HotFreeBooks.com
History of Holland
by George Edmundson
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The month of December, 1829, was however to bring the king and his Belgian subjects into violent collision. A motion was brought forward in the Second Chamber (December 8) by M. Charles de Broukere, an eminent Belgian liberal supported by the Catholics under the leadership of M. de Gerlache, for the abolition of the hated Press Law of 1815. The motion was defeated by the solid Dutch vote, supplemented by the support of seven Belgians. The decennial budget was due, and opposition to it was threatened unless grievances were remedied—the cry was "point de redressements de griefs, point d'argent." On December 11 came a royal message to the States-General which, while promising certain concessions regarding the taxes, the Collegium Philosophicum and the language decree, stated in unequivocal terms the principle of royal absolutism. To quote the words of a competent observer of these events:

The message declared in substance that the constitution was an act of condescension on the part of the throne; that the king had restrained rather than carried to excess the rights of his house; that the press had been guilty of sowing discord and confusion throughout the State; and that the opposition was but the fanatic working of a few misguided men, who, forgetting the benefits they enjoyed, had risen up in an alarming and scandalous manner against a paternal government[10].

The Minister of Justice, Van Maanen, on the next day issued a circular calling upon all civil officials to signify their adherence to the principles of the message within 24 hours. Several functionaries, who had taken part in the petition-agitation, were summarily dismissed; and prosecutions against the press were instituted with renewed energy. From this time Van Maanen became the special object of Belgian hatred.

The threat of the Belgian deputies to oppose the decennial budget was now carried out. At the end of December the ministerial proposals were brought before the States-General. The expenditure was sanctioned, the ways and means to meet it were rejected by 55 votes to 52. The Finance Minister in this emergency was obliged to introduce fresh estimates for one year only, from which the mouture and abbatage taxes were omitted. This was passed without opposition, but in his vexation at this rebuff the king acted unworthily of his position by issuing an arrete (January 8, 1830) depriving six deputies, who had voted in the majority, of their official posts. Meanwhile the virulence of the attacks in the press against the king and his ministers from the pens of a number of able and unscrupulous journalists were too daring and offensive to be overlooked by any government. Foremost in the bitterness of his onslaught was Louis de Potter, whose Lettre de Demophile au Roi was throughout a direct challenge to the autocratic claims advanced by the royal message. Nor was De Potter content only with words. An appeal dated December 11, of which he and his friend Tielemans were originators, appeared (January 31,1830) in seventeen news-papers, for raising a national subscription to indemnify the deputies who had been ejected from their posts and salaries for voting against the budget. Proceedings were taken against De Potter and Tielemans, and also against Barthels, editor of the Catholique, and the printer, De Neve, and all were sentenced by the court to banishment—De Potter for eight years, Tielemans and Barthels for seven years, DeNeve for five years. These men had all committed offences which the government were fully justified in punishing, for their language had passed the limits not only of good order but of decency, and was subversive of all authority. Nevertheless they were regarded by their Belgian compatriots as political martyrs suffering for the cause of their country's liberties. Their condemnation was attributed to Van Maanen, already the object of general detestation.

The ministry had meanwhile taken the wise step of starting an organ, the National, at Brussels to take their part in the field of controversy. But in the circumstances it was an act of almost inconceivable folly to select as the editor a certain Libri-Bagnano, a man of Italian extraction, who, as it was soon discovered by his opponents, had twice suffered heavy sentences in France as a forger. He was a brilliant and caustic writer, well able to carry the polemical war into his adversaries' camp. But his antecedents were against him, and he aroused a hatred second only to the aversion felt for Van Maanen.

We have now arrived at the eve of the Belgian Revolt, which had its actual origin in a riot. But the riot was not the cause of the revolt; it was but the spark which brought about an explosion, the materials for which had been for years preparing. The French secret agent, Julian, reports a conversation which took place between the king and Count Bylandt on July 20,1823[11]. The following extract proves that, so early as this date, William had begun to perceive the impossibility of the situation:

I say it and I repeat it often to Clancarty (the British Minister) that I should love much better to have my Holland quite alone. I should be then a hundred times happier.... When I am exerting myself to make a whole of this country, a party, which in collusion with the foreigner never ceases to gain ground, is working to disunite it. Besides the allies have not given me this kingdom to submit it to every kind of influence. This situation cannot last.

Another extract from a despatch of the French Minister at the Hague, Lamoussaye, dated December 26, 1828, depicts a state of things in the relations between the two peoples, tending sooner or later to make a political separation of some kind inevitable:

The Belgian hates the Hollander and he (the Hollander) despises the Belgian, besides which he assumes an infinite hauteur, both from his national character, by the creations of his industry and by the memories of his history. Disdained by their neighbour of the North, governed by a prince whose confidence they do not possess, hindered in the exercise of their worship, and, as they say, in the enjoyment of their liberties, overburdened with taxes, having but a share in the National Representation disproportionate to the population of the South, the Belgians ask themselves whether they have a country, and are restless in a painful situation, the outcome of which they seek vainly to discover[12].

From an intercepted letter from Louvain, dated July 30, 1829:

What does one see? Hesitation uncertainty, embarrassment and fear in the march of the government; organisation, re-organisation and finally disorganisation of all and every administration. Again a rude shock and the machine crumbles.

A true forecast of coming events.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXI

THE BELGIAN REVOLUTION, 1830-1842

During the last days of July, 1830, came the revolution at Paris that overthrew Charles X and placed the Duke of Orleans at the head of a constitutional monarchy with the title of Louis Philippe, King of the French. The Belgian liberals had always felt drawn towards France rather than Holland, and several of the more influential among them were in Paris during the days of July. Through their close intercourse with their friends in Brussels the news of all that had occurred spread rapidly, and was eagerly discussed. Probably at this time few contemplated the complete separation of Belgium from Holland, but rather looked to the northern and southern provinces becoming administratively autonomous under the same crown. This indeed appeared to be the only practical solution of the impasse which had been reached. Even had the king met the complaints of the Belgians by large concessions, had he dismissed Van Maanen, removed Libri-Bagnano from the editorship of the National, and created a responsible ministry—which he had no intention of doing—he could not have granted the demand for a representation of the south in the Second Chamber proportionate to the population. For this would have meant that the position of Holland would have henceforth been subordinate to that of Belgium; and to this the Dutch, proud of their history and achievements, would never have submitted. It had been proved that amalgamation was impossible, but the king personally was popular with those large sections of the Belgian mercantile and industrial population whose prosperity was so largely due to the royal care and paternal interest; and, had he consented to the setting-up of a separate administration at Brussels, he might by a conciliatory attitude have retained the loyalty of his Belgian subjects.

He did none of these things; but, when in August, he and his two sons paid a visit to Brussels at a time when the town was celebrating with festivities the holding of an exhibition of national industry, he was well received and was probably quite unaware of the imminence of the storm that was brewing. It had been intended to close the exhibition by a grand display of fireworks on the evening of August 23, and to have a general illumination on the king's birthday (August 24). But the king had hurried back to the Hague to keep his birthday, and during the preceding days there were abundant signs of a spirit of revolutionary ferment. Inscriptions were found on blank walls—Down with Van Maanen; Death to the Dutch; Down with Libri-Bagnano and the National; and, more ominous still, leaflets were distributed containing the words le 23 Aout, feu d'artifice; le 24 Aout, anniversaire du Roi; le 25 Aout, revolution.

In consequence of these indications of subterranean unrest, which were well known to Baron van der Fosse, the civil governor of Brabant, and to M. Kuyff, the head of the city police, the municipal authorities weakly decided on the ground of unfavourable weather to postpone the fireworks and the illumination. The evening of the 23rd, as it turned out, was exceedingly fine. At the same time the authorities permitted, on the evening of the 25th, the first performance of an opera by Scribe and Auber, entitled La Muette de Portici, which had been previously proscribed. The hero, Masaniello, headed a revolt at Naples in 1648 against foreign (Spanish) rule. The piece was full of patriotic, revolutionary songs likely to arouse popular passion.

The evening of the performance arrived, and the theatre was crowded. The excitement of the audience grew as the play proceeded; and the thunders of applause were taken up by the throng which had gathered outside. Finally the spectators rushed out with loud cries of vengeance against Libri-Bagnano and Van Maanen, in which the mob eagerly joined. Brussels was at that time a chosen shelter of political refugees, ready for any excesses; and a terrible riot ensued. The house of Van Maanen and the offices of the National were attacked, pillaged and burnt. The city was given over to wild confusion and anarchy; and many of the mob secured arms by the plunder of the gun-smiths' shops. Meanwhile the military authorities delayed action. Several small patrols were surrounded and compelled to surrender, while the main body of troops, instead of attacking and dispersing the rioters, was withdrawn and stationed in front of the royal palace. Thus by the extraordinary passiveness of Lieut.-General Bylandt, the military governor of the province, and of Major-General Wauthier, commandant of the city, who must have been acting under secret orders, the wild outbreak of the night began, as the next day progressed and the troops were still inactive, to assume more of the character of a revolution.

