On 6 November 1817, the 21-year-old British Crown Princess Charlotte died in childbirth. If she had lived, the course of history would have been different. Charlotte and her husband Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, a shrewd and ambitious German prince, would have succeeded to the British throne in 1830 and would have left their mark on a significant part of 19th-century British history. What happened instead was that in 1831 the International Powers installed Leopold L- on a throne in Brussels. He was appointed King of Belgium, a newly created state one-and-a-half times the size of Wales or New Jersey. Belgium - its name referred to Belgica, the Latin word for the Netherlands - was an artificial state. It was inhabited by two different peoples: Catholic Dutchmen, referred to as Flemings (after Flanders, one of their historical regions) in the North, and French-speaking Walloons in the South (Wallonia). What became Belgium, at the time was the easiest path between France and Germany and the best avenue for entry of British goods to the Continent.

Case Study: In search of a Kingdom

What became Belgium, at the time was the easiest path between France and Germany and the best avenue for entry of British goods to the Continent. Next to its central geographic location. frequent invasions of what later became, Belgium territory were also a result of its economic significance for the region.1 Thus, its French and Femish Provinces remained a persistent object of contention between the French to the west and the Germans to the east, while both Spanish and Austrian monarchs ruled the provinces from 1556 to 1792. The French however remained the fiercest and most adamant claimants of Belgian’s Flemish territories. They captured the Flemish Provinces in 1792, lost them the following year, only to regain and annex them in 1794.2 In addition, the period between 1776 and 1790 was characterized by instability and a series of insurrections that broke out in different countries.3 This period of volatility ended in 1814 with the disintegration of Napoleon's empire, which put the fate of its Nordern French and Flemish provinces in the hands of European diplomats. Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and the loss of the ‚Belgic‘ Provinces, even though it caused heartache for the French, did not discourage them from pursuing their dream of re-annexation of Belgium.4 With the fall of Napoleon, the Holy Alliance developed into a super-national league for the suppression of revolutions and the upholding of the principle of monarchical legitimism.5

The actions taken by the Holy Alliance almost erased the dividing line between international affairs and the domestic affairs of a state. It was more than a question of recognition or non-recognition. Rather, it was an imposition of a regime by external force, an intervention in the internal affairs of a state in the most flagrant manner. Some authors have asserted that the conclusion of the pious terms of the Holy Alliance 6 in 1815 between Tsar, the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia as well as the righteous resolutions adopted three years later by the Congress of Aix-Ia Chapelle of 1818,7 with regards to the the sanctity of international treaties were a mere staged show.  According to their opinion, the emphasis on law and religion served only to mask the real intention of the Powers. Throughout the years, their main goal was to maintain the territorial status quo and to prevent democratic tendencies from threatening the privileges of the governing classes and the absolute rule of the princes. The central goal of European powers remained buttressing the well-established balance of power system determined at Vienna regardless ofthe cost that effort entailed.8 The peace settlements reached at the Peace of Paris in 1814 and the Treaty of Vienna in 1815 clearly reflected the value of the state over the nation. During this period territories were bartered among the sovereigns.10

When one sovereign lost a contested territory, he was compensated with another. The use of the terms "souls" rather than "citizens" to describe the populations a sovereign would receive in compensation symbolized the view that states existed apart ftom their people. This is also evident in the fact that dynastic claims of territory were favored over national claims by newly liberated peoples throughout Europe. Between 1815 and 1848 intervention was a device used by great powers  to control and assist the governments of weaker states.11 They however wanted to differentiate between intervention and war and even though they did intervene on a number of occasions, none of those acts were preceded by a declaration of war. There was a manifest determination amongst the great powers to establish the principle that intervention by force in the internal affairs of another state was a legitimate and legal act. Congresses, treaties and peace acts, which were quite frequent during this period, were a way of establishing, formalizing and confirming that legitimacy. The powers derived their legitimacy from the shared assumption that they were guardians of the peace of Europe. Maintenance of peace and stability was the moral obligation of the Great Powers and their right and duty to ensure it was not disturbed by others. These rights and obligations were based on accomplished facts and binding treaties. The legitimacy of intervention was grounded in the rights, which belonged to the great powers and the assumption that peace between states depended upon the maintenance of order within states. This principle was evident in the words of Austrian minister Klemens von Metternich who asserted: "when domestic social unrest makes it impossible for a government to meet its treaty obligations that bind it to other countries, the right to intervene belongs as clearly and indisputably to every government which finds itself in danger of being drawn into the revolutionary maelstrom, as it does to any individual who must put out a fire in his neighbor's house if it is not to spread to its own.“12

The right to intervention was presented in a positive light, as Great Powers helping weaker states uphold their treaty obligations, rather than Great Powers meddling into the affairs of other states. This common policy and the way of thinking was undennined in the 1820s and 1830s by disagreement amongst the great powers as to what constituted disorder and whether turmoil in a particular country constituted a threat to the peace of Europe. Fearing more revolutions and insurrections with the exceptions of Great Britain and France, the Powers in November 1820 adhered to the Troppau Protocol, which stated that: "States which have undergone a change of Government due to revolution, the results of which threaten other states, ipso facto cease to be members of the European Alliance, and remain excluded from it until their situation gives guarantees for legal order and stability. If owing to such alterations immediate danger threatens other states, the powers bind themselves, by peaceful means, or if need be by army to bring back the guilty state into the bosom of the Great Alliance."13 Intervention remained central to the 'Congress System' and rather controversial as Great Britain strongly opposed the Powers intervening into the affairs of other states.14

