1. The Remonstrance
Not only the politicians were involved in the theological struggle, but also the general public. The Gomarists conducted a vigorous campaign to win it over to their side, so that a common front could be made against the Arminians, vilified as libertines and heretics. Yet many politicians, in fact most of all, did not want the country to come under the spell of the `precise' and rigorists. This would not be in accordance with the Erasmian spirit prevailing in government circles; it would also be bad for commercial interests. When Uyttenbogaert, on whom Arminius's mantle had fallen (but Arminius had never been a party chief), decided to counter the Gomarist campaign, he found Oldenbarnevelt on his side. What they intended was "to combat the precisious head-on, together with the States, defeat them, remodel the public Church, and eradicate confessional rigidity, thereby minimizing theological strife and its public consequences."[i] This programme had an ecclesiastical as well as a political aspect.
Uyttenbogaert composed a petition, that got the name of `Remonstrance' (Remonstratie); it was signed by forty-four pastors of the Reformed Church. Endorsed by Oldenbarnevelt, it was presented to the States in 1610. Its main point was that the Reformed Confession must be revised with regard to election and predestination. What is said on these points was judged to be `contrary to God's Word'. The notion that God would save some and damn others, simply because it pleased him. was rejected. It was declared that all those who would persevere in their faith would be saved. It is not so that some are elected and most others rejected; Christ died for all mankind, not only for a few. Therefore, grace is given, not only to the few, but to all faithful. This grace, when given, can be withstood. The Remonstrance immediately became famous. The English King James I, an amateur theologian, read it in translation and praised it.[ii]
2. The Counter-Remonstrance
The States decided to arrange the umpteenth disputation. this time on the basis of the Remonstrance. The Gomarists needed much time to prepare their reaction, so that the dispute could only begin on March 11, 1611, in the hall of the States. Immediately after the opening of the session - there were six theologians on either side - the Gomarists presented their petition, the Counter-Remonstrance (Contraremonstrantie), the quintessence was that there should be no revision of the Confession. In seven points the text posited the well-known orthodox Calvinistic doctrine.
From then on there were two clearly divided parties in the Dutch Reformed Church, the `Remonstrants' and the `Counter-Remonstrants', utterly hostile to each other. It was, at last initially, a conflict over the purity of doctrine. The Gomarists accused their opponents of leaning to `papism', even of being secret `Papists'. This reproach weighed so heavily, because two-thirds of the Dutch population was still Roman Catholic. The Reformed had not yet won the day; they felt that their position was being threatened by the progress the revitalized Catholicism was making. And now there was defection, not to say treason within their own ranks. All this made the orthodox nervous and occasionally furious.
3. The specific character of the conflict
During the twentieth century Dutch historians with Marxist leanings, like my promotor Professor Jan Romein, were convinced that the conflict basically had a not a theological but a social character. "Was this only about dogmatic quibbles?", Romein asks (with liberal contempt for theology, neglecting the fact that the difference of opinion about predestination was not a `theological quibble' at all). And he presents a categorical answer. "It was a matter of people and rulers. The latter as bourgeoisie, as class, were, no matter which their personal conviction were, unable to break away from the inner law that urged them to posit themselves outside the magico-religious traditions in which everyone had lived in the past."[iii] This is partly a Marxist statement, with the favourite Marxist term `law', and partly a liberal one, with the suggestion that religion is not really different from magic. In this view the conflict was one between the capitalism of the rulers and the oppressed populace.
This viewpoint made an impression in the Thirties of the previous century, but it does so no longer. There is no reason to suppose that the `mass' was only interested in material welfare; we have many testimonies that ordinary citizens passionately participated in the theological discussion.
4. Two hostile factions
Until 1611 the conflict had remained more or less restricted to Holland, with repercussions in Utrecht, but now it became nationwide. Everywhere in the Republic there were `Remonstrants' and `Counter-Remonstrants', so called because these parties crystallized around the two petitions. They soon vilified each other with terms of opprobrium. The Gomarists were abused as Slijkgeuzen, mud beggars, probably because they walked along muddy dykes to villages, where there was an orthodox preacher, whereas in their own town an Arminian stood in the pulpit. The Arminians were scolded Bavianen, babboons, but why is far from clear.[iv]
Especially the Counter-Remonstrants were extremely rigorous. It happened that they marched out en bloc, if they saw an Arminian ascending the pulpit. Every Sunday saw a procession of Gomarists using waggons or boats to travel to some church where there was a `sound' preacher. And he was `sound', if he stuck to the orthodox interpretation of the dogma of predestination. Purity in this respect was all that counted for them. It even came so far that it became necessary to celebrate the Lord's Supper separately.[v] Repugnance to the opposite opinion went very far. There was a Gomarist preacher in The Hague, Henricus Rosaeus, who said in the pulpit that it was wrong to greet someone of the other party; it was the same as greeting a woman of easy virtue.[vi] This dualistic situation tended to become dangerous.
