National Geographic : 1923 Mar
294 THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE © Press Illustrating Service THE CEREMONIES WITH WHICH HOLLAND'S QUEEN OPENS PARLIAMENT ARE MEDIEVAL IN CHARACTER (SEE ALSO ILLUSTRATION ON PAGE 323) But Dutch ideas of popular government have been far in advance of those of many other European countries. Freedom of religion and freedom of the press obtained in that country before the American colonies were founded, and our Declaration of Independence is much like the Declaration of Independence of the United Netherlands, signed at Westphalia in 1648. made it necessary for the people near at hand to be always on the defensive. As early as 1643 a Dutch engineer, Jan Adriaanszoon Leeghwater, published in book form a detailed plan for the draining of this lake. At this time Holland was too much engaged in the war with Spain to undertake a work so extensive and so frought with difficulties as this was con ceded to be. The political complications following the peace of 1684 and the war between England and France caused Leeghwater's project to be forgotten. DESTRUCTIVE STORM AWAKENED HOL LANDERS TO ENGINEERING NEEDS As is usual in such matters, final action was delayed partly because of the many rival plans submitted and partly because of the great cost of the undertaking. However, the authorities were suddenly awakened to the danger coming from this foe within by the storms of 1836. On November 9th a violent west wind drove the waters of the lake into the streets of Amsterdam. They swept over one polder after another and covered dikes and roads and even bridges. On Christmas Day a fierce east wind arose and did not rest until a part of Leyden was inundated. When the inventory of the damage was made it was found that 1oo,ooo acres of land had been under water and 18,ooo acres of polder completely filled. An entire year was consumed in freeing the submerged lands and great losses were found to have resulted from the overflow. This was the final provocation. The challenge was accepted. In 1839 the States General decided to attack this enemy and placed the entire matter in the hands of a commission of 13 members.