Saturday, April 10, 2010


If I said to you, 1688, would you think of:

1- The number of cheeseburgers sold by the new McDonalds in Kabul?
2- The combined I.Q. of any hundred tea-baggers?
3- The price of Smirnoff's Vodka at Costco marked down from $20?

Let's not always see the same hands. For all I know they're all true ..... but the combined intelligence of the Palinoids is probably lower than that.

The answer is: 1688 is the year Holland invaded England with 400 ships including a new King and Queen and 20,000 of their close friends. Strong winds sped their journey across the Channel while the British fleet was stuck in the Thames estuary by that same gust. William & Mary deposed James II and that ended the Papist rule in England forever.

The Brits don't like to talk about it; in fact they spin the whole takeover as The Glorious Revolution. To be sure the new monarchs were welcomed by some but not all. There were battles waged in England, Scotland and Ireland.

William of Orange brought significant changes into Britain. He invigorated the parliamentary system, initiated new finances (stock market), made innovations in horticulture, encouraged scientific inquiry (optics and astronomy), philosophy and the Arts. The reign of William and Mary triggered the Age of Enlightenment which led to our Democracy.

The Dutch had recently lost several wars to England including their New World colony. What was "New" changed from Amsterdam to York but their footprint had already been laid down.

A case could be made that governments then (as now) are instruments of business interests. The British East India Co. swapped with the Dutch East India Co. In one of the great swindles of history the Dutch traded Manhattan for Suriname in South America.

Among the club of West European imperialists (Spain, Portugal, France and England), Holland did the least nibbling at the Americas. Their time came and went yet it was not without a trace.

There are currently five million Americans at least partially descended from the Netherlands. They bequeathed to us some heavy hitters including five presidents, Van Buren, the two Roosevelts and the two Bushes. Also of Dutch descent were Walt Whitman, Thomas Edison, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Walter Cronkite, Marlon Brando and Meryl Streep.; the first voice of America, foremost inventor, first tycoon, respected TV journalist and our finest actors.

We have also kept some of their place names like, Brooklyn (Breukelen), Coney Island, Harlem, Staten Island, and Schenectady.

Look how much more you know now than you did five minutes ago. No need to thank me, just pass a slice of Dutch apple pie and a Heineken.


  1. Ah, the Golden Age of the Dutch. May I assume, Norm, that you have read The Embarrassment of Riches by Simon Schama? Your essay sent me back to the pages of that great book. On page 172, he quotes a poem about tea from the time period.

    Tea that helps our head and heart
    Tea medicates most every part
    Tea rejuvenates the very old
    Tea warms the piss of those who're cold.

    One of my favorite painters, Jan Steen, is from the Golden Age of the Dutch.

  2. No, I don;t know Schama's book. I'm mainly interested in the Dutch influence on the Brits and how it affected the United States.

  3. The 17th century was probably the period of the greatest Dutch influence in all areas from politics to the arts.