5. The positions of Oldenbarnevelt and Maurits
Where stood Oldenbarnevelt? We have seen that he supported Uyttenbogaert, when it came to presenting the Remonstrance. But was he an Arminian? Very probably he did not know himself what precisely he believed, although he was now a member of the Reformed Church. Theological questions only interested him, when they got an impact on politics. On the whole, he tended to moderate viewpoints, because he feared that rigorism would cause civil strife. And then, he was an authoritarian person who did not want to be overruled by whichever faction; in his view the Arminians were easier to handle than the Gomarists.
And where stood Maurits? Although he too was a member of the Reformed Church, he could, with regard to dogmatic questions, not care less. About the predestination he once said that he did not know whether it was either green or blue (he was good at one-liners). However, the situation was fraught with danger because of his alienation from the Advocate.
6. A Gomarist coup in Utrecht
How close to civil war the situation was getting already in 1610 became apparent in Utrecht, a city described by Israel as `a focus of social and political unrest'.[vii] Here, as in many other towns, the guilds were strongly Gomarist, whereas its regents were more liberal and irenic. The guilds had part of the militia on their side. In January 1610 they effected a coup; their opponents among the regents and the nobility hastily fled the city, then ruled by Gomarists for the time being.
The Advocate of the States of Utrecht asked Oldenbarnevelt for help. At his instigation the States General dispatched troops to the unruly city. Maurits did not commit himself, but entrusted the command to his younger half-brother Frederick Henry, whose first military assignment it was. Without meeting resistance the troops occupied the town; a garrison was stationed in it to keep the situation under control. The new rulers were deposed, and the old rulers returned and were reinstalled.[viii]
7. The situation during 1609-1614
It is unnecessary to describe the developments during the first five years of the Truce in any detail. Let it be sufficient to state that the Reformed part of the population was in ever growing turmoil and that the atmosphere was thoroughly poisoned. Highly disquited by the turn things were taking, Oldenbarnevelt succeeded, against dogged resistance, in pushing a `Tolerance Resolution' through the States of Holland, who accepted it in January 1614. It admonished all pastors and preachers to practice moderation; explosive theological tenets should not be the subjects of sermons. Yet, the Resolution was not entirely neutral in its formulation, for it said that preachers should recognize divine grace as the source of salvation.[ix]
8. Counter-Remonstrant agitation
It is as though one would try to extinguish a big fire with a pail of water. The Counter-Remonstrant preachers did not heed the Resolution. Knowing that the States of Holland obstructed them, they scolded its members for `libertines' and spoke of `Inquisition'. It were above all Oldenbarnevelt and his party against whom they raged and fumed in the pulpits. They depicted themselves as the `faithful Israel' and their opponents as the `children of Belial'.[x]
The spokesman of the Counter-Remonstrants became the already mentioned Rosaeus. He was precisely that kind of preacher to whom Oldenbarnevelt felt a deep aversion. He was a demagogue who agitated in the pulpit against the Advocate and Uyytenbogaert, Maurits' court chaplain (the Stadtholder still maintained his publicly neutral attitude in 1615/1616). When Uyttenbogaert administered the Lord's Supper on October 11, 1615, Rosaeus stayed demonstratively away.[xi] The conflict between the two men ran so high that one of them had to go. Attempts at reconciliation failed, because the fanatical Rosaeus would not hear of a compromise. Finally, the Advocate suspended him as pastor; this happened just before Christmas 1615.
