3 SEPTEMBER 1898, Page 7


"MAY the country," exclaims the Queen-Regent of` the Netherlands in her interesting Proclamation, "become great in everything in which a small nation can be great !" No person who realises the immense debt which Europe and the world owe to Holland will fail to join in this aspiration. It may be said without fear of contradiction that in nearly every art which heightens and adorns human life, in nearly every aspect of human endeavour, Holland has added to the intellectual and moral resources of mankind, and has contributed as much as any nation to the fabric of European civilisation. We are all accustomed to think of Holland as a bulwark of civil and religious freedom. We have all read the heroic- story of the resistance of Holland to Philip and Alva, and the story of the siege of Leyden ranks in our minds with the tale of Thermopylae. The Spanish Empire would have crumbled in any case, but it was given to Holland to strike the first and the most fatal blow at that huge and monstrous organism. Nor can we for- get how, when even in England the horrors of religious persecution raged under the Tudors, Holland became the sure refuge of the strong and sturdy men who founded the American Republic. The Dutch themselves colonised large portions of what are now the United States,, they founded the greatest city in the New World, and they stamped the impress of their civilisation on more than one State of the Union. In Africa likewise they established a firm colonial fabric, which is strong and healthy, despite some obvious faults, at the present moment. No doubt the Dutch have not been celebrated for unusual humanity in their Eastern possessions, and much just criticism might be directed against their methods there. But, take the people as a whole, they make a singularly bold and strong impression as citizens, rulers, and colonists. Their caution, their industry, their intelligence, their remarkable ability for converting the sands into gold, are all qualities which ally them closely to the Scottish people, and the energy with which both nations have taken up and assimilated the ideas of the Reformation brings them closely together in the common- wealth of European peoples.

But it is perhaps less fully recognised how vast is our debt to Holland on other than political grounds. In science, art, philosophy, law, Holland has ranked with the first States of the world. By her generous principle of affording an asylum to the victims of persecution, she honoured herself by becoming the adopted land of Spinoza. She produced Boerhaave in natural science and Grotius in jurisprudence ; and if she had no other names to show, these would have secured for her immortal fame. The visitor to Rotterdam cannot fail to remember the great name of Erasmus, and the great hall of the University of Leyden with its portraits reminds us of the contributions made by that seat of learning to modern culture. The school of Dutch art is only second to those of Italy and Spain; indeed, in power, in fidelity, in variety, it may perhaps be held superior to the Spanish school, and he would be a very consummate critic who should be able adequately to balance the claims and genius of Rembrandt and Velasquez. In our own times Holland has made some of the most important contributions to theological criticism and to the history of religion, alike from the strictly orthodox and the Liberal sides. Huxley declared that the late Dr. Kuenen's "Religion of Israel" seemed to him to be a model of historical research. The Dutch Liberal school has never lent itself to the extreme vagaries of advanced German criticism ; it has always remained cool, balanced, solid. Indeed, that is the essential character of all that Holland has done alike in politics, religion, art, science, philosophy. The same patient but deep, perfervid spirit which opened the dikes and flooded the land, and submitted to the terrors of a siege the account of which makes us shudder across the intervening gulf of three centuries, not only built up the great commerce of Holland made of it a financial centre for Europe, and made it a colonising and a great maritime people, but also penetrated its ideal and artistic work, its thinking, its learning, its culture. There is less of intellectual veneer in Holland than in any other country in Europe, there is more solid and abiding culture of the very highest kind.

Such has been the history, such is the character, of this remarkable little nation which has made of a barren corner of Europe one of the most prosperous and enlightened nations of the world. How vital it is for the wellbeing of both Holland and of Europe as a whole that this nation should endure intact ! That it is absolutely safe from aggression few can believe who understand the policy of the German Government, and who see bow useful the ports of Holland might become to a nation which has scarcely adequate marine border for its vast and growing commerce. It is an open secret that, since the establishment of the Empire, possibly since the accession of Bismarck to power in 1862, the Prussian Power which sways Germany has had an eye on Holland. Now, we believe in maintaining intact all the small States of Europe (excepting Portugal, which ought to coalesce with Spain), as being the freest, the best- governed, the most cultured, and as lending that element of variety which has characterised Europe since the Franks crossed the Rhine, and which, it is certain, has been a vital agent in the intellectual and aesthetic life of Europe. If we seek to-day for the most original work in criticism, music, philosophy, romance, we are likely to find it at Stockholm, Copenhagen, Geneva, Brussels, Amsterdam, or Christiania. The inhabitant of a small country also, for purposes of travel, is bound to learn other languages than his own ; hence his mind becomes flexible and his culture is enlarged. The ablest recent work on Shakespeare comes from a Dane, and every educated Dutchman knows French and English, not only as weapons of conflict with waiters and railway officials, but as instruments of culture. Moreover, the smaller countries are, for the most part, a perpetual stand- ing protest on behalf of liberty of thought, speech, and action. Therefore from every point of view it is essential that they should remain as national units on the map of Europe, the friends and guardians of liberty and cosmo- politan culture, and the enemies of dreary monotony if life and thought. Of these countries, next to Switzerland, none touches one more closely than Hol- land with its great memories and its well-ordered and refined civilisation. Were outside hands to be laid violently on Holland, a very deep feeling would be engendered alike in this country and in America. We had our struggle with Holland in the seventeenth century (a not very wise or just contest on our part, as Mr. Gardiner has shown), but since then we have lived on terms'of growing amity and respect, and the two lands are united by the ever-growing and complex meshes of trade. Our American friends, looking to the Pilgrim Fathers as the chief, if not the only, founders of the Great Republic, cherish a peculiar veneration for Holland. If any attack should be made on the Netherlands, we may safely assert that England and America would want to know the reason why.

Holland therefore has, and we trust will have for generations yet to come, an important place in Europe. She is a true self-contained organism, with a common life, with great wealth acquired by patient industry which yet has not led to vulgarity or dishonesty. She might have been stronger if the union with Belgium had been main- tained ; but as it could not be, she has been perhaps all the more free to develop her own life. She stands for a high conception of civic duty, for culture, for liberty, and for peaceful trade. The roysterer may think her life dull, and even the more sympathetic observer may wish that she did some things differently ; but the cultivated Dutci man, with his books and music, his pictures and even his e cellent wine-cellar, is really as far removed from stagnatir as the citizen of any land or clime. A respect for tl integrity and independence of Holland should be a coi dition of any general treaty or understanding made 1 the European Powers ; for it is plain that a nation wil such a past and such a present devotion to the highe pursuits of civilisation must have before it a future value and meaning not only to itself, but to the world large.