BECK index

Netherlands and Spinoza

by Sanderson Beck

Netherlands and Johan de Witt 1648-59
Netherlands and Johan de Witt 1660-72
Netherlands and Willem III 1672-1702
Netherlands and War Against France 1702-15
Spinoza’s Life and Early Work
Spinoza’s Ethics
Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

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Netherlands and Johan de Witt 1648-59

Netherlands Divided 1588-1648

      On January 30, 1648 the 80-year war between the Dutch and Spain ended when they agreed on a treaty at Münster. The States General ratified it by a majority vote on April 4. Austrian Archduke Leopold Wilhelm governed the Spanish Netherlands 1647-56. On August 20, 1648 his army was defeated by the French and Swedish at Lens as 5,000 of his men were captured. After the devastating Thirty Years’ War ended in 1648, the armed fighting continued between France and the Spanish Netherlands. High food prices caused hardship in the next two years. The population of Antwerp had been reduced by half, and the treaty closed the Scheldt River to foreign trade. Spain lost Ypres in 1648 but reconquered it in 1649. Spain’s forces under General Fuensaldaña regained Furnes, Bergues, and Bourbourg in 1651. The French had taken fortified Dunkirk in 1646, but Spanish forces regained it in 1652.
      After her abdication in 1654 Queen Kristina of Sweden came to Antwerp, and she visited Brussels to promote her vision to reconcile Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. On December 24 she announced her hope to be appointed viceroy to succeed the departing Leopold. However, King Felipe IV’s natural son, Don Juan José of Austria, governed the Spanish Netherlands 1656-59. In Antwerp in 1656 guilds protested taxes and a postal monopoly given to the Count of Thurn and Taxis. The Council of Brabant ruled against them and punished resistance by banishing eight men and hanging seven looters. In March 1657 England and France allied to fight the Spanish in the Netherlands with the French getting Gravelines and the English taking Dunkirk and Mardyck. On June 14, 1658 the French and English defeated Juan José near Dunkirk, capturing 5,000 men. Then the French took over Dunkirk and the western part of Flanders. The Spanish army of Flanders had 70,000 men in 1658, but three years later it had been reduced to 33,000.
      In 1648 the States General imposed the Protestant Reformation on Meierij, Lingen, and other annexed areas. They took over all 300 Catholic churches in Meierij and installed 52 new preachers and 51 Reformed schoolmasters. Yet in Maastricht and the Overmaas they guaranteed Catholic worship because of their 1632 law. Stadtholder Willem II of Orange was intent on imposing the Reformed religion even though his dissolute life did not reflect its teachings. In June 1648 the States General banned Catholic priests from Generality Lands, though Holland’s assembly rejected this. After the execution of England’s Charles I on January 30, 1649 his son Charles stayed at The Hague with his sister Mary Henrietta and her husband Willem II. That year Holland demanded that the Dutch standing army of 35,000 men be reduced to 26,000, and by 1660 it was down to 25,000. In November 1649 Witte de With returned from the colony in Brazil with its only two seaworthy ships. He criticized the colonial policy and was arrested, but in September 1651 he was acquitted on most charges and was sentenced to time served.
      In May 1650 the States of Holland voted 11-8 to disband their army units, and they sent Gerard Schaep of Amsterdam to London as a diplomat to show the English that not all the Dutch were as hostile as the Orange party. Stadtholder Willem II ordered the army to ignore Holland’s orders, and on June 5 the States General voted 5-2 giving him authority to enter towns with a Generality commission. He first went to Dordrecht where the guilds supported Orange, but Delft refused to accept his military escort. Amsterdam declined to recognize the Commission and would not let Willem’s speech be read. In July 1650 he published a forged document showing that the English Parliament would support Amsterdam with 10,000 troops in a civil war against him and the States General. Then on July 30 his officers arrested six deputies of Holland including Burgomaster Jacob de Witt of Dordrecht and Pensionary Albert Ruyl of Haarlem. Troops occupied The Hague, and the States General army of 12,000 men tried to surprise Amsterdam which closed its gates. A compromise was negotiated on August 3, and Willem departed. Many pamphlets were published that year. Comparisons were made to the Swiss Confederacy, but the Dutch provinces had to maintain the same public Church. Willem II was stricken by smallpox in October and died on November 6, 1650 two days after the birth of his son Willem III. On December 21 Jacob’s son Johan de Witt was elected pensionary of Dordrecht.
      The States of Holland through their Gecommitteerde Raden took control over the army and summoned the States General. The arrested regents were released. Holland proposed that a Great Assembly meet at The Hague, and in November the States General voted not to replace the stadtholder and captain-general. They preferred not having them for the Union also. On December 8 the States began issuing charters to towns who elected their own officials. In January 1651 the Great Assembly met for the first time since in 1579. Holland’s Pensionary Jacob Cats argued that republics are better than monarchies, though many considered this ironic coming from a past supporter of Frederik Hendrik. That year Cats was replaced by the elderly Adriaen Pauw. The Assembly decided to be governed by both the States General and the Raad van State in which Holland had two votes instead of one, and they put Jan Wolfert van Brederode in command of the army as Field Marshal. The States of Brabant also met in January and decided to govern themselves like Drenthe, but Holland rejected their applications to the States General.
      Synods of the Reformed Church wanted the Great Assembly to ban Catholics from all offices and not tolerate congregations of Lutherans, Mennonites, Remonstrants, or Jews. Amsterdam had more than 3,000 Jews by 1650, and immigration mostly from Germany would increase the number to 6,200 by 1700. All the United Provinces accepted the Dutch Reformed Church as their religion and banned Catholicism.
      The States of Overijssel decided in March 1651 not to appoint a stadtholder. In April people in Dordrecht supporting the guilds and college began rioting, and the States helped the regents restore order. A majority of the States of Zeeland voted not to replace their stadtholder. For 22 years Zeeland would be the only republic in which only towns were represented in the assembly. Friesland’s States and their Stadtholder Willem Frederik persuaded the States of Groningen and Drenthe to select him as their stadtholder too. In June several thousand people rioted in Middelburg and replaced their burgomaster. Zeeland’s six main cities were equally divided between the pro-Holland and Orangist factions. Johan de Witt favored amnesty for those involved in the coup of 1650, and the Great Assembly agreed on this issue.
      After the shipwreck of the Haarlem in southern Africa in 1647 the crew survived for five months by growing vegetables and trading with friendly natives. Dutch directors sent Captain Jan van Riebeeck back there, and on April 6, 1652 he founded a colony at Table Bay that became Capetown. By 1657 the town had 134 Europeans and 11 slaves while an average of 25 ships a year carrying 5,000 men stopped in that bay for fresh food.
      The Westphalian treaty of 1648 enabled the English to resume trading with Spain, Portugal, and Italy; but the Dutch were more successful and took trade away from the English who began attacking their ships. By 1650 the English complained that their trade had been reduced to a fraction of the Dutch commerce. The British Parliament reacted to this economic slump by passing the Navigation Act in August 1651 which prohibited the Dutch from shipping products from southern Europe to English ports or from English colonies. The English seized 140 Dutch merchant ships in 1651 and 30 more in January 1652. While the Dutch had been reducing their fleet after the war, England was strengthening its navy with larger ships. Dutch ships had to secure the large area of the Danish sound and had the wind against them.
      Orangists such as the preachers Jacobus Stermond and Johannes Goethals of Delft, and politician Johannes Teellinck criticized the republican policies using anonymous pamphlets to avoid punishment. Friesland’s Stadtholder Willem Frederik wanted to be lieutenant to the infant Prince of Orange, Willem III, so that he could govern. In the late summer of 1652 the States of Zeeland voted to appoint Willem III and Willem Frederik as their stadtholders. In February 1653 Johan de Witt became Grand Pensionary of Holland and the most powerful political leader in the United Provinces. He had criticized Dutch envoys in England for letting the Parliament refer to the Dutch Republic instead of the Federated Republics. He argued for republican government by those most qualified by education and training who can consult and compromise. Nonetheless the States of Groningen joined Friesland and Zeeland while Utrecht, Overijssel, and Gelderland were divided.
      In a 3-day naval battle in the English Channel between about 75 ships on each side the English defeated the Dutch on March 2, 1653; the Dutch lost about ten warships and thirty merchant vessels while the English loss was only three warships. That spring the exiled pretender Charles II offered ships to the Dutch if they would support him; but De Witt rejected this. That year the English also damaged Dutch fleets off Gabbard Bank in June and at Sheveningen on August 10 when the Dutch lost 11 warships, 4,000 men, and Admiral Maarten Tromp. During this war the Dutch lost about 1,200 merchant ships and fishing vessels. On June 5 Holland persuaded the States General to send envoys to England to negotiate peace. The States General ordered 60 ships built in 1653 and declared possession of them in January 1654 so that they would not be sold after the war as occurred in 1609 and 1648. Believing in freedom, the Dutch refused to engage in pressing men to serve in their fleets. They also paid generous compensation for sailors maimed in the fighting up to 1,500 guilders for both arms or both eyes.
      In the summer of 1653 riots broke out in Dordrecht, The Hague, Rotterdam, Alkmaar, Hoorn, Medemblik, and Enkhuizen where an anti-Catholic mob took over the town for a few days. Disturbances also occurred in Zeeland’s cities of Middelburg, Zierikzee, and Bergen-op-Zoom. Pensionary De Witt appointed the politician Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam as commander even though he lacked naval experience. Despite losses, Dutch ships persisted, and an alliance with Denmark enabled them to close down English shipping in the Baltic Sea and defeat them in the Mediterranean. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) also established naval supremacy in Asia. However, the Dutch surrendered Recife to the Portuguese in January 1654 and were driven out of Brazil, wiping out almost all the share values of the West Indies Company (WIC). The Portuguese gave 5,000 Jews there three months to leave, and on September 7 a ship brought 23 Sephardic Jews to Amsterdam.
      England’s Protector Cromwell began negotiating in November 1653, and the States General ratified a peace treaty on April 22, 1654, though it contained a secret clause containing the Act of Seclusion which excluded the Prince of Orange from becoming Stadtholder and promised that Parliament would not ratify the treaty before Holland did. De Witt managed to get a majority vote in Holland on May 4. Two weeks later Friesland sent a protest to the States General, and Zeeland also objected. The Exclusion Act was very controversial, and Overijssel was seriously divided. De Witt wrote Deduction in July to explain his principles, criticizing hereditary monarchy for destroying republics such as Florence. He argued, “In a free republic no one has any birthright to high offices.”1 On October 12 a gunpowder explosion in Delft killed more than a hundred people and injured thousands. That month delegates claiming to represent the States of Overijssel met at Zwolle and appointed Willem III as their stadtholder and Willem Frederik as his lieutenant. In 1655 a plague spread through the Netherlands killing more than 13,000 in Leyden and nearly 18,000 in Amsterdam in 1656.
      The war between England and Spain from 1655 to 1660 removed pressure from the Dutch and enabled them to resume their dominance in world trade. They completed their conquest of Ceylon and controlled the world’s supply of cinnamon, and they led trade with India. In March 1655 the States of Holland demanded that Willem Frederik renounce his office in the “Zwolle States.” De Witt negotiated a compromise in December with Willem Frederik that recognized him as stadtholder of Friesland and Groningen and as Field Marshal of the army; but this position would never be combined with the position of Stadtholder of the States General, and Holland’s Act of Exclusion would no longer be disputed. In January 1657 the States of Friesland rejected De Witt’s compromise, and the States General outvoted Holland 4-1. De Witt warned of the confusion that had occurred in 1618 and in 1650, and on February 1 the States General voted 4-3 to cancel Willem Frederik’s appointment. Rioting erupted in Groningen in March. In the spring fighting broke out in Overijssel, and Hasselt surrendered to the Zwolle States on June 7. The States General formed a commission led by De Witt and Cornelis de Graeff, and they nullified Willem Frederik’s positions in Overijssel.
      Zeeland, Utrecht, and Groningen wanted compensation from Portugal for the lost colony in Brazil, and the States General of the United Provinces declared war on Portugal in 1657 and blockaded Lisbon. Dutch privateers also attacked Portuguese ships in the Atlantic, and the VOC took over Ceylon. That year the VOC had 160 ships in Asia. During the cold winter of 1657-58 the canal between Haarlem and Leiden was frozen for 63 days.
      In the summer of 1656 the Dutch had sent a fleet led by Obdam to prevent the Swedes from taking over Gdansk, and in November 1658 they relieved the Swedish siege of Copenhagen. When the English supported the Swedes in the fall of 1659, a Dutch fleet commanded by Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter reinforced the Danes again. After the treaty with France in November Spain’s hold on the southern Netherlands was much weaker.
      The Anabaptist Jan Hendrik Glazemaker translated the writing of Descartes, and the Discourses, Meditations, and Passions of the Soul were published in Dutch in 1656 and his Principles of Philosophy the next year. His Cartesian philosophy became dominant at the universities in Leiden, Utrecht, and Groningen. In July 1656 a meeting of German Calvinists from Cleves, Mark, Jülich, and Berg condemned Cartesian ideas as dangerous. De Witt tried to find a compromise to preserve philosophical freedom, and Holland issued an edict separating theology and philosophy. On January 8, 1657 Leiden curators made six theology and philosophy professors promise to comply with the edict.
      Anna Maria van Schurman (1607-78) began reading at the age of four and learned fourteen languages. She was a scholar, poet, and artist in Utrecht. In 1664 she met Jean de Labadie, who wrote in French, and became his assistant in the Pietistic community he founded called Labadism which moved to Amsterdam and then to Altona. Van Schurman wrote On the End of Life (De vitae termino) in 1639 and Whether the Study of Letters is Fitting to a Christian Woman in Latin (1638), in Dutch and French (1646), and in English in 1659.
      Christian Huygens used a 12-foot telescope to discover the rings and a moon around the planet Saturn in 1655. The next year he invented the precise pendulum clock, and they began manufacturing pendulum wall-clocks in the late 1650s. In 1661 he invented the manometer to measure pressure in gases and liquids. In 1690 Huygens published his Treatise on Light, and he suggested that life could exist on other planets.
      The philosophy of Descartes was influential and criticized by the Church. Isaac de la Peyrère (1596-1676) published Prae-Adamitae in 1655, contending that humans were on Earth before Adam and the stories in the Old Testament. He was arrested in Brussels in February 1656, interrogated, and eventually converted to Catholicism. In the decade ending in 1665 Antwerp had more than half the children between the ages of seven and fifteen in schools. Young Jan Swammerdam used the microscope in dissections, and in 1658 he was the first to study red blood corpuscles; but Anthony van Leeuwenhoek described them more accurately in 1668. Swammerdam discovered valves in lymph vessels in 1664 and published his History of Insects in 1669. In 1672 Jan van der Heyden invented a flexible hose for fighting fires.