British Foreign Secretary Castlereagh rejected the Protocol and the claim that intervention was the duty of the Alliance and officially declared the text as a clear violation of international law. 15 Castlereagh established the British position in a paper of May 5, 1820, stating that the Quadruple Alliance was an alliance for the "liberation of a great proportion of the Continent of Europe from the military dominion of France...It never was, however intended as an Union for the Government of the World or for the Superintendence of the Internal Affairs of other States.“16 Britain and France believed that the right to intervene rested solely on the appeal of the government in distress for assistance. They adamantly rejected the argument that a right of intervention belonged to the alliance of five powers. Clearly they recognized two or more powers could legitimately act together if they so wished, but they could not claim to act in the name of the five. Howevert some believe that the disagreement between the powers was more about the nature and the purpose of the five-power alliance and the contest for its leadership rather than a debate about the principle of intervention. 17

The great powers of Europe did not consider the interests of smaller states, which increasingly rejected absolutism and longed for constitutional guarantees. Establishment and recognition of new states also fell into the realm of responsibility of the Great Powers. The act of recognition was perceived as a stabilizer of security and a tool for the  maintenance of the equilibrium among states. New entities were recognized as independent states in order to either support the balance of power system. Therefore, the great powers restored old rulers only where it suited them to do so, and their territorial arrangements were designed primarily to satisfy strategic requirements, or to provide rough justice by rewards, compensation or punishment. They were bound by no principle of the self-determination of peoples or ethnic groupings. Although nationalism was certainly used and discussed, its expression and practice was strongly discouraged. For the people and for their governments, the determination to return to peace was far more compelling than liberal and nationalist ideas.18 In as far as the peacemakers of 1814 had any ideological motive, it was a desire to establish peace under the system of balance of power, which meant different things to different states. 19


The Buffer State

A French ambassador at the time of Louis XIV commented that "The English will give the shirts off their backs to prevent the French from penetrating into the Low Countries.“20 Similarly to the French, the British maintained a close interest in the fate of the French and Flemish Provinces. The main reason behind this was Britain's strong belief that their possession by France or any other country in Europe would upset the balance of power and pose a threat to the British Isles. They were fully aware of the danger implied by them shrewd comment made by Napoleon: "Antwerp in the hands of a strong France was a pistol pointed at the heart of England." 21 For military and economic reasons, the Northern Netherlands also had a great stake in the fate of Belgium. These concerns were the capstone governing the policies and conduct of foreign affairs of the great European powers towards Belgium. Even though its size and military strength seemed insignificant, due to its geographic location and strategic relevance for the peace in Europe, Belgium's destiny was closely tied with the interests of Great Britain, France and Germany. This country represented the focal point on which the interests of the European powers converged. In turn due to the fact that most of its history is characterized by foreign rule, Belgium depended on the great powers both militarily and diplomatically.In the 18th century, long fortresses stretched along the border between the Habsburg-owned Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) and France. Interestingly, even though the fortresses were on Austrian soil, they were manned by Dutch garrisons in the interest of Europe. The Austrian presence significantly impacted the balance of power calculation as Austria was one of the four guarantors of the perpetual union of the Austrian Netherlands with the united provinces to the north.22 It was soon realized that fortification did not represent enough of a barrier to stop the northward expansion of the French troops.23 Realizing this fact, during the height of the allied offensive against Napoleon in the fall of 1813, the stadtholder-in-exile, later King William I of the Netherlands, requested the cession of all Belgium to Holland in order to build a new barrier against French aggression.24

In fact this is an example of the previously mentioned tendency of powers to make territorial arrangements and designs in order to suit their needs. The justification in granting William his wish was found in their 'duty' to preserve peace in Europe and maintain the current order especially in the realm of international security.The Kingdom of the Netherlands which was created at the end of the Napoleonic Wars 25 was one of the most deliberate and carefully motivated decisions of the Quadruple Alliance of 1814.26 The United Netherlands consisted of Belgium Luxembourg and northern Netherlands. This unhappy union was guaranteed by Austria, Prussia, Russia and Britain. The British especially pushed for the rapid completion ofthe fortress building and made the most significant investments in the project.27 The powers disposed of the Southern Netherlands (meaning Flanders) first at the Peace of Paris on May 30, 1814, and by the Final Act of the Vienna Congress on June 9, 1815 which stated: "In the interests of European peace, and of the balance of power, the Southern provinces were joined to the Northern Netherlands under the sovereignty of the House of Orange-Nassau, in order to form together an indivisible state under the constitution already existing in the North, altered to meet the circumstances." William I was appointed as the new "legitimate" king and accepted this disposition on July 21, 1814 and from March 16, 1815 commenced his rule of the amalgamated kingdom.28

The primary goal of the Congress of Vienna was to establish a new balance of power in Europe, which would prevent imperialism within Europe, and maintain the peace between the great powers. Moreover, it hoped to prevent political revolutions such as French Revolution and maintain status quo. The Treaty of Vienna never consulted the Belgians about the decision to unite them with Holland in order to form a barrier against any French expansion and to preserve peace in Europe.29 Belgians who had a history of conquests of their territory and rule by other powers, perceived themselves as voiceless and knowing the 'rules' of the balance of power system, they acquiesced to the wishes of the powers. After all, the skills of diplomats of the Belgic provinces in conducting foreign relations were rather limited as they had no experience in conducting their own foreign affairs.On the surface, Holland took an possible measures to guarantee that the relationship between the south and north would be based on equality. Two capitals were established in Brussels and at The Hague, and the Estates General was appointed to sit in each alternately. No discrimination was allowed between the two peoples, and there was to be an equal number of  Belgian (but only french-speaking) and Dutch deputies, which was to ensure that no part of the country would have a chance of oppressing the other. The Constitution guaranteed freedom of worship for both groups.30 Based on the above, the creation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands should have been welcomed in Belgium. On the contrary, it was a source of disappointment for the Belgians whose dissatisfaction and grievances only increased exponentially over time.The worsening situation only exacerbated the differences between two peoples. The antipathy between the Belgian representativs and the Dutch is founded on the diversity of commercial and agricultural interests between the two parts of the kingdom as well as on the opposition between the religious principles.31 With respect to economy the Dutch had the traditional economy of trade and very open while Belgians had less developed local industries. Hence, while the Dutch wanted free trade, the Belgians called for the protection of tariffs. Religion and language also pointed towards significant differences between the French speaking Roman Catholic south and the Dutch speaking Protestant north. These differences were probably not sufficient to cause a riot however the worsening situation within the Kingdom and the oppression of the Belgian population in Brussel awakened nationalistic feelings helping the them to develop a  sense of national identity. Between 1818 and 1830, the system was anything but relaxed. The Allies tried to establish a series of military and strategic servitudes for the Kingdom of Netherlands. claiming the right to occupy the country and use it as a base of operations. The Duke of Wellington was appointed the commander in chief of the quadruple Alliance, in charge of supervising the fortress system while seeing to it that the King of the Netherlands carried out his duties. In addition to the funds made available by the French indemnity, each of the allied powers regularly contributed funds to finance the construction and maintenance of the barrier. The military planners of the German Bund considered the Netherlands defense system almost an integral part of the Bund' s own lines, centering on Luxembourg.32

