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tions agreed in condemning. They had assisted in punishing, as
. The friendship which De Witt had stained his own and his
• He proceeded immediately to the Texel; and by immense exertions succeeded in preparing the fltet for departure, in a space of time which to others had seemed inadequate to accomplish one half of the task, and then, himself going on board, he pressed the admirals to put to sea at once.
• A new difficulty, however, now presented itself. De Witt was met by the reply, that the wind was unfavourable, and that there was no possibility of passing the difficult mouth of the Texel, unless a complete change took place. In this opinion all the Dutch seamen concurred; and showing De Witt the three passages which exist at the mouth of the Texel, called the Land's Diep, the Slenk, and the Spaniard's Gut, they informed bim tbat it was only by the two former that vessels of any size could get to sea. Even these passages, they assured him, were only practicable when the wind blew steadily from one of ten points of the compass, while the other twenty-two points, they alleged, rendered the passage impossible. De Witt had nothing but theories to oppose to the practical knowledge of the seamen ; but his mathematical skill enabled
him to demonstrate, that if their charts laid down the passages
correctly, any one of twenty-eight points of the compass would serve to carry the vessels out. Not satisfied with this discovery, he instantly conceived a doubt of the representations made regarding the three passages, and determined to ascertain whether the Spaniard's Gut were not as practicable as the others. He proceeded thither in the long-boat of his vessel at the time of low water, and took the soundings along the whole of the passage with his own hand. The result fully justified bis suspicions : he found that throughout its whole course the depth was at least donble that which had been represented ; that the banks and shallows, which the pilots had talked of, were entirely chimerical ; and that it was, in fact, as safe and practicable as any of the three. The wind, according to his view, was perfectly favourable, especially for this pussage; and on returning to the feet, he announced to the officers' his intention of instantly putting to sea through the very channel which they considered impassable.
• Of course he was not suffered to execute this resolution without strenuous opposition, and vehement remonstrances. All the elder seamen adhered to their opinion, and solemnly declared that the passage of the Spaniard's Gut was impracticable for large vessels; and that, even if it were not, the wind was unfavourable, and would not carry them out. De Witt took the responsibility upon himself; and, to silence all further opposition, declared his purpose of leading the way in the largest vessel of the fleet. He accordingly weighed anchor on the 16th of Angust 1665, and, with the wind at S.Ş.W., sailed without difficulty throngh the dreaded passage, followed in safety hy the whole Durch fleet. Though surprise might be mingled with some degree of mortification, the Dutch officers could not but respect the man they had unsuccessfully opposed ; anil from that day forward the passage, which he had been the first to open for the Dutch commerce, received the name of De Wirt's Diep.'
After this fleet put to sea, there was a variety of indecisive expeditions and skirmisbes ; but it was not till June 1666 that any important engagement took place. On the first of that month the hostile fleets encountered, and a battle, which lasted four days without intermission, terminated in favour of Holland. The following month, however, this temporary superiority was reversed; nearly the whole Dutch fleet being destroyed, and three Admirals slain. Negotiations for peace were immediately opened ; and while they were proceeding, De Witt, taking advantage of the careless security into which the English had been lulled by their success, sent his brother and De Ruyter up the Thames; where they took Sheerness, burned many ships of the line, and spread such consternation through both court and country, that the Pensionary was enabled to conclude a peace on terms far more advantageous than could have been looked for, after such an unsuccessful war.
Up to this period De Witt, though anxious to preserve peace with all his neighbours, had clung rather to the French than to the English alliance. England was a commercial and maritime rival; France was not. Moreover, the grasping and dangerous ambition of Louis XIV. had not yet fully developed itself; and the interposition of the Spanish Netherlands between Holland and France, De Witt always considered as a sufficient barrier against any attack from the latter power. But now his views were suddenly changed. With no previous notice, and in defiance of all previous engagements, Louis advanced a peremptory claim to the Spanish Netherlands; and prepared promptly to enforce it. De Witt was thunderstruck. He saw at once that, if Louis succeeded in his attempt, the independence of Holland would be placed in the most imminent and continual jeopardy. Singlehanded, he had no power to prevent him; his only hopes lay in an alliance with England; and he succeeded in persuading that country that her interests, at this conjuncture, were identical with those of Holland. Many obstacles were interposed; but his frankness, earnestness, and skill removed them all; and, in a space of time almost incredibly brief, the celebrated Triple Alliance was formed between England, Holland, and Sweden, By it, the contracting powers bound themselves to mediate between France and Spain, and to compel Louis to relinquish his designs upon Flanders, on consideration of obtaining some more distant and less dangerous equivalent.
The real nature and merits of this celebrated treaty have been recently so fully discussed in this Journal, that we will not, at present, resume the question. It is certain that, at the time, the treaty was considered, on the part both of Temple and De Witt, as a masterpiece of policy. The armies of France were arrested, and the threatened danger averted for a season. Louis never forgave De Witt his share in the transaction.