As might be expected, the recalcitarnt pastor did not bow his head. He disposed of a church in nearby Rijswijk, where he continued his preaching; his behaviour would in our time be characterized as `civil disobedience'. All Holland took sides: for or against Rosaeus. He always had a large audience, because many people came from The Hague to hear him; during these expeditions incidents took place. Oldenbarnevelt visited the Stadtholder on February 23, 1616, and asked him to commit the military in order to stop the weekly exodus. Maurits refused; Oldenbarnevelt found this insubordination (don't forget that the Stadtholder was the servant of the States).[xii]
9. The Advocate and the Stadtholder opposing each other
When the winter of 1616/1617 approached, the Rijswijk church was found too cold by the Rosaeus party; they wanted a more comfortable building in The Hague itself. On January 13, 1617, Oldenbarnevelt convened all the authorities who were concerned with the affair; Maurits was also present. The Advocate was prepared, à contre-coeur, to find good that a Counter-Remonstrant might preach in the Great Church, if only it was not Rosaeus. During this session it came, for the first time, to violent altercation between the Stadtholder and the Advocate. It was a theological discussion, which proved that Maurits had got interested. He drove Oldenbarnevelt into a corner. "I am not a theologian", said the Advocate; "neither am I", said Maurits, and he proposed to let the question be settled by a National Synod.
The Stadtholder motivated his attitude with the text of the oath with which he accepted his office in 1585; he even let a clerk come with the register. He had, he said, sworn to maintain the Reformed religion. And the Reformed religion was that of the Confession, that is, that of the Gomarists. For this religion his father had shed his blood. It was a decisive moment: the Stadtholder was taking sides - against Oldenbarnevelt.[xiii]
10. A church occupied
Meanwhile, the question of a church for the Counter-Remonstrants in The Hague had not yet been resolved. Tired of waiting, they seized the Cloister Church that stood only a few steps away from the Advocate's house. On the Sunday morning of July 9, they broke the church open - Oldenbarnevelt could see it from his window -, furnished it provisionally (it was no longer in use), and held their services in it, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The building was brimful, with between two thousand five hundred and three thousand people attending. The Advocate was white with rage. He is said to have considered to arrest the members of the consistory, bring them before the Supreme Council, have them judged and condemned during a night session and publicly executed the next morning. It was a counsel of despair.[xiv]
Fourteen days later, on Sunday the 23d, the Advocate could see Prince Maurits walking to the Cloister Church to attend the service there. He did not come alone, for he was accompanied by a large retinue of nobles and officers; it resembled a gala occasion. Everyone, and Oldenbarnevelt most of all, realized what this meant: the Prince had now openly chosen the side of the Counter-Remonstrants and was from then on a public enemy of the Advocate.
11. The fatal step
There was violence in some towns; in Amsterdam houses of Remonstrants were plundered. Yet most of the anti-Arminian campaign was of a verbal nature. The stream of pamphlets became a torrent: fifty in 1614, eighty in 1615, one hundred in 1616, one hundred and seventy-five in 1617, and over three hundred in 1618, one pamphlet for every working day.[xv]
In view of the evermore precarious situation Oldenbarnevelt took the step that would lead to his downfall. His grip on the States of Holland was still firm enough to make them accept, on August 4, 1607, the so-called `Sharp Resolution', formulated by himself. It must have been a warning signal that six cities, one of these being Amsterdam, opposed it. The Resolution authorized Holland to levy the so-called waardgelders, a provincial militia in the service of Holland. It furthermore stipulated that the regular troops, in so far as they were on the payroll of Holland, owed their allegiance to Holland and not to the States General, that is, not to Maurits. This could only infuriate the Stadtholder, the commander-in-chief of the regular army, and it did. He took it as `an affront to the true Reformed religion and to his person'.[xvi]
Soon hundreds of waardgelders were recruited. They did not make an impressive army; those who presented themselves were discharged soldiers, veterans, invalids, men without military training. It did not last long before many cities in Holland and Utrecht had their own private armies, Leiden, for instance, and Gouda. The Hague, however, abstained; its city fathers feared that their waardgelders would be crushed by Maurits' war-hardened Guard. Elsewhere incidents occurred between waardgelders and regulars.
Making use of his prerogatives as Stadtholder, Maurits began to `remodel' city councils, which meant that he deposed Arminian regents and replaced them with Counter-Remonstrants. The first city where he did this was Nijmegen in Gelderland in January 1618. More cities in Gelderland and Overijssel were `cleansed' in the same way. Since the three northern provinces, Friesland, Groningen and Drente, had Maurits' cousin Willem Lodewijk, a `heavy' Calvinist, as Stadtholder, the whole northern and eastern half of the Republic stood posed against the western half, Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht.