This was checked by the action of the municipal authorities and certain of the principal inhabitants, who called together the civic-guard to protect any further tumultuary attacks by marauders and ne'er-do-wells on private property. The guard were joined by numbers of volunteers of the better classes and, under the command of Baron D'Hoogvoort, were distributed in different quarters of the town, and restored order. The French flags, which at first were in evidence, were replaced at the Town Hall by the Brabant tricolor—red, yellow and black. The royal insignia had in many places been torn down, and the Orange cockades had disappeared; nevertheless there was at this time no symptom of an uprising to overthrow the dynasty, only a national demand for redress of grievances. Meanwhile news arrived that reinforcements from Ghent were marching upon the city. The notables however informed General Bylandt that no troops would be allowed to enter the city without resistance; and he agreed to stop the advance and to keep his own troops in their encampment until he received further orders from the Hague. For this abandonment of any attempt to re-assert the royal authority he has been generally blamed.

There is no lack of evidence to show that the riot of August 25 and its consequences were not the work of the popular leaders. The correspondence of Gendebien with De Potter at this time, and the tone of the Belgian press before and after the outbreak, are proofs of this. The Catholique of Ghent (the former organ of Barthels) for instance declared:

There is no salvation for the throne, but in an ample concession of our rights. The essential points to be accorded are royal inviolability and ministerial responsibility; the dismissal of Van Maanen; liberty of education and the press; a diminution of taxation ... in short, justice and liberty in all and for all, in strict conformity with the fundamental law.

The Coursier des Pays Bos (the former organ of De Potter), after demanding the dismissal of Van Maanen as the absolute condition of pacification, adds:

We repeat that we are neither in a state of insurrection nor revolution; all we want is a mitigation of the grievances we have so long endured, and some guarantees for a better future.

In accordance with such sentiments an infuencial meeting on the on the 28th at the townhall appointed a deputation of five, headed by Alexandre de Gendebien and Felix, count de Merode, to bear to the king a loyal address setting forth the just grievances which had led to the Brussels disturbances, and asking respectfully for their removal.

The news of the uprising reached the king on the 27th, and he was much affected. At a Council held at the Hague the Prince of Orange earnestly besought his father to accept the proffered resignation of Van Maanen, and to consider in a conciliatory spirit the grievances of the Belgians. But William refused flatly to dismiss the minister or to treat with rebels. He gave the prince, however, permission to visit Brussels, not armed with powers to act, but merely with a mission of enquiry. He also consented to receive the deputation from Brussels, and summoned an extraordinary meeting of the States-General at the Hague for September 13. Troops were at once ordered to move south and to join the camp at Vilvoorde, where the regiments sent to reinforce the Brussels garrison had been halted. The Prince of Orange and his brother Frederick meanwhile had left the Hague and reached Vilvoorde on August 31. Here Frederick assumed command of the troops; and Orange sent his aide-de-camp to Baron D'Hoogvoort to invite him to a conference at headquarters. The news of the gathering troops had aroused immense excitement in the capital; and it was resolved that Hoogvoort, at the head of a representative deputation, should go to Vilvoorde to urge the prince to stop any advance of the troops on Brussels, as their entrance into the town would be resisted, unless the citizens were assured that Van Maanen was dismissed, and that the other grievances were removed. They invited Orange to come to Brussels attended only by his personal suite, and offered to be sureties for his safety.

The prince made his entry on September 1, the streets being lined with the civic guard. He was personally popular, but, possessing no powers, he could effect nothing. After three days of parleying he returned to the camp, and his mission was a failure. On the same day when Orange entered Brussels the deputation of five was received by King William at the Hague. His reply to their representations was that by the Fundamental Law he had the right to choose his ministers, that the principle of ministerial responsibility was contrary to the Constitution, and that he would not dismiss Van Maanen or deal with any alleged grievances with a pistol at his head.

William, however, despite his uncompromising words, did actually accept the resignation of Van Maanen (September 3); but when the Prince of Orange, returning from his experiences at Brussels, urged the necessity of an administrative separation of north and south, and offered to return to the Belgian capital if armed with full authority to carry it out, his offer was declined. The king would only consent to bring the matter to the consideration of the States-General, which was to meet on the 13th. Instead of taking any immediate action he issued a proclamation, which in no way faced the exigencies of the situation, and was no sooner posted on the walls at Brussels than it was torn down and trampled underfoot. It is only just to say that the king had behind him the unanimous support of the Dutch people, especially the commercial classes. To them separation was far preferable to admitting the Belgians to that predominant share of the representation which they claimed on the ground of their larger population.

Meanwhile at Brussels, owing to the inaction of the government, matters were moving fast. The spirit of revolt had spread to other towns, principally in the Walloon provinces. Liege and Louvain were the first to move. Charles Rogier, an advocate by profession and a Frenchman by birth, was the leader of the revolt at Liege; and such was his fiery ardour that at the head of some 400 men, whom he had supplied with arms from the armourer's warehouses, he marched to Brussels, and arrived in that disturbed city without encountering any Dutch force. The example of Liege was followed by Jemappes, Wavre, and by the miners of the Borinage; and Brussels was filled with a growing crowd of men filled with a revolutionary spirit. Their aim was to proclaim the independence of Belgium, and set up a provisional government.

For such a step even pronounced liberals like Gendebien, Van de Weyer and Rouppe, the veteran burgomaster of the city, were not yet prepared; and they combined with the moderates, Count Felix de Merode and Ferdinand Meeus, to form a Committee of Public Safety. They were aided, in the maintenance of order, by the two Barons D'Hoogvoort (Emmanuel and Joseph), the first the commander of the civic guard, and both popular and influential, and by the municipality. While these were still struggling to maintain their authority, the States-General had met at the Hague on September 13. It was opened by a speech from the king which announced his firm determination to maintain law and order in the face of revolutionary violence. He had submitted two questions to the consideration of the States-General: (1) whether experience had shown the necessity for a modification of the Fundamental Law; (2) whether any change should be made in the relations between the two parts of the kingdom. Both questions were, after long debate (September 29) answered in the affirmative; but, before this took place, events at Brussels had already rendered deliberations at the Hague futile and useless.

The contents of the king's speech were no sooner known in Brussels than they were used by the revolutionary leaders to stir up the passions of the mob by inflammatory harangues. Rogier and Ducpetiaux, at the head of the Liegeois and the contingents from the other Walloon towns, with the support of the lowest elements of the Brussels population, demanded the dissolution of the Committee of Public Safety and the establishment of a Provisional Government. The members of the Committee and of the Municipality, sitting in permanence at the Hotel de Ville, did their utmost to maintain order with the strong support of Baron D'Hoogvoort and the Civic Guard. But it was in vain. On the evening of September 20 an immense mob rushed the Hotel de Ville, after disarming the Civic Guard; and Rogier and Ducpetiaux were henceforth masters of the city. The Committee of Public Safety disappeared and is heard of no more. Hoogvoort resigned his command. On receipt of this news Prince Frederick at Vilvoorde was ordered to advance upon the city and compel submission. But the passions of the crowd had been aroused, and the mere rumour that the Dutch troops were moving caused the most vigorous steps to be taken to resist a outrance their penetrating into the town.

The royal forces, on the morning of September 23, entered the city at three gates and advanced as far as the Park. But beyond that point they were unable to proceed, so desperate was the resistance, and such the hail of bullets that met them from barricades and from the windows and roofs of the houses. For three days almost without cessation the fierce contest went on, the troops losing ground rather than gaining it. On the evening of the 26th the prince gave orders to retreat, his troops having suffered severely.

The effect of this withdrawal was to convert a street insurrection into a national revolt. The moderates now united with the liberals, and a Provisional Government was formed, having amongst its members Rogier, Van de Weyer, Gendebien, Emmanuel D'Hoogvoort, Felix de Merode and Louis de Potter, who a few days later returned triumphantly from banishment. The Provisional Government issued a series of decrees declaring Belgium independent, releasing the Belgian soldiers from their allegiance, and calling upon them to abandon the Dutch standard. They were obeyed. The revolt, which had been confined mainly to the Walloon districts, now spread rapidly over Flanders. Garrison after garrison surrendered; and the remnants of the disorganised Dutch forces retired upon Antwerp (October 2). Two days later the Provisional Government summoned a National Congress to be elected by all Belgian citizens of 25 years of age. The news of these events caused great perturbation at the Hague. The Prince of Orange, who had throughout advocated conciliation, was now permitted by his father to go to Antwerp (October 4) and endeavour to place himself at the head of the Belgian movement on the basis of a grant of administrative separation, but without severance of the dynastic bond with Holland.

