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In the mean time the politics of Pruffia were cautious, and probably irrefolute. But, though irrefolution can fcarcely give us in any cafe a favourable impreffion of the mind that is under its influence, it produced in the prefent inftance many of the effects of prudence. The impoverished state of the French finances had now begun to difplay itself, and that celebrated people became every moment weaker in their government and more embarrassed in their fituation. In the mean time they were the enemy, from whom the party of the ftadtholderians had the moft to fear. Almoft from the commencement of the Dutch republic they had favoured the oligarchical branch of its government: their activity in this refpect had rather increafed than diminished during the prefent diffentions, and the patriots built with the utmost confidence upon the interference of France, as a complete balance to any violence they might apprehend from their neighbours. This confidence feemed every day to become more precarious.
We left the Dutch in our regifter for the year 1787, after a long period of violent and angry contention, preparing on both fides to decide their differences with the fword. The ftadtholder had marched his little army to the neighbourhood of Utrecht, a city that had been the centre and fpring of democratical princi ples and generous exertion. The inhabitants however had taken the fage precaution of detaining within their walls the wives and children of the members of the pretended provincial ftates refiding at Amersfort, moft of whom were inhabitants of the capital; and this circumftance, together with the fmallnefs of the forces on either fide and the accurate balance
of parties, held the decifion in fufpence, and for the most part reftricted the war to petty fkirmishes and the content of corruption.
The fladtholderian treasury was probably fupplied with refources by his political allies, the monarchs of Great Britain and Pruffia; the affembly of the ftates general, after having long maintained a cautious neutrality upon the fubject, had lately declared in his favour; and thefe confiderations had turned the balance of pecuniary feduction among the military altogether in his favour. To remedy this, the city of Utrecht, the capital of the province of that name, and whofe relative importance was fo great, that it had fometimes been afferted, that their deputies alone formed the provincial ftates, and that thofe of Amersfort, Wyk, Montfort and Rhenen were admitted merely as affeffors, thought proper to proceed one step farther than it had yet done. Their fenate had already declared the affembly of Amersfort null and illegal; they had refused to suffer their quota of revenue to remain at the difpofal of that meeting; and they now undertook to revive the provincial aflembly within their walls, which they reprefented as having laid dormant, fince the feceffion of the pretended ftates to the town of Amersfort.
The first act of the new ftates, which met on the eleventh of June 1787, was to elect deputies to the affembly of the ftates general. The provinces, which had avowedly enlifted themselves on either fide, were Holland, Overyffel and Groningen for the reformation of abuses, and Guelderland, Zealand and Friesland for maintaining the conftitution in the form in which it had lately been
practifed. The nominal flates of
We are unable to account for the manœuvre by which thefe deputies immediately upon their arrival at the Hague were admitted into the affembly of the ftates general, and that even to the exclufion of thofe of Amersfort, fo that the majority of this important body inftantly reverted from the party of the fadtholder to that of his adverfaries. The first measure adopted by them in this fituation was to iffue their mandate to the troops in the fervice of Holland, directing them in all cafes to yield an unreferved obedience to the orders of their provincial reprefentatives. The council of ftate however, the ordinary medium of the executive government, refused to tranfmit this mandate; and the ftates general them felves fpeedily reverted to their former line of proceeding. They did not indeed think proper to expel the deputies of the city of Utrecht, that had once been admitted, but the deputies of Amersfort were authorifed to fit with them, and, being reinforced by a fresh deputation from the fame quarter, outvoted their com
petitors, and reftored the voice of the province to the ftadtholderian party. The tranfaction however seems upon the whole to have been advantageous to the oppofition, the affembly now obviously bearing the appearance of an equal divifion, and the ftadtholderian members not adventuring in this enfeebled ftate to adopt any peremptory measures.