12. The States General against the waardgelders
Since Maurits now disposed of a sizeable majority in the States General, this body began, on July 9, 1618, to discuss the disbanding of the waardgelders. Holland and Utrecht were overruled (Zeeland voted with the others): Oldenbarnevelt's private army was to be dismissed. The two provinces protested: each province was the sovereign on its own territory and could therefore raise troops, if it wanted to do so. Yet their protests were to no avail.
The cities with waardgelders were not immediately ready to discharge their private armies. The situation of the summer 1618 dangerously resembled that of the powder keg that would explode with only one spark falling into it. Or in other words, if only one shot would be rashly fired.
13. The Utrecht incident
It is not accidental that the powder keg was the always difficult city of Utrecht. The city council was staunchly Arminian; it disposed of a force of nine hundred waardgelders. However, the Prince, firmly resolved to show who was boss, arrived in the city at the end of July. The next day he attended a session of the States of Utrecht and told them roundly that he would act against recalcitrants. The States did not give in, and both sides began to prepare for an armed clash. Maurits began to summon troops from the neighbouring garrison towns, while the States considered the possibility of defending the town with the help of the militia and the waardgelders, ordering these to occupy the gates.
However, the waardgelders showed little gusto to fight against the Prince, whose prestige amongst the populace was enormous. In the night of July 31 the regulars marched in, with nobody attempting to stop them. In the morning Maurits concentrated his troops in the Neude, a square in the city centre. At one side of the square stood Maurits' men, at the other the waardgelders, and standing in front of his troops, the Stadtholder. He turned to the waardgelders and ordered them to lay down their arms. It was a dramatic moment; everyone present felt the enormous tension. But the waardgelders obeyed and were disarmed. The Prince remodelled the city council, which proved no problem, since most of the Arminians had fled. The victory of the Counter-Remonstrants became sealed, when the great Dom Church was handed over to them. The affair had an ugly consequence: it had convinced the Prince that Oldenbarnevelt was aiming at his person.
14. The waardgelders of Holland
The only remaining province with waardgelders was Holland, that is to say, there were no more than eight Remonstrant towns with their own armies. When the Prince arrived in The Hague on August 7, a delegation, led by Oldenbarnevelt, visited him, asking him not to use violence, but he wrapped himself in a gruff silence that boded not much good. That same day the States General resolved that all waardgelders must be discharged. On the 20th posters appeared in the recalcitrant cities, ordering them to send away their soldiers within twenty-four hours, which they did. On the 25th the States General decided to convene a National Synod, which would doubtless mean the triumph of the Counter-Remonstrants.
15. Oldenbarnevelt arrested
It will be evident that Oldenbarnevelt's hours in office were counted. And not only his hours in office! In the morning of August 28 he rode in his carriage to a session of the States of Holland. Having arrived at the Binnenhof, he got out, but was immediately met by a chamberlain of the Prince, who asked him to come along. Because he was rheumatic, his faithful servant Jan Francken had to help him ascend the staircase to the first floor. There a captain of the Guard told him that he was under arrest and brought him to a room, where he would remain enclosed. Together with him three other leaders of the Remonstrant party were apprehended, one of these being nobody less than Hugo de Groot - Grotius -, who had done his utmost to make the Arminian cause triumph.
The Advocate was reasonably well housed and had his servant with him; food came from the Prince's own kitchen. He was, however, constantly guarded by two young officers. Two days later the prisoners were transferred to rooms in another part of the building along the Binnenhof. It was a long way to go for the old man (he was seventy-one); a servant carried an armchair behind him, in which he had to rest four or five times. The new rooms were far less comfortable; the prisoners had no contact whatsoever with one another. They were strictly guarded during the eight-and-half months they were imprisoned.
16. The `Synod of Dordt'
It is needless to say that Maurits used the opportunity to remodel the city councils of the eight remaining Arminian towns in Holland: the Remonstrants out, and the Counter-Remonstrants in. There was not a waardgelder left. The Prince now had the whole country at his fingertips. Nothing could highlight Oldenbarnevelt's defeat more clearly than the decision taken by the States General to convene a National Synod. Until the last moment the States of Holland, led by the Advocate, had opposed this; what they wanted was a provincial Synod.
