Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

wealth. Four or five millions divided among five thousand soldiers made up for long arrearages, and the Spaniards had reason to congratulate themselves upon having thus taken the duty of payment into their own hands. It is true that the wages of iniquity were somewhat unequally distributed, somewhat foolishly squandered. A private trooper was known to lose ten thousand crowns in one day in a gambling transaction at the Bourse, for the soldiers, being thus handsomely in funds, became desirous of aping the despised and plundered merchants, and resorted daily to the Exchange, like men accustomed to affairs. The dearly purchased gold

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

was thus lightly squandered by many, while others, more prudent, melted their portion into sword-hilts, into scabbards, even into whole suits of armour, darkened by precaution, to appear made entirely of iron. The brocades, laces, and jewellery of Antwerp merchants were converted into coats of mail for their destroyers. The goldsmiths, however, thus obtained an opportunity to outwit their plunderers, and mingled in the golden armour which they were forced to furnish, much more alloy than their employers knew. A portion of the captured booty was thus surreptitiously redeemed.

The work of murder was conducted on a scale no less extensive than that of robbery. The number of victims murdered has been variously estimated. By one writer at two thousand five hundred slain with the sword, and double that number burned and drowned; by another at upwards of seven thousand; the number of dead bodies found in the streets is said to have been two thousand five hundred. A letter to the king of Spain, announcing the carnage, while it was still in progress, gives the number of slain at eight thousand with one thousand horses !

On the morning of the 5th of November, Antwerp presented a ghastly sight. The magnificent marble Town-house, celebrated as a “world's wonder,” even in that age and country, in which so much splendour was lavished on municipal palaces, stood a blackened ruin—all but the walls destroyed, while its archives, accounts, and other valuable contents had perished. The more splendid portion of the city had been consumed; at least five hundred palaces, mostly of marble or hammered stone, being a smouldering mass of destruction. The dead bodies of those fallen in the massacre were on every side, in greatest profusion around the Place de Meer, among the gothic pillars of the Exchange, and in the streets near the Town-house. The German soldiers lay in their armour, some with their heads burned from their bodies, some with arms and legs consumed by the flames through which they had fought. The Margrave Goswyn Verreyck, the burgomaster Van der Meere, the magistrates Lancelot Van Urselen, Nicholas Van Boekholt, and other leading citizens, lay among piles of less distinguished slain. They remained unburied until the overseers of the poor, on whom the living had then more important claims than the dead, were compelled by Roda to bury them out of the pauper fund. The murderers were too thrifty to be at funeral charges for their victims. The ceremony was not hastily performed, for the number of corpses had not been completed. Two days longer the havoc lasted in the city. Of all the crimes which men can commit, whether from deliberate calculation or in the frenzy of passion, hardly one was omitted; for riot, gaming, rape, which had been postponed to the more stringent claims of robbery and murder, were now rapidly added to the sum of atrocities.

Thus fell Antwerp, “the first and principal ornament of all Europe ; the refuge of all the nations of the world ; the source and supply of countless treasure ; the nurse of arts and industry; the guardian of science and virtue.” And such is the Story of the SPANISH Fury.

When the news of this frightful massacre reached William the Silent, he addressed a remarkable letter to the States General, then assembled at

was a

Ghent, urging them to hasten the conclusion of a treaty, and the necessity of immediate and co-operative action.

“This letter,” says the historian of the Dutch Republic, masterpiece, because it was necessary, in his position, to inflame without alarming; to stimulate the feelings which were in unison, without shocking those which, if aroused, might prove discordant. Without, therefore, alluding in terms to the religious question, he dwelt upon the necessity of union, firmness, and wariness. If so much had been done by Holland and Zeland, how much more might be hoped when all the provinces were united! The principal flower of the Spanish army has fallen,' he said, without having been able to conquer one of those provinces from those

6

6

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

6

whom they call, in mockery, poor beggars; yet what is that handful of cities compared to all the provinces which might join us in the quarrel ?' He warned the states of the necessity of showing a strong and united front; the king having been ever led to consider the movement in the Netherlands a mere conspiracy of individuals. • The king told me himself, in 1559,' said Orange, that if the estates had no pillars to lean upon, they would not talk so loud. It was, therefore, necessary to show that prelates, abbots, monks, seigniors, gentlemen, burghers, and peasants, the whole people, in short, now cried with one voice, and desired with one will. To such a demonstration the king would not dare oppose himself. By thus preserving a firm and united front, sinking all minor differences, they would, moreover, inspire their friends and foreign princes with confidence. The princes of Germany, the lords and gentlemen of France, the Queen of England, although sympathising with the misfortunes of the Netherlands, had been unable effectually to help them, so long as their disunion prevented them from helping themselves; so long as even their appeal to arms seemed merely “a levy of bucklers, an emotion of the populace, which like a wave of the sea, rises and sinks again as soon as risen.'

