts, The remainder of this Revenue is applied to the building of great Ships of War, and furnishing the several Arsenals and Stores with all sorts of Provision, necessary for the Building and Rigging of more Ships than can be needed by the course of a long War.
So soon as the number and force of the Fleets, designed for any Expedition, is agreed by the States-General, and given out by the Council of State to the Admiralty; Each particular Colledg furnishes their own proportion, which is known as well as that of the several Provinces, in all Monies that are to be raised. In all which, the Admiral has no other share or advantages, besides his bare Salary, and his proportion in Prizes that are taken. The Captains and Superior Officers of each Squadron are chosen by the several Colledges; the number of Men appointed for every Ship: After which, each Captain uses his best diligence and credit to fill his number with the best Men he can get, and takes the whole care and charge of Victualling his own Ship for the time intended for that Expedition, and signify'd to him by the Admiralty; and this at a certain rate of so much a Man. And by the good or ill discharge of his Trust, as well as that of providing Chirurgeons Medicines, and all things necessary for the Health of the Men, each Captain grows into good or ill credit with the Seamen, and, by their report, with the Admiralties; Upon whose Opinion and Esteem, the fortune of all Sea-Officers depends: So as, in all their Expeditions, there appears rather an emulation among the particular Captains who shall treat his Seamen best in these points, and employ the Monies, allotted for their Victualling, to the best advantage, than any little Knavish Practices, of filling their own Purses, by keeping their Men's Bellies empty, or forcing them to corrupted unwholsome Diet: Upon which, and upon cleanliness in their Ships, the health of many People crowded up into so little Rooms, seem chiefly to depend.
The Salaries of all the Great Officers of this State, are very small: I have already mentioned that of a Burgomaster's of Amsterdam to be about fifty pounds sterling a year: That of their Vice-Admiral (for since the last Prince of Orange's death, to the year 1670, there had been no Admiral) is Five hundred, and that of the Pensioner of Holland Two hundred.
The Greatness of this State seems much to consist in these Orders, how confused soever, and of different pieces, they may seem: But more in two main effects of them, which are, The good choice of the Officers of chief Trust in the Cities, Provinces, and State: And the great simplicity and modesty in the common Port or living of their chiefest Ministers; without which, the Absoluteness of the Senates in each Town, and the Immensity of Taxes throughout the whole State, would never be endured by the People with any patience; being both of them greater than in many of those Governments, which are esteemed most Arbitrary among their Neighbours. But in the Assemblies and Debates of their Senates, every Man's Abilities are discovered, as their Dispositions are, in the conduct of their Lives and Domestick, among their fellow-Citizens. The observation of these either raises, or suppresses, the credit of particular Men, both among the People, and the Senates of their Towns; who, to maintain their Authority with less popular Envy or Discontent, give much to the general Opinion of the People in the choice of their Magistrates: By this means it comes to pass, that, though perhaps the Nation generally be not wise, yet the Government is, Because it is composed of the wisest of the Nation; which may give it an advantage over many others, where Ability is of more common growth, but of less use to the Publique; if it happens, that neither Wisdom nor Honesty are the Qualities, which bring men to the management of State-Affairs, as they usually do in this Common-wealth.
Besides, though these People, who are naturally Cold and Heavy, may not be ingenious enough to furnish a pleasant or agreeable Conversation, yet they want not plain down-right Sense to understand and do their Business both publick and private, which is a Talent very different from the other; and I know not, whether they often meet: For the First proceeds from heat of the brain, which makes the Spirits more airy and volatile, and thereby the motions of Thought lighter and quicker, and the range of Imagination much greater than in cold Heads, where the Spirits are more earthy and chill; Thought moves slower and heavier, but thereby the impressions of it are deeper, and last longer: One Imagination being not so frequently, nor so easily, effaced by another, as where new ones are continually arising. This makes duller Men more constant and steddy, and quicker Men more inconstant and uncertain: whereas the greatest ability in business seems to be the steddy persuit of some one thing, till there is an end of it, with perpetual application and endeavour not to be diverted by every representation of new hopes or fears of difficulty, or danger, or of some better design. The first of these Talents cuts like a Razor, the other like a Hatchet: One has thinness of edg, and fineness of metal and temper, but is easily turn'd by any substance that is hard, and resists. T'other has toughness and weight, which makes it cut thorough, or go deep, wherever it falls; and therefore one is for Adornment, and t'other for Use.