It opened on November 13, 1619, in Dordrecht, the oldest city of Holland; hence it is commonly called the `Synod of Dordt'. It became a major event in the history of European Calvinism. There were more than a hundred participants: thirty-seven pastors and nineteen elders, five professors of theology (Gomarus did not take part), thirty foreign theologians, and eighteen political commissars, representing the States General. The delegates were divided into eight `colleges' for the eight provinces (the seven + Drente), one for the Walloon Church, and the tenth for the academic theologians. There were delegations from England, Scotland, Switzerland, and Germany; the bench for the French Huguenots remained empty, because Louis XIII had forbidden them to leave the country. The conference language would be French.
Many, many issues were discussed during the one hundred and eighty sessions, lasting half a year. There was for instance the aforementioned plan for an authorized Bible translation. Yet naturally Arminianism was the main theme and the hottest issue. It was not so that the Remonstrants were prevented from attending; they came with a heavy delegation led by Simon Episcopius (1563-1643) (Uyttenbogaert, as too closely associated with Oldenbarnevelt, had fled to Antwerp). Episcopius was given the opportunity to defend the Arminian position, which he did in a very long speech. He was, however, tactless enough to make unpleasant remarks about the Prince's sexual habits (it was widely known that he was an inveterate womanizer).
This was on December 7, and bitter discussions, lasting for more than a month followed. Finally, on January 14, 1619, the chairman of the Synod, the fanatical Counter-Remonstrant Johannes Bogerman (1576-1637), condemned the Arminians in a speech so vitriolic that even his own party spoke ill of it. He ended by chasing them away, `you liars and deceivers'. "You began with a lie and you end with a lie. You are not worth that the Synod occupies itself with you ... You are fired! Go, go!" And they went, saying that God would judge them all.[xvii]
After long deliberations five `canons' were read and approved during two solemn sessions on April 23. They confirmed the orthodox interpretation of the dogma of predestination (which was called `mysterious'). Henceforward this would be the official doctrine of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Synod also confirmed the Dutch Confession and the Heidelberg Cathechism. All this sealed the fate of the Remonstrants. A formula of submission was framed through which Remonstrants preachers had to pledge allegiance to the Confession, the Cathechism, and the synodal acts. Those preachers who were not prepared to subscribe to this would be deposed and deprived of their incomes. The States General were asked to banish them. Unwilling pastors were exposed as people who introduced novelties, perturbators of the Church, falsifiers of religion, destroyers of ecclesiastical unity, and what not.
17. The breach in the Dutch Reformed Church
The breach in the Dutch Reformed Church - it was a dualistic breach - was now complete. Originally only one Remonstrant preacher signed the formula of submission. About two hundred preachers lost their commissions; faced with proverty. forty of them subsequently recanted and were rehabilitated. Seventy who promised to keep a low profile were allowed to live as private citizens; the remaining forty were banished.[xviii]
Immediately after the Synod the foundations for a separate Remonstrant Church were laid, a Church that accepts only the Bible as its fundament, but not the Confession, the Cathechism, and the Acts of the Synod. In October 1619 a Remonstrant Synod was held at Antwerp, organized by Episcopius and Uyttenbogaert, and attended by about forty preachers. Soon there were refugee congregations in many places, mainly in north-west Germany, but also some in France. Grotius, who in an adventurous way escaped from his prison, emigrated to France, never to see the Netherlands again.[xix]
18. The Indictment of the Advocate
During the long months of the synodal sessions the process against Oldenbarnevelt was being prepared. The great problem was of which offenses the Advocate could be accused. It was only after three months, on November 15, that he was heard by three investigating judges. The hearings went on for two weeks, every day, except Sunday, mornings and afternoons. Back in his room, the old man was so tired that he lay on his bed without speaking. In all three hundred and thirty-six questions were put to him to all of which he patiently and often extensively answered.
One of the questions was whether he had received Spanish money, a question that made him lose his self-control for a moment. There was, however, a fire to this smoke. People had seen that, on a day in September 1608, a sleigh laden with sacks full of coins had stopped before his door. Spanish money? Were these the ill-famed `pistolets of treason'? Oldenbarnevelt swore by all that was sacred to him that he had never received a penny from Spain.[xx] There is no reason to doubt this.
