Belgium (Fr. La Belgique), a kingdom of Europe, situated between N. E. France, Holland, Germany, and the North sea, and extending from lat.49° 30' to 51° N., and from lon. 2° 33' to 6° 6' E.; area, 11,372 sq. m.; pop. in 1832, 4,064,235; in 1849, 4,359,090; in 1856, 4,529,360; in 1866, 4,829,320; in 1869, by calculation, 5,021,336. Its greatest length from S. E. to N. W. is 180 English miles, and its greatest breadth, from the northern boundary of Antwerp to the most southern part of Hainaut, is 124 miles. The kingdom is divided into nine provinces, as follows:
Pop., Dec. 31, 1866.
Pop., Dec. 31, 1869.
The annual increase of the population since 1856 has been about .902 per cent. In 1868 there were 163,619 births (of which 12,108 were illegitimate), 36,271 marriages, 60 divorces, and 115,041 deaths. The male sex showed a slight preponderance over the female. The number of emigrants in 1865 was 12,015, of immigrants 9,600. Of the cities of Belgium, one, Brussels, had in 1869 upward of 171,000 (with 8 suburbs, 314,000) inhabitants; 3, Antwerp, Ghent, and Liege, upward of 100,000; and 5, Bruges, Mechlin, Verviers, Louvain, and Tournay, from 30,000 to 50,000 inhabitants. In 1866 the kingdom had 131 communes with more and 2,429 with less than 5,000 inhabitants. The Belgian people consist of two different nationalities: the Flemish, a branch of the German race, and the Walloon, an offshoot of the French. Although only 42.3 per cent, of the total population are purely Walloon, and 49.8 per cent. Flemings (the remainder speaking either both these or other languages), the French is the predominant and the official language.
Of late, however, the Flemish majority have begun a vigorous struggle to secure at least equal rights for their language; and thus the nationality conflict has become of great political significance in Belgium. The following table shows the numerical proportion which exists between the two principal nationalities in the several provinces of the kingdom:
NUMBER SPEAKING FLEMISH.
NUMBER SPEAKING FRENCH.
NUMBER SPEAKING BOTH LANGUAGES.
- The surface of Belgium is generally level. In the southeast there are some high and well wooded lands, traversed by or connected with the Ardennes. South of Verviers there is also a wild tract of elevated country of small extent, the highest elevation not exceeding 2,300 feet. Between the Mouse and the Scheldt there is another ridge. The principal rivers are the Meuse, the Scheldt, the Ourthe, and the Sambre. The Meuse flows from France through the provinces of Namur and Liege into Holland, and is navigable throughout its Belgian course. The Scheldt enters Belgium in the province of Hainaut, and runs across the Belgian territory, receiving the Den-der, the Dyle, and other streams, and passing into Holland below Antwerp. It is navigable throughout Belgium, but is obstructed by banks at its mouth. The Ourthe rises in the Ardennes, and falls into the Meuse at Liege. The Sambre flows from France into Belgium, and falls into the Meuse at Namur. The northern part of the country is of tertiary formation. In the southeastern provinces the lower formations are red sandstone and limestone, resting upon granite, quartz, and slate. Fossil animals are very numerous; the limestone caverns through which the river Lesse has made its way are remarkable natural curiosities.
East and West Flanders are principally sand. - After England, Belgium yields more fuel than any other country in Europe. There were 155 coal mines in operation in 1866, covering 213,545 acres, and employing 86,721 persons, and producing in 1866 12,-774,662 tons (against 5,820,858 in 1850), of the value of 151,031,574 francs. About two thirds of the produce is consumed in the country, and the rest exported to France and Holland. The most extensive coal fields are in the province of Hainaut, which alone in 1866 produced 9,800,000 tons. The production of iron is also large. The best iron is found in the country between the Sambre and the Meuse. Lead, manganese, and other minerals, especially zinc, are found in various parts of the country. The most celebrated zinc mines are between Liege and Aix-la-Chapelle. The country abounds at the same time in building, paving, and lime stones, roofing slate, and marble. The black marble of Dinant is renowned for its beauty. The mineral wealth of Belgium is, next to agriculture, the most important source of the national prosperity. The most celebrated mineral springs are at the famous watering place Spa, near the frontier of Khe-nish Prussia. - The canals, though numerous, are not equal in length to those of Holland, being about 300 m.
