|Belgian revolutionaries from Liege, 1830|
The Allied Forces’ decision to place Belgium under the United Kingdom of the Netherlands’s
dominion in 1815 did not please the Belgians of the time. And right they were
to feel that way for they suffered religious intolerance, extra financial charges
and taxes, and administrative partiality until poverty reigned throughout
Belgium’s provinces. In the meantime, the country found its freedom of press continuously
encroached upon, especially with regards to those journalists who dared to speak
up against the Dutch yoke. Thus, from 1816 to 1828, 23 newspapers and more than
80 journalists were taken to court.
|Louis De Potter in his cell at the Prison des Petits-Carmes|
(Dec. 2, 1829)
But it’s not until the July 1830 revolution in Paris, where the French people managed to force their then King Charles X and the Duc D’Angoulème to abdicate, that the Belgians finally realized they could defeat their own government as well.
Thus, when King William I had a huge celebration planned for his birthday, and that despite the fact that the Belgian People were being overtaxed (particularly by the impôts de la mouture, a tax placed upon the grains that must be paid before they can be ground into flour for bread-making), a number of revolutionaries stuck red posters up at street corners that read: “Monday, fireworks; Tuesday, illuminations; Wednesday, revolution.”
Soon thereafter, on the 25 of August 1830, the Théâtre de la Monnaie showed the play La Muette de Portici, an operetta which had long been forbidden for its tale of the Spaniards’ rise against the invader Napoleon. Perhaps the authorities should have kept the ban up, for when the two actors who played Mazaniello and Pietro sang the duet “Amour sacré de la Patrie!” [transl: Sacred love for the Homeland!”], the whole room broke out into feverish applause and a portion of the public left the theater, yelling wild cries of freedom.
|Théâtre de la Monnaie|
Our revolutionaries laid Libry’s two domiciles to waste, while others pillaged armorers before ransacking anything related to the Dutch crown, from signs bearing the royal coat of arms to the baron de Knyff’s house, the latter being none other than the chief of police who, out of spinelessness, let the ransacking people be. Nobody was spared, not even the Dutch minister whose house was put to fire. The most shocking part of this event, perhaps, was the fact that the armed military troupes didn’t lift a single finger against these freedom fighters, for they didn’t want to take the slightest initiative without first getting the Government’s approval. Approval which never materialized as the province’s governor never gave a sign of life.
Anarchy reigned in Brussels, and the Brabant flag was flown everywhere. Staedtler wrote at the time: “The town has established itself as an independent power and if we still lived in the Middle Ages, it would be the perfect occasion to obtain great privileges from the King.”
|Van Campenhout singing La Brabançonne at the Cantoni cafe,|
among other revolutionaries such as Jenneval.
En avant, marchons
Contre les canons ;
A travers le fer, le feu des bataillons
Courons à la victoire !
Go forth, let us march against the canons, through the iron and fires of the battalions, let us run towards victory!
|Revolutionaries fighting against the Dutch who are occupying the Royal Park|
It was his brother, Prince Frédéric, who marched against Brussels on September 22, 1830. Though the Dutch army was initially crowned with success, they soon found themselves on the losing end of the battle as more and more volunteers answered the church of Sainte-Gudule’s bells, coming from all neighboring communes: Hal, Nivelles, Wavre, Seneffe, Fleurus, Leuze, Lierre, and even from as far as Charleroi. While in the throes of this bloody battle, a group of men came together to form a provisional government, and their first act was to proclaim the rupture of all ties between Belgium and Holland.
After four long days, the Prince’s army finally retreated, and Brussels’s victory became the sign of hope needed for the remainder of the country to rise up against King William.
On October 4, 1830, the Central Committee for the Provisional Government—formed by the Comte de Merode, Van de Weyer, Rogier, Gendebien, and De Potter who’d come back from his exile—proclaimed Belgium’s independence.
|Burial of revolutionaries (according to Gemelli, 450 Belgians lost their lives during those 4 days) at the|
Place des Martyrs de la Liberté