Simon Van Slingelandt

His life, character and position
  • A. Goslinga


The town of Dordt has deserved well of its country, for in it two men of signal greatness were born, John de Witt and Simon van Slingelandt. Both of them were Grand Pensionaries of Holland. They are classed together because they are fellow townsmen and for another reason: the rise of the Slingelandts to the highest positions in the state is closely connected with the administration of John de Witt. In an early period the activities of the Slingelandt family were confined to the town of Dordt, where for at least three centuries they took part, in some degree, in local government. It is known that a Jan van Slingelandt became councillor in 1385, alderman in the next year and afterwards burgomaster. He is said to have derived his name from his maternal grandfather, the knight Herbaren van Arkel who held the manor of Slingelandt near Gorkum, 1) and therefore he would seem to have been the first to bear his name in Dordt. After him there were several members of his family who from time to time had a share in the government of their birthplace, 2) but this seems to have been the limit of their power until the days of John de Witt. He it was who changed such condition.


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  1. 1).
    Navorscher XIII. 379. A “dominus Otto de Slinghelandt” is mentioned in the time of Count Floris V. Cf. Van den Bergh, Oorkondenboek II. N°. 331. This may be the first mention of the name.Google Scholar
  2. 2).
    Cf. J. L. van Dalen, Inventaris van het Archief der gemeente Dordrecht, 76, 122.Google Scholar
  3. 1).
    In 1660 Ruysch, greffier to the States General, was very ill. According to Van Haren, De Witt intended to help Slingelandt to obtain the post in case it fell vacant. Leven en Werken, 416 (ed. Van Vloten).Google Scholar
  4. 2).
    Scheltema, Staatkundig Nederland, I. 69.Google Scholar
  5. 3).
    Van Haren, op. cit. 416, 417.Google Scholar
  6. 1).
    Ibid: 417.Google Scholar
  7. 2).
    Blok, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche volk, V. 405 and quotation.Google Scholar
  8. 3).
    John Drummond to the Earl of Oxford, 18 Aug. 1713. Hist. Mss. Com. Rep. Portland Mss. V. 319.Google Scholar
  9. 1).
    John Drummond to the Earl of Oxford, 18 Aug. 1713. Hist. Mss. Com. Rep. Portland Mss. V. 319.Google Scholar
  10. 2).
    Elias, De Vroedschap van Amsterdam, I. 393.Google Scholar
  11. 3).
    Siegenbeek, Lofrede 34–6; Collot d’Escury, Hollands Roem II, 410, 599; IV2, 451–2.Google Scholar
  12. 4).
    George Murray in his Letters and Dispatches of John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough, from 1702–1712 (5 vols. 1845) has published several letters from Marlborough to Slingelandt, the first of which is dated 8th May 1703. Unpublished letters from the Duke to him during the years 1702, 1703, 1704, 1705, 1706, 1707, 1710 and 1711 are to be found in R. A., Raad van State 1898. The same bundle contains letters from Slingelandt to the Duke in the years 1706 and ‘07. Others from Slingelandt to the Duke during the years 1705, ‘07, ‘08, ‘09 and ‘15 are still to be found among the Marlborough papers, cf Hist. Mss. Comm. Report VIII Part 1, pp. 31, 32, 36, 37, 40. The letters mentioned on p. 31 of the year 1689 and ‘90 are probably from Slingelandt’s father. It may perhaps be helpful to add to these remarks others which we have gathered with reference to Slingelandt’s correspondence prior to his entering upon the office of Grand Pensionary. Of this only a single letter of his to Townshend has been published (Coxe, R. W. II, 157) The oldest which we have found from his pen is one written to William Blathwayt, Secretary for War 1691–1705, and is dated January 24th 1702 (B. M. Add. 21552 f. 32). Letters from Athlone to him during 1702, in the above mentioned bundle Raad van State 1898, R. A. Letters from Halifax (1706, ’07, ’08 and ’14), Cardonnel, Marlborough’s Secretary, (1711), Albemarle (1712) and from Townshend to him (1714–’17) in R. A. Hl. 2996; this bundle also contains letters of his to Halifax(1706) and to Townshend (1714— ‘17). Other letters from Slingelandt to Townshend, together a dozen, of the years 1722–’27 are to be found R. O. Hl. 280 and 297. The corresponding letters from Townshend to him are contained in the same bundle, there is one letter from Townshend (1726) in R. A. Hl. 2994. Since 1697, Slingelandt kept up a correspondence with the Frisian Statesman Goslinga. This correspondence has been drawn upon by Slothouwer in his life of Goslinga. On page 2 of this work he gives his references for this. A part of this correspondence, letters from Goslinga to Slingelandt bearing dates in 1714, ’15, ’16, ’18 and ‘26 as well as letters from Slingelandt to Goslinga of 1716 and ’18, will be found in R. A. Hl. 2996. Unfortunately the letters which Slingelandt received from Goslinga were for the greatest part burnt by the former, cf Slingelandt to Goslinga, May 7th 1724, F. G. It is not improbable that sooner or later other correspondence of Slingelandt’s will be discovered. Tydeman, editor of Bilderdijk’s Geschiedenis des Vaderlands tells in this work (vol. XI, 214) that he had bought two volumes full of documents dealing with the period 1705–1712, among which there were a great number of original and autograph letters belonging to Heinsius, Slingelandt and other statesman of that period. On Tydeman’s death these volumes were bought by the Dutch Government for the R. A. but have since been lost. Some “very important” correspondence between Slingelandt and Visscher has been referred to in Verhandeling over den geest van het plakkaat van 31 Juli 1725 (Amsterdam 1816) p. 17 about a new scale of import and export duties. Unfortunately the author forgot to tell us where this correspondence was to be found.Google Scholar
  13. 1).
