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of Brabant.-Succeeds.-The Austrians driven out of Brussels. Rejoicings at Brussels.- The States assume the Reins of Government.- Confederation between the States of Brabant and those of Flanders.-Acceded to by all the other Provinces, except Limbourg. -The United Belgic States provide for their Security by raising an Army.—The Austrian Netherlands at this Time the principal Object of Political Attention.-Reflections on the usual State of weaker, when united to stronger States.-Splendid Hopes from the
Emancipation of the Provinces from the Yoke of Austria. THE spirit of liberty and inno- months displayed the usual ener
vation which had now been gies, distractions, and convulsions so powerfully excited, pervaded in of popular governments. some degree, every country in Eu- The Belgian nations boast of havrope; diversified in each by the ing derived their liberties and the predominant features in the national rudiments of their free constitution character. In France it was marked from an earlier origin than any by quick bursts of passion and sud- other European state, even that den decisions; in Spain by caution of Venice not excepted; the Beland deliberation; in Germany, Po- gæ having been exempted from seland, and other northern states, by veral taxes imposed on the other candour and moderation; in Great Gauls, by the conquering Romans. Britain by good sense; and in the For 1,600 years they had enjoyed Austrian Netherlands, by a pecu- those privileges
, which had been liar vigour and obstinacy of cha confirmed to them by the oaths of racter; and still more by a singular all their sovereigns upon
their coroco-operation of heterogeneous and nation, as well as guaranteed by the discordant parties, which were neighbouring powers in various drawn together, by common op- treaties, particularly the barrier pression and danger, for a time, but treaty of 1715. The government of could not possibly be amalgamat. the low countries, consisting of three ed: for in that country, a kind of branches, bears a strong analogy to double aristocracy seized the go- the English constitution. As Engvernment, without the consent of lishmen, when they oppose arbithe nation at large. While they en- trary or unwise measures of admideavoured to recover and maintain nistration, are wont to plead the independence on the House of Aus. general inclinations and even detertria, they withheld the claims of mination of the people, so we have freemen from other classes of so- found the remonstrants of Brabant ciety. Liberty appeared under the and Flanders pleading in opposition colours of aristocratical pride and to the despotic proceedings of the religious bigotry. But the pro. Emperor Joseph, the information gressive spirit of freedom demanded they had received from the Syndics a more equal representation, and a or representatives of the people. greater participation in the govern- But as the rights of the Flemings ment for the great body of the peo- were confirmed by a long series of ple. Jealousy and dissention pre- ages, and clearly defined by express vailed; and a civil contest was on and written engagements, so we the point of being decided by arms. find their claims toliberty, and their In a word, the course of even a few remonstrances against arbitrary
powerto be unembarrassed, and dis- the late opposition to his encroachtinct, plain, bold, and almost dictato- ments. The jealousy and dissatisrial. It must be confessed it was faction which had taken root in the not in this style that the friends of minds of the people were not reliberty in England urged their pre- moved. Suspicions were still entensions to certain rights and immu- tertained, and upon no slight nities in the reigns of Queen Eli- grounds, that the sovereign sought zabeth and James the First. The to strain his prerogative beyond due English patriots of those days felt bounds. The general tenor of adthe dignity, and advanced the just ministration was ill-suited to gain claims of human nature. But their popularity or confidence. Instead natural being blended with their of those lepient measures by which constitutional rights, and the con- angry spirits are softened and constitution not yet purged from the ciliated, a harsh and severe system grossness of feudal barbarism, we of governing was adopted. The find in their speeches in parliament, army was entrusted to a comas well as in their addresses and mander who was thought well fitted supplications, a strange mixture of to carry vigorous orders into exe what is due to mankind, with a re- cution. The strong arm of authoverence almost superstitious for the rity was lifted up to intimidate the persons and authority of princes. assembly of the states: and com. The Belgic remonstrants, in the plaints were justly made of many compositions addressed to the Go- acts, at once arbitrary and vexavernors General of the Nether. tious. lands, and to the Emperor himself, The popular discontent was without violating the decorum due greatly increased by the re-estato sovereign princes, speak with blishment of the new seminary of the freedom and energy of ancient Louvain. That measure, which had Romans.
