Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Art. III. “All state taxes shall be voted annually.”

A court of accounts, charged with the examination of the accounts of the general administration, with members named by the House of Representatives is established. Title V relates to the army and requires all matters relating to its numbers, method of recruiting and organization to be regulated by law.

Art. 128. “Every foreigner on Belgian territory shall enjoy the protection accorded to persons and property, with such exceptions as may be established by the law."

Art. 130. “The constitution can neither be suspended in whole or in part.” The constitution may be revised after a declaration that there is need of revision and dissolution of the houses by a two-thirds vote of newly elected houses. This constitution is clearly the most advanced of all those retaining a king as head of the state. In practice time has demonstrated the wisdom of its provisions, and Belgium with the most dense population of any European country enjoyed a high degree of prosperity and had kept clear of destructive wars until invaded by the Germans in August, 1914.

In its provision requiring authoritative interpretations of the law to be made only by the law-making power, it is in advance of the American constitutions.

In each province there is a governor named by the king and a provincial council elected by the people. The affairs of the communes are also conducted by councils chosen by the people for terms of six years and a burgomaster appointed by the king from among the members of the council. There is a general primary school system, carried on at the expense of the communes, and secondary schools, part supported by the communes and others by the government. There are four universities, at Ghent, Liege, Brussels and Louvain. Besides these there are technical schools of high rank. In its benevolent and charitable institutions Belgium takes high rank and maintains many of various classes.

Much attention is paid to the needs of the working classes and to organizations designed to assist them. There are not only savings banks and mutual assistance societies, but charity workshops are provided at Ghent, Liege and other towns, where indigent laboring men out of employment are relieved. These are not only means of temporary relief to the necessitous, but are designed as schools of instruction and to encourage industry among those who otherwise might become criminals or beggars. There are also manufacturing schools for girls, where they are taught to make fabrics, etc. Liberal provisions are made for the care of the insane, diseased and infirm and for temporary relief to the indigent.

The judicial system consists of a court of cassation at Brussels, composed of a president general, a president of the chamber and fifteen councillors. It has power to revise the action of inferior courts and reverse their decisions for errors of law. It is divided into two chambers, one for civil and the other for criminal causes. There are three courts of appeal, one each at Brussels, Ghent and Liege. In the capital of each province is a court of assize, composed of a councillor deputed from one of the courts of appeals and two judges chosen from among the presidents and judges of the primary tribunal where the court is held. This court has jurisdiction of crimes and the trial is by a jury of twelve, chosen from a panel of thirty by lot. In each arrondissement is a court of primary jurisdiction of civil causes and misdemeanors. The number of judges in these varies from three to ten. There are also tribunals of commerce in the principal towns. Appeals are allowed in causes involving 2000 francs or more. In the manufacturing towns there are councils of prud-hommes, composed of master tradesmen and workmen, who decide disputes between masters and workmen. All judges are appointed by the king for life and are incapable of holding any other office. The interests of the state are represented by advocates and procurators appointed by the crown. After the settlement of its disputes with Holland Belgium entered on a prosperous and peaceful career. It passed through the period of 1848, which shook so many European states, with but slight disturbance, and as a mining and manufacturing state has enjoyed a good degree of prosperity.

Great dissatisfaction has been manifested recently over the provisions of the electoral law which gives to Belgians over

thirty-five years of age if married or widowers paying five francs direct tax two votes each and to those having certain other property qualifications, official status or university diplomas three votes each. By this increased voting power a minority of the voters is given a majority of the votes.

The future of Belgium at this time appears to depend on the outcome of the war now raging in Europe. Though in no manner responsible for it the people are suffering most of any from the war, and the land is again drenched with blood because no efficient measures have been taken by the great nations to settle their controversies by reason.

CHAPTER XXII

SWITZERLAND The territory included in modern Switzerland passed successively under the rule of Romans, Franks and Burgundians, without the development of any local national life. About A.D. 406 or 407 the Almanni took possession of northern Helvetia, which their descendants still occupy. A little later the Burgundians settled about Lake Geneva and soon acquired master over southern Helvetia. The ancient Celts and Romans were not exterminated, but remained subject to the invading tribes. The Alemanni carried with them the Germanic customs of land tenure, using pasture and waste lands in common, and of determining all public matters in an assembly of the freemen. The rule of Charlemagne was extended over all Helvetia, and feudalism developed there substantially as elsewhere throughout western Europe.

The history of Switzerland, as well as the romantic legends connected with its political birth, are closely connected with the rise of the House of Hapsburg, whose early seat was in the modern canton of Aargau, with estates in the cantons of Luzern, Schwyz and Unterwalden. From ancient times the Germanic tribes were accustomed to act in concert in the assertion of their rights, and the feudal system did not have the effect of obliterating all such organizations in the mountain districts of Switzerland. Prior to the controversy with the Hapsburgs we find the people of Schwyz and of separate parts of Unterwalden organized into Markgenossenschaften and accustomed to meet and confer with reference to their common interests. In 1231 Henry VII issued a charter to the men of Uri, making them immediate vassals of the empire, promising them his protection, and setting them free from Count Rudolf of Hapsburg. In 1240 a similar charter was granted by Frederick II to the men of Schwyz the original of which is still preserved and reads:

“Having received letters and messengers from you, to prove and make known your conversion and submission to us, we accede to your express desire with gracious and affectionate good will; we praise your submission and loyalty not a little in that you have shown the zeal which you have always had for us and the empire, by taking protection under our wings and those of the empire, as you are bound to do, being freemen who must turn to us and the empire alone. Since therefore you have chosen our rule and that of the empire of your own free will, we receive you loyally with open arms and respond to your sincere affection with our single minded favor and good will, by taking you under our special protection and that of the empire, so that we will never allow you to be alienated or withdrawn from our sovereign rule and that of the empire.

This charter was not recognized by the Hapsburgs as taking away their rights, and it it difficult to see how the Emperor could rightfully cut the feudal bond, which already existed between Rudolph and his vassals. In the controversy between the Emperor Frederick and the Pope the people of Schwyz and Uri supported the Emperor, while Rudolph supported the Pope. Frederick II was excommunicated and deposed. Count Rudolph, during the conflict, called in the aid of the Pope to restore his vassals to their allegiance, and built the fortress of New Hapsburg near Lake Luzern, from which his rights were enforced.

In 1273 the fief of Schwyz passed from the Laufenburg line of the house of Hapsburg to that of Austria, and in the same year Rudolph was chosen emperor. By this chance the imperial sovereignty, assumed by the charter of Frederick, became united in the person of Rudolph with that of the house of Hapsburg. Rudolph governed it as an immediate possession, and it therefore ranked as "unmittelbar.During his reign an edict was issued, exempting the people from answering a summons to appear before any tribunal outside the valley, and providing that they should be answerable only to the emperor, his sons or the judge of the valley. Unterwalden was divided into a number of marks and contained the monastery of Engelberg and many free peasants. Rudolph died

« AnteriorContinuar »