On the surface, it appeared that the necessary strategic and political steps have been taken to ensure the success and realization of the Congress of Vienna.However, the powers were soon to be faced with an irreversible crisis that threatened to shake up the established balance. History has shown that even an unlikely union between different groups can survive the test of time provided it has strong leadership able to afford the necessary balance and accommodate diverse needs. King William's rule provided no such leadership and proved to be a bitter disappointment to the Belgian people. Many foreign diplomatic observers noted that King William I did not have the capacity and leadership skills necessary to keep the union together. He failed to understand the religious and cultural sensitivities of the Belgians.33 In response to the threat posed by Napoleon's return from Elba, William I appointed a select commission of Belgians and Hollanders to consider codifying the Fundamental Law of the Kingdom. The commissioners agreed on a government which placed all authority in the hands of the king. Ministers were responsible only to William, the King appointed over half of the Senate, and the Second Chamber could only reject or approve but not amend legislative proposals. An obstacle was encountered regarding representation in the Chamber. The Belgians whose region possessed 3,400,000 inhabitants compared with Holland's 2,000,000 insisted that representation be proportionate to the size of the population. 34

The Dutch, on the contrary, were adamant about the idea of equal representation.36 Another point of contention and Belgian frustration was the fact that they bore greater responsibility in paying taxes. These disagreements led the Belgian notables to reject the modified Fundamental Law. As the French bourgeoisie (the Flemish although making up a majority of 60% didn’t count) of Belgium increased in economic power, they demanded a greater role in solving political and social questions related to their interests. William's failure to uphold the sections of the Fundamental Law regarding the independence of judges and the freedom of the press was a grave aggravation for the Belgians. Instead of trying to accommodate the Belgian demand, William I disregarded their claim and proclaimed the law as accepted. This incident was an indicator of not only the nature of the relationship between the French language Belgium people of Brussels and the King but also of the status of Belgium and apparent lack of its power in decision-making regarding the future of the country. Despite disagreement with William's ruling, the Catholic party defended the position and authority of the Roman Catholic clergy while the Liberals, under the influence of the principles of the French Revolution, demanded more toleration and less clerical influence. Yet both Catholic and Liberals were Roman Catholics, and in their Catholicism shared a dislike for living under Protestant rule.37

By his poor judgment and bad policies, William managed to unite Liberals and Catholics into a united opposition. On November 8, 1828 a National Coalition of Catholics and Liberals was fonned under the fitting name of the Union of Opposites. It endured for 14 years.The conflict and the gap between the King and the Belgians which began at the birth of the united state only continued to grow and deepen. Moreover, the fact that the Dutch always thought of Belgium as a territory annexed to Holland rather than as equal part of the state did nothing to alleviate grievances of the Belgians.38 Even as early as 1819, the animosity between the Belgium and the Dutchman was difficult to ignore. A large number of French songs appeared in Belgium attesting to this: 'I'm not a Dutchman, And I don't want to be one.Yes, I am a Belgian, And that's what I think is grand. And I am proud, upon my word, Of the name of my Fatherland.'39

Failing to recognize the signs of growing displeasure, King William made an attempt to promote national feeling of unity by urging the acceptance of Dutch as the national and official language. This caused not only an outrage but a problem for Belgians who spoke French or Walloon, which included nearly all the leaders of society who had been placed there by the Napoleonic regime before. Even though some concessions were made in 1829, by then a majority of the leading figures of the south, receiving considerable support both in Flanders and in Wallonia, were calling for autonomy from Dutch rule.40 Deep dissatisfaction of Belgian people, which has been growing over the years, has reached its culminating point. The situation in the country was ripe for action and it was only a matter of time when Belgian grievances led by former bureacrats under Napoleon, would turn into violent protest. While King William wrongly assumed that the patriotic lyrics of an opera could not cause a disturbance, he saw no apparent reason to ban the performance of the French Opera,  La Muette de Partici in Brussels on August 25, 1830, even though it had previously been prohibited.41However, it was precisely these lines of sacrifice, bravery and righteousness that moved the audience at the Brussels Opera house that evening and emboldened their feelings. The news of the Paris July Revolution echoed and provided a further source of encouragement for the Belgian bourgosie. At the beginning it was not clear whether the revolt was aimed at the Great Netherlands state, Protestantism, and constitution, the system of government, the government itself, or the Dutch dynasty. One thing was indisputable; this was an attack on Holland.42 Grievance and dissatisfaction under Dutch rule of the French speaking bureaucrats were revived in an instant.Even though William's overconfident temperament and political ideology played an important part in the causes of the revolution, they provide insufficient explanation of the events which unfolded.What became a minor  Revolution, occurred for more profound reasons.Frequently, language, religion, and economics have been viewed as the underlying causes of the revolt. Interestingly enough, British diplomats, pointed to these factors as potential problem areas as early as 1814.43 The basic causes of the eruption of 1830 were the deep beliefs of each people that they were different, and that their uniqueness would be violated by the other half.44

