25. F irst `free’ Assembly of States of Holland, 19-20 July 1572

[Report of the Proceedings at Dordrecht]

Commentary Note: Assembly held in the town of Dordrecht which commenced on 19 July 1572 attended by Jacob Heer van Wyngaerden on behalf of the nobility [Ridderschap] of Holland, Jonker Arend van Duvenvoirde as the representative of Count van der Marck [Lumey]; Adriaen van Blijenburg Adriaensz., Cornelis Hendricxz., mr. Adriaen van Blijenburg Adriaensz., former members of the Raad; Jacob Muys Pietersz., Raad and mr.Jacob Pauli, [town] secretary, deputies of the town of Dordrecht; Jonker Jan van Vliet, burgomaster and mr. Gerard van der Laen, [town] secretary, deputies of Haarlem; Jan van Brouckhoven, burgomaster and mr. Paulus Buys, pensionary, deputies of the town of Leiden; mr. Jan Jacobsz.,burgomaster, and mr. Pieter van Asperen, deputies of Gouda; Jan Snouck, burgomaster, mr. Sebastiaen van Loese, pensionary, and Servaes Adriaensz., schepen, deputies of Gorcum; Jacob van Waerdendeel, burgomaster and Claes Hercxz., vroedschap, deputies of Alkmaar; Cornelis Willemsz. de Lange, burgomaster and Job Pietersz. van Kattemeer, deputies of Oudewater; Jan Berckhoudt, burgomaster and Pieter Reijniersz., deputies of Hoorn; Anthonis Symonsz., burgomaster, and Rijckaert Claesz., deputies of Enkhuizen; Anthonis Claesz., deputy of Medemblik; Pauwel Pietersz., deputy of Edam; and Reijnier Cornelisz., deputy of Monnikendam.

Jonker Philips van Marnix, heer van St. Aldegonde, appeared in the aforesaid assembly with certain letters of credence from his Excellence, my lord, the prince of Orange and he spoke and argued as follows.

Text: Noble, Honourable, Wise and Kind Lords and Friends, when my gracious lord, the prince of Orange, learned from the letter sent by this town of Dordrecht that the States intended to assemble here on the fifteenth of this month to treat matters touching the common government, policy and administration of this province and presently heard their desire that His Highness should also send one in his name and on his behalf to the same end, His Highness, not wishing to neglect your good intention, could not decline your request. He has therefore charged and commanded me to appear here on the fifteenth to listen to what here shall be proposed in the assembly of the States and presently also to make known on behalf of His Highness some matters tending greatly to the commonweal of this province, wherefore His Highness has also given me a letter of credence for this present assembly, which it may please you at this point to have read and to hear.

Since by now you have been well enough able to observe the goodwill which His Highness bears towards this assembly and have heard the commission which His Highness has commanded, I would acquaint you a little more fully about the intentions of His Highness. His Highness has been sufficiently informed and has also indeed clearly seen and observed the faithful allegiance and goodwill which the towns in Holland show towards His Highness by boldly and frankly declaring themselves against the duke of Alva and his faction, by wishing to retain His Highness as their lawful and rightful governor under the King of Spain and by risking their lives and fortunes to deliver their fatherland [haers vaederlants] from the cruel and abominable tyranny of the foreign Spanish soldiers, who for some years past now have miserably oppressed and despoiled this province and still daily strive to plunder and strip it of all its prosperity.

Therefore His Highness has not neglected to send me here in order to thank you and the aforesaid towns affectionately in his name and on his behalf for the same and to entreat you favourably so that you and the same towns shall persist and always persevere in this. On the other hand [he has] also [sent me] to draw your attention to the great loyalty, affection and sincere liberality which His Highness has always borne and still bears to all these Low Countries [deesen Nederlanden] and especially to Holland and the other provinces under his government.

Wishing also to bring to your attention — you would frankly expect as much of His Highness — that he has been and still is sincerely afflicted by the great insolence, injustice and violence inflicted by the duke of Alva and his accomplices on the said provinces and towns in order to rob and despoil the same of all their privileges, rights and justice, to drive out all prosperity and to bring them to a shameful and wretched servitude under his Spanish soldiers, who by custom and inclination have always been hostile to these Low Countries [deeser Nederlanden] and have always sought to make the same subject to their tyranny.

There is nothing His Highness more desires in this world than to see the day when these Low Countries may recover their former bloom and prosperity and their ancient liberty, which our forefathers by their valiant and laudable deeds established and maintained.

On that account His Highness has, from the moment when the duke of Alva invaded the aforesaid provinces with his Spanish soldiers, most diligently and faithfully employed every remedy, sparing no expense, labour or trouble, in order to deliver and liberate these same provinces from this abominable tyranny and violent insolence.

