135. The Revolt of the Netherlands. Another cause that hindered Spain in getting a hold in North America was the loss of millions in money and thousands of men in trying to crush the revolt in the Netherlands, or Lcw Countries. This region differs from other countries in many ways. It lies on both banks of the lower part of the great German river, the Rhine. Much of the land is low; indeed, below the level pf the sea. The angry waves from the North Sea are kept out by great embankments, many feet high, called dikes. All along the seashore, and on each side of rivers, they stretch for miles. It is a great pleasure to walk or ride from Amsterdam to the sea.

The country is now divided into Holland on the north and Belgium on the south. The Hollanders, or Dutch people, speak a language akin to the German. The educated Belgians mostly use the French language. Hollanders are generally Protestants and the Belgians, Roman Catholics. The Hollanders of that time (1550-1650) were fishermen, farmers, and dairymen, and were noted as great traders. The Belgians were largely engaged in weaving and in manufacturing. Both countries sent their goods to all parts of Europe and to the rest of the world. They were growing rich, for they were better traders than the Spaniards, and were winning the trade of India away from the Portuguese

In that age countries passed from one king or queen to another, much the same as property now passes from one person to another. We have already seen that the rich region of the Netherlands fell to Charles V of Spain and later to his son Philip when he became the king of that country.

King Philip appointed rulers over the Netherlands, whom the people called oppressive, and backed them up with soldiers. The people rose in riots and destroyed property right and left. Then the king sent the Duke of Alva, the man whose very name makes the Hollander of to-day shudder as he reads the story of his cruelty to the Dutch. With ten thousand soldiers, aided by his "Council of Blood," he punished Protestants and Catholics alike when they did not submit to his authority. Thousands were burned, hanged, beheaded, or met a worse fate. He taxed the people without mercy until their business was at a standstill.

136. William the Silent. We can hardly see how the Dutch could have won against Spain had not a great and noble man, William the Silent, undertaken to lead the armies of Holland. He is called "The Silent" because he knew when not to speak. He took charge of the Dutch army (1568). The Spanish soldiers at first despised William's soldiers andsaiorsand called them "Beggars." They were farmers, laborers,and sailors, but their leader was a master. William inspired them with his own grim resolution to fight Spain until she acknowledged the Netherlands a free land.

At first Spain could easily beat William’s soldiers, but, led by William, they were always ready to fight again. In this same way Washington won the American Revolution. Finally the Dutch captured and fortified a leading town. Many other towns came to their aid. They elected William their ruler.

Alva recaptured some of the towns, and put to death even the women and children. This was terrible. But Alva did not yet know the spirit of the Dutch. Instead of stamping out rebellion, his cruelty only caused it to spread. The Belgians now came to the help of the Hollanders, and there was great fighting indeed.

Spain was finally driven to make friends with the Catholic part of the people. William and the Hollanders, now left to fight alone, formed the "Union of Utrecht" (1579). Out of this union came a declaration of independence (1581). How courageous was this little Dutch nation thus to throw off the authority of the mighty kingdom of Spain! With the riches of Mexico and Peru pouring into her treasury, her kings had been the leading men in Europe for over half a century. Bold, brave Dutchmen, to defy her power!

In spite of Dutch courage the Spaniards poured thousands of soldiers into the country and finally captured most of its towns. But the city of Leiden was hardest of all to take. It was located not many miles from the sea, where great dikes threw their arms around it to keep back the ocean waves. Its great walls frowned down upon the Spaniards. Only a few soldiers were in the town to defend it, but the citizens boldly came forward to fight. The Spaniards could not take it by storm, so they waited until that grim monster, starvation, should force the Dutch to surrender. For six weeks bread could not be had, and people died by the hundreds, but still no surrender.

William decided upon a desperate remedy. He opened the dikes! In rushed the mighty ocean waves, hungfy for the lives of human beings, for the dikes had held them back so long! Hundreds of Spanish soldiers were drowned. William’s fleet, with two hundred vessels laden with food and fresh troops, was ready for action. The Spaniards were defeated. To honor the courage of the brave people of Leiden the government of Holland built in their city a great university where, in the next century, many Englishmen studied. Some of these men aided in laying the foundations of New England.

The King of Spain resolved to put an end to the war by the murder of William the Silent. The king offered a reward for this deed, and Willizun fell in 1584, a victim of Spanish hate. The Dutch have never forgotten the heroic deeds of William the Silent.

