Second Anglo-Dutch War
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The Second Anglo-Dutch War (4 March 1665 – 31 July 1667), or the Second Dutch War (Dutch: Tweede Engelse Oorlog "Second English War") was a conflict fought between England and the Dutch Republic for control over the seas and trade routes, where England tried to end the Dutch domination of world trade during a period of intense European commercial rivalry. After initial English successes, the war ended in a Dutch victory. It was the second of a series of naval wars fought between the English and the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries.
- 1 Background
- 2 Hostilities
- 3 Treaty of Breda
- 4 References
The First Anglo-Dutch War was concluded with an English victory in the battle of Scheveningen in August 1653, although a peace treaty was not signed for another eight months. The Commonwealth government of Oliver Cromwell tried to avoid further conflict with the Dutch Republic. It did not come to the aid of its ally, Sweden, when the Dutch thwarted the Swedish attempt to conquer Denmark in the battle of the Sound on 8 November 1658. The Commonwealth was at war with Spain in the Anglo-Spanish War of 1654–1660. The English feared Dutch intervention in this war on the side of the Spanish, in part, because the Republic contained a strong Orangist party hostile to Cromwell. The leading personage of the Royal House of Orange was young Prince William who was the grandson of Charles I the lately beheaded king of England. Thus, the Commonwealth of England feared that the Orange party was under the influence of exiled English royalists.
In reality, however, the Dutch Republic had only recently had its independence from Spain recognised—at the conclusion of the Eighty Years' War in 1648—so had no desire to aid their hated former master. The Dutch were also busy building up their shipping and trading fleet again following the devastation of the First Anglo-Dutch War. While the English had won a great many naval battles and destroyed a great many Dutch ships during the First Anglo-Dutch War, they failed to win the war. The Republic was in a better financial position than the Commonwealth of England; as a result, the Dutch could continue fitting out their naval fleet to make up for the losses they sustained at a pace the English were unable to match.
While the war continued, the Dutch had also been free to expand their trade networks along the main sea routes outside English home waters without fear of English retaliation due to their lack of available ships. English commerce was grinding to a halt as they lost access to the Baltic and the Mediterranean Seas, and when the two sides signed the peace treaty in 1654, the English were in essentially the same position that they had begun: watching the Dutch Republic outstrip their economy to become the premier European trade power.
To make matters worse for England, the conclusion of this war was immediately followed by the Anglo-Spanish War of 1654–1660, which disrupted the remnants of trade the Commonwealth had with Spain and southern Italy. The Dutch were left with free rein to expand their influence in the area: this period was one of the highest points in the Dutch Golden Age, and ironically the English interference was partly responsible.
The real problem with the English trading system was that it was based on tariffs and customs while the Dutch system was based on free trade. Dutch goods were much more attractive around the world because they lacked the additional taxing on imports and exports that came with English goods. The end of the First Anglo-Dutch War had not changed this dynamic. Indeed, the end of the war had set the United Provinces free to expand their trade while the English were still hindered by the same tariff system. Thus, another war seemed inevitable to many people of the time, as the Commonwealth was unlikely to give up its naval and economic superiority without a fight.
The Treaty of Westminster itself planted the seeds of future conflict because of its secret annexe which contained the Act of Seclusion. The Act of Seclusion forbade the Province of Holland—and by practical extension, any other province of the United Provinces of the Netherlands—from installing any member of the House of Orange as their stadtholder. On 22 April 1654, the States-General of the entire United Provinces approved the Treaty of Westminster, unaware of the secret annexe that had been attached to the Treaty in the version that the English had ratified.
It was expected that each province in the United Provinces of the Netherlands would vote for a separate Act of Exclusion in which each province would refuse to install any member of the House of Orange as stadholder of that particular province. Of course, the most important province was Holland. Thanks to the influence that Johan de Witt could exert over the States-General, the Province of Holland was hardly ever overruled in the States General. On 4 May 1654, the Province of Holland passed its own Act of Exclusion.
