The artificial union between
The Dutch, of low-German descent, mostly Protestants, a commercial and seafaring people, on the one part, and the Belgians, mostly Walloons, fervent Roman Catholics, more given to industry than to commerce, on the other part, could never form one nation of common ideals and interests. For centuries the Belgians had cordially hated the Dutch; the Congress of Vienna appointed King William, a Dutch prince, as their "legitimate" ruler. The official language was Flemish, while the Belgians spoke French or a French "patois." The Dutch officialdom treated the Belgian provinces not much better than the territory of a conquered nation.
A general unrest was the unavoidable consequence.
It merely required one spark from without to bring the powder magazine of
This spark came from
When, therefore, the
success of the "July Revolution" became known in
The Great Powers, which
had considered the question of the
32 THE NEUTRALITY OF
gium's total disregard of their schemes. A few years
earlier, King William's appeal to them to bring his rebel subjects back under
his control would, doubtless, have caused an armed intervention of the Powers
in Belgium, on behalf of Holland. Such, however, were the general conditions in
Under those circumstances,
a diplomatic conference for common deliberation on the Belgian problem seemed
to be equally welcome to all the Great Powers—with the possible exception of
At the suggestion of the
Duke of Wellington, the then all-powerful English Premier, it was arranged that
the plenipotentiaries of
This conference of the
delegates of the five Great Powers at
London Conference has been cited as a proof of the concord of
It is not without importance to note
that the "keen rivalry" between the Great Powers which Boulger considers the dominant note in the negotiations
1 Boulger, History of Belgium, Vol. II, page 271.
34 THE NEUTRALITY OF
the said three Powers, after December, 1830, were, during several months, too much occupied by the great Polish Mutiny for serious attention to the affairs of Belgium, far less important to them. "It is inconceivable," says another English authority, "that the Belgian Question should have been left so entirely in the hands of the two western Powers."1 But such was the fact: it was England and France which made the bed on which the Belgians were to rest "in perpetuity"; it was Lord Palmerston, one of the ablest Foreign Secretaries England ever had, and the French Ambassador Prince Talleyrand, the most conspicuous figure in European diplomacy of that time, who gave Belgium her status among the European nations—to suit their own countries' purposes.
The first six weeks of the
London Conference were principally devoted to the establishment of relations
with the Provisory Government at
1 Brodrick and Fotheringham, The Political History of England, Vol. XI, page 387.
The Conference will
proceed to discuss and concert such new arrangements as may be most proper for
combining the future independence of
Discussing which measures would best secure those aims, the plenipotentiaries, in their meeting of January of the subsequent year, decided on a number of stipulations, embodied in eight articles.
The first four of those
articles regulate the question of the future territorial limits of
1 Papers Relative to the Affairs of Belgium, A—presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty, 1833, Protocol No. 10.
mary importance at that time, because they set forth
which of his domains the King of the
The preceding Articles being agreed upon, the Plenipotentiaries directed their attention to the means of consolidating the work of peace to which the five Powers have devoted their lively solicitude, and of placing in their true light the principles which actuate their common policy.
They were unanimously of the opinion that the five Powers owe to their interest, well understood, to their union, to the tranquility of Europe, and to the accomplishment of the views recorded in their Protocol of the 20th of December, a solemn avowal, and a striking proof of their firm determination not to seek in the arrangements relative to Belgium, under whatever circumstances they may present themselves, any augmentation of territory, any exclusive influence, any isolated advantages; but to give to that country itself, as well as to all the States which adjoin it, the best guarantees of repose and security. It is in pursuance of these maxims, and with these salutary intentions, that the Plenipotentiaries resolved to add to the preceding articles those which follow:
By a just
In the subsequent meeting of the plenipotentiaries
of January 27, the financial and other important questions were also arranged
and new articles drawn up which, together with those decided upon on January
20, formed the so-called "Bases destined to
establish the separation of Belgium from Holland," commonly called the
"Eighteen Articles."2 In the latter document Articles VI
1 Protocol No. 11.
2 Protocol No. 12.
38 THE NEUTRALITY OF
The Protocols do not mention which Power was responsible for this proposal of neutralizing in perpetuity the new independent kingdom.
