The rise and fall of the Dutch domination of European trade

McTell

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Malcolm Redfellow

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Allow me to acknowledge some fine posts back there.

Good to see Mitsui2 [post #43] recommending — with reason — two good books:
  • Russell Shorto's The Island at the Centre of the World (published 2004). That is sub-titled The Untold Story of the Founding of New York. It's narrative history, with spoonsful of analysis as a side-dressing. Still on the shelf up there? Yup! Shorto's blog, by the way, should also come with plaudits.
  • Giles Milton's Nathaniel's Nutmeg. The nutmeg island, by the way, was Run. Again, it comes with a subtitle: The True and Incredible Adventure of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History. Think I have most of Milton's books here (I know I'm missing his latest, on WW2 "behind-the-lines" sabotage).
Then there's Justinian, in post #45, paying decent tribute to the Dutch settlements in Manhattan and up the Hudson Valley. That graphic shows up why the New Englanders had grounds for feeling a wee bit surrounded. When Lempo (post #56) chucks in the Swedes, it all becomes more complex yet. Not to forget the French north and south of the English colonies. And the ever-present threat of Spain ...

Shorto (see Chapter 14: New York, pp. 364ff in my copy) makes George Downing as near a villain of the piece as anyone:
... no-one in the Dutch colony — or, for that matter, in New England — saw the end that finally came. It wasn't a result of hordes of New Englanders sweeping south. What happened was more calculated: it involved a global set of players, and, like any good final act, some sudden reversals.
Note how Shorto is deliberately formulating his story in dramatic terms — which is why he is so readable.

If Peter Stuyvesant was the protagonist of the Nieuw-Amsterdam tale:
Stuyvesant's main adversary was a man he would never meet... His name was George Downing ...

Like most of the first generations of Harvard graduates, Downing yearned for London. Shortly after the [graduation] ceremony he sailed there, saw the civil war taking shape, pronounced himself a Puritan revolutionary and fought with the Parliamentarians. As the new government came into being, Oliver Cromwell saw the intellect and bulldog ferocity in the young man and made him his ambassador to The Hague. There Downing proved himself English to the core, which meant, among other things, fostering a loyal hatred of the Dutch... In place of the suave manners usually considered necessary in diplomacy, Downing was brusque and obstinate. Jan de Witt and the other leaders of the Dutch government found him repellent, and his colleagues in the English government didn't much care for him either. The diarist Samuel Pepys worked under him and frankly pronounced him (to his diary, anyway) a 'perfidious rogue'. (Shorto, page 366)
Some things there:
  • Shorto (a GWU man) has a grief against Harvard. Though the Bulldog is more Yale.
  • Pepys, in 1660, was little more than Downing's personal secretary — and the Diary indicates that Downing treated Pepys as no more than a servant and errand-boy. Apart from personal dislike, Pepys was aware that Downing had come back to England as a preacher and chaplain in Col. John Okey's dragoons (watch that name: it recurs in a moment). From there Downing rose to be Cromwell's "scoutmaster" (i.e. counter-intelligence man). He made sure to stay well in the regard of John Thurloe (Cromwell's chief spy, who also worked under the Restoration).
  • Downing, never one to undervalue his own prowess, boasted to Pepys that he:
    had so good spies, that he hath had the keys taken out of De Witts pocket when he was a-bed, and his closet opened and the papers brought to him and left in his hands for an [hour], and carried back and laid in the place again and the keys put in his pocket again.
As Cromwell's ambassador (1657-1660) in The Hague, Downing had three main tasks:
  • to cement the protestant tie and formulate an alliance against the French and Spanish;
  • to undermine Dutch trade. This gave Downing ample opportunity to study the Dutch system of taxes — low customs duty, but high excise — which he would copy at the Treasury, and when he piloted the Navigation Acts.
  • to build a spy network. In this regard his other success was snouting out royalists.
Sholto correctly identifies Downing as one the more adroit coat-changers at the Restoration, already greasing his way into Charles Stuart's circle in Holland via Thurloe and Ormonde. He correctly identifies Downing (who ran the Treasury under the Restoration) as giving his name to the street. He is off-course here:
Downing College at the University of Cambridge has his name on it too, as a result of a bequest he made.
Downing, Cambridge, has indeed the name on it; but that was his grandson (1685-1749) and name-sake.

