- United States of Belgium
The United States of Belgium, (Dutch: "Verenigde Nederlandse Staten" or "Verenigde Belgische Staten", French: "États-Belgiques-Unis") was a
confederationof the Southern Netherlandswhich existed from January to December 1790, during a short-lived revolt against the Habsburg Emperor Joseph II. Other English translations are United Belgian States or United Dutch States.
Influenced by the Enlightenment, Habsburg Emperor Joseph II pushed through a series of large-scale reforms in the
Austrian Netherlandsin the 1780s, designed to radically modernize and centralize the political, judicial and administrative system. The old decentralized system would be replaced with a uniform judicial system for the whole empire, and the independent provinces of the Austrian Netherlands were to be replaced with 9 "kreitsen" and 35 "districten". Joseph also secularized the education system and reorganized or abolished a number of religious orders.
1789, a popular revolt broke out in the Austrian Netherlands in reaction against the emperor's centralizing policies. Two factions appeared: the "Statists" who opposed the reforms, and the "Vonckists", named for Jan Frans Vonck, who initially supported the reforms but then joined the opposition, due to the clumsy way in which the reforms were carried out.
The uprising started in
Brabant, which in January 1789 declared it no longer recognized the emperor's rule, in what is called the Brabant Revolution. The leader of the Statisten faction, Hendrik Van der Noot, crossed the border into the Dutch Republicand raised a small army in Bredain Staats-Brabant, the northern (Dutch) part of Brabant.
In October, he invaded Brabant and captured
Turnhout, defeating the Austrians in the Battle of Turnhout on October 27. Ghentwas taken on November 13, and on November 17the imperial regents Albert of Saxony and Archduchess Maria Christina fled Brussels. The remains of the imperial forces withdrew behind the citadel walls of Luxembourg and Antwerp.
Van der Noot now declared Brabant independent, and all other provinces of the Austrian Netherlands (except
Luxembourg) soon followed suit. On January 11, 1790they signed a pact, establishing a confederation under the name "Verenigde Nederlandse Staten" / "États-Belgiques-Unis" (United States of Belgium) and a governing body known as the Sovereign Congress. The Dutch Act of Abjurationin 1581and the American Declaration of Independence in 1776stood model for the treaty of the United Belgian States.
1789, a revolution had broken out in the Bishopric of Liège. The revolutionaries established a republic which joined the United States of Belgium in a kind of alliance.
Realizing the fragility of the new state, Van Der Noot attempted to approach foreign states for support and suggested a unification with the
Dutch Republic, with little success. Also, the Statists and Vonckists factions were in constant conflict, bordering on civil war.
Meanwhile, Joseph II had died and his brother Leopold II had succeeded him as emperor. Leopold quickly moved to recapture the Austrian Netherlands. On
October 24imperial troops took the city of Namur, forcing the province of Namur to recognize the authority of the emperor. Two days later, the province of West Flandersfollowed suit, and by December the entire territory was again in imperial hands.
Though short-lived, the United States of Belgium had long-lasting repercussions. It had given the Southern Netherlands their first taste of independence, and had sparked a new political idea: the nation-state of "Belgium".
1830, the inhabitants of the Southern Netherlands successfully revolted against the United Kingdom of the Netherlandsin the Belgian Revolution, creating the modern state of Belgium.
* [http://webh01.ua.ac.be/storme/vereenigdenederlandschestaeten.html Treaty text (Dutch)]
* [http://www.1789-1815.com/traite_belgique.htm Treaty text (French)]
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