Johan van Oldenbarneveldt

Oldenbarneveldt, Johan van (yōhänˈ vän ôlˌdənbärˈnəvĕlt) [key], 1547–1619, Dutch statesman. He aided William the Silent in the struggle for Dutch independence from Spain and opposed the dictatorial policy set by Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, chosen by the States-General as governor-general in 1586. After Leicester's departure (1587) he helped to concentrate military power in the hands of Maurice of Nassau. Made permanent advocate of Holland in 1586, Oldenbarneveldt controlled the civil affairs of the United Provinces (in which Holland was prominent). He represented the patrician manufacturing and commercial oligarchies that ruled the states of Holland; and during his administration Dutch commerce expanded spectacularly, and the Dutch East India Company was founded. He negotiated (1609) a 12-year truce with Spain, despite the objections of Maurice of Nassau, and thus secured virtual recognition of Dutch independence. As leader of the party favoring control of state affairs by the States-General, Oldenbarneveldt was increasingly opposed by the house of Orange. This conflict was aggravated by the fierce struggle of the Remonstrants and the strict Calvinists; in this quarrel, Oldenbarneveldt and Maurice of Nassau found themselves in opposing camps. In 1618, Maurice, determined to crush the Remonstrants, convoked the Synod of Dort, which condemned their doctrine. Oldenbarneveldt was arrested and, after a highly irregular trial for treason, was sentenced to death. His execution was a judicial murder brought about by his personal enemies; no incriminating evidence has ever been found against Oldenbarneveldt, who was one of the ablest and most patriotic statesmen in the history of the Dutch.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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