The Bruxellois did not at first think about demanding a complete separation from Holland.198 An assembly of notables met three days after the outbreak and sent a delegation to ask the King to consider their grievances and to discuss them with the States General. A Committee of Public Safety was formed of which the majority were moderates. Revolutionary groupings did call for a provisional government but until September 20, it was all in vain. On the day the by now both French and Flemish speaking  masses in the city, stormed the Brussels Hotel de Ville, the Committee of Public Safety was disbanded as was the citizens' guard that had policed the city. This clearly signified that the hold of the moderates was shattered.45 Thus, Berlin, London, Vienna and St. Petersburg now, were confronted with the decision of whether to lead armed aid to Holland in maintaining the status quo or whether a different course was to be followed.46 Each of them individually considered what was in the best interest for their countries. Tsar Nicholas I of Russia was interested in the success of the Netherlands for  military, dynastic, and economic reasons and he profoundly feared French expansion.47

The foreign minister of the new French government, Count Mole, faced a dilemma regarding the issue of whether France should allow the dispatch of British and Prussian troops to Belgium to restore order or whether the proper policy should be to give aid to the insurrection. Another option for the French was to stay neutral in this matter and leave things up to the other European powers. During the rebellion, the British seemed to support the Belgian efforts to challenge the existing order and break into the European system. At first, London's reaction to the riots was nonchalant. The British Foreign office was convinced that the Brussels affair centered on local grievances. The Tory Prime Minister at the time of the revolt, the Duke of Wellington, regretted the disruption of the Vienna system, however at the time he did not want to pledge British military aid to King William I, partly because he regarded him as a weak ruler and partly because Britain was rather militarily weak. England's interests necessitated stable relations with France, and when Mole indicated that France wished arrangement of the Belgian matter, the Duke was willing to cooperate. Mole took initiative by telling the Prussian ambassador in Paris, Werther, that France would retrain from any intervention in any country on her borders, as long as no other major European state intervened first. By announcing this, France proclaimed that any entry of Prussian troops into Belgium would be followed immediately by the involvement of the French anny as well.204 This decision was rejected by the European powers and only the British cabinet expressed conditional agreement. Other powers were more willing to get involved. The Prussians had mobilized at once and were prepared to march into Belgium.

In October, 1830 King William I finally  made an appeal for help to end the insurrection although by then it was to late becouse Belgium already declared itself as independent. The Dutch monarch based his appeal on the Treaty of the Eight Articles, which has made the victorious powers guarantors of his dominions. The French government was the first to take the initiative. It appointed an experienced diplomat Talleyrand as the new ambassador to the Court ofSt. James. His task was to persuade the British government to call a conference of all the interested powers to resolve the issue. William's ability to end the revolt was questionable. However even attempting to do so might have caused the French to move in and aid the Belgians. The Orange monarch certainly could not risk a war against France without European support. In the meantime the fighting continued and a large volunteer force arrived ftom Wallonia to defend Brussels against the Dutch anny. Belgians fought fiercely and defeated the Dutch in a battle that lasted for three days outside the Brussels palace. On September 27 the Dutch withdrew. The Belgians rather quickly formed a provisional government, which declared independence on October 4, 1830. On November 3, a National Congress was fonned by an electorate of 30,000 men. The same month, the issue of declaration of independence was debated. On November 18, the following resolution was passed unanimously: "The National Congress of Belgium proclaims the Independence of the Belgian People on November 18, 1830, respecting at the same time the relations of Luxembourg with the Germanic Confederation.“

Shortly thereafter the Conference of London opened on November 4 1830 and was crucial in determining the future of Belgium. The Great Powers, rather than Belgium and Holland, occupied themselves with establishing the arrangements to "combine the future independence of Belgium with the stipulations of the Treaties with the interests and security of other Powers, and with the preservation of European equilibrium.“ These phrases were the key to the final resolution pertaining to the faith of Belgium, for they acknowledged that Europe would recognize Belgium as an independent state. The Powers believed that they possessed the authority, based upon the treaties and protocols of 1815 and 1818, to resolve Belgian affairs. The plenipotentiaries of Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and France declared at its first session that it had been the intent of the great powers in 1815 to reestablish the peace of Europe and create ajust equilibrium. The Conference of London made an official declaration that in its judgment, it would not even be possible to reunite the two countries without war.

In evaluating the conference, the English historian Boulger~ who is considered anauthority on Belgian history, commented:"The London Conference has been cited as a proof of the concord of Europe; no one who reads its sixty-three Protocols from end to end will find in its record proof of anything but discord, -- the latent strife, the keen rivalry, of the five Powers which then constituted Europe. The Conference that nominally dealt with the fate of Belgium was concerned least of all with its interests. It wanted to avert a general war, to maintain the balance of powers, to prevent Belpum falling to France, and to save Holland from being too much weakened.“The rivalry was mainly between England and France and both took the initiative in determining the future of Belgium. It was Lord Palmerston, one of the ablest Foreign Secretaries England ever had and the French Ambassador Prince Talleyrand, the most prominent figure in European diplomacy of that time, who gave Belgium her status among the European nations, naturally to suit their own countries' purposes.On its first day, the Conference issued the first of its seventy protocols. It ordered the establishment of an armistice and the evacuation by both parties of all areas, which had not formed a part of their respective territories prior to May 30, 1814.213 The first protocol declared:

"The troops of both parties shall withdraw behind the line which before the treaty of May 30, 1814 separated the territory of the Sovereign Ruler of the United Netherlands from the provinces added to his dominions to form the Kingdom of the Netherlands."

