Karl Marx in La Réforme 1848

Persecution of Foreigners in Brussels [321]

Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 567;
Written: about March 10, 1848;
First published: in La Réforme, March 12, 1848.

On Sunday, February 27 the Brussels Democratic Association held its first public meeting since the news of the proclamation of the French Republic. It was known in advance that an immense crowd of workers, determined to lend their active help to all measures that the Association would judge it proper to undertake, would be present.

Ale government, for its part, had spread the rumour that king Leopold was ready to abdicate the moment the people wished it. This was a trap set for the Belgian democrats to make them undertake nothing decisive against such a good king, who asked nothing better than to shed the burden of royalty, provided that he was honourably left a reasonable pension.

At the same time the king’s government had ready a list of people whom it considered proper to arrest that very night as disturbers of public order. It had agreed with M. Hody, the chief of public security, to have on this list the foreigners as chief instigators of an artificial riot, as much to cover the arrest of Belgians known as resolute republicans as to awake national susceptibilities. This explains why, later on, his excellency M. Rogier, who is no more Belgian than His Majesty King Leopold is French, had published an ordinance which commanded the authorities to watch carefully the French and the Germans, the former compatriots of M. Rogier, the latter compatriots of Leopold. This ordinance recalls, in its form of wording, the laws on suspects. [322]

This clever plan was executed in a manner the more perfidious and brutal in that the people arrested on the evening of February 27 had abstained from any provocation.

It might be said that pleasure had been taken in arresting these persons in order to maltreat and abuse them at leisure.

Immediately after their arrest they were showered with punches, kicks and sabre-blows; they were spat in the face, these republicans. They were maltreated in the presence of the philanthropist Hody, who was delighted to give these foreigners proof of his powers.

As there were no charges against them it only remained to release them. But no! They were kept in the cells for six days! Then the foreign prisoners were separated from the rest and taken directly in Black Marias to the railway station. There they were again put into vans, each in a separate cell, and sent in this way to Quiévrain where Belgian police received them and dragged them to the French frontier.

When at last they were able to collect themselves on the soil of liberty, they found they had in their pockets nothing but expulsion papers, dated the eve of their arrests. One of the expelled persons, M. Allard, is French.

At the same time the government of the Petty King proclaimed, in the Chamber of Representatives, that the Belgian kingdom, including the two Flanders as the best of all possible republics, and that it possessed a model police force, directed by a man such as M. Hody, at one and the same time an old republican, a phalansterist and a rejoined Leopoldist. The chamber wept with joy, the Catholic and liberal papers were in ecstasies about the domestic virtues of King Leopold and the public virtues of his servant Rogier.

The Belgian people are republicans. The only Leopoldists are the big bourgeoisie, the landed aristocracy, the Jesuits, the officials and the ex-Frenchmen who, chased out of France, now find themselves at the head of the Belgian administration and the press. ‘

Metternich is delighted to find so opportunely at the French frontier a Coburg, a born enemy of the French revolution. But he forgets that the Coburgs of today no longer count except in questions of marriage.