Anthonie Heinsius, Pensionary of Holland

Anthonie Heinsius
King William III of England
Anthonie Heinsius by an unknown artist
Born:22 November 1641
Secretary of Delft:1670
Pensionary of Delft:1679
Grand Pensionary:1689
Died:3 August 1720

1 Family and education

The Heinsius or Heins family originated from Broekburg in what is now French Flanders. At the end of the sixteenth century this family migrated to Delft, most probably for religious reasons. In Delft Heinsius' father and grandfather became active in sugar refinery and came into the city government. The family business was conducted from the house at Oude Delft 50-52 and one can safely assume that on 22 November 1641 Heinsius was born there as eldest son of Adriaan Heinsius Anthonisz. and Maria Dedel Bruynsdr.

Anthonie followed the usual education for the sons of regents and went to the Grammar ('Latijnsche') school of Delft. In 1658 he went to the University of Leiden to study Philosophy. It is not known how long Heinsius studied in Leiden, he also went to Angers were he graduated as a lawyer. On his return to Delft he established himself as a lawyer and was also promoted at the University of Leiden.

2 Heinsius as city regent

  • Photo of the ancestral house of Anthonie Heinsius in Delft
  • Ancestral house of Anthonie Heinsius
  • in Delft, sold in 1682. Own work

2.1 His father gets him elected

Due to the influence of his father as councilor of Delft Heinsius was appointed as Secretary of Delft in 1670. A favorable change in the factions ruling Delft then led to Heinsius' appointment as 'Pensionary' of Delft and his entrance into the States of Holland in 1679. That same year Heinsius also became 'curator' of the Latijnsche School. In 1680 he became 'hoofdingeland' in the Waterschap of Delfland on account of two Delft charities.

In 1687 Heinsius would get a very lucrative appointment as 'bewindhebber' of the VOC for the chamber of Delft. It is supposed that Heinsius had not planned a career in international politics but had rather wanted to limit his ambition to city and provincial politics1. As pensionary of Delft he was mostly on the side of the Amsterdam magistrate against the policies of the Stadholder.

2.2 Diplomatic Missions

Stadtholder William III wanted a man of Heinsius' abilities to be on his side, and it is supposed that this is the reason why Heinsius got into the international arena. In 1682 Louis XIV occupied the principality of Orange and someone had to go on a diplomatic mission to France in order to protest. Because of the fact that William did appreciate Heinsius' abilities, but was also convinced that the mission was futile, one can assume that the purpose of selecting Heinsius for this mission was non other than opening his eyes to the nature of Louis XIV's policies.

2.3 Sides with William III

After making a lot of protests Heinsius was appointed as special envoy on 29 December 1682, and after his return to Holland Delft swung to supporting a Dutch policy against France. In 1685 Heinsius was pressed to go on a mission to England about disputes between the EIC and the VOC. The mission came to nothing, but his correspondence with William III and Grand pensionary Gaspar Fagel2 proves how much he had come into their confidence3.

3 Heinsius as Grand Pensionary of Holland

3.1 Heinsius is destined for high office

After Heinsius returned from England William and Fagel had agreed that he should replace the latter as Grand Pensionary of Holland. They therefore tried to convince Heinsius to move to Dordrecht and become pensionary for that city. Heinsius however refused this appointment that would have set him up to become Grand Pensionary at Fagel's death. At Fagel's death on 15 December 1688 the States therefore decided to appoint Ten Hove as interim in stead of Halewijn, who represented Dordrecht. When Ten Hove next died on 24 March 1689 the Ridderschap moved to appoint Heinsius as interim, an appointment that could not well be refused. On 27 May the States then proposed three candidates for the appointment of Grand Pensionary and unanimously chose Heinsius.

3.2 Heinsius becomes Grand Pensionary

Heinsius tried to refuse the appointment as Grand Pensionary on account of his poor health and fitness for the job, but pressed by the stadholder he agreed and was sworn in on 25 June 1689. Heinsius then took his leave from his Delft principals and was appointed as pensionary of the Ridderschap on 22 July. He was also appointed as Keeper of the Seals of Holland and 'administrator' of the loans of Holland. Heinsius now moved to The Hague where he lived in a rented house that stood on the Denneweg previously Kazernestraat. It is remarkable that Heinsius did not invest anything in landed property or other symbols of status. In stead he lived very modest, stayed a bachelor all his life and would leave about 750,000 guilders on his death.

3.3 Heinsius' abilities as Grand Pensionary

As Grand Pensionary Heinsius is often said to have been careful, tactful, of clear judgment and of high integrity. It is therefore no wonder that William tried to delegate more and more work and power to Heinsius. This up to the point that Heinsius was in the lead at the treaty of Rijswijk and during the partition treaties. In internal affairs Heinsius also took over a lot of William's responsibilities, a fact that would add to constitutional calm in Holland at William's death4. In his role as Grand Pensionary Heinsius was primarily interested in foreign policy and the military. For this he was blessed with a lot of diplomatic talent and skill and was blessed with the ability to dissimulate his feelings.

In orchestrating the internal decision machinery of the States of Holland Heinsius was intimately aligned with Willem Buys, pensionary of Amsterdam and Bruno van der Dussen, pensionary of Gouda. As regards the Spanish Succession War Heinsius is often mentioned as forming the soul of the Grand Alliance together with Marlborough and Eugen5.

Heinsius Career Overview
1670Secretary of Delft
1679Pensionary of Delft
1679'curator' of the Latijnsche School
1680'hoofdingeland' in the Waterschap of Delfland
1682Envoy to Paris
1685Envoy to London
1687Bewindhebber of the VOC chamber of Delft
1689Grand Pensionary (Raadspensionaris) of Holland till 1720

4 Sources

This page is based on the introduction in part 1 of the Heinsius correspondence (see the sources pages). The Heinsius archive contains a massive amount of correspondence that was mostly addressed to Heinsius. The 19 volumes that have been published are quite essential for anyone who wants to write about international politics during the Spanish Succession War.

5 Notes

1) See Dr. A.J. Veenendaal jr. in the abovementioned introduction to the Heinsius archive.
2) Idem Page XIII.
3) Grand Pensionary Gaspar Fagel, not Francois Fagel Griffier of the States General
4) Idem page XXIII where Veenendaal proposes that one can say that in some respects the 'stadhouderloze' era in Holland began long before William's death.
5) Veenendaal mentions that Heinsius was also considered to be miserly with money. An accusation that is also often brought forward against Marlborough. Perhaps this could have contributed to their friendship?