18th Century:  Caricature etchings on Politics and Occupiers

Joseph II                  Farmer's Revolt                   Peasants' War              The Duke of Brunswijk           The Fat Duke             Boerenkrijg

A group of satirical prints from the 18th century
All about troubles in the Low country's with their

Satire on Emperor Joseph II - 1781


Probably Cornelius Martinus Spanoghe
Doel (België) 1758 - St.-Gilles-Waas (België) 1829


Around 1781


 10.50 x 15.0 inches. / 27.0 x 38.0 cm.

Around 1780 a revolt in the Low country's against his power started and he had to pull forces away from the Turkish Battle. He was called: Keizer-Koster (Emperor-sexton)

Joseph II (Joseph Benedikt Anton Michael Adam; 13 March 1741 – 20 February 1790) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I. He was thus the first ruler in the Austrian dominions of the House of Lorraine, styled Habsburg-Lorraine (von Habsburg-Lothringen in German). Joseph was a proponent of enlightened absolutism; however, his commitment to modernizing reforms subsequently engendered significant opposition, which eventually culminated in an ultimate failure to fully implement his programmes. He has been ranked, with Catherine II of Russia and Frederick II of Prussia, as one of the three great Enlightenment monarchs.[1] His policies are now known as Josephinism. He died sonless and was succeeded by his younger brother, Leopold.


Allegory on the waste educator, with 'the Duke of Brunswijk, also called 'The Fat Duke' - 1784


P. Drukvrij (pseudonym)


J. Denkvrij (pseudonym)

Published in:

, 1784


12.7 x 18.1 inches.
32.3 x 46.0 cm.

Allegorie over de Afgedankte Pedagoog met als hoofdonderwerp "de Hertog van Brunswijk". Allegorie met op apart vel een verklaring. Hoofdonderwerp: de Hertog van Brunswijk ( "de dikke Hertog"); uiterst links ook nog het graf van Johan Derk van der Cappellen tot den Pol. De verklaring is van Cato Batavus.

Louis Ernest of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Bevern (25 September 1718, Wolfenbüttel - 12 May 1788, Eisenach) was a field-marshal in the armies of the Holy Roman Empire and the Dutch Republic. From 13 November 1750 to 1766 he was the Captain-General of the Netherlands, where he was known as the Duke of Brunswick or (to distinguish him from his eldest brother Charles, who succeeded to their father's title of Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg) Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Another brother was Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick who led the Allied Anglo-German army during the Seven Years' War. He was probably one of the first victims of the media in Dutch history. 

Louis Ernest's accumulated positions and tangled interests led to problems.[7] As early as 1771 there was talk of an attempt on his life in the Hague, but the bullet fired at him passed between his bones. (Rumour had it that an earlier bullet had hit him in his private parts.) Pieter Paulus in 1773 gained national recognition through his book on the stadholder system, in which he took opposition against the Duke of Brunswick. In May 1781 the Republic declared war to England. In June resistance against the duke broke out once more, led by D.W. van Lynden and followed by the Patriots. The Amsterdam mayor Joachim Rendorp pleaded for an advisory council for the prince. 

The anti-stadholder party, which gave him the nickname of "the Bulky Duke" (consistent with Frederick the Great's inkling to call him "Fat Louis") recognised the decline of the fleet, the rise of the national army, the outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War and the loss of the border towns in the southern Netherlands, and apportioned the blame for all these to Louis Ernest first and foremost.[8] The Patriots argued that Louis Ernest had outrageously neglected the education of the stadholder, so that the stadholder was now unable to take decisions on his own. On 24 May 1782, the duke voluntarily left the Hague and retreated to Government House (the "Gouvernementshuis") in Bois-le-Duc. (It is now the Noord-Brabant Museum).

