Author Topic: Calculating propaganda  (Read 157 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 27 508
Calculating propaganda
« on: November 18, 2018, 01:33:34 PM »
The year 1672 changed the course of history of Western Europe and the United Provinces (also called "The Republic", now the Netherlands) were central to that change.

The setting of the scene
The United Provinces wer mired in political crisis. Traditionally, power was divided among nobility, represented by the Prince of Orange and rich merchants, called regents, represented before 1672 by the De Wit family. Orange controlled foreign and military affairs, the merchants called the shots for domestic policy. Their interest met in seaborne trade and clashed in military expenditure.

In 1650, William II of Orange died. His son, the future William III of Orange was 8 years old. The regents saw their chance and grabbed it. The position of stadhouder, the traditional title of the Oranges, was abolished in most provinces. The Orangists were leaderless, though some re-assembled around William-Frederick of Nassau-Dietz, a highly able military leader and fine diplomat.

The regents built down the army quite considerably, but maintained navy strength, with a view to protect the merchant fleet. They even planned to expand the navy. Yet, a pair of wars against Stuart England, sapped navy strength also. In its military weakness, the Republic lost influence on its neighbours.

The catalyst turned out to be Louis XIV, the sun king. He had waged a record number of wars, mostly successful, expanding French territory on all sides. Louis felt personally insulted when the secret clauses of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668) became known, as they were clearly aimed against France and its policy of territorial expansion. Disdainfully, Louis called the Republic the "mud of French rivers". His reaction was the secret Treaty of Dover with Charles II, aimed against the Republic. Louis couldn't invade the Republic directly, as it would have entailed going through the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium), because the Habsburg emperor rightly saw Louis as a greater threat than the Republic and refused him access. Therefore, Louis allied himself with the powerful Wittelsbachs, dukes of Bavaria. They couldn't turn Bavaria against the emperor, but they could and did grant Louis the right to go through other lands they controlled. Traditionally, the bishop of Cologne and the Prince-Bishop of Liège/Luik were younger sons of the Duke of Bavaria. The bishop of Munster, an old Saxon fief, was enlisted also. The two bishops would invade from the East, while France would invade from the South. The Stuarts saw the Republic as their main competitor in trade and dominion of the oceans. They would invade the Republic from the West. A plot to have Sweden invade from the North failed.

The Dutch war
In 1672, Louis' main general, the prince of Condé, dutifully marched around the Habsburg lands with an army that was considerably larger than anything the Republic still had. From March to June, several Dutch cities and fortresses fell. With the conquest of the fortress Naarden, Holland was about to be separated from the other provinces. A combined French-English fleet prowled the North sea, offering a constant threat of invasion. The bishops marched against the North. The Dutch population panicked. In June, the war started to turn, though. The combined enemy fleet was roundly beaten at Solebay, effectively removing the threat of a seaborne invasion. Condé, who was wounded, was replaced by Luxembourg and Turenne, who were considerably less aggressive. The bishops were halted at Groningen and started to pull back.

The population of The Hague turned against the regents. The De Wit brothers were imprisoned, tortured and lynched when they were released. The regents hastily appointed William III captain general for one campaign. William capably used the big rivers to stop the French. The Republic undertook a daring attack on Charleroi, far behind the French lines.

The French army, deserted by all its allies, started to pull back, partly across Habsbug lands. Maastricht was besieged in vain. The real d'Artagnan was killed there. Condé, still sick, returned with orders to "kill, plunder, burn and destroy cruelly and mercilessly" anything he could. That made the Spanish Habsburgs and the German emperor, also a Habsburg, come over to the Dutch side. The Stuarts started a third sea war against the Republic and were once again defeated. Louis was beaten.

Consequences
The Stuarts were slowly hemmed in by their own parliament. Eventually, William III would succeed them as king. France was exhausted. In his final years, Louis would lose much of what he had gained before. Moreover, he was diplomatically isolated, becoming increasingly powerless, while his absolutism without results laid the basis for the French revolution. The power of the Wittelsbach family receded continuously from 1672, until they were weak enough for Prussia's Hohenzollerns to replace them as the principal alternative for the Habsburgs. The Republic gained powerful allies on all sides. Even more significant, they realised the importance of keeping the catholic minority happy and guaranteed  freedom of religion for them in the Treaty of Nijmegen (1679). This made the country a magnet for the religiously persecuted in other countries, many of them intellectuals, who contributed greatly to Dutch society. The 100 years after 1672 is known as the "golden century" of Dutch history. In the years after 1672, the Dutch monetary system was thoroughly re-organised, producing coin series that could be maintained until the French came back in 1795.

The tokens
I found these two tokens just a few paces apart, from different sellers.

