Hide Articles List

6 articles on this Page

BELGIUM.I

Detailed Lists, Results and Guides
Cite
Share

BELGIUM. I We do not know much about Belgium in England although, from the connection of its King with our royal family, and the high character which his Majesty bears in this country, we take great interest in its pros- perity and welfare. We believe that kingdom is now on the turning pivot of its fortunes; and a few words aø to its present position may not be unacceptable to our readers. The kingdom was established in 1831; and it is one of the few states in which-the Roman Catholics pre- dominating among the population-that liberal opinions have made any satisfactory progress; we should say what are called liberal principles on the continent; here they would be considered Conservative. For a time after the establishment of the monarchy, all went in favour of the Catholics; but for some years past there have been two parties in the country and in the Legis- lature, called Catholics, or Clericals. and Liberals; which, as far as the church is concerned, have proceeded on directly opposing principles. The Belgian constitution made the clergy perfectly in dependent of the state; but it conferred upon them no special privileges—and they have endeavoured to make op for this by the exercise of great intolerances, and by persevering, and certainly a consistent, maintenance of what they call the rigbts of the church. The Liberals take an opposite ground. What was the precise ques- tion on which the original separation between them and the Clericals took place, it would be difficult to ascer- tain but now the difference is strongly marked. The Liberals, we are informed by a resident in the country, are stirring" to subject charitable foundations to the control of the state; to prevent any increase of the quantity of property held in the 'dead hand to pro- tect property, generally, against the unceasing efforts of the priesthood to get possession of it; and, above all, to make the instruction given by the state, as well of the higher as the lower kind, entirely independent of the eontrol of the clergy." On the other hand, the Clericals insist upon all the so-called rights of the church whilst the way in which the clergy exercise those rights, ren der them very unpopular. With regard to the rites of septilchre, the administration of the colleges, and other matters, they have been so intolerant, that the writer from whom we have just quoted says-" there is no part of the world in which the Catholic* clergy are so hated, are made the subject of such bitter attacks, are denounced in language so vehement and so vituperative, and, perhaps, have so much to dread, as in this most Catholic country, of which they almost seem to be mas- tera;" for in the population of nearly 5,000,000 you will hardly find 100,000 who would not, if asked what re- ligion they were of ? reply—" Members of the Catholic Church." One would suppose, that obedient as the Ro- man Catholics generally are to their clergy, with such a population, the Clericals would always obtain and main. tain an overwhelming majority in a representative go. vornment. Such, however, is not the case. They had the majority, but they have not maintained it. The unpopularity of the clergy, alluded to, caused the people to return members opposed to their pretensions; and in 1857 the Liberal party came into power, with a pretty good majority. That majority, however, dwindled away; and at the election last year the following were he respective numbers returned of each party:— Clericals. Liberals Antwerp 10 1 Brabant 5 14 Weat Flanders 14 2 Eut Flanders 15 5 Hainault. 2 18 Liege 0 IS Lunbotirg 4 1 Ltixetuburg 1 4 Namur 6 1 67 59 The total number of members is 116; and it will be own that they were nearly equally divided. The go- vernment in this dilemma found it would do nothing, and M. Rogier, the head, tendered the resignation of himself and his colleagues to the King. His Majesty then offered power to the Clericals, who, not having a majority of representatives, refused to accept it. They wanted, we are told, a Ministere de Transaction-,v bad of interim government-and they professed to sup- pert one which might be formed by some moderate liberal." To this arrangement the Liberal party would not agree; and as the King found himself unable to firm a new ministry,"after the crisis had lasted several months, he re-called M. Rugier and his colleagues, who brought in a bill to increase the number of members in the Chamber of Representatives by seven, and in the Senate by 3-to be given to the districts according to he increase of population. That increase happens to have taken place in the districts where Liberalism is predominant; and the Clericals, therefore, opposed