(ENGLAND from JAMES to WILLIAM & MARY – continued)

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ENGLAND from JAMES to WILLIAM & MARY (8 of 10)

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Another War with the Dutch, and a Great Fire

England remained at peace with Catholic Spain, but another war erupted against the Protestant Dutch. This was inspired largely by people who recalled what they thought were the glory days of the First Dutch War and wanted to take trade away from the Dutch. In 1664, English in the Americas took power at New Amsterdam (soon to be known as New York). A propaganda campaign in England included descriptions of the Dutch as fat and greedy, as hog-like in their love of getting down in the dirt and as drinking too much. A group of merchants based in London presented a petition to the House of Commons, protesting that the Dutch were obstructing foreign trade, inciting tribal communities overseas against them, destroying their warehouses and proclaiming themselves masters of the Southern Seas. The House of Commons voted Charles 2.5 million pounds for war, believing that victory against the Dutch would be easy, and Charles went along with the drive toward war.

War was declared against the Dutch in February 1665, and that same year England was weakened by plague. The following year a fire problem surfaced. London was a city of wood, with straw on the floors of homes and with second or third stories hanging over narrow streets, and fire, of course, was used for cooking and heat. At one in the morning on September 2, 1666, fire broke out in a bakery, and wind spread the fire to contiguous buildings and to the wharves on the river front. The usual procedure was to demolish homes in front of the fire to keep the fire from spreading, but this was not done at daylight on the first day of the fire. A few houses were demolished, but mostly people were fleeing rather than fighting the fire. The fire lasted days and left much of the city burned to the ground. Huts sprang up on destroyed property. New brick and mortar homes went up in London's suburbs and the more affluent moved there, while poorer people were moved into the cheaper eastern and southern neighborhoods. Seeing a possible connection between the fire and God's displeasure, authorities began an official investigation into atheism in London, and the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, burned some of his writings to hide evidence that could be used against him.

The war against the Dutch did not go as well as had been expected. The Dutch had learned lessons from their previous war with England. Their ships were now heavier and stronger, better manned and better armed, and the Dutch inflicted much damage on England's fleet.

France was also a concern for the English. France was the greatest power in Europe and as a power it was growing. King Louis XIV of France was married to the daughter of king Philip IV of Spain, and after Philip's death in 1665, Louis laid claim to the "Spanish Netherlands." With the English fearing France and Catholicism, they feared that defeat of their fellow Protestants, the Dutch, would give too much power to France. Among the English a grudging respect for the Dutch as combatants had risen, and some saw advantage in having the Dutch rather than the French as friends. Charles II remained hostile to the Dutch, but the war was costing too much money and he went along with the negotiated end to the war, which came in 1667, with the Treaty of Breda. The English joined Swedes and the Dutch against King Louis' move into the Netherlands, and in 1668 Louis gave up on it, temporarily content with having added Flanders to his domains.

Meanwhile, the honeymoon between Charles II and Parliament had ended.


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