The greatest of these is the Brussels canal, supplied by the river Senne, which was opened in 1550. Ghent is connected with the sea by a canal opening into the E. Scheldt, which admits vessels drawing 18 feet. The railways of Belgium were the earliest of continental Europe, and rapidly followed those of England, which they have surpassed in unity of design and economy of construction. The principal lines were built by the government. The aggregate length of railways in 1870 was 1,930 m. (against 550 in 1860), of which 1,426 belonged to private companies, and 504 to the state; and 320 m. were in the course of construction. The receipts were upward of 40,-000,000 francs, while the total cost of permanent construction had been 756,464,128 francs. Electric telegraphs have been in operation since March 15, 1851. In 1870 the aggregate length of the lines was 2,605 m., and of the wires, 8,293. The number of telegraph offices in 1869 was 433; their aggregate receipts, 1,323,596 fr.; their expenditures, 1,298,915 fr. - The agriculture of Belgium is not surpassed by that of any nation. The originally unfavorable soil has by generations of careful culture been raised to great productiveness.
Large farms are rare, the subdivisions of the soil have been carried down to garden size, and less than 1/13 of the whole area of the kingdom is uprofitable. Flax is an object of peculiar care, and the Belgian system of cultivation is studied everywhere. East and West Flanders alone produce flax to the value of $8,000,000 annually. The artificial grasses are also generally productive, while the production of root crops by artificial manure is matter of elaborate study and attention. Belgium is celebrated for its horses, of which it possesses nearly 300,000. Those of the Ardennes are excellent cavalry horses, and those of Namur are famous draught horses. The number of cattle exceeds 1,200,000, and of sheep 700,000. The government pays special attention to the improvement of horses and cattle. - In commercial pursuits and manufactures Belgium has long enjoyed the highest reputation. But the fame of her linens and woven goods had somewhat deteriorated from the high estimation they enjoyed in the 14th century, until the separation from Holland. The lace of Brussels and Mechlin, the linens and damasks of Liege, the woollens of Ypres, the cotton goods, carpets, and hosiery of the country, compete with the productions of the French and English looms.
The machine factory of Cockerill and company, founded at Liege in 1816, is one of the greatest works of the kind in Europe. Liege has a cannon foundery, and is noted for its manufactories of firearms. - The foreign commerce of Belgium during its connection with Holland sutfered for the sake of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and judicious plans of internal improvement have since occupied the national attention. The entries at the Belgian ports, chiefly Antwerp and Ostend, in 1869, were 5,411 vessels, of 1,470,322 tons, and the clearances were 5,326 vessels, of 1,456,965 tons. The merchant navy in 1869 consisted of 67 sailing vessels, of 23,981 tons, and 12 steamers, of 8,762 tons. The number of fishing boats was 265, of 9,087 tons. The imports for the same year amounted to 903,600,000 fr. and the exports to 691,600,000 fr. The imports from the United States from July 1, 1869, to June 30, 1870, amounted to $6,600,-000, and the exports to that country $3,140,-000. The revenue of Belgium for 1870 was 176,725,000 fr., and the expenditure 176,812,-836 fr. The budget for 1873 estimates the receipts at 196,703,500 fr., and the expenditures at 192,620,512 fr., the latter including 49,593,-136 fr. for public debt, 53,202,054 fr. for public works, and 37,125,000 fr. for the army.
