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United States Department of State / Index to the executive documents of the House of Representatives for the first session of the forty-seventh Congress, 1880-'81
(1881-1882)

Belgium,   pp. 62-75 PDF (5.7 MB)


Page 63


taught that Leopold and Belgium were second to the Pope and Rome;
that under the new law a state normal school supeirseded that institu-
tion, and priests could no longer act as school inspectors, public secular
education being wholly placed under control of officers of the state,
and that a bitter controversy had grown out of this movement.
  As this domestic question of Belgium has attracted wide attention,
I have thought a brief statement of its present status and relations
might be of interest. For a just appreciation of the subject, two facts
in Belgian politics and society should be noted. First, that Belgium
is, and for centuries has been, an intensely Roman Catholic country.
The Protestant element numerically is so insignificant that it is not a
considerable factor in Belgian society. The "liberal" element not
in
sympathy with any religious organization, yet intense in its political
character, is undoubtedly strong in the large towns, and acts politically
with the "liberal"7in contradistinction from the ultramontane party.
  The second fact is the liberal character of Belgian political institu-
tions   lMonarchical in form, the government has the spirit of ;a free
republic, and has laid the basis of individual liberty as maintained by
modern constitutional governments in its fundamental law. The fol-
lowing are some of its provisions relating to education and worship:
  Freedom of worship and its public exercise, as well as the right of expressing
opin-
ions upon every question, guaranteed, saving the punishment of crimes committed
dur-
ing the exercise of these rights. No person can be required to take part
in any man-
ner whatsoever with the acts or ceremonies of any form of worship, nor to
observe any
days of rest.
  Teaching is free. Every preventive measure is prohibited; the repression
of crimes
is regulated only by law.
   Founded in 1830 by a revolution which separated the kingdom from
Holland, the first two years after its independent organization the exi-
gencies of the new state prevented the development of sharply defined
parties, and it was not until the country felt well assured of its unques-
tioned independence that radical differences of opinion sought verydis-
tinct party organization.
   The policy of King Leopold I of selecting a mixed ministry of strict
 Catholics and Liberals, with the hope of preventing the antagonism of
 parties, largely contributed to this passive condition.
   But it is no less true that in the very beginning there were the ele-
 ments which would not permit Belgium to escape the internal collisions
 incident to all free states. The attitude of Gregory XVI toward the
 liberal features of its constitutional power fully contributed to shape
the
 future politics of the country. In his Encycle of 1832 he declared
 that-
   Indifferentism alone could flow from that absurd and erroneous maxim,
that it was
 necessary to guarantee and assure to all liberty of conscience.
   He condemned the liberty of the press and declared that-
   Calamity to religion and governments must be the result of following the
wishes of
 those who would separate the church from the state, and would break the
mutual con-
 cord between the priesthood and the civil authority.
   The leading Catholic press of Belgium, as well as theCatholic col-
 leges and seminaries, took the position of hostility-to the liberal features
 of the constitution before the famous syllabus of Pius IX7, and since
 that time that attitude has been uncompromisingly maintained by
 them.
   In a dispatch of Frere Orban, minister of foreign affairs, to the charg6
 d'affaires of Belgium near the Holy 8ee, of date November 12, 1878, he
 says :
63
BELGIUM.


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