THE HONORABLE DUTCHMAN
Anonymous caricature depicting the political relations between the Dutch Republic and England. Etching with engraving made around 1780. Coloured by a later hand. Size: 25 x 36.2 cm.
With the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the rivalry between England and the Netherlands came to an end when William of Orange ascended the English throne alongside Mary II. However, this move eventually led to the decline of Dutch dominance in trade and at sea. Merchants began using London as a new base of operations, and the growth of the Dutch economy slowed. From 1720 onwards, there was even a decline, and by around 1780, the per capita income in Great Britain exceeded that in the Netherlands. Jealousy played a role on the Dutch side.
On this print we see the honorable Dutch merchant empties coins into the apron of hardworking (Dutch) laborers, farmers, and artists, while while he holds up an unfriendly and dismissive hand toward a group of foreign nationals with bonds and treaties of alliance – representing Great Britain and America.In the foreground, the Dutch lion drives away the emaciated English dog, while the French rooster hops on its hind legs.
To the left, a man is being fitted with “Oeconomische Brillen” or “economic glasses,” because he can’t believe his eyes, a reference to the astonishment that the Dutchman does not seize the opportunities for profit. In the background, a crowd of “strayed Dutchmen,” accompanied by Reason, rushes towards the temple of Freedom to join hands with the crowd, not only to support freedom but also to restore it to its former glory. Virtues such as Piety, Truth, Love, Fidelity, and Steadfastness are ready to descend and take their place there.
In the background, we see the Dutch fleet guided to the right harbor by Mercury, the god of trade.
The print serves as a warning against Dutch investments in British securities.