    See the preceding note.Google Scholar
  14. 2).
    John Drummond to Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, 1 Oct. (n. s.) 1712; 9 Dec. (n. s.) 1710; 18 August. (n. s.) 1713. Hist. Mss. Com. Rep. Portland Mss. V. 226, IV. 637, V. 318.Google Scholar
  15. 1).
    A. E. Mem. et Doc. Hl. 60. fol. 22. 13 Nov. 1713.Google Scholar
  16. 2).
    cf. for instance Lamberty, Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du dix-huitième siècle, VII, 158: “Heinsius, Slingelandt et Fagel étaient trois des plus sages et des plus solides piliers de la République.”Google Scholar
  17. 1).
    Slingelandt, Staatkundige Geschrtften, II. 14.Google Scholar
  18. 2).
    Seer. Res. Hl. VII. 835–6.Google Scholar
  19. 2).
    Slingelandt, op. cit. I. p. VI. This work, published about half a century after the author’s death (2 volumes. Amsterdam, 1784) contains many political writings of varied character. Some other writings of Slingelandt are still unpublished (cf. catalogue of the Slingelandt Collection at the Rijks-Archief at the Hague).Google Scholar
  20. 1).
    This passage, pp. 6 to 12, as to the defects in the constitution and the extraordinary assembly is founded on Slingelandt’s political writings mentioned above.Google Scholar
  21. 2).
    Van Wijn, Nalezingen, II. 351–2.Google Scholar
  22. 3).
    Slingelandt to Goslinga. 14 Sep. 1726. F. G. Goslinga had written that his intended marriage with his servant would lose him all his reputation. Slingelandt answered as follows : “Au reste mes peines et mon travail pour le bien de la patrie et les avis que j’ai pris la liberté de donner à ceux qui sont dans les postes à s’en servir ont été si inutiles et les derniers ressemblent si fort aux oracles de Cassandre que certainement la perte sera très médiocre, s’il était demontré que je me rends inutile au public.”Google Scholar
  23. 1).
    R. O. Hl. 274. Whitworth to Sunderland, 19 August 1720. An instance of very bad treatment is in Slothouwer, Sicco van Goslinga, 117–8.Google Scholar
  24. 2).
    Archives de la Maison d’Orange, Ser. III, II. 505. Heinsius to William III. 10 Nov. 1699.Google Scholar
  25. 3).
    At least since 1713. Hist Mss. Com. Rep. Portland Mss. V. 316. Matthew Decker to Oxford, 18 Aug. 1713.Google Scholar
  26. 4).
    Slothouwer, op. cit. 118–9. Townshend’s stay at the Hague was in 1723. Baron Spörker had meanwhile been appointed envoy extra-ordinary at the Hague to George I. as elector of Hanover.Google Scholar
  27. 1).
    Slingelandt to Townshend. 14 Nov. 1725. R. O. Hl. 280.Google Scholar
  28. 2).
    Slingelandt to Goslinga. 10 Sep. 1726. F. G. Neither this letter nor the other on this subject is ridiculous as Slothouwer (op. cit. 119–20) would have us believe, but the way he interprets them is ridiculous. There is no question of any amorousness of Slingelandt.Google Scholar
  29. 3).
    Historische Bladen. (Popular ed.) II, 54.Google Scholar
  30. 1).
    Even Bilderdijk, who had not a good word for him only because he believed him opposed to the revival of the stadtholdership (Geschiedenis des Vaderlands, XI. 78, 232).Google Scholar
  31. 2).