King William meanwhile had already (October 2) appealed to the Great Powers, signatories of the Articles of London in 1814, to intervene and to restore order in the Belgic provinces. The difficulties of the prince at Antwerp were very great, for he was hampered throughout by his father's unwillingness to grant him full liberty of action. He issued a proclamation, but it was coldly received; and his attempts to negotiate with the Provisional Government at Brussels met with no success. Things had now gone too far, and any proposal to make Belgium connected with Holland by any ties, dynastic or otherwise, was unacceptable. The well-meaning prince returned disappointed to the Hague on October 24. A most unfortunate occurrence now took place. As General Chasse, the Dutch commander at Antwerp, was withdrawing his troops from the town to the citadel, attacks were made upon them by the mob, and some lives were lost. Chasse in reprisal (October 27) ordered the town to be bombarded from the citadel and the gunboats upon the river. This impolitic act increased throughout Belgium the feeling of hatred against the Dutch, and made the demand for absolute independence deeper and stronger.

The appeal of William to the signatory Powers had immediate effect; and representatives of Austria, Prussia, Russia and Great Britain, to whom a representative of France was now added, met at London on November 4. This course of action was far from what the king expected or wished. Their first step was to impose an armistice; their next to make it clear that their intervention would be confined to negotiating a settlement on the basis of separation. A Whig ministry in England had (November 16) taken the place of that of Wellington; and Lord Palmerston, the new Foreign Secretary, was well-disposed to Belgium and found himself able to work in accord with Talleyrand, the French plenipotentiary. Austria and Russia were too much occupied with their own internal difficulties to think of supporting the Dutch king by force of arms; and Prussia, despite the close family connection, did not venture to oppose the determination of the two western Powers to work for a peaceful settlement. While they were deliberating, the National Congress had met at Brussels, and important decisions had been taken. By overwhelming majorities (November 18) Belgium was declared to be an independent State; and four days later, after vigorous debates, the Congress (by 174 votes to 13) resolved that the new State should be a constitutional monarchy and (by 161 votes to 28) that the house of Orange-Nassau be for ever excluded from the throne. A committee was appointed to draw up a constitution.

William had appealed to the Powers to maintain the Treaties of Paris and Vienna and to support him in what he regarded, on the basis of those treaties, as his undoubted rights; and it was with indignation that he saw the Conference decline to admit his envoy, Falck, except as a witness and on precisely the same terms as the representatives of the Brussels Congress. On December 20 a protocol was issued by the Powers which defined their attitude. They accepted the principle of separation and independence, subject to arrangements being made for assuring European peace. The Conference, however, declared that such arrangements would not affect the rights of King William and of the German Confederation in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. This part of the protocol was as objectionable to the Belgians as the former part was to the Dutch king. The London Plenipotentiaries had in fact no choice, for they were bound by the unfortunate clauses of the treaties of 1815, which, to gratify Prussian ambition for cis-Rhenan territory, converted this ancient Belgian province into a German state. This ill-advised step was now to be the chief obstacle to a settlement in 1831. The mere fact that William had throughout the period of union always treated Luxemburg as an integral part of the southern portion of his kingdom made its threatened severance from the Belgic provinces a burning question. For Luxemburgers had taken a considerable part in the revolt, and Luxemburg representatives sat in the National Congress. Of these eleven voted for the perpetual exclusion of the Orange-Nassau dynasty, one only in its favour. It is not surprising, therefore, that a strong protest was made against the decision of the London Conference to treat the status of Luxemburg as outside the subject of their deliberations. The Conference, however, unmoved by this protest, proceeded in a protocol of January 20,1831, to define the conditions of separation. Holland was to retain her old boundaries of the year 1790, and Belgium to have the remainder of the territory assigned to the kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. Luxemburg was again excluded. The Five Powers, moreover, declared that within these limits the new Belgian State was to be perpetually neutral, its integrity and inviolability being guaranteed by all and each of the Powers. A second protocol (January 27) fixed the proportion of the national debt to be borne by Belgium at sixteen parts out of thirty-one. The sovereign of Belgium was required to give his assent to these protocols, as a condition to being recognised by the Powers. But the Congress of Brussels was in no submissive mood. They had already (January 19) resolved to proceed to the election of a king without consulting anyone. The territorial boundaries assigned to Belgium met with almost unanimous reprobation, a claim being made to the incorporation not merely of Luxemburg, but also of Maestrieht, Limburg and Dutch Flanders, in the new State. Nor were they more contented with the proportion of the debt Belgium was asked to bear. On February 1 the Five Powers had agreed that they would not assent to a member of any of the reigning dynasties being elected to the throne of Belgium. Nevertheless (February 3) the Duc de Nemours, son of Louis Philippe, was elected by 94 votes, as against 67 recorded for the Duke of Leuchtenberg, son of Eugene Beauharnais. The Conference took immediate action by refusing to permit either Nemours or Leuchtenberg to accept the proffered crown.

These acute differences between the Conference and the Belgian Congress were a cause of much satisfaction to the Dutch king, who was closely watching the course of events; and he thought it good policy (February 18) to signify his assent to the conditions set forth in the protocols of January 20 and 27. He had still some hopes of the candidature of the Prince of Orange (who was in London) being supported by the Powers, but for this the time was past.

At this juncture the name of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who had resided in England since the death of his wife the Princess Charlotte, was put forward. This candidature was supported by Great Britain; France raised no objection; and in Belgium it met with official support. Early in April a deputation of five commissioners was sent to offer the crown provisionally to the prince, subject to his endeavouring to obtain some modification of the protocols of January 20 and 27. The Five Powers, however, in a protocol, dated April 15, announced to the Belgian Government that the conditions of separation as laid down in the January protocols were final and irrevocable, and, if not accepted, relations would be broken off. Leopold was not discouraged, however; and such was his influence that he did succeed in obtaining from the Conference an undertaking that they would enter into negotiations with King William in regard both to the territorial and financial disputes with a view to a settlement, moyennant de justes compensations.

The Saxe-Coburg prince was elected king by the Congress (June 4); and in redemption of their undertaking the Conference promulgated (June 26) the preliminary treaty, generally known as the Treaty of the XVIII Articles. By this treaty the question of Luxemburg was reserved for a separate negotiation, the status quo being meanwhile maintained. Other boundary disputes (Maestricht, Limburg and various enclaves) were to be amicably arranged, and the share of Belgium in the public debt was reduced. Leopold had made his acceptance of the crown depend upon the assent of the Congress being given to the Treaty. This assent was given, but in the face of strong opposition (July 9); and the new king made his public entry into Brussels and took the oath to the Constitution twelve days later. On the same day (July 21) the Dutch king refused to accept the XVIII Articles, declaring that he adhered to the protocols of January 20 and 27, which the plenipotentiaries had themselves declared (April 15) to be fundamental and irrevocable. Nor did he confine himself to a refusal. He declared that if any prince should accept the sovereignty of Belgium or take possession of it without having assented to the protocols as the basis of separation he could only regard such prince as his enemy. He followed this up (August 2) by a despatch addressed to the Foreign Ministers of the Five Powers, announcing his intention "to throw his army into the balance with a view to obtaining more equitable terms of separation."

These were no empty words. The facile success of the Belgian revolution had led to the Dutch army being branded as a set of cowards. The king, therefore, despite a solemn warning from the Conference, was determined to show the world that Holland was perfectly able to assert her rights by armed force if she chose to do so. In this course he had the whole-hearted support of his people. It was a bold act politically justified by events. Unexpectedly, on August 2, the Prince of Orange at the head of an army of 30,000 picked men with 72 guns crossed the frontier. The Belgians were quite taken by surprise. Their army, though not perhaps inferior in numbers to the invaders, was badly organised, and was divided into two parts—the army of the Scheldt and the army of the Meuse. The prince knew that he must act with promptness and decision, and he thrust his army by rapid movements between the two Belgian corps. That of the Meuse fell back in great disorder upon Liege; that of the Scheldt was also forced to beat a rapid retreat. Leopold, whose reign was not yet a fortnight old, joined the western corps and did all that man could do to organise and stiffen resistance. At Louvain (August 12) he made a last effort to save the capital and repeatedly exposed his life, but the Belgians were completely routed and Brussels lay at the victor's mercy. It was a terrible humiliation for the new Belgian state. But the prince had accomplished his task and did not advance beyond Louvain. On hearing that a French army, at the invitation of King Leopold, had entered Belgium with the sanction of the Powers, he concluded an armistice, by the mediation of the British Minister, Sir Robert Adair, and undertook to evacuate Belgian territory. His army recrossed the Dutch frontier (August 20), and the French thereupon withdrew.

The Ten Days' Campaign had effected its purpose; and, when the Conference met to consider the new situation, it was felt that the XVIII Articles must be revised. Belgium, saved only from conquest by French intervention, had to pay the penalty of defeat. A new treaty in XXIV Articles was drawn up, and was (October 14) again declared to be final and irrevocable. By this treaty the northwestern (Walloon) portion of Luxemburg was assigned to Belgium, but at the cost of ceding to Holland a considerable piece of Belgian Limburg giving the Dutch the command of both banks of the river Meuse from Maestricht to the Gelderland frontier. The proportion of the debt was likewise altered in favour of Holland. King William was informed that he must obtain the assent of the Germanic Confederation and of the Nassau agnates to the territorial adjustments.