The Restoration of Charles II, in 1660, produced a general surge of optimism in England. Many hoped to reverse the Dutch dominance in world trade. At first, however, Charles II sought to remain on friendly terms with the Republic, as he was personally greatly in debt to the House of Orange, which had lent gigantic sums to Charles I during the English Civil War. Nevertheless, a conflict soon developed with the States of Holland over the education and future prospects of his nephew William III of Orange, the posthumous son of Dutch stadtholder William II of Orange, over whom Charles had been made a guardian by his late sister Mary.
The Dutch, in this coordinated by Cornelis and Andries de Graeff, tried to placate the king with prodigious gifts, such as the Dutch Gift of 1660. Negotiations were started in 1661 to solve these issues, which ended in the treaty of 1662, in which the Dutch conceded on most points. In 1663, Louis XIV of France stated his claim to portions of the Habsburg southern Netherlands, leading to a short rapprochement between England and the Republic. During this time, Lord Clarendon, serving as chief minister to King Charles II of England, felt that France had become the greatest danger to England.
In 1664, however, the situation quickly changed. Clarendon's enemy, Lord Arlington, became the favourite of the king and began to cooperate with the king's brother James, Duke of York, the Lord High Admiral. Both James and Lord Arlington agreed that war with the United Provinces of the Netherland was more in the interests of England than war with France. They coordinated their efforts in order to bring about war with the Dutch. They both expected great personal gain from any war with the Dutch. James, the Duke of York, headed the Royal African Company and hoped to seize the possessions of the Dutch West India Company.
The two were supported by the English ambassador in The Hague, Sir George Downing. George Downing despised the Dutch and from his position in the Hague gave a full and detailed account of all the political affairs in the United Provinces. Downing reported back to London that the Republic was politically divided between Orangists, who gladly would collaborate with an English enemy in case of war, and a States faction consisting of wealthy merchants that would give in to any English demand in order to protect their trade interests. Downing had special contacts with prominent people in Friesland, a province which during the Dutch Golden Age often tried to assert its independence from Holland and where the Orangists were strong.
Lord Arlington planned to subdue the Dutch completely by permanent occupation of key Dutch cities. Charles was easily influenced by James and Arlington as he sought a popular and lucrative foreign war at sea to bolster his authority as king. Many naval officers welcomed the prospect of a conflict with the Dutch as they expected to make their name and fortune in battles they hoped to win as decisively as in the previous war.
As enthusiasm for war rose among the English populace, privateers began to attack Dutch ships, capturing them and taking them to English harbors. By the time that Charles II of England declared war on the United Provinces about two hundred Dutch ships had been brought to English ports. Dutch ships were obligated by the new treaty to salute the English flag first. In 1664, English ships began to provoke the Dutch by not saluting in return. Though ordered by the Dutch government to continue saluting first, many Dutch commanders could not bear the insult.
The resulting flag incidents were not the casus belli as in the previous war. To provoke open conflict, James already in late 1663 had sent Robert Holmes, in service of the Royal African Company, to capture Dutch trading posts and colonies in West Africa. At the same time, the English invaded the Dutch colony of New Netherland in North America on 24 June 1664, and had control of it by October.
The Dutch responded by sending a fleet under Michiel de Ruyter that recaptured their African trade posts, captured most English trade stations there and then crossed the Atlantic for a punitive expedition against the English in America. In December 1664, the English suddenly attacked the Dutch Smyrna fleet. Though the attack failed, the Dutch in January 1665 allowed their ships to open fire on English warships in the colonies when threatened. Charles used this as a pretext to declare war on the Dutch Republic on 4 March 1665.
The war was supported in England by much propaganda; the cause célèbre was the previous Amboyna Massacre of 1623. That year, ten English factors, resident in the Dutch fortress of Victoria on Ambon were executed by beheading on accusations of treason. During the trial, the English prisoners were allegedly hung up with cloth placed over their faces, upon which water dripped until the victims inhaled water. After some time, they were taken down to vomit up the water, only to repeat the experience. The Dutch also allegedly placed candles on the victims' bodies to demonstrate the translucence of the flesh. The English at the time milked the alleged atrocity for all it was worth in a long drawn-out diplomatic incident.
