Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 19, 1625-1626. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1913.
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Comunale di Treviso. MS. 996. Busta 4.
|Some extracts from a Relation of the Netherlands by ALVISE CONTARINI. (fn. 1)|
|In the East Indies the States possess their dominions, not through the disunion of others, but by their own strength. They have driven out the Portuguese, reduced the Chinese rulers and even treated the English badly, since self-interest knows neither friendship nor reason. They have twenty fortresses in the various islands, garrisoned by some 600 infantry. Amboyna entirely belongs to them. Batavia is defended by fifty guns. They usually keep sixty ships for offence and attack. The original masters, the Portuguese, now only have scant forces. The English have neither fortresses nor islands but only four factories belonging to their Company, and as a rule they do not sail beyond Surat and the Persian Sea. Thus if these two nations want mace or nutmeg, which mostly come from the island of Mindanao, they must get them either from the Dutch or from the Indians, who trade under their protection.|
|The Dutch neglect no means to uphold and increase their shipping. Their aim is to secure the command of the sea everywhere, and especially in the Levant. They devote themselves to building ships, with a view to speed and especial attention to the excellence of their tackle, upon which they spare no expense. They are equally careful in the choice of skilful sailors, there being few who have not at least sailed round all the coasts of Europe. Skill renders them brave, resolute and capable of bearing hardship. This hits the English, Hamburgers and others hard, because insurance on Dutch vessels is two or three per cent. less than on those of other nations. The pirates of Tunis and Algiers constituted some impediment to their design, but they remedied this by treaties, force and prudence.|
|Of the infantry forces of the States the English, when they are inured to war, prove brave, but at the outset they cannot support hardship. New levies lose at least two-thirds during the first four months, and even more, according to their treatment. They observe perfect order in attack, as there is no nation that fears death less. Meat and tobacco are their tyrants. Where these are wanting they also come short in health and courage, but those who resist the appetite can endure much more and keep strong. The Scots and Irish have the same way of living, but they are more robust and so resist better at the outset. There are ordinarily five regiments of these nations in the service of the States, two commanded by Sir Horace Veer, an old soldier of countless campaigns, very highly esteemed. He excused his past failures in the Palatinate by the orders he had from King James, his master. Cecil is another colonel, praised for his vigilance, but he did not prove it by his conduct of the Cadiz affair. Morgan is a most brave officer, who established his fame at the defence of Breda. He is a man of action rather than speculation; he has passed through all the grades, and the soldiers love him for this and for his familiarity towards them. Four other English regiments came in time, but as they were extraordinary, I will not add to what I wrote at the time. Bruce and Imberson are the Scottish colonels, (fn. 2) of whom I have nothing to add.|
|When the companies take the field they intimate to all the nations the filling up of all their companies. The French and English permit this without demanding any further permission from their sovereigns, an important point for the republic, as it means less trouble and more profit, since they avoid the expense of the officers.|
|Their cavalry is the finest to be seen. All the horses come from Friesland, where nature has specially favoured those destined for war. The Germans have no equals in riding them. There are some companies of English and Scots, but the delights of drinking and tobacco do not agree with horsemen and so they are better on foot or at sea.|
|With the King of England the States enjoy apparently good relations, owing to the similarity in religion and policy expressed by King Charles when he mounted the throne. Out of this came the offensive and defensive alliance, with the object of keeping up a perpetual blockade on the coasts of Spain and making sure of capturing the fleet. This was to be carried out by eighty ships, to be kept up by a reinforcement of twenty every three months to replace those most out of repair. Thus the fleet could not escape, as it did when they waited at le Terzere. Maurice always believed that the Spaniards could be hurt most by stopping their fleets. In this league with England they undertook three parts of the cost, which was beyond their strength. It all ended unprofitably with the failure at Cadiz, and so the Dutch learned, what every prince must consider invariable, that without his Parliament the King of England is not formidable either in his own kingdom or abroad. The Dutch and English formerly traded together at Amboyna in the East; but interest, which admits no partners, induced the Dutch, as the stronger, to drive out the English, putting many of them to death upon various charges. The English claim heavy compensation against the Dutch leaders, who are in possession and are trying to gain the advantage of time. This event may occasion trouble with the jealousy between the two nations, who make great claims at sea; but both are moving warily, because of the great good and ill which they can do to each other. The Dutch have troops from England and the convenience of the ports, without which the ships for the East could not make the voyage. On the way out they stop there to prepare for a voyage of many months, and on the way back they put in to recover from the hardships of the voyage. They very often arrive with very few sailors and munitions and to await the men-of-war to convoy them. At Delft the English have a large mart for cloth, with mutual advantage. Quarrels are always arising about the herring fisheries off the English coast, the one side claiming lordship over that sea, the other the right to fish there. In short there is a mixture of interests giving rise to perpetual jealousies, but forbidding a rupture to come about easily. An England hostile to the Spaniards is a great advantage to the Dutch, and very inconvenient to the Spaniards, who have no safe port except Dunkirk, and very often either perish or do not come out, and if they come out they expose themselves to the sea and to fighting.|
|The Princes Palatine live at the Hague, where the States provided them with a house after the battle of Prague and the loss of their dominions and prerogatives. The Palatine is slightly over forty, with little if any spirit, his excessive goodness and sincerity being a fault in him. His wife is nearly the same age, with ten children, who are heirs to nothing but misery. The King of England has assigned pensions to some, others are provided for by the States, with some assignment. The rest will have to pass their lives in service. The children live at Leyden for the convenience of their studies. The Princes Palatine maintain a moderate appearance, the King of England assisting them with 20,000 francs a month, though it is ill paid. The Palatine may have 200,000 francs in addition, the sole deplorable residue of his patrimony. His wife has an abundance of the most beautiful jewels, saved after the disaster at Prague, taken from the stores of Bohemia. For constancy under her misfortunes this princess has no equal. She captivates all who have dealings with her. The question of their reinstatement is very involved, England having allowed herself to be deluded, while the Empire, Spain and Bavaria are interested.|