These conditions created profound dissatisfaction both in Belgium and Holland. It was again the unhappy Luxemburg question which caused so much heart-burning. The Conference however felt itself bound by the territorial arrangements of the Congress of Vienna; and Palmerston and Talleyrand, acting in concert throughout, could not on this matter overrule the opposition of Prussia and Austria supported by Russia. All they could do was to secure the compromise by which Walloon Luxemburg was given to Belgium in exchange for territorial compensation in Limburg. Belgian feeling was strong against surrendering any part either of Luxemburg or Limburg; but King Leopold saw that surrender was inevitable and by a threat of abdication he managed to secure, though against vehement opposition, the acceptance of the Treaty of the XXIV Articles by the Belgian Chambers (November 1). The treaty was signed at London by the plenipotentiaries of the Five Great Powers and by the Belgian envoy, Van de Weyer, on November 15, 1831; and Belgium was solemnly recognised as an independent State, whose perpetual neutrality and inviolability was guaranteed by each of the signatories severally[13].

Once more the obstinacy of King William proved an insuperable obstacle to a settlement. He had expected better results from the Ten Days' Campaign, and he emphatically denied the right of the Conference to interfere with the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, as this was not a Belgian question, but concerned only the House of Nassau and the Germanic Confederation. He also objected to the proposed regulations regarding the navigation of the river Scheldt, and refused to evacuate Antwerp or other places occupied by Dutch troops. He was aware that Great Britain and France had taken the leading part in drawing up the treaty, but he relied for support upon his close family relations with Prussia and Russia[14], with whom Austria acted. But, although these Powers bore him good will, they had no intention of encouraging his resistance. Their object in delaying their ratification of the treaty was to afford time to bring good advice to bear upon the unbending temper of the Dutch king. The Tsar even sent Count Alexis Orloff on a special mission to the Hague, with instructions to act with the Prussian and Austrian envoys in urging William to take a reasonable course. All their efforts ended in failure.

During the first nine months of the year 1832 a vigorous exchange of notes took place between London and the Hague; and the Conference did its utmost to effect an accommodation. At last patience was exhausted, and the Powers had to threaten coercion. The three eastern Powers declined indeed to take any active share in coercive measures, but were willing that Great Britain and France should be their delegates. Palmerston and Talleyrand, however, were determined that the King of Holland should no longer continue to defy the will of the European Great Powers; and on October 22 the English and French governments concluded a Convention for joint action. Notice was given to King William (November 2) that he must withdraw his troops before November 13 from all places assigned to Belgium by the Treaty of the XXIV Articles. If he refused, the Dutch ports would be blockaded and an embargo placed upon Dutch ships in the allies' harbours. Further, if on November 13 any Dutch garrisons remained on Belgian soil, they would be expelled by armed force. William at once (November 2) replied to the notice by a flat refusal. In so acting he had behind him the practically unanimous support of Dutch public opinion. The allies took prompt measures. An Anglo-French squadron set sail (November 7) to blockade the Dutch ports and the mouth of the Scheldt; and in response to an appeal from the Belgian government (as was required by the terms of the Convention) a French army of 60,000 men under Marshal Gerard crossed the Belgian frontier (November 15) and laid siege to the Antwerp citadel, held by a garrison of 5000 men commanded by General Chasse. The siege began on November 20, and it was not until December 22 that Chasse, after a most gallant defence, was compelled to capitulate. Rear-Admiral Koopman preferred to burn his twelve gunboats rather than surrender them to the enemy. Marshal Gerard offered to release his prisoners if the Dutch would evacuate the forts of Lillo and Liefkenshoeck, lower down the river. His offer was refused; and the French army, having achieved its purpose, withdrew. For some time longer the blockade and embargo continued, to the great injury of Dutch trade. An interchange of notes between the Hague and London led to the drawing up of a convention, known as the Convention of London, on May 21, 1833. By this agreement King William undertook to commit no acts of hostility against Belgium until a definitive treaty of peace was signed, and to open the navigation of the Scheldt and the Meuse for commerce. The Convention was in fact a recognition of the status quo and was highly advantageous to Belgium, as both Luxemburg and Limburg were ad interim treated as if they were integral parts of the new kingdom.

The cessation of hostilities, however, led to a fresh attempt to reach a settlement. In response to an invitation sent by the western Powers to Austria, Prussia and Russia, the Conference again met in London on July 15. The thread of the negotiations was taken up; but the Belgian government insisted, with the full support of Palmerston, that as a preliminary to any further discussion the King of Holland must obtain the assent of the German Confederation and of the Nassau agnates to the proposed territorial rearrangements. William declined to ask for this assent. The Conference on this was indefinitely suspended. That the king's refusal in August was a part of his fixed policy of waiting upon events was shown by his actually approaching the Confederation and the agnates in the following November (1833). Neither of these would consent to any partition of Luxemburg, unless they received full territorial compensation elsewhere. So matters drifted on through the years 1834-1837. Meanwhile in Holland a change of opinion had been gradually taking place. The heavy taxes consequent upon the maintenance of an army on a war footing pressed more and more upon a country whose income was insufficient to meet its expenses. People grew tired of waiting for a change in the political position that became every year more remote. Luxemburg was of little interest to the Dutch; they only saw that Belgium was prosperous, and that the maintenance of the status quo was apparently all to her advantage. The dissatisfaction of the Dutch people, so long patient and loyal, made itself heard with increasing insistence in the States-General; and the king saw that the time had arrived for abandoning his obstinate non-possumus attitude. Accordingly, in March, 1838, he suddenly instructed his minister in London (Dedel) to inform Palmerston that he (the king) was ready to sign the treaty of the XXIV Articles, and to agree pleinement et entierement to the conditions it imposed.

The unexpected news of this sudden step came upon the Belgians like a thunderclap. From every part of the kingdom arose a storm of protest against any surrender of territory. The people of Luxemburg and Limburg appealed to their fellow-citizens not to abandon them; and their appeal met with the strongest support from all classes and in both Chambers. They argued that Holland had refused to sign the treaty of 1831, which had been imposed on Belgium in her hour of defeat; and that now, after seven years, the treaty had ceased to be in force and required revision. The Belgians expected to receive support from Great Britain and France, and more especially from Palmerston, their consistent friend. But Palmerston was tired of the endless wrangling; and, acting on his initiative, the Five Powers determined that they would insist on the Treaty of the XXIV Articles being carried out as it stood. The Conference met again in October, 1838; and all the efforts of the Belgian government, and of King Leopold personally, to obtain more favoured terms proved unavailing. An offer to pay sixty million francs indemnity for Luxemburg and Limburg was rejected both by King William and the Germanic Confederation. Such was the passionate feeling in Belgium that there was actually much talk of resisting in the last resort by force of arms. Volunteers poured in; and in Holland also the government began to make military preparations. But it was an act of sheer madness for isolated Belgium to think of opposing the will of the Great Powers of Europe. The angry interchange of diplomatic notes resulted only in one modification in favour of Belgium. The annual charge of 8,400,000 francs placed upon Belgium on account of her share in the public debt of the Netherlands was reduced to a payment of 5,000,000 francs. The Dutch king signed the treaty on February 1, 1839. Finally the proposal that the treaty should be signed, opposition being useless, met with a sullen assent from the two Belgian Chambers. On April 19, 1839, the Belgian envoy, Van de Weyer, affixed his signature at the Foreign Office in London and so brought to an end the long controversy, which had lasted for nine years. There were still many details to be settled between the two kingdoms, which from this time became two separate and distinct political entities; but these were finally arranged in an amicable spirit, and were embodied in a subsidiary treaty signed November 5, 1842.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXII

WILLIAM II. REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION.

1842-1849

The Dutch nation welcomed the final separation from Belgium with profound relief. The national charges had risen from 15 million florins in 1815 to 38 million florins in 1838. Taxation was oppressive, trade stagnant, and the financial position growing more and more intolerable. The long-tried loyalty of the people, who had entrusted their sovereign with such wide and autocratic powers, had cooled. The king's Belgian policy had obviously been a complete failure; and the rotten state of public finance was naturally in large part attributed to the sovereign, who had so long been practically his own finance minister. Loud cries began to be raised for a revision of the constitution on liberal lines. To the old king any such revision was repugnant; but, unable to resist the trend of public opinion, he gave his assent to a measure of constitutional reform in the spring of 1840. Its limited concessions satisfied no one. Its principal modifications of the Fundamental Law were: (1) the division of the province of Holland into two parts; (2) the reduction of the Civil List; (3) the necessary alteration of the number of deputies in the Second Chamber due to the separation from Belgium; (4) abolition of the distinction between the ordinary and the extraordinary budget; (5) a statement of the receipts and expenditure of the colonies to be laid before the States-General. Finally the principle of ministerial responsibility was granted most reluctantly, the king yielding only after the Chambers had declined to consider the estimates without this concession. But William had already made up his mind to abdicate, rather than reign under the new conditions. He knew that he was unpopular and out-of-touch with the times; and his unpopularity had been increased by his announced intention of marrying the Countess Henriette D'Oultremont, a Belgian and a Catholic. On October 7 he issued a proclamation by which he handed over the government to his son William Frederick, Prince of Orange. He then retired quietly to his private estates in Silesia. He died at Berlin in 1843.

