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Netherlands history


The beginnings of the Dutch Republic
The beginnings of the Dutch Republic part 2
The Separation of Holland and Belgium, 1830-1842
The Netherlands form a kingdom of moderate extent, situated on the borders of the ocean, opposite to the southeast coast of
England, and stretching from the frontiers of Belgium to those of Germany. The country is principally composed of low and humid grounds, presenting a vast plain, irrigated by the waters from all those neighboring states which are traversed by the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt. This plain, gradually rising toward its eastern and southern extremities, blends on the one hand with Germany, and on the other with Belgium.

The history of the Netherlands is, then, essentially that of a patient and industrious population struggling against every
obstacle which nature could oppose to its well-being; and, in this contest, man triumphed most completely over the elements
in those places where they offered the greatest resistance. This extraordinary result was due to the hardy stamp of character
imprinted by suffering and danger on those who had the ocean for their foe; to the nature of their country, which presented no lure for conquest; and, finally, to the toleration, the justice, and the liberty nourished among men left to themselves, and who found resources in their social state which rendered change neither an object of their wants nor wishes.

About half a century before the Christian era, the obscurity which enveloped the north of Europe began to disperse; and the
expedition of Julius Caesar gave to the civilized world the first notions of the Netherlands, Germany, and England. Caesar, after having subjugated the chief part of Gaul, turned his arms against the warlike tribes of the Ardennes, who refused to accept his alliance or implore his protection. They were called Belgae by the Romans; and at once pronounced the least civilized and the bravest of the Gauls. Caesar there found several ignorant and poor but intrepid clans of warriors, who marched fiercely to encounter him; and, notwithstanding their inferiority in numbers, in weapons, and in tactics, they nearly destroyed the disciplined armies of Rome. They were, however, defeated, and their country ravaged by the invaders, who found less success when they attacked the natives of the low grounds. The Menapians, a people who occupied the present provinces of Flanders and Antwerp in Belgium, though less numerous than those whom the Romans had last vanquished, arrested their progress both by open fight and by that petty and harassing contest - that warfare of the people rather than of the soldiery - so well adapted to the nature of the country. The Roman legions retreated for the first time, and were contented to occupy the higher parts, which now form the Belgian Walloon provinces.

The Frisons differed little from those early inhabitants of the coast, who, perched on their high-built huts, fed on fish and
drank the water of the clouds. Slow and successive improvements taught them to cultivate the beans which grew wild among the
marshes, and to tend and feed a small and degenerate breed of horned cattle. But if these first steps toward civilization were slow, they were also sure; and they were made by a race of men who could never retrograde in a career once begun.

Were the means of protecting themselves and their country from the inundations of the sea known and practiced by these ancient inhabitants of the Dutch coast? or did they occupy only those elevated points of land which stood out like islands in the middle of the floods? These questions are among the most important presented by their history; since it was the victorious struggle of man against the ocean that fixed the extent and form of the country. It appears almost certain that in the time of Caesar they did not labor at the construction of dikes, but that they began to be raised during the obscurity of the following century; for the remains of ancient towns are even now discovered in places at present overflowed by the sea. These ruins often bring to light traces of Roman construction, and Latin inscriptions in honor of the Menapian divinities. It is, then, certain that they had learned to imitate those who ruled in the neighboring countries: a result by no means surprising; for even England, the mart of their commerce, and the nation with which they had the most constant intercourse, was at that period occupied by the Romans. But the nature of their country repulsed so effectually every attempt at foreign domination that the conquerors of the world left them unmolested, and established arsenals and formed communications with Great Britain only at Boulogne and in the island of the Batavians near Leyden.

Reduced into a Roman province, the southern portion of the Netherlands was at this period called Belgic Gaul; and the name
of Belgium, preserved to our days, has until lately been applied to the country of Belgium.

During the establishment of the Roman power in the north of Europe, observation was not much excited toward the rapid effects of this degeneracy, compared with the fast-growing vigor of the people of the low lands. The fact of the Frisons having, on one occasion, near the year 47, beaten a whole army of Romans, had confirmed their character for intrepidity. But the long stagnation produced in these remote countries by the colossal weight of the empire was broken, about the year 250, by an irruption of Germans or Salian Franks, who, passing the Rhine and the Meuse, established themselves in the vicinity of the Menapians, near Antwerp (Belgium), Breda (the Netherlands) and Bois-le-duc (Nowadays called 's-Hertogenbosch or Den Bosch in the Netherlands). All the nations that had been subjugated by the Roman power appear to have taken arms on this occasion and opposed the intruders. But the Menapians united themselves with these newcomers, and aided them to meet the shock of the imperial armies.