As I recall, Pepys full spleen against Downing came about when Downing snouted out John Okey (see above), Miles Corbet, and John Barkstead as regicides, had them snatched from exile in Holland, and rendered back to England for execution. Pepys records:
... all the world takes notice of him for a most ungrateful villaine for his pains … though the action is good and of service to the King, yet he cannot with any good conscience do it ...

[In] New-England … it became a proverbial expression, to say of a false man who betrayed his trust, that he was an arrant George Downing.
In the context of this thread, Downing's main contribution was — in the crucial period 1661-1665 — to insist on strong English opposition to all things Dutch, and thereby contributing to the subsequent war.
 

Black Swan

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That's exactly what Worsley's programme was about - the fact that it was effectively (and in legal terms) a treasonous coup, and an examination of how the myth (with William's help and advice) was manufactured.

You're in the UK, aren't you? You can see it on iPlayer from here - BBC Four - British History's Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley or it's repeated later this week.

It covers the (sometimes unintended) later effects too.

[highlight]The woman herself does begin to grate a bit, though![/highlight]
The girly 'Little Red Riding Hood' thing puts me off.
 

Mitsui2

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What grates about her?
Her gradually increasing fondness for dressing up in costumes of the relevant period and making herself the focus of the programmes.

But as I say she really does know her stuff, and she's otherwise an excellent presenter, so a bit of limelight-hogging seems a small price to pay for what are still always intriguing programmes.

I can see a day coming, though, when it gets a bit too much for my own taste at least!
 

Casablanca

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I think Worsley's contribution has been twofold: firstly she has (and it's what makes her challenging) a populist eye for entertainment, although it's grounded in solid knowledge and research. Secondly she has given a woman's perspective on a lot of the stuff she's presented, most notably in Six Wives. I found it interesting that on a recent visit to Hampton Court, a lot of the displays and play-acting (such as an actor dressed as Henry VIII wandering through the Great Hall) has been her idea.
I suppose if it makes more people interested in history, it's a good thing.
 

Mitsui2

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I think Worsley's contribution has been twofold: firstly she has (and it's what makes her challenging) a populist eye for entertainment, although it's grounded in solid knowledge and research. Secondly she has given a woman's perspective on a lot of the stuff she's presented, most notably in Six Wives. I found it interesting that on a recent visit to Hampton Court, a lot of the displays and play-acting (such as an actor dressed as Henry VIII wandering through the Great Hall) has been her idea.
I suppose if it makes more people interested in history, it's a good thing.
All happily acknowledged, Cas, and indeed she seems like a good sort all round. It's just that with every series she does I get the impression she's hamming it up just a wee bit more. I mean, did you see the "Glorious Revolution" one this week that I originally referred to? Dressing up in a suit of armour and faffing about with a white horse? Like I say, it just grates.
 

milipod

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All happily acknowledged, Cas, and indeed she seems like a good sort all round. It's just that with every series she does I get the impression she's hamming it up just a wee bit more. I mean, did you see the "Glorious Revolution" one this week that I originally referred to? Dressing up in a suit of armour and faffing about with a white horse? Like I say, it just grates.
Do not do the Dalkey castle tour Mit you have to dance.
 

Black Swan

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All happily acknowledged, Cas, and indeed she seems like a good sort all round. It's just that with every series she does I get the impression she's hamming it up just a wee bit more. I mean, did you see the "Glorious Revolution" one this week that I originally referred to? Dressing up in a suit of armour and faffing about with a white horse? Like I say, it just grates.
I just wonder whether that lisping, 'w'/'v' inverting, apparent speech impediment that seems to show up disproportionately among British (aspiring upper-middle class) personalities, is affected or the result of a genetic defect. :roll:
 

RainbowBrite

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That's exactly what Worsley's programme was about - the fact that it was effectively (and in legal terms) a treasonous coup, and an examination of how the myth (with William's help and advice) was manufactured.

