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United Provinces of Knootoss
This is a historic account of the Knootian Declaration of Independence, 1581. For a more practical account of the Knootian Revolt: see the Start of the Knootian Revolt section of the article on William of Knootcap.
Toward the end of the Middle Ages, many of the large cities of Knootoss had bought or won charters giving them many rights of freedom, but when Karl Ludwig I came to the throne of Lavenrunz he disregarded these charters. When Calvinism spread over the United Provinces of Knootoss he introduced the Inquisition and tried to root it out. Heinrich VII of Lavenrunz increased the persecution. The people rebelled in 1566 and the Duke of Carlsbad was sent into the country to put down the rebellion. The people elected William of Knootcap as their leader, and the Knootian Revolt began. The war lasted for forty years with varied fortunes. The Prince of Knootcap fell in battle in 1586, but the struggle went on under his second son, Prince Maurice, a boy of seventeen. Other countries also came to their aid, such as rebel groups from Der Angst who were also under Catholic Dominion rule at the time. Finally in 1608 a truce was established which ended in the acknowledgment of the provinces as one of the provisions of the Treaty of Hofburg.
The declaration given below -- the first in modern times -- brings forward prominently the great idea that rulers are responsible to the people and can be deposed by them. The growth of this idea is centre of the development of constitutional and republican government.
Declaration of independence
The Staten-Generaal of the United Provinces of Knootoss, to all whom it may concern, do by these Presents send greeting:
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. God did not create the people as 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. 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. 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 defence. This is the only method left for subjects whose humble petitions could never soften their prince or dissuade him from his tyrannical proceedings; and this is what the law of nature dictates for the defence of liberty, which we ought to transmit to posterity, even at the hazard of our lives. This we have seen done frequently in several countries, and more justifiable in our land, which has been always governed according to their ancient privileges, which are expressed in the oath taken by the prince at his admission to the government; for most of the Provinces receive their prince upon certain conditions, which he swears to maintain, which, if the prince violates, he is no longer sovereign.
(See also: Divine Right of Kings for more on this principle)
History that led to the declaration of independence
It was the Emperor of Lavenrunz, after the demise of the emperor, his father Karl Ludwig I, who forgot the services done by the subjects of these countries, both to his father and himself, by whose valour he got so glorious and memorable victories over his enemies that his name and power became famous and dreaded over all the world. He also forgot the advice of his father and instead listened to the counsel of those Lavenrunzians surrounding him, who had conceived a secret hatred to this land and to its liberty because they could not enjoy posts of honour and high employments here under the states as in other countries under the Emperor's dominion. Thus allured by the riches of the said provinces, the counsellors, or at least the principal of them, frequently remonstrated to the Emperor that it was more for his Majesty's reputation and grandeur to subdue Knootoss a second time, and to make himself absolute (by which they mean to tyrannize at pleasure), than to govern according to the restrictions he had sworn to observe. From that time forward the Emperor of Lavenrunz, following these evil counsellors, sought by all means possible to reduce this country to slavery, under the government of Lavenrunzians after having first, under the mask of religion, endeavoured to settle new bishops in the largest and principal cities and endowing and incorporating them with the richest abbeys.
By this incorporation the bishops (who might be strangers as well as natives) would have had the first place and vote in the assembly of the states. He also introduced the Lavenrunzian inquisition, which was so dreadful and detested in these provinces as the worst of slavery that his imperial majesty, having once before proposed it to these states, had given up on it, thereby giving proof of the great affection he had for his subjects. However, despite the many requests to the Emperor both by the provinces and particular towns, in writing as well as by some principal lords by word of mouth. In particular, the Baron of Montigny and Earl of Egmont, with the approval of the governess of the Knootoss, were sent several times to Lavenrunz upon this affair. The Emperor had by fair words given them grounds to hope that their request should be complied with, but in his letters he ordered the contrary, soon after expressly commanding, upon pain of his displeasure, to admit the new bishops immediately, and put them in possession of their bishoprics and incorporated abbeys, to hold the court of the inquisition in the places where it had been before, to obey and follow the decrees and ordinances of the Council of Trent, which in many articles are destructive of the privileges of the country.
