The Belgian Revolution of 1830 was an uprising that was organized by the Belgians against their Dutch masters in 1830 in reaction to the forced union of the two ountries by the Vienna settlement of 1815 into the United Kingdom of Netherlands or Holland. This union was led by King William I who was a Dutch. The two countries had been united to create a strong nation in the North East of France that would resist against the French aggression. The revolution was staged against the Dutch in Brussels which was the capital of Belgium. By 1839, Belgium was a neutral and independent state.
THE CAUSES OF THE BELGIAN REVOLUTION OF 1830
The desire for independence (nationalism) led to the outbreak of the Belgian revolution of 1830. Belgium had been put under the Dutch rule according to the Vienna settlement of 1815. It should be noted that the Belgians had been under foreign rule for a long time i.e. they passed from the Spanish to Austrian rule, to the French rule and finally to the Dutch rule. By 1830 therefore, due to the fact that they had not enjoyed any degree of independence, they rose up against the Dutch.
The Vienna settlement of 1815 caused the Belgian revolution of 1830. The Vienna settlement made a mistake of forming a union of Belgium and Holland so as to create a strong buffer state in the North East of France known as the United Kingdom of Netherlands. The congress men at Vienna ignored the fact that those two states were of different historical backgrounds and had different cultures. This therefore caused a revolution as the Belgians demanded for an independent and separate state from the Dutch.
The religious differences between the Dutch and Belgians caused the 1830 Belgian revolution. The Dutch were Protestants while the Belgians were mainly Catholics. The Catholic Belgians hated domination by the Protestant Dutch who were their masters. This therefore inspired them to stage a revolution in 1830.
The political discrimination of the Belgians caused the revolution. The Dutch monopolized all the official positions in the government like the army, the civil service and the diplomatic mission or department. For example, out of the seven cabinet ministers, six were Dutch and only one was a Belgian. Also, thirty out of the thirty-nine ambassadors were Dutch and all the Generals in the army of the Kingdom were Dutch. Therefore, this favouritism by King William I annoyed the Belgians, hence inspiring them to rise in 1830 as they demanded for equality in the political affairs.
The conflict over the education control caused the Belgian revolution of 1830. The Belgians favoured the control of education by the Catholic Church but in the union with Dutch, King William I put education under the control of the protestant Church. Therefore, the dominance of the education system by the Dutch annoyed the Belgians and hence they revolted against the Dutch in 1830.
The unfair or unequal representation in the parliament caused the Belgian revolution of 1830. In the United Kingdom of the Belgians and the Dutch, there were three million Belgians and two million Dutch. What caused discontent was that the Belgians were given equal representation with the Dutch in the parliament which was found at Hague in Holland yet the Belgians were the majority. They therefore regarded this as unfair representation, thus inspiring them to rise up against their masters in 1830.
The unfair taxation system practiced by the Dutch over the Belgians also caused the Belgian revolt of 1830. Bread was the staple food for the Belgians while the Dutch had Irish potatoes as their staple food. However, King William I imposed high taxes on bread thus making the Belgian food very expensive. On the other hand, the taxes on the Dutch food were lowered. Consequently, the Belgians were discontented because of the high food prices and the high cost of living while the Dutch enjoyed cheap food. This therefore led to the outbreak of the Belgian revolution of 1830.
The economic differences between the Belgians and the Dutch led to the outbreak of the 1830 Belgian revolt The Belgians had developed because of industrialization while the Dutch were farmers and traders and were therefore less developed compared to the Belgians. What caused conflict between the Belgians and the Dutch was that King William I favoured an economic policy of free trade while the Belgians wanted protectionism. The Belgians feared the loss of markets for their manufactured goods due to competition with the cheap foreign products that were not subjected to taxation and therefore they decided to revolt in 1830.
The other economic cause of the Belgian revolution of 1830 originated from the conflict over the national debt of the Dutch. Before the union, the Dutch had accumulated a very big national debt. What caused conflicts was that King William I forced the Belgians to contribute to the repayment of this debt which would have been a responsibility of the Dutch alone. The Belgians saw no reason for paying the debt from which they had not benefited and this discontent therefore made them to revolt in 1830.
The difference in language was another factor that caused the Belgian revolution of 1830. King William I declared the Dutch language as the official language for the union of the two countries yet the Belgians used France as their official language. Consequently, the Belgians were stopped from using their mother language. The Belgians considered this as a policy of undermining their culture which generated a conflict revolution of 1830.
The influence of French revolution of 1789 also contributed to the outbreak of the Belgian revolution of 1830. Out of the French revolution of 1789, the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity were born. In addition, the Frenchmen had managed to overthrow an oppressive Ancient regime. In the union, the Dutch used to violate the liberty the Belgians had enjoyed since they were liberated by France (Napoleon I) from the Austrian rule. The example of the French revolution of 1789 therefore encouraged the Belgians to revolt against oppression by the Dutch.
The demand for liberalism contributed to the Belgian revolution of 1830. The government of King William I for example put in place discriminative laws that censored the Belgian press or newspapers. The liberal journalists therefore opposed the censorship laws because while the Belgian newspapers were censored, those of the Dutch were not. This caused a conflict between the Dutch and Belgians which caused the 1830 Belgian revolution.
The Collapse of the Congress System also led to the outbreak of the 1830 Belgian revolution. This was because it weakened the “Metternich System” that had been used to suppress the forces of liberalism and nationalism in Europe. Its collapse also meant that the European Powers could no longer unite to suppress revolutions in Europe and this therefore explains the outbreak of the 1830 Belgian revolution.
The July revolution of 1830 in France also contributed to the outbreak of the 1830 Belgian revolution. In 1830, the French staged a revolution against King Charles X who had succeeded Louis XVIII in 1824. Among other things, they accused Charles X of being autocratic. The news of the overthrow of Charles X reached Brussels which was the capital of Belgium and this encouraged the Belgians to stage a revolution against the Dutch control.