Neutralization as an institution of international
law was then nothing entirely new as, in 1815, the
Swiss Confederation had been declared a perpetually neutral state. The idea of
The only detailed information on this subject is, apparently, contained in a special treatise on neutrality by the Belgian Professor Ernest Nys, who is considered one of the foremost authorities in this matter. The distinguished scholar relates:
project in which he practically suggested the affirmation of a perpetual neutrality. The five Powers, by a protocol or treaty, were to guarantee in common the existence of the Belgian Kingdom and to declare that none of them could under any circumstances invade or occupy it without the consent of the four others; likewise, they were to guarantee Holland against a Belgian invasion.
"On December 20, Matuszewic and his colleague, Prince Lieven, had consented to the proclamation of the independence of Belgium; but they had made the utmost efforts to have her perpetual neutrality affirmed in order that she might serve as a sort of barrier against the encroachments of France (en quelque sorte de barriere contre les impietements de la France).
"Is anybody anxious to
ascertain the true sentiments of the English statesmen who protected
"It was Prince Lieven who reported this argument, in a despatch of
1 "Notes sur la Neutralite" in the Revue du Droit International," 2e ser., tome 2 (1900), page 609. The quotations of Prof. Nys are from F. de Martens' Recueil de Traith et Conventions conclus par la Russie avec les Puissances etrangeres, tome XI, pages 442 and 447.
tiaries should have taken the lead in the neutralization scheme seems most significant, if one remembers that Russia was under great financial obligations towards England.1 It seems perfectly clear that the scheme was conceived by the British Cabinet with a view to safeguarding the continental bulwark of England, cut loose from the Netherlands, against "French encroachments," and that, for financial considerations, the Russians were used to promote the British scheme at the London Conference.
A French writer, Mr. Raymond
gives a slightly different version of the origin of the neutralization scheme.
He relates how, in January, 1831, i.e., quite in the beginning of the
Conference, there was, for awhile, a complete deadlock in the negotiations of
the Conference with
"Talleyrand conceived of an expedient which would allow them to gain time and stop the conflict—the neutralization of the Belgian territories. The first effect of this solution was to grant the Powers the possibility of making the King of Holland—with military force, if that should be
1 See page 26 and following.
2 La derniere negotiation de Talleyrand in the Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, tome 2 (1901-2), pages 573-594, and tome 3, pages 237-281.
necessary—respect the territory assigned to
the Belgians. Besides, it necessarily excluded every idea of an annexation of
In a letter to Lord Granville, Lord Palmerston reports on Prince Talleyrand's proposals, which centered around several important "frontier rectifications" in favor of France, and he states that the French plenipotentiary fought for them "like a dragon," for two days. He adds:
"At last, we
brought him to terms by the same means by which juries become unanimous—by
starving. Between nine and ten, at night, he agreed to what we proposed, being,
I have no doubt, secretly delighted to have got the neutrality of
This remark of the British statesman, not devoid of malicious joy, may possibly be interpreted as implying that Lord Palmerston had so ingeniously handled the situation that his French antagonist had been induced to propose the very scheme of the British Cabinet to the Conference. It is, however, perfectly clear that Prince Talleyrand's proposal was
1 Sir Lytton Bulwer's Life of Viscount Palmerston, Vol. II, page 35.
42 THE NEUTRALITY OF
cleverly turned into something quite different from what he had meant it to be.
It is well known that "when the ink with which the arrangements had been signed was hardly dry,"1 the same Prince Talleyrand came forward with another scheme for the welfare of Belgium, consisting in the partition of this country between France, Holland and Prussia, with Antwerp as a Free Port and City—unless England should claim the place for herself, though Talleyrand was afraid that she might turn it into a "Gibraltar of the North."
This second scheme shows very clearly what the first one was worth: a diplomatic trick, a "hands off!" addressed to the Dutch; an urgency measure, at best. However, Talleyrand's colleagues at the Conference, notably Lord Palmerston, the plenipotentiary of the only other Power deeply interested in the negotiations, made something quite different out of the French diplomat's proposal. As Mr. Raymond Guyot points out, they "seized" upon Prince Talleyrand's proposed emergency measure and turned it into "a solemn avowal, and a striking proof of their firm determination, etc.," as set forth in the Protocol of the 20th of January.2
1 Sir Lytton
Bulwer's speech on
2 See page 36.
To England it was, indeed, of infinitely greater importance to keep the other Powers out of Belgium than to obtain for herself possession of any part of Belgian territory, even of Antwerp, which she has never half as much desired for herself as she has insisted that no other strong Power should put its hands upon.1 To France, however, the "solemn avowal" contained in the Protocol of January 20th, so skillfully marshaled by Lord Palmerston, was utterly distasteful—which is sufficiently clear from the fact that she delayed her formal adherence to that Protocol till April.