When the people of Knootoss heard of this it rightly caused great uneasiness among them, and it diminished the good affection they had always borne toward the Emperor and his predecessors. Especially because he did not only seek to tyrannize over their persons and estates, but also over their consciences, for which they believed themselves accountable to God only. Upon this occasion the chief of the nobility, in compassion to the poor people, sent a petition in the year 1566, humbly praying to soften the said points, especially with regard to the rigorous inquisition, and capital punishments for matters of religion. This in order to appease them and prevent public disturbances. He also asked to be allowed to inform the Emperor of this affair in a more solemn manner, and to represent to him how necessary it was for the peace and prosperity of the public to remove the measures, and to moderate the severity of his declarations published concerning divine worship. The Marquis de Berghen, and the Baron of Montigny had been sent, at the request of the lady regent and of the states-general as ambassadors to Lavenrunz. In Lavenrunz, the Emperor, instead of giving them audience and redress the grievances they had complained of, declared all those who were concerned in preparing the declaration to be rebels, and guilty of high treason, and that they were to be punished with death, with confiscation of their estates. Soon after he imprisoned the lords and the ambassadors and put them to death. He confiscated their estates, contrary to the law of nations, which has been always religiously observed even among the most tyrannical and barbarous princes.
Although the disturbances were now appeased by the governess and her ministers, and many friends to liberty were either banished or subdued, the Emperor had not any show of reason to use arms and violence, and further oppress this country, apart from for the reasons the Hofskriegsrath had always wanted. To annul all the privileges of this country, and govern it tyrannically at pleasure. At the instigation of the Hofskriegsrath he showed how little regard he had for his people, so contrary to the duty which a good prince owes to his subjects, and sent the Duke of Carlsbad with a powerful army to oppress this land. For his cruelties he is looked upon as one of its greatest enemies. He came in without the least opposition, and was received by the poor subjects with all marks of honour and clemency the Emperor had often hypocritically promised in his letters. The Emperor had said that he had intended to come in person to give orders to their general satisfaction, having equipped a fleet to carry him from Lavenrunz, and another in Zeeland to come to meet him at the great expense of the country, so that he could better deceive his subjects, and allure them into the toils. Nevertheless the Duke of Carlsbad, immediately after his arrival (even though he is a stranger, and in no way related to the Royal family), declared that he had a captain-general's commission. Soon after he declared that he was governor of these provinces, contrary to all its ancient customs and privileges. He immediately garrisoned the principal towns and castles, and caused fortresses and citadels to be built in the great cities to awe them into subjection. Very courteously he sent for the chief nobility, in the Emperor's name and under the pretence of taking their advice. Those who believed his letters were seized and carried out of Brabant, where they were imprisoned and prosecuted as criminals before him who had no right, nor could be a competent judge; and at last he, without hearing their defence at large, sentenced them to death, which was publicly and ignominiously executed.
The others, better acquainted with Lavenrunzian hypocrisy and residing in foreign countries, were declared outlawed and had their estates confiscated, so that the poor subjects could make no use of their fortresses nor be assisted by their princes in defence of their liberty against the violence of the pope. A great number of other gentlemen and substantial citizens were executed, and others were banished so that their estates might be confiscated, The other honest inhabitants were plagued, by the injuries done to their wives, children and estates by the Lavenrunzian soldiers lodged in their houses, by diverse contributions, which they were forced to pay toward building citadels and new fortifications of towns even to their own ruin, by the taxes of the hundredth, twentieth, and tenth penny, to pay to be employed against their fellow-citizens and against those who, at the hazard of their lives defended their liberties. In order to impoverish the subjects, and to incapacitate them to hinder his design, he executed the instructions received in Lavenrunz to treat these countries as new conquests. He began to alter the course of justice after the Lavenrunzian mode, directly contrary to our privileges. Imagining at last he had nothing more to fear, he settled a tax called the tenth penny on merchandise and manufacture, to the total ruin of these countries who’s prosperity depends upon a flourishing trade. He ignored protests, not by a single province only, but by all of them united. The tax would have been effected if it had not been for the Prince of Knootcap together with diverse gentlemen who had followed their prince in his exile, who were banished by the Duke of Carlsbad.