I like to think the first one is connected to Geertruidenberg. That place was on the wrong side of the big rivers and a HQ for the French army. It is one of only three Dutch towns that have a Frenchified name: Mont Saint-Gertrude. On one side is a standard portrait of Louis with the nickname he favoured: LVDOVICVS MAGNVS - Louis the great. It didn't stick, so he must still make do with "the sun king". The other side shows a personification of the Netherlands, on her knees, weeping in front of a large stake, crowned with a municipal (not royal) crown to which a lion skin (the lion is a heraldic symbol of the Netherlands) is nailed with six (should have been seven) arrows - symbolic of the Seven United Provinces. A cow (agriculture) anchor (sea-faring) and fisherman with net lie around in tatters. The legend VLTOR REGVM is avenger of kings. The message is that Louis laid waste to the Republic because it insulted him. This is no doubt a cheap and sloppy version of the reverse of a silver medal shown here

The second token is linked to the battle of Seneffe (1674), which took place when the French army was withdrawing, sowing death and destruction. William III, abandoned by his German allies who were miffed they had not obtained the supreme command, was isolated, but still inflicted enough damage on the French army to call the outcome a draw. The tokens sees it differently. An angel (divine support) with a laurel wreath (victory) and a flag flies over spoils of war: fallen standards (the French claim of victory rested on the number of standards taken), a canon, vats of gun powder and canon balls. The legend PVGNA AD SENEFFAM loosely means "wrestling at Seneffe". The token was made in Nuremberg.

Louis XIV was generally an unpleasant, haughty, arrogant character with strong nationalistic policy impulses, disdain for foreigners, ready to destroy and hungry for real estate. Part of that is being a child of his time, but these tokens show that he had his own version of Fox News ;)

Peter
« Last Edit: November 19, 2018, 01:00:44 PM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline EWC

  • Meritorious Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 693
Re: Calculating propaganda
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2018, 11:55:39 AM »
Fascinating stuff on episodes that I, (and I suspect most Brits), know little about

Thus I comment on just this snippet

This made the country a magnet for the religiously persecuted in other countries, many of them intellectuals, who contributed greatly to Dutch society. The 100 years after 1672 is known as the "golden century" of Dutch history. In the years after 1672, the Dutch monetary system was thoroughly re-organised, producing coin series that could be maintained until the French came back in 1795. 

First however, a clarification on Adam Smith.  On the basis of reading his work, and the work of his associates, I judge his chief interest was not primarily in this invisible hand matter – that is just a side issue.  His primary interest was in defending the general public from civil servants who were shaping the national economy in the sole interest of big business.  That seems very clear if you read what he put.  (Its a point that the modern “Adam Smith” society are a bit shy of mentioning).

OK.  The reason I mention this is from looking at two British intellectuals who took refuge in Holland in the 17th century.  One is very well known.  John Locke who fled to Holland in 1683.  Whilst I would certainly, without any doubt, agree that the Orange line which Locke attached himself to had vastly superior merits as compared to the previous Stuarts, I am equally sure it still had major defects – one of them being that the chicanery Adam Smith pointed to was probably more the brain child of the civil servant John Locke, than any other individual.

The second British individual fled to Holland went before 1672 – and we do not know his name.  He published and printed a book in Rotterdam in 1649, called “Tyranopocrit Discovered”.  Copies were then smuggled into England and sold secretly.  The man was clearly well educated – I suspect the only places he could have done his extensive reading were Oxford or Cambridge libraries – and as he may well have been there at the same time as Thomas Hobbes - and indeed – he may even be the exact guy that sparked Hobbes’ well known general hatred of Oxford people.

The book is a very sophisticated but apocalyptic piece in the “ranter” tradition of the mid century, blaming the ills of society of a union of “black devils” and “white devils”.  The former are ruling tyrants of his day, primarily the military and judicial arms of the aristocracy.  But the white devils are the clerics and others who propagandised for the black.  Actually I suppose, the civil servants of those times………..

Only one copy of “Tyranopocrit Discovered” survived to the present day – but if anyone is interested – it is now on the web, but widely ignored.  Sad since people risked death in distributing it in its day one suspects.

I doubt there is any medallic trace of such heretics in Holland or anywhere else?  Their equivalent in 18th centuryEngland are common however

http://www.londoncoins.co.uk/?page=Pastresults&auc=152&searchlot=707&searchtype=2

Rob T

PS John Locke helped shape British currency down to 1816 - but already enough for today
« Last Edit: November 19, 2018, 12:36:43 PM by EWC »

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 27 508
Re: Calculating propaganda
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2018, 02:17:22 PM »
Thank you for that reaction. Indeed, both international relations and class relations were far more complicated than just third state against nobility plus church and officials are a prime example. In post-medieval times, officialdom, in particular the judiciary and the military, were ladders of social mobility, while scientists spread a parallel net of international relations around. There are clear precursors of socialism in popular revolts, of autocracy in the ruling classes and some of their official servants, but also of proto-democratic humanism in those same groups. Frontiers were not clear and mobile.