But the fatal event, which was ultimately to deftroy the profpects of liberty in Holland, now began to difclofe itself. The court of Great Britain may be fuppofed to have been induftrions in urging upon the king of Pruffia the project they had fuggefted in the commencement of his reign; and the more cautious cabinet of Berlin was continually inftigated by the political fituation of France to lend a more favourable hearing to the propofition. The more evident it became that Ver failles would fcarcely venture to înterfere, the more influential in the breaft of Frederic William were the motives of fraternal regard, ambition and imaginary policy. The ambaf fadors of London and Berlin concurred towards the clofe of May in delivering in memorials to the flates general, in which they urged in ftronger terms than they had hitherto done, their mortification and forrow at beholding the prince of Orange ftill fuffering under the oppreffion of a party, which had been formed for the deftruction of his prerogatives. They declared, that it was impoffible for them to witnefs the injuries fuftained by the ftadtholder with indifference, and offered their mediation to adjust the diffentions of the republic. The ftates of Holland it may be fuppofed did not regard thefe advances with cordiality, and having voted that they would apply to no mediator but the king
of France, communicated their refolution to the ambaffador of that monarch.
The incident, which decided upon the iffue of thefe tranfactions, is involved in ambiguity and myftery. The prince of Orange returned in the clofe of June from his camp of Zeift in the neighbourhood of Utrecht to hisrefidence at Nimeguen. He remained there only a few days, and, departing for Amersfort, the princefs, his confort, fet out at the fame time upon a journey to the Hague. Her character had long been known to be mafculine, active and adventurous. She had appeared as the principal figure in all negociations between the prince and his adverfaries, and the great conftitutional queftions that were at iffue feemed rather to concern the princefs than her husband. Bold there fore and extraordinary measures might be expected from her. But in this proceeding there was fomething fo unexpected and peculiar, that it was impoffible not to confider it as flowing from fome unknown fpring, which alone could reconcile fo unaccountable a phenomenon. The princefs, when the undertook to explain the motives of her journey, declared, that he had adopted the idea with no view, than by her perfonal intervention to prevent the difafters of a civil war, and to adjuft the differences that had arifen refpecting the conftitution of the ftate. But in what way could her appear ance at the Hague contribute to thefe purposes? Did the flatter her felf, that her perfonal attractions or the charms of her eloquence were to annihilate at once the dictates of intereft and the empire of prejudice? Again, could fecrecy be in any way neceffary to fuch an undertaking?
She intended immediately upon her arrival to have fignified her errand to the ftates general and the ftates of Holland. Why not make this communication before fhe fet out? Were they to be taken by furprife? Could the hope, in the prefent ftate of hoftility, to make a journey from one fide of the province of Holland to another without being even perceived by the enemy?
It might perhaps be thought degree of over-refinement to fuppofe, that the journey of the princefs was intended to produce the confequences that actually followed; that England and Pruffia at length concurred in their defire of fettling the contentions of Holland by arms, but that they conceived fomething more was neceffary to juftify their proceedings in the eyes of Europe, than the fuppofed injuries inflicted upon the ftadtholder in the character of first magiftrate of the republic. Such an idea, if it could be admitted, would indeed expofe to equal contempt the courts that conceived fuch a project, and the princefs that executed it. 'It would teach us to look upon politics as a fort of dexterous game, the perfection of which is fuppofed to lie in falfehood and hypocrify, and the making men believe our intentions to be other than they are. In that cafe the heroine of the scene, while fhe pretended every friendly and philanthropical purpose, and would be thought anxious to remove by the gentleft means the calamities of her country, was in reality the incendiary to fcatter the firebrands of war, and, in revenge for her fuppofed injuries, to expofe the republic to an infolent and arbitrary conqueror.
Meanwhile it is eafy to imagine the conftruction that would be put
upon it by the adverfe party. In the prefent divided and doubtful ftate of affairs it was impoflible for them not to be attentive and fufpicious, and they could not but regard the clandeftine approach of their most artful and formidable adverfary to the feat of government with an eye of jealoufy. The friends of the ftadtholder, efpecially among the lower clafs, were numerous even in the province of Holland, and the inhabitants of the Hague were particularly attached to his caufe. Tumult and violence had through the whole hiftory of the republic been the engines of the ftadtholderian caufe, and were dangers particularly appre hended by the patriots of Holland. These they conceived to be the inevitable confequences of the fudden and unexpected appearance of the princefs of Orange; and with this as a principle they prefently concluded, that the defign was to overturn their la bours by a coup de main, and by the artful intervention of a mob to effect an univerfal revolution in favour of the ftadtholder. Certain events, whether cafually or by defign, occurred at this time, which feemed to justify their fufpicions. Riots were committed in the clofe of the month of June nearly at the fame period at Nimeguen, Arnheim, Doefburg, Zutphen, Thiel, Bommel, Helvoet, Breda and Middleburg, attended with infult to the perfons of the patriots, and the detruction of their property and houfes.
