THE Pierson-Borgesius ministry had not been long in office when Queen Wilhelmina attained her majority (August 31, 1898) amidst public enthusiasm. At the same time the Queen-Mother received many expressions of high appreciation for the admirable manner in which for eight years she had discharged her constitutional duties. The measures passed by this administration dealt with many subjects of importance. Personal military service was at last, after years of controversy, enforced by law, ecclesiastics and students alone being excepted. Attendance at school up to the age of 13 was made obligatory, and the subsidies for the upkeep of the schools and the payment of teachers were substantially increased. The year 1899 was memorable for the meeting of the first Peace Congress (on the initiative of the Tsar Nicholas II) at the Huis in't Bosch. The deliberations and discussions began on May 18 and lasted until June 29. By the irony of events, a few months later (October 10) a war broke out, in which the Dutch people felt a great and sympathetic interest, between the two Boer republics of South Africa and Great Britain. Bitter feelings were aroused, and the queen did but reflect the national sentiment when she personally received in the most friendly manner President Krueger, who arrived in Holland as a fugitive on board a Dutch man-of-war in the summer of 1900. The official attitude of the government was however perfectly correct, and there was never any breach in the relations between Great Britain and the Netherlands.

The marriage of Queen Wilhelmina, on February 7, 1901, with Prince Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was welcomed by the people, as affording hopes, for some years to be disappointed, of the birth of an heir to the throne.

The elections of 1901 found the liberal ministry out of favour through the laws enforcing military service and obligatory attendance at school. Against them the indefatigable Dr Kuyper, who had returned to active politics in 1897, had succeeded in uniting the three "Church" groups - the democratic anti-revolutionaries, the aristocratic Historical Christians (both orthodox Calvinists) and the Catholics of all sections - into a "Christian Coalition" in support of religious teaching in the schools. The victory lay with the coalition, and Dr Kuyper became first minister. The new administration introduced a measure on Higher Education, which was rejected by the First Chamber. A dissolution of this Chamber led to the majority being reversed, and the measure was passed. Another measure revised the Mackay Law and conferred a larger subsidy on "private" schools. The socialist party under the able leadership of Troelstra had won several seats at the election; and in 1903 a general strike was threatened unless the government conceded the demands of the socialist labour party. The threat was met with firmness; an anti-strike law was quickly passed; the military was called out; and the strike collapsed. The costly war in Achin, which had been smouldering for some years, burst out again with violence in the years 1902-3, and led to sanguinary reprisals on the part of the Dutch soldiery, the report of which excited indignation against the responsible authorities. Various attempts had been made in 1895 and 1899 to introduce protectionist duties, but unsuccessfully.

The quadrennial elections of 1905 found all the liberal groups united in a combined assault upon the Christian Coalition. A severe electoral struggle ensued, with the result that 45 liberals and 7 socialists were returned against 48 coalitionists. Dr Kuyper resigned; and a new ministry, under the leadership of the moderate liberal, De Meester, took its place. The De Meester government was however dependent upon the socialist vote, and possessed no independent majority in either Chamber. For the first time a ministry of agriculture, industry and trade was created. Such an administration could only lead a precarious existence, and in 1907 an adverse vote upon the military estimates led to its resignation. Th. Heemskerk undertook the task of forming a new cabinet from the anti-revolutionary and Catholic groups, and at the next general election of 1909 he won a conclusive victory at the polls. This victory was obtained by wholesale promises of social reforms, including old age pensions and poor and sick relief. As so often happens, such a programme could not be carried into effect without heavy expenditure; and the means were not forthcoming. To meet the demand a bill was introduced in August, 1911, by the finance minister, Dr Kolkmar, to increase considerably the existing duties, and to extend largely the list of dutiable imports. This bill led to a widespread agitation in the country, and many petitions were presented against it, with the result that it was withdrawn. A proposal made by this ministry in 1910 to spend 38,000,000 florins on the fortification of Flushing excited much adverse criticism in the press of Belgium, England and France, on the ground that it had been done at the suggestion of the German government, the object being to prevent the British fleet from seizing Flushing in the event of the outbreak of an Anglo-German war. The press agitation met, however, with no countenance on the part of responsible statesmen in any of the countries named; it led nevertheless to the abandonment of the original proposal and the passing of a bill in 1912 for the improvement of the defences of the Dutch sea-ports generally.

