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United States Department of State / Papers relating to foreign affairs, accompanying the annual message of the president to the second session thirty-eighth congress
(1864)

Belgium,   pp. 226-266 PDF (15.5 MB)


Page 235

DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENCE. 
235 
Mr. Sanford to M1r. Seward. 
No. 177.]                        LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES, 
Brussels, January 14, 1864. 
SiR_: I have the honor to enclose herewith some data I have collected with
regard to the recruiting system in this country, and with especial reference
to 
cases of exemptions, as likely to be of use at this moment when our law on
the 
subject is being revised. 
I have thought that, in this connexion, some details touching the systems
of 
France and Prussia, and their workings, would not be without interest and
per- 
haps value, and have accordingly included them in the accompanying paper.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant, 
II. S. SANFORD. 
Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, 
Secretary of State, 4c., 8-c., 4r. 
SYSTEM OF RECRUITING IN BELGIUM. 
The present legislation on the military service in Belgium, which is based
on 
the law of the 8th January, 1817, consists in no less than twelve laws, besides
numerous royal decrees and a large number of administrative regulations.
The 
consequence is that it is far from being as clear as might be desired, and
meets 
with great difficulties in its application. 
On the other hand, reforms having been loudly called for, the government,
after taking the opinion of a special committee, has brought forward a bill,
of 
which a copy is herewith annexed, revising the laws relative to military
service. 
In this bill the existing fundamental principles have been maintained, a
long 
experience havingoproved their superiority over all other systems recommended.
In summing up the provisions of the law now in vigor, the alterations intro-
duced by the bill referred to will be vindicated. 
The Belgian army is recruited by drafts and voluntary enlistments; it 
consists- 
1st. Of the effective force maintained under arms. 
2d. Of the men who are left at or sent home on furlough. 
By the terms of article 119 of the constitution the contingent of the army
is 
voted annually by the Chambers; the law which regulates it is in force for
one 
year only.* 
The contingent of the army is fixed at 80,000 men, but the effective force
at 
present, as stated in the budget, amounts only to 35,000 men, 11,000 of whom
are volunteers and 24,000 conscripts. They early contingent of the levy has
been fixed for upwards of twenty years at a maximum of 10,000 men.t 
The contingent is furnished by drawing by lots from among all young men,
Belgians, married or unmarried, who on the 1st of January of each year 
have attained their nineteenth year. All foreigners who have attained their
naturalization before accomplishing their twenty. sixth year are subject
to the 
The intention of Congress was to establish,  a force in proportion to the
necessities of the 
country, to prevent the arbitrary exercise of power on the part of the administration,
and to 
avoid the danger to which a numerous army in time of peace might give rise.
t Had the contingent of the army followed the same progressive increase as
the population 
it would now amount to 12,200 men. The population of Belgium, which in 1836
amounted 
to 3,785,814 inhabitauts, was in 1859 4,623,089. 


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