America: An Example and a Friend But what is there to oblige a citizen of the United Provinces to consider Americans as friends of the Republic?
HE decade of the eighties in the eighteenth century may be considered the prelude to a new age in the Netherlands. With its unrest, its mutual struggle of Dutch against Dutch, its yearning for both a greater unity and a more genuine, if still far from complete, influence of the people upon the government, it forms the period during which the old order was attacked at its heart and the new sought to come into being. And the whole spectacle was in truth not a puppet play--on this Dutch historians are now virtually agreed--in the hands of managers in London, Paris, and Berlin. The thesis of the Dutch historian Colenbrander that Dutch weal and woe were determined abroad, and with it his contempt for the Dutch forefathers of the eighteenth century, has been overcome now. The Republic was not a province dominated by mighty neighbors; it was a country struggling for a new future and therefore open to what was happening in the world at the time. Put in other terms, the fate of the Dutch was decided not only by ministers of state; there was also a spiritual, national movement. It was bourgeois in character--could it have been otherwise?--and therefore ambiguous in its attitude toward the ideals of the age. The words that were used could mean many things, as was true wherever else the new ideas broke through, in America, for example.
Popular influence, equality, representation--all these fine words were spoken at the height of men's voices. But as the leading Dutch historian of this period, Dr. C. H. E. de Wit, has shown in his broad and thoughtful studies, we must listen carefully to who is actually doing the trumpeting. The same thing said by two different persons is not the same thing.
What is clear in any case is that the American influence upon the events of these years in the Netherlands was of fundamental importance. It is true that there was an old democratic tradition in the Dutch Republic,