Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/462

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BELGIUM
BELGIUM
402

of the religious troubles of the sixteenth century. Their presses daily waged war on the Catholic re- ligion; their carnival pageants were -i-ulgar parodies ■n-hich exposed the most sacred things to popular de- rision. Lastly, the leaders of the movement agreed upon a revision of the law of 1S42 dealing with primarj- instruction. Once more in power they set about "their work of uprooting Christianity without delay, and framed the famous school law of 1879, which the CathoUcs called the "Law of Misfortune" (ioi de malheur), a name it still retains. The work of drafting this law was placed in charge of V.in Humbeck. the Minister of Pubhc Instruction, a Freemason who some years before had declared in his lodge that "Catholicism was a corpse that barred the way of progress and would have to be thrown into the" grave". The law did him justice, being in every respect the reverse of the law of 1S42; it excluded from the schools aU religious instruction, and barred from the ranks of teachers aU graduates of free normal, i. e. religious schools. But for once. Freemasonry had counted too much on the apathy and good nature of the Catholic masses. The resistance was unanimous. At the call of the bishops Catholics rose in a body and entered on a campaign of petitions; committees for resistance were everj-where formed; public prayers were offered in all the chiu'ches for deliverj" from "teachers without faith", and "god- less schools". In the Chambers, the Catholics after emphatic protests refused to take any part in the dis- cussion of the law even of its amendment, which forced the Liberals to do their worst and to shoulder the entire responsibility. It was carried without formal opposition. The President of the Senate. Prince de Ligne, a Liberal, resigned his post, deploring the di-ision of the nation into Guelphs and Ghibellines. The Catholics, co-operating with the bishops and the clergy, acliieved wonders. In one year they erected three or four thousand Catholic schools; the rule that there should be one to each commune was obeyed with few exceptions. More than 2.000 teachers of both sexes resigned their positions, the greater num- ber to take part in free education often at a very small salarj'. At the end of a year, the State schools had lost fifty-five per cent, of their pupils, and re- tained only thirty-eight per cent, of the entire body of school children, while the Catholic schools had sixty-one per cent. Many of the State schools were entirely deserted, and others had a ridiculously small attendance. Dumbfounded and enraged at such unexpected resistance, the Government tried everj- resource, however contemptible or absurd. Negotiations were begun with the Vatican, and a breach of diplomatic relations threatened, in the hope of forcing Leo XIII to condemn the action of the Belgian bishops. Nothing came of this, and in consequence the Belgian ambassador to the Holy See was recalled. To intimidate the clergj' and the Catholics, a decree was passed ordering an inquirj' as to the execution of the school law, and the inves- tigators journeyed through the countrj' like real judges, and cited people before their tribunal at ran- dom, exposing the most respectable people to the insults of the mob. This tour of investigation was scarcely finished, when the Freemasons, carrjing their blindness to the limit, proposed to the Chamber another inquirj- concerning the main-morte measure that is to say. a campaign against convents. This time, the nearness of elections dictated a more pru- dent policy and the motion was lost by a majority of two votes. The country was roused to great excitement. In the face of open persecution, the Catholics showed unexpected energj'. Foreseeing their triumph, they established the "Union for the Redress of Griev- ances", to comf>el their candidates in the event of theil- election to adopt a vigorous policy. On 10 June, , the country was called on to pronounce judg- ment. The result was overwhelming. Half the members of the Chamber had been candidates for re- election. Only two Liberal deputies were returned, the others being defeated in the whirlwind which uprooted Liberalism. Amid great national rejoicing, the Catholics resumed the reins of power, which they have held uninterruptedly for twenty-three years. "We shall surprise the world by our moderation" said one of their leaders; and in this moderation which is not devoid of energj-, lies their strength. The school law of 1879 was repealed without delaj-, the first time in the historj* of Belgium that a Catholic Government had courage to repeal a law made bj- 1 he Liberals. The legislators of 1SS4, however, did not revive the law of 1842. Taking into consideration the change of times, thej- took the primarj- schools from State control and placed them under the communes, leaving each com- mune to decide whether or not religious instruction should be given; the State subsidized these schools, on condition that thej- would accept the State pro- gramme and would submit to State inspection; all laws subversive of libertj- were repealed, and, need- less to saj-, relations with the ^"atican were resumed. The Liberals, counting on the support of the cities, thought that bj- %-iolence thej- could bring about a reaction against the decision of the electoral bodj-, as they h.ad done in 1857 and 1871. With the con- nivance of the Burgomaster of Brussels, thej- assailed and scattered a peaceful procession of 80,000 Catho- lics, who had come to the capital to make a demon- stration in favour of the Government, and, as in 18.57, appealed to false statistics of the coimnunal elections of 1884, to prove that the voters had changed their minds. In this waj-. thej- obtained from King Leo- pold II the dismissal of Charles Woeste and Victor Jacobs, the two ministers whom thej- held in special aversion. Jules Malou, the head of the Cabinet, pro- tested, and followed his colleagues into retirement. But the Catholic partj- remained in power and M. Beernaert, who succeeded ilalou, inaugurated the era of prosperitj' which has placed Belgiimi in the front rank among nations. The situation confronting the Government bore no resemblance to that of former j-ears. Since 1830, the inner national energj- had been absorbed bj- the struggle between the Catholics and the Lib- erals, both representing bourgeois voters, who were di-ided as to the amount of influence to be al- lowed to Catholicism in public affairs. Bj- 1886 a change had come about. A third partj- had come into existence known as the "Workingman's Partj-", which, recruited entirelj- from the labouring classes, presented a dangerous platform, comprehending not reforms but economic and social revolutionarj- meas- ures. This Socialist partj- had been secretlj- taking shape since 1867, and continued in Belgium the tra- ditions of the "Internationale", created bj- Karl Marx. Tt proclaimed to the workingmen that they were slaves, promised to give them libertj- and pros- peritj- and, as the first means towards the necessary reforms, to secure for them tlie right of suffrage. In this way the great mass of the people were won over and organized wliile the two older parties were whoUj- occupied -nith their traditional quarrel. Not that eminent Catholics, such as Edouard Ducp6- tiaux, to mention one of the highest rank, had not sought for a long time a waj- of bettering the condi- tion of the working classes, or that manj- zealous men had not made disinterested attempts to bring about such a result; but the bodj- of the nation had not realized the political role soon to be plaj-ed by the dense ranks of the organized proletariat, and hence had not tried to find legislative means of satis- fj-ing their demands. Moreover, the administrative classes. Liberals as well as Catholics, were under the influence of the Manchester schooL The policy of