Koen Stapelbroek

Erasmus University Rotterdam, The NetherlandsHelsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies

The (Anti)-Machiavellian Registers of Eighteenth-century Political Reform in the Dutch Republic through the Pamphlets of Jean Thomas La Fargue




Jean Thomas La Fargue (ca. 1700-1774) has long been recognised as one of the most prolific Dutch pamphleteers of his time. Mostly disqualified as a conceited yet frustrated querelant, in search of glory and recognition by the House of Orange, La Fargue’s indeed occasionally embarrassingly quixotic attempts to expose the errors of the closest advisors of stadholder William IV, however, merit a proper theoretical reconstruction.

In this paper I will sketch the contours of La Fargue’s vision for the future of the Dutch Republic against the high political background of the disintegration of the Southern Netherlands’ Barrier system and the rise, in the immediate aftermath of the restoration of the office of the stadholder in 1747, of a group of political advisors including the Amsterdam merchant financiers Thomas Hope, Isaac de Larrey, Jan and Dirk Marselis and Isaac de Pinto. La Fargue – who furthermore was in a complicated way attached to the central figures of the Friesland ‘Cabal’ who had moved with William IV to The Hague – took recourse to a political vocabulary that may well be labelled Machiavellian in order to articulate his criticisms of those whom he held responsible for the further decay of the United Provinces. The paper will consist of a more or less systematic discussion (category by category) of La Fargue’s deployment of Machiavellian notions and patterns in his pamphlets on 1.) the European Balance of Power 2.) the historical profile of the United Provinces as a trade republic and 3.) the moral-political requirements and appropriate reformist policy line to endorse vis-à-vis France and Britain to secure the survival of the Dutch Republic.