Friedrich Schiller (Spanish Edition)

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This monarch, who, without oppressing his realm, might expend nine hundred tons of gold, who extorted yet far more through tyrannical artifices, heaped a debt of a hundred and forty million ducats on his depopulated realm. This extraordinary turn of events seems to border on a miracle; but many things combined, to break the power of this king and to cast favor on the progress of the young state. Were the whole weight of his strength fallen on the United Provinces, there was no salvation for her religion, her liberty. His own ambition came to the rescue of her weakness, as it compelled him, to divide his strength.

The costly policy of hiring traitors in every cabinet of Europe, the subsidies for the League in France, the uprising of the Moors in Grenada, the conquest of Portugal, and the opulent construction of the Escurial, at last exhausted his seemingly immeasurable treasures and prevented him from acting with spirit and energy in the field. The German and Italian troops, which only the hope of booty had lured under his flag, now angrily mutinied, because he could not pay them, and faithlessly deprived their leader of their effectiveness at the decisive moment. These formidable instruments of oppression now turned their dangerous strength against the king himself and vented their hostile rage in the provinces that remained loyal to him.

Friedrich Schiller - Triumph eines Genies

That ill-fated mobilization of arms against Britain, on which he, like a frenzied gambler, staked the whole power of his kingdom, completed his collapse; with the Armada perished the tribute of both Indies and the best of the Spanish breed of heroes. But to the same extent that Spanish power spent itself, the republic won fresh life. The gaps torn by the new religion, the tyranny of the Inquisition, the raging plunder of the soldier rabble, and the ravages of a long wearisome war without intermission in the provinces of Brabant, Flanders, and Hainault, which were the garrisons and storehouses of this costly war, naturally rendered it each year more difficult to maintain and replenish the armies.

The Catholic Netherlands had already lost one million citizens, and the trampled fields no longer nourished their ploughmen. Spain itself could spare few more men. These regions, taken unawares by a sudden prosperity, which gave rise to idleness, had greatly declined in population and could not long maintain these exportations of men to the New World and the Netherlands. Few among them saw their fatherland again; these few had left it as youths and now came back as exhausted old men.

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Gold having become more common made soldiers more and more expensive; the prevailing impulse toward effeminate indulgence raised the price of the opposite virtues. Matters stood quite otherwise with the rebels. All the thousands, which the viceroy's inhuman cruelty had driven from the southern Netherlands, the Huguenot war from France, and the coercion of conscience from other regions of Europe, all were theirs. Their recruiting-ground was the entire Christian world. The fanaticism of the persecutors, as of the persecuted, worked in their behalf.

The fresh inspiration of a newly proclaimed doctrine, vengefulness, hunger, and hopeless misery drew adventurers from all quarters of Europe under their flags. Everything which was won for the new doctrine, which was suffered at the hands of the despot or still to be feared of him in the future, made the destiny of this new republic as it were its own. Every mortification undergone at a tyrant's hands, bestowed a citizen's right in Holland. Men hastened toward a country, where freedom raised its gladdening flag, where respect and safety and revenge on her oppressors were assured to fugitive religion.

When we consider the confluence of every people in today's Holland, who upon entering her territory regain their human rights, what must it have been then, when all the rest of Europe still groaned under a mournful oppression of spirit, when Amsterdam was well-nigh the sole free port of entry to all opinions? Many hundreds of families found safety for their wealth in a country which the ocean and domestic concord protected with equal power.

The republican army was at full strength, without the necessity of dismantling the plough. Amidst the stir of arms bloomed industry and trade, and the tranquil citizen enjoyed in advance all the fruits of liberty, which would be first contended for with foreign blood. At the very time when the republic of Holland was still struggling for her existence, she advanced the borders of her territory across the ocean and quietly built up her East Indies thrones.