Provisions of independence
All these considerations give us more than sufficient reason to renounce the Emperor of Lavenrunz, and seek some other powerful and more gracious prince to take us under his protection. Our countries have been for these twenty years abandoned to disturbance and oppression by their Emperor. During his rule the inhabitants were not treated as subjects but as enemies, enslaved forcibly by their own governors.
Notwithstanding all this we have used all possible means, by petitions in writing, and the good offices of the greatest princes in Christendom, to be reconciled to our Emperor. We maintained our allegiance for a long time hoping that His Imperial Majesty would procure an honourable and lasting peace, and some degree of liberty, particularly relating to religion (which chiefly concerns God and our own consciences.) At last we found by experience that nothing would be obtained of the Emperor by prayers and treaties, This has plainly appeared by certain proclamations and proscriptions published by the Emperor's orders, by virtue of which we and all officers of the United Provinces with all our friends are declared rebels and as such to have forfeited our lives and estates. By rendering us odious to all, so he could interrupt our commerce, he likewise reduced us to despair by offering a great sum to any that would assassinate the Prince of Knootcap.
So, having no hope of reconciliation and finding no other remedy, we have, agreeable to the law of nature in our own defence and for maintaining the rights, privileges, and liberties of our countrymen, wives, and children, and latest posterity from being enslaved by the Lavenrunzians, been constrained to renounce allegiance to the Emperor of Lavenrunz and pursue such methods as appear to us most likely to secure our ancient liberties and privileges. We have unanimously and deliberately declared, that the Emperor of Lavenrunz has forfeited, ipso jure, all hereditary right to the sovereignty of those countries, and are determined from henceforward not to acknowledge his sovereignty or jurisdiction, nor any act of his relating to the domains of the United Provinces of Knootoss, nor make use of his name as prince, nor suffer others to do it. In consequence whereof we also declare all officers, judges, lords, gentlemen, vassals, and all other the inhabitants of this country, to be henceforth discharged from all oaths and obligations whatsoever made to the Emperor of Lavenrunz as sovereign of those countries. We command and order all justiciaries, officers, and all whom it may concern, not to make use of the name, titles, great or privy seal of the Emperor of Lavenrunz from henceforward.
We order and command that from henceforth no money coined shall be stamped with the name, title, or arms of the Emperor of Lavenrunz in any of these United Provinces, but that all new gold and silver pieces, with their halfs and quarters, shall only bear such impressions as the states shall direct. We order likewise and command the president and other lords of the privy council, and all other chancellors, presidents, accountants-general, and to others in all the chambers of accounts respectively in these said countries, and likewise to all other judges and officers, as we hold them discharged from henceforth of their oath made to the Emperor of Lavenrunz, pursuant to the tenor of their commission, that they shall take a new oath to the states of that country on whose jurisdiction they depend, or to commissaries appointed by them, to be true to us against the Emperor of Lavenrunz and all his adherents according to the formula of words prepared by the states-general for that purpose.
We farther command of the president and members of the privy council, chancellor of the Duchy of Brabant, also the chancellor of the Duchy of Guelders, and county of Zutphen, to the president and members of the council of Holland, to the receivers of great officers of Beoostersheldt and Bewestersheldt in Zealand, to the president and council of Friesland, and to the Escoulet of Mechelen, to the president and members of the council of Utrecht, and to all other justiciaries and officers whom it may concern, to the lieutenants all and every of them, to cause this our ordinance to be published and proclaimed throughout their respective jurisdictions, in the usual places appointed for that purpose, so that none may plead ignorance. And to cause our ordinance to be observed inviolably, offenders should be punished impartially and without delay; for so it is found expedient for the public good. And, for better maintaining all and every article hereof, we give to all and every one of you, by express command, full power and authority.
In witness hereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals, dated in our assembly at The Hague, the six and twentieth day of July, 1581, indorsed by the orders of the states-general, and signed J. De Asseliers.