A change of British governments did not work in favor of the Dutch as even before Palmerston replaced Wellington, the Belgians made a gain when the conference proposed an armistice based on the borders given Holland by the Treaty of Paris of 1814. The protocol further benefited the Belgians by referring to them not as rebels but as recognized belligerents which significantly promoted their cause in further  negotiations. Some of the main problems that arose at the conference were related to the questions of boundaries, the division of the national debt, the navigation of the rivers and canals. The international aspects included a buffer between France and state to the northeast and the problem of the balance of power and general security. There was a uniform belief among the European Powers that a monarchy rather than a republic would be a preferred form of government for Belgium. A republic could not have been acceptable to Palmerston and would never have been tolerated by the Conservative Powers. Some politicians went as far as claiming that if Belgium proclaimed itself a republic, it would start a new revolution. Russia, Austria and Prussia were opposed to Belgian independence. The simultaneous outbreak of revolution in Poland prevented a Russian-Austrian-Prussian military intervention in support of William I against the rebellious Provinces. However, Lord Palmerston's new government wholeheartedly supported recognition. It was precisely the Franco-British coalition that imposed a reversal on the London Conference affording Belgium its official independence in January 1831.218 The initiative and formal motion which initiated the process of recognition was introduced by Lord Palmerston and seconded by Prince Talleyrand on December 18, 1830. The text of the proposal indicated the following: "In having provided by the treaties of 1814 and 1815, for the union of Belgium and Holland, the powers...intended to create ajust balance of power in Europe and to assure the maintenance of general peace. The events of the last four months have unfortunately demonstrated that 'this perfect amalgamation' had not been obtained and will be impossible of attainment, so that very objective of the unionof Belgium and Holland is destroyed and therefore it is now indispensable that other arrangements be found to accomplish these intentions...United to Holland, and being an integral part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Belgium fulfilled its role in the European duties of the Kingdom and the obligations laid upon it by the treaties. Its separation ftom Holland must not ftee it ftom this portion of its duties and obligations. The Conference will occupy itself subsequently with discussing and agreeing on new and proper arrangements to combine the future independence of Belgium with the stipulations of the treaties, with the security interests of the other powers and with the preservation of the balance of powers."

William protested also against a new disposal by the Powers of Belgian provinces by claiming the following: "Having once for all determined the fate ofthe Belgian provinces, you have not according to intemationallaw, the right to rescind your decision: to sever the ties binding Holland and Belgium, is outside the sphere of your competency, the more so as this increase of Dutch territory was granted on certain burdensome conditions.. .At the expense of several colonies and considerable financial sacrifices. The Conference of London, it is true, met at my request, but this circumstance does not give it the right to give to its intervention an effect, diametrically opposed to the purpose for this it was requested.“ The conditions, limitations and qualifications to full national sovereignty, which the Conference pointed to in its seventh protocol, were the main subject of deliberations during the month of January 1831. In two key protocols, the so-called "Bases of Separation" of Belgium from Holland or the Eighteen Articles are defined, and the main points of contention between the two entities were addressed, not to everyone's satisfaction. First, the Conference prefaced the fixing of the borders and the division of the public debt with another declaration concerning the European obligations of the two nations. It further pointed out to Brussels that any future arrangements would be subordinated to the rights of the Conference members. Finally, the plenipotentiaries made it clear to the Belgian authorities that no new Belgian conquests or territorial aggrandizements were to be made at the expense of Holland. The plenipotentiaries also added a condition that was to be achieved with Belgian independence: "Belgium, within the limits described above. . . will be constituted into a perpetually neutral state. The five powers will guarantee it this perpetual neutrality, as well as the integrity and inviolability of its territory, within the limits mentioned. By a just reciprocity, Belgium will be constrained to observe the same neutrality toward all other states, and not to disturb in any way their internal or external tranquility.“ One week later, the conference issued anther protocol which stated that:"Belgium assumes 16/31 of the total public debt of the former Kingdom of the Netherlands; that while the final debt settlement was worked out by bilateral negotiations, Belgium pay its share of the service charges; that Belgium should enjoy free and unhampered trading privileges with the Dutch colonies." (Protocol No. 22 Annex B. January 18, 1831 (BFSP, XVIII)

The provisional Belgian government rejected the territorial and the financial "Bases of Separation" and refused to ratify these proposals. Rather than showing itself more conciliatory, it seemed that Belgians gained new confidence and started increasing their demands. London warned that in the event of Belgian failure to accept the separation plan the powers would break off relations with Belgium and refuse to recognize her independence. The choice of the new King was also a subject of great debate. From the outset the Belgians decided that a prince of the House of Orange-Nassau would under no circumstances be acceptable to them. By the same token it was clear that if the French prince took the new Belgian throne, French influence would have been so dominant in the new kingdom that its annexation by France would only be a question of time. Lord Palmerston took measures to prevent such a possibility by introducing a proposal according to which no prince of the ruling houses represented at the conference would be eligible for the Belgian throne. After a couple of eliminations, the British Cabinet obtained on June 4, 1831 the election of its own protege, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who had been married to the late Princess Charlotte of Great Britain and Ireland and was known to contemplate a second marriage with Louise of Orleans, daughter of the King of the French.