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Still more, Spain conducted this costly war with dead, infertile gold, which never returned into the hand which gave it away, yet raised the price of all necessities in Europe. The treasure-chambers of the republic were industry and commerce. Time diminished Spain's resources, multiplied the republic's. To precisely the extent that the resources of the imperial government exhausted themselves through the long continuance of the war, the republic began for the first time to actually reap its harvest. It was a husbanded, remunerative sowing, which gave late, but hundredfold returns; the tree, from which Philip broke himself fruits, was a felled trunk and did not again bear green.

Philip's adverse destiny willed that all the treasure, which he squandered toward the downfall of the provinces, helped to enrich those very provinces. That uninterrupted outflow of Spanish gold had spread wealth and luxury through all of Europe; Europe, however, received her increased requirements for the most part from the hands of the Netherlands, which commanded the trade of the entire known world and determined the price of all goods. Even during this war Philip could not prevent the republic of Holland from trading with his own subjects, indeed he could not even wish to do so. He himself defrayed for the rebels the costs of their defense; precisely the war, which was meant to destroy them, increased the sale of their goods.

The monstrous outlay for his fleets and armies flowed for the most part into the treasury of the republic, which was allied with the commercial centers of Flanders and Brabant. What Philip set in motion against the rebels, operated indirectly for them. The sluggish course of this war did the King of Spain as much harm, as it brought the rebels advantages. His army was largely put together out of the remainder of those victorious troops, who under Charles V had already gathered their laurels.

Age and long service entitled them to rest; many among them, enriched by the war, impatiently wished themselves back at home, to end in comfort a toilsome life. Their former zeal, their heroic fire and manly discipline slackened to the same degree, that they believed themselves to have discharged their duty and honor, and began at last to reap the fruits of so many campaigns. Additionally, troops which were accustomed to vanquish any resistance through the fierceness of their attack, could not help wearying of a war, which was conducted less with men than with elements, which exercised one's patience more than it satisfied the lust for fame, in which the combat was less against danger than against hardship and scarcity.

Neither their individual courage nor their long experience of warfare could prove useful to them in a country, whose peculiar conditions often gave even the most cowardly native advantages over them. Lastly, on foreign soil one defeat injured them more, than many victories over an enemy, on his own territory, could profit them. With the rebels the case was exactly the opposite. In such a tedious, long-drawn-out war, where no decisive battle took place, the weaker adversary was ultimately compelled to learn from the stronger, small defeats accustomed him to danger, small victories fueled his confidence.

At the opening of the civil war the republican army hardly dared to show themselves to the Spanish in the field; the war's long duration trained and hardened them. At last, after half a century, master and pupil, unvanquished, parted as equal combatants. Further, during the entire course of this war, the side of the rebels acted with more cohesion and unity than the side of the king. Before the former lost their first commander, the royal administration of the Netherlands had passed through no fewer than five different hands. The irresolution of the Princess of Parma imparted itself to the cabinet in Madrid and allowed it within a short time to wander through nearly all maxims of statecraft.

The Duke of Alba's unbending harshness, the leniency of his successor Requesens, Don Juan of Austria's cunning deceit and malice, and the energetic Caesarian bent of the Prince of Parma, gave this war just as many contrary directions, while the plan of the rebellion, in the single head where it dwelt clear and vivid, always remained the same. The greater evil was, that the maxims for the most part missed the moment, in which they might be applied. At the beginning of the unrest, when the preponderance was manifestly still on the side of the king, when a swift resolve and manly steadiness could still suffocate the rebellion in its cradle, the reins of government were allowed to wobble feebly to and fro in the hands of a woman.

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After the uprising became an actual explosion, the strength of the rebel factions and of the king was more balanced, and a clever flexibility alone could avert the impending civil war, the viceroyship fell to a man who at this post lacked precisely this single virtue. So watchful an observer as William the Silent missed none of the advantages which the faulty policy of his opponents gave him, and with quiet diligence he slowly advanced toward the object of his great undertaking.

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