It was therefore natural that the princefs fhould be stopped in her progrefs by the officers of the republic, and that their conduct in this refpect should be approved by the provincial affembly. Kelays of horfes had been provided for herself and
her train, confifting of four coaches, and this circumftance had first given fufpicion to the neighbouring pea fantry. The field deputies at Woerden immediately detached a party of infantry and twenty horfe, who ftationed themselves upon the road from Schoonhoven to Gouda. By this party the princefs's journey was intercepted on the twenty-eighth of June, and two of the deputies from Woerden appearing prefently after, obliged her to return immediately to Schoonhoven. From that place fhe wrote letters to the fecretary of the flates general and the grand penfionary of Holland, deliring the former to communicate what had happened to the fuperior affembly, and expreffing to the latter her inclination to continue her journey to the Hague. The ftates general enforced to the provincial affembly the demands of the princefs; but the latter came to no farther refolution, than that of taking the letter of the princefs ad referendum, to be exa◄ mined by their conflituents of the different towns of Holland, and declaring their approbation of the conduct of their deputies. 'pon this intelligence the princefs returned to Nimeguen, from whence the addreffed a letter in terms of ftrong remonftrance to the ftates of Holland, complaining, that, while they refused her demand of being permitted to proceed, they publicly manifefted a diftruft of her word and the fincerity of her intentions. She demanded an ample and public reparation for the affront the had fuftained; and the declared, that from this moment the confequences, that were fo much to be feared, and that he had flattered herfelf to have prevented by her intervention, muft all be charged upon thofe, who had counteracted
her efforts, and fecured to themselves an influence that would be fatal to their country Meanwhile, notwithstanding the humiliating refolutions and infulting treatment of the ftates of Holland, fhe was ftill ardently attached to the country in general, and the people from whom fhe had received fo many marks of affection.
The military interference of the king of Pruffia appears to have been already decided on, and accordingly a few days only elapfed after this memorable tranfaction, before his troops were put in motion, and their march directed to Cleves, a ducal city of the Pruffian dominions in the weft of Germany. This measure was accompanied with a numerous promotion of military officers, at the head of which was the duke of Brunfwie Wolfenbuttle commander in chief. It was not till after fome progrefs had been made in thefe preparations, that the Pruffian ambaffador delivered in a memorial, dated on the tenth of July, to the ftates of Holland, in which the king expreffed his extreme fenfibility to the outrage that had been committed on the perfon of his fifter; and infifted in the strongeft and most urgent manner upon a public fatisfaction for the injury, and the punishment of thofe by whom
it had been committed.
The answer of the ftates of Holland difplayed a fufficient degree of firmnefs and intrepidity. They declared, that they had too much refpect for the king and his illuftrious houfe, to have endured the commiffion of any outrage against the perfon of the princefs; adding at the fame time, that they trufted that the king would treat them as became a fovereign state, and that
they could not believe that he intended to elevate his fifter above the conftitutional fovereign. Had they been previously acquainted with her intention, they would have remon ftrated to her the difaffection the ftadtholder had displayed against the fovereign authority, the different manœuvres adopted by his party on the very day the princess fet out for the Hague, and the diftracted state of the country in general, as reafons to induce her to defift from her enterprife. With refpect to the conduct of their deputies they obferved, that, charged as they were to watch against every occafion of diforder, they had been unable to act otherwife than they had done; the whole tranfaction had been equally decent and refpectful towards the princefs; and the ftates found themfelves incapable of punishing a conduct, that had probably prevented the feat of their refidence from being made a fcene of tumult and confu fion.
It was in the midft of this tranfaction, that the ftates of Holland prefented to the ftates general their propofal for foliciting the mediation of the court of Verfailles, the refolution for that purpose, though it had been long in agitation, not hav ing been ultimately adopted by the provincial affembly till the fixth of July. The French ambaffador, in perfect concert, as it fhould feem, with this great body, prefented on the eighteenth a memorial to the itates general, in which he declared the king to be highly fenfible of this mark of the confidence of the republic, and ready to co-operate by every means in his power for the reftoration of harmony and peace. He accordingly fuggefted the propriety of the ftates general interfering to