Twelve Years' Truce
Main articles: Twelve Years' Truce and Synod of Dort
The cost of fortress-building and the upkeep of the large standing armies put both Spain and the Republic under severe fiscal strain. Also because of the slump in trade that was caused by the efficient trade embargo imposed by Spain on the Dutch since 1598 the Dutch regents estimated that they could not safely increase the already heavy burden of taxation. In September 1606 Oldenbarnevelt therefore urged the States of Holland to seek an accommodation with Spain. This met with a surprisingly favorable reception from Spain, as Philip III and the Duke of Lerma had already resolved to concede sovereignty, if that proved inevitable in order to halt the war. What prompted them to this concession was the inroads that the Dutch East India Company (or VOC), that had been chartered by the States-General in 1602, had been making in the Portuguese empire's sphere of influence in the East Indies. After all, since 1580 there had been a union of the crowns of Spain and Portugal. The conquest of a number of Portuguese possessions in Ambon, Ternate and Tidore in 1605 by the VOC caused such consternation that a Spanish presence was quickly established to counterbalance Dutch gains. Philip wanted this stopped, and Oldenbarnevelt seemed initially amenable to suggestions that the VOC be suppressed and another project to charter a similar Dutch company for the Americas be aborted. The Archdukes, on instructions from Madrid, therefore secretly declared in March, 1607, that they were willing to negotiate a peace with the States-General, as representatives of free lands over which they made no claim. A ceasefire in the Netherlands was signed in April, 1607.
However, the negotiations were almost aborted immediately when it was discovered that the Dutch had made no concessions in writing in the armistice-agreement, and it therefore appeared that Spain had conceded a major point without obtaining anything in return, which was seen as a major humiliation for the Crown. About the same time the news was received of a major defeat a Dutch fleet under admiral Jacob van Heemskerk had dealt the Spanish navy in the Battle of Gibraltar of April 25, 1607. The Spanish indignation grew even more, when it transpired that Oldenbarnevelt's verbal undertakings to suppress the VOC proved worthless, as he simply could not deliver on such a promise in view of the political situation in the Republic. This apparent deception put paid to the prospects of a permanent peace, so the only feasible outcome of the negotiations might be a truce of limited duration.
Oldenbarnevelt's peace initiatives met with stringent opposition from Maurice, Amsterdam, and Zeeland for different reasons (Zeeland, for instance, was making good money in the "trade with the enemy" across the blockaded Scheldt, and stood to lose from a truce during which trade relations would be normalized). The opposition engaged in a lively pamphlet war to influence public opinion, but Oldenbarnevelt managed to persuade the Holland regents. He pointed out that a truce would lessen the fiscal pressures; help revive Dutch commerce with the Iberian Peninsula, which had by default fallen almost exclusively into English hands, after the peace James I of England concluded in 1604 with Spain; and free the hands of the Dutch elsewhere in Europe (as in the Sound where Denmark at the time was hindering the Dutch Baltic trade) to defend their commercial interests by force if necessary. He argued also that the loss of trade with the Indies would be outweighed by the positive effects on European trade of a lifting of the embargoes.
