CHAPTER XXXII. WILLIAM II. REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION.
The Constitution of 1848 left in the hands of the king the executive power, i.e. the conduct of foreign affairs, the right of declaring war and making peace, the supreme command of the military and naval forces, the administration of the overseas possessions, and the right of dissolving the Chambers; but these prerogatives were modified by the introduction of the principle of ministerial responsibility. The ministers were responsible for all acts of the government, and the king could legally do no wrong. The king was president of the Council of State (15 members), whose duty it was to consider all proposals made to or by the States-General. The king shared the legislative power with the States-General, but the Second Chamber had the right of initiative, amendment and investigation; and annual budgets were henceforth to be presented for its approval. All members of the States-General were to be at least 30 years of age. The First Chamber of 39 members was elected by the Provincial Estates from those most highly assessed to direct taxation; the members sat for nine years, but one-third vacated their seats every third year. All citizens of full age paying a certain sum to direct taxation had the right of voting for members of the Second Chamber, the country for this purpose being divided into districts containing 45,000 inhabitants. The members held their seats for four years, but half the Chamber retired every second year. Freedom of worship to all denominations, liberty of the press and the right of public meeting were guaranteed. Primary education in public schools was placed under State control, but private schools were not interfered with. The provincial and communal administration was likewise reformed and made dependent on the direct popular vote.
The ministry of Donker-Curtius at once took steps for holding fresh elections, as soon as the new constitution became the fundamental law of the country. A large majority of liberals was returned to the Second Chamber. The king in person opened the States-General on February 13, 1849, and expressed his intention of accepting loyally the changes to which he had given his assent. He was, however, suffering and weak from illness, and a month later (March 17) he died at Tilburg. His gracious and kindly personality had endeared him to his subjects, who deeply regretted that at this moment of constitutional change the States should lose his experienced guidance. He was succeeded by his son, William III.
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