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HISTORY]
677
BELGIUM

draw up a constitution on the British parliamentary pattern. The constitution expressly declared that the king has no powers except those formally assigned to him. Ministers were to be The new constitution. appointed by him, but be responsible to the chambers. The legislature was composed of two chambers—the senate and the chamber of deputies. Both chambers were elected by the same voters, but senators required a property qualification,—the payment of at least 2000 florins in taxes. Senators and deputies received salaries. The franchise was for that time a low one—every one who paid at least 20 florins in taxes had a vote. The choice of a king was more difficult than that of drawing up a constitution. It was desirable that the new sovereign should be able to count upon the friendly support of the great powers, and yet not be actually a member of their reigning dynasties. It was from fear of arousing the susceptibilities of neighbouring states, especially Great Britain, that Louis Philippe had refused to sanction the election of his son. It was for this reason that the name of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, the widower of Princess Charlotte of England, had not been placed among the candidates in January. Overtures were, however, made to him, as soon as it was understood that, as the result of private negotiations at the London conference, the selection of this prince would be favourably Leopold I., king of the Belgians. received both by Great Britain and France. Leopold signified his readiness to accept the crown after having first ascertained that he would have the support of the great powers in bringing about a satisfactory settlement with Holland on those points which he considered essential to the security and welfare of the new kingdom. The election took place on the 4th of June, when 152 votes out of 196, four being absent, determined that Leopold should be proclaimed king of the Belgians, under the express condition that he “would accept the constitution and swear to maintain the national independence and territorial integrity.” Leopold made his public entry into Brussels, on the 21st, and subsequently visited other parts of the kingdom, and was everywhere received with demonstrations of loyalty and respect.

At this juncture news suddenly arrived that the Dutch were preparing to invade the country with a large army. It comprised 45,000 infantry and 6000 cavalry with 72 pieces of artillery, while Leopold could scarcely bring forward 25,000 men to oppose it. On the 2nd of August the whole of the Dutch army had crossed the frontier; Leopold collected his forces, such as they were, near Louvain in order to cover his capital. The two armies met on the 9th of August. The undisciplined Belgians, despite the personal efforts of their king, were speedily routed, and Leopold and his staff narrowly escaped capture. He, however, made good his retreat to the capital, and, on the advance of a French army, the prince of Orange did not deem it prudent to push on farther. A convention was concluded between him and the French general, in consequence of which he returned to Holland and the French likewise recrossed the frontier. Leopold now proceeded with vigour to strengthen his position and to restore order and confidence. French officers were selected for the training and disciplining of the army, the civil list was arranged with economy and order, and reforms were introduced into the public service and system of administration. He kept on the best of terms, though a Protestant, with the Roman Catholic clergy and nobility, and his subsequent marriage with the daughter of the French king (9th of August 1832), and the contract that the children of the marriage should be brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, did much to inspire confidence in his good intentions.

Meanwhile the conference in London had drawn up the project of a treaty for the separation of Holland and Belgium, which was declared “to be final and irrevocable.” The conditions were far less favourable to Belgium The treaty of separation. than had been hoped, and it was not without much heart-burning and considerable opposition, that the senate and chamber of deputies gave their assent to them. The treaty, which contained 24 articles, was signed on the 15th of November 1831. By these articles the grand-duchy of Luxemburg was divided, but the king of Holland retained possession of the fortress of Luxemburg, and also received a portion of Limburg to compensate him for the part of Luxemburg assigned to Belgium. The district of Maestricht was likewise partitioned, but the fortress remained Dutch. The Scheldt was declared open to the commerce of both countries. The national debt was divided. The powers recognized the independence of Belgium, “as a neutral state.”

This agreement was ratified by the Belgian and French sovereigns on the 20th and 24th of November, by the British on the 6th of December, but the Austrian and Prussian and Russian governments, whose sympathies were with the “legitimate” King William rather than with a prince who owed his crown to a revolution, did not give their ratification till some five months later. Even then King William remained obdurate, refused to sign and continued to keep possession of Antwerp. After fruitless efforts on the part of the great powers to obtain his acquiescence, France and Great Britain resolved to have recourse to force. On the 5th of November their combined fleets sailed for the coast of Holland, and, on the 18th, The French besiege Antwerp. a French army of 60,000 men, under the command of Marshal Gérard, crossed the Belgian frontier to besiege Antwerp. The Dutch garrison capitulated on the 23rd of December, and on the 31st the town was handed over to the Belgians, and the French troops withdrew across the frontier. The Dutch, however, still held two forts, which enabled them to command the navigation of the Scheldt, and these they stubbornly refused to yield. Belgium therefore kept possession of Limburg and Luxemburg, except the fortress of Luxemburg, which as a fortress of the German confederation was, under the terms of the treaty of Vienna, garrisoned by Prussian troops. These territories were treated in every way as a part of Belgium, and sent representatives to the chambers. Great The Luxemburg question. indignation was therefore felt at the idea of giving them up, when Holland (14th of March 1838) signified its readiness to accept the conditions of the treaty. The chambers argued that Belgium had been induced to agree to the twenty-four articles in 1832 in the hope of thereby at once terminating all harassing disputes, but as Holland refused then to accept them, the conditions were no longer binding and the circumstances were now quite changed. They urged that Luxemburg in fact formed an integral part of Belgium and that the people were totally opposed to a union with Holland. They offered to pay for the territory in dispute, but the treaty gave them no right of purchase, and the proposal was not entertained. Final settlement between Holland and Belgium. Addresses were unanimously voted urging the king to resist separation, great excitement was aroused throughout the country and preparations were made for war. But the firmness of the allied powers and their determination to uphold the conditions of the treaty compelled the king most reluctantly to submit to the inevitable. The treaty was signed in London on the 19th of April 1839. It saddled Belgium with a portion of Holland’s debt, and a severe financial crisis followed.

The Belgian revolution owed its success to the union of the Catholic and Liberal parties; and the king had been very careful to maintain the alliance between them. This continued to be the character of the government till 1840, but by Struggle between the Catholics and Liberals. degrees it had been growing more and more conservative, and was giving rise to dissatisfaction. A ministry was formed on more liberal principles, but it clashed with the Catholic aristocracy, who had the majority in the senate. A neutral ministry under M. Charles Nothomb was then formed. In 1842 it carried a new law of primary instruction, which aroused the dislike of the anti-clerical Liberals. The Nothomb ministry retired in 1845. In March 1846 the king formed a purely Catholic ministry, but it was fiercely attacked by the Liberals, who had for several years been steadily organizing. A congress was summoned to meet at Brussels (14th of June 1846) composed of delegates from the different Liberal associations throughout the country. Three hundred and twenty delegates met and drew up an Act of Federation and a programme of