Netherlands and Johan de Witt 1660-72

      In 1661 the army of Flanders had 33,000 men, and it continued to decrease to 20,000. In 1660 the Dutch gathered works of art, a yacht, and other gifts for Charles Stuart who passed through the Netherlands to become England’s King Charles II. His sister Mary Henrietta had married Willem II, Prince of Orange, on May 2, 1641 and had given birth to Willem III in 1650. Charles visited her at The Hague in May 1660 and also attended the States General and the States of Holland on June 1 to thank them. On September 26 Holland repealed the Exclusion Act and authorized the maintenance and education of Prince Willem of Orange. His mother Mary Henrietta died of smallpox on January 3, 1661, and her will called for her brother Charles II to succeed her as guardian of Willem of Orange; but the English King was inclined to concede the guardianship to Holland. English diplomat George Downing arrived at The Hague in June and urged the education of the King’s nephew Willem. In 1662 De Witt agreed with Zeeland that Prince Willem should be considered for high office after he turned eighteen.
      In December 1661 the Dutch and the Spanish agreed to a division of the southern Netherlands giving Valkenburg, Heerlen, and Dalhem to the Dutch. On April 27, 1662 Johan de Witt made an alliance with France in which they both promised each other diplomatic support and military aid in a war with England. De Witt increased the power of his junto that included Pieter de Groot (son of Grotius), Jerome van Beverningk of Gouda, and De Witt’s cousin Govaert van Slingelandt, the Pensionary of Dordrecht. Zeeland and Utrecht supported them, but they were opposed by Friesland, Gelderland, Overijssel, and Groningen. In September the Dutch formed an alliance with England, and the States of Holland and Zeeland ratified the peace with Portugal.
      Political discussions debated the value of the republican States General against the monarchical stadtholder who was usually a prince of Orange. In 1662 the textile manufacturer and lawyer Pieter de la Court (1618-85) published his Interest van Holland, criticizing the House of Orange and arguing that Holland was more free and better off without a stadtholder, and his views were supported by Johan de Witt. In his Political Discourses De la Court used ideas from Machiavelli and the satirist Trajano Boccalini and argued that citizens of republics fare better than subjects of monarchs. He also believed that the established Church should be limited to spiritual concerns and favored free trade. That year Jean-Nicolas de Parival responded with Le Vray Interet de la Hollande in French and Dutch. Also in 1662 Lambert van der Bosch’s play Wilhem, of gequetste vryheyt was presented to glorify Willem the Silent, and in 1663 Joost van den Vondel’s last political play, The Batavian Brothers, or Suppressed Freedom was performed, celebrating the Batavian revolt against Roman imperialism. Johan de Witt rejected the idea of an alliance with the weakened Spanish monarchy, and in May 1663 he suggested that the Flemings and Brabanters could form independent cantons under French and Dutch protection. On July 25 the States of Holland gave De Witt a third term as Grand Pensionary.
      The Prince-Bishop Christoph Bernhard von Galen of Münster had one of the strongest armies in Germany, but he relied on Holland for protection. In 1663 the Imperial Council at Vienna sent him 300,000 rijksdaalders. In February 1664 he demanded that Gelderland return Borculo to him, but Gelderland also depended on Holland. The Münster army drove the Dutch out of the Dijlerschans fort in the Ems valley and garrisoned it for the Count of East Friesland. In April his army fought with the League of the Rhine in a victory against the Turks at Saint Gotthard. In May the Dutch soldiers led by the Frisian Stadtholder invaded Münster and recaptured the Dijlerschans fort. Bishop Von Galen declared war on the Dutch in September and with English support and 20,000 men invaded Gelderland and Overijssel. Holland was criticized for not protecting the eastern provinces. Friesland demanded concessions from England in October, and in June they contributed more than three million guilders to the war effort. In 1665 the Dutch spent more than 30 million guilders on the war.
      The Second Anglo-Dutch War had begun early in 1664 after England made peace with Spain. In May the Dutch authorized thirty warships, and Admiral De Ruyter recaptured many forts in West Africa. On September 8 the English took over New Amsterdam and changed the name to New York. Also in 1664 the bubonic plague took 24,000 lives in Amsterdam and spread to Flanders. In April 1665 the English had eight great warships to four for the Dutch. The first major battle was off Lowestoft on June 13, 1665. The Dutch had 103 ships with 21,613 men and 4,869 guns; but the English led by the Duke of York had 109 vessels including three-deckers with more powerful cannons that sank or captured 17 Dutch warships while losing only one. Admiral Cornelis Maartenszoon Tromp wanted 14-year-old Willem of Orange to be commander-in-chief; but Admiral De Ruyter disagreed, and Tromp was nearly arrested in June. On August 11 the States General appointed De Ruyter commander of the navy, and by the end of 1665 the Dutch army had increased to 70,000 men at the cost of 5.5 million guilders. The Münster army went too far when they overran Drenthe and invaded Frisia in 1666, and French auxiliaries helped the Dutch force them to withdraw and accept the peace of Cleves in April.
      In April 1666 Holland adopted Prince Willem as a “Child of State,” and a committee was formed to supervise his education. In May he visited the Dutch fleet at Texel with the Elector of Brandenburg, the Duke of Holstein, and other German princes. In a naval battle off England’s North Foreland during four days in June the Dutch fleet of 84 ships led by De Ruyter defeated 78 English warships. Casualty figures were similar; but the English lost 23 ships and the Dutch only 5 while capturing 1,800 Englishmen. In August the two fleets met again with the English prevailing. De Ruyter blamed Tromp for not assisting the others and dismissed him for insubordination. By that summer the Frisian-Groningen portion of the Dutch navy had 28 ships with 5,000 men and 1,100 guns. Also in August an Orangist conspiracy led by Henri Buat to throw out De Witt and end the war was discovered after Buat carelessly gave a letter to De Witt from England’s Secretary of State Arlington. Buat was arrested, and others fled. Buat was beheaded on October 11, and De Witt and his supporters removed dangerous Orangists from Prince Willem’s entourage.
      The Dutch had the support of many neutral ports such as Lübeck, Venice, Livorno, Genoa, and Cadiz, and Denmark-Norway also allied with the United Provinces with the result that no English ship could enter the Baltic Sea in 1666. The VOC captured several English forts in the East Indies. The trade of both sides in the Mediterranean was stopped. The Dutch eventually captured 500 English merchant ships. The Dutch won a four-day naval battle in June but suffered a devastating defeat on August 4 when the English Admiral Robert Holmes destroyed 150 Dutch merchant vessels at Terschelling. The Dutch had more money than the English to keep building ships. London suffered from plague and the great fire in September. The Dutch navy kept away collier ships, leaving London with little coal for the winter.
      In 1667 the Dutch blockaded southeast England, and a squadron from Zeeland captured the English fort at Paramaribo and the colony of Surinam with its sugar. In June the States General and Johan de Witt sent Admiral De Ruyter and his brother Deputy Cornelis de Witt up the Thames with about sixty ships and 1,500 men. They captured the Sheerness fortress and entered the Medway to destroy 16 English warships and warehouses at Chatham. England, the Dutch Republic, France, and Denmark-Norway made peace at Breda on July 31 (NS). The English kept New York but gave back St. Eustatius and Saba and ceded Surinam and the fort at Cormantine in West Africa. On August 5 the States of Holland passed the Perpetual Edict that abolished the stadtholderate and prohibited the election of a captain-general by the States General or a stadtholder from any province; but they did approve Prince Willem as a member of the Council of State. Joachim Oudaan of Rotterdam commended the True Freedom policy of De Witt in his poem “Freedom established on its throne,” and he also praised Pieter de Groot, the pensionary of Rotterdam in 1670.
      In 1664 France’s Finance Minister Colbert had begun imposing stringent tariffs, and that year the French took the colony of Cayenne away from the Dutch. In April 1667 Colbert added more products to the list of tariffs including Dutch fine cloth. Louis XIV informed the Spanish court in May that his Queen Marie-Thérèse deserved a portion of the Southern Netherlands, and he sent a large French army led by Marshal Turenne to take over Hainault and Brabant. Governor Castel-Rodrigo withdrew to Brussels, and within four months the French had taken Armentières, Charleroi, Douai, Courtrai, Oudenarde, Lille, and Alost. The States of Holland approved De Witt’s plan to garrison Ostend, Bruges, Blankenburg, and Geldern as payment for a loan from Spain.
