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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

Alva quartered the regiment of Lombardy upon them


The

earlier months of 1568 had been spent by the Prince of Orange in military preparations for the relief of his countrymen, and in the spring his army was ready. The campaign was a failure. Hoogstraten was defeated. Louis of Nassau had a temporary success at Heiliger-Lee (May 23rd, 1568), only to be routed at Jemmingen (July 21st, 1568). After William had issued a pathetic but unavailing manifesto to Protestant Europe, a second expedition was sent forth only to meet defeat. The cause of the Netherlands seemed hopeless.

But Alva was beginning to find himself in difficulties. On the news of the repulse of his troops at Heiliger-Lee he had hastily beheaded the Counts Egmont and Hoorn. Instead of striking terror into the hearts of the Netherlanders, the execution roused them to an undying hatred of the Spaniard. He was now troubled by lack of money to pay his troops. He had promised Philip to make gold flow from the Low Countries to Spain; but his rule had destroyed the commerce and manufactures of the country, the source of its wealth. He was almost dependent on subsidies from Spain. Elizabeth of England had been assisting her fellow Protestants in the way she liked best, by seizing Spanish treasure ships; and Alva was reduced to find the money he needed within the Netherlands.

It was then that he proposed to the States General, summoned to meet him (March 20th, 1569), his notorious scheme of taxation, which finally

ruined him--a tax of one per cent. (the "hundredth penny") to be levied once for all on all property; a tax of five per cent. (the "twentieth penny") to be levied at every sale or transfer of landed property: and a tax of ten per cent. (the "tenth penny") on all articles of commerce each time they were sold. This scheme of taxation would have completely ruined a commercial and manufacturing country. It met with universal resistance. Provinces, towns, magistrates, guilds, the bishops and the clergy--everyone protested against the taxation. Even Philip's Council at Madrid saw the impossibility of exacting such taxes from a country. Alva swore that he would have his own way. The town and district of Utrecht had been the first to protest. Alva quartered the regiment of Lombardy upon them; but not even the licence and brutality of the soldiers could force the wretched people to pay. Alva proclaimed the whole of the inhabitants to be guilty of high treason; he took from them all their charters and privileges; he declared their whole property confiscated to the King. But these were the acts of a furious madman, and were unavailing. He then postponed the collection of the hundredth and of the tenth pennies; but the need of money forced him on, and he gave definite orders for the collection of the "tenth" and the "twentieth pennies." The trade and manufactures of the country came to a sudden standstill, and Alva at last knew that he was beaten. He had to be satisfied with a payment of two millions of florins for two years.


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