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There are many circumstances, which conduce to render the Netherlands, and especially Holland, an object of interest to the American. Foremost among these, I place the agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial industry of the people, and the effects of this upon the physical exterior of the country, and its political fortunes. Its inhabitants have, by their enterprise, their diligence, and courage, recovered from the sea the very land they occupy. They have converted into a garden that which was originally a barren waste, half submerged beneath the ocean. They have covered the country with durable monuments of their enlightened skill. For a time, they succeeded in gathering to their shores the commerce of the world; and although now stripped of most of their foreign colonies, and reduced in commerce by the successful rivalry of other nations, the signs and the results of their past prosperity, and the traits of character which created it, still remain, to interest and instruct the traveller.
Next to this, in attraction to an American, is the political history of the Dutch. The Swiss Cantons and the United Provinces furnish to us the proud and glorious examples of the first great European free governments, among the men of the Germanic race. Revolting from foreign masters, and relying for success upon the elements of strength and liberty which their local institutions afforded, they waged those illustrious wars of independence, which have rendered them a name of honor in Europe and America. The United Provinces, especially, by the great achievements which illuminate their history, the triumphs they gained by sea and land, in their struggle to shake off the Spanish yoke, their speedy rise to wealth and power, by the expansive energies of civil and religious freedom, and the splendid events which signalized their subsequent conflicts, first with England, and then with France, are entitled to engage the careful study of the people of the United States, between whose history and theirs so many points of analogy occur.
Finally, Holland is the father-land of the state of New York, which is in itself a great empire, surpassing many, and rivalling most, of the free communities of ancient or modern times, and which, in every part of it, bears witness to the peculiar qualities, and particularly to the order, industry, enterprise, and love of liberty, which charac
terize the Old World Dutch. The names of William and Nassau, of De Witt, of Olden Barneveldt, of Grotius, of Van Tromp, of Deruyter, ought therefore to be as dear to an American, or at least to a New-Yorker, as those of the celebrated names of English history, which are so much more frequently on our lips. Though myself a New-Englander, and of unmixed English stock, I have yet surveyed the Netherlands, with emotions belonging to a father-land of my country; a father-land of the same primitive race and distinctive properties as that of the Anglo-Saxons; and a father-land upon which, alike with England, an American may look back, with just pride, as the home of an honored ancestry.
I visited the Netherlands in two successive years, first in the summer of 1929, and again in the summer of 1830. On the first occasion, I sailed up past Hellevoetsluys to Rotterdam, by way of Hollands Diep. From Rotterdam, I proceeded to Delft, the Hague, Leyden, and Haarlem; and thence returning to Rotterdam, through Voorburg and Delft, went by Bergen op Zoom to Antwerp, from Antwerp to Ghent and Bruges, and then back, through Ghent and Alost, to Brussels, and finally through Mons into France. On the second occasion, I proceeded from London by steam to Rotterdam, past the Brielle; from Rotterdam to the Hague and Leyden ; from Leyden through Alphen to Amsterdam ; from thence to Utrecht, and through Gorcum and Breda to Antwerp, Mechlin, and Brussels; and from Brussels through Alost, Ghent, and Bruges, to Ostende, and so back to England. Thus I was enabled to become acquainted with the principal cities of those countries, which are popularly known as Holland and Belgium. Of course it would be absurd for any man to pretend, by thus cursorily inspecting a country, to acquire, through his own unaided observation, exact or intimate knowledge of the character of the inhabitants, of their political and moral condition, of the statistics of the country, of its literature, of the basis and substance of its nationality.
One thing, however, he may do, without incurring the guilt of passing presumptuous judgment, founded on superficial inquiry." He may faithfully describe what he actually sees; and this I have endeavored to do, in the sketches which I shall present of the chief cities of the Netherlands. One thing farther, an educated American, who visits a foreign country in our times, might well attempt; and that is, to verify and utilize the multifarious facts and opinions touching the country, which other men have published to the world, and to present the combined result of personal observation and of book learning, rather than to restrict himself religiously to the duty of giving an account of what he sees with his own eyes, and hears with his own ears. In regard to countries which are little known, what we most need, and what we require, is the testimony of the traveller as to the facts which come under his observation. It is not so, however, in respect of a people with whom we are comparatively familiar; a people whose institutions, history, and character, have formed the subject of numerous original publications; a people continually before us in the business transactions of the merchant, as well as in the books of the scholar, the deliberations of the statesman, or the more superficial sources of information, accessible to the man of the world. A new work upon such a people, at the present day, might