    Goslinga to Vegelin van Claerbergen. 7 June, 1725. F. G. The part of this letter which regards Slingelandt is too remarkable not to quote. “Je vois que mes craintes d’une rechute de notre digne ami n’ont été que trop bien fondées; il y contribue, moralement parlant, en lachant trop la bride à ces humeurs acres, qui animent son naturel sévère et trop peu charitable; au reste le premier homme de la République, je doute même qu’elle en ait jamais produit avec tant de rares talents à la fois. Son malheureux penchant pour la continuation d’une guerre, qu’il voyait devoir ruiner la Rep. est l’unique crime qu’on peut lui imputer, je dis crime car il ne peut avoir (éclairé et au fait des finances comme il l’étoit) pesché par ignorance; je ne puis pas me guérir du soupçon (soit dit, mon cher, entre nous) que l’ambition et les grands gains que lui produisoit la guerre n’y ayent influé, avec ces principes contre la France, que trois guerres avoient inspirés à tous les vieux regents.”Google Scholar
  32. 3).
    A. E. Hl. 366. Mémoire sur le choix d’un pensionaire en Hollande. 14 Dec. 1724. The last words are as follows: “D’ailleurs c’est un ministre qui ne laisse rien du coté des talents superieurs, des connaissances acquises, d’une trempe d’esprit forte et nerveuse et sur la manière de traiter les affaires.”Google Scholar
  33. 1).
    Letters (ed. Bradshaw) II. 622 note.Google Scholar
  34. 2).
    In a conversation with Finch. Finch to Harrington, 2 Oct. 1733, R. O. Hl. 324.Google Scholar
  35. 3).
    Siegenbeek, Lofrede, 94–105.Google Scholar
  36. 4).
    Verhandeling over den geest van het plakkaat van 31 Juli 1725 (Amsterdam, 1816) 15–29.Google Scholar
  37. 1).
    French philosopher and historian (1588–1672), teacher of Louis XIV.Google Scholar
  38. 2).
    Slingelandt to Goslinga. 7 May 1724. F. G.Google Scholar
  39. 3).
    Slingelandt to Goslinga. N°. 50; 10 and 14 Sep. 1726. F. G.; address on entering into office, Slingelandt Collection. 142. R. A.Google Scholar
  40. 1).
    A. E. Hl. 366. Mémoire sur le choix d’un pensionaire. Dec. 1731. Haack, director to the admiralty of Enkhuizen, is here said to have injured himself considerably by marrying his servant, and the same is asserted of Slingelandt but “il n’est pas donné à tout le monde de se mettre au dessus de certains reproches.”Google Scholar
  41. 2).
    Goslinga to Vegelin van Claerbergen. 7 June, 1725. F. G. cf. note on p. 15.Google Scholar
  42. 3).
    According to Bentinck his income during the war reached 40,000, even 70,000 guilders. Cf. for his wealth Elias, De Vroedschap van Amsterdam, I. 393; and Slothouwer, op. cit. 121Google Scholar
  43. 4).
    A. E. Hl. 366. Mémoire 14 Dec. 1726. Cf. Bilderdijk, Geschiedenis, XI. 78.Google Scholar
  44. 1).
    Letters (ed. Bradshaw) II. 621 note. Cf. the testimonies at his death: “the Grand Pensionary is much lamented, for he was esteemed to be a gentleman of great probity”, Sir Redmond Everard to Hamilton. 4 Dec. 1736; “the Grand Pensionary is extremely lamented; he was allowed to be a gentleman of great abilities and great integrity”, Hamilton to Ormond. 3 Dec. 1736. Hist. Mss. Com. Rep. X. (1). 466.Google Scholar
  45. 2).
    Vreede, Voorouderlijke Wijsheid, 13.Google Scholar
  46. 3).
    Chesterfield to Townshend. 18 May 1728. R. O. Hl. 300.Google Scholar
  47. 1).
    Jorissen, Lord Chesterfield en de Republiek der Vereenigde Nederlanden, Historische Studiën (2nd, popular ed.) V, 59.Google Scholar
  48. 2).
    De Bosch Kemper, Staatkundige Geschiedenis van Nederland tot 1830, 190.Google Scholar
  49. 3).
    A contemporary describes him as follows : “welcher von der mehristen Resolution und eines sehr geschwinden Begriffs ist.”A. Rosenlehner, Kurfürst Karl Philipp von der Pfalz und die julichsche Frage, 1725–9. (Munich 1906) 224.Google Scholar
  50. 4).
    Fénelon, Mémoire Instructif pour M. De La Baune (25 March 1728) edited by Bus-semaker (Bijdragen en Mededeelingen van het Historisch Genootschap XXX, 96–197) 165 ; note of Bentinck on Slingelandt in Bilderdijk, op. cit. XI, 233.Google Scholar
  51. 5).
    Trevor to Horace Walpole. 1 Dec. 1736. R. O. Hl. 360.Google Scholar
  52. 6).
    He was reputed to be fond of his own productions, so that once when Horace Wal-pole got him to lay down his pen and acquiesce in another’s words Trevor spoke’of “clav-am extorquere Herculi.”Google Scholar
  53. 1).