      On January 23, 1668 Pensionary Johan de Witt formed the secret Triple Alliance with England and Sweden to mediate between Spain and France. Prince Willem traveled to Zeeland in September and was honored as their “First Noble,” and in October the Orange Princess Dowager Amalia van Soms canceled her guardianship. In 1669 Colbert organized the Compagnie du Nord to keep Dutch ships away from French trade in the Baltic Sea. The Dutch defended the city of Cologne, but in the fall the English and French combined forces to attack the United Provinces and punish the Dutch. In November a Dutch committee recommended high tariffs on French wine, brandy, salt, vinegar, and paper. De Witt negotiated with France’s ambassador, the Marquis de Pomponne, and still preferred cantonment of the Southern Netherlands, but he was willing to accept partition as long as England was excluded from the mainland.
      In 1668 Petrus Valckenier published Verwerd Europa suggesting that republics are superior but that religious toleration had its limits, and he blamed De Witt for tolerating atheism and libertines. De La Court revised his Interest van Holland with a new title Aanwysinge der heilsame politike Gronden which De Witt could not prevent the States of Holland from banning in May 1669. More profound was the anonymous publication of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus in 1670 that attacked Church authority and favored democratic government with individual liberty. He wrote it in Latin because he was sure that a Dutch version would be banned. Spinoza’s forerunner and teacher, Franciscus van den Enden, also published republican tracts and clashed with regents in Amsterdam. He went to Paris in 1670 and was hanged for conspiring to overthrow Louis XIV in 1674.
      The elderly Dutch ambassador Johan Boreel in London missed the secret treaty made by England and France at Dover in June 1670. By summer news arrived that a French army of 30,000 men was marching north, but they invaded Lorraine. The United Provinces decided not to proceed with the discharge of 6,000 soldiers. Emperor Leopold asked to join the Triple Alliance, and Dutch diplomats in England were instructed to support the idea; but England replaced William Temple with the more hostile George Downing as ambassador at The Hague. Prince Willem’s educational committee was dissolved in December when he turned 20.
      In January 1671 the States General did not include French wine with new tariffs; but Amsterdam did, and on November 11 the States General banned importation of French wine and other products for one year. Louis XIV reacted by prohibiting the export of brandy on Dutch ships and by putting a tax on herring imported by them. France also made a treaty with Emperor Leopold on November 1 and an alliance with Cologne in January 1672. In 1671 the Dutch had spent 8,700,000 guilders on their army and navy. Johan de Witt sensed that the Triple Alliance was no longer functioning, that England and France may be allying, and that the French would attack the Dutch Republic rather than the Spanish Netherlands. De Groot was in Paris and on January 6 met with Louis XIV who refused to say who France was arming against but that it would be known in the spring.
      On February 24, 1672 the States General appointed Prince Willem of Orange captain and admiral-general with an annual salary of 48,000 guilders, though he was to be supervised by deputies in the field. France formed a coalition. On March 17 England’s Charles II declared war on the Dutch, and six days later the English navy attacked a Dutch convoy off the Isle of Wight. On April 6 Louis XIV declared war against the Dutch and eight days later allied with Sweden. On May 2 the Dutch gained Brandenburg Elector Friedrich Wilhelm as an ally. The French army advanced on Maastricht and was supported by the Prince-Bishop of Münster and the Elector of Cologne. With 118,000 foot soldiers and 12,500 horsemen they outnumbered the Dutch army 4-1. In June the French besieged the Dutch fortresses along the lower Rhine. On June 6 De Ruyter led an attack on an English fleet of 36 ships commanded by the Duke of York and destroyed the flagship Royal James which had a hundred guns. In a week the French took over five Dutch garrisons in Cleves. The Münster forces overran Lingen and invaded Overijssel and with the French besieged Grol and took it on June 9. Three days later the Dutch suffered 1,500 casualties at Lobith, and that day the French crossed the Rhine at Tolhuis.
      The Dutch retreated to defend Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht. On June 15 Arnhem capitulated without fighting, and on that day Holland opened the sluices, flooding the land to save Amsterdam. Citizens of Utrecht refused to prepare for a siege, and Prince Willem ordered another retreat. On June 23 French troops entered Utrecht, Zwolle, and Kampen. Although King Louis XIV granted religious freedom, the best church in each city was taken over by Catholics. The Holland ridderschap (knighthood) agreed to let the Generality lands go to keep the seven provinces. On June 26 the States General offered to pay a large war indemnity, but three days later Louis rejected their peace offer. On July 1 De Groot reported to the States General and States of Holland that Louis XIV was demanding that the Dutch pay a war indemnity of 24 million guilders to France and its allies, and the French demanded toleration of Catholics throughout the Dutch Republic.
      The Dutch were angry, and massive demonstrations erupted in Dordrecht with riots in Schiedam, Rotterdam, Gouda, and Delft. Peasants were furious in Gouda because their land was flooded, and the Prince of Orange tried to persuade them to leave. Women, workers, and peasants took over Delft, and fishermen occupied Schiedam and Delftshaven. Riots spread to Zeeland, Middelburg, Flushing, and Veere. Johan de Witt had led the effort to keep Prince Willem from gaining power, and he became the scapegoat for the war losses. Johan de Witt was wounded with a knife on June 21 and suffered fevers while recovering. His three attackers fled to the camp of Prince Willem. Although De Witt forgave them, Jacob van der Graeff was arrested, tried, and beheaded on June 29.
      On July 2 Zeeland proclaimed Prince Willem Stadtholder, followed by Holland the next day. Willem was given full power as captain and admiral on July 8 and took the oath as Stadtholder the next day. On July 11 riots occurred at Zierikzee and Tholen. By July 9 the French had captured Nijmegen.
      In the next two months many pamphlets were published condemning the Johan de Witt’s “Loevestein faction” which had led the True Freedom party. He defended his policies with two long letters. On July 20 De Groot fled with his family to the Spanish Netherlands. On the 23rd barber William Tichelaer falsely accused Cornelis de Witt of conspiring with him to kill Prince Willem, and he was acquitted. Then both men were arrested, and Cornelis was tortured but still refused to confess. The judges removed Cornelis from office and banished him from Holland while Tichelaer was released. Johan de Witt met with Stadtholder Willem on July 31, and on August 4 he offered his resignation to the States of Holland which they accepted. Johan paid for the court costs of his brother Cornelis; but as they were leaving the jail at The Hague on August 20, they were murdered by a mob that included militiamen. Although their names were known, none of the murderers were prosecuted.
      The era 1645-72 saw the building of many large churches and also was the culmination of the golden age of Dutch painting by Frans Hals (1582-1666), Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-69), Jan Vermeer (1632-75), Gabriël Metsu (1629–67), Jan Steen (c. 1626-1679), Gerard ter Borch (1617-81), Jacob van Ruisdael (1629-82), Willem Kalf (1619-93), Nicolaes Maes (1634-93), Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp (1620–91), Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709), Gerard Lairesse (1641-1711), and Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712). After the French invasion of 1672 the Dutch art market collapsed as Amsterdam’s art dealer Gerard Uylenburgh became bankrupt. Dutch universities at Leiden, Utrecht, Franeker, and Groningen attracted many foreign students especially Germans. Dutch commerce thrived most during its Phase Four (1647-72) and Phase Five (1672-1702). In 1669 Dutch writers formed the literary society Nil volentibus arduum, which in Latin means “Nothing is impossible to the valiant,” to follow the trend of French classical rules. In 1673 the Royal Society in London published a letter from Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek describing his observations of mold, bees, and lice using an advanced microscope, beginning a scientific correspondence with the Society. In 1676 Leeuwenhoek discovered single-celled organisms which were verified by the Royal Society the following year.
      Arnold Geulincx (1625-69) was a Flemish philosopher who followed up on the ideas of Descartes. He studied and taught at the University of Leuven until 1658 and then moved to Leiden where he became a professor in 1665. That year he published his Ethics (De virtute) in Latin. He based virtue on the love of God and reason and emphasized the virtues of diligence, obedience, justice, and humility.

