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A Letter from Limburg

Posted by Simon Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Alsoo een yegelick kennelick is,

It took the Dutch lower chamber three months to wrestle its way through the maze of paperwork of the Lisbon Treaty last year. It gave the Senate just three weeks to do the same. During this time, the Dutch government responded to more than 200 carefully formulated written questions; a curious statistic when they had claimed that they would require at least 6 months to handle the same number of questions about Iraq. As Socialist Party representative Tiny Kox (yes, that is his name) wondered, is it because Iraq is so complex, or because Europe is so simple.

Either way, yesterday, 8th July, the very last day before the Summer Recess and the government begins its paid jaunts to exotic conference venues, the Senate voted 60 - 15 in favour of "voorstel van rijkswet 31.384" - "Goedkeuring Verdrag van Lissabon" and so ratification becomes a fact.

With the recent citation of the admirable American Declaration of Independence, I cannot resist stealing an idea from a colleague over at Klein Verzet and offering the following translation from the beginning of the Dutch Act of Abjuration, the Dutch declaration of independence from Spanish rule in 1581:

"As it is apparent to all that a prince is constituted by God to be ruler of a people, to defend them from oppression and violence as the shepherd his sheep; and whereas God did not create the people slaves to their prince, to obey his commands, whether right or wrong, but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects (without which he could be no prince), to govern them according to equity, to love and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock, and even at the hazard of life to defend and preserve them. And when he does not behave thus, but, on the contrary, oppresses them, seeking opportunities to infringe their ancient customs and privileges, exacting from them slavish compliance, then he is no longer a prince, but a tyrant, and the subjects are to consider him in no other view. And particularly when this is done deliberately, unauthorized by the states, they may not only disallow his authority, but legally proceed to the choice of another prince for their defense. This is the only method left for subjects whose humble petitions and remonstrances could never soften their prince or dissuade him from his tyrannical proceedings; and this is what the law of nature dictates for the defense of liberty, which we ought to transmit to posterity, even at the hazard of our lives."

Act of Abjuration, 26 July 1581.
Translation, copyright University of Groningen.

Photo: First page of the "Plakkaat van Verlatinghe" ("Oath of Abjuration" in English). Source: Dutch national archive (http://www.nationaalarchief.nl). Date 26 July 1581, reproduced with permission.
Copyright 2001 - 2007, Nationaal Archief.