Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Second Dutch War

Throughout the early 1660s relations with Holland steadily declined. The fundamental causes of the war were economic, but the war also sprang from Cavalier Anglican dislike of the Calvinist republic. While Charles II admired France, he snobbishly viewed the Dutch as a society of low-born merchants. He also wanted to promote the interests of his nephew William, Prince of Orange, against the States-General.

The war can be seen as inevitable:
(a) The expansion of overseas trade in the second half of the 17th century automatically intensified competition for the carrying trade to and from West Africa, the West Indies, North America, and the East Indies. The Dutch carried the products of other nations more efficiently and cheaply than anyone else.

(b) In 1660 the Convention Parliament had produced a Navigation Act, along the lines of Cromwell’s in 1651. It listed certain commodities that could only be imported in English ships and targeted the bulk cargoes that were the preserve of the Dutch carrying trade. Furthermore, all imports from the developing colonies in West Africa, Asia and the West Indies had to be conveyed in English ships. In 1663 the Staple Act required the colonists to import European goods only from England and only in English ships. The Navigation Acts were in accordance with the mercantilist philosophy of the age, and undoubtedly gave England a commercial advantage.

(c) The East India Company was clamouring for war against the Dutch, whom it saw as its main rivals in the East Indies. (The Dutch East India Company had been set up in 1602.)

(d) The English were laying claim to Dutch North American territories. In March 1664 Charles granted New Amsterdam at the mouth of the Hudson river to his brother James, duke of York.

(e) Possibly the deciding factor was the prospect of huge profits from the capture of Dutch merchant ships.

War began unofficially in the summer of 1664 with a series of conflicts between Dutch and English traders. In the summer of 1664 Charles borrowed £200,000 from the City of London, and by February 1667 Parliament had provided more than £5m for the war. The only person with grave misgivings about the war was Clarendon, who did not believe the nation could afford it.
War was officially declared on 22 February 1665. At first the war seemed to go well, with a naval victory off Lowestoft on 3 June 1665, a victory which enabled the king to regain the popularity he had lost since the Restoration. But this victory was not followed up. Early in 1666 France and Denmark joined the war against England. 1-4 June 1666 Prince Rupert and the duke of Albermarle fought the Four Days’ Battle in the Channel. Two English admirals were killed, as well as 8,000 men, and twenty ships were destroyed.