You're in the UK, aren't you? You can see it on iPlayer from here - or it's repeated later this week.

It covers the (sometimes unintended) later effects too.

The woman herself does begin to grate a bit, though!
It's on BBC4 now
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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...she's hamming it up just a wee bit more. I mean, did you see the "Glorious Revolution" one this week that I originally referred to? Dressing up in a suit of armour and faffing about with a white horse? Like I say, it just grates.
R-i-g-h-t. Who could possibly see any ambiguity or irony in the very title of the short series: British History's Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley?

Anyhoo, for the purposes of a 59-minute tv slot, the fragrant Miss Worsley elided the whole business down to a "plot", without scoping back for origins. That, for me, amounts to 1688-9 being 1658-60 revisited: the death of Oliver Cromwell (3 September 1658) left all kinds of unfinished business.

Which leads to the small matter of why Richard Cromwell, "Tumbledown Dick", fell short? Richard:
was only a civilian, and a particularly unmilitary civilian — a florid, inoffensive country gentleman ... Oliver was Protector because he had been Lord General; Richard was only Lord General because he was Protector. But this claim of a civilian to hold the highest military office failed to satisfy the army, and it was not long before this dissatisfaction took shape in a military agitation. [Tanner, pages 201-2. Another old 'un but still a good 'un]
So, as in all post-revolutionary contexts, in 1658-60, we should not discount the military.

A further grief, when the new Protector summoned a Parliament in 1658, it was on a novel scheme. The boroughs were revived — which meant an influx of extra-metropolitan MPs. More significant were the sixty MPs from Scotland and Ireland, nearly all Cromwellian officials, who guaranteed a false parliamentary majority. Hence there was already pressure to limit the Protector's powers, and the use of delaying tactics. Hence, too, the conflict between (s)elected MPs and the Army they sought to constrain. Hence, finally, the "year of anarchy". The culmination was 17 October 1659, with the expulsion of the Purged Parliament. Arriving in London on 3rd February 1660, come haste from Scotland, General Monk with 5,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry.

What was going for Monk, apart from force majeure, were three factors:
  • the tax system had collapsed. The Protectorate had relied on extortion: with the Army at odds with any remaining executive, that ended.
  • there was a breakdown, too, in the Army. The ordinary soldiery had grown disenchanted with their officers.
  • the general public, alongside the army rank-and-file, had become brassed off. I suggest, in this period, we do see the germs of a "public opinion": all that ranting and debate among the protestant sects had started something more than just denominational squabbles.
My conclusions (and indicators for 1688) here are:
  • there could be no return to absolutism;
  • there was considerable unity of purpose among the protestant oligarchs (and the military) across the British Isles. Indeed, this is when James I's attempt at a "Great Britain" starts to formulate for real.
  • with the absence of a central Protector, parliament had to step up to the mark — and the MPs seem to have come to like their new-found reach.
  • through the whole Civil War and Cromwellian period there was a surge in political pamphleteering. Winstanley outlined his collectivist society; others advocated disestablishment of the churches, unicameral central government, electoral reform, women's suffrage, law reform, a national bank... Many of these notions were imports from the Netherlands.
On the other hand, the Restoration left other matters to be clarified in the "second act" of 1688:
  • Divine Right was still a current notion — if only because the whole legal system derived therefrom;
  • the executive had been critically weakened; so "chains-of-command" and some "executive authority" had to be fabricated;
  • on what authority could taxes be imposed? The King still had absolute sway in foreign affairs — and that was how first Charles II, then James II came to seek subsidy from Louis XIV.
  • if parliament was to be the central authority, then who controlled parliament? Thus the emergence of the two-party system: by 1681 "Whigs" (originally an insult that they were jumped-up Covenanters), wearing their red ribband hats, and "Tories" (a counter-insult for a wild Popish thieves), with their violet ribbands.
 
