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

The new Spanish Regent was Don Louis Requesens y Zuniga


towns, however, held out. Don Frederick, the son of Alva and the butcher of Haarlem, was beaten back from the little town of Alkmaar. The _Sea-Beggars_ met the Spanish fleet sent to crush them, sank or scattered the ships, and took the Admiral prisoner. The nation of fishermen and shopkeepers, once the scorn of Spain and of Europe for their patient endurance of indignities, were seen at last to be a race of heroes, determined never again to endure the yoke of the Spaniard. Alva had soon to face a soldiery mutinous for want of pay, and to see all his sea approaches in the hands of Dutch sailors, whom the strongest fleets of Spain could not subdue. The iron pitiless man at last acknowledged that he was beaten, and demanded his recall. He left Brussels on Dec. 18th, 1573, and did not again see the land he had deluged with blood during a space of six years. Like all tyrants, he had great faith in his system, even when it had broken in his hand. Had he been a little more severe, added a few more drops to the sea of blood he had spilled, all would have gone well. The only advice he could give to his successor was, to burn down every town he could not garrison with Spanish troops.

The new Spanish Regent was Don Louis Requesens-y-Zuniga, a member of the higher nobility of Spain, and a Grand Commander of the Knights of Malta. He was high-minded, and of a generous disposition. Had he been sent to the Netherlands ten years sooner, and allowed to act with

a free hand, the history of the Netherlands might have been different. His earlier efforts at government were marked by attempts to negotiate, and he was at pains to give Philip his reasons for his conduct.

"Before my arrival," he wrote, "I could not comprehend how the rebels contrived to maintain fleets so considerable, while your Majesty could not maintain one. Now I see that men who are fighting for their lives, their families, their property, and their false religion, in short, for their own cause, are content if they receive only rations without pay."

He immediately reversed the policy of Alva: he repealed the hated taxes; dissolved the Council of Blood, and published a general amnesty. But he could not come to terms with the "rebels." William of Orange refused all negotiation which was not based on three preliminary conditions--freedom of conscience, and liberty to preach the Gospel according to the Word of God; the restoration of all the ancient charters; and the withdrawal of all Spaniards from all posts military and civil. He would accept no truce nor amnesty without these. "We have heard too often," he said, "the words _Agreed_ and _Eternal_. If I have your word for it, who will guarantee that the King will not deny it, and be absolved for his breach of faith by the Pope?" Requesens, hating the necessity, had to carry on the struggle which the policy of his King and of the Regents who preceded him had provoked.

The fortune of war seemed to be unchanged. The patriots were always victorious at sea and tenacious in desperate defence of their fortified towns when they were besieged, but they went down before the veteran Spanish infantry in almost every battle fought on land. In the beginning of 1574 two fortresses were invested. The patriots were besieging Middleburg, and the Spaniards had invested Leyden. The _Sea-Beggars_ routed the Spanish fleet in

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