The election of 1913 reversed the verdict of 1909. Probably in no country has the principle of the "swing of the pendulum" been so systematically verified as it has in Holland in recent times. The returns were in 1913: Church parties, 41; liberals of all groups, 39; socialists, 15. The most striking change was the increase in the socialist vote, their representation being more than doubled; and, as in 1905, they held the balance of parties in their hands. With some difficulty Dr Cort van den Linden succeeded in forming a liberal ministry. The outbreak of the Great War in August, 1914, prevented them from turning their attention to any other matters than those arising from the maintenance of a strict neutrality in a conflict which placed them in a most difficult and dangerous position. One of the first questions on which they had to take a critical decision was the closing of the Scheldt. As soon as Great Britain declared war on Germany (August 4), Holland refused to allow any belligerent vessels to pass over its territorial waters. The events of the six years that have since passed are too near for comment here. The liberal ministry at least deserves credit for having steered the country safely through perilous waters. Nevertheless, at the quadrennial election of 1917 there was the customary swing of the pendulum; and an anti-liberal ministry (September 6) was formed, with a Catholic, M. Ruys de Beerenbronck, as first minister.

       * * * * *


The dynastic connection of Luxemburg with Holland ceased with the accession of Queen Wilhelmina. The conditions under which the Belgian province of Luxemburg was created, by the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, a grand-duchy under the sovereignty of the head of the House of Orange-Nassau with succession in default of heirs-male by the family compact, known as the Nassauischer Erbverein, to the nearest male agnate of the elder branch of the Nassau family, have already been related. With the death of William III the male line of the House of Orange-Nassau became extinct; and the succession passed to Adolphus, Duke of Nassau-Weilburg. How unfortunate and ill-advised was the action of the Congress of Vienna in the creation of the Grand-Duchy of Luxemburg was abundantly shown by the difficulties and passions which it aroused in the course of the negotiations for the erection of Belgium into an independent state (1830-39). By the treaty of April 19, 1839, the Walloon portion of Luxemburg became part of the kingdom of Belgium, but in exchange for this cession the grand-duke obtained the sovereignty of a strip of the Belgian province of Limburg. This caused a fresh complication.

Luxemburg in 1815 was not merely severed from the Netherlands; it, as a sovereign grand-duchy, was made a state of the Germanic confederation. By virtue of the exchange sanctioned by the treaty of 1839, the ceded portion of Limburg became a state of the confederation. But with the revision of the Dutch constitution, which in 1840 followed the final separation of Holland and Belgium, by the wish of the king his duchy of Limburg was included in the new Fundamental Law, and thus became practically a Dutch province. The Limburgers had thus a strange and ambiguous position. They had to pay taxes, to furnish military contingents and to send deputies to two different sovereign authorities. This state of things continued with more or less friction, until the victory of Prussia over Austria in 1866 led to the dissolution of the Germanic confederation. At the conference of London, 1867, Luxemburg was declared to be an independent state, whose neutrality was guaranteed by the Great Powers, while Limburg became an integral portion of the kingdom of the Netherlands.

Since the middle of the last century the financial position of Holland has been continuously improving. The heavy indebtedness of the country, in the period which followed the separation from Belgium, was gradually diminished. This was effected for a number of years by the doubtful expedient of the profits derived from the exploitation of the East Indian colonies through the "Cultivation System." With the passing of the revised Fundamental Law of 1848 the control of colonial affairs and of the colonial budget was placed in the hands of the States-General; and a considerable section of the Liberal party began henceforth to agitate for the abolition of a system which was very oppressive to the Javanese population. It was not, however, until 1871 that the reform was carried out. Meanwhile, chiefly by the efforts of Thorbecke, the methods of home finance had been greatly improved by the removal, so far as possible, of indirect imposts, and the introduction of a free trade policy, which since his days has been steadily maintained. Such a policy is admirably suitable to a country which possesses neither minerals nor coal[15], and whose wealth is mainly due to sea-or river-borne trade, to dairy farming and to horticulture. For its supply of corn and many other necessary commodities Holland has to look to other countries. The fisheries still form one of the staple industries of the land, and furnish a hardy sea-faring population for the considerable mercantile marine, which is needed for constant intercourse with a colonial empire (the third in importance at the present time) consisting chiefly of islands in a far-distant ocean.

