Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Charles Rogier

After Baron de Chokier the most famous of the founders of modern Kingdom of Belgium was Charles Rogier. His family was of French background and his father was an officer in the army of Napoleon but he died in the invasion of Russia in 1812. Charles moved with his family to Liege where he studied and became a lawyer. His legal career was not as important to him as his political vision and he was a very prominent critic of Dutch rule over Belgium. He collaborated with good friends Paul Devaux and Joseph Lebeau to start the journal Mathieu Laensberg (later Le Politique) in 1824. The journal was known for being liberal, patriotic, anti-Dutch and supportive of Belgian national identity. Quickly, people all over Belgium were reading the journal and supporting the views of it.
It was a very historical moment and crucial and controversial when Rogier arrived from Liege with 300 citizen militia in Brussels at the start of the uprising against Dutch rule. Some of the more conservative people were worried by the arrival of the famous 'firebrand' from Liege and if they were concerned he would inflame the situation then they were all correct. He became the most prominent of the revolutionary leaders and did not stop in his calls for nationhood and total independence. It was no surprise for him to become a member of the October 1830 provisional government for Belgium and he was appointed Governor of Antwerp in June 1831 after the election of Leopold von Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as first King of the Belgians.

Rogier was a founder of Belgium and a major leader in the early period with many accomplishments. When he was Interior Minister he established the first railroads and he also served as Minister of Public Works and Minister of Education and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Something for which he is more controversial today was his very strict ideas about the language groups in Belgium. Rogier was very much sure that having one country with two languages would never work and was not acceptable. He is known for his words, "La Belgique sera Latine ou elle ne sera pas". He was Prime Minister two times and established the tradition of the government speaking French only.

On this subject, Rogier said, "Les premiers principes d’une bonne administration sont basés sur l’emploi exclusif d’une langue et il est évident, que la seule langue des Belges doit être le Français. Pour arriver à ce résultat, il est nécessaire que toutes les fonctions, civiles et militaires, soient confiées pour quelques temps à des Wallons; de cette manière les Flamands, privés temporairement des avantages attachés à ces emplois, seront contraint d’apprendre le Français et l’on détruira, peu à peu l’élèment germanique en Belgique." ("The first principles of a good administration are based upon the exclusive use of one language, and it is evident that the only language of the Belgians should be French. In order to achieve this result, it is necessary that all civil and military functions are entrusted to Walloons and Luxemburgers; this way, the Flemish, temporarily deprived of the advantages of these offices, will be constrained to learn French, and we will hence destroy bit by bit the Germanic element in Belgium.")

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