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Mitsui2

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R-i-g-h-t. Who could possibly see any ambiguity or irony in the very title of the short series: British History's Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley?

Anyhoo, for the purposes of a 59-minute tv slot, the fragrant Miss Worsley elided the whole business down to a "plot", without scoping back for origins. That, for me, amounts to 1688-9 being 1658-60 revisited: the death of Oliver Cromwell (3 September 1658) left all kinds of unfinished business.
That's an amazingly good impersonation of an academic being sniffy about tv, Malcolm! :)

Elision and simplification are sort of built in to the format.

The bould Lucy's an acknowledged expert in her field who turned out to be very effective at popularising what's often (however unfairly) seen as a dull subject.

God knows it would do the general public in the UK no harm at all to know a bit more about their own actual history - and I've no doubt she's done wonders for the sale of actual history books.

So god bless her and all who sail in her would be my own view.
 

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Earlier in this thread I seem to recall an off-hand, off-topic mention of European settlements in the Americas.

If not, my regrets.

However, this little entry in today's [London] Times was an addition to my sum of knowledge:

On this day

in 1917 the US bought the 50 islands of the Danish West Indies and renamed them the Virgin Islands ...
As late as 1917, hey?

I see from elsewhere the going rate was $25 million in gold.

It seems to me the (American) Virgin Islands are run as an off-shoot of the US "territory" (i.e. nobody has worked out if it's potentially State #51/ about to be independent/ but we mustn't call it a colony) of Puerto Rico. More to the point, between that 1917 acquisition and 1970 nobody had created any kind of elective democracy in the (American) Virgin Islands.

Oh, and there's another twist: in the (American) Virgin Islands, they drive on the left, but in LHD US cars. Fun?
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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That's an amazingly good impersonation of an academic being sniffy about tv, Malcolm! :)

Elision and simplification are sort of built in to the format.
The "sniffy" thing is easy. It's the "academic" that always had me beat.

But I accept the thrust. Trouble is: too many (including this very forum) assume tv-punditry is the sum total of all historiography.
 

GDPR

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It seems to me the (American) Virgin Islands are run as an off-shoot of the US "territory" (i.e. nobody has worked out if it's potentially State #51/ about to be independent/ but we mustn't call it a colony) of Puerto Rico. More to the point, between that 1917 acquisition and 1970 nobody had created any kind of elective democracy in the (American) Virgin Islands.
In this context and related to the Dutch colonies (Aruba, Curaçao etcetera) it's interesting to note the fact that the Netherlands are still in possession of these territories and have actually engaged in a complicated semi-federal system. I recall the constitutional law professor who was dealing with this subject argue that the system that was set up was meant to ensure that the Netherlands would retain those colonies (which at the time included Suriname as well, it has since become independent) after the war, while at the same time adhering to the demands for decolonization and self-determination. As I recall he noted that a UN committee (or something) had to determine whether these colonies had been given self-determination or not, but couldn't really come to a good conclusion and in the end basically threw up their hands and went with "we guess so".

The late Hugo Chavez used to claim those islands as Venezuelan territory and I'm going to guess that his successor hasn't walked back that claim.

A similar thing was tried with Indonesia before. It was not exactly a successful initiative.
 

Mitsui2

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The "sniffy" thing is easy. It's the "academic" that always had me beat.

But I accept the thrust. Trouble is: too many (including this very forum) assume tv-punditry is the sum total of all historiography.
Alas, if only!

By this stage so many appear to regard nutty Youtube videos as the total of historiography that it would almost make you yearn for the "good old days" when it was tv-punditry!

:)
 

Dame_Enda

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Another important factor was the 1688 Revolution in England, which led to a cap on Dutch naval forces as part of the deal (I read somewhere). Another factor was that important members of Dutch economic elites especially Jewish financiers moved to England.

The decision to help the Americans was also unwise, as it led to Britain capturing Ceylon and all the Dutch East India Company's colonies except Indonesia. South Africa was also lost.
 
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GDPR

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Another important factor was the 1688 Revolution in England, which led to a cap on Dutch naval forces as part of the deal (I read somewhere). Another factor was that important members of Dutch economic elites especially Jewish financiers moved to England.

