Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Demons of Dort

To the city of Dordrecht (Dort) the children of “Lord Calvin” came. Once summoned from the world, the frenzied horde amassed and built an altar and inscribed upon it the “Doctrines of Grace.” And after many days “they leaped upon the altar which was made” and searched for a sacrifice to christen it, to christen it in blood. They found the Advocate of Holland, an Advocate of the innocent….

It was a bright morning in May [in the beautiful village capital… commonly called the Hague]. The white swans were sailing tranquilly to and fro over the silver basin, and the mavis, blackbird, and nightingale, which haunted the groves surrounding the castle and the town, were singing as if the daybreak were ushering in a summer festival….

But it was not to a merry-making that the soldiers were marching and the citizens thronging so eagerly from every street and alley towards the castle….

In front of the lower window, with its Gothic archway hastily converted into a door, a shapeless platform of rough, unhewn planks had that night been rudely patched together. This was the scaffold [and upon it]…. a squalid, unclean box of unplaned boards, originally prepared as a coffin….

Upon this coffin now sat two common soldiers of ruffianly aspect playing at dice, betting whether the Lord or the Devil would get the soul of Barneveld [Oldenbarneveld]. Many a foul and ribald jest at the expense of the prisoner was exchanged between these gamblers, some of their comrades, and a few townsmen, who were grouped about at that early hour. The horrible libels, caricatures, and calumnies which had been circulated, exhibited, and sung in all the streets for so many months had at last thoroughly poisoned the minds of the vulgar against the fallen statesman [who] … walked out upon the scaffold and calmly surveyed the scene. Lifting his eyes to Heaven, he was heard to murmur, "O God! what does man come to!" Then he said bitterly once more: "This, then, is the reward of forty years'
service to the State!"

La Motte, who attended him, said fervently: "It is no longer time to think of this. Let us prepare your coming before God."

… The old man knelt at once on the bare planks. His servant, who waited upon him as calmly and composedly as if he had been serving him at dinner, held him by the arm. It was remarked that neither master nor man, true stoics and Hollanders both, shed a single tear upon the scaffold. La Motte prayed for a quarter of an hour, the Advocate remaining on his knees….

The statesman then came forward and said in a loud, firm voice to the people:

"Men, do not believe that I am a traitor to the country. I have ever acted uprightly and loyally as a good patriot, and as such I shall die."

The crowd was perfectly silent.

He then took his cap from John Franken, drew it over his eyes, and went forward towards the sand, saying:

"Christ shall be my guide. O Lord, my heavenly Father, receive my spirit."…

… He knelt accordingly with his face towards his own house. The servant took farewell of him, and Barneveld said to the executioner:

"Be quick about it. Be quick."

The executioner then struck his head off at a single blow.

Many persons from the crowd now sprang, in spite of all opposition, upon the scaffold and dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood, cut wet splinters from the boards, or grubbed up the sand that was steeped in it; driving many bargains afterwards for these relics to be treasured, with various feelings of sorrow, joy, glutted or expiated vengeance….

John Lothrop Motley, D.C.L., LL.D., The Life and Death of John of Barneveld: Advocate of Holland, (1874), Chapter XX1, pp.384-88.

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