The American in Holland/Lion City of the North
One who would study the origins of his far-off ancestry, when as yet there were no English-speaking people, must come to Friesland and spend hours is the Frisian Museum of Antiquities at Leeuwarden. It is a bright and beautiful city, which I thrice visited.
In the Spaniard Strada's curious picture-map palled "The Belgian Lion," Leeuwarden is the eyeball of the geographical beast, whose scalp is the Frisian archipelago, the muzzle Groningen, the back Holland, Zealand, and Flanders, with all Belgium for his belly and Brabant for his breast. On this map nearly all the names are Latinized. Whether Leeuwarden means "the lion on guard," or "the lion's earth," or "the lion's eye," I care not. The city has always had for me the lion's share of delight.
I saw it first with Lyra on the last day of July, after having come from Groningen towards the rising sun. The lovely air was fresh and sweet with all the odors of hay-making time. Everything had "the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed." The city thoroughfares were crowded with busy people, for it was Friday and market day. Streets and canals were bright with flowers and the fruits of the soil, with rosy-checked and handsome Frisian women, stout farmers, and healthy-looking animals. Our eyes were quite dazzled with flashes from the gold and silver helmets of the cherubim. Whether "because of the angels," or from fashion, every peasant woman covers her head with the metal of which money is made. After a ramble over the city I ascended to the top of the Great Church's tower. The vision was glorious. In the intensely bright and clear air I had a superb view of the plains that lay spread out below. There had been seen the march of the Teutonic tribes - the Saxons, the Angles, and the Frisians - with their faces set westward, to tarry in their second home, England, before reaching their third in America. There are fifty places in this kingdom named Engeland (England), or the Engle's (Angle's) burg, meer, or sluis.
Like the powerful magnet, the museum of Frisian antiquity then and ever since attracted me within its walls, as often as I was near the edifice. I consider that in many respects this little museum is to an American the most edifying and interesting place in all Northern Europe. The later epochs, persons, and places most directly associated with American history and the development of liberty are also here finely represented in relics of art and nature.
Geology is pictured to us by stones and bones. Evidences of the æon-old war of wind and wave, of glacier and current, tell startling stories. How amazingly numerous must have been the wild swine! What kings of -the forest were these boars that roamed and rooted and tore with their terrific tusks! Most of their razor-like picks and tusks show signs of battle and conquest. What iron-like snouts to plough up the soil! How plentiful must have been the deer, the wolves, the bears! How far - from Norway, Sweden, and Germany - must these boulders and pebbles have traveled!
Eloquent with human interest are the relics from the "terpen," or mounds. The life of our Teutonic ancestors was much nearer that of the brutes than ours. Their struggle for food and life was often intense, yet they loved to braid their hair and ornament their bodies. Here are stone combs. They enjoyed the beautiful, as the decorative art on implements, utensils, and objects of religion and personal ornament prove.
We can study the evolution of the Frisian helmet, with its pendant jewels and cunning work. Though now of the precious metal, they are still called "ear-irons." In the beginning, a little strap of iron, with a hook at the end to rest on the ear, bound back the streaming hair. Next, perforations at the ends hold near the face a flower or an ornament. In the course of centuries the band widens, becoming first copper or brass or bronze, and then in modern times silver and gold, meanwhile spreading by degrees till it covers the cranium. Nevertheless, we enjoy the Medemblik legend that the Frisian head-dress is the crown of thorns glorified in gold.
The story of changeable fashions in dress is here admirably told, of table ware, and bodily decoration in silver, of the keramic art, of furniture, household adornment, and of coziness and comfort. One of the rooms, including walls, bed-closet, and furniture, has been transferred from quaint Hindeloopen. Here are portraits, more or less artistic, of both "celebrities and notorieties," as Mr. Barnum said to Matthew Arnold. We see the big sword of a local bandit hero, Japik Emmers. Many a legend tells how he robbed the wicked rich and helped the righteous poor.