The indictment against mr. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, called the Intendit, numbered fifty-three points of accusation. The first article presented the general tenor: the Advocate was principally guilty of disturbing the peace and unity of the country, both with regard to religion and the political situation. The articles 2 through 53 presented the proofs of this general accusation. Oldenbarnevelt, stated the Intendit, had protected false teachers, that is, the Arminians. The official standpoint - one of the basic maxims of the Republic - was that the war against Spain was begun religionis ergo, that this religion was the orthodox Reformed religion, that there must be no alterations in it, and that nobody would be allowed to modify it. Arminius was the man who had tried to introduce a new theological concept, and Oldenbarnevelt had assisted him in this attempt.
When disputes arose with regard to the theological concept, the way to solve the problem would have been the convening of a synod, provincial or national. The Advocate had prevented this; by doing so he had turned the theological conflict into a political one. It cannot be denied that there was some truth in this accusation: by doggedly refusing to convene a synod, provincial or national, he had robbed the Reformed Church of its possibility to regulate its own affairs, for instance, by deposing unorthodox preachers.
With regard to the accusation of his having disturbed the political order, the Advocate's pushing through of the Sharp Resolution, which made the levying of waardgelders possible, this meant belittling of and insinuating against the Stadtholder; moreover, the Intendit spoke of the wrong foreign policy, of betraying of state secrets, and of accepting presents. These articles were really dangerous, because they could be interpreted as high treason, which might led to a death sentence.
It cannot be denied that, in the question of the Sharp Resolution, Oldenbarnevelt had acted imprudently, because he did not ask the consent of Maurits, the commander-in-chief. Had he asked it, the Stadtholder would doubtless not have given his consent. There is also no denying that Oldenbarnevelt suspected Maurits of wanting to acquire more power than he already had, even that he desired to become the sovereign, and that he was using the religious quarrels to achieve this aim. The Intendit presented no convincing proofs that Oldenbarnevelt's foreign policy had been wrong, that he had betrayed state secrets, and that he had treacherously accepted presents.[xxi]
19. The hearings
During March and April 1619 the tribunal subjected the Advocate to three series of hearings, the first beginning on March 7 and the last ending on April 14. This tribunal consisted of twenty-four judges. The process lasted so long that the general public became impatient. This was because the judges did not want to commit themselves neither to the sixty previous hearings nor to the Intendit. On March 7 the preparations and the first series of hearings had already lasted seven-and-a-half months.[xxii]
When Oldenbarnevelt appeared before his judges for the first time, erect and severe, directing his piercing eyes on them, they rose, in spite of themselves. During the first series of hearings, the Advocate delivered a speech lasting three whole days. It did him no good; he was as arrogant as ever and convinced of his having always been infallibly right. He admitted to have failed only on minor points, but for the rest he defended his policy to the last detail. What he suggested was that neither the Prince nor the judges or the general public had the correct understanding of the Dutch constitution; the affairs of the state could safely be entrusted only to him.[xxiii]
Meanwhile, Maurits had come the conclusion that the Republic could only be saved by Oldenbarnevelt's elimination, that is, by his execution. He is reported to have exclaimed: "I will grind this man and his faction to powder." It was especially the obstinacy of the Remonstrants during the Synod of Dordt which convinced him of this. Once expelled from the Reformed Church, they had founded the Remonstrant Church that, in the Stadtholder's political vision, was a political party, intent on rebellion.[xxiv]
20. Death sentence and execution
On the afternoon of Sunday, May 19, 1619, two of the judges appeared in the Advocate's room in the Binnenhof; they were ominously accompanied by the provost sergeant, who was responsible for all military executions. One of the judges addressed Oldenbarnevelt who, although invited to sit down, remained standing. "We come on behalf of the States General and the judges to announce to you that you must appear tomorrow to hear the sentence of death." "The sentence of death, the sentence of death", said the Advocate, "I did not expect that." And he added bitterly: "Is this the way my merits are honoured?" The next morning, that of the 20th, he walked to the hall of the tribunal. The sentence was read to him, after which he asked: "Is this the reward for the forty-three years I have served the state?", but the president cut him short.
The execution was to follow immediately. Clad in black, with a brown gown thrown over his costume, he walked down the staircase, leaning on his stick and supported by his faithful servant Jan Francken. It was nine o'clock and already a brilliant summer day. The scaffold stood ready in the inner court, surrounded by soldiers. As usual, the execution was a public event; the number of spectators was about three thousand. The windows of the princely quarters were all closed; Maurits was nowhere to be seen.
