chapter  3
17 Pages

The Dutch ‘City Republics’: Guilds, Militias and Civic Politics

WithMAARTEN PRAK

Independence was the byword in the reasoning of the writer. The Eight should be independent and they should belong to the middle class. A regent

had to be wealthy in order to be able to promote the interests of the city independently and also have enough time for its administration. By contrast, the appointment of those who sought offi ces in the ‘big world’ (read: at court) in order to show off should be avoided, because they could so easily succumb to the temptations of corruption. To prevent a misplaced attachment to public offi ce, and to make sure that their honesty could be relied upon, the Eight could only remain in offi ce for a single year. The restoration of Dordrecht’s privileges to their former glory would off er the city Republic an unprecedented future: ‘Know then, that the land of freedom, the never enough praised America, possesses no freedom that can be compared to yours, if your Rights and Privileges are maintained’, thus the citizens of Dordt were told. The only area where American freedoms were superior was the freedom of the press. But then again, when the city charter of Dordrecht was codifi ed, Gutenberg had yet to invent the printing press, so the authors of Dordrecht’s constitution could not be blamed for this oversight. But perhaps their successors had insuffi ciently realised how important it had been to respond adequately to this particular invention.