For other political movements known as "patriots", see Patriot Party (disambiguation).
Exercitiegenootschap in Sneek (1786), gathered on the market square.

The Patriottentijd (Dutch, literally "Patriot Period") was a period of political upheaval in the Dutch Republic between approximately 1780 and 1787. The period takes its name from the radical political faction known as the Patriots (Patriotten, pronounced [paːtriˈjɔtə(n)]), led by Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol, gaining power from November 1782. They were inspired by Enlightenment ideas. The Patriots opposed the Orangists and the rule of William V, Prince of Orange. In 1787, the Patriots were defeated by a Prussian army and many were forced into exile.


The term Patriot (from Greek πατριώτης, "fellow country(wo)man") had previously been used in the 17th century by anti-Orangists, but when French troops invaded the Republic in 1747, "Patriots" demanded the return of the Orange stadtholderate, which ended the Second Stadtholderless Period (1702–1747). From 1756 onwards, however, republican regenten once again began styling themselves "Patriots". The Orangist party did try to reappropriate the term, but it was forced on the defensive, which became apparent when it renamed one of its weekly magazines to De Ouderwetse Nederlandsche Patriot ("The Old-Fashioned Dutch Patriot"). Patriotism and anti-Orangism had become synonymous.[1]

The Patriots can be divided into two separate groups: aristocrats and democrats. The aristocratic Patriots (also called oudpatriotten or "Old Patriots"), initially the strongest, can be viewed as oppositional regenten, who either sought to enter the factions in power, or tried to realise the so-called "Loevesteinian" ideal of a republic without Orange; they came from the existing Dutch States Party. The democratic Patriots emerged later, and consisted mainly of non-regent members of the bourgeoisie, who strived to democratise the Republic.[2]


The Patriots struggled for the removal of stadtholder William V, Prince of Orange. Discontented with the hereditary system of allocating posts, the decline of the Dutch East India Company's Asian trade, unemployment in the textile industry, the course of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War and the desire of democratisation, the middle and upper classes looked towards the United States and its Declaration of Independence and the Dutch Act of Abjuration and began to reclaim their rights (first written down in the 1579 Union of Utrecht). The lower classes largely remained supportive of the existing regime.


1780 is generally regarded as the outbreak of the major conflict between Patriots and Orangists, the former of which supported the American Revolution, whilst the latter supported the British Empire. When the Republic threatened to join the First League of Armed Neutrality to defend its right to trade with the American colonies in revolt, Britain declared war: the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780–1784). The Patriots seized the occasion to try and rid themselves from Orange altogether, and allied themselves with the American republican revolutionaries.[3] This was most clearly expressed in the 1781 pamphlet Aan het volk van Nederland ("To the People of the Netherlands"), anonymously distributed by Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol. Partly thanks to his influence, the young American Republic were recognised in 1782 by the States General. Between 1782 and 1787, democratic Patriotism managed to establish itself in parts of the Republic.[4]

From 1783 onwards, the Patriots formed militia or paramilitary groups called exercitiegenootschappen or vrijcorpsen.[5] They tried to persuade the prince and city governments to allow non-Calvinists into the vroedschap. In 1784, they held their first national meeting. The total number of Patriot volunteer militiamen is estimated to have been around 28,000.[5]

The aristocrats were divided, into Orangists, republicans and democrats, and from summer 1785 more and more republicans backed the prince. The prince was unwilling to carry out reforms, yet unable to take necessary decisions. In the city of Utrecht the Orangist members of the government were sent home by the local militia under Quint Ondaatje, a burgher from Colombo. Another big name, Herman Willem Daendels, failed to get a seat in the local government, when state troops occupied the small city of Hattem.

In September 1787, after the local militias were defeated by a Prussian army under Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, many of the Patriots fled to France, settling in the area around Dunkirk, where they were able to understand the Flemish Dutch spoken locally.

In the Dutch Republic five leaders were sentenced to death and, although none of these sentences were carried through, all five were forced to leave the Netherlands. In 1789, two radical leaders Francis Adrian Vanderkemp and Adam Gerard Mappa moved to the USA at the invitation of George Washington. In 1795, a few years after the French Revolution, the Patriots remaining in Northern France returned and with the help of a French army founded the Batavian Republic.



  1. Ernst Heinrich Kossmann, De Lage Landen 1780-1980. Twee eeuwen Nederland en België. Deel I: 1780–1914 (2005) 45. Amsterdam/Antwerp: Olympus (part of Atlas Contact).
  2. Encarta-encyclopedie Winkler Prins (1993–2002) s.v. "patriotten". Microsoft Corporation/Het Spectrum.
  3. Kossmann, 46.
  4. Kossmann, 48.
  5. 1 2 Kossmann, 49.
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