Spain now offered a truce with a duration of twelve years, provided the Republic would grant freedom of worship for Catholics. Again, Oldenbarnevelt had to refuse this concession as the political situation in the Republic made that impossible. He was, however, able to offer a short truce (until 1613) in the Indies, and the suppression of the proposed Dutch West India Company for the time being. Philip now grudgingly accepted these meagre results and the Truce was signed at Antwerp on April 9, 1609, marking the official recognition by Spain of the Republic as a diplomatic entity "as if" it were a sovereign state. The Dutch Revolt had officially ended
The immediate result for the Republic was that it was now also officially recognized by other European states as a sovereign nation. In 1609 France and England received Dutch resident ambassadors, and soon after diplomatic relations were opened with the Republic of Venice, the Sultan of Morocco, and the Ottoman Porte. Diplomatic recognition also enabled the Republic to start building a network of consulates across Europe. But the Republic now also dared be unfriendly in its relations with other European powers, as when it forced James I to back down in a conflict over English unfinished cloth in 1614 with an economic boycot
The Truce also had negative effects. Dutch long-distance trade to the Indies and the Americas suffered, because the Spanish and Portuguese colonialists were given a respite to improve their defenses overseas. The official embargo on trade with the Americas had ended, but the colonists now imposed their own "unofficial" one, limiting Dutch trade with Caracas and the Amazon region. Temporary setbacks in the Indies caused the price of VOC shares on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange to fall from a high of 200 in 1608 to 132 after the Truce started. The Zeeland transit traffic to the Southern Netherlands declined sharply. On the other hand, the lifting of the Dutch blockade of Antwerp and the Flemish coast helped revive the trade in Flemish textile products, just as the Flemish textile industry experienced a revival itself. This worked to the detriment of the recently booming Dutch textile industry. Wages of predominantly former Flemish textile workers in cities like Leiden plummeted as a result.
The political unrest this economic downturn caused, helped aggravate the political crisis that the Oldenbarnevelt regime faced during the latter part of the Truce. This crisis followed from dissension about the religious policy of the Holland regents, but became conflated with the monarchical aspirations of the stadtholders, especially Maurice. Everybody in Dutch Calvinist circles of whatever hue agreed that the "True Religion" should be supported by the State. Local authorities therefore paid for the upkeep of the churches of the Dutch Reformed Church, the only officially recognized religion since the States of Holland had prohibited other kinds of worship in 1573, and for the Livings of its preachers and schoolmasters. This meant that the church was a "Public Church." But what was its relationship with the state as such a publicly supported denomination? Viewpoints diverged. Many regents expected some deference of the church to their interests, and at least a say in the appointment of dominees, though they probably would not go as far as to demand the powers of oversight, usually associated with an established church, such as the Lutheran churches in Germany and Scandinavia, and the Church of England. They usually steered clear of interference in doctrinal matters, though not as a matter of principle. Others insisted on full autonomy of the church in doctrinal matters and church government, whereas the hard-line "strict" Calvinists often seemed to aspire to some form of theocracy, in which the church would direct official policy in matters in which it took an interest. As long as matters did not come to a head these divergent views did not cause trouble, as in practice the middle road of church autonomy was followed.
However, in 1606 a theological quarrel developed between two Leiden professors, Jacobus Arminius and Franciscus Gomarus. The abstruse arguments need not detain us here (not many contemporaries outside the universities seem to have fully understood them at the time) but the upshot of the argument was that outsiders started to take sides, and that this led to often physical abuse by, and of, the contestants. The partisans of Arminius therefore addressed the Five articles of Remonstrance to the States of Holland, in which they exposited their viewpoints on Calvinist doctrine, and asked the States to take a standpoint. To help the States decide a disputation between two six-man teams of Arminians and Gomarists was held before the States in July 1610, in which the Gomarists presented a "Counter-Remonstrance," in which they gave their arguments against the Remonstrants' doctrinal position, at the same time asking the States to back off, and leave the matter to a National Synod. Unfortunately, the States did not take this sensible suggestion (possibly because they suspected that such a Synod would result in the condemnation of the Remonstrants as heretics on a majority vote, a result they wanted to avoid).
