My fist post on this site comes from ‘Sunday Reading for Young and Old‘ dated 1881.
‘Truth is stranger than fiction. The wonderful escapes of some of the slaves from their hard and cruel masters in America a century ago may well induce us to think so.
One poor fellow got away by being packed in a box, and sent hundreds of miles by the common carrier.
But Hugo Grotius long before had escaped from prison in quite a wonderful manner.
Hugo was born at Delft on the 10th April, 1583. His father was anxious that his son should obtain a good education, and employed the best masters to instruct him. Hugo was not unmindful of the care bestowed upon him. So industrious was he that, when only eight years old, he was able to compose poetry in the Latin language; and when fourteen he was able to deliver public lectures on mathematics, law and philosophy.
At this early age, as a reward for his great industry, he obtained the applause of the most eminent men of the time, and was deemed a prodigy of learning.
In 1598, when only fifteen years of age, he was taken by the Dutch Ambassador to France, where he was introduced to the King, Henry IV., who was so pleased with Hugo that he presented him with his own portrait and a gold chain. While in France he had conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws; and on returning to his native place, although then only seventeen, he commenced to practice as an advocate in the law courts. He was in the same year appointed to an important office, in preference to several learned men who had applied for the post. then he became Advocate General of the Treasury for Holland and Zealand; and then in 1613, he obtained a seat in the Parliament of Holland.
A fishing dispute having occurred between the Dutch and the English, the latter claiming an exclusive right of fishing in the Greenland seas, Grotius was sent to England to endeavour to adjust the dispute. He was received with honour and kindness by King James, before whom he fearlessly and faithfully pleaded his country’s rights.
But Grotius was not a time-server. He would and did oppose his own government when in the wrong. He was an honest man first, and then a statesman. His honesty caused him to be thrown into prison. He would not consent to sacrifice his religious principles at the bidding of the Government, who sentenced him to perpetual imprisonment.
after remaining in prison a year and a half his wife contrived an ingenious way to obtain his escape. She persuaded him to get into a large chest, which she sent out of prison under the pretence of sending off loads of books, to prevent her husband killing himself with hard study. A servant who was entrusted with the secret accompanied the box to a friend’s house.
On the box being opened Grotius was found quite uninjured.He then dressed himself like a mason, and carrying in his hands a rule, trowel, and other tools, he walked through the Market-place, and stepping into a boat was taken to Antwerp, where he arrived on the 22nd of March, 1621.
When the escape of Grotius was discovered his wife avowed that she had assisted him, which confession caused her to be imprisoned, but she was afterwards released.
Grotius, who escaped to France, we may well believe, was overjoyed to see his wife again.
Louis XIII., the French monarch, received him most kindly, and permitted him to remain in his country as long as he desired. Christina, Queen of Sweden, however, knowing the talents and honesty of Grotius, invited him in 1684 to her court, and made him her counsellor, and afterwards sent him as her Ambassador to France.
While Grotius was thus busy in public affairs he employed his spare hours in the composition of books, some of which are much read and valued by the learned men of our day. Being a sincere Christian, he wrote several religious works, which have been translated into other languages, and will be read as long as true Christian learning is valued.
He finished his work in 1645,after a life of earnest effort to make the world better than he found it. His remains were carried to Delft and placed in the tomb of his parents, over which a truthful description might have been placed. “Here lies the remains of a truthful son and a good man.”
(The article was penned by J.J. No clue as to his identity.)