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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

He is a statesman of magnificent proportions


William the Silent, Prince of Orange, moneyless, resourceless, defeated the richest empire of the world without winning a single decisive victory. So viewed, he is a statesman of magnificent proportions. At his death, fifteen out of the seventeen provinces were in rebellion; and had he lived, there can be no rational doubt the remaining two had rebelled and the seventeen become free. As it was, seven provinces won their liberty, and in 1648, at the Peace of Westphalia, were acknowledged as a sovereign State and free from Spain.

William was importuned, vehemently importuned, to become king. He refused, as Cromwell in a later day refused, though, had Cromwell become king, there is no reason why he might not have handed down his scepter to his son. What sealed Richard Cromwell's fate was that he was not a king, the English wishing to feel they had a hereditary head. This was the mistake of the Prince of Orange. While his refusal of regal honors reflected credit on his manhood and disinterested patriotism, that refusal was a weakness to the cause of liberty. About a king men of those days would have rallied as about no Stadtholder; for the Flemings were never essentially republican in instincts. Freemen they learned to be; republicans they never learned to be. Had William of Orange become king, then had his son, as sovereign, led his subjects to battle. As yet Europe was not ready for a commonwealth. As the case stood, William lived, loving his country with an ingenuous affection; was a patriot statesman, whose reward for years of toil, which seamed his brow at the age of forty as if he had been seventy, was an impoverished estate, but an imperishable fame.

On July 10, 1584, Belthazer Gerard shot "Father William" in his own home, and he, falling, cried: "My God, have pity on my soul! I am sorely wounded! My God, have pity on my soul and this poor people!" and this, save his whispered "Yes" to his sister's eager inquiry if he trusted his soul to Jesus, were his last words, so that, as his country had been his thought through many turbulent years, so was it his last thought and love--a fitting word for a patriot such as he to leave on his dead lips. Let the historian's verdict stand as ours, "His life was a noble Christian epic."

A statesman is a man of his own and succeeding ages, and in him, therefore, is much anticipatory. He outruns his time. The vision William the Silent had, which outran the simple patriot in him, was the vision of religious tolerance. This might serve him for crown had he no other. What the world has learned to do, that this Dutch prince taught--virtually first of modern statesmen. In an utterly intolerant age and country, he apostled manly tolerance. In a later day, John of Barneveldt came to the block because he was an Arminian. Protestants, though never wholesale persecutors, had yet to learn this wise man's lesson. And this must rank among the underscored virtues of this old soldier of liberty, that he wished men to worship God without molestation. Nor did this tolerance grow out of indifference to religion. In youth he was careless of Divine matters, and thought little of religion. But so sagacious and so burdened a man as he grew to feel need of strength beyond the help of man. In his mature years he was from conviction a Christian in the Protestant Church, and his life walked on high levels to the end. God was to him as to innumerable souls, "a refuge and strength and a very present help in time of trouble;" and in death he committed his soul to God. By worth and service; by fortitude and patriotism; by long years of devotion to the task of breaking the scepter of tyranny; by genius burning as the light, and goodness purifying itself as years marched past,--by these attributes has William the Silent, Prince of Orange, earned a right to stand erect among the world's immortals.


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