Such was the origin of the
Great Powers' decision that
These negotiations proved
particularly difficult with
may be noted here in passing that, in order to make it quite impossible that a
hostile expedition against
44 THE NEUTRALITY OF
The election of a
sovereign was, of course, the exclusive right of the Belgian people; however,
the Great Powers, especially
The Belgians having, from
the outset, decided that a prince of the house of Orange-Nassau would under no
circumstances be acceptable to them, the crown, through French intrigues, was
offered to the young Duc de Nemours, second son of
King Louis-Philippe of the French. Naturally, if a French prince had occupied
the new Belgian throne, French influence would have
been so predominant in the new kingdom that its annexation by
After the equally successful elimination of an-
1 Protocols Nos. 14 and 15 of February 1.
other candidate, likewise undesirable to
With the assistance of the King-Elect, the negotiations of the Conference made quicker progress.
In the meeting of the
French writer, Raymond Guyot, says of Prince Leopold:
"He was English by heart and by nationality, tho
not by descent, widower of an English Princess, he was the candidate of the
British Cabinet. For this reason even
Leopold's marriage with Princess Louise, by which, instead of a son, a daughter of Louis-Philippe ascended the Belgian throne, took place in August, 1832.
By a just
The modified Eighteen Articles were, indeed, still far from meeting all
the wishes of the Belgian people concerning their separation from the
1 Protocol 26.
The Conference, having thus succeeded
in imposing their terms on
King William did more. He denounced the armistice
between the two countries and invaded
Meanwhile new negotiations and counter-proposals
Since, however, also on the basis of this draft, no agreement was reached with Holland, the Conference finally lost its patience and, on October 14, 1831, decided on a new treaty proposal, known as the "Twenty-Four Articles," which it submitted to the two parties with the promise that the Great Powers would guarantee its execution, and with the threat that it contained the "final and irrevocable decision" of the Powers.
The Twenty-Four Articles are a rather lengthy instrument, which contains about all the provisions made necessary by an international act of such im-
48 THE NEUTRALITY OF
portance as the cutting-off of about one-half of an existing kingdom and making a new kingdom of it. They are a sort of liquidation of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and a charter for the new Kingdom of Belgium, in one act.1 Their main provisions are, therefore, a definition of that part of the domains of the King of the Netherlands which, henceforward, was to be independent Belgium, and, further, a division of all the rights and duties thus far vested in the United Netherlands among the henceforward separate Kingdoms of the Netherlands (Holland) and Belgium. The protocols and the notes annexed thereon leave no doubt that
1 In detail, the Twenty-Four Articles
which form Annex A of Protocol 49 (page 414) deal with
the following subjects: Art. I, composition of Belgian
territory; Art. II, limits of Belgian territory in the
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg; Art.
question of the definition of the boundaries of
The only article which is of interest for the
purposes of this study is the one determining the future status of
In this considerably modified form, the neutralization clause was destined to form part of the treaties concluded on the basis of the Twenty-Four Articles.
His Majesty, desirous of sparing his people all the miseries which would be entailed by the forced execution of the twenty-four articles and
not wishing to expose
In consequence, on
The Courts of Great
Moreover, Article XXVI announces that there shall
be peace and friendship between the rulers and subjects of the Great Powers on
one side and of
1 Annex D to Protocol 52.
considered rebels against their legitimate rulers, the King
The last-mentioned condition was not
fulfilled, apparently because the different parties still entertained the hope that