Walking with difficulty, the Advocate ascended the scaffold, accompanied by a preacher; he murmured: "What a fine reward!". Once on the scaffold, he knelt down on the planks and prayed. The preacher said the `Our Father' in which all those present shared. Then the condemned man laid off his gown. Not a sound was heard from the bystanders. The old man addressed them in a strong voice. "Men, do not believe that I am a traitor; I have always acted honestly and faitfully, as a good patriot, and so shall I die." Then he knelt down again and prayed: "Jesus Christ will be my guide. Lord God, Heavenly Father, receive my spirit." His last words were directed to his executioner: "Make it short, make it short." It is unknown where he is buried.
21. De Oldenbarnevelt iuste damnato?
As soon Socrates had been executed in 399 B.C., the never-ending discussion began whether or not he had been justly condemned: De Socrate iuste damnato. The same happened after Oldenbarnevelt's execution in 1619, a discussion going on until this day. In this context the term `judicial murder' is used. Hendrik Gerlach, who devoted a voluminous work to Oldenbarnevelt's process, concluded it with a passionate defense of the Advocate, his character and his policy. Although he does not employ the term `judicial murder', he is convinced that his hero was very unjustly treated.[xxv]
Den Tex, who is more critical of Oldenbarnevelt (and of Gerlach), does not admit of the indiscriminating term. However, he says that the dice were loaded by means of the choice of the judges.[xxvi] He could have added that, just as Socrates with his famous `Apology', the Advocate did nothing to give the proceedings a favourite turn in his direction, rather the contrary. Yet, everything taken into account, Oldenbarnevelt did not deserve this fate. What happened was a tragedy, a dualistic episode that remained exceptional in Dutch history.[xxvii]
BLOK, P.J., Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche volk. II. Leiden, 1913² (18961).
DEURSEN, A.Th. van, Bavianen en slijkgeuzen. Kerk en kerkvolk ten tijde van Maurits en Oldenbarnevelt. Series: Van Gorcum's Historische Bibliotheek, no. 92. Assen, 1974.
GERLACH, Hendrik, Het proces tegen Oldenbarnevelt en de Maximen in den Staet. Diss.Leiden, 1965. Haarlem, w.d.
ISRAEL, Jonathan, The Dutch Republic. Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806. Oxford, 1995.
ROMEIN, Jan, De Lage Landen bij de zee. Utrecht (1934).
TEX, Jan den, Oldenbarnevelt. 3 Vols. Haarlem, 1960-1972.
[i].. Israel, Dutch Reoublic 425.
[ii].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 137.
[iii].. Romein, Lage Landen 373/374.
[iv].. Van Deursen, Bavianen en slijkgeuzen 320/321.
[v].. Van Deursen, Bavianen en slijkgeuzen 322-324.
[vi].. Van Deursen, Bavianen en slijkgeuzen 265/266.
[vii].. Israel, Dutch Republic 424.
[viii].. Israel, Dutch Republic 424/425.
[ix].. Blok, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Volk II, 442.
[x].. Blok, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Volk II, 443/444.
[xi].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 409/410.
[xii].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 420/421.
[xiii].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 441-444.
[xiv].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 487/488.
[xv].. Israel, Dutch Republic 438/439.
[xvi].. Israel, Dutch Republic 441.
[xvii].. Blok, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Volk II, 484.
[xviii].. Israel, Dutch Republic 462/463.
[xix].. The Dutch Remonstrants do not call their congregation a Church, but speak instead of the Remonstrantse Broederschap, the Remonstrant Fraternity. It has never been very numerous. In 2000 it numbered only ten thousand faithful, spread over forty-seven local communities.
[xx].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 664/665.
[xxi].. See for this Gerlach, Het proces tegen Oldenbarnevelt, Ch. I.
[xxii].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 703.
[xxiii].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 697/698.
[xxiv].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 706.
[xxv].. Gerlach, Proces tegen Oldenbarnevelt 666-669.
[xxvi].. Den Tex, Oldenbarnevelt III, 684.
[xxvii].. History has a long haul. There are statues of Oldenbarnevelt in Amersfoort, where he was born, and in Rotterdam, where he was pensionary, but for centuries there was not one in The Hague, not in the city that is the official residence of the monarchs of the House of Orange-Nassau. However, a statue of him was unveiled in 1954, on the Buitenhof, not far from where he was executed. The ceremony was attended by Queen Juliana. This was felt to be the historical reconciliation of the Orange tradition and the Oldenbarnevelt tradition.