Belgian Revolution

Belgian Revolution
   The revolution that led to the independence of Belgium began in Brussels and decisive events occurred here, where approximately 80 percent of the casualties in killed and wounded were incurred. Although some in Belgium enjoyed considerable prosperity during the Dutch regime and many among the nobility and wealthier classes supported the government, liberals, Catholics, and French-speakers harbored growing grievances against the Protestant Dutch. Opposition arose against the tariff policy, which failed to adequately protect Belgian industry, the promulgation of Dutch as the official language in Flanders and Brussels, and the autocratic ruling style of King William I. Discontent mounted in Brussels, where, by 1830, disaffection, fed by growing unemployment and poor wages, simmered among the working classes. A trial of publishers, accused of violating restrictive press laws, aroused the ire of democrats, and news of the July Revolution in Paris heartened malcontents. William I, who arrived in Brussels in early August, met a correct but cool reception.
   The flashpoint occurred on the evening of 25 August at the Théâtre royal de la Monnaie, where, following the first, freedom-inspiring words of the aria "Amour Sacré de la Patrie" of French composer Daniel François Auber's (1782-1871) opera La Muette de Portici (The mute girl of Portici), which Dutch authorities had earlier banned, theatergoers rushed out to join demonstrating workers. Rioting ensued, the windows of the law courts building were shattered, symbols of royal authority pulled down, and the residence of Minister of Justice C. F. Van Maanen (1769-1849) was burned. Law and order officials resigned the next day. The French tricolor was raised at the Hôtel de Ville and the black, yellow, and red cockade of Brabant appeared. A civic guard, divided into eight divisions for each of the city's sections, quashed generalized pillaging.
   William, the elder son of the king, arrived in Brussels on 3 September. He agreed to the administrative separation of North and South under the Orange dynasty and to serve as viceroy in the latter but the king and the States-General wavered as sentiment for independence grew among Belgian dissidents. Volunteers arrived from Liège on 7 September. The regency council ceased to meet and local government was assumed by a Commission of Security, on which moderates clashed with radicals. The latter proceeded to form a "Central Assembly" (Réunion centrale), and by 15 September the extremists held sway and famine threatened. By then, the guard had lost the confidence of the city populace and was compelled to disarm.
   A Dutch army numbering about 10,000 under Crown Prince Frederick defeated Belgian insurrectionists at Hasselt and approached Brussels. They secured the city gates, except for the porte de Hal. Revolutionary leaders fled. On 23 September, the Dutch entered the city, but they met surprising resistance from volunteer Belgian patriots and were able to break through only at the porte de Schaerbeek. Strafed by rifle fire, Dutch grenadiers advanced along rue Royale and then took refuge in the Parc de Bruxelles, where they set up defensive positions. The Belgians regrouped, encircled the park, erected barricades at the entrance to rue Royale, and fired at the Dutch from windows of buildings along the avenue. After four days of siege (23-26 September), on the morning of 27 September, revolutionaries entered the park to find it deserted, the Dutch having fled under cover of early morning fog. The Belgians had lost just under 450 men— there are 445 names inscribed on the commemorative monument in the place des Martyrs—in the fighting to the Dutch army's 750.
   An administrative commission, formed to accept the Dutch surrender, would serve as the nucleus of a provisional Belgian government. Subsequent resistance in the rest of the country led to a declaration of national independence on 4 October. From all parts of the country, patriots—liberals and Catholics alike—flocked to Brussels to build the new state. Article 126 of the constitution enacted on 7 February 1831 proclaimed Brussels as "capital of Belgium and seat of the government."

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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