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The Netherlands.--Belgium.--Holland.--Measures of Union.
--The Constitution.-Grievances of the Belgians.-Stassart Subscription.-- Prosecution of De Potter.-The States General.---The French Revolution.--Riots in Brussels.The Burgher Guard.—Mission to the King.--Arrival of the Princes.-Belgian Commission.-Separation of Belgium and Holland.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands, - an ill cemented fabric constructed by the Congress of Vienna for a counterpoise to Gallic power, but as incapable to withstand the shock of the liberal opinions, as its constituent parts had been to resist the arms, ofthe French, was the first to feel the force of the revolutionary incidents in Paris.
When the crudies of Philip Second of Spain filled the Low Countries with disaffection and revolt, there existed, in the different provinces, no
such marked diversity of interests or feelings, as would have led a superficial observer to suppose that a voluntary union between them all was impracticable. They consisted, it is true, of three great subdivisions of population, namely, the Dutch, the Flemings, and the Walloons, or proper descendants of the ancient Belgic Gauls; but the Dutch and Flemings were closely allied in origin, language, and habits, and the remaining inhabitants, if not particularly attached to Holland, yet were so to Flanders and Brabant. But it soon became apparent that a more decided prevalence of the Catholic faith, and a greater preponderance of the patrician families, in the southern provinces, rendered these last more easy to reclaim to obedience, than the northern provinces. Hence, at the close of a protracted contest, the seven northern provinces, Holland, Zealand, Utrecht, Friesland, Groningen, Overyssel,and Guelderland, came to compose the independent Republic of the United Provinces, - while the residue of the Netherlands continued under the government of Spain.
In process of time, the southern provinces became distinguished as the Catholic Netherlands, and the northern might with equal propriety have been called the Protestant Netherlands. In fact, the two great fragments of the Netherlands were the very antipodes each of the other in their religious belief." But other differences, equally efficacious in moulding their subsequent fortunes, grew out of the circumstances and consequences of the struggle for independence. In the first place, the Hollanders, by closing up the Scheldt for a long period, destroyed the commerce of Antwerp, and caused the transfer of its business to Amsterdam. Meantime, the Hollanders grew to be a powerful maritime nation, with ships and
foreign colonies, making wars and contracting alliances on their own account, while the Catholic Netherlands followed the fortunes of the House of Charles V, and became of necessity a manufacturing and agricultural people, and the subject ofincessant contention between Spain and France. Their cession to Austria, after the death of Charles II, did not materially affect either their internal condition or their position. Repeatedly overrun by the French, and the frequent theatre of the great battles of Europe, the Belgic Netherlands were continually losing all traces of ancient sympathy with the Dutch Netherlands; so that, when the French Revolution broke out, the Dutch and the Belgians were foreigners in respect of each other, in religion, interests, public spirit, literature, and whatever else might go to make up nationality of character.
Belgium was conquered by the French Republic, or rather taken possession of, and incorporated with France, at the very beginning of the war, brought on by the Revolution. In fact, the Belgians, who had scarcely settled down from the insurrection, into which the innovations of Joseph II had impelled them, received the French with open arms, and became in feeling, as well as in organization, an integral part of the Republic and Empire. The general use of the French language in the Austrian Netherlands made this natural and easy; and at the same time the Belgians found, in France, a market for their staple productions, which rendered the union agreeable to their interest as well as their taste. But the course of things was otherwise in Holland.
Dumouriez, in command of the French forces, gained possession of Belgium in a single campaign, (1793) the victory of Jemmappes being decisive of the fate of Clerfayt and the Austrians.
But the Allies made a stand in Holland, and the arms of the Austrians, aided by the treachery of Dumouriez, recovered the ascendancy for awhile, to lose it again finally the ensuing year. Pichegru and Jourdan drove all before them like a torrent. The Austrians were completely beaten by the latter at Fleurus, and it cost the former but a few days to expel the English from the United Provinces, which hailed the French army as liberators, and resolved themselves into the Batavian Republic one and indivisible, in imitation of the French.
At this period, while Belgium was in fact as in name absorbed in France, Holland possesseed only the name of independence without the fact. It remained in the occupancy of the French army. While France was governed by a Convention, so was Holland; a Directory in the latter followed upon the establishment of a Directory in the former; when Bonaparte obtained the control of affairs in France as First Consul, like authority in Holland was conferred on the Grand Pensionary, Schimmelpenninck, who subsequently gave place to King Louis; and when the latter ceased to cooperate cordially in his brother's continental system, Holland was incorporated with the Empire. During the progress of these events, Holland suffered more than any other part of Europe. Its commerce, the main industry of its inhabitants, was annihilated; its population, unused to military service and quite ummilitary in its character, was decimated by the indiscriminate operation of the conscription; its colonies were seized upon by the English, and its navy destroyed by them at the battle of Camperdown; and its fundholders were impoverished by an imperial decree reducing the public debt two thirds: in short the whole country was oppressed under the weight of a mul