pride which licked the dust, for ‘almost all of them
were venal and pensionary.’1
The United Provinces
of the Netherlands, the forerunner of nations in religious tolerance, were, from the origin of their confederacy, the natural friends of intellectual freedom.
Here thought ranged through the wide domain of speculative reason.
Here the literary fugitive found an asylum, and the boldest writings, which in other countries circulated by stealth, were openly published to the world.
But in their European
relations, the Netherlands were no more a great maritime power.
They had opulent free ports in the West Indies
, colonies in South America
, Southern Africa
, and the East Indies
, with the best harbor in the Indian Ocean
: their paths, as of old, were on the deep, and their footsteps in many waters.
They knew they could be opulent only through commerce, and their system of mercantile policy was liberal beyond that of every nation in Europe
Even their colonial ports were less closely shut against the traffic with other countries.
This freedom bore its fruits: they became wealthy beyond compare, reduced their debt, and were able so to improve their finances, that their funds, bearing only two per cent. interest, rose considerably above par. Ever the champions of the freedom of the seas, at the time of their greatest naval power, they had in their treaty of 1674 with England
, embodied the safety of neutrals in time of war, limiting contraband articles of trade, and making goods on shipboard as safe as the ships that bore