Franeker University stirs the American pulses to gratitude, as well as to admiration, but not alone because of the botanical science nurtured there. In the eighteenth century, as well as the sixteenth and seventeenth, Friesland was in close touch with America. Here, then, are numerous relics of Franeker University in which began the sentiment against Great Britain, sympathy with the American colonies, and an outburst of enthusiasts which resulted in our recognition as a nation. The appearance of Paul Jones with his prize, the Serapis, in the Texel and the Zuyder Zee, caused the streets of Franeker and Leeuwarden to resound with patriotic songs celebrating American victory. Already the sober-minded thinking men had been moved by pamphlets and books written and circulated by Baron van der Capellen, Doctor Coelkens, and others. The pages of the "Leeuwarden Courant," during the later years of our Revolutionary War, as I can bear witness, make lively reading for an American.
In this very city at the Burghers' club, composed of leading citizens, the matter was broached and a silver medal cast, and here in the cases before us is a copy of the medal. Three dies, commemorating Dutch sympathy with us in our struggle for independence, were cut and medals struck. The first was by the Burghers' club of Leeuwarden to the state legislature of Friesland on the 26th of February, 1782, the second by the States General or national congress, the third celebrated the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the Dutch and the American republics, consummated on the 7th of October, 1782.
As a long dweller on Manhattan Island and in New York. State, often in Stuyvesant Place, and knowing the place of Stuyvesant's grave, I ought to have visited Scherpenzeel, a village near the southern border and in the region of "stuivesand," or shifting, that is, wind-moved or blown-about, sand. Here was spent the boyhood of "Old Silver Leg," with whom Diedrich Knickerbocker has taken such liberties in print, and whose anti-tobacco war has been so finely put on canvas by George H. Boughton. Peter Stuyvesant was a domine's son, reared to high ideas and aspirations. He fought Spaniards and Portuguese in the West Indies, was governor of Curaçoa, and lost a leg in failing to take the island of St. Thomas. Brave to rashness, honest, hot-headed, arbitrary, stumping about on a silver-banded wooden limb, cane in hand to lend impressibly visible emphasis to his orders, without any Frisian "fanaticism or freedom," or high respect for popular rights, Petrus Stuyvesant, like Anthony van Curler, has furnished humorist, romancer, artist, and caricaturist with a figure and personality of endless interest.
Besides receiving honors of statuary on Broadway, the Society of Colonial Dames of the State of New York has brightened his fame. They celebrated the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his landing on Manhattan Island by opening the old Van Cortlandt manor in Van Cortlandt Park as a public museum. As the years pass, Stuyvesant, like his co-worker Arendt van Curler, will be more highly appreciated. Have not the myth-makers, fabulous and funny fellows, had him long enough? "Every flood has its ebb," says the Dutch proverb.
Out of these modest domines' homes, the seats of high intellectual culture and moral training, have gone forth many of the world's best workers. A little to the northeast of Dokkum is Metslawier, where was born, March 25, 1634, Balthasar Bekker, of whom God made a hammer for the destruction of superstition. This man dealt witchcraft - that archenemy of Christianity and pure religion - its deadliest blow. His book, "The Bewitched World," published in 1691, took witch-hunting out of the list of sports of theologians and made witch-killing unpopular. When Dr. Voet bolstered superstition and wrested the Scripture to prove comets the precursors of calamity, Bekker protested against the notion in a learned work on comets. He was one of those noble spirits who see no "conflict" between science and religion. He was grandly helped by his wife, who with him hunted down every witchcraft story to its lair of lies. Bekker, as Busken Huet suggests, chained the devil in his den and kept him growling there, angry at losing his domain. He showed that this was God's world, and that He was in it. Yet Domine Bekker only put in print what thousands of Dutchmen already believed. He continued the work begun by Dr. Wier. It is surely no accident of history that while the Puritans of Massachusetts and Connecticut put scores of witches to death, the Pilgrims, who had been eleven years in Holland, were free of the taint, making no allegation and hunting no witch.
With that true Erasmian temper for which Dutch laymen have been ever happily noted, and thus able to curb that clerical and anti-Christ spirit which so often, whether Protestant or Romanist, masquerades under the name of "orthodoxy," the magistrates paid Bekker's salary even after be had been deposed from the ministry. For a century longer, candidates for license to preach had to clear their skirts of "Bekkerism." The parsons could not apparently bear to have the devil shorn of his traditional glory; and, besides, Bekker exploded the idea of endless, though not of eternal, punishment.