Netherlands and Willem III 1672-1702

      On August 27, 1672 the States of Holland authorized Stadtholder Willem to make changes on town councils to restore order. In early September massive demonstrations gathered in Delft, Leiden, Haarlem, and Amsterdam, and they presented petitions to town councils whose memberships were then radically changed. Prince Willem’s position as captain-general was made for life on September 8.
      Münster forces overran Coevorden, Drenthe, and part of Groningen, and by the end of the summer the French and Münster soldiers occupied most of the Dutch Republic with riots in other provinces except Friesland where Arminians were purged from town councils. Law professor Ulrik Huber wrote a popular pamphlet warning that Friesland must avoid the disorder in the other provinces. Enemy soldiers ravaged Gelderland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Drenthe, and Brabant, and Groningen was besieged. Office-holders and magistrates fled as the economy was disrupted. French military governors ordered burgomasters and magistrates to return to their positions, or they would be dismissed. Many nobles took refuge in Holland. A few managed to stay without ruining their reputations including Weede van Dijkvelt in Utrecht while Lambert van Velthuysen and Godard Willem, heer van Welland, stayed in Utrecht and were discredited. Three burgomasters from Rotterdam took refuge in Antwerp with their families. Merchants as well as nobles left the United Provinces with much money. Pieter de Groot still believed that republics can guarantee religious freedom and security for private possessions better than monarchies. He noted that Dutch trade had flourished during the De Witt years more than ever. The States General made alliances with Emperor Leopold and Brandenburg, and in late 1672 they advanced on Cologne and forced the French army to turn toward the south. During the winter the inundated land froze and gave the French a brief opportunity for Marshal Luxembourg’s French army of 10,000 men to move toward Leiden until a thaw forced them to retreat.
      Stadtholder Willem replaced 130 of the 460 regents in Holland in 1672. The States of Holland made taxes even heavier. Liberal sects were concerned that the Voetians would not tolerate their dissent. The Calvinist theologian Gijsbert Voet (1589-1676) had persuaded the University of Utrecht to condemn Cartesian philosophy in 1642. In 1653 the State of Holland had prohibited conventicles by Socinians and other anti-Trinitarians. Booksellers of such books could be fined 1,000 guilders and printers 3,000. In his Politica Ecclesiastica Voet argued that Unitarians as well as Remonstrants and Mennonites should not be tolerated, though his letter to Mennonite leaders in 1664 praised them for fighting Socinians within their church. In 1678 Utrecht renewed their censorship of dissenting literature that included works by Hobbes, Meijer, and Spinoza. Meijer published Philosophia S. Scripturae Interpres anonymously at Amsterdam in 1666, and he was one of the first to apply the philosophy of Descartes to theology. Voetians were naturally opposed by Cartesians called Cocceians named after the theologian Johannes Cocceius (1603-69). In 1672 the Voetian preacher Johannes van der Waeyen became a Cocceian and converted many others. Amsterdam was free of Prince Willem’s influence. Many people found that the Stadtholder’s appointees were more corrupt and despotic than their predecessors. In November 1673 the vroedschap (city council) at Delft tried to reinstate several regents, and Leiden and Middelburg moved toward republican policies. Temple published his Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands with the last chapter “The Causes of their Fall in 1672.”
      In 1673 English and French navies attacked Dutch shipping, but in June the more maneuverable Dutch navy led by Admiral De Ruyter defeated a larger Anglo-French fleet of 76 ships with 4,812 guns and in a second battle off Zeeland a week later. In the third battle the English and French had 86 ships and 5,386 guns against a Dutch fleet with only 3,667 guns, but the Dutch again won the 11-hour battle. Willem of Orange made a defensive alliance with Denmark in July, and Spain entered the war on the side of the Dutch in August which caused the French to reduce their forces fighting the Dutch. On September 1 the Dutch East India Company fleet defeated the British East India Company. Willem of Orange led the capture of Bonn on November 12, relieving Utrecht. After an investigation of Utrecht, Gelderland, and Overijssel the States General readmitted them into the United Provinces in April 1674. The Stadtholder removed 120 officer-holders from Utrecht including 21 regents and many also from Gelderland and Overijssel. In February the States of Holland and Zeeland made his position as Stadtholder hereditary to males in the house of Orange-Nassau.
      The Dutch also had a successful privateering campaign against English ships, and the loss of trade made the war so unpopular that on February 19, 1674 (NS) Charles II agreed to the Second Peace of Westminster with the Dutch that was ratified by both sides by March 5 with no gains for England. On April 22 Münster withdrew from the war, giving up all the gains they had made. Willem also made a treaty with Cologne, and in May the French evacuated the Ijssel line and all of Gelderland and Overijssel. Protestants removed Catholic images from cathedrals while Dutch troops tried to prevent reprisals against Catholics. By June the French retained only the fortresses at Grave and Maastricht. On August 11 near Seneffe the Dutch and their Spanish and imperial allies suffered 11,000 killed, 7,000 wounded, and 1,000 captured while the total French losses were 8,000.
      In January 1675 Prince Willem became the Duke of Gelderland, and many criticized this, especially merchants in Amsterdam, Delft, Leiden, Haarlem, and Zeeland. After one tract referred to “His Majesty King Willem III, the States General banned anyone saying that the Prince aimed to be sovereign over the provinces. On February 20 Willem of Orange went to the States of Gelderland and declined the ducal title, but he also replaced 126 members of town councils with Orangists. Then in March he increased his power in Overijssel, and on April 20 the States General proclaimed the offices of captain-general and admiral-general hereditary in the male line of the Prince of Orange. The Dutch Republic had become a major power with an army of 100,000 men, but it was limited to 68,000 by 1675. Although he reduced military spending, the public debt of nearly 30 million guilders blocked tax cuts. Willem III continued the war against France, and the army expanded to 90,000 men in 1677. French privateers attacked Dutch merchant ships and fishing fleets. Admiral Michiel de Ruyter was wounded by a cannonball in a battle off Augusta on April 22, 1676 and died a week later.
      Prince Willem expelled the Cocceians Van der Waeyen and Wilhelmus Momma from Zeeland in November, but in 1677 Van der Waeyen was given a chair at the University of Franeker. That year Amsterdam achieved a friendly reconciliation and made Hendrik Hooft the presiding burgomaster. He and many regents objected to the Prince’s authoritarian leadership. Early in 1677 the French invaded the Spanish Netherlands, took Valenciennes and besieged St. Omer. Prince William led 32,000 allied troops but suffered a humiliating defeat at Mont Cassel on April 11 as they suffered more than 8,000 casualties and had 3,000 taken prisoners. Willem III visited England in October to court Princess Mary, and they were married in November. A treaty between the Dutch and England was signed on January 10, 1678 at The Hague.
      Louis XIV offered to withdraw from Maastricht and give back Valenciennes and Tournai to Spain, and Burgomaster Hooft urged Willem to accept the peace proposal. The Prince did not want to desert his allies and delayed, but in June the States of Holland, led by Hooft and Rotterdam’s regent Adriaen Paets, voted to end the war. Then Louis announced he would not remove his troops unless his ally Brandenburg got back his losses from Sweden. On August 2 the Prince led 35,000 allies with the support of the States of Holland and advanced toward besieged Mons. Louis quickly withdrew his army and canceled the tariffs imposed in 1667. The Dutch and their Spanish allies won a strategic victory over the French at Saint-Denis near Mons on August 15, but the French gained bargaining power by capturing Ghent and Ypres. The treaty between France and the Dutch Republic was signed at Nijmegen on August 10, 1678. Willem attacked the French at Mons before he learned of the treaty, and some blamed the Dutch for caring more about their commercial interests than their allies. The last of the Nijmegen treaties was between the Dutch and Sweden on October 2, 1679.