Long before William’s death the noble struggle of the Dutch stirred the people of England. London merchants had already sent half a million in money to aid them. Dutch war vessels found protection in English ports, and English ships ran up the Dutch flag in making attacks on Spanish ships. But it was not until late in the war that Elizabeth sent soldiers to fight for Dutch freedom — five thousand in all. Many noble Englishmen went to the aid of the Netherlands, but of them all none was more famous than the poet, Sir Philip Sidney. As he lay dying after a battle, a drink of water was offered to quench his thirst. He turned with a smile to a wounded comrade near by, and said, "Take it. Thy necessity is greater than mine." One cause for the fitting out of the Great Armada later by Spain was the help Elizabeth gave the Dutch, ‘37. Close of the Thirty Years’ War. But it was not until 1609 that Spain made peace with the Dutch; and not until the Treaty of Westphalia, which the nations made at the close of the Thirty Years’ War, that Spain recognized the independence of Holland (1648).

In the same year that Spain made peace with Holland (1609) a Dutch vessel, the famous Half-Moon, with Henry Hudson as captain, sailed up the river now known as the Hudson. Therefore the year 1609 marked the peace between Holland and Spain and the beginning of the Dutch colony of New Netherland which later became New York.

Thus it was that the King of Spain for nearly one hundred years found himself fighting first one nation and then another—France, England, or Holland. Although Spain was made wealthy by gold and silver from Mexico and Peru, the wars which she kept up were a constant drain upon her, using up the lives of her sons and exhausting the supply of gold that flowed in from the New World.


The Leading Facts. 1. John Cabot, trying to find a short route to India, discovered what is supposed to be Labrador, or Cape Breton. 2. On a second voyage he coasted along eastern North America, as far south as the Carolinas. 3. Later, England claimed afl North America. 4. Henry VIII quarreled with the King of Spain and the Pope of Rome. 5. The Reformation led to a division of people on the basis of difference in religion. 6. Catholic and Protestant leaders. 7. The rise of the Puritans., 8. Elizabeth won support by appealing to the patriotism of all classes. p. Englishmen took an oath. ‘0. Mary, Queen of Scots, her rival. 11. Elizabeth had Mary put to death because she believed her the center of plots to obtain the English throne. 12. The Great Armada, fitted out to punish Elizabeth, brought gradual decay of Spain. 13. The nations that checked the growth of Spain northward in North America. 14. The difference between Holland and other nations. 15. The origin of the conflict in the Netherlands. r6. William the Silent and the "Beggars of the Sea." i7. William and Washington compared. 18. Catholics of Netherlands driven to side with William. 19. The Union of Utrecht. 20. The siege of Leiden. 21. The assassination of William. 22. Elizabeth sent soldiers to aid the Dutch. 23. Spain recognized the independence of Holland, and the Dutch planted the colony of New Netherland.

Study Questions. 1. Tell the story of John Cabot before be came to England. 2. What did Cabot want to find, and what did he find? 3. Why was little attention given to the new lands? 4. Why did Henry VIII think little of America? 5. Who were the great leaders, and what great changes took place during the Reformation? 6. Where did each sect settle in America? 7. What difficult problem did Elizabeth face, and how did she win the majority of her people? 8. Who was Mary, Queen of Scots? 9. What were the causes of her death? ro. How did the pope and the King of Spain take revenge? 11. How is the Netherlands protected from the sea? 12. How does Holland differ from Belgium? 13. How did Spain come to rule the Netherlands, and what made the Netherlands revolt? 14. How could the Netherlands hold out against Spain? 15. Why did the Catholics join the Protestants? 16. Who made the Union of Utrecht? 17. What does the siege of Leiden prove? 18. What desperate means did Spain finally use to get rid of William the Silent? 19. As soon as the Netherlands won their independence, what did they do of interest to the people of the United States? 20. Show how Spain, in spite of the riches of Mexico and Peru, used all her wealth in her wars.

Suggested Readings. CABOT: Hart, Colonial Children, 7-8; Griffis, Romance of Discovery, 105-111; ELIZABETH: Guerber, The Story of the English, 233-243; Church, Stories of English History, 370-394; Abbott, History of Queen Elizabeth, 120-220; Tappan, In the Days of Queen Elizabeth, 95-262; Brooks, Historic Girls, 174-191; WILLIAM THE SILENT: Upton, William of Orange; Dawson, Stories from Dutch History, 104-2 i8; MacGregor, Romance of History: Netherlands, 242-273; Griffis, Brave Little Holland and What She Has Taught Us, 13 9-200.

Next Chapter
Back to Table of Contents.

© 2001 by Lynn Waterman