the Ml, and resolved to defeat it by absenting themselves from the meetings of the Chamber. The constitution prohibits either of the Chambers coming to i resolution, naleas a clear majority of its members are present. If the Liberals would have attended, they would just hare had a majority of one on a division (the president 1Miog of their party); but one or two were ill, and it ma difficult for all the others to be constantly in at- tendance. Therefore the business of the session was eampletely suspended, and the ministers resolved to dtasolre the Chamber and appeal to the people. In the Belgian elections, every male not deprived of hnoivil rights by crime, who pays 20 florins (about 35s) every year in direct taxes, and is 25 years of age, has a vote. The votee are taken by ballot, and if there are aerenl candidates, more than half the number of votes recorded must be given to those declared elected. At the recent elections,—which took place on Thursday, the Hth inst, we are told the utmost exertions were Med, and all the influence of the parties put forth, on both aides; money was also freely spent; and both par- tim made animated appeals to the electors. The Li- bamls called upon them to prevent the triumph of a party, which waged an incessant, an implacable war against the liberties of the people, under the mask of devotion to them a party which desires to apply to Belgium the regime of the Papal States, which seeks to mltim the feudal world, which would make the influence of the priest universally dominant; and civil society a aobmissive slave, and under whose regime convents would increase tenfold in a few years."—The Clericals Mettled to the electors, on the other hand, against the "anti-Christian Liberals, who desire the complete over- throw of the Church, and the substitution of the*m, whip of the Goddess of Reason, or gross materialism, i jr the Catholic faith to which the Belgians are devoted." —The press warmly entered the lists on either side; awd whilst the advocates of the clerical party wrote atrengly against the influence which, the writers said, wen brought to bear against their holy cause; the Li- beral journalists dwelt on the evils resulting from priwtly tyranny; and asked the electors if they would deliver their sons up to the minor brothers, their wives aMI their daughters to the confessor, their old relatives to the Jesuit; so that they would find themselves en- tangled from their births to their deaths, in that inde- Amotible net which the clergy had the art of throwing over their heads 1" The clericals retorted, by adverting to the extravagance of the Liberal party, whom they ehaige with having increased the Budget 25 per cent, md added 200 millions to the national debt; and they =We specific demands for a reduction of taxation, the idMofthe labouring classes, decentralisation, and a refection of the tariff on the state railways and oauals. These were popular topics, but they did not succeed and the result of the elections was, a majority of 12 for do Ubureds. Thfe will enable the ministry to carry the Govern- amot and as they will probably introduce and oany tht bill for increasing the number of members, their majority is likely also to be increased. The clericals, we understand, take their defeat pretty manfully they know they arc excluded from power for several years, at all events; but they still mean to fight for their Church, and continue their efforts to procure the tri. umph of their principles. We cannot blame them giving them the credit for believing those principles to be true and sound; but if the Liberal ars only as true to their principles, there does not appear to be much chance of the clerical success. One thing we may remark from what we hear of this election,—the impotence of the cowardly practice of the ballot, to prevent the exercise of influence. The clericals avow that their defeat is owing to intimidation and Government pressure. Our advocates of the ballot tell us that both are impotent were that practice pre- vails. Facts are more conclusive than words, however conclusive the latter may be and facts prove by the examples of the United States, of France, and now of Belgiuiu, -that bribery, corruption, intimidation, and Government influence, are most effectually prac- ticed under the ballot, which we hope never to see natu- raliaed amongst us. Since the foregoing article was written, we have re- ceived the exact returns at the Belgian elections. They stand as follows: Liberals Clericals Antwerp 0 11 Brabant 14 5 West Flanders 6 10 East Flanders 6 14 lhill&ult 20 0 Liege 12 1 Limbourg 0 o Luxembourg 4 1 Kannur 2 5 64 52 Majurity for the Liberals, 12

I TOWNY. I

Advertising

ICORWEN.

IDOLGELLEY.--- - - - - -......

IMACHYNLLETH.