The public debt, commenced by the assumption of 220,000,000 francs of the enormous debt of the kingdom of the Netherlands at the time of the separation, has been constantly increased by the construction of railways, the fortifications of Antwerp, extra military expenditure in 1870, etc, and on May 1, 1870, consisted of 705,874,214 fr. The aggregate debts of the communes amounted to 126,319,085 fr. - The military force of the kingdom, according to the law of April 5, 1868, consists on the war footing of 74,000 infantry, 6,530 cavalry, 14,513 artillery, 2,354 engineers, 1,373 gendarmes; total, 98,770. The standing army on the peace footing numbered 38,970 men. Annually 10,000 men are enrolled by conscription, with the right of furnishing substitutes; the time of military duty begins with the 19th year and lasts eight years, about one half of which is spent on furlough. The principal fortresses of the kingdom are those of Antwerp, Charleroi, Ostend, Ghent, and Namur. Besides the standing army, there is, in accordance with the laws of May, 1848, and July, 1853, a national guard, which comprises all citizens between 21 and 40 able to bear arms.
It numbers 125,000 men (and inclusive of the reserve 400,000), but is in active service only in towns having more than 10,000 inhabitants. - The constitution of Belgium is a limited monarchy, with male succession, and in default of male issue the king may nominate his successor with consent of the chambers. The legislative body consists of a senate and house of representatives. The elective franchise is vested in citizens paying not less than 42 fr. annually of direct taxes. The house of representatives consists of deputies in the proportion of 1 to 40,000 of population. In 1869 the number of deputies was 116, chosen from 41 electoral districts. Citizenship is the sole qualification for representatives, and they are elected for four years (except in case of a dissolution), half retiring every two years. The senate has half the number of the house, elected by the citizens for eight years, half retiring every four years. The senatorial qualification is citizenship, domiciliation, 40 years of age, and payment of direct taxes of at least 2,000 fr. annually.
The restriction created by this large proportion of tuxes is mitigated by the admis-Bion of those citizens who pay the next largest sums, so that the list shall always be kept up to the footing of at least one eligible person for every 6,000 inhabitants. The representatives [ye pay at the rate of about $20 per week. Senators receive no pay. Each house may originate laws, but money bills must originate with the representatives. The chambers assemble as of right on the second Tuesday in November. The king may dissolve the chambers, but the act of dissolution must contain a provision for convoking them again within two months. The executive government consisted in 1871 of six departments, namely: foreign affairs, finance, justice, public works, war, and the interior. The minister of foreign affairs is premier. Besides the heads of these departments there are a number of ministers without portfolio, who form a privy council called together on special occasions by the sovereign. Titles of nobility are allowed by the constitution, but without particular priviail Belgians being equal in the eye of the law. Trial by jury on criminal and political charges, and offences of the press, are provided for. Taxes and the army contingent must be voted annually.
The law is administered by local and provincial tribunals, with courts of appeal at Brussels, Ghent, and Liege. - Various pernicious influences have produced a vast amount of pauperism. In 1857 the 908,000 families of the kingdom were, according to an official report made to the legislature, divided into 89.000 which were wealthy, 873,000 living in straitened circumstances, and 446,000 living in a wretched condition. Of the latter class 266.000 received support from the state. - The Roman Catholic religion is lamely predominant in Belgium. The number of Protestants is variously estimated at from 10,000 to 25,000. The Jews number about 2,000. The stipends of ministers of all denominations are thrived from the state. At the head of the Catholic church are the archbishop of Mechlin and the bishops of Ghent, Bruges, Liege, Namur, and Tournay. Monastic institutions are very numerous. In 1806 there were 2,893 monks in 178 monasteries, and 15,205 nuns in 1,144 convents and communities. The "Protestant Evangelical Church," to which the majority of Belgian Protestants belong, is governed by a synod which sits once a year at Brussels, and is composed of the clergymen of the body and a representative from each of the congregations. - There are government universities at Ghent and Liege, a Roman Catholic university at Louvain, and a free university at Brussels. There are superior public schools in most of the cities, and a great number of schools have been established for instruction in particular branches of industry, agricultural pro-les, chemistry, and design.