      Late that year Louis XIV began moving his forces against the Southern Netherlands, Lorraine, and Alsace; but he offered the Dutch a friendship treaty if they agreed within fourteen days. The States General did not respond. Dutch trade suffered, and in October 1681 they formed an alliance with Sweden. In February 1682 French aggression against the Spanish Netherlands led to Spain asking for 8,000 Dutch troops to fulfill their 1673 treaty. Prince Willem made a speech on March 7, and five of seven provinces agreed they must fight. In 1683 Louis XIV attacked the Spanish Netherlands again, besieging Luxemburg. The States of Holland approved sending the 8,000 troops which were kept in reserve. Willem asked for 16,000 more soldiers; but the request for funds did not get the majority vote needed, and the Spanish Netherlands chose to get out of the war on May 13, 1684. The French lifted the siege of Luxemburg on June 7. Friesland and Groningen demanded the recall of their troops, and the States of Friesland prohibited their soldiers from leaving the province. Louis XIV proposed a 20-year truce in the Spanish Netherlands with France keeping its gains. The States of Holland accepted this on June 16, and eight days later the States General agreed by a 5-2 vote. The Stadtholder was opposed, but the treaty was ratified by four provinces to three on August 19. In 1685 the Dutch Republic formed a defensive alliance with Brandenburg.
      In 1686 Amsterdam blocked any increase in military spending, and by the summer of 1687 only 18 of 36 new warships authorized in 1682 had been constructed. Dutch industry and commerce increased in the mid-1680s, though in August 1687 Louis XIV began to extend his mercantilism by imposing a ban on the importation of Dutch herring unless they used French salt. In September he reverted to Colbert’s restrictive tariff list of 1667 which doubled the duties on Dutch fine cloth and other products. By December 1687 the sale of Dutch cloth in France had ceased. In 1688 Amsterdam was by far the largest city in the Netherlands with about 200,000 people.
      In February 1688 England’s James II asked the States General to repatriate the English and Scots from the Dutch army. The States General refused, and James ordered his subjects to come home. Concern over another English-French alliance motivated Stadtholder Willem III and Amsterdam in June to form secretly a coalition with the Habsburg Empire against France and to prepare for an invasion of England. On July 16 a petition from the English people was secretly given to Willem of Orange, urging him to bring an army to help them overthrow Catholic James II. During the summer Willem hired 14,000 German soldiers from Brandenburg, Hesse-Cassel, Celle, and Württemberg with the Dutch rates of pay.
      In June 1688 Cologne’s Elector Max Heinrich died. Emperor Leopold and Pope Innocent XI blocked Louis XIV’s choice to succeed him, and French troops occupied Cologne in September, provoking the Emperor and Brandenburg to mobilize forces on the Rhine.
      On September 19 Prince Willem and Holland’s Pensionary Caspar Fagel secretly informed the States of Holland of their plan to go to war against France. They also engaged the Frisian Stadtholder Hendrik Casimir to oppose the French and English conspiracy, and Friesland approved. Yet on the 24th Amsterdam still refused to accept the ban on French imports until Louis XIV seized more than a hundred Dutch ships, mostly loading wine, in French ports. On September 29 in a secret session of the States of Holland the Stadtholder proposed an invasion of England to break the despotic power of James II and to replace him with an anti-Catholic parliamentary monarchy that would oppose France. They mobilized an army of 14,352 Dutch soldiers and 5,000 Huguenots, English, and Scots with 50 heavy guns and 5,000 horses. Amsterdam and Rotterdam collected 400 transport vessels and 53 warships for the invasion which was four times as large as the Spanish armada of 1588. They were ready by October 11, but contrary winds delayed embarkation until November when an east wind helped them and kept the English fleet in the Thames estuary. They landed at Torbay on November 5 (OS) and seized Exeter where Prince Willem made a speech to the English on the 15th in which he said he did not need their military aid. On November 26 (NS) Louis XIV declared war on the Dutch. Catholic James II had little support from a mostly Protestant nation and eventually fled to France. William of Orange entered London on December 18 (OS), but he ordered his army to stay twenty miles from the city. William took control of England’s army, navy, and finances.
      The English Parliament met in January 1689, and they summoned a convention which asked William to be regent; but he declined. On February 23 they asked him and his wife, who was the daughter of James II, to be King William III and Queen Mary II of England. They were crowned on April 11, and in May he took England and then Scotland into the war against France. In January 1689 he began paying 17,000 Dutch soldiers with English taxes, and he kept Dutch troops in England until 1691 to help fight against Jacobite resistance. William’s forces defeated Irish rebels commanded by James II at Boyne on July 1, 1690, but nine days later a French fleet of 75 ships burned eight Dutch ships in the English Channel off Beachy Head. The English navy outnumbered the Dutch warships by a ratio of 5-3. In the 1690s William III and his Dutch favorites had control over English war finances and secret diplomacy. In 1691 he promised that England would provide 20,000 soldiers and the Dutch 35,000 for the war in the Southern Netherlands. The English Parliament increased its power during the 1690s.
      On May 27, 1689 the States of Holland had made Anthonie Heinsius grand pensionary, and Willem sent his friend Hans Willem Bentinck, Earl of Portland, to work with him; but they were opposed by republican Jan Huydecoper and Gerard Bors van Waveren of Amsterdam. Ericus Walten wrote about Dutch politics and praised the Glorious Revolution and constitutional monarchy in England while castigating the arbitrary power of Louis XIV. Romeyn de Hooghe promoted the accomplishments of Willem III by portraying them in his engravings. Willem had his favorites, and baljuw (bailiff) Jacob van Zuylen van Nyevelt was an orthodox Calvinist but dallied with extortion and prostitutes so much that a mob attacked his house in the fall of 1690.
      In February 1691 Willem returned to The Hague and was welcomed with exceptional celebrations. Gregorio Leti wrote the heroic poem Il Prodigio in Italian in 1695, and Lucas Rotgans of Amsterdam published his poetic Willem III in 9,000 verses from 1698 to 1700. Collegiant poet Oudaan wrote Haagsche Broder-Moord about the murders of the De Witt brothers by 1673, and he died in 1692; but the tragedy was not published until 1712. Willem’s popularity was aided by his policy of religious toleration in England and the United Provinces that included not only Cocceian Protestants but also Catholics, Mennonites, and Jews. In 1692 the Prince replaced seven republican regents with his supporters and the pensionary of Rotterdam with Isaac van Hoornbeck, son of a Voetian professor. Paets had arranged for the philosopher Pierre Bayle to be a professor there, but the vroedschap dismissed him in 1693.
      During the Nine Years War (1688-97) France also waged a commercial war against the Dutch. They besieged Namur on May 25, 1692 and captured it on June 30 despite heavier casualties; but in July and August 1695 the Allies besieged Namur and lost more men getting it back. In August 13-15 the French bombarded the open city of Brussels, destroying a third of the buildings. In February 1696 riots broke out in Amsterdam against excise collectors in protest of more taxes. The coalition of the Dutch, Britain, the Empire, Spain, and Brandenburg could not defeat the French army, and in late 1693 Willem sent Heinsius to negotiate secretly at the French court. Eventually Louis XIV offered to renounce several gains and his claims in the Spanish Netherlands, recognize William III as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and even cancel the tariff list of 1667. They eventually agreed to a treaty at Ryswick on September 20, 1697, though the commercial treaty included some higher imposts. The Dutch Republic gained the right to garrison important fortresses in the Southern Netherlands.
      Balthasar Bekker wrote Bewitched World (De Betoverde Weereld), and its publication in 1691 of 5,000 copies in Amsterdam was quickly sold out along with 750 in a Frisian edition. He noted that references to Satan, demons, and angels in scripture are usually poetic allegories of sin and the power of God and that no one had really met the Devil. Within three years about 170 books were published arguing for or against belief in the Devil. His ideas would influence the decline in prosecuting witchcraft.
      Jacques Basnage (1653-1723) was the son of a Huguenot and preached to French Calvinists in Rotterdam from 1685 to 1709. He wrote L’Histoire et la religion des Juifs depuis Jésus Christ jusqu’a présent in five volumes (1706-11) in which he gave a comprehensive account of Judaism and the persecution of Jews by Christians, and he described the famous debate between Isaac Orobio de Castro and Philipp Van Limborch in 1684. Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711) wrote The Christian’s Reasonable Service in four volumes and was the most influential Dutch Puritan.