The East India Company published an extensive pamphlet in 1631, setting out its case against the Dutch East India Company, and this was used for anti-Dutch propaganda during the First Anglo-Dutch War. Though the matter was supposed to be settled with the Treaty of Westminster, now pamphleteers reminded the public of it as the war neared. Additionally, broadsheets demonized the Dutch as drunken and profane. When De Ruyter recaptured the West African trading posts, many pamphlets were written about presumed new Dutch atrocities, although these contained no basis in fact.
The deeper cause of the conflict was mercantile competition. The English sought to take over the Dutch trade routes and colonies while excluding the Dutch from their own colonial possessions. Contraband shipping had gone on from English colonies in Colonial America and Surinam for a decade, and the English felt that they were being cheated of their revenues. The Dutch, for their part, considered it their right to trade with anyone anywhere, defending the principle of the mare liberum. However, they enforced a monopoly in the Dutch Indies, and threatened to expand it to India, after taking over the Portuguese settlements on the Malabar coastline. The vilification of Dutch traders in England was at least partially an expression of unease with the presence of notable Cromwellian politicians and officers in Holland in exile. Charles II had reason to be nervous about the possibility of a Dutch invasion coordinated with an uprising within England. In addition, many members of the English elite would gain personally if Dutch ships were captured.
After their defeat in the First Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch became much better prepared. Beginning in 1653, a "New Navy" was constructed, a core of sixty new, heavier ships with professional captains. Losses had been consequently replaced after this. However, these ships were still much lighter than the ten "big ships" of the English navy. In 1664, when war threatened, it was decided to completely replace the core Dutch fleet with still heavier ships. Upon the outbreak of war in 1665, these new vessels were mostly still under construction, and the Dutch only possessed four heavier ships of the line. During the second war, the new ships were quickly completed, with another twenty ordered and built. England, meanwhile, could only build a dozen ships, due to financial difficulties.
In 1665, England boasted a population about four times as large as that of the Dutch Republic. This population was dominated by poor peasants, however, and so the only source of ready cash were the cities. The Dutch urban population exceeded that of England in both proportional and absolute terms and the Republic would be able to spend more than twice the amount of money on the war as England, the equivalent of £11,000,000. The outbreak of war was followed ominously by the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, hitting the only major urban centre of the country. These events, occurring in such close succession, virtually brought England to its knees, as the English fleet had suffered from cash shortages even before these calamities, despite having been voted a record budget of £2,500,000 by the English parliament. The navy did not pay its sailors with money, but with "tickets", or debt certificates. Charles lacked an effective means of enforcing taxation. The only way to finance the war, in effect, was to capture Dutch trade fleets. English penury made the war's outcome dependent on the fortunes of its privateers; in fact, Dutch privateers would be the more successful.
First year, 1665
The first encounter between the nations was, as in the First Anglo-Dutch War, at sea. The battle of Lowestoft on 13 June saw combat between fleets of over a hundred ships on both sides. The English gained a great victory; it was the worst defeat of the Dutch Republic's navy in its history. The English, though, were unable to capitalise on victory at Lowestoft. The leading Dutch politician, the Grand Pensionary of Holland Johan de Witt, quickly restored confidence by joining the fleet personally. Under De Witt, ineffective captains were removed and new tactics formalised. The Spice Fleet from the Dutch East Indies managed to return home safely after the battle of Vågen, though at first blockaded at Bergen, causing the financial position to swing in favour of the Dutch. Michiel de Ruyter returned to a hero's welcome and was given supreme command of the confederate fleet.
In the summer of 1665 the bishop of Münster, Bernhard von Galen, an old enemy of the Dutch, was induced by promises of English subsidies to invade the Republic. At the same time, the English made overtures to Spain. The King of France, Louis XIV, was obliged by a 1662 treaty to assist the Republic in a war with England. However, Louis had postponed his aid, on the pretence of wanting to negotiate a peace. He was now greatly alarmed by the attack by Münster and the prospect of an English–Spanish coalition. Intent on conquering the Spanish Netherlands, Louis feared that a collapse of the Republic could create a powerful Habsburg entity on his northern border, as the Habsburgs were the traditional allies of the German bishops. He immediately promised to send a French army corps, and French envoys – under the grand name of the célèbre ambassade – arrived in London to begin negotiations in earnest, threatening the wrath of the French monarch if the English failed to comply.