The conservatory of music at Brussels is one of the most famous in the world. The number of primary schools in 1864 was 5,004 (against 5,520 in 1851), of which 4,006 were under the control of the state. They were attended by 544,761 pupils; and the expenditure incurred for their support by the state, the provinces, and the communes was 10,942,000 fr. About 30 per cent, of the adult population in 1871 were unable to read and writ . - The history of Belgium as an in-depenuent stats dates from 1830, at which time it was separated from the kingdom of the Netherlands. Under the Romans the country formed a part of Gallia Belgica, a name dei rived from its original inhabitants. (See Gaul, and BelgAE.) After the fall of the West Roman empire a number of feudal lords achieved power in the Belgic territories, under the Frankish and German monarchs, among whom the counts of Flanders rose to historical distinction. From failure of male heirs their possessions devolved to the house of Burgundy in 1S84, which gradually extended its influence, by conquest or treaty, over the greater part of the Netherlands. (See Brabant, Burgundy, and Flax dees.) On the death of Charles the Bold, his daughter Mary, the greatest heiress of Europe, married Maximilian of Austria, afterward emperor of Germany; and under his successor Charles V. the rule of the Low Countries was joined to the crown of Spain. Both Maximilian and Charles respected in some degree the freedom and rights of their Batavian and Belgic subjects.
But Philip II. drove them into that revolt which ended in the independence of the United Provinces, and the confirmation of the yoke of Spain on the necks of the Belgians. (See Netherlands.) From this period Belgium followed the fortunes of Spain. In 1508 Philip bestowed the Flemish provinces on his daughter Isabella and her husband Albert, during which period something was effected toward the settlement of the internal affairs of the province. On the death of Isabella without issue, Spain again assumed the government, and the Spanish Low Countries were for the next century the battlefield of Europe. The cities were taken and retaken, the territory cut up, and passed from one power to another by the treaties of Aix-la-Chapelle (1008), Nimeguen (1678), and Ryswick (1697), until the peace of Utrecht (1713) gave the country to Austria; and, as though these influences had not been sufficiently injurious to the country, the so-called barrier treaty of 1715 delivered over several of the fortresses to Holland, in order to create a barrier against French ambition.
Holland closed the Scheldt, and so diverted the trade of Antwerp, and in 1722 the rising commerce of Ostend was sacrificed to the Dutch. The empress Maria Theresa appointed Charles, duke of Lorraine, her viceroy, and under his equitable rule the people enjoyed an interval of peace. Joseph II. shook off the bonds of the barrier treaty with the Dutch, and compelled Holland to withdraw her army of occupation, but could not succeed in reopening the navigation of the Scheldt. He also addressed himself to the reform of existing abuses; but here, as in other parts of his empire, his precipitation placed a lever in the hands of those who opposed his plans, which they used successfully to excite popular discontent. On Dec. 11, 1789, the opposition, which had manifested itself in a serious revolt, culminated in a movement in Brussels against the garrison, which was forced to capitulate. Joseph and his successor Leopold II. made liberal offers for an adjustment of the differences and for the re-establishment of the constitution; but the liberal leaders stood out for an independent Belgian republic.
Internal dissensions soon threw them into the power of the Austrians again, when Pichegru crossed the frontier, under instructions from the Freneh convention, to assist the Belgians. The Austrians were rapidly driven back, and the Belgians found themselves incorporated into the French republic, and eventually they became a part of the empire. On Napoleon's abdication in 1814, the country was put under the control of an Austrian governor, but at the final peace it was united with Holland under Prince William Frederick of Orange-Nassau as king of the new kingdom, called Netherlands, being destined to form a strong bulwark against France. The inclinations and habits of the Belgians, which lei them to a French alliance, were not consulted in this settlement, and their dissatisfaction was aggravated by the unwise policy of the Hollanders, and by the marked differences in national character, language, religion, and pursuits. In the states general Holland with about 2,500,000 was to have a number of representatives equal to Belgium with nearly 4,000,000 of people.
