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BELGIUM

had up to 1901 been in power for twenty-seven years. Towards 1860 there was formed within it a Progressist fraction demanding extension of the franchise and secular schools. How the party became divided in 1883 has been already shown. The Progressists have now formed themselves into a distinct party. The moderate Liberals favour personal military service, proportionate taxation of income, and liberty of labour in the case of adults. The demands of the Progressists are: a nation in arms, a progressive income tax, universal suffrage pure and simple, and all measures called “Socialisme d’etat.” Both fractions of Liberalism insist upon obligatory education and war upon Clericalism. Since 1894, a Liberal working men’s party has been formed, to embrace all working men not belonging to the Socialist or Catholic groups. Its programmers that of the Progressists. But the Liberal party finds its recruits mainly among the middle class, and the financial and industrial world. The Socialist party was formed on 6th April 1885, by certain co-operative groups. Its political action began after the troubles of 1886. It extended its influence to the workers in great industrial undertakings. We have seen what role it played in the revisionist crisis, and how it became an influential Parliamentary party. Its organization, a mixture of centralization and autonomy, is based upon the powerful trade unions of Ghent, Brussels, and other places, and upon numerous professional syndicates. Upon this substratum are built up (1) the district federations, uniting the socialist groups .of each district; and (2) professional federations, uniting the workmen of the same branch of industry, wherever their domicile. Above these again comes the Congress, composed of delegates of each society, and at the pinnacle, the General Council, or the executive power, elected annually by the Congress. The political programme of the party may be summed up in a single word—“ collectivism.” The more immediate programme resembles that of the Progressists, who have often made electoral alliances with the Socialists, i.e., universal suffrage, a nation in arms, regulation of labour, sliding-scale taxation, the monopoly of alcohol, and nationalization of mines and railways. The Socialist party naturally finds support among the industrial workers, and its considerable success is due to the numerical importance of this class in relation to the total population of the kingdom. Of late years Parliamentary tradition has been greatly modified. Since 1884 power had remained in the hands of the same party, with frequent ministerial The^Parlla- c}iangeS; due to divisions in the majority. The constitutional opposition of the Liberals has given place to the revolutionary opposition of the Socialists. There has been a material decline both in the quality of the debates and in the amount of useful work done in the Chamber. The Senate plays a part which is every day becoming more and more subordinate. It confines its labours to voting, without modification, Bills submitted to it by the Chamber. The supporters of proportional representation hope, perchance wrongly, that this institution is destined to rectify the defective working of the Parliamentary system. There remain to be noted the principal enactments since 1885. In social legislation the following are the more important: — Prohibition of the “ truck Legisla- Sygtem”; the institution in 1887 of industIOa ' trial and labour councils, composed of employers and employes, and of a superior council, formed of officials, workmen, and employers; laws assisting the erection of workmen’s dwellings and supervising the labour of women and children (1889); laws for ameliorating the system of Friendly Societies (1890); laws regulating

[history

workshops (1896); for the institution of miners’ representatives (1897) ; conferring corporate rights upon trade unions (1898); guaranteeing the security and health of working men during the hours of labour (1899). In 1900 laws were passed regulating the contract of labour, placing the workman on a footing of complete equality with his employer, assuring the married woman free control of her savings, and organizing a system of old-age pensions. The fourth law of primary education (1895) made religious instruction obligatory, and extended State subsidies to all schools, communal, adopted, or free, that satisfied certain conditions. As a matter of fact, the Liberals, the Socialists, and the Christian Democrats placed in their programme “ obligatory primary education.” In 1899 there were in Belgium 6674 subsidized schools, having 775,000 scholars, out of a total of 950,000 children of school age. Only 68,000 did not receive religious instruction. A law affecting higher education, passed in 1890, enriched the University curriculum by giving it a more scientific character; and confirmed the privilege acquired in 1876 by the four Universities of Liege, Ghent, Brussels, and Louvain, of conferring upon their students diplomas giving access to the liberal professions. The neutrality of Belgium, guaranteed by the Great Powers, is guarded by an army raised by conscription, substitutes being allowed. The annual con- MiIIta tingent is 13,300 men ; the term of service being system. two or three years with the colours and ten years in the reserve (130,000 men in time of war). For a considerable time past, the General Staff has demanded obligatory military service, 180,000 men in time of war, and the abolition of the principle of substitution. Of the political parties, the Catholics object to obligatory service and to increase of the army, while cordially advocating an army of volunteers and a reduction of the numbers with the colours. The Liberals uphold obligatory service with a reduction of the years with the colours. The Radicals and Socialists demand an army on the model of the Swiss. In 1887 the entrenched camps of Liege and Namur were formed. Until that date Belgium only possessed one entrenched camp, that of Antwerp (1859), which has since then been frequently enlarged. In 1897, the garde civique, a kind of garde nationale, was reorganized, and the Government endeavoured to give it the character of a reserve force to assist the army in defending the fortresses. The Government, in July 1901, laid before the Chamber a military Bill, which had for its object a reduction of the time of active military service, a large extension of voluntary service, and an increase of the annual contingent of 13,300 men in case only the volunteers do not join in sufficient numbers. This Bill did not abolish the principle of substitution, a reform demanded by the Liberals and the Socialists, nor did it seriously increase the effective strength of the army in time of war, a measure which was considered indispensable by the Military Commission of 1900-1901. (See Armies.) The system of commercial liberty and treaties of commerce, established by M. Frere-Orban in 1861, is still of practical value in its main features. It is of Cotnrnerce% vital importance to Belgium, a country of great industrial production and of dense population. To this system, in fact, Belgium owes her material prosperity. Nevertheless, protectionist tendencies, which took their rise among the agriculturists, have recently gained ground. Since 1887 duties have been imposed upon imported live animals and dead meat; and since 1895 duties upon barley, oats, &c., have either been imposed or the old ones increased. Of six millions of inhabitants, according to the census of 1890, two and a half millions spoke French, or one of