The decision to help the Americans was also unwise, as it led to Britain capturing Ceylon and all the Dutch East India Company's colonies except Indonesia. South Africa was also lost.
The Treaty of Paris, signed at the end of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch war, actually restored Ceylon to the Dutch Republic after its capture by Britain during said war. The same goes for the Dutch Cape Colony. These colonies were lost to Britain at the end of the Napoleonic Wars
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Another important factor was the 1688 Revolution in England, which led to a cap on Dutch naval forces as part of the deal (I read somewhere). Another factor was that important members of Dutch economic elites especially Jewish financiers moved to England.
What a provocative (and worthwhile) starter for goodness-knows-what-more! Just those two sentences, as quoted — enough for now — raise umpteen lines of enquiry.

So my starter on what could be a profitable exchange (if only because it'll make me think straight about some very complex businesses):

In the spirit of the headline post, I'd reckon, to comprehend 1660 let alone 1688, one would have to start in 1651. That's when the English economy, post Civil War, went tits-up. The knock-on effects for cloth-merchants (the single largest trade element) and associated shipping operations bore down on Anglo-Dutch diplomacies. Remember: we are at the moment when Cromwell — having just clobbered the Scots and Irish — was in the ascendant, and fancied imposing on Dutch trade the same authority as had been applied to Scotland.

In March 1651 a delegation from the English parliament turned up at the Hague's Great Assembly to demand a more strict and intimate alliance and union between England and the United Provinces. The clear implication was: if the Dutch wouldn't play ball, worse would follow. [I make no analogies with the events of the last week.] Predictably, the Dutch didn't knuckle under.

So, in August 1651 (just as the Great Assembly was winding up) the English Parliament passed a Navigation Act — remember those?. This was designed to prohibit Dutch shipping carrying European products to English ports and stymying the growing Dutch commerce with English colonies in the Caribbean.

That was the cause of the first Anglo-Dutch War.

By any law of equivalences, it ought to have gone well for the English. Parliament had invested heavily in naval power, mainly to counter any royalist threat. The English navy now included at least fourteen "first-rates" with fire-power in excess of anything in the Dutch fleet (moreover, English artillery was more potent). On the other hand, the Dutch navy was already being run down after the peace with Spain. Even Tromp's flag-ship, the Aemilia, had been sold off; and the entire complement of the Dutch navy was 79 vessels. Add in the prevailing winds, and the English position was more substantial still. In every major engagement — Portland Bill, Harwich, Scheveningen — between the two contending forces, the English came off best.

The Dutch, despite the loss of as many as 1,200 merchant and fishing vessels, could not stomach these set-backs. In February 1653 the States General authorised the construction of thirty new men-of-war; then doubled that requisition the following December. [Moreover, the States General "nationalised" this fleet, lest the admiralty sold them off, as had been the previous practice.]

This caused a further problem: manpower. Having seen the carnage wrought by previous engagements with the English, there was an understandable reluctance to sign on for more of the same. Unlike the English press-system, obligatory service was contrary to Dutch concepts of 'Freedom'. There was considerable preaching and pamphleteering against the regents, leading to wholesale friction between the "States" party and the Orangists, with a full-scale popular uprising in 1653.

It looked therefore, to be a wholesale victory for the English — except the reach of the Cromwellian navy was home waters. Further afield, the Dutch still held the sea-lanes, closing the Baltic to English trade, shutting down English trade through the Mediterranean, controlling navigation "east of Suez" (apologies for the anachronistic shorthand).

In November 1653 Cromwell and Parliament recognised some peace was needed. Similarly, in Holland, the States General were looking for a rapprochement. A peace was agreed. But with a secret condition — the Exclusion of the House of Orange. When that came to popular notice during 1654 all hell broke loose, and a major constitutional conflict ensued. It is a testimony to de Witt's political expertise that he, and his authority, survived: the Exclusion was agreed (with continued riots in Rotterdam and Dordrecht, and considerable resentment), peace was made with England without impairing Dutch trade or colonies, and the highest-phase of the Dutch golden age ensued.