been insisted on by the sovereign as It would therefore be matter of a condition of the concessions of great astonishment, if any degree of September 1787, was perhaps well arrogance and precipitation could enough intended to promote a more be master of amazement in the liberal education in theology, and conduct of the restless Joseph, after to restrain the growth of bigotry; the concessions which he had found but highly unacceptable to the it necessary to make in September clergy and a great part of the na1787 : after that ratification which tion, was obstinately urged with too confirmed them, and repeated de- little regard to religious prejudices, clarations of moderate and just de- the temper of the times, or the pri. signs, he should yet a second time, vileges of the country. Innovations and with scarcely any intermission may be sudden; - improvements of insidious policy, if not avowed must be gradual. Severities were tyranny, labour to slip the yoke of inflicted on such of the ecclesiastics slavery on
a generous people. as were the least obedient to the Though an amnesty, by the ar. mandates of the Sovereign relating rangements just mentioned, had to his seminary. The soldiery were been granted by the Emperor, it employed to enforce harsh edicts;
' was not found that he had laid aside and a Catholie Prince, through exhis resentment against those per- cess of zeal for toleration, became sons who had been most active in intolerant to his Catholic subjects.
These indiscreet proceedings, the laws, the supreme tribunal beheld with disgust by all the pro- which formed the main support of vinces, were particularly odious in the liberties of the country was Brabant ; which ranks Louvain suppressed. The care of the public among her principal cities, and revenue, which belonged to a comhas a special care of its privileges. mittee of the council, was commit
The minds of men, already indis- ted to a council appointed by a posed and alarmed for their civil commission from the Prince. The rights, were more inflamed by re- states of Brabant felt the effects of ligious zeal. A general discontent the Sovereign's displeasure in other prevailed; and at the close of the respects. The power which they year 1788, the states of Brabant ex- had exercised in withholding the pressed their dissatisfaction with the subsidies, was affirmed not to belong measures of government, by refus- 'to them of right. As it had been ing to grant the ordinary supplies. declared that no abbots were in fu
This refusal drew on the states ture to be named in Brabant, the the heavy displeasure of the sove- suppression of the first order of the reigo, already irritated by the re- states was denounced by that desistance that had been made to his claration. The third order, that seminary. The monarch yielding is, the deputies of the Commons, to his resentment, now suffered not sufficiently complaisant to the himself to be hurried into violence; will of the sovereign, was proby an edict addressed to the province nounced to be improperly, and of Brabant in 1789, he not only whimsically constructed. All the annulled the ratification of con- barriers which a respectable concessions by which the former disa stitution had set up against the turbances had been consposed, to- encroachments of princes, were gether with the subsequent amnesty, thrown down. The joyous entry but as if disengaged from that com- was represented as encumbered pact, into which he had entered at with useless articles. That ancient his accession, he recalled his inau- charter of Brabant, by which the gural oath to maintain the joyous people claim to be released from entry, or the privileges of the Bra- suite and service to their princes bantine people. He signified that till reparation be made for ihe inthose establishments created in the fringement of rights, was treated as year 1787, which had caused so
a vain pretension, founded on error. great alarms, and which he had The sovereign having set forth that agreed to abolish, should be revived embarrassment which the joyous in their full extent; that the in- entry and the Assembly of the tendants should forthwith enter on states gave to his measures, did not their offices; and that no abbots conceal his purpose of new modelwere to be named in future to the ling, by his own authority, the convacant abbies in Brabant. And he stitution into such a form, that the denounced severe chastisement to operations of government should all who should in anywise call in no longer be perplexed or disturbed question, or oppose those acts of by that embarrassment. His great his administration. The council of design was, to establish one simple Brabant -having, according to its and uniform system of military goknown privileges, refused to give vernment throughout the whole of its sanction to ediçts repugnant to his widely extended dominions: by
which means all distinctions of go declared to the Emperor the revolt vernment, religion, laws and privi- of his subjects in the low countries. Jeges, being annihilated, and the While they were stimulated, on the people formed into one mass, they one hand, by a just cause, and an would at once be more easily go- indignation at insolence and opverned at home, and present a pression, they were encouraged, on more powerful engine of foreign the other, by occupation of the conquest.
