Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité for The Netherlands
The old Republic of the Seven United Provinces of The Netherlands, which had been recognised under international law since 1648 in the Peace of Münster, came to an end in 1795. It was replaced for the short period of time from 1795 to 1806 by the “Batavian Republic” and declared guiding concepts such as popular sovereignty, separation of powers, and the equality of all citizens, which were inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution.
The founding of the Batavian Republic was the endpoint of a development process that had already begun in the last quarter of the 18th century in The Netherlands. Democratic forces based on the ideas of the Enlightenment were in opposition to a tightly ensconced and interdependent merchant aristocracy, which also made up the senior civil service, and to the House of Orange-Nassau -- which had held the hereditary governorship in The Netherlands since 1747 and thus the supreme command over the army and fleet. The freedom-loving Dutch were no longer willing to accept such a concentration of power in the hands of a few. The republican movement of the “Patriots”, active in the 1780s, even wanted to abolish the governorship altogether. Their opponents were the “Orangists”, who defended Willem V but were temporarily deprived of their power in 1786.
Willem fled to England; his wife Wilhelmine of Prussia, who had assumed the hereditary governorship in his place, called her brother Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia to her aid. In September 1787, 25,000 Prussian soldiers marched into The Netherlands and returned the Statthalter (governor) Willem V to office. A large number of the republican insurgents then fled to France. Willem immediately allied himself with Prussia and England, the principal enemies of revolutionary France. On 1 February 1793, France declared war on the United Netherlands and Great Britain. In the winter of 1794/95, French troops under General Jean-Charles Pichegru conquered The Netherlands, and Willem V again retreated to England. The republican Dutch who had returned from French exile proclaimed the “Batavian Republic” after the West Germanic tribe the “Batavians” who had settled at the mouth of the Rhine around 50 BC.
The Batavian Republic concluded a peace with France at The Hague on 16 May 1795, which included several harsh conditions: The “Habsburg Netherlands”, which included the exclaves of Maastricht, Venlo, Luxembourg, and Limburg (roughly the area of present-day Belgium), were annexed by the French Republic, and the new Dutch republic also had to maintain 25,000 French soldiers on its territory and pay 100 million guilders in war costs. In January 1796, a “National Assembly” was elected according to the French model; however, the “Orangists” were excluded from the election. The National Assembly met at The Hague on 1 March 1796. Whereas The Netherlands had hitherto been a somewhat loose confederation of states, the Batavian Republic formed a unitary state which was governed centrally. In 1798, the territory of The Netherlands was divided into eight departments. Two parties sat opposite each other in parliament: the “Aristocrats”, who advocated the preservation of the old federalist system, and the “Democrats” or “Unitarians”, who favoured the unitary state. On 22 January 1798, the Unitarians staged a bloodless coup d'état, approved by the Paris Directory, as a result of which most members of the Federalist faction lost their seats and, in some cases, their freedom. The Unitarians had thus taken power in the Republic.
The coins from this period remained the same provincial types that people had been used to for hundreds of years. The (Latin) inscriptions were not changed immediately, and continued to refer to the old situation of provinces and districts. Incidentally, they continued to be minted on the same old screw presses, and it is not uncommon to come across slightly oval specimens.
The plans to establish a central mint also failed to get off the ground for some time and coins continued to be struck in the existing provincial mints dating from the time of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, namely in Harderwijk for Gelderland, in Dordrecht, Enkhuizen and Hoorn for Holland, in Enkhuizen for West-Friesland, in Middelburg for Zeeland, in the city of Utrecht for Utrecht province and in Kampen for Overijssel.
Various designs were actually produced for new coins, and a number of the sketches have been preserved to this day in the National Numismatic Collection (NNC) of De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB). Dies for them were almost never made, however, and only one design actually resulted in a number of proof coins being struck. (see LSch.113 t/m 117).
© Laurens Schulman B.V. 2023