These events caused great consternation at the English court. It now seemed that the Republic would end up as either a Habsburg possession or a French protectorate. Either outcome would be disastrous for England's strategic position. Clarendon, always having warned about "this foolish war",[This quote needs a citation] was ordered to quickly make peace with the Dutch without French mediation. Downing used his Orangist contacts to induce the province of Overijssel, whose countryside had been ravaged by Galen's troops, to ask the States General for a peace with England. The Orangists naively thought to concede the main English demand that the young William III would not be made captain-general and admiral-general of the republic and ensured of the stadtholderate. The sudden return of De Witt from the fleet prevented the Orangists from seizing power. In November, the States General promised Louis never to conclude a separate peace with England. On 11 December it openly declared that the only acceptable peace terms would be either a return to the status quo ante bellum, or a quick end to hostilities under a uti possidetis clause.
Second year, 1666
In the winter of 1666, the Dutch created a strong anti-English alliance. On 26 January, Louis declared war. In February, Frederick III of Denmark did the same after having received a large sum. Then Brandenburg threatened to attack Münster from the east. The promised English subsidies having remained largely hypothetical, Von Galen made peace with the Republic in April at Cleves. By the spring of 1666, the Dutch had rebuilt their fleet with much heavier ships—thirty of them possessing more cannon than any Dutch ship in early 1665—and threatened to join with the French. Charles made a new peace offer in February, employing a French nobleman in Orange service, Henri Buat, as messenger. In it, he vaguely promised to moderate his demands if the Dutch would only appoint William in some responsible function and pay £200,000 in "indemnities". De Witt considered it a mere feint to create dissension among the Dutch and between them and France. A new confrontation was inevitable.
The result was the Four Days' Battle, one of the longest naval engagements in history. Despite administrative and logistic difficulties, a fleet of eighty ships, under General at Sea George Monck, the Commonwealth veteran (afterwards the Duke of Albemarle), set sail at the end of May 1666. Prince Rupert of the Rhine was then detached with twenty of these ships to intercept a French squadron on 29 May (Julian calendar), which had been thought to be passing through the English Channel, presumably to join the Dutch fleet. In fact, the French fleet was still largely in the Mediterranean.
Leaving the Downs, Albemarle came upon De Ruyter's fleet of 85 ships at anchor, and he immediately engaged the nearest Dutch ship before the rest of the fleet could come to its assistance. The Dutch rearguard under Lieutenant-Admiral Cornelis Tromp set upon a starboard tack, taking the battle toward the Flemish shoals, compelling Albemarle to turn about, to prevent being outflanked by the Dutch rear and centre, culminating in a ferocious unremitting battle that raged until nightfall. At daylight on 2 June, Albemarle's strength of operable vessels was reduced to 44 ships, but with these, he renewed the battle tacking past the enemy four times in close action. With his fleet in too poor a condition to continue to challenge, he then retired towards the coast with the Dutch in pursuit.
The following day Albemarle ordered the damaged ships forward covering their return on the 3rd until Prince Rupert, returning with his twenty ships, joined him. During this stage of the battle, Vice-Admiral George Ayscue, on the grounded Prince Royal—one of the nine remaining "big ships"—surrendered. This was the last time in history that an English admiral surrendered in battle. With the return of the fresh squadron under Prince Rupert the English now had more ships, yet the Dutch decided the battle on the fourth day, breaking the English line several times. When the English retreated, De Ruyter was reluctant to follow, perhaps because of lack of gunpowder. The battle ended with both sides claiming victory: the English because they contended Dutch Lieutenant Admiral Michiel de Ruyter had retreated first, the Dutch because they had inflicted much greater losses on the English, who lost ten ships against the Dutch four.
One more major sea battle would be fought in the conflict. St. James's Day Battle of 4 and 5 August, ended in English victory but failed to decide the war as the Dutch fleet escaped annihilation. At this stage, simply surviving was sufficient for the Dutch, as the English could hardly afford to replace their losses even from a victory. Tactically indifferent with the Dutch losing two ships and the English one, the battle would have enormous political implications. Cornelis Tromp, commanding the Dutch rear, had defeated his English counterpart, but was accused by De Ruyter of being responsible for the plight of the main body of the Dutch fleet by chasing the English rear squadron as far as the English coast. As Tromp was the champion of the Orange party, the conflict led to much party strife; because of this, Tromp was fired by the States of Holland on August 13.
