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BELGIUM


399


BELGIXTM


Catholics had he not, at the last moment, seen fit, in the negotiations with the Holy See, to demand the right of approving appointments to canonries. But all the king's concessions, which were really extorted from him by the force of circumstances, and despite his dogged reluctance, came too late, and the nego- tiations in regard to the question of canons were still in progress when the Belgian Revolution broke out.

As to the causes of an event so decisive for the future of the Belgian people, it is highly improbable that if King William had given them grounds for complaint only in religious matters, the public dis- content would have culminated in a revolution. The Catholics, faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the counsels of their pastors, had no wish to exceed what was lawful and knew that they should confine themselves to peaceful protests. But the Govern- ment had injured many other interests to wliich a great number were more sensitive than they were to the oppression of the Catholic Church, at which they would have been wholly indifferent if, indeed, they would not have rejoiced. It wiU suffice to recall the principal grievances. Although Holland's popula- tion was less than Belgium by almost half, each nation w'as allowed the same number of deputies in the States-General. Acquaintance with the Dutch lan- guage was at once made obligatory for all officials. The greater number of institutions of the central Government were located in Holland, and the ma- jority of the offices were reserved for the Dutch. Taxes on corn and on slaughtering weighed most hea\-ily on the southern provinces. The press was under the arbitrary control of the Government and the courts, and they \-igorously prohibited any criti- cism of the Government and its deputies. The Gov- ernment stubbornly opposed the introduction of the jury system, the verdicts of which, inspired by a saner appreciation of public feeling, would often have calmed opinion instead of inflaming it. Lastly, as if wishing to fill the measure of its blunders, the Government shamelessly hired an infamous forger condemned by the French tribunals, a certain Libri- Bagnano, whose journal, the "National", never ceased insulting and taunting every Belgian who had the misfortune of incurring the displeasure of the Government. There came a time when the Liberals, who, as late as 1825, had applauded the Government in its persecution of the Church, fomid themselves attacked in their turn, and began to protest with more violence than the Catholics had ever done.

Then the ine\-itable happened. Equally op- pressed, the two parties forgot their differences, and joined forces. The fiery anti-clerical Louis de Potter, author of various historical works extremely irre- ligious in tone, was one of the first to advocate, from the prison in which he was confined for some violation of laws concerning the press, the union of the Catho- lics and the Liberals. This union was made the more easy because the greater part of the Catholics, under the influence of the teachings of Lamennais and the pressure of events, had abandoned their stand of 181,5 and had rallied to the doctrine of "liberty in all and for all". Once effected, the union of Catholics and Liberals soon bore fruit. Their first step, pro- posed by the Catholics who wished to employ lawful means only, was the presentation of petitions by every class of society in turn. Hundreds of petitions piled up in the offices of the States-General, demand- ing liberty of education, freedom of the press, and the righting of other WTongs. While these petitions were being circulated the perfect order that was maintained deceived the king. On a tour which he made through the southern provinces, to convince himself personally as to the state of the public mind, he received such demonstrations of loyalty that he persuaded himself that the petitioning was a factitious movement, and went so far as to declare, at Liege,


that the conduct of the petitioners was infamous (1829).

This false step was his undoing. In the face of his refusal to initiate any reforms, the country became incensed, and the direction of the national movement passed from the hands of the peaceful Catholics into those of the impatient Liberals. The resistance soon took on a revolutionary character. The ecclesiasti- cal authorities had foreseen this, and had for a long time opposed both the "Union", and the petitions which were its first manifestation. The Bishops of Ghent and Liege had come forward to remind the faithful of their duties to the sovereign; the Arch- bishop of Mechlin had assured the Government of the neutrality of the clergy; the nuncio had shown his disapproval of the "Union", and the Cardinal-Secre- tary of State had stigmatized it as monstrous. But the religious authorities soon found themseh'es pow- erless to control the movement. The Catholics, imi- tating the Liberals, had recourse to violent language; their most important periodical refused to print the conciliatory letter of the Bishop of Liege, which one of the Liberal leaders styled an episcopal-ministerial document; the lower clergy, in turn, allowed itself to be drawn into the current; the Government, wilfully blind, continued wantonly, in its imprudence, to pile up the materials for a great conflagration; at last, nothing was lacking but a fuse. This came from France. The revolution of July, 1830, lasting from the 27th to the 29th, overthrew the government of Charles X; on 25 August, of the same year, a riot broke out in Brussels and brought on the revolution which culminated in the conflicts between (24-26 Sep- tember) the Dutch troops and the people of Brussels assisted by re-enforcements of volunteers from the provinces. The whole country rose up; at the end of some weeks the Dutch army had evacuated the soil of the southern provinces, and Belgium was free.

III. Independent Belgium (1830-1905). — As has been shown, not only was the revolution the work of two parties but the chief role in it had been played by the Liberals, and for a long time, although a minority in the nation, their ranks supplied the prin- cipal leaders in national life. The Catholics did not close their eyes to this state of things. Sincerely at- tached to the Union of 1828, they wanted a unionist policy without lajnng too much stress on party names. The provisional government which assumed the di- rection of affairs after the revolution had but one Catholic among its ten members, and had as head and inspiration, Charles Rogier, who, in September, 1830, had come, at the head of the Liege volunteers, to lend a strong helping hand to the combatants in Brussels. The constituent Congress, convoked by the pro\isional government, was in great majority composed of Catholics; partisans of liberty "in all and for all", in conformity with the teachings of Lamennais. The Liberal minority was split into two groups; the stronger professed the same ideas of liberty as the Catholics; the other was made up of a small number of sectarians and of State idolaters who had dreams of bringing the Catholic Church into subjection to the civil power. The leaders of the Catholic group were Count Felix de M^rode, a member of the provisional government, and Baron de Gerlache, President of the Congress; the most prominent among the Liberals were Charles Rogier, Joseph Lebeau, Paul Devaux, J. B. Nothomb, and Sylvan Van de Weyer; the group of sectarians followed the orders of Eugene Defacqz. The Constitution which re- sulted from the deliberations of the Congress reflected the dispositions of the great majority of the assembly and showed at the same time a reaction against the tyrannical regime of King William. It proclaimed the absolvite freedom of worship and of the press, which the Liberals put first, and also freedom of ed- ucation and association, two things especially dear