Wherefore His Highness brought hither more than three years ago a fine company of horse and soldiers at very great expense with which he entered the country. Because the towns responded, however, less well than His Highness had expected and would have been reasonable, not much was accomplished. But His Highness had staked everything which remained to him and was completely impoverished and deprived of all the means which he still possessed.

Nevertheless, His Highness did not on that account lose courage, nor did his steadfast goodwill towards the inhabitants of the country diminish; indeed, he strove day and night by every means to realise his original intention of bringing deliverance to the country.

But now it has pleased Almighty God to open the eyes of the inhabitants after much sore oppression and intolerable burdens and to encourage them so that many of their towns have openly declared their devotion to His Highness and their enmity to the tyrant. Therefore they have most diligently turned in all obedience to His Highness for help and assistance and His Highness has been moved with pity from the bottom of his heart.

Nevertheless, since he has been robbed of all means and therefore lacks the power to make war against the Duke and his accomplices, he has on many occasions declared that such was impossible. Whereupon they have most earnestly and humbly begged and besought [him] on several occasions, [declaring] that they would not abandon His Highness in such need, giving a sure undertaking and promise that when His Highness should come with horse and foot, he would not lack for money, whereupon His Highness, being deeply moved by the approaching danger, has once more employed all diligence, trouble, labour and care, having entered into discussions with all his friends and family, and finally with great difficulty has gone so far that he has now assembled in the field a fine company of excellent horse and foot, with which he is now ready to invade the country and [so] to bring to pass and to complete wholly this work of God now begun, namely the longed for liberation of the country.

But because there is now an urgent need to muster the same horse and foot and to swear them in, providing them with their due payment, His Highness earnestly desires and affectionately beseeches that you, who have witnessed the great loyalty and good inclinations shown by His Highness towards you, should not run the same into debt [by obliging him] to provide the aforesaid payment, nor bring his princely grace into eternal disgrace and [plunge] yourselves with the entire fatherland [met het gantsse vaderlant] in an everlasting ruin, misery and wretchedness. You and your towns should [instead] boldly arouse yourselves so that everyone, setting all else aside, [might] demonstrate his willingness to help His Highness in this need according to his ability. For it is certain that if you fail in this and the horse and foot [raised by] His Highness consequently defect, for lack of money, to the enemy or at least desert His Highness, you will bring upon the whole country and yourselves the most miserable calamity and wretchedness, the like of which has never been seen or heard.

On the other hand if you show yourselves willing and provide His Grace with the means so that he may invade the country before the enemy can receive reinforcements, then our liberation is at hand, and we assuredly believe that within a short space the province shall enjoy a greater prosperity, success and well-being than it has ever known.

And so that you may know more precisely what you should send, His Highness has reached the following agreement with the horse and foot: they shall receive at the point where they muster and before they march either the whole three month’s pay in cash or the equivalent of one month’s pay with, in addition, a written promise and assurance from foreign princes in Christendom or otherwise guarantees from some towns in the Low Countries.

As you have heard there can be no possibility of fulfilling the first point; the second is at this season neither expedient nor feasible, for were we to seek such [guarantees] from foreign princes like the King of France or England, the province would clearly be in grave danger of falling under foreign princes because these would be reluctant to pay up the money unless they had the assurance of cautionary towns that they would not lose it. In this way they would secure a foothold in the province from which they could not later be dislodged, as can be demonstrated by many examples. Besides His Highness knows well enough from experience that such [an arrangement] is not feasible at this stage.

Therefore there is no alternative but for the towns to bind themselves and to stand surety for the payment of the first three months’ pay to the captains and rittmasters of His Highness and, in the meantime, to employ all possible means to raise promptly and without delay the sum of one hundred thousand crowns for the first month’s pay.

His Highness most earnestly requests and desires this of you, in the expectation that you, being mindful of his loyalty and good disposition towards you and also of your own salvation and well-being, will in no wise decline or refuse the same.

It is my wish that the States [de Heeren] should deliberate on this matter and give me their answer.

