CHAPTER XXII. THE AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION WAR. WILLIAM IV, 1740-1751
The birth of an heir on March 8,1748, caused great rejoicings, for it promised permanence to the new order of things. Whatever the prince had firmly taken in hand would have met with popular approval, but William had little power of initiative or firmness of principle. He allowed his course of action to be swayed now by one set of advisers, now by their opponents. Even in the matter of the farmers of the revenue, the best-hated men throughout the Republic and especially in Holland, it required popular tumults and riots at Haarlem, Leyden, the Hague and Amsterdam, in which the houses of the obnoxious officials were attacked and sacked, to secure the abolition of a system by which the proceeds of taxation were diverted from the service of the State to fill the pockets of venal and corrupt officials. In Amsterdam the spirit of revolt against the domination of the Town Council by a few patrician families led to serious disorders and armed conflicts in which blood was shed; and in September, 1748, the prince, at the request of the Estates, visited the turbulent city. As the Town Council proved obstinate in refusing to make concessions, the stadholder was compelled to take strong action. The Council was dismissed from office, but here, as elsewhere, the prince was averse from making a drastic purge; out of the thirty-six members, more than half, nineteen, were restored. The new men, who thus took their seats in the Town Council, obtained the sobriquet of "Forty-Eighters."
The state of both the army and navy was deplorable at the end of the war in which the States had played so inglorious a part. William had neither the training nor the knowledge to undertake their reorganisation. He therefore sought the help of Lewis Ernest, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuettel (1718-86), who, as an Austrian field-marshal, had distinguished himself in the war. Brunswick was with difficulty persuaded, in October, 1749, to accept the post of Dutch field-marshal, a salary of 60,000 fl. being guaranteed to him, the governorship of Hertogenbosch, and the right to retain his rank in the Austrian army. The duke did not actually arrive in Holland and take up his duties until December, 1750.
The prince's efforts to bring about a reform of the Admiralties, to make the Dutch navy an efficient force and to restore the commerce and industries of the country were well meant, but were marred by the feebleness of his health. All through the year 1750 he had recurring attacks of illness and grew weaker. On October 22, 1751, he died. It is unfair to condemn William IV because he did not rise to the height of his opportunities. When in 1747 power was thrust upon him so suddenly, no man could have been more earnest in his wish to serve his country. But he was not gifted with the great abilities and high resolve of William III; and there can be no doubt that the difficulties with which he had to contend were manifold, complex and deep-rooted. A valetudinarian like William IV was not fitted to be the physician of a body-politic suffering from so many diseases as that of the United Provinces in 1747.
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