A Brill Calendar: January 9
Pieter 't Hoen: "Patriot"
Few contemporaries of Hume, Kant and Voltaire would have denied that Leyden hosted the leading European newspaper of their days.
The ‘Gazette de Leyde’, founded by French immigrants in 1677, boasted trans-national exposure, including dissemination in British America; Thomas Jefferson and John Adams being avid readers in the 18th century. It is seldom stressed in studying Holland’s disproportionate presence in international affairs that the cosmopolitan climate of cities like Leyden and Amsterdam created also necessary conditions for giving birth to a new profession: the one of journalist. The first printed newspapers (like the first national banking system) were invented here, early in the 17th century, when the Republic was young.
Characteristic of the journalism on the eve of the French Revolution are the publishing feats of Pieter ‘t Hoen (August 18, 1745 – January 9, 1828). Pieter was a fierce ‘Patriot’, shaping this loosely organized, but burgeoning political party - one that constantly strived for social innovation - with his controversial periodical, ‘De Post van den Neder-Rhijn’ from 1780. Simply put, ‘t Hoen stridently opposed the vested interests and obsolete power-structures embodied in Stadholder Willem V and his Orange Party.
In 1787 the ground had become too hot under his feet and ‘t Hoen fled to Paris where he came to witness the sensational Fall of the Bastille on July 14, 1789; and returned in 1795 to a new, but short-lived ‘Batavian Republic’. In Leyden, Patriots were dominant, while the political climate in its University was even more extreme. This is seen in the unenviable fate of its Orangist natural history lecturer, Johannes le Francq van Berkhey (1729 – 1812). ‘t Hoen – and his son – buried the poor man under journalese slander, calumny and libel. After the collapse of the Dutch version of the ‘ancien régime’, poor van Berkhey, pestered by threatening letters and attacks on his person, was fired in 1795. Mud-slinging in the media is decidedly no 20th century Anglo-American speciality.