He was a perfect Dutchman'. This statement on the statue of Johan de Witt (1625-1672) contrasts sharply with the events on the Plaats in 1672. On 20 August of that year, Johan went to the Prison Gate on the Plaats to fetch his brother Cornelis. Cornelis was released after having been sentenced to eternal banishment, accused of plotting an attack on the Prince of Orange, Willem III. Johan, who had recently resigned as pensionary, is also accused of anti-Orange ideology. An angry mob of Orangists drags the brothers out of the Prison Gate and murders them in a gruesome manner.
In 1653 De Witt became pensionary of Holland and West Friesland. During the First Stadtholderless Era (1653-72) he was the most influential person in the Republic. De Witt strongly supported the 'Eternal Edict' (1667), in which the States of Holland abolished stadtholdership. When the Republic was attacked from all sides in the Disaster of 1672, De Witt was blamed. The call for the Prince of Orange swelled. Because the States General abandoned the 'Eternal Edict', William III became stadholder. De Witt draws his conclusions and resigns, but by then he has antagonised too many Orange supporters.
The classically designed bronze statue of De Witt dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Only then had the discussion surrounding his person subsided sufficiently for him to be honoured as a capable Dutch statesman. Frederik Jeltsema, who also made countless medals, coins and busts, was commissioned for the statue at the end of 1913. De Witt holds a roll of paper to his chest with his left hand, a reference to his function. There are also statements on the pedestal that underline his qualities. The statue was unveiled in 1918 in the presence of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Hendrik.