The Dutch Revolt ultimately resulted in the Union of Utrecht, uniting the northern provinces of the Netherlands, until then under the control of Phillip II of Spain. The newly formed Dutch Republic, or United Provinces of the Netherlands, was the wealthiest and most trade engaged nation in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. Components like geographic location, economic superiority, and religious toleration led to the vast popularization of the Netherlands. However, this Golden Age was not prolonged. From 1650 to 1713, the Dutch Republic encountered many challenges involving security, unity, and prosperity.
These challenges included conflicts with foreign nations, progressive disunity of the provinces, and ongoing trade issues which would lead to the ultimate decline of Dutch success.First, the Dutch Republic faced a series of challenges involving security. Most of these challenges derived from foreign nations, particularly France and England.
During the three Anglo-Dutch Wars approximately 2,000 – 2,700 Dutch ships were seized by the English, whereas only 500 English ships were seized by the Dutch during the 22 years of war (Doc.3). Proven by the abundance of ships England captured, they had a very powerful navy that threatened the security of major nations, particularly the Dutch Republic. Tensions rose during the Anglo-Dutch wars and precautions were being taken. A pamphlet published in Holland stated that defensive forces on land and at sea must improve, but heavy taxes were restricting improvement and had to be terminated. Exemplified by heavy taxes, the Dutch went to great lengths to fund the military in hopes of preserving security from foreign nations.
France was also a threat to the Dutch Republic’s security. The Resolution of the Amsterdam City Council in 1671 stated that French monarchs and other kings plotted against the Dutch Republic, planning to take over their trading and navigation. Because of the Dutch’s previous wealth and success, they gained many foreign enemies that wished to conquer them. In comparison, the Treaty of Dover depicts a promise made by the king of France to the king of England to jointly declare war on the Dutch Republic.
Again, because of the Dutch Republic’s power, dangerous alliances were made to end their power. Overall, Dutch security was challenged by the strength of other nation’s defensive forces and prevailing alliances created to destroy them.Secondly, the unity of the Dutch Republic gradually declined due to internal challenges, such as finances and distrust among the provinces. In 1664, Sir George Downing, an English ambassador to the Dutch Republic, wrote that the government of the Dutch Republic was shattered and divided due to the financial burden of war. Since all the other provinces of the Dutch Republic were poor, Holland had to bear the financial burden of many wars, corrupting the republic.
Along with the fall of the Dutch government, there was distrust between the provinces. The Dutch Republic government report in 1674 reported that differences rose when a new military commander had to be elected. These differences caused mutual distrust among the provinces and hindered discussions on how to handle the attacks of Louis XIV. Because of the political distrust within the Dutch Republic, the provinces would no longer seem unified. Outside forces also tried to break the Dutch Republic’s unity.
According to Konrad Van Beuningen, Dutch ambassador to England, England’s interest was to continue and encourage war between the Dutch Republic and France. England’s enforcement of war in the provinces would ultimately result in the disunity of the Dutch Republic. The constant war also affected the residents in the Dutch Republic. An Englishman living in the Dutch Republic wrote about the extreme suffering of the provinces during the War of the Spanish Succession and how the battalions were dangerously low on men.
Because of the weakness of the Dutch during times of war and destruction of the provinces the unity of the Dutch Republic declined. In summation, Dutch unity was challenged by finances, war, and political distrust among the provinces.Lastly, the prosperity of the Dutch was challenged. During the Dutch’s Golden Age, they were economically successful and very wealthy. A pamphlet published in Amsterdam in 1683 stated that the Dutch cities and provinces all too easily paid for the recruitment of men to fight against the French because they were rich and could provide the money.
Although this Dutch opinion made the prosperity of the Netherlands very apparent, the prosperity began to drop due to national debts and trade issues. From the years 1688-1713, the national debt of the Dutch Republic went from 30,000,000 guilders to a staggering 148,000,000 guilders (Doc. 12). The exponential rise in debts stretched the wealth the Dutch once had, ruining the economy of most of the provinces. Trade issues also challenged Dutch prosperity. As the Dutch grew weaker, their trade competition grew stronger. Marquis de Pomponne, French ambassador to the Dutch Republic, wrote that The English East India Company has grown larger, threatening the Dutch.
He believed that trade competition between the English and the Dutch Republic was the cause of war in the 1650’s The Dutch Republic relied on trade to provide prosperity, so trade competition led to the decline in Dutch prosperity. In addition, a Dutch colonial administrator wrote that the profits from East Indian trade turned to losses and the commercial competition from other nations could not be checked.
The lack of observing competition and loss of profit furthered the economic turmoil of the Dutch Republic. War also challenged Dutch prosperity. In 1652-1674, during war between England and the Dutch Republic, many battles were fought along Dutch trade routes (Doc. 1). War along the trade routes hindered the flow of trade, therefore threatening the prosperity of the Dutch. Comparatively, the Dutch were also involved in the Baltic Sea Trade while at war with England.
The war decreased trading voyages by the Dutch by about 40% from the years 1645 to 1695 (Doc. 2), proving that war interfered with Dutch trade and challenged prosperity. In conclusion, Dutch prosperity was challenged by massive national debts, harsh trade competition, and war.In summation, the Dutch Republic faced many challenges regarding security, unity, and prosperity. Security was challenged by powerful foreign defensive forces and alliances made by France and England.
Dutch unity was threatened by the financial burden of war and political distrust between the provinces. Finally, Dutch prosperity was challenged by national debts, fierce trade competition, and the effects of war on trade. In the early 18th century, after years of hardships and wars, The Dutch Republic peacefully settled into the Enlightenment. The Netherlands became home to great enlightenment thinkers such as skeptic Pierre Bayle and philosopher Baruch Spinoza.