It is impossible to read the details of the negotiation without entertaining the highest respect both for the sound sense and the noble character of De Witt. The effect which these qualities produced upon his fellow-diplomatist, Sir William Temple, is perhaps the strongest testimony to his merit. Not only did he speak of him at the time in terms of the sincerest esteem, but their intercourse laid the foundation of a friendship which continued till the close of De Witt's career, with as much warmth as it was in Temple's nature to feel. It is, however, by no means certain that the Triple Alliance was not more serviceable to the fame of De Witt than to the ultimate interests of his country.* We say this
It is probable,' says Sir James Mackintosh, that the Triple Alliwithout any wish to detract from the merits of this great states. man. We judge after the event. At the time when he had to make a choice, every path was fraught with danger.
But the course he took resulted (though by no fault of his) in the greatest peril that Holland had ever encountered. He had to make his election between two powerful neighbours, of whose charaeters, ambition and faithlessness then formed, respectively, the prominent features. His decision was prompt. He chose to quarrel with an ally-a dangerous and ambitious one, it is truebut one whose friendship, though never zealous, had hitherto been tolerably steady; and he threw himself almost unre. servedly into the arms of one, of whose selfishness, levity, and prrfidy, he had recent and ample experience. He confided too readily in British honour and British promises. Faithful, honest, and straightforward himself, in his dealings with others he was watchful, but not suspicious. With all his experience of men and monarchs, there were depths of baseness and dinhonour in the character of Charles which he had not fathomed, and could not be expected to fathom. The ink was scarcely dry in which the perpetual alliance between England and Holland had been signed, when a series of intrigues commenced--unexampled for meanness and profligacy, which ended in Charles accepting subsidies from l'rance, which he wasted on his pleasures, and which he purchased by a secret agreement with Louis for a simultaneous attack on Holland. This De Witt had not expected. He was entitled to conceive that the Triple Alliance would insure at least a somewhat longer period of security and repose; and, though he had paid great attention to the condition of the navy, he does not appear to have acted so watchfully or energetically in the reorganization of the army, as he would have done, bad he feared so speedy a renewal of the French designs upon Flanders. The storm burst upon him with a suddenness and violence for which he was not prepared. The English, not content with violating their solemn engagements, trampled upon all the principles of international law, by attacking the Dutch fleet before hostilities had been declared. Louis at the same moment issued his Manifesto, and began his march. The Hollanders were terror-stricken; and, as in the case of other panies, rage mingled with fear, and they began to look abont them for a victim, whose sacrifice might allay the
ance was the result of a fraudulent project, suggested originally by • Gourville to ruin De Witt, hy embroiling him with France beyond the . probability of reconciliation. ---History of the Revolution of 1688.'
storm. They complained vehemently of the Pensionary, whom they accused of having first endangered the country by his measures, and then neglected its defence. In spite of his opposition, they raised William III., Prince of Orange, to the rank of Captain-General. This was in February 1672. In July, they abolished the Perpetual Edict, and elected him to the Stadthold
The popular clamour, both against John de Witt and the Admiral his brother, now became loud and general. They were assailed with the most cruel calumnies. The Pensionary was attacked at night, and severely wounded. The Admiral was arrested on the accusation of a man whose infamy was notorious; and, though suffering at the time under severe illness, was put to the torture. His innocence was clearly manifested on his trial; but a corrupt Judicature, swayed by personal enmity and the public outcry, condemned him to banishment in the same sentence which acquitted him of crime. The Pensionary, indignant at the unworthy treatment his brother had met with, went in state to the prison to receive him, on his leaving it to go into exile. It was rumoured that he went to rescue him;
and an infuriated crowd collected round the prison doors, calling for the two brothers to be delivered up to them. The civil and military authorities were informed of the tumult, but did nothing to allay it. The mob broke into the prison, and massacred, with every circumstance of savage barbarity, the two brothers, who, more than any men then living, had deserved well of their country.
The Prince of Orange has been sometimes charged with having been, in some measure, privy to this horrible occurrence. But stronger evidence than has ever yet been adduced, would be necessary to fix so black an accusation on so great a man. Certain it is, however, that many circumstances of his conduct in relation to the De Witts, show him forth in a most unamiable light-to use no harsher term. De Witt had, it is true, done all in his power to exclude him from the Stadtholderate. But William was, notwithstanding, under very weighty obligations to him. He had superintended his political education. He had laid the foundation of much of his future eminence as a statesman. They had long lived on terms of the strictest amity together. Yet when De Witt was assailed by two midnight assassins, one only was punished. The other was not only allowed to escape, but was suffered to retain bis employments; and was even favoured by the government of which the Prince of Orange was the chief, and the right arm. When De Witt applied to the Prince to lend the weight of bis voice to the contradiction of calumnies of whose falsehood no one could be more fully sensible, William coldly replied, that the Pensionary must learn to bear slander, as he himVOL, LXXVI, NO, CLIV.