Five days later Charles made another peace offer to De Witt, again using Buat as an intermediary. Among the letters given to the Grand Pensionary, one was included by mistake which contained the secret English instructions to their contacts in the Orange party, outlining plans for an overthrow of the States regime. Buat was arrested; his accomplices in the conspiracy fled the country to England, among them Tromp's brother-in-law Johan Kievit. De Witt now had proof of the collaborationist nature of the Orange movement and the major city regents distanced themselves from its cause. Buat was condemned for treason and beheaded.
The mood in the Republic now turned very belligerent, also because in August, English Vice-Admiral Robert Holmes during his raid on the Vlie estuary in August 1666, destroyed about 130 merchantmen—Holmes's Bonfire—and sacked the island of Terschelling, setting the town of West-Terschelling aflame. In this, he was assisted by a Dutch captain, Laurens Heemskerck, who had fled to England after having been condemned to death for cowardice shown during the battle of Lowestoft.
After the Fire of London in September, the next peace offer by Charles came, again reducing his demands. Small "indemnities", the return of the nutmeg island of Pulau Run and a deal over India would suffice now; no more mention was made of the position of William. The States General simply referred to its declaration of 11 December 1665, no longer willing to make a slight concession that would allow Charles to withdraw from the war without losing face.
Third year, 1667
By early-1667, the financial position of the English crown had become desperate. The kingdom lacked sufficient funds to maintain their fleet's seaworthiness. It was thus decided upon that in February, the heavy ships were to remain laid up at Chatham. Clarendon informed Charles as to his only two options: to make very substantial concessions to Parliament, or to initiate peace talks with the Dutch under their conditions, which, it turned out, began in March. The site chosen for the talks was Breda, in the southern Generality Lands, as negotiations in the provinces themselves would—by contemporary conventions—be considered a sign of inferiority to the Dutch.
Charles, however, did not negotiate in good faith, having already decided to turn to a third option: a secret alliance with France. On 18 April, Charles concluded his first secret treaty with Louis, stipulating that England would support a French conquest of the Spanish Netherlands. In May, the French invaded, starting the War of Devolution; Charles hoped, by means of stalling the talks at Breda, to gain enough time to ready his fleet to obtain concessions from the Dutch, using the French advance as leverage.
De Witt was aware of Charles's general intentions – though not of the secret treaty. He decided to end the war with a single stroke. Ever since its actions in Denmark in 1659, involving many landings to liberate the Danish Isles, the Dutch navy had made a special study of amphibious operations; the Dutch Marine Corps was establish in 1665. De Witt personally arranged for the planning of a landing of marines at Chatham. At both the Four Days' Battle and the St. James's Day Battle, a Dutch marine contingent had been ready to land in the Medway immediately following a possible Dutch victory at sea. Conditions had not allowed for this in either battle, however. But now there was no English fleet of any quality able to contest command of the North Sea. It lay effectively defenceless at Chatham and De Witt ordered it destroyed.
In June, De Ruyter, with Cornelis de Witt supervising, launched the Dutch raid on the Medway at the mouth of the River Thames. After capturing the fort at Sheerness, the Dutch fleet went on to break through the massive chain protecting the entrance to the Medway and, on the 13th, attacked the laid up English fleet.
The daring raid remains the greatest naval disaster in the history of the Royal Navy and its predecessors: "It can hardly be denied that the Dutch raid on the Medway vies with the battle of Majuba in 1881 and the Fall of Singapore in 1942 for the unenviable distinctor of being the most humiliating defeat suffered by British arms." Fifteen of the Royal Navy's remaining ships were destroyed, either by the Dutch or by being scuttled by the English to block the river. Three of the eight remaining "big ships" were burnt: Royal Oak, the new Loyal London and Royal James. The largest English flagship, HMS Royal Charles, was abandoned by its skeleton crew, captured without a shot being fired, and towed back to the United Provinces as a trophy. Its coat of arms is now on display in the Rijksmuseum. Fortunately for the English, the Dutch marines spared the Chatham Dockyard, at the time England's largest industrial complex; a land attack on the docks themselves would have set back English naval power for a generation. A Dutch attack on the English anchorage at Harwich had to be abandoned however after the battle of Landguard Fort ended in Dutch failure.