Austrian armies in the Turkish It is scarcely possible on contem- war, and the embarrassments that plating such conduct, to refrain had arisen out of that event: they from some expressions of surprise possessed vast resources in their and indignation, that any human own country, and they might reabeing, bowever exalted his rank or sonably hope for support from hereditary pretensions, should con- Prussia, whose armies already mesider so many nations as merely naced the Austrian frontiers, and tools of his ambition and even ca. all other foreign powers who might price. But if it may be allowed to be actuated, either by a general suppose that he was governed in sympathy with their own nation, or all his multifarious and ever change by hostility to the pride and ambiing schemes by a sincere regard to tion of the Austrians or of the Rus. the good of mankind, how great sians : powers separately formidathe folly and arrogance to imagine, ble, but in conjunction alarming. that he could make nations happy Their first enterprizes in arms in spite of themselves, and in op were successful. Bodies of armed position to their dearest prepos men rose up in nearly all the prosessions and most inveterate pre- vinces. Great exertions of valour judices !
were made by men undisciplined Whilst the reign of despotism in war, but not sparing of blood in was thus openly proclaimed, the the cause of liberty. By a rapid displeasure of administration was train of success, in the space of a directed in an arbitrary manner few weeks, the Austrian garrisons against those from whom an oppo were worsted and dislodged from sition to the new system was ap- the great cities in the Netherlands. prehended. Many, on vain pre- Even the city of Brussels, where the tences, and contrarily to the known Imperialists were in the greatest forms of law in the province, were strength, and where they had de. imprisoned; and great numbers of termined to make the greatest rethe nobility, clergy, and people of sistance, the Austrian General was property, emigrated to the adjacent compelled to yield to the signal countries.
valour of its inhabitants. The Belgians beholding the en There could be nothing more tire overthrow of a constitution that natural than for the emigrants to had been maintained through so take refuge and assemble in a neighmany ages, and persuaded that their bouring country, possessed by a last resource was to be found in kindred people who had, by their arms, displayed the standard of re- virtues, emancipated themselves volt: and the same month of Oc- from the same tyranny which they tober, 1789, that announced the themselves found so grievous and taking of Belgrade from the Turks, intolerable. While some retired to
France and to other places, the tic establishnients. The only prégreatest number repaired to the caution he appears to have used, frontier of the United Provinces : was, that in this great suppression, but principally to the Lordship and the men were more favoured than neighbourhood of Breda, in the the women. Of the male convents province of Holland ;* which be- only forty were sequestered : of came their head quarters. The the nunneries, 110. Such an aremigration from Brabant, which bitrary invasion of so much properhad at first been confined to the ty in a country so long in the en. higher orders and people of pro- joyment of freedom, and that of perty, was quickly increased in ecclesiastical property in a country numbers, by an accession of active so devoted to the clergy, was conand resolute young men from all sidered in a most odious light, raised the provinces; which beheld in the a general outcry, and prepared the fate of the constitution of Brabant minds of men, particularly the peathe approaching fall of their own sants (the most numerous and liberties.
hardy class) for insurrection. The Austrian government were The Flemings,who had long at first so far from taking any mea- brooded (according to their nasures for putting a stop to emigra- tional character) over their injuries tion, that they considered it as ra- in sullen silence, which served only ther a fortunate circumstance: and to render them more determined in the
country would thus be cleared their resolutions, and more implaof a great number of disaffected cable in their resentments, began persons without any trouble. For now to form bold designs, and to the Emperor himself, he seems to give vent to the rancour that preyed have been well pleased with an op- on their minds, in action. portunity of gratifying two darling General d'Alton, the great tool passions:-a rapacity for money, of imperial tyranny in the Netherand an eagerness to humble and lands, drawing detachments from overthrow the clergy.t He issued different garrisons, sent them to à decree for the sequestration of all scour such parts of the country as the abbeys of Brabant, and ap- were deemed most disaffected, with pointed civil officers for the admi- orders to take up all suspected pernistration of their revenues. He sons, and all vagabonds. With this suppressed not less than 160 monas- latitude of commission, the troops
were A patrimony belonging to the Prince of Orange. * The characters of men at the opposite extremes of society, appear in some respects perfectly to coincide ; the one class being placed by their situation above-a regard to the sympathy of the greater and of the best part of mankind; and the other below it: a matter of fact which affords a very striking illustration of Dr. Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. The sentiments and views that actuated the Emperor Joseph on this occasion were not very different from those that dictated the massacres and confiscations in France in 1792, 1793, and 1794.
So not only the inhabitants of Flanders, the maritime, richest, and most popu. lous, but also those of the other provinces, were formerly and until the recent revival of Roman appellations, generally called,
§ A soldier of fortune, and consequently devoted to the pleasure of his master. For an account of this military adventurer, we refer our readers to our Vol. 31; being that for 1789.