The Black Tulip HTML version
1. A Grateful People
On the 20th of August, 1672, the city of the Hague, always so lively, so neat, and so trim that
one might believe every day to be Sunday, with its shady park, with its tall trees, spreading over
its Gothic houses, with its canals like large mirrors, in which its steeples and its almost Eastern
cupolas are reflected, -- the city of the Hague, the capital of the Seven United Provinces, was
swelling in all its arteries with a black and red stream of hurried, panting, and restless citizens,
who, with their knives in their girdles, muskets on their shoulders, or sticks in their hands, were
pushing on to the Buytenhof, a terrible prison, the grated windows of which are still shown,
where, on the charge of attempted murder preferred against him by the surgeon Tyckelaer,
Cornelius de Witt, the brother of the Grand Pensionary of Holland was confined.
If the history of that time, and especially that of the year in the middle of which our narrative
commences, were not indissolubly connected with the two names just mentioned, the few
explanatory pages which we are about to add might appear quite supererogatory; but we will,
from the very first, apprise the reader -- our old friend, to whom we are wont on the first page to
promise amusement, and with whom we always try to keep our word as well as is in our power --
that this explanation is as indispensable to the right understanding of our story as to that of the
great event itself on which it is based.
Cornelius de Witt, Ruart de Pulten, that is to say, warden of the dikes, ex-burgomaster of Dort,
his native town, and member of the Assembly of the States of Holland, was forty-nine years of
age, when the Dutch people, tired of the Republic such as John de Witt, the Grand Pensionary of
Holland, understood it, at once conceived a most violent affection for the Stadtholderate, which
had been abolished for ever in Holland by the "Perpetual Edict" forced by John de Witt upon the
As it rarely happens that public opinion, in its whimsical flights, does not identify a principle
with a man, thus the people saw the personification of the Republic in the two stern figures of the
brothers De Witt, those Romans of Holland, spurning to pander to the fancies of the mob, and
wedding themselves with unbending fidelity to liberty without licentiousness, and prosperity
without the waste of superfluity; on the other hand, the Stadtholderate recalled to the popular
mind the grave and thoughtful image of the young Prince William of Orange.
The brothers De Witt humoured Louis XIV., whose moral influence was felt by the whole of
Europe, and the pressure of whose material power Holland had been made to feel in that
marvellous campaign on the Rhine, which, in the space of three months, had laid the power of
the United Provinces prostrate.
Louis XIV. had long been the enemy of the Dutch, who insulted or ridiculed him to their hearts'
content, although it must be said that they generally used French refugees for the mouthpiece of
their spite. Their national pride held him up as the Mithridates of the Republic. The brothers De
Witt, therefore, had to strive against a double difficulty, -- against the force of national antipathy,