On one side, I believe that centralism in France, but also in the British Isles, was a destructive force, while chaotic de-centralism, as in Germany and the Netherlands, promoted intellectual diversification, peace and a humanist outlook. One example among many. Orphanages. In France and the British isles, they were exploitative, making the children do work instead of giving them training. The girls normally ended up as prostitutes, the boys as army cannon fodder. In Denmark (no knowledge of the German situation) and the Netherlands, the children were trained (harshly, but decently according to the norms of the time) and married off into a degree of financial security. English and French literature are replete with stories of runaway orphans. They don't exist in more chaotic countries.

On another level, Western European history is an appalling tragedy of missed opportunities for co-operation. Can you imagine the intellectual sparks that could have flown from a confrontation of the ideas of Leibnitz, Pascal, Huygens and Newton? The wealth that would have resulted if only Louis XIV and Napoleon would have been peace-loving? The gigantic benefits of fighting out religious conflicts by unarmed clerics alone, without interference of rulers?

So yes, I am not surprised at all to learn of such frustrated individuals as the author of “Tyranopocrit Discovered”, or that his work could be printed in Rotterdam. I am not surprised the work was forgotten either, but it does show that the apotheosis of the frustrated, the French revolution, did not come out of nowhere. There is a compelling theory that the straw that broke the camel's back was a French decree that reserved military officership for nobility, yanking away the last social ladder.

Sure enough, there were Dutchmen who saw the light and they are just as forgotten. A prime example is baron van der Capellen, who has a crdible claim to have inspired important parts of the US constitution as well as the (1848 version of the) Dutch constitution. His wikipedia lemma shows a medal of him. He was another anonymous pamphlet writer. His monument is in his native Zwolle; a small plaque, offered by a US delegation in 1908. His grave was blown up by Orangists in 1787. The parallels with Thomas Paine will be clear to you.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline FosseWay

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2 909
  • Göteborg, Sverige
Re: Calculating propaganda
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2018, 02:46:30 PM »
On one side, I believe that centralism in France, but also in the British Isles, was a destructive force, while chaotic de-centralism, as in Germany and the Netherlands, promoted intellectual diversification, peace and a humanist outlook. One example among many. Orphanages. In France and the British isles, they were exploitative, making the children do work instead of giving them training. The girls normally ended up as prostitutes, the boys as army cannon fodder. In Denmark (no knowledge of the German situation) and the Netherlands, the children were trained (harshly, but decently according to the norms of the time) and married off into a degree of financial security. English and French literature are replete with stories of runaway orphans. They don't exist in more chaotic countries.

The situation in Sweden as I understand it is closer to the French/British model. Children who became the responsibility of the state were "sold" at auction to the person willing to take the least money from the state in recompense. They (and indeed their brothers and sisters who were placed in service or apprenticeships by their own parents) were legally prohibited from absconding from the household in which they were placed. Unsurprisingly, abuse was rife, both in terms of slave labour and in terms of physical, sexual and emotional injury. This persisted well into the 19th century; see Vilhelm Moberg's Utvandrarna / The Emigrants series of novels for a fictional but realistic portrayal of this (in particular the characters Robert and Ulrika).

Offline EWC

  • Meritorious Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 693
Re: Calculating propaganda
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2018, 06:57:29 AM »
Interesting – and quite a lot I agree with – but I comment on just this:

   One example among many. Orphanages.  In France and the British isles, they were exploitative, making the children do work instead of giving them training. The girls normally ended up as prostitutes, the boys as army cannon fodder. In Denmark (no knowledge of the German situation) and the Netherlands, the children were trained (harshly, but decently according to the norms of the time) and married off into a degree of financial security. English and French literature are replete with stories of runaway orphans. They don't exist in more chaotic countries.

A couple of anecdotes.  As a young guy I came across a 19th century reprint of Hume’s “History of England”.  Figuring correctly that as long as I lived I would never get round to reading it, as a substitute, I opened it at random and read the first passage I came to.  I was disgusted at what I read.  It concerned debate of a national tax to fund orphanages – which the author called “a tax on bastardy”.  He seemed to be of the opinion that if an unmarried woman of the lower orders had to deliver her child in a ditch and then strangle it, that was just punishment for her lax morals.  Many years later the book appeared on the internet and I checked the reference.  I discovered that the passage I had read was actually in a long postscript added by Smollett.  So a prominent and disgusting 18th century argument, but not Hume’s.  I apologise to his ghost.

Turning from rhetoric to reality - I cannot comment on other countries, but my daughter studied the Whitby 18th century orphanage accounts some years back.  They were pretty monotonous.  All the girls left to go into service at 12.  All the boys went into the Navy at 14.  Likely very harsh of course by today’s standard, but all of them seemed to get a trade.  To be honest, I feel they maybe got a better deal than the orphans I saw on the streets of Delhi back in the 1970’s

Anyhow - its not clear to me that you have an accurate enough account to use to make useful comment on the thorny and complex matter of centralisation.  Domestically - I would dread it today.  19th century English local councils seem rather competent to me, 21st century ones rather incompetent.  On the other hand, a certain amount of decentralisation of the EU looks more inviting……….

Rob T
« Last Edit: November 20, 2018, 09:03:35 AM by EWC »