It may be said further, that the heat of the Heart commonly goes along with that of the Brain; so that Passions are warmer, where Imaginations are quicker: And there are few Men, (unless in case of some evident natural defect) but have sense enough to distinguish in gross between right and wrong, between Good and Bad, when represented to them; and consequently have judgment enough to do their business, if it be left to itself, and not swayed nor corrupted by some Humour or Passion, by Anger or Pride, by Love or by Scorn, Ambition or Avarice, Delight or Revenge; so that the coldness of Passions seems to be the natural ground of Ability and Honesty among Men, as the Government or Moderation of them the great End of Philosophical and Moral Instructions. These Speculations may perhaps a little lessen the common wonder, How we should meet with in one Nation so little show of Parts, and of Wit, and so great evidence of Wisdom and Prudence, as has appeared in the Conduct and Successes of this State, for near an Hundred Years; Which needs no other testimony, than the mighty growth and Power it arrived to, from so weak and contemptible Seeds and Beginnings.
The other Circumstance, I mentioned, as an occasion of their Greatness, was, the simplicity and modesty of their Magistrates in their way of Living; which is so general, that I never knew One among them exceed the common frugal popular Air; And so great, That of the Two chief Officers in my time, Vice-Admiral De Ruiter, and the Pensioner De Wit; (One, generally esteemed by Foreign Nations, as great a Seaman; and the other, as great a States-man, as any of their Age,) I never saw the first in Cloaths better than the commonest Sea-Captain, nor with above one Man following him, nor in a Coach: And in his own House, neither was the Size, Building, Furniture, or Entertainment, at all exceeding the use of every common Merchant and Tradesman in his Town. For the Pensioner De Wit, who had the great influence in the Government, The whole Train and Expence of his Domestique went very equal with other common Deputies or Ministers of the State; His Habit grave, and plain, and popular; His Table, what only serv'd turn for his Family, or a Friend; His Train (besides Commissaries and Clerks kept for him in an Office adjoyning to his House, at the publique charge,) was only one Man, who performed all the Menial service of his House at home; and upon his Visits of Ceremony, putting on a plain Livery-Cloak, attended his Coach abroad: For upon other occasions, He was seen usually in the streets on foot and alone, like the commonest Burger of the Town. Nor was this manner of life affected, or used only by these particular Men, but was the general fashion or mode among all the Magistrates of the State: For I speak not of the Military Officers, who are reckon'd their Servants, and live in a different garb, though generally modester than in other Countries.
Thus this stomachful People, who could not endure the least exercise of Arbitrary Power or Impositions, or the sight of any Foreign Troops under the Spanish Government; Have been since inured to all of them, in the highest degree, under their own popular Magistrates; Bridled with hard Laws; Terrified with severe Executions; Environ'd with Foreign Forces; And opprest with the most cruel Hardship and variety of Taxes, that was ever known under any Government. But all this, whilst the way to Office and Authority lies through those qualities, which acquire the general esteem of the People; Whilst no Man is exempted from the danger and current of Laws; Whilst Soldiers are confin'd to Frontier-Garisons, (the Guard of Inland, or Trading, Towns being left to the Burghers themselves;) And whilst no great Riches are seen to enter by Publique Payments into private Purses, either to raise Families, or to feed the prodigal Expences of vain, extravagant, and luxurious Men; But all Publique Monies are applied to the Safety, Greatness, or Honour of the State, and the Magistrates themselves bear an equal share in all the Burthens, they impose.
The Authority of the Princes of Orange, though intermitted upon the untimely death of the last, and infancy of this present, Prince; Yet, as it must be ever acknowledged to have had a most essential part in the first frame of this Government, and in all the Fortunes thereof, during the whole growth and progress of the State: So, has it ever preserved a very strong root, not only in Six of the Provinces, but even in the general and popular affections of the Province of Holland it self, Whose States have for these last Twenty years so much endeavoured to suppress, or exclude, it.
This began in the Person of Prince William of Nassaw, at the very birth of the State; And not so much by the Quality of being Governour of Holland and Zealand in Charles the Fifth's, and Philip the Second's time; As by the esteem of so great Wisdom, Goodness and Courage, as excell'd in that Prince, and seems to have been from him derived to his whole Race, being, indeed, the qualities that naturally acquire Esteem and Authority among the People, in all Governments. Nor has this Nation in particular, since the time perhaps of Civilis, ever been without some Head, under some Title or other; but always an Head subordinate to their Laws and Customs, and to the Soveraign Power of the State.
