CHAPTER XXXI. THE BELGIAN REVOLUTION, 1830-1842
William had appealed to the Powers to maintain the Treaties of Paris and Vienna and to support him in what he regarded, on the basis of those treaties, as his undoubted rights; and it was with indignation that he saw the Conference decline to admit his envoy, Falck, except as a witness and on precisely the same terms as the representatives of the Brussels Congress. On December 20 a protocol was issued by the Powers which defined their attitude. They accepted the principle of separation and independence, subject to arrangements being made for assuring European peace. The Conference, however, declared that such arrangements would not affect the rights of King William and of the German Confederation in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. This part of the protocol was as objectionable to the Belgians as the former part was to the Dutch king. The London Plenipotentiaries had in fact no choice, for they were bound by the unfortunate clauses of the treaties of 1815, which, to gratify Prussian ambition for cis-Rhenan territory, converted this ancient Belgian province into a German state. This ill-advised step was now to be the chief obstacle to a settlement in 1831. The mere fact that William had throughout the period of union always treated Luxemburg as an integral part of the southern portion of his kingdom made its threatened severance from the Belgic provinces a burning question. For Luxemburgers had taken a considerable part in the revolt, and Luxemburg representatives sat in the National Congress. Of these eleven voted for the perpetual exclusion of the Orange-Nassau dynasty, one only in its favour. It is not surprising, therefore, that a strong protest was made against the decision of the London Conference to treat the status of Luxemburg as outside the subject of their deliberations. The Conference, however, unmoved by this protest, proceeded in a protocol of January 20,1831, to define the conditions of separation. Holland was to retain her old boundaries of the year 1790, and Belgium to have the remainder of the territory assigned to the kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. Luxemburg was again excluded. The Five Powers, moreover, declared that within these limits the new Belgian State was to be perpetually neutral, its integrity and inviolability being guaranteed by all and each of the Powers. A second protocol (January 27) fixed the proportion of the national debt to be borne by Belgium at sixteen parts out of thirty-one. The sovereign of Belgium was required to give his assent to these protocols, as a condition to being recognised by the Powers. But the Congress of Brussels was in no submissive mood. They had already (January 19) resolved to proceed to the election of a king without consulting anyone. The territorial boundaries assigned to Belgium met with almost unanimous reprobation, a claim being made to the incorporation not merely of Luxemburg, but also of Maestrieht, Limburg and Dutch Flanders, in the new State. Nor were they more contented with the proportion of the debt Belgium was asked to bear. On February 1 the Five Powers had agreed that they would not assent to a member of any of the reigning dynasties being elected to the throne of Belgium. Nevertheless (February 3) the Duc de Nemours, son of Louis Philippe, was elected by 94 votes, as against 67 recorded for the Duke of Leuchtenberg, son of Eugene Beauharnais. The Conference took immediate action by refusing to permit either Nemours or Leuchtenberg to accept the proffered crown.
These acute differences between the Conference and the Belgian Congress were a cause of much satisfaction to the Dutch king, who was closely watching the course of events; and he thought it good policy (February 18) to signify his assent to the conditions set forth in the protocols of January 20 and 27. He had still some hopes of the candidature of the Prince of Orange (who was in London) being supported by the Powers, but for this the time was past.
At this juncture the name of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who had resided in England since the death of his wife the Princess Charlotte, was put forward. This candidature was supported by Great Britain; France raised no objection; and in Belgium it met with official support. Early in April a deputation of five commissioners was sent to offer the crown provisionally to the prince, subject to his endeavouring to obtain some modification of the protocols of January 20 and 27. The Five Powers, however, in a protocol, dated April 15, announced to the Belgian Government that the conditions of separation as laid down in the January protocols were final and irrevocable, and, if not accepted, relations would be broken off. Leopold was not discouraged, however; and such was his influence that he did succeed in obtaining from the Conference an undertaking that they would enter into negotiations with King William in regard both to the territorial and financial disputes with a view to a settlement, moyennant de justes compensations.