Belgian Revolution

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830, Egide Charles Gustave Wappers (1834), in the Muse d'Art Ancien, Brussels

The Belgian Revolution was a conflict in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands that began with a riot in Brussels in August 1830 and eventually led to the establishment of an independent, Catholic and neutral Belgium (William I, king of the Netherlands, would refuse to recognize a Belgian state until 1839, when he had to yield under pressure by the Treaty of London).

The Netherlands shook off their Napoleonic "Batavian Republic" in 1813. In the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 the names "United Provinces of the Netherlands" and "United Netherlands" were used. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the Congress of Vienna created a kingdom for the House of Orange-Nassau, combining the United Provinces of the Netherlands with the former Austrian Netherlands, in order to create a strong buffer state north of France. Symptomatic of the tenor of diplomatic bargaining at Vienna is the early proposal to reward Prussia for its staunch fight against Napoleon with the former Hapsburg territory. Then, when the British insisted on retaining formerly Dutch Ceylon and the Cape Colony, which they had seized while Holland was an unwilling partner of Napoleon, the new kingdom of the Netherlands was compensated with these southern provinces. The union, called the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, harkened back to 16th-century dynastic possessions but proved to be unworkable in the 19th century.


Causes of the Revolution

The Belgian Revolution had many causes: mainly, the treatment of the French-speaking Catholic Walloons in the Dutch-dominated United Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the difference of religion between the Belgians and their Dutch king. The main cause of the Belgian Revolution was the domination of the Dutch over the economic, political, and social institutions of the United Provinces. The traditional economy of trade and an incipient Industrial Revolution were centred in the present day Netherlands, particularly in the large port of Amsterdam. The Belgians had little influence over this economy and resented Dutch control. At the most basic level, the Dutch were for free trade, while less-developed local industries in Belgium called for the protection of tariffs. Free trade lowered the price of bread, made from wheat imported through the reviving port of Antwerp; at the same time, these imports from the Baltic depressed agriculture in Belgian grain-growing regions.

Also at this time, the more numerous Dutch provinces represented a majority in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands' elected Lower Assembly, where the Belgians felt significantly under-represented. However, the Belgians saw the main political domination in the fact that King William I was Dutch, lived in the present day Netherlands, and largely ignored the Belgian demands for greater self-determination. His more progressive and aimiable representative living in Brussels, which was meant to be a twin capital, was Prince William, later King William II, who had some popularity among the upper class but none among Walloon peasants and workers.

Another cause of the Belgian Revolution was the Belgian peoples' faith, Roman Catholicism, which conflicted with that of their Dutch King, Calvinism. Although there were and still are many Roman Catholics in the present day Netherlands, the Belgians saw themselves as purely Catholic and demanded a higher role for the Church, and for Catholics, in their government. In a sense, the Belgian Revolution was a Walloon revolution, of a French-speaking upper and middle class that exchanged Dutch hegemony for Walloon hegemony. The Belgian Revolution of 1830 crystallized this antagonism, with the final arrangements favoring the French-speakers. French became the official language, Flemish was banned in schools. Though postage stamps read "Belgique-Belgie," the Belgian Civil Code was not translated into Flemish until 1961. The Industrial Revolution's heavy-industry powerhouse became concentrated in Walloon regions. During the following century, Flemings agitated for equality in the Belgian nation, resulting in the federal constitution of 1980, which gave more local authority in matters of education and social programs. All these developments had their origins in the Belgian Revolution.

The opera riot

Catholic partisans watched with excitement the unfolding of the July Revolution in France, details of which were swiftly reported in the newspapers. The opening phase was a riot the night of August 25, 1830, following a performance of Daniel Auber's sentimental and patriotic opera La Muette de Portici, a tale suited to fire National Romanticism, for it was set against Masaniello's uprising against the Spanish masters of Naples in the 17th century. The duet, "Amour sacr de la patrie," sung by Adolphe Nourrit, engendered a riot that became the signal for the revolution. The crowd poured into the streets after the performance, shouting patriotic slogans, and swiftly took possession of the hotel de ville and other government buildings.

The affable and moderate Crown Prince William, who represented the monarchy at Brussels, was convinced by the Estates-General on September 1 that the administrative separation of north and south was the only viable solution to the crisis. His father rejected the terms of accommodation that he proposed.

King William I of the Netherlands attempted to restore the establishment order by force, but the royal army under Prince Frederick was unable to retake Brussels in bloody street fighting, September 23 to 26. The following day a provisional government was declared in Brussels; a declaration of independence followed on the 4th. The following month a National Congress assembled in Brussels and on February 7, 1831, the Belgian constitution was proclaimed.

The "Ten Days' Campaign"

August 2 to 12, 1831, the Dutch army, headed by the Dutch princes, invaded Belgium, in the so-called "Ten Days' Campaign," and defeated Belgian forces near Hasselt and Leuven. Only the appearance of a French army under Gerard caused the Dutch to retreat. The victorious initial campaign gave the Dutch an advantageous position in subsequent negotiations. William stubbornly pursued the war, bungled, ineffectual and expensive as its desultory campaigns were, until 1839.

The European Powers

The European Powers were divided over the Belgian cry for independence. The Napoleonic Wars were still fresh in the memories of Europeans, so when the French, under the recently installed July Monarchy, supported Belgian independence, the other powers unsurprisingly supported the continued union of the Provinces of the Netherlands. Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain all suported the somewhat authoritarian Dutch king, many fearing the French would annex an independent Belgium (particularly the British). However, in the end, none of the European powers sent troops to aid the Dutch government, partly because of rebellions within their own borders; The Russians were occupied stamping out unrest in Poland; Great Britain was not ready to send troops to the continent so soon after Waterloo.

Independent Belgium

The Provisional Government in Brussels declared the creation of the independent state of Belgium, on October 4, 1830, in revolt against the government of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. On December 20, 1830, the European powers recognized Belgium's de facto independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was not until April 19, 1839 however, that the Treaty of London signed by the European powers (including the Netherlands) recognized Belgium as an independent and neutral country comprising of Flanders, Brabant, Antwerp, Hainaut, Namur, and Lige, as well as half of Luxembourg and Limburg.

The Accession of King Leopold

See Leopold I of Belgium.

See also

External links

nl:Omwenteling van 1830


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