recalcitrant Holland, without whose consent the treaty remained, necessarily, a
half measure, would be persuaded to accept it. On
52 THE NEUTRALITY OF
Conference on October 27th, declaring herself
opposed to the coercive measures which, then,
The merely conditional
ratification of the treaty of
However, since, under
those circumstances, the said treaty could not offer any guarantee to
1 Papers relative to the Affairs of Belgium, B, page 151.
2 Papers relative to the Affairs of Belgium, B, page 91.
22, 1832, states its object to be "to carry into
execution the stipulations of the Treaty relative to the Netherlands, concluded
at London on the 15th of November, 1831, the execution whereof, by the terms of
Article XXV of the said Treaty, has been jointly guaranteed by their said
Majesties" (i.e., the King of England and the King of France) "and by
their Majesties the Emperor of Austria, the King of Prussia, and the Emperor of
Russia." It expresses regret that the three other Great Powers "are
not at present prepared to concur in the active measures which are requisite
for the execution of the said Treaty," and stipulates that both
As a matter of history, the provisional settlement of the affairs of
1 Hertslet, Map of
The final settlement of the
Belgian Question did not take place till six years later, when again the
plenipotentiaries of the five Great Powers, together with those of
The Quintuple Treaty is,
in reality, a set of three treaties, concluded between the Great Powers and
The three treaties, the
text of which, as put before the British Parliament in 1839, will be found in
the Appendix,3 contain the uniform
provision that the articles annexed to each of them (which are, in each case,
the identical Twenty-Four Articles agreed upon by the London Conference on
1 Hertslet, Vol. II, page 921.
2 Ibid., page 924.
3 See pages 199-206.
treaties), "and that they are thus placed under the guarantee of their said
Majesties" (i.e., the rulers of the five Great Powers and of
Of the annexed Articles
the one referring to the neutralization of
The neutralization Clause is, thus, identical with
that of the treaty between the Great Powers and King Leopold, of
The 24 articles that were
annexed to the three treaties did not only settle the affairs of
Grand-Duchy to about half
its original size and ceding the remainder to Belgium, wherefore there exists,
since them, an independent Grand-Duchy and a Belgium province of the same name.
The Quintuple Treaty does not contain any clause with regard to the time
at which its provisions should come into operation. Evidently this was not
considered necessary by the compilers, as, at the time of its conclusion, the
1 See pages 207-209.
the Great Powers by negotiations and by armed force.
A few words may be added concerning the attitude of the Belgian people towards the neutralization of their country.
There seems to be an idea
prevalent, especially in the
It would even seem as tho some among the leaders of the Pacifist Movement had
considered the status of neutralization of a country as one of the most
promising solutions of the great problem of establishing eternal peace among
the nations, and, therefore, look askance at
It is beyond the scope of this study to discuss whether the status of neutralization, which another prominent French lawyer, Mr. Emile Bourgeois, calls "that attempt at sovereignty called neutralization" (cette atteinte a la souverainete qu'on appelle une neutralite),2 is in any way compatible with the
1 The Neutrality of
2 In the preface to book of Dr. Dollot, quoted from on page 14.
58 THE NEUTRALITY OF
tasks and the dignity of a great sovereign country. I merely want to emphasize
that, in the case of
The fact is that the
Belgians received the decisions of the Great Powers, which included the first
intimation of the neutralization scheme, with an outcry of rage. Dealing with
this subject, a note verbale of the Provisory Government at
In this respect, the Committee cannot but recall here to the terms of the Note remitted to Lord Ponsonby and Mr. Bresson. The Belgian Government did not intend to bind itself toward the Powers by an engagement from which no circumstance can unbind it; it has, especially, not resigned the right belonging to every nation to maintain itself by force of arms the justice of its cause, if the laws of justice should be violated or misinterpreted against it.
However, the Great Powers very coolly overruled
such objections and laid down, once for all, that the perpetual neutrality was
an absolute conditio sine qua non for
several months of decided resistance. They accepted it in
the spirit of sacrificing a valuable part of their country's sovereignty for
the supreme purpose of obtaining thereby
The Belgian barrister, Mr. Pierre Graux, remarks in this respect:
"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
In a similar way, Professor de Lapradelle writes:
1 Revue de droit
international et de legislation comparee,
2e serie, tome
60 THE NEUTRALITY OF
The London Times, in its
"The last and greatest
difficulty was the neutrality imposed upon
What the London Times calls a "most fatal gift," presented to Belgium, has certainly been realized as such by the Belgians, not only of 1831 but even more so in recent times. During the years which preceded the outbreak o the present war, quite a number of Belgian voices were heard which, in a very outspoken way, discussed the advisability of doing away with the perpetual neutrality. They claimed the right of pursuing a policy dictated exclusively by the exigencies of their country and repudiated their obligation under the doctrine of International Law according to which a perpetually neutralized state is bound to fight the first invader, and, in consequence, has to embrace the cause of the invader's opponents who enter the conflict with a material disadvantage.
Of special interest among the literary contributions in this line is a pamphlet, published in 1912,
under the title, "Situation de la Belgique en cas de conflit franco-germain (
"Our neutrality," this writer says, "is not in keeping any longer with the requirements of the present times"; and he urges his government "to demand, without delay, from the Powers who signed the treaty of 1831, to arrange a diplomatic conference for the complete suppression of that neutrality which has become aimless (devenue sans objet)."