Netherlands and War Against France 1702-15

      Stadtholder Willem III died on March 19, 1702 after serving as King William III of England for thirteen years. He had continued to dominate Dutch government through his supporters, but on March 25 Holland’s Pensionary Anthonie Heinsius announced that the States of Holland would no longer have a stadtholder. Willem III’s will was published at The Hague in May, declaring 14-year-old Johan Willem Friso his “general heir” as Prince of Orange. Willem III died childless, but both of Friso’s parents were his cousins. Many wanted a return to a more republican government, and Baron Jacob van Wassenaar (1646-1707) led the anti-Orangist nobles in the ridderschap (knighthood) of Holland, and Leiden rotated offices to remove Orangists. Willem’s friends Nicolaes Witsen and Johannes Hudde had just been elected burgomasters in Amsterdam, but the republican leaders Joan Huydecoper, Jacob Hinlopen, and Joan Corver had more power. Orangists looked to Denmark’s Prince George, husband of England’s Queen Anne, to take over as captain-general and admiral, but Corver and Huydecoper got this defeated in Amsterdam. In the north Friesland and Groningen recognized the young Prince of Orange as stadtholder. In May 1703 they tried to get Friso appointed general of the infantry, but they were defeated by the regents of the other provinces. Leiden did not want to offend their powerful ally, King Friedrich I of Prussia, who disputed the Prince’s legacy. He had claimed the inheritance as the grandson of Frederik Hendrik’s oldest daughter Louise Henriette, annexing Lingen and Moers in March 1702. On April 8 the States of Gelderland abolished the Stadtholder’s regulations. During the turmoil Pensionary Heinsius directed the Dutch policy in the War of the Spanish Succession.
      Holland and four other provinces declined to recognize Willem Friso as the Prince of Orange, though he was appointed one of the generals. Flushing and Veere in Zeeland maintained Orangist policies, but other towns did not. Disturbances began at Thölen in April 1702 and spread to Goes and Middelburg where Daniel Fannius led the republicans, and by July they were replacing Orangists in the town council; but by the end of 1703 Flushing and Veeres had helped bring back orthodox Calvinism in Middelburg. Orangists seized the town hall in January 1704; but republicans and burghers persuaded the militia to throw them out, and they took control in the spring. Utrecht, Overijssel, and Gelderland repealed Willem’s regulations, though his office-holders remained because of the colleges of citizen representatives (gemeenslieden). Protests against them began at Nijmegen and spread to Tiel and Zaltbommel, replacing them with “new crews.” The Arnhem knights boycotted the quarter assembly. By the spring of 1703 disturbances broke out in Gelderland and Utrecht where burghers used weapons to take over the city in July. Godard Willem, heer van Welland, had been purged in 1674 and led the anti-Orangists there and influenced Gelderland and Zeeland. The States of Utrecht used soldiers sent by the States General to suppress the rebellion. Republicans also took over at Deventer in Overijssel. Holland’s regents supported new crews in Gelderland and prevented the Generality from intervening there. The guilds in Harderwijk took over the raad (council) in February 1704.
      That year the legal expert Gerard Noodt published Diocletianus et Maximianus to expose the corruption in the criminal justice system under Willem III’s baljuws (bailiffs). Emanuel van der Hoeven published a study of Johan de Witt with official documents in 1705 and the next year two volumes on the republic without stadtholders, admiring Oldenbarnevelt and Grotius. That year Romeyn de Hooghe also wrote two volumes recommending republican institutions.
      In August 1707 Johan Willem Friso came of age at 18 and claimed to be stadtholder of Friesland and Groningen, but Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht blocked his admission into the council. In October Gelderland’s new crew at Arnhem used militia to seize Wageningen and arrest the old crew; but the States General condemned the action, and the States of Holland sent in Generality troops, occupying Arnhem in December and Nijmegen in January 1708. In February the province of Groningen proclaimed Friso stadtholder. In April 1709 he married Maria Louisa of Hesse-Cassel, and he continued to serve as a general in the Dutch army. On July 14, 1711 Johan Willem Friso drowned in a sailing accident during a storm. Six weeks later his son was born and named Willem Carel Hendrik Friso.

      In early February 1701 Louis XIV sent French forces to take over the barrier fortresses in the Spanish Netherlands allotted to the Dutch in the Ryswick treaty of 1697. Antwerp began resisting the French occupation in May. The Dutch prepared for the War of the Spanish Succession at The Hague on September 7, 1701 by forming the Grand Alliance with England, Scotland, Prussia, and the Austrian Empire against France and Spain where Louis XIV’s grandson had become King Felipe V. Dutch trade with Spain and its colonies was deteriorating, and they also wanted France to moderate its trade tariffs. On May 15, 1702 the Dutch Republic, England, and the Austrian Empire declared war on France. That year jurist Cornelius van Bynkershoek published De Dominio Maris Dissertatio suggesting that a nation’s territory extended three nautical miles into the sea.
      During the war the Dutch army would increase from 40,000 men to more than 100,000. The British navy dominated the seas, but they provided only 40,000 soldiers on the continent where the Duke of Marlborough was the allies’ commander-in-chief. Most German troops and money went to the war in Spain. The Dutch supported the English conquest of Gibraltar, and some fought in Catalonia. The States of Holland objected to the Anglo-Dutch embargo on French trade, and in 1704 the States General resumed agricultural and wine trade in an agreement with Louis XIV.
      Brussels had raised tariffs on the Dutch in 1699, and Jan van Brouchoven, Count of Bergeyck, farmed out growing taxes and had Brussels trading with Spain and France early in the war and added tariffs in April 1703. Marlborough’s allied victory over the French at Blenheim on August 13, 1704 was a turning point in the war. The triumph at Ramillies on May 23, 1706 liberated most of the southern Netherlands, and Leuven, Brussels, Mechelen, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, and Oudenaarde welcomed the allies. On June 5 the States of Brabant recognized Archduke Charles III, followed by the States of Flanders the next day. That summer the allied forces advanced in Castile and captured Madrid. Ostend surrendered to the allies in July 1706. Hainault, Namur, and Luxemburg were still held by the French, but the latter two were later ceded to Bavaria’s Elector Max Emmanuel. On July 11, 1708 the Allies defeated the French at Oudenaarde. Although that month the French took back Ghent and Bruges, long allied sieges regained them early in 1709. On September 11 at Malplaquet the Allies won a bloody victory but suffered twice as many casualties as the French. On October 29 the Dutch Republic and Britain agreed to the first Barrier Treaty which gave the Dutch control over fourteen forts and towns in the southern Netherlands in exchange for recognizing the Protestant Succession of Elector George of Hanover in Britain, and the Scheldt restrictions were confirmed.
      By 1710 most nations were ready for peace, but Louis XIV’s proposal was rejected. France, Spain, Britain, and Savoy agreed on an armistice at Utrecht on August 19, 1712, followed by Portugal on November 8. Dutch finances made it difficult to continue the war against France without Britain, and they signed the second Barrier Treaty on January 29, 1713 that was approved by the Emperor’s envoy in March. The allies signed treaties on April 11. The Dutch made peace with Spain in June and with Britain and Savoy on July 13. Britain received Gibraltar and the slave trade for thirty years with other trade advantages. The Dutch improved commercial relations but renounced trade with the Spanish Indies. On November 15, 1715 the Dutch Republic made a treaty at Antwerp with the Habsburg Empire which closed the Scheldt River to ships and maintained the 1680 tariff list. The Emperor and the Dutch agreed to share the defense of what became the Austrian Netherlands with the Dutch providing 14,000 troops and the Empire 21,000. The States General could place military governors in the barrier towns, but Protestant worship was only allowed in private homes. The Dutch were to contribute 1,250,000 guilders per year to maintain their garrisons. The Dutch army had reached 130,000 men in 1713, but by 1715 it was back down to 40,000 including Swiss and Scots. Borrowing during the war had pushed Holland’s public debt up to 128 million guilders by 1713. The Third Barrier Treaty signed at Antwerp on November 15, 1715 gave the Dutch six garrisons and cities in the upper regions of Guelders.

Austrian Netherlands 1713-88
Netherlands and Stadholder Willem IV 1715-51
Netherlands and the Patriots 1751-88