While the States of Holland were dithering about a decision, unrest about the quarrel began to spread around the Republic, disturbing the public peace and causing political problems in that the regents began to take sides, often in favor of the Remonstrants, whereas the common people, incited by the dominees, often opted for the Counter-Remonstrant viewpoint. The eminent Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, after a visit to England in an abortive effort to dissuade James I from intervening in the quarrel, came up with what he viewed as a solution. In his view, a public church must of necessity be a "big tent" that would accommodate as many believers as possible. He believed that this was the case in the Church of England that allowed all kinds of doctrinal variations under its wing, from crypto-Catholics to Puritans. The Dutch partisans (like the Puritans), however, envisaged a church of "pure" believers (themselves), in which there would be no place for "unbelievers," like their opponents. To achieve Grotius' lofty ideal it would be necessary to tone down the doctrinal differences, affording toleration of different viewpoints, except in relation to the most basic tenets of the Christian faith (like belief in the Trinity) that everybody would accept (he therefore drew the line at Socinianism). Disagreements about less basic tenets, like the ones that divided Remonstrants and Counter-Remonstrants, should be left to an individual's conscience in accordance with the freedom of conscience enshrined in the Union of Utrecht. Grotius knew full well that neither party was ready to concede this and he therefore proposed to legislate his proposal in the form of a States of Holland resolution that would, up to a point, curtail freedom of expression (i.e. the freedom to hurl anathemas at ones opponents) in such a way as to restore public order. The resolution would define matters that would be open to debate, and matters that would not be. Preachers who would defy the States in this matter could then be disciplined by the authorities, if need be by depriving them of their Livings.
Oldenbarnevelt supported Grotius in this policy (though it could be seen as an assault on the autonomy of the Public Church) and together they managed to drive the placard through in 1614 against opposition from many sides. Initially, and superficially, the policy seemed to work, but eventually it ended in the ruin of the Oldenbarnevelt regime. This was due to the following factors. First, Oldenbarnevelt failed in maintaining unity on his policy in the States of Holland (Amsterdam opposed him), and thereby weakened the hegemonic position of Holland in the Republic as a whole. Secondly, though the States put their thumb in the scales in favor of the Remonstrants with this policy (as those, being a minority, were in danger of being driven out of the public church), the Counter-Remonstrants maintained their strength among dominees and schoolmasters, and so indirectly among the common people. Finally, the social unrest as a consequence of deteriorating economic circumstances for the staunchly "strict" Calvinist ex-Flemish laborers (who opted en masse for the Counter-Remonstrants) destabilized the State in 1617–18.
Mob violence in many Holland and Utrecht cities against Remonstrant regents ensued. The federal garrisons and civic militias refused to intervene to protect the regents (a pattern we also observe at the end of the First and Second Stadtholderless Periods, when likewise States-Party regimes were overturned). The Remonstrant regents now felt so threatened that they resorted to the desperate measure of the so-called "Sharp Resolution" of the States of Holland of August 4, 1617, which authorized city governments to raise mercenary troops, called waardgelders, outside the federal army or civic militias, to maintain public order. This drew an immediate protest from Maurice and from the other provinces on constitutional grounds. They asserted that the Union of Utrecht prohibited the raising of troops by individual cities without consent from the States-General. Even more threatening to the federal supremacy had been the provision in the Sharp Resolution that asserted that units in the federal army paid for the account of Holland owed their primary allegiance to that province. This was a restatement of Holland's old constitutional position that the provinces were supremely sovereign, and the Union no more than a confederation of sovereign provinces. Maurice,and the other provinces (except Utrecht), now claimed that the States-General possessed an overriding sovereignty in matters of common defense and foreign policy
Disarming the waardgelders in Utrecht by Joost Cornelisz. Droochsloot
