The end of C.V. Wedgwood's William the Silent:
The work to which [William] had devoted his life, and for which he had died, was never to be accomplished. The Netherlands, as he had known them, were never to be one nation. The struggle for their liberation had transmuted the past and destroyed the possibility of its revival. What he had done was to create a new State, the United Provinces of the coming century, the 'Holland' of the future. Even though it fell short of what he had wanted, his achievement was very great. For it was a hard and desperate task, to restore the self-respect and freedom of a people borne down by apparently inescapable doom, to fight a great power with such small instruments, and to fight it for five years without hope and alone.
It was a strange, almost a unique, thing to be the idol of a nation and remain uncorrupted, to be yourself the guardian of the people's rights sometimes against the emotional impulse of the people themselves. In times of emergency and war, in political crisis and national danger it is often expedient to sacrifice the forms--even the spirit--of popular government. Was not this one of the chief reasons why popular governments [have] withered in so many lands during this stormy [twentieth] century?
There lies his greatest claim to recognition: he sought not to impose his own will on the embryo nation, but to let the nation create and form itself. He belonged in spirit to an earlier, a more generous and more cultured age than this [late sixteeth century] of narrowness and authority, and thin, sectarian hatred. But he belonge also to a later age; his deep and genuine interest in the people he ruled, his faith in their development, his toleration, his convinced belief in government by consent--all these reach out from the mediaeval world towards a wider time.
Few statesmen in any period, none in his own, cared so deeply for the ordinary comfort and the trivial happiness of the thousands of individuals who are 'the people'. He neither idealized nor overestimated them and he knew they were often wrong, for what political education had they yet had? But he believed in them, not merely as a teoretical concept, but a individuals, as men. Therein lay the secret of the profound and enduring love between him and them. Wise, wary, slow to judge and slow to act, patient, stubborn, and undiscouraged, no other man could have sustained so difficult a cause for so long, could have opposed with so little sacrifice of public right, the concentrated power of a government that disregarded it. He respected in all men what he wished to have respected in himself, the right to an opinion.
There have been politicians more successful, or more subtle; there have been none more tenacious or more tolerant. 'The wisest, gentlest and bravest man who ever led a nation', he is one of that small band of statesmen whose service to humanity is greater than their service to their time or their people. In spite of the differences of speech or political theory, the conventions and complexities which make one age incomprehensible to another, some men have a quality of greatness which gives their lives universal significance. Such men, in whatever walk of life, in whatever chapter of fame, mystic or saint, scientist or doctor, poet or philosopher, and even--but how rarely--soldier or statesman, exist to shame the cynic, and to renew the faith of humanity in itself.
Of this number was William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, called the Silent.
Whig history. The straight stuff. 200 proof. Very, very good to the taste.