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676
[HISTORY
BELGIUM

Belgian subjects, and in his choice of measures and men his aim was to secure the prosperity of his new kingdom by a policy of unification. This was the object he had in view in his attempt to make Dutch, except in the Walloon districts, the official language for all public and judicial acts, and a knowledge of Dutch a necessary qualification for every person entering the public service. That the fierce opposition which this attempt Language question. aroused in the Flemish-speaking provinces was ill-considered and unwise, is shown by the fact that in recent years there has been a patriotic movement in these same provinces which has been successful in forcing the Belgian government to adopt Flemish (i.e. Dutch) as well as French for official usage. This Flemish movement is all in favour of establishing close relations with the sister people of the north. Moreover it cannot be gainsaid that Belgium during her union with Holland enjoyed a degree of prosperity that Belgian prosperity during the union. was quite remarkable. The mineral wealth of the country was largely developed, the iron manufactures of Liége made rapid advance, the woollen manufactures of Verviers received a similar impulse, and many large establishments were formed at Ghent and other places, where cotton goods were produced which rivalled those of England and surpassed those of France. The extensive colonial and foreign trade of the Dutch furnished them with markets, while the opening of the navigation of the Scheldt raised Antwerp once more to a place of high commercial importance. The government also did much in the way of improving the internal communications of the country, in repairing the roads and canals, in forming new ones, in deepening and widening rivers, and the like. Nor was the social and intellectual improvement of the people by any means neglected. A new university was formed at Liége, normal schools for the instruction of teachers were instituted, and numerous elementary schools and schools for higher instruction were established over the country. These measures for the furthering of education among the people on the part of a government mainly composed of Protestants were received with suspicion and disfavour by the priests, and still more the attempts subsequently made to regulate the education of the priests themselves. The establishment under the auspices of the king in 1825 of the Philosophical College at Louvain, and the requirement that every priest before ordination should spend two years in study there, gave great offence to the clerical party, and some of the bishops were prosecuted for the violence of their denunciations at this intrusion of the secular arm into the religious domain. With the view of terminating these differences the king in 1827 entered into a concordat with the pope, and an agreement was reached with regard to nominations to bishoprics, clerical education and other questions, which should have satisfied all reasonable men. But in 1828 the two extreme parties, the Catholic Ultramontanes and the revolutionary Liberals, in their common hatred to the Dutch régime, formed an alliance, the union, for the overthrow of the government. Petitions were sent in setting forth the Belgian grievances, demanding a separate administration for Belgium and a full concession of the liberties guaranteed by the constitution.

Matters were in this state when the news of the success of the July revolution of 1830 at Paris reached Brussels, at this time a city of refuge for the intriguing and discontented of almost every country of Europe. The first outbreak Brussels outbreak of 1830. took place on the 25th of August, the anniversary of the king’s accession. An opera called La Muette, which abounds in appeals to liberty, was played, and the audience were so excited that they rushed out into the street crying, “Imitons les Parisiens!” A mob speedily gathered together, who proceeded to destroy or damage a number of public buildings and the private residences of unpopular officials. The troops were few in number and offered no opposition to the mob, but a burgher guard was enrolled among the influential and middle-class citizens for the protection of life and property. The intelligence of these events in the capital soon spread through the provinces; and in most of the large towns similar scenes were enacted, beginning with plunderings and outrages, followed by the institution of burgher guards for the maintenance of peace. The leading men of Brussels were most anxious not to push matters to extremities. They demanded the dismissal of the specially obnoxious minister, Van Maanen, and a separate administration for Belgium. The government, however, could not make up their minds what course to pursue, and by allowing things to drift ended by converting a popular riot into a national revolt. The heir apparent, the prince of Orange (see William II. of the Netherlands), was sent on a peaceful mission to Brussels, but furnished with such limited powers, as under the circumstances were utterly inadequate. He did his best to get at the real facts, and after a number of conferences with the leaders became so convinced that nothing but a separate administration of the two countries would restore tranquillity that he promised to use his influence with his father to bring about that object—on receiving assurances that the personal union under the house of Orange would be maintained. The king summoned an extraordinary session of the states-general, which met at the Hague on the 13th of September and was opened by a speech from the throne, which was firm and temperate, but by no means definite. The proceedings were dilatory, and the attitude of the Dutch deputies exceedingly exasperating. The result was that the moderate party in Belgium quickly lost their influence, and those in favour of violent measures prevailed. Meanwhile although the states were still sitting at the Hague, an army of 14,000 troops under the command of Prince Frederick, second son of the king, was gradually approaching Brussels. It was hoped that the inhabitants would welcome the prince and that a display of armed force would speedily restore order. After much unnecessary delay, at a time when prompt action was required, the prince on the 23rd of September entered Brussels and, with little opposition, occupied the upper or court portion of it, but when they attempted to advance into the lower town the troops found the streets barricaded and defended by citizens in arms. Desultory fighting between the soldiers and the insurgents continued for three days until, finding that he was making no headway, the prince ordered a retreat. The news spread like wildfire through the country, and the principal towns declared for separation. A provisional government was formed at Brussels, which declared Belgium to be an independent state, and summoned a national congress to establish a system of government. King William now did his utmost to avoid a rupture, and sent the prince of Orange to Antwerp to promise that Belgium should have a separate administration; but it was too late. Antwerp was the only important place that remained in the hands of the Dutch, and the army on retreating from Brussels had fallen back on this town. At the end of October an insurgent army had arrived before the gates, which were opened by the populace to receive them, and the troops, under General Chassé, retired within the citadel. The general ordered a bombardment of the town for two days, destroying a number of houses and large quantities of merchandize. This act served still further to inflame the minds of the Belgians against the Dutch.

A convention of the representatives of the five great powers met in London in the beginning of November, at the request of the king of the Netherlands, and both sides were brought to consent to a cessation of hostilities. On the Meeting of the National Congress. 10th of November the National Congress, consisting of 200 deputies, met at Brussels and came to three important decisions: (1) the independence of the country—carried unanimously; (2) a constitutional hereditary monarchy—174 votes against 13; (3) the perpetual exclusion of the Orange-Nassau family—161 votes against 28. On the 20th of December the conference of London proclaimed the dissolution of the kingdom of the Netherlands, but claimed the right of regulating the conditions under which it should take place. On the 28th of January 1831, the congress proceeded to the election of a king, and out of a number of candidates the choice fell on the duke of Nemours, second son of Louis Philippe, but he declined the office. The congress then elected Baron Surlet de Chokier to the temporary post of regent, and proceeded to