Between 1850 and 1914, 375,430,000 fl. have been devoted to the reduction of debt; and the Sinking Fund in 1915 was 6,346,000 fl. Since that date Holland has suffered from the consequences of the Great War, but, having successfully maintained her neutrality, she has suffered relatively far less than any of her neighbours. Taxation in Holland has always been high. It is to a large extent an artificial country; and vast sums have been expended and must always be expended in the upkeep of the elaborate system of dykes and canals, by which the waters of the ocean and the rivers are controlled and prevented from flooding large areas of land lying below sea level.

Culture in Holland is widely diffused. The well-to-do classes usually read and speak two or three languages beside their own; and the Dutch language is a finished literary tongue of great flexibility and copiousness. The system of education is excellent. Since 1900 attendance at the primary schools between the ages of six and thirteen is compulsory. Between the primary schools intermediate education (middelbaaronderwijs) is represented by "burgher night-schools" and "higher burgher schools." The night-schools are intended for those engaged in agricultural or industrial work; the "higher schools" for technical instruction, and much attention is paid to the study of the vier talen - French, English, German and Dutch. In connection with these there is an admirable School of Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry at Wageningen in Gelderland. To the teaching at Wageningen is largely due the acknowledged supremacy of Holland in scientific horticulture. There is a branch establishment at Groningen for agricultural training, and another at Deventer for instruction in subjects connected with colonial life. The gymnasia, which are to be found in every town, are preparatory to the universities. The course lasts six years; and the study of Latin and Greek in addition to modern languages is compulsory. There are four universities, Leyden, Utrecht, Groningen and Amsterdam. The possession of a doctor's degree at one of these universities is necessary for magistrates, physicians, advocates, and for teachers in the gymnasia and higher burgher schools.

In so small a country the literary output is remarkable, and, marked as it is by scientific and intellectual distinction, deserves to be more widely read. The Dutch are justly proud of the great part their forefathers played during the War of Independence, and in the days of John de Witt and William III. For scientific historical research in the national archives, and in the publication of documents bearing upon and illustrating the national annals, Dutch historians can compare favourably with those of any other country. Special mention should be made of the labours of Robert Fruin, who may be described as the founder of a school with many disciples, and whose collected works are a veritable treasure-house of brilliant historical studies, combining careful research with acute criticism. Among his many disciples the names of Dr P.J. Blok and Dr H.T. Colenbrander are perhaps the best known.

In the department of Biblical criticism there have been in Holland several writers of European repute, foremost among whom stands the name of Abraham Kuenen.

Dutch writers of fiction have been and are far more numerous than could have been expected from the limited number of those able to read their works. In the second half of the 19th century, J. van Lennep and Mevrouw Bosboom-Toussaint were the most prolific writers. Both of these were followers of the Walter Scott tradition, their novels being mainly patriotic romances based upon episodes illustrating the past history of the Dutch people. Van Lennep's contributions to literature were, however, by no means confined to the writing of fiction, as his great critical edition of Vondel's poetical works testifies. Mevrouw Bosboom-Toussaint's novels were not only excellent from the literary point of view, but as reproductions of historical events were most conscientiously written. Her pictures, for instance, of the difficult and involved period of Leicester's governor-generalship are admirable. The writings of Douwes Dekker (under the pseudonym Multatuli) are noteworthy from the fact that his novel Max Havelaar, dealing with life in Java and setting forth the sufferings of the natives through the "cultivation system," had a large share in bringing about its abolition.

The 20th century school of Dutch novelists is of a different type from their predecessors and deals with life and life's problems in every form. Among the present-day authors of fiction, the foremost place belongs to Louis Conperus, an idealist and mystic, who as a stylist is unapproached by any of his contemporaries.

No account of modern Holland would be complete without a notice of the great revival of Dutch painting, which has taken place in the past half century. Without exaggeration it may indeed be said that this modern renascence of painting in Holland is not unworthy to be compared with that of the days of Rembrandt. The names of Joseph Israels, Hendrik Mesdag, Vincent van Gogh, Anton Maure, and, not least, of the three talented brothers Maris, have attained a wide and well-deserved reputation. And to these must be added others of high merit: Bilders, Scheffer, Bosboom, Rochussen, Bakhuysen, Du Chattel, De Haas and Haverman. The traditional representation of the Dutchman as stolid, unemotional, wholly absorbed in trade and material interests, is a caricature. These latter-day artists, like those of the 17th century, conclusively prove that the Dutch race is singularly sensitive to the poetry of form and colour, and that it possesses an inherited capacity and power for excelling in the technical qualities of the painter's art.