William of Orange was the mastermind and driving force behind the Netherlands rebellion against the tyranny of Philip II. Although William was at first a Catholic and favored religious toleration, when the Spanish governors redoubled their persecutions, he became a leader of the Protestant rebels. He gave his life, his fortune, and his whole being to the cause--losing many family members in the process, and is one of the most inspiring heroes of the Protestant cause.
WILLIAM OF ORANGE.
In thrilling events, abhorrent cruelties, grand achievements, and sublime patriotism, the history of the Netherlands and of the part which William of Orange played in securing its freedom is of absorbing interest. Few peoples have suffered more terribly than the Netherlanders did in their struggle for civil and religious liberty, and few peoples have endured suffering with greater heroism, more sublime patience, or more exalted patriotism. Further, few peoples in their struggles have had such a wise, brave, judicious, far-seeing, self-sacrificing leader as these Netherlanders, who mastered the sea and crushed the tyranny of an empire, at that time the strongest on earth.
William of Nassau, usually called William of Orange, also designated as William the Silent, was preeminently "the man for the occasion." His friends were accustomed to call him a rock in the ocean, "tranquil amid raging billows," so constant and unmoved was he, whether by success or by defeat. Originally a Roman Catholic, he was converted to Protestantism, but was ever ready to extend freedom of conscience, religious belief, and worship to those of every creed. He placed implicit trust in divine guidance. Of his great wealth and princely possessions he gave almost everything to the cause of the people, even to the verge of impoverishment. He was an able counsellor, and quick and decisive in action. He was a great military commander, and was so esteemed by his contemporaries. He was the ablest statesman of his time, quick to detect the schemes of his enemies, exact in his knowledge of men, alert in diplomacy, and eloquent in persuasion. He secured the liberty of the Netherlands and established it upon enduring foundations. He further secured political and religious rights for his people and expelled the Inquisition from the country. To this extent his influence was felt throughout the world. He lived for his people and died for them at the hands of a fanatical assassin, but not until he had had the satisfaction of knowing that his great work was accomplished. Motley, in his "Dutch Republic," says of him:
He went through life bearing the load of a people's sorrows upon his shoulders with a smiling face. . . . As long as he lived he was the guiding star of a whole brave nation, and when he died, the little children cried in the streets."
In the following sentence, from the same authority, the striking resemblance between William of Orange and Abraham Lincoln may be traced:
In the darkest hours of his country's trial he affected a serenity which he was far from feeling, so that his apparent gaiety at momentous epochs was ever censured by dullards who could not comprehend its philosophy, nor applaud the flippancy of William the Silent."
The life of William of Orange is a noble and elevating study for youth. Fortunately, the persecutions and cruelties of his day are no longer possible except in countries not yet fully civilized. It is due to William of Orange, as much as to any one, that religious prejudices are gradually disappearing and that persons of all beliefs now live amicably together, free to worship God as they please. As the author of this little biography says in one place—though his voice is silent, his deeds still speak, and will speak for ever and ever.
CHICAGO, July 1, 1906.
The following is a chronological statement of the more important events in the life of William of Orange:
|1533||Birth of William of Orange.|
|1544||Inherited the Principality of Orange.|
|1555||Abdication of Charles V.|
|1559||Negotiated the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis;|
|1559||Appointed Stadtholder of Zealand and Holland.|
|1563||Persecutions in the Netherlands.|
|1564||Cardinal Granvella removed; edicts promulgated; Inquisition introduced.|
|1567||Alva sent to the Netherlands.|
|1568||Orange organized an army; victory at Groningen.|
|1572||Estates of Holland voted a sum for prosecution of the war.|
|1574||Patriots defeated; Orange's brothers Louis and Henry slain.|
|1574||Siege of Haarlem and relief of Leyden.|
|1576||Pacification of Ghent.|
|1579||Union of Utrecht.|
|1580||Ban issued by Philip against Orange.|
|1581||United Provinces renounced allegiance to Spain.|
|1584||Assassination of Orange.|