“While thus exciting to union and firmness, he also took great pains to instil the necessity of wariness. They were dealing with an artful foe. Intercepted letters had already proved that the old dissimulation was still to be employed ; that while that redoubtable warrior Don John of Austria was on his way, the Netherlands were to be lulled into confidence by glozing speeches. A secret programme of instructions had been pro

A vided by the king for the new Governor's guidance, and Don Sancho d'Avila, for his countenance to the mutineers of Alost, had been applauded to the echo in Spain. Was not this applause a certain indication of the policy to be adopted by Don John, and a thousand times more significative one than the unmeaning phrases of barren benignity with which public documents might be crammed? The old tricks are again

• brought into service,' said the prince; "therefore 'tis necessary to ascertain your veritable friends, to tear off the painted masks from those who, under pretence of not daring to displease the king, are seeking to swim between two waters. 'Tis necessary to have a touchstone; to sign a declaration in such wise that you may know whom to trust, and whom to suspect.'

“ The massrcre at Antwerp and the eloquence of the prince produced a most quickening effect upon the Congress at Ghent. Their deliberations had proceeded with decorum and earnestness, in the midst of a cannonading against the citadel, and the fortress fell on the same day which saw the conclusion of the treaty.

“This important instrument, by which the sacrifices and exertions of the prince were for a brief season at least rewarded, contained twentyfive articles. The Prince of Orange, with the estates of Holland and Zeland on the one side, and the provinces signing, or thereafter to sign the treaty, on the other, agreed that there should be a mutual forgiving and forgetting, as regarded the past. They vowed a close and faithful friendship for the future. They plighted a mutual promise to expel the Spaniards from the Netherlands without delay. As soon as this great deed should be done, there was to be a convocation of the States General, on the basis of that assembly before which the abdication of the Emperor had taken place. By this congress, the affairs of religion in Holland and Zeland should be regulated, as well as the surrender of fortresses and other places belonging to his majesty. There was to be full liberty of communication and traffic between the citizens of the one side and the other. It should not be legal, however, for those of Holland and Zeland to attempt anything outside their own territory against the Roman Catholic religion, nor for cause thereof to injure or irritate any one, by deed or word. All the placards and edicts on the subject of heresy, together with the criminal ordinances made by the Duke of Alva, were suspended until the States General should otherwise ordain. The prince was to remain lieutenant, admiral, and general for his Majesty in Holland, Zeland, and the associated places, till otherwise provided by the States General after the departure of the Spaniards. The cities and places included in the prince's commission, but not yet acknowledging his authority, should receive satisfaction from him, as to the point of religion and other matters, before subscribing to the union. All prisoners, and particularly the Comte de Bossu, should be released without ransom. All estates and other property not already alienated should be restored, all confiscations since 1566 being declared null and void. The Countess Palatine, widow of Brederode, and Count de Buren, son of the Prince of Orange, were expressly named in this provision. Prelates and ecclesiastical persons, having property in Holland and Zeland, should be reinstated, if possible; but in case of alienation, which was likely to be generally the case, there should be reasonable compensation. It was to be decided by the States General whether the provinces should discharge the debts incurred by the Prince of Orange in his two campaignis. Provinces and cities should not have the benefit of this union until they had signed the treaty, but they should be permitted to sign it when they chose.

“ This memorable document was subscribed at Ghent on the 8th of November by Sainte Aldegonde, with eight other commissioners appointed by the Prince of Orange and the estates of Holland, on the one side, and by Elbertus Leoninus and other deputies appointed by Brabant, Flanders, Artois, Hainault, Valenciennes, Lille, Douay, Orchies, Namur, Tournay, Utrecht, and Mechlin on the other side.

“The arrangement was a masterpiece of diplomacy on the part of the prince, for it was as effectual a provision for the safety of the reformed religion as could be expected under the circumstances. It was much, con

« AnteriorContinuar »