William II was forty-eight years of age on his accession to the throne. He was a man of a character very different from that of his father. Amiable, accessible, easily influenced, liberal-handed even to extravagance, he was deservedly popular. He had shown himself in the Peninsula, at Quatre Bras and Waterloo and later in the Ten Days' Campaign, to be a capable and courageous soldier, but he possessed few of the qualities either of a statesman or a financier. He had married in 1816 Anna Paulovna, sister of the Tsar Alexander I, after his proposed marriage with the Princess Charlotte of England had been broken off.

He entered upon his reign in difficult times. There was a loud demand for a further sweeping revision of the constitution. Religious movements, which had been gathering force during the reign of William I, required careful handling. One minister after another had tried to grapple with the financial problem, but in vain. In 1840 the public debt amounted to 2200 million florins; and the burden of taxation, though it had become almost unendurable, failed to provide for the interest on the debt and the necessary expenses of administration. The State was in fact on the verge of bankruptcy. The appointment in 1842 of F.A. van Hall (formerly an Amsterdam advocate, who had held the post of minister of justice) to be finance minister opened out a means of salvation. The arrears to 1840 amounted to 35 million florins; the deficit for 1841-3 had to be covered, and means provided for the expenditure for 1843-4. Van Hall's proposals gave the people the choice between providing the necessary money by an extraordinary tax of one and a half per cent, on property and income, and raising a voluntary loan of 150 million florins at 3 per cent. After long debates the States-General accepted the proposal for the voluntary loan, but the amount was reduced to 126 millions. The success of the loan, though at first doubtful, was by March, 1844, complete. The Amsterdam Bourse gave its utmost support; and the royal family set a good example by a joint subscription of 11 million florins. By this means, and by the capitalisation of the annual Belgian payment of five million francs, Van Hall was able to clear off the four years' arrears and to convert the 5 and 4-1/2 per cent. scrip into 4 per cent. He was helped by the large annual payments, which now began to come in from the Dutch East Indies; and at length an equilibrium was established in the budget between receipts and expenditure.

In the years preceding the French Revolution the Reformed Church in the United Provinces had become honey-combed with rationalism. The official orthodoxy of the Dort synod had become "a fossilised skeleton." By the Constitution of 1798 Church and State were separated, and the property of the Church was taken by the State, which paid however stipends to the ministers. Under King Louis subsidies were paid from the public funds to teachers of every religious persuasion; and this system continued during the union of Holland and Belgium. A movement known as the Reveil had meanwhile been stirring the dry-bones of Calvinistic orthodoxy in Holland. Its first leaders were Bilderdijk, De Costa and Capadose. Like most religious revivals, this movement gave rise to extravagancies and dissensions. In 1816 a new sect was founded by a sea-captain, Staffel Mulder, on communistic principles after the example of the first Jerusalem converts, which gathered a number of followers among the peasantry. The "New Lighters"—such was the name they assumed—established in 1823 their headquarters at Zwijndrecht. The first enthusiasm however died down, and the sect gradually disappeared. More serious was the liberal revolt against the cut-and-dried orthodoxy of Dort. Slowly it made headway, and it found leaders in Hofstede de Groot, professor at Groningen, and in two eloquent preachers, De Cocq at Ulrum and Scholte at Deventer. These men, finding that their views met with no sympathy or recognition by the synodal authorities, resolved (October 14,1834) on the serious step of separating from the Reformed Church and forming themselves and their adherents into a new church body. They were known as "the Separatists" (de Afgescheidenen). Though deprived of their pulpits, fined and persecuted, the Separatists grew in number. In 1836 the government refused to recognise them as a Church, but permitted local congregations to hold meetings in houses. In 1838 more favourable conditions were offered, which De Cocq and Scholte finally agreed to accept, but no subsidies were paid to the sect by the State. William II, in 1842, made a further concession by allowing religious teaching to be given daily in the public schools (out of school hours) by the Separatist ministers, as well as by those of other denominations. All this while, however, certain congregations refused to accept the compromise of 1838; and a large number, headed by a preacher named Van Raalte, in order to obtain freedom of worship, emigrated to Michigan to form the nucleus of a flourishing Dutch colony.

The accession of William II coincided with a period of political unrest, not only in Holland but throughout Europe. A strong reaction had set in against the system of autocratic rule, which had been the marked feature of the period which followed 1815. Liberal and progressive ideas had during the later years been making headway in Holland under the inspiring leadership of Johan Rudolf Thorbecke, at that time a professor of jurisprudence at Leyden. He had many followers; and the cause he championed had the support of the brilliant writers and publicists, Donker-Curtius, Luzac, Potgieter, Bakhuizen van der Brink and others. A strong demand arose for a thorough revision of the constitution. In 1844 a body of nine members of the Second Chamber, chief amongst them Thorbecke, drew up a definite proposal for a revision; but the king expressed his dislike to it, and it was rejected. The Van Hall ministry had meanwhile been carrying out those excellent financial measures which had saved the credit of the State, and was now endeavouring to conduct the government on opportunist lines. But the potato famine in 1845-46 caused great distress among the labouring classes, and gave added force to the spirit of discontent in the country. The king himself grew nervous in the presence of the revolutionary ferment spreading throughout Europe, and was more especially alarmed (February, 1848) by the sudden overthrow of the monarchy of Louis Philippe and the proclamation of a republic at Paris. He now resolved himself to take the initiative. He saw that the proposals hitherto made for revision did not satisfy public opinion; and on March 8, without consulting his ministers, he took the unusual step of sending for the President of the Second Chamber, Boreel van Hogelanden. He asked him to ascertain the opinions and wishes of the Chamber on the matter of revision and to report to him. The ministry on this resigned and a new liberal ministry was formed, at the head of which was Count Schimmelpenninck, formerly minister in London. On March 17 a special Commission was appointed to draw up a draft scheme of revision. It consisted of five members, four of whom, Thorbecke, Luzac, Donker-Curtius and Kempenaer, were prominent liberals and the fifth a Catholic from North Brabant. Their work was completed by April 11 and the report presented to the king. Schimmelpenninck, not agreeing with the proposals of the Commission, resigned; and on May 11 a new ministry under the leadership of Donker-Curtius was formed for the express purpose of carrying out the proposed revision. A periodical election of the Second Chamber took place in July, and difficulties at first confronted the new scheme. These were, however, overcome; and on October 14 the revised constitution received the king's assent. It was solemnly proclaimed on November 3.

The Constitution of 1848 left in the hands of the king the executive power, i.e. the conduct of foreign affairs, the right of declaring war and making peace, the supreme command of the military and naval forces, the administration of the overseas possessions, and the right of dissolving the Chambers; but these prerogatives were modified by the introduction of the principle of ministerial responsibility. The ministers were responsible for all acts of the government, and the king could legally do no wrong. The king was president of the Council of State (15 members), whose duty it was to consider all proposals made to or by the States-General. The king shared the legislative power with the States-General, but the Second Chamber had the right of initiative, amendment and investigation; and annual budgets were henceforth to be presented for its approval. All members of the States-General were to be at least 30 years of age. The First Chamber of 39 members was elected by the Provincial Estates from those most highly assessed to direct taxation; the members sat for nine years, but one-third vacated their seats every third year. All citizens of full age paying a certain sum to direct taxation had the right of voting for members of the Second Chamber, the country for this purpose being divided into districts containing 45,000 inhabitants. The members held their seats for four years, but half the Chamber retired every second year. Freedom of worship to all denominations, liberty of the press and the right of public meeting were guaranteed. Primary education in public schools was placed under State control, but private schools were not interfered with. The provincial and communal administration was likewise reformed and made dependent on the direct popular vote.

The ministry of Donker-Curtius at once took steps for holding fresh elections, as soon as the new constitution became the fundamental law of the country. A large majority of liberals was returned to the Second Chamber. The king in person opened the States-General on February 13, 1849, and expressed his intention of accepting loyally the changes to which he had given his assent. He was, however, suffering and weak from illness, and a month later (March 17) he died at Tilburg. His gracious and kindly personality had endeared him to his subjects, who deeply regretted that at this moment of constitutional change the States should lose his experienced guidance. He was succeeded by his son, William III.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXIII

REIGN OF WILLIAM III TO THE DEATH OF THORBECKE, 1849-1872

William III succeeded to the throne at a moment of transition. He was thirty-two years of age, and his natural leanings were autocratic; but he accepted loyally the principle of ministerial responsibility, and throughout his long reign endeavoured honestly and impartially to fulfil his duties as a constitutional sovereign. There were at this time in Holland four political parties: (1) the old conservative party, which after 1849 gradually dwindled in numbers and soon ceased to be a power in the State; (2) the liberals, under the leadership of Thorbecke; (3) the anti-revolutionary or orthodox Protestant party, ably led by G. Groen van Prinsterer, better known perhaps as a distinguished historian, but at the same time a good debater and resourceful parliamentarian; (4) the Catholic party. The Catholics for the first time obtained in 1849 the full privileges of citizenship. They owed this to the liberals, and for some years they gave their support to that party, though differing from them fundamentally on many points. The anti-revolutionaries placed in the foreground the upholding of the Reformed (orthodox Calvinistic) faith in the State, and of religious teaching in the schools. In this last article of their political creed they were at one with the Catholics, and in its defence the two parties were destined to become allies.

