The nearest thing the Dutch had to a constitution or founding charter was the Union of Utrecht, and whatever may have been read into this document by later politicians and jurists, it was in origin and intention an alliance to improve the prosecution of the war against Spain. This was one of the reasons why the signing of the Truce in 1609 caused so much apprehension: many seem to have feared that once the war was ended the alliance would also collapse and with it the Union. What else, it was asked, held the provinces together other than the necessity of union for mutual defence? In retrospect, this fear can too easily be dismissed as chimerical; the advantage of hindsight can make it difficult to understand the fears of contemporaries, at various times during the century, of the possible break-up of the Republic. Perhaps even more importantly, if we take for granted the survival of the Union and the development of the allied provinces into something at least resembling a nation-state, then we can fail to see the importance of asking what it was that held the Union together, and why contemporary fears of political disintegration during the Truce and perhaps also in 1650-1 were not realized.
For there was no obvious or natural unity between the seven (or eight, with Drente) provinces, never mind between them and the Generality lands. The provinces commonly referred to each other in official documents and elsewhere as the bondgenoten (allies), and this terminology, together with the stress on the importance of the preservation of provincial autonomy, can be taken as a symbol of the rather limited sense of common identity possessed by the inhabitants of the Republic, at least at first. The various provinces did not have a history of living in the same political community; they had only even shared the same ruler for about a quarter of a century from the Habsburg take-over of Gelderland in 1543 to the Revolt, and their traditions were of mutual conflict rather than of co-operation. Only the experience of having to work together during the last decades of the sixteenth and the whole of the seventeenth century began to create a strong sense of Dutch unity.
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Publication information: Book title: Holland and the Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century:The Politics of Particularism. Contributors: J. L. Price - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 221.