Many expected a military coup after the cities of Leiden and Utrecht actually raised corps of waardgelders and used them to purge the civic militias of Counter-Remonstrant sympathizers. Maurice proceeded cautiously, however, preferring to undermine the political support of the Oldenbarnevelt regime in Holland. A revolutionary situation developed in a number of cities in Holland where Remonstrant town councils were overturned by popular intervention. To counter this, the Remonstrant regents proposed in January, 1618 to withhold part of Holland's contribution to the Generality budget and use the money to raise more waardgelder companies. Maurice now mobilized the support of the five provinces opposing Holland and Utrecht for a States-General resolution disbanding the waardgelders. This was voted through on July 9, 1618, with five votes to two, Holland and Utrecht opposing. Oldenbarnevelt and Grotius, in desperation, now overplayed their hand: appealing to the requirement for unanimity in the Union treaty, they sent a delegation to the federal troops in Utrecht (that were supposed to disarm the waardgelders in that city) with instructions that their first allegiance was to the province that paid them, and that they were to ignore instructions by the stadtholder in case of conflict. This intervention was construed by their opponents as treason. Prince Maurice now brought up additional federal troops to Utrecht and started to disarm the waardgelders there on July 31, 1618. There was no resistance. The political opposition to his actions imploded as Oldenbarnevelt's Utrecht ally, Gilles van Ledenberg, advocaat of the Utrecht States, fled to Holland
Perceiving that resistance was useless, Oldenbarnevelt and his Remonstrant allies now capitulated. Leiden disbanded its waardgelders voluntarily in August, and Oldenbarnevelt and Grotius acquiesced in the convening of a National Synod to arbitrate the Arminian controversy. On August 28, 1618, however, the States-General passed a secret resolution to authorize Maurice to arrest Oldenbarnevelt, Grotius, Ledenberg and Rombout Hogerbeets. This was justified with an appeal to the asserted residual sovereignty of the States-General that overrode that of the States of Holland. After the arrest these leaders of the Oldenbarnevelt regime were indicted for high treason and brought before an ad hoc tribunal consisting mostly of opponents of the accused. The trial took a long time. Meanwhile, Maurice proceeded to purge the Holland ridderschap and the vroedschappen of a number of cities that had been governed by Remonstrant regents up to then. He replaced the old regents with adherents of the Counter-Remonstrant faction, often nouveau riche merchants that had little experience in government affairs. These purges constituted a political revolution and ensured that his Orangist regime would be securely in charge of the Republic for the next 32 years. Henceforth the stadtholder, not the Advocate of Holland, would direct the affairs of the Republic, mainly through his parliamentary managers in the Holland ridderschap. The Holland leadership was emasculated by making sure that the position of Grand Pensionary would henceforth be filled by a succession of mediocre, incompetent and pliable Orangists, at least up to the appointment of Johan de Witt in 1653
Meanwhile the National Synod was convened in the city of Dordrecht in November, 1618. The deliberations of this august body progressed slowly. Only in the Spring of 1619 did it get around to condemning the Remonstrants for heresy, and casting them out of the Public Church. A more lasting accomplishment of the Synod was that it commissioned an "authorized" translation of the Bible in Dutch, a language that the translators had to make up from Dutch, Brabantish and Flemish elements; the translations therefore contributed mightily to the unification of the Dutch language.
The trial of Oldenbarnevelt cum suis ended soon afterwards. In view of the composition of the tribunal the result was a foregone conclusion, even though the defendants put up a spirited defense. After all, they were the most eminent jurists in the Republic. The defense primarily rejected the competence of the court and furthermore claimed that treason against the Generality was not possible, because the federal state did not exist apart from the sovereign provinces. The court rejected the latter argument, claiming that in actuality sovereignty was divided between the Generality and the provinces. In its view, the Sharp Resolution contravened the Union of Utrecht and could therefore be construed as high treason. However, (as an illustration of the muddled procedures), when Oldenbarnevelt was convicted on May 12, 1619, it was not of this high-treason, but of a contrived charge of conniving with Spain. This Oldenbarnevelt kept denying till his last breath, when he was beheaded the next day. He refused to ask for mercy, to Maurice's annoyance, and he received none, despite the fact that Maurice's stepmother Louise de Coligny, and the French ambassador, pleaded for Oldenbarnevelt's life. Ledenberg equally received a death sentence, but committed suicide. Hogerbeets and Grotius were sentenced to life-imprisonment
Thus ended the life of Oldenbarnevelt
...a man of great activity, business, memory and wisdom – yes, extra-ordinary in every respect
in the words of the notation about the execution in the register of the resolutions of the States of Holland on May 13, 1619.