Treaty of Antwerp (1609)

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The Treaty of Antwerp, which initiated the Twelve Years' Truce, was an armistice signed in Antwerp on 9 April 1609 between Spain and the Netherlands, creating the major break in hostilities during the Eighty Years' War for independence conducted by the Seventeen Provinces in the Low Countries.

Proposals and terms[edit]

In February 1608 Dutch negotiators submitted to their Spanish counterparts three different proposals regarding overseas trade in the East Indies. The first proposal suggested that peace in Europe be established with free trade permitted in overseas territories that were not controlled by the Spanish Empire. The second proposal suggested that peace in Europe be established along with a truce permitting free overseas trade for a period of years. The third proposal suggested that overseas trade be based on a "one's own risk" policy. Ultimately, the Spanish chose the second of the three proposals. Based on the terms of the accord, the Netherlands was granted the right to trade within overseas territories controlled by the Spanish Empire under the condition that it acquire an express license from the King of Spain. Moreover, the Dutch were allowed to engage in unhindered trade outside of Spanish colonial possessions and with the permission of the natives. According to a protocol written by English and French envoys, the Dutch managed during the negotiations to reserve the right to help any natives that concluded treaty relations with them and that such actions would not constitute a violation of the overall armistice.[1]

Hugo Grotius[edit]

On a sidenote, the formation of the accord was influenced by the writings of Hugo Grotius in Mare Liberum ("The Free Seas"), which was published in 1609 at the insistence of the Dutch East India Company; the pamphlet was published anonymously in Leiden roughly one month prior to the conclusion of the treaty.[2]

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt[edit]

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and the urban oligarchies of Holland developed another peace treaty in order to prevent any renewed hostilities with Spain once the Treaty of Antwerp expired in 1621. However, Stadtholder Maurice of Nassau, Oldenbarnevelt's chief rival in the government of the United Provinces, led a faction of nobles that supported renewing hostilities with Spain and managed to have Oldenbarnevelt arrested in 1618.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grewe, p. 159. "In February 1608 the Dutch negotiators submitted to their Spanish counterparts three alternative proposals relating to the question of the Indies: 1) Peace in Europe and free trade with those overseas territories that were not in Spanish possession at that time; 2) Peace in Europe and a truce in the overseas regions for a period of years in which the overseas trade was to be free; or 3) Overseas trade at one's own risk according to the English-French model. The Spanish accepted as a basis of discussion the second proposal only. They did so only after a temporary interruption of negotiations, when the Armistice Treaty of Antwerp was concluded on 9 April 1609. It granted the Netherlands the right to trade with Spanish possessions only under the condition of an express license from the king. However, outside the Spanish possessions the Dutch were to be allowed, with the permission of the natives, to engage in unhindered trade. A protocol written by the English and French envoys stated that the Dutch, in the negotiations, had reserved the right to provide assistance to those natives with whom they had already concluded treaty relations, and that this would not violate the armistice."
  2. ^ Armitage, pp. 52-53. "The publication of Hugo Grotius's Mare Liberum in 1609 coincided with James's policy of restricting Dutch fishing in British waters, thus putting a specifically Scoto-British argument for mare clausum at the centre of a global argument over rights of dominium. The work, a fragment of the larger treatise De Jure Prede, was published at the insistence of the Dutch East India Company in the context of the negotiations towards what would become the Twelve Years Truce between Spain and the United Provinces. Grotius justified Dutch rights of trade and navigation in the East Indies against the claims of the Portuguese by arguing from natural law principles that anything publicum - such as the air, the sea, and the shore of that sea - was the common property of all, and hence could be the private property of none. The polemical purpose of this was clear: to deny that any state could make the sea an accessory to its realm, and to enforce freedom of navigation throughout the ocean, as a Dutch counterblast to Portuguese claims of dominium over the seas on grounds of first discovery, papal donation, rights of conquest or title of occupation. Though the East Indian context was uppermost in Grotius's argument and provided the spur for its publication, this did not prevent James's subjects from imagining that his claims to freedom of the seas were made at the expense of their own demands for new restrictions on Dutch fishing rights: 'K[ing] James coming in the Dutch put out Mare Liberum, made as if aimed at mortifying the Spaniards' usurpation in the W. and E. Indyes, but aimed indeed at England', noted one commentator in 1673. Indeed, the Treaty of Antwerp (1609) secured Dutch rights of navigation in the East Indies only a month after Grotius's pamphlet was published anonymously in Leiden."
  3. ^ Fix, p. 67. "Oldenbarnevelt and the urban oligarchies of Holland formed a peace treaty opposing renewed hostilities with Spain when the so-called Twelve Year Truce expired in 1621, but Nassau, Oldenbarnevelt's chief rival for power within the government of the United Provinces, led a noble faction favoring a resumption of the war as well as a greater centralization of the Dutch government than the oligarchs were willing to permit. ... As the end of the truce neared the political quarrel reached crisis point in 1618 when Nassau managed to have Oldenbarnevelt arrested."


  • Armitage, David. "Making the Empire British: Scotland in the Atlantic World 1542-1707". Past and Present, No. 155. (May, 1997), pp. 34–63.
  • Fix, Andrew. "Radical Reformation and Second Reformation in Holland: The Intellectual Consequences of the Sixteenth-Century Religious Upheaval and the Coming of a Rational World View". Sixteenth Century Journal, Volume 18, No. 1 (Spring, 1987), pp. 63–80.
  • Grewe, Wilhelm Georg (translated by Michael Byers). The Epochs of International Law. Walter de Gruyter, 2000. ISBN 3-11-015339-4
  • Dlugaiczyk, Martina. Der Waffenstillstand (1609–1621) als Medienereignis. Politische Bildpropaganda in den Niederlanden, Münster, New.York 2005.