Spinoza’s Life and Early Work

      Baruch Spinoza was born on November 24, 1632 in Amsterdam. His father Michael was a Sephardic Jew whose family had fled from the Inquisition in Portugal. His mother was also a Jew from Portugal, and they spoke Portuguese and called him Bento. She died in 1638 about the time Bento began studying in a Talmudic school until his thirteenth year when he decided not to go on to study to be a rabbi. In addition to Hebrew studies he also read Abraham Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, and Hasdai ben Judah Crescas. Jews in Holland at this time were not citizens. His father was a successful merchant of Portuguese imports and took both his sons into his business; but the English captured several of his cargoes in the war of 1652-54, and the business never fully recovered. In 1653 the German physician Francis van den Enden began teaching Latin to Spinoza and perhaps some Greek and German too. Michael Spinoza died in March 1654, and Bento took charge of the business and sued his step-sister but then let her keep most of the inheritance except for a bed he got. He and his younger brother Gabriel continued the import trade for a while. Bento studied in a Yeshivah with rabbi Saul Levi Morteira until he was expelled from the Jewish community on July 27, 1656 for having “wrong opinions” and “horrible heresies.” He was even banished from Amsterdam for a while.
      Spinoza began using the Latin form of his name, Benedictus. Later writing showed that he was critical of many things in the Bible. He was searching for the truth and the good life and became interested in scientific studies and the philosophy of Descartes. He joined Collegiants who had no priests but met in groups and the Mennonites who were peaceful and avoided politics, thus avoiding trouble from Dutch authorities. These groups also shared the Quakers’ approach to the inner light. Cartesian philosophy was very popular in the 1650s. In 1660 Spinoza moved to Rijnsburg near Leiden, and he apparently attended philosophy lectures by Franco Burgersdijck and Adrian Heereboord at the University of Leiden. Spinoza made his living as an optician by grinding and polishing lenses for spectacles, telescopes, and microscopes. He also did some tutoring, and his friend Simon Joosten de Vries wanted to make him his heir and left him an annuity of 500 florins, but Spinoza only accepted 300. His extant correspondence dates from August 1661, and by then he was a leader of a study group.
      Spinoza was friends with the scientist Christian Huygens, the mathematician Johannes Hudde, and the German Heinrich Oldenburg. He corresponded with the latter when he became Secretary of the Royal Society in London as well as with the chemist Robert Boyle. Spinoza left behind a library of 161 books, and about a quarter of them were on science and mathematics. Spinoza knew Spanish, French, and Italian and had many works of Spanish literature. He made portraits of some friends in ink or charcoal. He read Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, and probably Giordano Bruno. Spinoza wrote Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione (Treatise on the Correction of the Understanding) by 1662. In February 1663 he sent friends in Amsterdam a draft of the first part of his Ethics, and that year he published his geometrical interpretation of DescartesPrinciples of Philosophy. Although this was the only book he published during his lifetime with his name on it, he disagreed with many of the Cartesian ideas.
      In April 1663 Spinoza moved from Rijnsburg to Voorbug near The Hague. Van den Enden’s Free Political Institutions was published anonymously in Amsterdam in 1665. Spinoza’s Ethics was nearly complete by June using the geometrical methods he adopted from Euclid’s Elements, but he put it aside to write about theology and political issues. When the union of the Dutch Republic or United Provinces had been formed in 1579, article 13 stated, “The provinces are free to regulate religion, each in their own region, and no one should be persecuted or made the subject of a judicial inquiry on account of his religious beliefs.”2 Now some strict Calvinists were testing that because they wanted one official religion for the Netherlands. Yet Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt protected religious tolerance, and he was advised by his friend Spinoza, who wrote his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and published it anonymously in 1669 at Amsterdam with a fictitious printer listed as at Hamburg in 1670. He argued that piety and public peace depend on religious freedom. Since he had Isaac la Peyrere’s 1655 book Praeadamitae in his library, Spinoza was probably influenced by him; but he went much farther in his criticism of the Bible. An author’s note said, “This book was published with the knowledge of Mr. Jan de Witt.”
      In May 1670 Spinoza moved to The Hague where he spent the rest of his short life. In August 1672 during the French invasion the De Witt brothers were murdered, and Prince Willem III of Orange took over the country. Spinoza wanted to protest the assassinations, but a friend locked him up to save his life. In May 1673 he went to Utrecht to try to negotiate peace with the French; but this made him unpopular when he returned. That year the Palatine Elector offered him a professorship of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, but he declined. In July 1674 the States-General banned the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, and it was also put on the Catholic Index. Spinoza complete his Ethics in 1675 but did not try to publish it, perhaps circulating manuscripts to his friends. The German philosopher Leibniz reported that he had several long conversations with Spinoza in 1676 about optics and his philosophical works. Spinoza suffered from tuberculosis which the glass dust from grinding lenses surely made worse. He did not marry and had no children. Spinoza died on February 21, 1677, and his Ethics and most of his other writings were published that year under the initials B.D.S. These included his early Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione, correspondence, and A Compendium on Hebrew Grammar. In 1678 three French translations of his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus were published under different titles. His essays “On the Rainbow” and “On the Calculation of Chances” were printed in 1687. In 1689 the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus was published in English in London without an author’s name. His early work, the Short Treatise on God, Man and his Well-Being, was eventually discovered in Dutch manuscripts and was published in 1862.
      Leibniz, Bayle, Voltaire, and others disagreed with Spinoza’s philosophy; but since Lessing’s deathbed confession of Spinozaism on his deathbed and Goethe’s embrace of his pantheism, Spinoza has been increasingly recognized as an important philosopher with his Ethics and Tractatus Theologico-Politicus as seminal works.

      Spinoza wrote his Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione (Treatise on the Correction of the Understanding) in 1661. He left it unfinished, and it was published after his death in 1677. He began writing the treatise in first person explaining that experience taught him that ordinary life is “empty and futile,” and so he sought to find “the true good” that would lead to the greatest joy. He observed that honor and wealth can bring advantages but that he would need to abstain from them to devote himself “to something new and different.” What most people think are the highest goods are wealth, honor, and sensual pleasure, and the mind distracted by these pays little attention to any other good. He found that sadness follows after the enjoyment of sensual pleasure which “confuses and dulls the mind.” The pursuit of honors and wealth also distract the mind especially when wealth is sought for its own sake, though neither is naturally followed by repentance. Wealth and honor do increase joy and continue to motivate, but frustrated hopes bring the greatest sadness. Honor means directing our lives according to what other people understand.
      Through meditation Spinoza resolved to give up such evils with his whole heart for a certain good because what people strive for and are possessed by cause their destruction. Yet love for the eternal and infinite nourishes the mind with pure joy and is to be “sought with all our strength.” Money, sensual pleasure, and esteem acquired as a means rather than an end may be limited while the true good is uniting the mind “with the whole of Nature.” First one must understand Nature, and then comes forming a society to acquire that knowledge. Third is paying attention to moral philosophy and the instruction of children. Spinoza sought a method for healing and purifying the intellect to achieve the highest human perfection. He devised the following rules for good living:

1) Speak to the understanding of ordinary people and do whatever does not interfere with attaining our purpose.
2) Enjoy pleasures only so much as to safeguard our health.
3) Seek money only to sustain life and health, and conform to social customs that do not conflict with our aim.

      Spinoza observed that from our perception of a body we can infer that the soul is united with the body. The mind understands itself better the more it understands Nature. The method will be most perfect when the mind attends to or reflects on knowledge of the most perfect Being. Spinoza found that confusion results when the mind knows only a part of a whole that is composed of many things. Knowledge of an effect can be acquired by understanding its cause. He noted that using adjectives and abstractions does not facilitate distinct and clear knowledge. Thus we should seek knowledge of particulars as much as possible. (This was later explained by Alfred Korzybski in his theory of general semantics in his book Science and Sanity.)

Spinoza’s Ethics

      Spinoza’s Ethics used the geometric methods of definitions, axioms, propositions, proofs, postulates, corollaries, lemmas, and notes. He defined God as “Being absolutely infinite” which he called “substance consisting of infinite attributes” that express eternal essence. For Spinoza because God is infinite, it is the only reality and substance. Everything is within God, and nothing can be conceived without God. Thus God is the creator, the first and efficient cause of all things. Spinoza believed that God is perfect, omnipotent, immanent, and immutable. He then argued that because God determines all things, free will does not exist. Humans think that they are free because of conscious wishes and appetites, but Spinoza contended that they are ignorant of causes that influence their desires and other motives. Man calls good whatever leads to health and the worship of God.
      In the second part of the Ethics on nature and the mind Spinoza defined individual things as finite and determined. He acknowledged that humans think, which is an attribute of God. The human mind is part of the infinite intellect of God, and Spinoza placed great value on reason. People are composed of a mind which perceives their bodies. Each person’s thoughts will be influenced by previous ideas and emotions. By perceiving many things the mind is able to form universal ideas because of memories. Spinoza distinguished opinion and imagination from adequate ideas which he called reason and adequate knowledge of essence which is intuition. He considered opinion and imagination false while reason and intuition are true; the latter two are part of the infinite intellect of God. Spinoza believed that we do everything by the will of God. As our actions become more perfect, we increase our understanding of God, teaching us what it is to be blessed. His doctrine teaches us not to hate anyone nor to mock, be angry, or envy. We learn to be content with our own and help our neighbor by the guidance of reason. This shows us how citizens are to be led so that they may freely choose what is best.
      The third part of Spinoza’s Ethics is on the emotions. When the mind has adequate ideas, it acts; but without using reason it suffers. The tongue and the appetites are the most difficult to govern. Desires are when the mind is conscious of the appetites, and people desire what they believe is good. When the body’s ability to act is increased, joy is experienced; the opposite is sorrow or pain. Pleasurable excitement is cheerfulness. Spinoza explained love as joy from an external cause, and hatred comes from pain outwardly caused. He described hope as unsteady joy, fear as doubtful sorrow. If the doubt is removed, joy becomes confidence, and fear turns into despair. In relation to the past they become gladness and remorse. Pity comes from sorrow over another’s loss. Love toward someone who has done one good is gratitude, but to one who has done evil it becomes indignation. Thinking too highly of oneself is pride, and thinking too low of someone else is contempt. Willing to do good to someone pitied is benevolence. Self-exaltation is the opposite of shame. People want to make others like what they love and hate what they despise. Hatred toward a beloved combined with envy becomes jealousy. Sorrow from an absence is longing. Spinoza argued that sorrow restricts the human ability to act, and therefore he believed with the Buddha that the first thing to do is to remove the sorrow. Joy is good, and sorrow is bad.
      The covetous desire money and hate poverty. The ambitious desire glory and fear shame. Concern about shame makes one modest. Being concerned about great evils is consternation. Anger is the desire to bring evil on those we hate, and the attempt to return evil for evil is vengeance. Returning love to those who love us is gratitude. If we help another who is ungrateful, we feel sad. Vengeance increases hatred, but love may destroy hatred. If we experience love or joy from a person of another class or nation, we feel the same emotion toward that class or nation. We feel greater love or hatred toward people we believe are free. Bravery is despising an evil that people usually fear. We feel joy when we approve of what we do and sorrow when we repent for having done wrong. We venerate those whom we consider wise or industrious, and this love can turn into devotion. Contempt for what we hate or fear can become derision. When the mind contemplates itself, it can become more perfect. Sorrow for our own weakness is humility while joy for our own virtues is self-approval. Parents usually encourage virtue by stimulating honor and envy. Voluptuousness, drunkenness, lust, avarice, and ambition result from excessive desire for pleasures, wealth, and glory. The mind restrains these by temperance, sobriety, and chastity. Generosity is the desire to help others. Mercy is a mental power that can restrain anger and vengeance. Courtesy comes from a desire to please others.
      In Part 4 Spinoza discussed how strong emotions can lead to human bondage, which he defined as the inability to govern the emotions. A person controlled by emotions is not a master. He defined good as what is useful to us, and evil as what hinders us from attaining the good. An emotion can only be restrained or removed by a stronger emotion. Knowledge of good and evil comes from being conscious of joy or sorrow. Desires can also be extinguished or restrained by other desires. Those desires which spring from joy are stronger than those that result from sorrow. Reason demands that everyone love oneself and seek what is beneficial. This is as true as that the whole is greater than its parts. Virtue is acting according to the laws of our own nature to preserve our being. What is most useful for people is that every person should seek the common good of all. Those who are governed by reason seek what is beneficial. What they want for themselves they desire for others and so act with justice, faith, and honor. Each person naturally desires what one considers is good and avoids what one thinks is bad. The mind uses reason to understand, and the highest virtue of the mind is to know God. What agrees with our nature is good. Emotions and passions can be contrary to one another. Being guided by reason agrees with nature. Everyone may enjoy virtue. Those with greater knowledge of God follow virtue and desire it for others. Those who use emotions and impulse to make others love what they love can be hateful, but those consistent with themselves lead others by reason.
      True virtue is living according to the guidance of reason alone. Living in harmony and helping one another gain confidence by doing nothing to injure another. A society established by law with the power to preserve itself is a state, and those protected by its justice are citizens. Whatever helps people live in harmony is beneficial, and the contrary is bad. Joy can never be excessive, but melancholy is bad. Hatred can never be good, and its effects of envy, mockery, contempt, anger, and revenge are bad and harm the state. Those who live guided by reason do their best to repay hatred, anger, or contempt with love or generosity. Those who avenge injuries by hating live in misery while those who drive out hatred with love are joyful and confident. Spinoza did not consider humility and repentance virtues, though they are lesser sins. Both pride and despondency result from ignorance of self. Those motivated by fear are not led by reason. Guidance by reason helps us seek a greater future good before a lesser one that is present. A free person contemplates life more than death and avoids danger and favors of the ignorant without despising them. Only the free are grateful to one another. A free person is never deceitful and always honorable. Those guided by reason are freer in a state with common laws than in solitude. Peace of mind comes from the intuitive knowledge of God. Intelligence is necessary for the rational life. Minds are not conquered by arms but by love and generosity. People benefit by uniting themselves in communities and by doing what strengthens friendships. Justice, integrity, and honor create concord. Care of the poor depends on the whole society. Marriage is beneficial for wisely educating children.
      Spinoza’s last part of his Ethics is on the power of the intellect and human liberty. Forming a clear and distinct idea of an emotion helps bring it within our control and decreases the suffering. Every emotion can be clearly understood. Yet negative emotions are bad because they may hinder the mind from understanding. Love and generosity conquer hatred which should not be met with hatred. Thus we should meditate on how to respond to injuries with generosity. The better one understands oneself and one’s emotions the more one loves God. The love of God should occupy the mind. God is free of passions and emotions. Spinoza believed that love for God cannot turn into hatred. When we understand the causes of sorrow, it ceases to be a passion. The more we understand individual things the more we understand God. From intuitive knowledge arises peace of mind and the intellectual love of God. The more the mind understands by reason and intuition the less it suffers from bad emotions and the less one fears death. The more perfect one becomes, the more one acts and the less one suffers. Being blessed is not the reward of virtue but virtue itself. Because we delight in virtue we can restrain our vices. Loving God is being blessed.

Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

      Spinoza published the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus in Latin, and it has been translated as the Theological-Political Treatise with the long but cogent subtitle:

Containing several discourses which demonstrate that
freedom to philosophize may not only be allowed
without danger to piety and the stability of the republic
but cannot be refused without destroying
the peace of the republic and piety itself

      In the Preface he noted that most people are superstitious and lack judgment because they “fluctuate wretchedly between hope and fear.” Thus they are ready to believe anything. He also believed that few people have self-knowledge. When things go wrong, most turn to anyone for guidance. They try to expiate sins by offering sacrifice and prayers. Superstition is born and rooted in fear. Spinoza was grateful to live in a republic where people are free to judge for themselves and may worship God as they choose. Yet he was amazed that most Christians, which he considered to be a religion of love, joy, peace, moderation, and good will to all people, oppose each other with mutual hatred. He explained this is because the religion of the common people now has pastors seeking lucrative offices, and churches have become theaters to hear ecclesiastical orators instead of learning from teachers. The religion has been reduced to external rituals, and faith consists of credulity and prejudices. Piety and religion have been reduced to absurd mysteries and those who condemn reason and reject understanding as corrupted by nature. Most people accept all scripture as being fundamentally true instead of finding truth in the scripture by critical examination, which is what Spinoza intended to do. He concluded that the authority of prophets is only credible on moral issues and in regard to true virtue, and the rest is opinions. He believed that the laws of Moses were decreed only for the Hebrew state at that time. He argued that the divine mind was revealed to the prophets so that we will obey God with all our mind by practicing justice and charity. Spinoza argued that no one is obligated to live according to the views of another but that each person must defend one’s own liberty and can think and say what one wishes.
      Spinoza defined prophecy as knowledge revealed to men by God, and he described a prophet as one who interprets what God reveals for those who cannot achieve their own knowledge. He believed that God was revealed in the mind of Christ who spoke with the voice of God as a way of salvation, but the prophets received their revelations through their imaginations in words and visions. Thus prophecy does not provide certainty, and prophets often asked for a confirming sign. For Spinoza prophecy is inferior to natural knowledge. Yet God uses the pious as instruments of piety and the impious to express his wrath. The third and most important characteristic of prophecy, in addition to imagination and a sign, is most important, and that is directing people to what is right and good. Spinoza gives examples of how prophets gave different messages according to their moods and circumstances. When Jeremiah felt morbid, he prophesied calamities. Micaiah had nothing good to say to King Ahab. Moses was angry at Pharaoh and punished the Egyptians. The quality of the prophecy depends on the learning and ability of the prophet.
      Spinoza believed that true joy does not include the false pride of excluding others, and he criticized the Jewish belief that God chose Jews and not others. Moses presented his ideas to the Hebrews as special for them because that was what they could accept; but all nations have prophets. All people can equally benefit from laws, and election depends upon virtue. He noted that Jews were persecuted partly because they separated themselves from other nations. God does not choose one nation above others.
      For Spinoza our highest good and happiness is the knowledge and love of God, and the goal of human actions is to follow the commands of God from the love of God, not out of fear of punishment nor from love of something else. Things that seem good by some other command or by tradition or because they symbolize some good do not improve our understanding. No society can be sustained without government and compulsory laws to moderate and restrain desires for mutual protection. Seneca noted that no violent regime has ever been maintained for long because only moderate governments endure. Spinoza believed first that the whole society should hold power together so that everyone is subject to oneself and so that no one has to serve one’s equal. Second, laws should restrain people less by fear than by hope for something good so that everyone will do their duty willingly. Third, government should be in the hands of all with laws drawn up by common consent. In such a society people will remain free because they act under the authority of one another with their consent. Spinoza concluded that whoever has love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, whether taught by reason, scripture, or God, is completely happy.
      The attributes of God that humans most should emulate are justice and love, and those who practice these in their human relations will be saved. Spinoza’s concern was to separate philosophy from theology to establish the right of every individual to philosophize or think for oneself. Most beneficial is living according to laws and the “certain dictates of reason” which aim at true human interests. Each person must curb one’s appetites and desires which would hurt someone else and should refrain from doing to anyone what one does not want done to oneself. People are obliged to defend the rights of others as their own. Spinoza defined democracy as “a united gathering of people which collectively has the sovereign right to do all that it has the power to do,”3 and he believed that everyone is obliged to obey that sovereign power. The civil right of every citizen is the freedom to conserve oneself in one’s own condition as determined by the sovereign power and protected by its authority. Justice assigns to people what belongs to them according to civil law. In the last chapter Spinoza wanted to show “that in a free state everyone is allowed to think what they wish and to say what they think.” He explained:

No one can transfer to another person his natural right,
or ability, to think freely and make his own judgments
about any matter whatsoever,
and cannot be compelled to do so.
This is why a government which seeks
to control people’s minds is considered oppressive,
and any sovereign power appears to harm its subjects
and usurp its rights when it tries to tell them
what they must accept as true and reject as false
and what beliefs should inspire their devotion to God.
For these things are within each person’s own right,
which he cannot give up even were he to wish to do so.4

      Spinoza went on to recommend leaving decisions about any action to the sovereign powers and do nothing contrary to their decisions, even if this means acting contrary to what one judges is best and publicly expresses. Then he argued that this can be done without violating justice or piety. I must disagree with this because to cooperate with unjust actions of a sovereign power makes one complicit with the injustice. I believe everyone has the right to act nonviolently to protest any injustice so that even democratic governments may be reformed when necessary.

Mendelssohn’s Jewish Enlightenment


1. John de Witt, Grand Pensionary of Holland by Herbert H. Rowen, p. 385.
2. Quoted in G. H. R. Parkinson’s introduction to Ethics by Spinoza, p. xiv.
3. Theological-Political Treatise by Benedict de Spinozatr. Michael Silverthorne and Jonathan Israel, p. 200.
4. Ibid., p. 250.

Copyright © 2016 by Sanderson Beck

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