PLACCAERT Vande Staten Generael vande Gheunieerde Nederlanden. By den welcken, midts den redenen in’t langhe in’t selfde begrepen, men verklaert den Coninck van Spaegnien vervallen vande Overheyt ende Heerschappije van deze voorsz. Nederlanden, Ende verbiet zijnen Naem ende Zegel inde selve Landen meer te ghebruycken. &c. Nae de Copye Tot Leyden, By Charles Silvius, 1581. 16 pp. Small 4to. Loose, kept in 19th-century paper covered boards.
The famous Declaration of Independence of the Dutch provinces and founding text of the independent Netherlands.
The Act of Abjuration (Dutch: Plakkaat van Verlatinghe, literally ‘placard of abjuration’), was the declaration of independence by many of the provinces of the Netherlands from Spain in 1581, during the Dutch Revolt.
Signed on 26 July 1581 in The Hague, the Act formally confirmed a decision made by the States General of the Netherlands in Antwerp four days earlier. It declared that all magistrates in the provinces making up the Union of Utrecht were freed from their oaths of allegiance to the King of Spain, Philip II. The grounds given were that Philip II had failed in his obligations to his subjects, by oppressing them and violating their ancient rights (an early form of social contract). Philip was therefore considered to have forfeited his thrones as ruler of each of the provinces which signed the Act.
The Act of Abjuration allowed the newly-independent territories to govern themselves, although they first offered their thrones to alternative candidates. When this failed, they formed the Dutch Republic, the predecessor of the modern state of the Netherlands. The Act also exacerbated the political divisions between the rebellious northern provinces and the southern provinces of the Spanish Netherlands, which did not sign the Act and remained loyal to Philip II.
The Act was remarkable for its extensive Preamble, which took the form of an ideological justification, phrased as an indictment (a detailed list of grievances) of King Philip. This form, to which the American Declaration of Independence bears striking resemblance, has given rise to speculations that Thomas Jefferson, when he was writing the latter, was at least partly inspired by the Act of Abjuration.
The Preamble was based on Vindiciae contra tyrannos by Philippe de Mornay, and other works of monarchomachs may have been sources of inspiration also. The rebels, in their appeal to public opinion, may have thought it more important to quote “authoritative” sources and refer to “ancient rights” they wished to defend. By deposing a ruler for having violated the Social Contract with his subjects, they were the first to apply these theoretical ideas: the deposition of a king no longer was a theory, it was a fact.
There are various issues and/or printings of this text, some with the word “verclaert” in stead of, as in this copy “verklaert”, and these are often also set from different type resulting in different pagination and obviously, different catchwords. This copy has a woodcut with the lion in the Dutch garden on the title-page.