Sponsored by the Conference, Leopold had been engaged in weeks of negotiations with a Belgian deputation in London, the essence of which was to negotiate the acquisition of Luxembourg for the choice of Leopold as king and the acceptance of the remaining articles of the Basis of Separation. Leopold's intimate adviser, Baron Stockmar, confirmed that the powers were willing to accept this deal since they were desperate by June for some sort of Belgian settlement, After the Treaty of Eighteen Articles was announced on June 26, 1831, the Belgian National Congress not only speedily elected Leopold King, but on July 12, 1831 accepted the Eighteen Articles.229 It seemed that the armistice was finally achieved and that the Europe was on its way to a solution to the Belgium problem. However, King William flatly refused to even consider these terms. On August 2, 1831 Dutch troops invaded Belgium. As soon as Paris learned of the events, especially of King Williams' refusal of the agreement, the Army of the North comprised of 50,000 soldiers, under the command of Marshal Gerard, marched into Belgium. The French decision was taken unilaterally, without consultation with the Conference, in response to an urgent appeal from King Leopold, whose army was loosing the battle. At that point, rather than risking an engagement with the French troops, the Dutch commander rapidly withdrew his forces. By August 14, 1831, Belgium had been completely evacuated by the Dutch. As soon as the armistice had been reestablished the plenipotentiaries returned to finding a final settlement acceptable to both parties. It was becoming apparent that there was no hope that Holland would accept the Eighteen Articles, nor could the status quo be permitted to last indefinitely, as Belgium or Holland would recommence hostilities, particularly over the bitter Luxembourg question. Threatening Holland with a naval blockade to prevent further hostilities, the powers extended the treaty draft on November 14, 1831 to a definite and in-evocable instrument, to be adhered to not only by the two main parties, but also by the conference powers themselves. Through this means, the final and definite separation of the two countries was to be made binding on all the major powers, who became the guarantors of the an-angement.

This was the famous Treaty ofthe Twenty.Four Articles, which despite a seven year.delay was destined to be the final arrangement establishing the independence of Belgium, defining the borders and regulating the relations between not only Belgium and Holland but also of Belgium and the rest of Europe. The territorial extent of Belgium was fixed as in the two previous proposals, with some exceptions. The second major provision dealt with mutual transit, navigation rights and the partition of debt. In contrast to their earlier position, the plenipotentiaries now ruled that the Belgian share of the joint debt would amount to 8,400,000 florins of total annual charges, with Belgium being freed from any payments pending the creation of the machinery for transferring the money. The remaining fund of the Kingdom of Netherlands was to be divided equitably through a bilateral agreement. In addition, not only was the territory and the neutrality of Belgium guaranteed, but the financial, transit and miscellaneous articles were placed under the protection of the conference as well. While the Belgian government declared its readiness to ratify almost immediately, The Hague refused. Berlin, Vienna or St.Petersburg seemed just as disinterested and London and Paris did not exchange ratifications with Belgium either.The Article of Separation of Holland and Belgium (article VII) read: "Belgium.. .shall form an independent and perpetually neutral state. It shall be bound to observe such neutrality toward all other states.“Neutrality as an institution of international law was then not without a precedent as in 1815 the Swiss confederation had been declared a perpetually neutral state. Neutrality implied two types of obligations. Firstly, the Powers were not to interfere in Belgium's internal affairs or to pursue against her any annexationist policy. Secondly, Belgium was not to depart iTom a strict impartiality in her relations with other countries. By extending to Belgium the regime granted to Switzerland in 1815, the Conference confirmed Belgian position as the "keystone of Europe" and in the eyes of the Powers the Conference created a solid guarantee for the maintenance of peace.

The fruitless and tiresome negotiations continued during the summer of 1832. Both the Belgian and Dutch governments agreed to further talks, even though they both doubted their outcome. Both parties continued to express their readiness to make concessions. However, Belgium specified that before any agreement could be reached,the Dutch would have to evacuate the citadel of Antwerp, which they had continued to occupy since the revolution. The Dutch adamantly refused to do this until after agreement on the reserved articles had been reached. Meanwhile Dutch warships and the batteries of the citadel continued to obstruct the fteedom of navigation on the river. Immediately after the French troops were safely pulled out of Belgium, Britain and France reopened negotiations with the Dutch government. Their ultimate aim was the full acceptance of the Twenty-Four Articles by the Hague, but having as a minimum objective the conclusion of some sort of a provisional arrangement, pending the conclusion of a mutually acceptable final treaty. On December 31, 1832, Palmerston and Talleyrand proposed to the Dutch an interim agreement which provided for: "evacuation of all territory still occupied by each party in defiance of the borders drawn by the treaty, opening of navigation on the Meuse and the Schedlt, the granting of amnesties and the exchange of prisoners, the opening of the Sittard trade route to Germany, mutual anns reductions, to be followed by raising the blockade and embargo still in effect against Dutch trade.“Britain and France demanded an unlimited armistice and full Dutch recognition of Belgian neutrality. On March 9, 1833, a treaty was concluded at Berlin in which it was provided: ''that the London Conference should be reconstituted after the cessation of all coercion measures; that the Twenty-Four Articles should be the basis of an entirely new negotiations, in which the Belgian and Dutch governments should participate as equals; that the consent of the German Bund to the Luxembourg-Limburg arrangements of the treaty of November 15, 1831 was an essential condition; and the three monarchs agreed that any new arrangement could not put more onerous conditions on Holland than those already agreed to" The new negotiations would be broken off if a new attempt at coercing Holland was to be made. Finally, the three rulers pledged to assist Holland if her territory were attacked or if Britain and France were to act contrary to these stipulations.