After the aforesaid deputies had listened and discussed the proposal [put by] the aforesaid Jonker Philips, Heer of St. Aldegonde to the aforesaid deputies of Holland, that they should promptly assist his Excellence, my lord the Prince of Orange, by providing the sum of [one] hundred thousand crowns in cash and subsequently five hundred thousand carolus guilders secured by means of bonds under seal etc., it was resolved that, as the necessity and the circumstance of the business required the utmost speed on the part of everyone to supply the aforesaid ready money, to ask the wealthy and other inhabitants to lend money, silver, gold or other precious stones in their possession and to take the money from the excises and the current provincial subsidies, at present lodged with the collectors, and to continue the same excises and those who are reluctant [to agree] to this shall be compelled in accordance with the ordinance in this matter. Furthermore, they might borrow such ready money from the revenues of the churches, religious houses, guilds and fraternities as they can find and, furthermore, the gold and silver from the churches, religious houses and other corporations or collegiate foundations, which they have more for ornamental purposes than out of need. In this connexion all the property of the aforesaid churches, religious houses and such like shall, by general edict, be required to be delivered to the magistrates and the authorities in the towns against a proper inventory and receipt. The villages should always hand over the same property within their jurisdiction to the nearest town the better to ensure that these are not stolen by robbers and vagabonds, but may in the necessity be employed for the general benefit. As for the proposal and request for bonds under seal [it was resolved] that the same shall first be done for the aforesaid sum by the towns gathered at this assembly in accordance with the promise and indemnity rehearsed in the aforesaid proposal, provided that whatever is agreed, approved and raised, each [town] separately shall again thereafter enjoy and profit from any contribution, either provincial or general, which may be levied on Holland or on the generality of the Low Countries [den gemeenen landen van herwaarts over], without obliging the province of Holland in the generality to contribute a larger quota or proportion that has been established in time past and, furthermore, that in the case of the towns and villages of Holland no notice shall be taken of the former assessments [schiltalen] and taxes on real property [verpondingen] because the condition of Holland has changed greatly since the same were drawn up and since the same verpondinge and the assessments based on it are very inequitable, and the same are known to have been the frequent subject of objection and complaint by several corporate bodies, both towns and villages.

20 July [1572]
The aforesaid representative [Marnix], having shown the aforesaid deputies the specific instructions1 for him, opened these. This contained several points and articles on which he sought the advice and decision of the States.

Each of the deputies sought and obtained a copy of this instruction and the following resolutions were taken together by the [members of the] States.

First of all the aforesaid deputies decided unanimously and with one accord to recognize His Highness, My Lord the Prince of Orange, as the Governor-General and stadhouder of the King for Holland, Zeeland, West Friesland and the bishopric of Utrecht, since His Excellence had previously been lawfully and duly appointed thereto by His Royal Majesty without there being any lawful dismissal or alteration in conformity with the customs and privileges of the province. [cf. article I of “Instruction”]

Likewise, they have besides also decided that they shall concert and reach an agreement with the other lands and provinces, insofar as it concerns them, to recognize, consider and hold His Highness as a preeminent member of the States General of the Netherlands and therefore entitled to protect the same Netherlands against all foreign invasions and oppression, as one bound by honour and oath to act as protector and head of the same provinces in the absence of His Royal Majesty. [cf. article II]

Next, following the proposal of His Highness’ deputy that they should consider the best measures that should be taken in the matter of the warships [article VI], they advised that, in order to protect and to promote shipping and the seaborne trade, all maritime commissions should be declared null and that His Highness should appoint a lord admiral, who would take on other captains, being competent seamen, to serve under the admiral and take their orders from him; and that the captains and their crews would serve for pay or other recompense as His Excellence thinks best; and that the admiral should employ captains having first sought the information and advice of the coastal towns and that His Excellence should appoint commissioners, who would have jurisdiction in maritime affairs.

Next, for the maintenance of good order and control over governors, captains, officers and other officials, and likewise over soldiers and others in the province who hold any office or commission in the county of Holland from His Highness or in some other way serve His Highness in the defence of the province, to ensure that the inhabitants and burghers etc. are troubled as little as possible [article VII], it has been resolved that in this matter they shall treat with my lord, the Count van der Marck [Lumey] etc., and that they shall send some deputies to His Highness to inform His Highness about this matter and about all the other conditions and needs of the province and to obtain suitable satisfaction as times and circumstances require. For this purpose the [representatives] of Dordrecht, Leiden and Enkhuizen have been appointed.

And with respect to the deliberations about the best and most fitting means whereby the ancient privileges, rights and usages, which have been removed from the towns by Alva’s tyranny, may be restored and re-established [article VIII], it has been decided that the best course at this time is to obtain access to the charters of Holland, kept in the castle at Gouda, (which has not hitherto been possible) and that all the privileges, papers and muniments concerning the province of Holland, which are kept there, should be examined, and that an inventory of the same should be made and then copies of the chief privileges and affairs concerning the aforesaid province. When these have been produced and inspected, the towns of Holland shall then proceed further in the way subsequently found to be most appropriate. To carry out the same my lord of Noordwijk [Janus Dousa] has been appointed from the nobility [Ridderschap] and also one deputy from each town represented at the assembly. The deputies shall inform His Highness of this and seek his agreement in order, having obtained his consent to the same, that those appointed may then be summoned.

