Willem de Clercq
Willem de Clercq (Amsterdam, 15 January 1795 – Amsterdam, 4 February 1844) was secretary (1824–, at its foundation) and later director (1831– ) of the Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij (NHM). He is also known as a poet and as a leader of the Réveil, the Protestant Revival in the Netherlands. He left behind a gigantic diary, with extensive reports of the events he witnessed. Parts of that have been published.
Willem de Clercq came from a well-to-do Amsterdam Mennonite family of grain merchants. Already in 1801, he began to make notes, resulting in a diary he kept from 1811 till his death, 36,000 pages later. Initially intending to be trained as a preacher, he learnt German, French and Greek, but had to travel in order to avoid Napoleonic conscription. At the end of 1813 a panic arose in Delft of an invasion by Napoleon. Willem de Clercq describes the events in its diary, initially in French, later on in Dutch.
In 1816 he traveled by carriage to Saint Petersburg and reported on the landscape and the social and cultural life in the north German and Baltic ports, a few years after Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated and distant travel once again became possible. After the sudden death of his father Gerrit de Clercq, he came to lead the family business in 1817. De Clercq married Caroline Boissevain (1799–1879) in 1817, and they had several children, including Gerrit de Clercq, later known as an editor of De Gids. During the grain crisis around 1820 the family firm got into a deep crisis, from which she never fully recovered her former peak position.
Around that time, De Clercq came into contact with the till the Jewish convert Isaäc da Costa and a profound friendship grew up between them, with De Clercq converting to orthodox Calvinism under Da Costa's influence. Together with Willem Bilderdijk, Abraham Capadose, Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, Samuel Iperusz Wiselius and others, they became the leaders of the Réveil.
When in 1824 the NHM was set up De Clercq left the failing family business to become secretary of the NHM. For that reason he established himself in the Hague. There he began attending the Reformed-Walloon churches. When the NHM in 1831 transferred to Amsterdam, he officially went over from Mennonitism to the Walloon Reformed Municipality, choosing out of conviction infant baptism over adult baptism.
As a manager of the NHM, he had much influence on the arising textile industry in Twente. He was influenced by Thomas Ainsworth, involved in the setting up of the industry in the town of Nijverdal. He wanted to act out his beliefs in his work, for instance wanting to employ small-scale industry rather than large factories, because he found that factories were harmful for the clergyman state of the workers. Furthermore he was a supporter of the NHM dividing her orders proportionally over as many producers as possible so as to get the work done for the lowest price.
In his last years De Clercq placed his views further from those of Da Costa and came more and more under the influence of Hermann Friedrich Kohlbrugge. As a result he withdrew more and more from social and cultural life, opting for denying the world as opposed to Da Costa's active involvement in city life. De Clercq died suddenly, after months in which he made more depressed impression in town. Some historians blame Kohlbrugge's dominating views for De Clercq's death, whilst others lay the blame on De Clercq's own idealistic and emotional character.
As a poet De Clercq was especially well known for improvisation, able to speak a poem, without preparation, at only a minute's notice. In Amsterdam a street is named after him, as also in different Twentse places. His grandson Daniël de Clercq became an advocate of labor- and education reform.
- Verzameling De Clercq (onder andere Particuliere aantekeningen/Dagboek) in: Réveil-Archief, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Universiteit van Amsterdam
- Woelige weken. November–December 1813 – Amsterdam 1988 (uitgegeven dagboekaantekeningen)
- Graan en reizen. Willem de Clercq in 1814 – Amsterdam 1995 (uitgegeven dagboekaantekeningen)
- Per karos naar Sint-Petersburg – Lochem 1962 (uitgegeven dagboekaantekeningen)
- Opvoeding. Verschillende byzonderheden over de opvoeding van Gerrit, Daan, Steven en Gideon – 1831
- Rapport eener reize naar de Fabrieken van Overijssel – 1832
- Briefwisseling tusschen Willem de Clercq en Isaäc da Costa. Bloemlezing uit onuitgegeven brieven berustende in het Réveil-archief te Amsterdam – Baarn 1938
- Willem de Clercq naar zijn dagboek – Amsterdam 1888
- W.A. de Clercq – Willem de Clercq (1795–1844) – Amsterdam 1999
- I. da Costa – Herinneringen uit het leven en den omgang van Willem de Clercq – Amsterdam 1850
- C.E. te Lintum – Willem de Clercq. De mensch en zijn strijd – Utrecht 1938
- M.H. Schenkeveld – Willem de Clercq en de literatuur – Groningen 1962
- O.W. Dubois – Een vriendschap in réveilkring. De omgang tussen Isaäc da Costa en Willem de Clercq (1820–1844) – Heerenveen 1997