In the first Constitution of this Government, after the Revolt from Spain, All the Power and Rights of Prince William of Orange, as Governour of the Provinces, seem to have been carefully reserved. But those which remain'd inherent in the Soveraign, were devolved upon the Assembly of the States-General, so as in them remained the power of making Peace and War, and all Foreign Alliances, and of raising and coining of Monies. In the Prince, the Command of all Land and Sea-Forces, as Captain-General and Admiral, and thereby the disposition of all Military Commands; The Power of pardoning the Penalty of Crimes; The chusing of Magistrates upon the nomination of the Towns; For they presented three to the Prince, who elected one out of that number. Originally the States-General were convoked by the Council of State, where the Prince had the greatest influence: Nor, since that change, have the States used to resolve any important matter without his advice. Besides all this, As the States-General represented the Soveraignty, so did the Prince of Orange the Dignity, of this State, by publique Guards, and the attendance of all Military Officers; By the application of all Foreign Ministers, and all pretenders at home; By the Splendor of his Court, and Magnificence of his Expence, supported not only by the Pensions and Rights of his several Charges and Commands, but by a mighty Patrimonial Revenue in Lands and Soveraign Principalities, and Lordships, as well in France, Germany, and Burgundy, as in the several parts of the Seventeen Provinces; so as Prince Henry was used to answer some, that would have flatter'd him into the designs of a more Arbitrary Power, That he had as much as any wise Prince would desire in that State; since he wanted none indeed, besides that of Punishing Men, and raising Money; whereas he had rather the envy of the first should lye upon the Forms of the Government; and he knew the other could never be supported without the consent of the People, to that degree which was necessary for the defence of so small a State, against so mighty Princes as their Neighbors.
Upon these Foundations was this State first establisht, and by these Orders maintained, till the death of the last Prince of Orange; When, by the great influence of the Province of Holland amongst the rest, the Authority of the Princes came to be shared among the several Magistracies of the State; Those of the Cities assumed the last nomination of their several Magistrates; The States-Provincial, the disposal of all Military Commands in those Troops, which their share was to pay; And the States-General, the Command of the Armies, by Officers of their own appointment, substituted and changed at their Will. No power remain'd to pardon what was once condemned by rigor of Law; Nor any Person to represent the Port and Dignity of a Soveraign State; Both which could not fail of being sensibly missed by the People; since no Man in particular can be secure of offending, or would therefore absolutely despair of impunity himself, though he would have others do so; And Men are generally pleased with the Pomp and Splendor of a Government, not only as it is an amusement for idle People, but, as it is a mark of the Greatness, Honour and Riches, of their Country.
However, these Defects were for near Twenty years supplied in some measure, and this Frame supported by the great Authority and Riches of the Province of Holland, which drew a sort of dependence from the other Six; and by the great Sufficiency, Integrity, and Constancy of their chief Minister, and by the effect of both in the prosperous Successes of their Affairs: Yet having been a Constitution strained against the current vein and humour of the People; It was always evident, that upon the growth of this young Prince, The great Virtues and Qualities he derived from the mixture of such Royal and such Princely Blood, could not fail in time of raising His Authority to equal, at least, if not to surpass that of his Glorious Ancestors.
Because the curious may desire to know somthing of the other Provinces, as well as Holland, at least, in general, and where they differ; It may be observed, That the Constitutions of Gelderland, Zealand, and Utrecht, agree much with those of Holland; the States in each Province being composed of Deputies from the Nobles and the Cities; But with these small differences; In Gelderland, all the Nobles, that have certain Fees, or Lordships, in the Province, have Session, they compose one half of the States, and the Deputies of the Towns the other; and though some certain persons among them are deputed to the States-General; Yet any of the Nobles of Gelder may have place there, if he will attend at his own charge.
In Zealand, the Nobility having been extinguished in the Spanish Wars; And the Prince of Orange possessing the Marquisats of Flushing and Terveer, His Highness alone makes that part of the States in the Province, by the Quality and Title of First, or Sole, Noble of Zealand; And thereby has, by his Deputy, the first Place, and Voice, in the States of the Province, the Council of State, and Chamber of Accounts: As Soveraign of Flushing and Terveer, he likewise creates the Magistrates, and consequently disposes the Voices, not only of the Nobles, but also of Two Towns, whereas there are in all but Six, that send their Deputies to the States, and make up the Soveraignty of the Province.
In Utrecht, besides the Deputies of the Nobles, and Towns, Eight Delegates of the Clergy have Session, and make a third Member in the States of the Province. These are elected out of the four great Chapters of the Town, the Preferments and Revenues whereof, (though anciently Ecclesiastical) yet are now possessed by Lay-persons, who are most of them Gentlemen of the Province.
The Government of the Province of Friezland is wholly different from that of the Four Provinces already mentioned; And is composed of Four Members, which are called, The quarter of Ostergo, consisting of Eleven Baillages; Of Westergo, consisting of Nine; and of Seveawolden, consisting of Ten. Each Baillage comprehends a certain number of Villages, Ten, Twelve, Fifteen, or Twenty, according to their several extents. The Fourth Member consists of the Towns of the Province, which are Eleven in number. These Four Members have each of them right of sending their Deputies to the States, that is, Two chosen out of every Baillage, and Two out of every Town, And these represent the Soveraignty of the Province, and deliberate and conclude of all Affairs, of what importance soever, without any recourse to those who deputed them, or obligation to know their intentions, which the Deputies of all the former Provinces are strictly bound to, and either must follow the Instructions they bring with them to the Assembly, or know the resolution of their Principals before they conclude of any new Affair, that arises.