It is also resolved that my lord, the Count van der Marck etc.,should be informed and earnestly besought that His Grace may be pleased to oversee and ensure measures are taken, as may seem best, so that the Exchequer [camer van der Reeckeninge], the muniments [Registercamer] and the Registry [Greffe] within the Court [Hof] in The Hague may remain quite undamaged, as well as the meeting chamber of the States of Holland, adjoining the Dominican convent in The Hague, so that all the registers, books of remembrance [memorialen], accounts, documents and papers, by which the province sets great store, may be kept and preserved in a good condition.

Next, concerning the union and compact proposed in the aforesaid States [article IX], the aforesaid deputies have collectively and unanimously committed and bound themselves to enter into no accord, compact or agreement, either with the King himself or any who would or could feign to have orders or commission from His Majesty, nor further to do or to decide anything which might concern the generality of the members, without first having solicited His Highness’ advice, consent and agreement thereto and included His Highness therein, insofar as His Highness gave his approval that it should be done. And on that account the deputies have solemnly shaken hands with the aforesaid lord, His Highness’ representative, and each of them has promised and declared to stand by His Highness and never to desert him, but to render him all possible assistance.

Likewise, also, the aforesaid lord, the representative of His Highness, has on his side committed and bound himself in a similar accord, compact or agreement to do nothing without the advice and consent of the States, or at least the majority of them, and without including the same States and countries, if and when they so desire, and further he has promised and given a solemn undertaking to grant the aforesaid States every protection and protective maintenance in respect of the foregoing, or insofar as it touches His Highness.

With regard to establishing relations and agreement with the other towns in Brabant and elsewhere [article XVII] the aforesaid deputies shall discharge their duty and task by writing and exhorting the other towns, within Holland as well as outside, and urge them to promote the freedom and prosperity of the fatherland and also to enter into a common alliance and to employ other suitable means.

As for bringing and inducing the towns in the vicinity to join [article XX], it has been decided that because Delft is still deficient to hinder her commerce with Waterland on the other side in order to bring pressure to bear and Leiden has undertaken to procure and arrange this, since it has the best means, and the everyone else is to do their best as circumstances permit. With respect to [the interests of] Amsterdam in the Sound, His Highness might write to Denmark and the other Baltic towns at the earnest request of the States and towns of Holland to the effect that because of Amsterdam’s great enmity and opposition to freedom and the well-being of the common fatherland [gemeen vaderlants], it should be refused passage and that they [ie. Baltic towns] should put into and trade with Enkhuizen, Hoorn and the other nearby towns devoted to us or, in the case of the Maas, with Dordrecht, where they will find the situations and arrangements as convenient as Amsterdam. As for the other towns such as Rotterdam, Schoonhoven, Woerden and so forth, the deputies shall discuss [these] with His Highness as well as with the Governors and Nobility of Holland.

Furthermore, the aforesaid representative has declared that it was His Highness’ intention that there should be freedom of religion, for [those of] both the Reformed and the Roman religion and that every individual shall enjoy free exercise of the same in public and in a church or chapel (as shall most conveniently be enjoined by the magistracy) and no one shall suffer let, hindrance or trouble on this account and that the clergy shall remain in their station and not be harassed unless they have shown themselves to be enemies or violated the aforesaid [freedom of religion]. And this [shall be] until in due course it is otherwise decreed on the advice of the States General of the Netherlands. The aforesaid deputies have expressed complete agreement with His Highness’ intention.

It has also been resolved that the costs already incurred and which shall be incurred in the defence of the entire province, such as the maintenance of free passage on the rivers and highways, the repair of castles and fortified houses and the expenses of retaining soldiers and troops should be borne by the towns and countryside of Holland by such contributions as shall subsequently be devised.

And [it has been resolved] that the towns of Holland should henceforth keep in touch with His Highness and with one another, in particular by giving information about all the local circumstances and conditions and the deputies have decided that one or two competent persons shall be appointed by each of their principals to give effect to the same in accordance with the draft adopted there.

Source : R.C.Bakhuizen van den Brink, ‘Eerste vergadering der Staten van Holland, 19 juli 1572’ in: idem, Cartons voor de geschiedenis van den Nederlandschen vrijheidsoorlog , II, (The Hague, 1898) 194-206. Part of this text is also printed by P. Bor, Oorsprongk, begin en vervolgh der Nederlantscher oorlogen , I, 386-87.

1 For the ‘Instruction and Advice for the Honourable Philip Marnix… delegate of…the prince of Orange, 13 July 1572’, see: Texts concerning the Revolt of the Netherlands , ed. E.H. Kossmann and A.F. Mellink, document 15 or Representative Government in Western Europe in the Sixteenth Century , ed.G. Griffiths, document XXXVII.