is the age of fast accumulations. The impulse of the times seems
to drive us irresistibly to admire everything of huge proportions.
The “Cult of the Immense” finds many worshippers.
of a bank proudly publish their total deposits, assets
and liabilities, and the more impressive these figures the safer
the interests of the depositors are supposed to be. A city publishes
the number of its inhabitants, and when that number has increased
far beyond the growth reasonably to be expected there is great local
rejoicing; when the census shows simply a healthy growth, a natural
evolution, there is disappointment, if not intense gloom. The citizens'
pride and happiness seem actually to be threatened. And as
it is with banks and cities, so it is also with states and countries.
But is the
individual depositor really better off because his bank has assumed
mammoth proportions? Is the individual citizen of New York
more fortunately situated because the city has four million instead
of two million inhabitants? Is the average suburbanite happier because
his little village is annexed to a large city, and real estate speculators
have reaped a big harvest? And is the citizen of Sleeswyck economically,
morally or mentally benefited because the country of his nativity
belongs to a huge empire instead of to a small kingdom?
Western Europe, the cradle of our modern civilization, there is
one thing which must strike the thoughtful person very forcibly—that
through all the ages it has been the small countries and not the
large empires whose citizens have stood unflinchingly for the highest
human ideals, for religious and civic liberty, for true human culture
in the highest sense of the word.
Are not the
Netherlands and Switzerland shining proofs of the contention
that principles of great civic strength and righteousness,
and ideals of human happiness find their strongest champions in
small countries and that it is not the geographical dimensions,
but the strength of the character of its people which fixes
a country's place in the family of nations?
As the apostles
of peace, these so-called "small countries" stand
pre-eminent amongst their sisters. It is not prudence
dictated by weakness which commands a policy of peace.
Strength is a comparative element. But a war between the Netherlands
and Belgium, between Denmark and Switzerland would, at the present
time, be an absurdity. These small nations in their great comparative
strength have developed different and higher ideals, and have learned
to scorn the theory that "Might is Right."
That the development
and growth of these lofty national ideals is a boon to mankind,
no thoughtful person will or can deny. That these smaller
nations should be undisturbed in working out their national destinies
for the benefit of the human race must be self-evident. The destruction
of a small nation with high ideals is far greater a blow to human
progress than the fall of a great empire in which such ideals
to not prevail.
The great powers
of today were weak powers in their infancy. It was then that
they received tremendous stimulation from the precepts and
histories of these powerful Davids in the everlasting world
struggle for freedom.
of the United States, the citizens of one of the most powerful
nations of the globe, owe a great debt of gratitude to the people
of the Netherlands.
Is this always
realized? Is it always realized that a great part of American
civilization was born in that amphibious little swamp that borders
on the North Sea, known variously as the "Low Countries,"
"The Netherlands," and in later days by the name of its
greatest and most powerful province, Holland?
Here from the
time that the hitherto invincible Cæsar gave up the conquest
of the Batavians as impossible, and made them his honorable allies
instead of his slaves, through the terrible Eighty Years War with
Spain, then the most powerful empire of the world, through
all the centuries when the Low Countries were known as the "Battle
Ground of Europe," and when the North Sea lurked like a grim
gray wolf ready to gnaw and devour the sodden land; through all
these vicissitudes, perhaps because of them, the people
of Holland upheld and defended the very principles that distinguish
person would deny for a moment that the United States owes
a great debt to England. The language of America, though compounded
of Saxon, Teutonic and Latin roots, first took shape in England.
The poets of Britain, her great novelists and essayists have
set the pace for American writers and have been their inspiration.
In personal bravery and fortitude in the face of awful danger
the English yeoman is a model and example. To the sturdy sons of
old England Americans owe a not inconsiderable part of their
national robustness. There is little danger that this debt will
It is to other
creditors that justice must be done, and Holland is the greatest
of these by far.
has not attempted to compose an exhaustive treatise on the subject.
A brief statement of the facts in the case, with their obvious deductions
is his only object. If even a small part of the dense fog
of historical illusion is cleared away in the following pages,
and the American public, always fair-minded, is given the
opportunity of judging for itself, this essay will not have been
written in vain.
In as much
as this essay is written for the purpose of suggesting to
the American reader that he extend his study on the subject no attempt
is made to cite any of the Dutch authorities consulted, and the
very limited space prohibits the citing of authorities in
the English language to any great extent, but the reader is respectfully
referred to Motley's "Rise of the Dutch Republic," and
the "United Netherlands," Dr. Campbell's "The puritan
in Holland, England and America"; and Griffis' "Brave
Little Holland and What She Taught Us," and "The Dutch
Influence in New England."