CHAPTER XXXI. THE BELGIAN REVOLUTION, 1830-1842
This was checked by the action of the municipal authorities and certain of the principal inhabitants, who called together the civic-guard to protect any further tumultuary attacks by marauders and ne'er-do-wells on private property. The guard were joined by numbers of volunteers of the better classes and, under the command of Baron D'Hoogvoort, were distributed in different quarters of the town, and restored order. The French flags, which at first were in evidence, were replaced at the Town Hall by the Brabant tricolor - red, yellow and black. The royal insignia had in many places been torn down, and the Orange cockades had disappeared; nevertheless there was at this time no symptom of an uprising to overthrow the dynasty, only a national demand for redress of grievances. Meanwhile news arrived that reinforcements from Ghent were marching upon the city. The notables however informed General Bylandt that no troops would be allowed to enter the city without resistance; and he agreed to stop the advance and to keep his own troops in their encampment until he received further orders from the Hague. For this abandonment of any attempt to re-assert the royal authority he has been generally blamed.
There is no lack of evidence to show that the riot of August 25 and its consequences were not the work of the popular leaders. The correspondence of Gendebien with De Potter at this time, and the tone of the Belgian press before and after the outbreak, are proofs of this. The Catholique of Ghent (the former organ of Barthels) for instance declared:
There is no salvation for the throne, but in an ample concession
of our rights. The essential points to be accorded are royal
inviolability and ministerial responsibility; the dismissal of Van
Maanen; liberty of education and the press; a diminution of
taxation ... in short, justice and liberty in all and for all, in
strict conformity with the fundamental law.
The Coursier des Pays Bos (the former organ of De Potter), after demanding the dismissal of Van Maanen as the absolute condition of pacification, adds:
We repeat that we are neither in a state of insurrection nor
revolution; all we want is a mitigation of the grievances we have
so long endured, and some guarantees for a better future.
In accordance with such sentiments an infuencial meeting on the on the 28th at the townhall appointed a deputation of five, headed by Alexandre de Gendebien and Felix, count de Merode, to bear to the king a loyal address setting forth the just grievances which had led to the Brussels disturbances, and asking respectfully for their removal.
The news of the uprising reached the king on the 27th, and he was much affected. At a Council held at the Hague the Prince of Orange earnestly besought his father to accept the proffered resignation of Van Maanen, and to consider in a conciliatory spirit the grievances of the Belgians. But William refused flatly to dismiss the minister or to treat with rebels. He gave the prince, however, permission to visit Brussels, not armed with powers to act, but merely with a mission of enquiry. He also consented to receive the deputation from Brussels, and summoned an extraordinary meeting of the States-General at the Hague for September 13. Troops were at once ordered to move south and to join the camp at Vilvoorde, where the regiments sent to reinforce the Brussels garrison had been halted. The Prince of Orange and his brother Frederick meanwhile had left the Hague and reached Vilvoorde on August 31. Here Frederick assumed command of the troops; and Orange sent his aide-de-camp to Baron D'Hoogvoort to invite him to a conference at headquarters. The news of the gathering troops had aroused immense excitement in the capital; and it was resolved that Hoogvoort, at the head of a representative deputation, should go to Vilvoorde to urge the prince to stop any advance of the troops on Brussels, as their entrance into the town would be resisted, unless the citizens were assured that Van Maanen was dismissed, and that the other grievances were removed. They invited Orange to come to Brussels attended only by his personal suite, and offered to be sureties for his safety.
The prince made his entry on September 1, the streets being lined with the civic guard. He was personally popular, but, possessing no powers, he could effect nothing. After three days of parleying he returned to the camp, and his mission was a failure. On the same day when Orange entered Brussels the deputation of five was received by King William at the Hague. His reply to their representations was that by the Fundamental Law he had the right to choose his ministers, that the principle of ministerial responsibility was contrary to the Constitution, and that he would not dismiss Van Maanen or deal with any alleged grievances with a pistol at his head.