    It is particularly Horace Walpole who complains strongly of Slingelandt’s temper. Once after receiving a peevish letter from him he wrote to his secretary Trevor : “It is a great pity the Pensionary, who is otherwise so great a man, will on any occasion that does not please him fret himself so much.” In another letter to Trevor he contrasted, as he also did elsewhere, Slingelandt’s temper with the.gentle disposition of Fagel : “The Greffier is so mild in his temper that he dreads the effect of the least step taken in their distracted government that is not agreeable to you all : the Pensionary is so rough that he cannot give his real or imaginary reasons, upon a point where he is particularly to act the minister, with common decency. What a pity that such a Billingsgate tongue and temper should belong to such an excellent understanding.” (Coxe, H. W. 176 note.) This is strongly said, but we must bear in mind that the speaker is Horace Walpole, of whom in his turn Slingelandt says, “no visits of any ambassador are so prolix, and consequently to a man who is in pain, so tedious as his” (Slingelandt to H. Hop. 27 Aug. 1735.) In his correspondence with Queen Caroline, Horace Walpole also complained, but in this great woman’s answers a different note is struck: “I entreat you to propose to the Pensionary my ptisan as a remedy for the gout with which he is so grievously afflicted. I cannot but interest myself for the life and health of a person of his merit” .... “I pity the poor Pensionary more because his disorder gives him lowness of spirits as well as bodily pain. In short it is necessary to take men as God has made them, and overlook their frailties as we hope God will overlook ours.” Coxe, op cit. 194.*Google Scholar
  54. 2).
    Van Haren, op. cit. 416; Notes of Bentinck (MS. Univ. Library, Leyden) i. v. Go-vert van Slingelandt.Google Scholar
  55. 3).
    to Goslinga. 23 Jan. 1722. F. G.Google Scholar
  56. 4).
    to Vegelin van Claerbergen. 7 June 1725. F. G. cf. p. 15 note.Google Scholar
  57. 5).
    Fagel to Goslinga, passim. F. G.Google Scholar
  58. 1).
    Letters (ed. Bradshaw) II. 621 note Cf. Jorissen, op. cit. 137–40.Google Scholar
  59. 2).
    This description of Slingelandt is principally drawn from Fénelon, Mémoire instructif, 165–7, from Bentinck’s Notes, the annotations to Van Haren’s Geuzen and the Mémoires de Monsieur de B. (Bijdragen en Mededeelingen van het Historisch Genootschap XIX. 119–20.)Google Scholar
  60. 1).
    For instance Slingelandt wrote to Goslinga that he expected him not to reprove his conduct without knowing its motives, because a minister of the Republic “n’est rien moins que maître des déliberations, mais l’exécuteur des sentiments d’autres.” 22 July 1727. F. G.Google Scholar
  61. 1).
    Fénelon, Mémoire Instructif, 168.Google Scholar
  62. 2).
    Mémoires de Monsieur de B. (loc. cit.) 118–9.Google Scholar
  63. 3).
    Letters (ed. Bradshaw) II, 622 note.Google Scholar
  64. 1).
    Trevor to Horace Walpole. 30 Sep. 1736. R. O. Hl. 359. 2) Horace Walpole to Harrington. 3 Sep. 1734. R. O. Hl. 331.Google Scholar
  65. 1).
    In a letter dated 1679the English Ambassador, Henry Sidney, has testified to the power of one of the greatest amongst them, Valckenier, in these words “I assure you, the Great Turk hath not more absolute dominion and power over any of his countrymen than he hath at Amsterdam. What he saith is ever done without contradiction; he turns out and puts in who he likes : raises what money he pleases, does whatever he has a mind to, and yet he walks about the streets just like an ordinary shopkeeper.” Diary, vol. 1 p. 66, quoted by Fruin in his “Bijdrage tot de Geschiedenes van het Burgemeesterschap van Amsterdam tijdens de Republiek” (Verspreide Geschriften IV 305 et seq.), from which article we have borrowed these particulars about the peculiar place which Amsterdam occupied among the towns of Holland.Google Scholar
  66. 1).
    Fénelon. Mémoire 14 Dec. 1726. A. E. Hl, 366. a) Fénelon. Mémoire Dec. 1731. ibid:Google Scholar
  67. 3).
    Bentinck’s Notes i. v. Halewijn. Cf. Horace Walpole to Harrington. 20 Aug. 1734-R. O. Hl. 330; 15 Oct. 1734. ibid: 333.Google Scholar
  68. 1).
    23 July 1726. F. G.Google Scholar
  69. 2).
    The particulars as to these personalities are drawn chiefly from Fénelon’s Mémoire Instructif, his Mémoires quoted on p. 28, that of 12 May 1732 (A. E. Hl. 388), and the letter of Louis XIV. to him of 9 Jan. 1727 (ibid: 367).Google Scholar

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  • A. Goslinga

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