In the other Provinces, the Nobles of the Towns chuse the Deputies which compose the States, but in Friezland the Constitution is of quite another sort. For every Baillage, which is composed of a certain extent of Country, and number of Villages, (as has been said) is Governed by a Bailly, whom in their Language they call Greetman, and this Officer Governs his Circuit with the assistance of a certain number of persons, who are called his Assessors, who, together, judge of all Civil Causes, in the first instance, but with appeal to the Court of Justice of the Province. When the States are convoked, every Bailly assembles together all the persons of what quality soever, who possess a certain quantity of Land within his district, and these Men, by most voices, name the Two Deputies which each Baillage sends to the Assembly of the States.
This Assembly, as it represents the Soveraignty of the Province; so it disposes of all vacant charges, chuses the Nine Deputies, who compose that permanent Colledge, which is the Council of State of the Province; And likewise Twelve Counsellors, (that is, Three for every Quarter) who compose the Court of Justice of the Province, and judge of all Civil Causes in the last resort, but of all Criminal from the first instance. There being no other Criminal Jurisdiction, but this only through the Province; Whereas, in the other Provinces, there is no Town which has it not within itself; And several, both Lords, and Villages, have the High and Low justice belonging to them.
In the Province of Groningue which is upon the same Tract of Land, the Elections of the Deputies out of the Country are made as in Friezland, by persons possest of set proportions of Land; But in Overyssel, All Nobles who are qualify'd by having Seigneurial Lands make a part of the States.
These three Provinces, with Westphalia, and all those Countries between the Wezer, the Yssell, and the Rhyne, were the Seat of the ancient Frisons, who, under the name of Saxons, (given them from the weapon they wore, made like a Sithe, with the edge outwards, and called in their Language Seaxes) were the fierce Conquerors of our British Island, being called in upon the desertion of the Roman Forces, and the cruel incursions of the Picts against a People, whose long Wars, at first with the Romans, and afterwards Servitude under them, had exhausted all the bravest Blood of their Nation, either in their own, or their Masters, succeeding quarrels, and depressed the Hearts and Courages of the rest.
The Bishop of Munster, whose Territories lye in this Tract of Land, gave me the first certain evidences of those being the Seats of our ancient Saxons, which have since been confirmed to me by many things I have observed in reading the Stories of those times, and by what has been affirmed to me upon enquiry of the Friezons old Language, having still so great affinity with our old English, as to appear easily to have been the same; most of their words still retaining the same signification and sound; very different from the Language of the Hollanders. This is the most remarkable in a little Town called Malcuera, upon the Zudder Sea, in Friezland, which is still built after the fashion of the old German Villages, described by Tacitus; without any use or observation of Lines or Angles; but as if every Man had built in a common Field, just where he had a mind, so as a stranger, when he goes in, must have a Guide to find the way out again.
Upon these Informations, and Remarques, and the particular account afterwards given me of the Constitutions of the Province of Friezland, so different from the others; I began to make reflections upon them, as the likeliest Originals of many ancient Constitutions among us, of which, no others can be found, and which may seem to have been introduced by the Saxons here, and by their long and absolute possession of that part of the Isle, called England, to have been so planted and rooted among us, as to have waded safe, in a great measure, through the succeeding inundations and conquests of the Danish and Norman Nations. And, perhaps, there may be much matter found for the curious remarks of some diligent, and studious Antiquaries, in the comparisons of the Bailli, or Greetman among the Frisons, with our Sheriffe: Of their Assessors, with our Justices of Peace: Of their Judging Civil Causes in their district, upon the first resort, but not without appeal, with the course of our Quarter-Sessions: Of their chief Judicature, being composed of Counsellors, of four several Quarters, with our four Circuits: Of these being the common Criminal Judicature of the Country: Of the Composition of their States, with our Parliament, at least, our House of Commons: In the particulars of Two Deputies, being chosen from each Town, as with us, and two from each Baillage, as from each County here; And these last by Voices of all persons, possest of a certain quantity of Land; And at a Meeting assembled by the Greetman to that purpose; And these Deputies having power to resolve of all matters without resort to those that chose them, or knowledge of their intentions, which are all circumstances agreeing with our Constitutions, but absolutely differing from those of the other Provinces in the United States, and from the composition, I think, of the States, either now, or formerly, used in the other Nations of Europe.
To this Original, I suppose, we likewise owe what I have often wondred at, that in England we neither see, nor find upon record, any Lord, or Lordship, that pretends to have the exercise of judicature belong to it, either that which is called High, or Low, Justice, which seems to be a Badge of some ancient Soveraignty, Though we see them very frequent among our Neighbours, both under more arbitrary Monarchies, and under the most free and popular States.