More of the same, anyone?
 
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Dame_Enda

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What a provocative (and worthwhile) starter for goodness-knows-what-more! Just those two sentences, as quoted — enough for now — raise umpteen lines of enquiry.

So my starter on what could be a profitable exchange (if only because it'll make me think straight about some very complex businesses):

In the spirit of the headline post, I'd reckon, to comprehend 1660 let alone 1688, one would have to start in 1651. That's when the English economy, post Civil War, went tits-up. The knock-on effects for cloth-merchants (the single largest trade element) and associated shipping operations bore down on Anglo-Dutch diplomacies. Remember: we are at the moment when Cromwell — having just clobbered the Scots and Irish — was in the ascendant, and fancied imposing on Dutch trade the same authority as had been applied to Scotland.

In March 1651 a delegation from the English parliament turned up at the Hague's Great Assembly to demand a more strict and intimate alliance and union between England and the United Provinces. The clear implication was: if the Dutch wouldn't play ball, worse would follow. [I make no analogies with the events of the last week.] Predictably, the Dutch didn't knuckle under.

So, in August 1651 (just as the Great Assembly was winding up) the English Parliament passed a Navigation Act — remember those?. This was designed to prohibit Dutch shipping carrying European products to English ports and stymying the growing Dutch commerce with English colonies in the Caribbean.

That was the cause of the first Anglo-Dutch War.

By any law of equivalences, it ought to have gone well for the English. Parliament had invested heavily in naval power, mainly to counter any royalist threat. The English navy now included at least fourteen "first-rates" with fire-power in excess of anything in the Dutch fleet (moreover, English artillery was more potent). On the other hand, the Dutch navy was already being run down after the peace with Spain. Even Tromp's flag-ship, the Aemilia, had been sold off; and the entire complement of the Dutch navy was 79 vessels. Add in the prevailing winds, and the English position was more substantial still. In every major engagement — Portland Bill, Harwich, Scheveningen — between the two contending forces, the English came off best.

The Dutch, despite the loss of as many as 1,200 merchant and fishing vessels, could not stomach these set-backs. In February 1653 the States General authorised the construction of thirty new men-of-war; then doubled that requisition the following December. [Moreover, the States General "nationalised" this fleet, lest the admiralty sold them off, as had been the previous practice.]

This caused a further problem: manpower. Having seen the carnage wrought by previous engagements with the English, there was an understandable reluctance to sign on for more of the same. Unlike the English press-system, obligatory service was contrary to Dutch concepts of 'Freedom'. There was considerable preaching and pamphleteering against the regents, leading to wholesale friction between the "States" party and the Orangists, with a full-scale popular uprising in 1653.

It looked therefore, to be a wholesale victory for the English — except the reach of the Cromwellian navy was home waters. Further afield, the Dutch still held the sea-lanes, closing the Baltic to English trade, shutting down English trade through the Mediterranean, controlling navigation "east of Suez" (apologies for the anachronistic shorthand).

In November 1653 Cromwell and Parliament recognised some peace was needed. Similarly, in Holland, the States General were looking for a rapprochement. A peace was agreed. But with a secret condition — the Exclusion of the House of Orange. When that came to poplar notice during 1654 all hell broke loose, and a major constitutional conflict ensued. It is a testimony to de Witt's political expertise that he, and his authority, survived: the Exclusion was agreed (with continued riots in Rotterdam and Dordrecht, and considerable resentment), peace was made with England without impairing Dutch trade or colonies, and the highest-phase of the Dutch golden age ensued.

More of the same, anyone?
Still some historical debate on the reasons for the exclusion clause. On the one hand, the House of Orange was closely related to the House of Stuart through Mary Stuart being the mother of William III so Cromwell may have been trying to stop it being a safehaven for Royalists (Charles II was living there until 1661). On the other hand some have suggested the Republican faction in the Netherlands insisted on the provision to keep the Orangists out of power.
 


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