 In the disputes with Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, who probably tried to help his relative reopened an earlier argument over the buffer-cities, the Scheldt and free trade to the East Indies. Louis Ernest was mistrusted due to his family ties with the emperor and accused of high treason and of selling out on Maastricht. In Issue no. 214 of the patriotic magazine Post van den Neder Rhijn ("the Lower-Rhenish Post"), the Act of Advisorship was made public. On 14 October 1784, Louis Ernest laid down all his offices and left Bois-le-Duc to its new governor, Robert Douglas. The 'Kettle War' was seen by the patriots as the emperor's revenge


The "Boerekrijg" (Farmers' Revolt) - Flanders - 1798



De Ridder van het Gilde Kalf of Hopman van de Vroege en Laate Slacht tyd in Optogt naar ' t Orakel van Delfos.


Amsterdam, 1720


13.0 x 10.2 inches., 33.0 x 26.0 cm.

One of the terrible consequences of the French occupation starting in 1795 was the introduction of obligatory military service.  Unmarried men between 16 and 25 had to enlist in the army for a period of 5 years in peace time and for an indefinite period while at war.  Things military and the job of war making weren't exactly the most respected careers.  Most preferred to be their own master and were averse to soldiering.  That might very well have something to do with the fact that so many times our regions had been subjected to the pillage and destruction by gangs of lawless foreign soldiers totally out of control and with respect for nothing or no one.

And now our boys had to serve in far off countries in the army of the occupant whose language they didn't speak. Perhaps to go do there what they had condemned here: when they ran out of provisions they had to take from the locals if they wanted to survive. 

Blind obedience was demanded and anything other than blind obedience by the cannon fodder was severely punished.  Soldiers were expendable, some were perhaps more equal than others but many of them were no doubt not always looked after too well.  In fact there was an appalling indifference to the suffering of the wounded who were routinely abandoned on the battlefields.  A small wound or a minor illness was often fatal and there were so many accidents with horses, cannon and gunpowder.  So many young men never returned and year after year more soldiers were needed and more taxes were raised.  (Nor was France the only country to treat its cannon fodder in this way.

25 October 1798 is usually given as the starting date for the revolt. Secret preparations had been underway for months. But due to a spontaneous outburst of fury, due to the umpteenth seizure because of an overdue tax payment by an inhabitant of Overmere it started in fact two weeks early on 12 October 1798 in that village half way between Ghent and Dendermonde.

A band of Brigands as they were called, tried to reach the mouth of the Schelde river where aid from Britain was expected.  Two attempts to land the aid failed.  Too little too late?  And/or politics as usual?  In West-Flanders (nearest France) the revolt was broken after an early heavy defeat in Ingelmunster (200 dead).  In South-East-Flanders the resistance was already broken on 20 October.  Mechelen (Mechlin, Malines) is occupied by the Brigands on 22 October but already lost the next day when 41 prisoners are shot at the foot of the tower of the St Rombouts Cathedral.

In Klein-Brabant, the Brigands are successful at the outset.  They hold the old fortress of St Margrets near the mouth of the Rupel river for more than 14 days under the leadership of Emmanuel Rollier from St. Amands.  There are furious battles in Dendermonde, Boom, Lier, Willebroek and finally on 5 November in Bornem where the battle once again degenerates into plundering and looting while 88 houses go up in smoke and flames.

In the Kempen (Campine) region the leader is Jozef Van Gansen from Westerlo.  The revolt starts in Geel on 15 October.  A big army of Brigands controls the regions of Westerlo, Geel, Mol and the fortified abbey of Tongerlo.  There are battles at Diest, Turnhout and Herenthals.  But after the fall of this last city the Brigands pull back deep into the Campine country.

In the Hageland the leader is Eelen, the son of a physician from Scherpenheuvel.  Zoutleeuw and Tienen are conquered from the French but a battle is lost near Leuven (Louvain) on 28 October.

In a surprise attack a 600 strong force of Brigands take the city of Diest but they are immediately besieged by a much larger well equiped French army.  Van Gansen is wounded.  Meulemans, a surveyor from Tongerlo, leads the rebels quietly out of the city in the dead of night along a narrow dike through inundated fields along the Demer river, to the great surprise of the French.

Gangs of refuseniks and deserters took to the hills and forests and fought the French occupants in a guerilla war.  And the much better equiped French showed no mercy and quite often took no prisoners.  And this violent repression of the revolt in its turn added to the anger.

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