The liberal majority in the newly elected States-General was considerable; and it was the general expectation that Thorbecke would become head of the government. The king however suspected the aims of the liberal leader, and personally disliked him. He therefore kept in office the Donker-Curtius-De Kempenaer cabinet; but, after a vain struggle against the hostile majority, it was compelled to resign, and Thorbecke was called upon to form a ministry.

Thorbecke was thus the first constitutional prime-minister of Holland. His answer to his opponents, who asked for his programme, was contained in words which he was speedily to justify: "Wait for our deeds." A law was passed which added 55,000 votes to the electorate; and by two other laws the provincial and communal assemblies were placed upon a popular representative basis. The system of finance was reformed by the gradual substitution of direct for indirect taxation. By the Navigation Laws all differential and transit dues upon shipping were reduced; tolls on through-cargoes on the rivers were abolished, and the tariff on raw materials lowered. It was a considerable step forward in the direction of free-trade. Various changes were made to lighten the incidence of taxation on the poorer classes. Among the public works carried to completion at this time (1852) was the empoldering of the Haarlem lake, which converted a large expanse of water into good pasture land.

It was not on political grounds that the Thorbecke ministry was to be wrecked, but by their action in matters which aroused religious passions and prejudices. The prime-minister wished to bring all charitable institutions and agencies under State supervision. Their number was more than 3500; and a large proportion of these were connected with and supported by religious bodies. It is needless to say the proposal aroused strong opposition. More serious was the introduction of a Catholic episcopate into Holland. By the Fundamental Law of 1848 complete freedom of worship and of organisation had been guaranteed to every form of religious belief. It was the wish of the Catholics that the system which had endured ever since the 16th century of a "Dutch mission" under the direction of an Italian prelate (generally the internuncio) should come to an end, and that they should have bishops of their own. The proposal was quite constitutional and, far from giving the papal curia more power in the Netherlands, it decreased it. A petition to Pius IX in 1847 met with little favour at Rome; but in 1851 another petition, much more widely signed, urged the Pope to seize the favourable opportunity for establishing a native hierarchy. Negotiations were accordingly opened by the papal see with the Dutch government, which ended (October, 1852) in a recognition of the right of the Catholic Church in Holland to have freedom of organisation. It was stipulated, however, that a previous communication should be made to the government of the papal intentions and plans, before they were carried out. The only communication that was made was not official, but confidential; and it merely stated that Utrecht was to be erected into an archbishopric with Haarlem, Breda, Hertogenbosch and Roeremonde, as suffragans. The ministry regarded the choice of such Protestant centres as Utrecht and Haarlem with resentment, but were faced with the fait accompli. This strong-handed action of the Roman authorities was made still more offensive by the issuing of a papal allocution, again without any consultation with the Dutch government, in which Pius IX described the establishment of the new hierarchy as a means of counteracting in the Netherlands the heresy of Calvin.

A wave of fierce indignation swept over Protestant Holland, which united in one camp orthodox Calvinists (anti-revolutionaries), conservatives and anti-papal liberals. The preachers everywhere inveighed against a ministry which had permitted such an act of aggression on the part of a foreign potentate against the Protestantism of the nation. Utrecht took the lead in drawing up an address to the king and to the States-General (which obtained two hundred thousand signatures), asking them not to recognise the proposed hierarchy. At the meeting of the Second Chamber of the States-General on April 12, Thorbecke had little difficulty in convincing the majority that the Pope had proceeded without Consultation with the ministry, and that under the Constitution the Catholics had acted within their rights in re-modelling their Church organisation. But his arguments were far from satisfying outside public opinion. On the occasion of a visit of the king to Amsterdam the ministry took the step of advising him not to receive any address hostile to the establishment of the hierarchy, on the ground that this did not require the royal approval. William, who had never been friendly to Thorbecke, was annoyed at being thus instructed in the discharge of his duties; and he not only received an address containing 51,000 signatures but expressed his great pleasure in being thus approached (April 15). At the same time he summoned Van Hall, the leader of the opposition, to Amsterdam for a private consultation. The ministry, on hearing of what had taken place, sent its resignation, which was accepted on April 19. Thus fell the Thorbecke ministry, not by a parliamentary defeat, but because the king associated himself with the uprising of hostile public opinion, known as the "April Movement."

A new ministry was formed under the joint leadership of Van Hall and Donker-Curtius; and an appeal to the electors resulted in the defeat of the liberals. The majority was a coalition of conservatives and anti-revolutionaries. The followers of Groen van Prinsterer were small in number, but of importance through the strong religious convictions and debating ability of the leader. The presence of Donker-Curtius was a guarantee for moderation; and, as Van Hall was an adept in political opportunism, the new ministry differed from its liberal predecessor chiefly in its more cautious attitude towards the reforms which both were ready to adopt. As it had been carried into office by the April Movement, a Church Association Bill was passed into law making it illegal for a foreigner to hold any Church office without the royal assent, and forbidding the wearing of a distinctive religious dress outside closed buildings. Various measures were introduced dealing with ministerial responsibility, poor-law administration and other matters, such as the abolition of the excise on meat and of barbarous punishments on the scaffold.

The question of primary education was to prove for the next half-century a source of continuous political and religious strife, dividing the people of Holland into hostile camps. The question was whether the State schools should be "mixed" i.e. neutral schools, where only those simple truths which were common to all denominations should be taught; or should be "separate" i.e. denominational schools, in which religious instruction should be given in accordance with the wishes of the parents. A bill was brought in by the government (September, 1854) which was intended to be a compromise. It affirmed the general principle that the State schools should be "neutral," but allowed "separate" schools to be built and maintained. This proposal was fiercely opposed by Groen and gave rise to a violent agitation. The ministry struggled on, but its existence was precarious and internal dissensions at length led to its resignation (July, 1856). The elections of 1856 had effected but little change in the constitution of the Second Chamber, and the anti-revolutionary J.J.L. van der Brugghen was called upon to form a ministry. Groen himself declined office, Van der Brugghen made an effort to conciliate opposition; and a bill for primary education was introduced (1857) upholding the principle of the "mixed" schools, but with the proviso that the aim of the teaching was to be the instruction of the children "in Christian and social virtues"; at the same time "separate" schools were permitted and under certain conditions would be subsidised by the State. Groen again did his utmost to defeat this bill, but he was not successful; and after stormy debates it became law (July, 1857). The liberals obtained a majority at the elections of 1858, and Van der Brugghen resigned. But the king would not send for Thorbecke; and J.J. Rochussen, a former governor-general of the Dutch East Indies, was asked to form a "fusion" ministry. During his tenure of office (1858-60) slavery was abolished in the East Indies, though not the cultivation-system, which was but a kind of disguised slavery. The way in which the Javanese suffered by this system of compulsory labour for the profit of the home country—the amount received by the Dutch treasury being not less than 250 million florins in thirty years—was now scathingly exposed by the brilliant writer Douwes Dekker. He had been an official in Java, and his novel Max Havelaar, published in 1860 under the pseudonym "Multatuli," was widely read, and brought to the knowledge of the Dutch public the character of the system which was being enforced.

Holland was at this time far behind Belgium in the construction of a system of railroads, to the great hindrance of trade. A bill, however, proposed by the ministry to remedy this want was rejected by the First Chamber, and Rochussen resigned. The king again declined to send for Thorbecke; and Van Hall was summoned for the third time to form a ministry. He succeeded in securing the passage of a proposal to spend not less than 10 million florins annually in the building of State railways. All Van Hall's parliamentary adroitness and practised opportunism could not, however, long maintain in office a ministry supported cordially by no party. Van Hall gave up the unthankful task (February, 1861), but still it was not Thorbecke, but Baron S. van Heemstra that was called upon to take his place. For a few months only was the ministry able to struggle on in the face of a liberal majority. There was now no alternative but to offer the post of first minister to Thorbecke, who accepted the office (January 31, 1862).