The Conference reopened in London and during the summer and fall of 1833 attempted to work out a new treaty that would satisfy the wishes of the Dutch in the disputed transit and navigation clauses ofthe Twenty-Four Articles. The demands of Holland clearly indicated that they had no wish for a final treaty and the negotiations made no progress. Finally, in November of 1833, Palmerston demanded from the new Dutch plenipotentiary, whether the King had taken any measures to obtain the consent of the German Bund to the proposed division of Luxembourg and Limburg. Upon learning that William had not done so, Palmerston declared the conference suspended until The Hague would give evidence of being ready to accept the Twenty-Four Articles, or show some positive desire to negotiate. Amazingly, no such signals were given for the next five years which ensured suspension of the conference over those years. After reaffirming their opposition to compelling any settlement from the Dutch and any changes in European public law due to revolutionary activity, the three eastern absolute monarchs on September 20, 1833 began a long period of regarding Belgium as a public outcast. Britain and France, on the other hand, immediately established full diplomatic relations with Brussels and continued to conduct friendly diplomatic relations over the course of the following five years. Eastern Europe opted for a different course of action. Russia refused to recognize Leopold I and had no diplomatic relations with Brussels. Berlin and VielUla showed their displeasure with the new state by merely accrediting charges to Leopold. In addition constant friction existed between Belgium and Prussia over border issues, over the uneasy state of affairs in Luxembourg, and over alleged Belgian's involvement in the early Kulturkampfin the Prussian Rhineland, which reached serious proportions in 1838.


The Final Settlement

In the period between 1833 and 1838 Belgium enjoyed the advantage of the interim arrangements. Those included full control of all Luxembourg and Limburg, and furthermore no required payments on the Belgian share of the debt. This state of affairs became increasingly bothersome to unyielding William I who in March 1838, suddenly declared his readiness to accept the Twenty-Four Articles, and demanded immediate Belgian evacuation of the teritories to be given to Holland. Now it was time for the Belgians, to protest against the Twenty-Four Articles and to demand their alteration, especially the financial and teritorial clauses. The terititorial exchanges were mostly to be made based on languages spoken in the teITitories. The London Conference found itself in full session again. By summer of 1838 the Conference had come to a general agreement that while the Belgian share of the debt with total annual charges of 8,400,000 florins, should be reduced in favor of Belgium, the territorial division must be left unchanged. Naturally, Belgium was outraged. It immediately reverted to the one technique that had worked in the past. Volunteers gathered around the flags, ministries fell, Belgians armed themselves and the demand for war echoed throughout the country. Leopold I openly declared that Belgium would never acquiesce to such an agreement. This opposition to the decisions of London continued during the most of 1838. Finally, on December 6, 1838, the Conference presented Brussels with an ultimatum in which the final terms were stipulated. Belgium was to evacuate the disputed areas and in turn her share of the debt would be reduced to 5,200,000 florins, and she would be freed from having to pay any of the arrears, which had been accumulating since 1831.

Initially, France refused to accept and abide by the ultimatum, which encouraged the Belgians to hold out for two more months. However, after the unconditional Frence agreement reached London, late in January 1839, the government of Leopold I was left with no alternative. Confronted by unanimous determination of the Conference to impose the final settlement on Brussels, the government indicated its willingness to abide by the December 6, 1838 protocol. The revised Twenty-Four Articles were signed by Belgium in May and ratified early in June, 1839. The concert of Europe was satisfied as it yet again managed to solve a crisis and preserve the balance of power. It further assured the security of the powers and the new state through unconditional Belgian independence and perpetual neutrality. Belgium paid the price for its independence, for after all, it had been created to serve a clear purpose. Europe had invested considerable money in building fortifications designed for containing France. At the time it was unquestionable that Belgium's independence heavily depended on the approval of Europe. Independence was not something that Belgium could proclaim on its own and expect Europe to easily grant it.


Leopold furthermore stated his view that: "without comparative security by means of well regulated measures of defense, at the least, no country, be it great or small, can be considered as possessing national independence" The defense measures were taken by the Belgians both to prepare for an attack and to gain recognition from the powers. In the minds of the Brussels statesmen, the stronger the state became, the more likely it was that the powers would show increased consideration for the Belgian point of view. The small country seemed to want to make clear to the rest of Europe that it had the courage to go against he wishes of a larger power. Military development was undertaken not only for defense, but also as a method of gaining the respect of other powers. Since such activities would be expected of a great power, it seemed remarkable that a newborn state would have the audacity and boldness to undertake such course of action. Belgium, due to Holland's attitude, had reasons to act as it did. However, without Leopold's insistence on military strength, the fortifications would likely never have been considered.

There are a number of reasons that explain Belgium's success. Palmerston' s willingness to come to aid of the Belgian diplomats was essential. Coupled with this approach was a tactic of claiming far more than Belgium could expect to get in hopes that more might be won in the final settlement than if she only made modest demands. It might be argued that this tactic reflected unrealistic hopes and even though at times this was so, frequently it evidenced shrewd bargaining. Like the diplomats of many new nations, the Belgians showed audacity, sometimes in their bluff-calling tactics, at times in persistence and finally in their willingness to include military action as their negotiations tool. The stubbornness of her diplomacy reflected not only the diplomatic style of a small state working for recognition but also that of a new revolutionary state determined to make a mark on the world. Belgium's birth by violence in a time when order and stability were watchwords created one of her greatest obstacles, however it seemed that this approach worked in her favor in obtaining independence and recognition. Having already gained independence by use of arms, Belgians were too eager to resort to them as a solution to the negotiation stalemates. Their strategy was to demonstrate their feelings and desires clearly and violently with a threat of the use of force in hope that the powers would give way. Such tactics may have been the mark of independence, but they of course aggravated the powers that were trying to protect their established system. To a new state in the 1830s as in the 1950s and 1960s, power seemed equated with military force and independence with the fteedom to act as one's wishes dictated. It was only in time that the Belgians became aware that power possessed more than military attributes and that their own interests were ftequently best served if they did not push their rights as an independent nation to the extreme.Moreover, it cannot be said that the recognition of Belgium's independence was the result of the political sense and diplomatic skill of the Brussels leaders. How did Belgium gain recognition? It was the consequence of an extremely simple situation that had nothing to do with the Belgians, but that had an irresistible influence on the powers meeting in London. Nobody, as things stood, wanted another war. France did not want one because Louis Philippe knew he would be risking his throne. Prussia did not want a war because she would be beaten if she were not supported by England and Russia, and would probably lose the Rhineland. Austria was against war because it was at peace and knew that a war would be a jump into the unknown. The English particularly feared ageneral war, because they knew it would be detrimental for their interests. Even though they would have preferred to see the restoration ofthe Kingdom of the Netherlands they had created in 1815, the British knew that in a general conflict, whoever won whether France or Russia, would gain the leadership of Europe. The British were satisfied with the status they had in Europe and feared that a war would weaken their power. If the coalition were victorious, Russia would be powerful enough to seize Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean and thus to threaten English hegemony in India. By the same token, if France won, she would annex the left bank of the Rhine and would then be in a position to resume her struggle against England. Therefore the British diplomats realized from the beginning that the Belgian incident must be taken seriously and that it could only be brought to an end by a compromise, and they perceived only two possible solutions to ensure peace. The first option was the status quo, consisting of the recognition of Belgian independence, and turning over Limbourg and Luxemburg to Holland as compensation. This was the easier solution, since everybody would keep what he had, and it would give some measure of satisfaction to Prussia, while Belgian independence was in itself a victory, or at least an advantage for France and England.