The Dutch success made a major psychological impact throughout England, with London feeling especially vulnerable just a year after the Great Fire of London (which was generally interpreted in the Dutch Republic as divine retribution for Holmes's Bonfire). Moreover, as Jonathan Israel points out, frequent Dutch interception of colliers caused the inhabitants of London to undergo "a very cold winter".[This quote needs a citation] All this, together with the cost of the war, of the Great Plague and the extravagant spending of Charles's court, produced a rebellious atmosphere in London. Clarendon ordered the English envoys at Breda to sign a peace quickly, as Charles feared an open revolt.
War in the Caribbean
The Second Anglo-Dutch war had spread to the Caribbean islands in 1665 and the English had been quick to capture the Dutch island of Sint Eustatius. A French declaration of war on the side of the Dutch in mid-April 1666, took the situation a step further and buoyed a Dutch counterattack. Quickly the French under Joseph-Antoine de La Barre took over the English Caribbean islands offsetting English control. First, the English half of St Kitts fell, quickly followed by Antigua and Montserrat.
The Dutch meanwhile under Admiral Abraham Crijnssen had reconquered the island of Sint Eustatius and following that captured Suriname. With the Caribbean clearly in Franco-Dutch control, Abraham Crijnssen and de La Barre combined forces and agreed to a Franco-Dutch invasion of Nevis on 20 May 1667. However, this invasion was repelled by the English in a confused naval action. After this failed attack and the fallout that followed, the French, under Admiral Joseph de la Barre, moved to Martinique. The Dutch under Crijnssen sailed to the north to attack the Virginia colony.
In early June a new English fleet, under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir John Harman, reached the West Indies. Harman brought reinforcements and attacked the French at Martinique. By 6 July, Harman's fleet had sunk, burnt or captured the majority of the French ships, 21 in all. With the French fleet neutralised, Harman then attacked the French at Cayenne, forcing its garrison to surrender. The English fleet then went on to recapture Suriname by October. These English victories, though extensive, came too late to have any significant impact on the result of the war.
Crijnssen sailed back to the Caribbean only to find the French fleet destroyed and the English back in possession of Suriname. However, on 31 July the English and Dutch had signed the Treaty of Breda, and news of this filtered through by the end of October, beginning of November, ending hostilities. Part of the treaty was a stipulation that each side would keep the possessions it held on 31 July, so Suriname was again returned to the Dutch.
Treaty of Breda
On 31 July 1667, the Treaty of Breda sealed peace between the two nations. The treaty allowed the English to keep factual possession of New Netherland, while the Dutch kept control over Pulau Run and the valuable sugar plantations of Suriname. This temporary uti possidetis solution would be made official in the Treaty of Westminster. The Act of Navigation was moderated[how?] in favour of the Dutch.
The order of priorities whereby the Dutch preferred to give up what would become a major part of the United States, and instead retain a tropical colony, would seem strange by present-day standards. However, in the 17th Century tropical colonies producing agricultural products which could not be grown in Europe were deemed more valuable than ones with a climate similar to that of Europe where Europeans could settle in comfort.
The peace was generally seen as a personal triumph for Johan De Witt. The Republic was jubilant about the Dutch victory. De Witt used the occasion to induce four provinces to adopt the Perpetual Edict of 1667 abolishing the stadtholderate forever. He used the weak position of Charles II to force him into the Triple Alliance of 1668 which again forced Louis to temporarily abandon his plans for the conquest of the southern Netherlands. But De Witt's success would eventually produce his downfall and nearly that of the Republic with it. Both humiliated monarchs intensified their secret cooperation and would, joined by the bishop of Münster, attack the Dutch in 1672 in the Third Anglo-Dutch War. De Witt was unable to counter this attack, as he could not create a strong Dutch army for lack of money and for fear that it would strengthen the position of the young William III. That same year De Witt was assassinated, and William became stadtholder.
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