The second ministry of Thorbecke lasted for four years, and was actively engaged during that period in domestic, trade and colonial reforms. Thorbecke, as a free-trader, at once took in hand the policy of lowering all duties except for revenue purposes. The communal dues were extinguished. A law for secondary and technical education was passed in 1863; and in the same year slavery was abolished in Surinam and the West Indies. Other bills were passed for the canalising of the Hook of Holland, and the reclaiming of the estuary of the Y. This last project included the construction of a canal, the Canal of Holland, with the artificial harbour of Ymuiden at its entrance, deep enough for ocean liners to reach Amsterdam. With the advent of Fransen van de Putte, as colonial minister in 1863, began a series of far-reaching reforms in the East Indies, including the lowering of the differential duties. His views, however, concerning the scandal of the cultivation-system in Java did not meet with the approval of some of his colleagues; and Thorbecke himself supported the dissentients. The ministry resigned, and Van de Putte became head of the government. He held office for four months only. His bill for the abolition of the cultivation-system and the conversion of the native cultivators into possessors of their farms was thrown out by a small majority, Thorbecke with a few liberals and some Catholics voting with the conservatives against it. This was the beginning of a definite liberal split, which was to continue for years.

A coalition-ministry followed under the presidency of J. van Heemskerk (Interior) and Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt (Foreign Affairs). The colonial minister Mijer shortly afterwards resigned in order to take the post of governor-general of the East Indies. This appointment did not meet with the approval of the Second Chamber; and the government suffered a defeat. On this they persuaded the king not only to dissolve the Chamber, but to issue a proclamation impressing upon the electors the need of the country for a more stable administration. The result was the return of a majority for the Heemskerk-Van Zuylen combination. It is needless to say that Thorbecke and his followers protested strongly against the dragging of the king's name into a political contest, as gravely unconstitutional. The ministry had a troubled existence.

The results of the victory of Prussia over Austria at Sadowa, and the formation of the North German Confederation under Prussian leadership, rendered the conduct of foreign relations a difficult and delicate task, especially as regards Luxemburg and Limburg, both of which were under the personal sovereignty of William III, and at the same time formed part of the old German Confederation. The rapid success of Prussia had seriously perturbed public opinion in France; and Napoleon III, anxious to obtain some territorial compensation which would satisfy French amour-propre, entered into negotiations with William III for the sale of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. The king was himself alarmed at the Prussian annexations, and Queen Sophie and the Prince of Orange had decided French leanings; and, as Bismarck had given the king reason to believe that no objection would be raised, the negotiations for the sale were seriously undertaken. On March 26, 1867, the Prince of Orange actually left the Hague, bearing the document containing the Grand Duke's consent; and on April 1 the cession was to be finally completed. On that very day the Prussian ambassadors at Paris and the Hague were instructed to say that any cession of Luxemburg to France would mean war with Prussia. It was a difficult situation; and a conference of the Great Powers met at London on May 11 to deal with it. Its decision was that Luxemburg should remain as an independent state, whose neutrality was guaranteed collectively by the Powers, under the sovereignty of the House of Nassau; that the town of Luxemburg should be evacuated by its Prussian garrison; and that Limburg should henceforth be an integral part of the kingdom of the Netherlands.

Van Zuylen was assailed in the Second Chamber for his exposing the country to danger and humiliation in this matter; and the Foreign Office vote was rejected by a small majority. The ministry resigned; but, rather than address himself to Thorbecke, the king sanctioned a dissolution, with the result of a small gain of seats to the liberals. Heemskerk and Van Zuylen retained office for a short time in the face of adverse votes, but finally resigned; and the king had no alternative but to ask Thorbecke to form a ministry. He himself declined office, but he chose a cabinet of young liberals who had taken no part in the recent political struggles, P.P. van Bosse becoming first minister.

From this time forward there was no further attempt on the part of the royal authority to interfere in the constitutional course of parliamentary government. Van Bosse's ministry, scoffingly called by their opponents "Thorbecke's marionettes," maintained themselves in office for two years(1868-70), passing several useful measures, but are chiefly remembered for the abolition of capital punishment. The outbreak of the Franco-German war in 1870 found, however, the Dutch army and fortresses ill-prepared for an emergency, when the maintenance of strict neutrality demanded an efficient defence of the frontiers. The ministry was not strong enough to resist the attacks made upon it; and at last the real leader of the liberal party, the veteran Thorbecke, formed his third ministry (January, 1871). But Thorbecke was now in ill-health, and the only noteworthy achievement of his last premiership was an agreement with Great Britain by which the Dutch possessions on the coast of Guinea were ceded to that country in exchange for a free hand being given to the Dutch in Surinam. The ministry, having suffered a defeat on the subject of the cost of the proposed army re-organisation, was on the point of resigning, when Thorbecke suddenly died (June 5, 1872). His death brought forth striking expressions of sympathy and appreciation from men and journals representing all parties in the State. For five-and-twenty years, in or out of office, his had been the dominating influence in Dutch politics; and it was felt on all sides that the country was the poorer for the loss of a man of outstanding ability and genuine patriotism.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE LATER REIGN OF WILLIAM III, AND THE REGENCY OF QUEEN EMMA, 1872-1898

The death of Thorbecke was the signal for a growing cleavage between the old doctrinaire school of liberals, who adhered to the principles of 1848, and the advanced liberalism of many of the younger progressive type. To Gerrit de Vries was entrusted the duty of forming a ministry, and he had the assistance of the former first minister, F. van de Putte. His position was weakened by the opposition of the Catholic party, who became alienated from the liberals, partly on the religious education question, but more especially because their former allies refused to protest against the Italian occupation of Rome. The election of 1873 did not improve matters, for it left the divided liberals to face an opposition of equal strength, whenever the conservatives, anti-revolutionaries and Catholics acted together. This same year saw the first phase of the war with the piratical state of Achin. An expedition of 3600 men under General Koehler was sent out against the defiant sultan in April, 1873, but suffered disaster, the General himself dying of disease. A second stronger expedition under General van Swieten was then dispatched, which was successful; and the sultan was deposed in January, 1874. This involved heavy charges on the treasury; and the ministry, after suffering two reverses in the Second Chamber, resigned (June, 1874), being succeeded by a Heemskerk coalition ministry.

Heemskerk in his former premiership had shown himself to be a clever tactician, and for three years he managed to maintain himself in office against the combined opposition of the advanced liberals, the anti-revolutionaries and the Catholics. Groen van Prinsterer died in May, 1876; and with his death the hitherto aristocratic and exclusive party, which he had so long led, became transformed. Under its new leader, Abraham Kuyper, it became democratised, and, by combining its support of the religious principle in education with that of progressive reform, was able to exercise a far wider influence in the political sphere. Kuyper, for many years a Calvinist pastor, undertook in 1872 the editorship of the anti-revolutionary paper, De Standdard. In 1874 he was elected member for Gouda, but resigned in order to give his whole time to journalism in the interest of the political principles to which he now devoted his great abilities.

The Heemskerk ministry had the support of no party, but by the opportunist skill of its chief it continued in office for three years; no party was prepared to take its place, and "the government of the king must be carried on." The measures that were passed in this time were useful rather than important. An attempt to deal with primary instruction led to the downfall of the ministry. The elections of 1877 strengthened the liberals; and, an amendment to the speech from the throne being carried, Heemskerk resigned. His place was taken by Joannes Kappeyne, leader of the progressive liberals. A new department of State was now created, that of Waterways and Commerce, whose duties in a country like Holland, covered with a net-work of dykes and canals, was of great importance. A measure which denied State support to the "private" schools was bitterly resisted by the anti-revolutionaries and the Catholics, whose union in defence of religious education was from this time forward to become closer. The outlay in connection with the costly Achin war, which had broken out afresh, led to a considerable deficit in the budget. In consequence of this a proposal for the construction of some new canals was rejected by a majority of one. The financial difficulties, which had necessitated the imposing of unpopular taxes, had once more led to divisions in the liberal ranks; and Kappeyne, finding that the king would not support his proposals for a revision of the Fundamental Law, saw no course open to him but resignation.

In these circumstances the king decided to ask an anti-revolutionary, Count van Lynden van Sandenburg, to form a "Ministry of Affairs," composed of moderate men of various parties. Van Lynden had a difficult task, but with the strong support of the king his policy of conciliation carried him safely through four disquieting and anxious years. The revolt of the Boers in the Transvaal against British rule caused great excitement in Holland, and aroused much sympathy. Van Lynden was careful to avoid any steps which might give umbrage to England, and he was successful in his efforts. The Achin trouble was, however, still a cause of much embarrassment. Worst of all was the series of bereavements which at this time befell the House of Orange-Nassau. In 1877 Queen Sophie died, affectionately remembered for her interest in art and science, and her exemplary life. The king's brother, Henry, for thirty years Stadholder of Luxemburg, died childless early in 1879; and shortly afterwards in June the Prince of Orange, who had never married, passed away suddenly at Paris. The two sons of William III's uncle Frederick predeceased their father, whose death took place in 1881. Alexander, the younger son of the king, was sickly and feeble-minded; and with his decease in 1884, the male line of the House of Orange-Nassau became extinct. Foreseeing such a possibility in January, 1879, the already aged king took in second wedlock the youthful Princess Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont. Great was the joy of the Dutch people, when, on August 31, 1880, she gave birth to a princess, Wilhelmina, who became from this time forth the hope of a dynasty, whose history for three centuries had been bound up with that of the nation.