The second option was partition, which would be inevitable if no compromise could be reached, and would be the only way of avoiding war. This option would have involved giving Brussels and Ghent to the Dutch, Liege and Luxemburg to the Prussians, and the rest of Wallonia to France. Everybody would thus get something and there would no longer be any point in fighting a war as the balance of Europe would be maintained. All statesmen present in London were in reality only seeking a means of keeping the balance and power in Europe to preserve the peace. As Belgian barrister, Pierre Graux, remarked: "the five great powers were to use their right of recognition only with the utmost rigor. The Belgian revolution threatened to ruin the edifice so painfully established by the diplomacy of 1814 and 1815 for the maintenance of European peace". The Kingdom of the Netherlands, on which so many hopes had been placed, was no longer in existence, and Belgium brought back some concerns which were thought resolved. Thus, the five Powers at London in their desire to assign to Belgium an inoffensive and peaceful place in European politics, in their own interest and not in order to grant a favor to the new state, established the perpetual neutrality as a condition of their recognition. Belgian opinion was but scantily informed of the realities of diplomacy.

The easy victory of September 1830 had gone to the country's head and there was opposition to the idea of giving up Maastricht and Luxemburg. Many of the insurgents would have preferred a general war and they even believed they would be able to take France into it with them. European powers knew better.Lauterpacht justified the Belgian case on grounds of "collective intervention,“ but the parties themselves seemed to have acted as much upon the assumption of a continuing right to enforce and regulate terms of the Congress of Vienna. Lauterpacht explained that the European powers acted together in order to preserve the balance of power on the continent. In this case it is obvious that political interests and balance of power had great impact on the progress and decision-making behind recognition of Belgium. The country gained independence and resigned itself to accepting neutrality as a condition to be achieved by that independence against her will; it was for her the price of independence, the ransom of her liberty. Hedley Bull argues that "after the American and French revolutions the prevailing principle of international legitimacy ceased to be dynastic and became national or popular. It came to be generally held that questions of this sort should be settled not by reference to the rights of rulers, but by reference to the rights of the nation or the people. The dynastic marriage, as the means whereby acquisition of territory was made internationally respectable, gave place to the plebiscite; the patrimonial principle to the principle of national self-determination. In the case of Belgium, this claim applied only to a limited extent. National self-determination and international legitimacy were factors in the recognition of Belgium, but only as long as those principles did not stand in the way of the goals and ambitions ofthe Great Powers. Having provided a detailed analysis of the Belgian secession from the Kingdom of Netherlands and the actions taken by the Great Powers, it is questionable whether this study is about state recognition or if it is a case of intervention. Even though the Kingdom was created to serve the interests of the powers, it was still an independent, sovereign and legitimate entity operating independently of other powers. There was never a contract that was signed in which the Kingdom acquiesced to the power to handle its internal or foreign affairs. The Great Powers did more than merely recognize Belgium as an independent state. They intervened into the affairs of The Netherlands, ensured cessation of fighting and determined the future of Belgium. The great powers however followed the activities inside the Kingdom rather closely and commenced to meddle into its affairs at the first sign of problems. Immediately after the Belgians declared their independence, the powers intervened by organizing the London conference to 'diagnose' the situation and provide clear solutions that would be strictly in their interest. The legitimacy or the right of such intervention on the part of the great powers was never questioned. The great powers appointed themselves as the guarantors of the peace in Europe, a title which seemed to have afforded them unlimited powers making them the final arbiter of the fate of all other countries. Recognition was extended to Belgium after the realization that it would be impossible to unite the divided Kingdom. The deliberation at the conference was not about whether the recognition should be extended, about its timing, appropriateness nor regarding any type of statehood criteria which may have been required for Belgium to satisfy prior to being recognized into the community of nations. Rather, it was strictly about ensuring the preservation of the balance of power system and about the future of Belgium as a buffer state serving the interests of the great powers and maintaining the peace in Europe. Belgium gained recognition based on the general criteria of statehood which included having its own government, territory, permanent population and ability to conduct foreign relations. However this criterion was combined with specific interests of the great powers, most of which were strategic in nature, which also played a significant role in Belgium's recognition.

Thus where Belgium was a clear example of collective intervention, this was also the case with former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Kosovo, where the powers intervened and recognized the nascent republics against the wishes of the mother state. However, even with the consent of the mother country, the recognition of Belgium was a case of intervention. The great powers decided that the crisis could not be resolved and that they needed to decide the fate of Belgium.Therefore intervention through recognition was a self-imposed right and prerogative of great powers that were only acting in their self-interest which coincided with the goal of preserving peace.  

Case Study: Conquering the Kingdom


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