Belgium had only a debt of 4,000,000 florins, Holland a debt of 1,200,000,000; this was imposed on Belgian industry.' The constitution which contained all these objectionable provisions was passed by an assembly in which the dissentient Belgian nobility were an actual majority, but the absent Belgians were reckoned as assenting. The use of the French language in judicial and government proceedings was to be abolished. In May, 1830, disregarding 640 petitions, the government carried a new law of the press. Officials holding Belgian opinions were dismissed. M. de Potter, the head of the Belgian party, opened a subscription for all those who thus suffered for their principles. De Potter and his confidential friends, Tielemans, Bartels, and De N'eve, were arraigned for sedition; the charge was proved by their private correspondence with each other, and they were banished. The public mind was in a state of excitement, which was raised to its highest pitch of intensity by the revolution of July in Paris. At length, on Aug. 25, 1830, during a performance of Auber's "Masaniello" at the grand opera of Brussels, the insurrectionary spirit was aroused into action by the music.
The theatre was rapidly emptied, the office of the National newspaper, the government organ, wa3 sacked, the armorers' shops were broken open, and barricades were erected. The civic guard restored order the next day; but the revolution had spread, and in all the principal cities the same scene was reenacted. On Aug. 28 a congress of citizens assembled in the hotel de ville of Brussels; they adopted an address to the king, asking for reform of the system of government, dismissal of the unpopular ministers, and trial by jury in criminal prosecutions and proceedings affecting the press. The king received the deputies at the Hague, and refused to pledge himself to anything while under menaces of force, but promised an early consideration of the matter. This answer gave great dissatisfaction. Subsequently the crown prince was induced to visit Brussels. He held a conference with the leading men of the city, and appointed a committee for redress of grievances. The Liege deputation, however, boldly told the prince that nothing short of total separation from Holland would now pacify the people. The king summoned a states general extraordinary on Sept. 13, formed a new ministry under De Potter and De Stassart, and then sent troops to Brussels, and called on the rebels to submit.
On Sept. 20 the streets of Brussels were rendered completely impassable. Prince Frederick advanced with 14,000 men, and on Sept. 23 attacked the porte de Saar-bruck. After a battle of six hours the troops fought their way through the streets to the palace, and for three days there was an incessant engagement, during which the Dutch made themselves masters of the principal part of the city.. But the insurgents, receiving reinforcements from Liege and other towns, recovered strength, and Prince Frederick's position soon became hopeless. He ordered a retreat; Brussels was free; Mons, Ghent, Ypres. and all the other leading towns, at once declared in favor of total separation, and on Oct. 6 the Dutch garrison of Liege capitulated. Antwerp was now the only important place which remained in the hands of the Dutch, and even in that city their authority was rapidly crumbling away. Gen. Chasse had thrown himself into the citadel, and the authorities agreed on an armistice. But the insurgent forces repudiated the right of the magistrates to negotiate with the enemy, and summoned Chasse to surrender. In reply he opened his guns on the quarter of the town in which the revolutionary troops lay, and did much harm to the city, besides destroying a vast quantity of valuable merchandise.
A provisional government had been already formed in Brussels, consisting of Baron van Hoogvorst, Charles Rogier, Jolly, Count Felix de Merode, Gendebicn, Van de Weyer, Potter, and some others. They appointed the various ministers, summoned a national congress, and settled the basis of a constitution which recognized the monarchical principle. Secretaries Nothomb and Paul De-vaux were directed to prepare a draft of a constitution in accordance with this basis. Prince Frederick went so far as to consent to the independence of Belgium on condition that he should be made its king, but this was of no avail. On Oct. 25 he quitted Antwerp, and on the 27th Gen. Chasse commenced a two days' bombardment of the town, by which wanton act the Dutch party crushed out all chance of a friendly settlement. On Nov. 10 the national congress was opened and the independence of Belgium proclaimed. The form of monarchical government was adhered to, but the exclusion of the house of Orange for ever from the crown of Belgium was carried by an overwhelming majority. King William now turned to the great powers who had given him Belgium and guaranteed his quiet enjoyment of his new dominion.
At his request a conference of the European powers was held in London, which ordered an armistice, and the retirement of the troops of both parties within their respective frontiers. On Jan. 20, 1831, the independence of Belgium was acknowledged by the conference, binding Belgium to the assumption of a part of the state debt, which entailed upon her the payment of 14,000,000 florins annually. The crown was offered to the duke do Nemours, Louis Philippe's son, and declined, as the European powers would not countenance that \ ro-ject. The national congress now determined by a majority to appoint a regent in place of the provisional government, and Baron Surlet de Choquier was elected. He took the reins of government and named a ministry, which, being composed of incongruous materials, soon resigned, and another was appointed. The choice of the ministry and national congress now fell on Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who accepted the crown. His relationship to the royal family of England as widower of the princess Charlotte naturally procured him the sympathy of the British government, and he was soon considered as a kind of mediator between England and France. Not long after his coronation (July 21, 1831) Holland, in defiance of the armistice, sent an army across the frontier, and the new king thus found himself engaged in war, with a kingdom disorganized, an army hastily levied, and an unformed administration.
Leopold asked aid from France, which was promptly afforded, and Marshal Gerard, accompanied by the duke of Orleans, marched an army to Brussels, which compelled the Dutch forces to retreat across their frontier. William of Holland had not, however, given his consent to the new order of things in Belgium, seeing that as vet the question of the public debt was not satisfactorily disposed of. Accordingly, the con-ference determined on compelling Holland to evacuate the Belgian territory, and an Anglo-French fleet was to cooperate with the army under Gerard in reducing the citadel of Antwerp and Forts Lillo and Liefkenshoek. The s:ege of Antwerp began Nov. 2!), 1832, and on Dec. 23 Gen. Chasse capitulated. The other forts were not evacuated, hut Leopold declared himself satisfied to hold Limburg and Luxemburg against the strong places in question, and accordingly the French army retired. On Aug. 9, 1832, Leopold married the princess Louise, daughter of Louis Philippe. The new king soon found himself obliged to dissolve the chamber which had elected him, and to summon a second.
The final peace was concluded between Belgium and Holland April 19, 1839, at the dictation of the European powers, by which Luxemburg and Limburg were divided between the contending parties, Holland receiving the eastern divisions with the fortresses of Maes-tricht, Venloo, and Luxemburg. The only effect upon Belgium of the revolutionary agitation of Europe in 1848 was the establishment of an electoral reform and the abolition of the newspaper duty. King Leopold expressed his willingness to resign the crown, but the suggestion was not entertained. The coup d'etat of Napoleon in 1851 caused fresh embarrassment to Pelgium by the influx of French refugees. The government felt obliged to suppress the most obnoxious journals, ex-el a few refugees, and pass a law punishing attempts against the lives of foreign sovereigns. The conflict between the two political parties, the Catholic and the liberal, turned chiefly on heme questions, especially relative to the influence of the clergy in public instruction; but by the year 1857 the liberals had gained the upper hand, ruling the country till 1870. The principal reforms effected during this period were the abolition of the octrois communaux, or city gate tolls, and the tax on salt; the substitution of the edu-eatienal qualification for officeholders instead of the tax-paying qualification; laws against election frauds; and reforms in the penal code.
The different copyright treaties concluded with France and other powers, though strongly opposed, proved beneficial to Belgian literature. Ccinmercial treaties were also concluded with France, England, and the United States, on the basis of free trade, similar in spirit to the treaty made between France and England. Leopold died Dec. 9, 1865, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Leopold II. The question of the fortification of Antwerp, which formed for years a bone of contention between the political parties, was finally settled in favor of Belgium in 1870. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 Belgium observed a lonajide neutrality, forbidding even the exportation of arms and other war material; yet her position might have been endangered had it not been for England, which hastened to conclude a triple treaty with Prussia and France (Aug. 9, 1870), which guaranteed the independence and neutrality of Belgium according to the terms of the treaty of 1839. This triple treaty was to remain in force for only one, year after the cessation of the war. - See Les fondafairs de la monarchie beige, by Theodore Juste (Brussels, 1865 et seq.).