The Van Lynden administration, having steered its way through many parliamentary crises for four years, was at last beaten upon a proposal to enlarge the franchise, and resigned (February 26, 1883). To Heemskerk was confided the formation of a coalition ministry of a neutral character; and this experienced statesman became for the third time first minister of the crown. The dissensions in the liberal party converted the Second Chamber into a meeting-place of hostile factions; and Heemskerk was better fitted than any other politician to be the head of a government which, having no majority to support it, had to rely upon tactful management and expediency. The rise of a socialist party under the enthusiastic leadership of a former Lutheran pastor, Domela Nieuwenhuis, added to the perplexities of the position. It soon became evident that a revision of the Fundamental Law and an extension of the franchise, which the king no longer opposed, was inevitable. Meanwhile the death of Prince Alexander and the king's growing infirmities made it necessary to provide, by a bill passed on August 2,1884, that Queen Emma should become regent during her daughter's minority.

Everything conspired to beset the path of the Heemskerk ministry with hindrances to administrative or legislative action. The bad state of the finances (chiefly owing to the calls for the Achin war) the subdivision of all parties into groups, the socialist agitation and the weak health of the king, created something like a parliamentary deadlock. A revision of the constitution became more and more pressing as the only remedy, though no party was keenly in its favour. Certain proposals for revision were made by the government (March, 1885), but the anti-revolutionaries, the Catholics and the conservatives were united in opposition, unless concessions were made in the matter of religious education. Such concessions as were finally offered were rejected (April, 1886), and Heemskerk offered his resignation. Baron Mackay (anti-revolutionary) declining office, a dissolution followed. The result of the elections, however, was inconclusive, the liberals of all shades having a bare majority of four; but there was no change of ministry. A more conciliatory spirit fortunately prevailed under stress of circumstances in the new Chamber; and at last, after many debates, the law revising the constitution was passed through both Chambers, and approved by the king (November 30, 1887). It was a compromise measure, and no violent changes were made. The First Chamber was to consist of 50 members, appointed by the Provincial Councils; the Second Chamber of 100 members, chosen by an electorate of male persons of not less than 25 years of age with a residential qualification and possessing "signs of fitness and social well-being"—a vague phrase requiring future definition. The number of electors was increased from (in round numbers) 100,000 to 350,000, but universal male suffrage, the demand of the socialists and more advanced liberals, was not conceded.

The elections of 1888 were fought on the question of religious education in the primary schools. The two "Christian" parties, the Calvinist anti-revolutionaries under the leadership of Dr Kuyper, and the Catholics, who had found a leader of eloquence and power in Dr Schaepman, a Catholic priest, coalesced in a common programme for a revision of Kappeyne's Education Act of 1878. The coalition obtained a majority, 27 anti-revolutionaries and 25 Catholics being returned as against 46 liberals of various groups. For the first time a socialist, Domela Nieuwenhuis, was elected. The conservative party was reduced to one member. In the First Chamber the liberals still commanded a majority. In April, 1888, Baron Mackay, an anti-revolutionary of moderate views, became first minister. The coalition made the revision of the Education Act of 1878 their first business; and they obtained the support of some liberals who were anxious to see the school question out of the way. The so-called "Mackay Law" was passed in 1889. It provided that "private" schools should receive State support on condition that they conformed to the official regulations; that the number of scholars should be not less than twenty-five; and that they should be under the management of some body, religious or otherwise, recognised by the State. This settlement was a compromise, but it offered the solution of an acute controversy and was found to work satisfactorily.

The death of King William on November 23, 1890, was much mourned by his people. He was a man of strong and somewhat narrow views, but during his reign of 41 years his sincere love for his country was never in doubt, nor did he lose popularity by his anti-liberal attitude on many occasions, for it was known to arise from honest conviction; and it was amidst general regret that the last male representative of the House of Orange-Nassau was laid in his grave.

A proposal by the Catholic minister Borgesius for the introduction of universal personal military service was displeasing however to many of his own party, and it was defeated with the help of Catholic dissidents. An election followed, and the liberals regained a majority. A new government was formed of a moderate progressive character, the premier being Cornelis van Tienhoven. It was a ministry of talents, Tak van Poortvliet (interior) and N.G. Pierson (finance) being men of marked ability. Pierson had more success than any of his predecessors in bringing to an end the recurring deficits in the annual balance sheet. He imposed an income tax on all incomes above 650 florins derived from salaries or commerce. All other sources of income were capitalised (funds, investments, farming, etc.); and a tax was placed on all capital above 13,000 florins. Various duties and customs were lowered, to the advantage of trade. There was, however, a growing demand for a still further extension of the franchise, and for an official interpretation of that puzzling qualification of the Revision of 1889—"signs of fitness and social well-being." Tak van Poortvliet brought in a measure which would practically have introduced universal male suffrage, for he interpreted the words as including all who could write and did not receive doles from charity. This proposal, brought forward in 1893, again split up the liberal party. The moderates under the leadership of Samuel van Houten vigorously opposed such an increase of the electorate; and they had the support of the more conservative anti-revolutionaries and a large part of the Catholics. The more democratic followers of Kuyper and Schaepman and the progressive radicals ranged themselves on the side of Tak van Poortvliet. All parties were thus broken up into hostile groups. The election of 1894 was contested no longer on party lines, but between Takkians and anti-Takkians. The result was adverse to Tak, his following only mustering 46 votes against 54 for their opponents.

A new administration therefore came into office (May, 1894) under the presidency of Jonkheer Johan Roell with Van Houten as minister of the interior. On Van Houten's shoulders fell the task of preparing a new electoral law. His proposals were finally approved in 1896. Before this took place the minister of finance, Spenger van Eyk, had succeeded in relieving the treasury by the conversion of the public debt from a 3-1/2 to a 3 per cent, security. The Van Houten reform of the franchise was very complicated, as there were six different categories of persons entitled to exercise the suffrage: (1) payers of at least one guilder in direct taxation; (2) householders or lodgers paying a certain minimum rent and having a residential qualification; (3) proprietors or hirers of vessels of 24 tons at least; (4) earners of a certain specified wage or salary; (5) investors of 100 guilders in the public funds or of 50 guilders in a savings bank; (6) persons holding certain educational diplomas. This very wide and comprehensive franchise raised the number of electors to about 700,000.

The election of 1897, after first promising a victory to the more conservative groups, ended by giving a small majority to the liberals, the progressive section winning a number of seats, and the socialists increasing their representation in the Chamber. A liberal-concentration cabinet took the place of the Roell-Van Houten ministry, its leading members being Pierson (finance) and Goeman-Borgesius (interior). For a right understanding of the parliamentary situation at this time and during the years that follow, a brief account of the groups and sections of groups into which political parties in Holland were divided, must here interrupt the narrative of events.

It has already been told that the deaths of Thorbecke and Groen van Prinsterer led to a breaking up of the old parties and the formation of new groups. The Education Act of 1878 brought about an alliance of the two parties, who made the question of religious education in the primary schools the first article of their political programme—the anti-revolutionaries led by the ex-Calvinist pastor Dr Abraham Kuyper and the Catholics by Dr Schaepman, a Catholic priest. Kuyper and Schaepman were alike able journalists, and used the press with conspicuous success for the propagation of their views, both being advocates of social reform on democratic lines. The anti-revolutionaries, however, did not, as a body, follow the lead of Kuyper. An aristocratic section, whose principles were those of Groen van Prinsterer, "orthodox" and "conservative," under the appellation of "Historical Christians," were opposed to the democratic ideas of Kuyper, and were by tradition anti-Catholic. Their leader was Jonkheer Savornin Lohman. For some years there was a separate Frisian group of "Historical Christians," but these finally amalgamated with the larger body. The liberals meanwhile had split up into three groups: (1) the Old Independent (vrij) Liberals; (2) the Liberal Progressive Union (Unie van vooruitstrevende Liberalen); (3) Liberal-Democrats (vrijzinnig-democratischen Bond). The socialist party was a development of the Algemeene Nederlandsche Werklieden Verbond founded in 1871. Ten years later, by the activities of the fiery agitator, Domela Nieuwenhuis, the Social-Democratic Bond was formed; and the socialists became a political party. The loss of Nieuwenhuis' seat in 1891 had the effect of making him abandon constitutional methods for a revolutionary and anti-religious crusade. The result of this was a split in the socialist party and the formation, under the leadership of Troelstra, Van Kol and Van der Goes, of the "Social-Democratic Workmen's Party," which aimed at promoting the welfare of the proletariat on socialistic lines, but by parliamentary means. The followers of Domela Nieuwenhuis, whose openly avowed principles were "the destruction of actual social conditions by all means legal and illegal," were after 1894 known as "the Socialist Bond." This anarchical party, who took as their motto "neither God nor master," rapidly decreased in number; their leader, discouraged by his lack of success in 1898, withdrew finally from the political arena; and the Socialist Bond was dissolved. This gave an accession of strength to the "Social-Democratic Workmen's Party," which has since the beginning of the present century gradually acquired an increasing hold upon the electorate.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse