to Mr. Blaine
Brussels , March 25, 1881. (Received April 11.)
Sir: I have the honor to state that yesterday Monsieur Descamps was elected president of the Chamber of Deputies, or, as we should say, “Speaker of the House,” in place of Mr. Guillery, who resigned a few days since, after three and a half years’ service. His resignation was the culmination of a sharp debate over a question of parliamentary rule. Mr. Guillery, as well as Mr. Descamps, is a member of the liberal party, of which Mr. Frère-Orban, minister of foreign affairs, is the recognized leader.
The liberal ministry, among other acts, introduced a measure cutting off the salaries of priests officiating in the barracks of the soldiers. It was stoutly resisted by the Catholic party, who regard it one of a series of measures seeking to separate the church from the state.
In the course of the debate on the war budget, Mr. Woeste, of the [Page 69] Right, said he had always before voted the war budgets, but the minister of war had proposed several party measures which the army had severely condemned.
Mr. Frère-Orban, minister of foreign affairs, in a very animated speech declared these words tended to anarchy, insubordination of the army, and revolt, and demanded that the member be called to order. This is understood to involve a degree of censure much stronger than the same call in our Congress.
Mr. Woeste, in response to the request of the president to withdraw his words, did withdraw them as “inopportune,” but declared at the same time they expressed his opinion.
The president then ruled there was no occasion for the call to order, of the propriety of which he claimed he was the sole judge.
The minister of foreign affairs appealed to the house from the decision of the chair.
The president stated that such an appeal was an encroachment on his prerogative; that an appeal to the house against the decision of the president had not been made in fifty years, and his own dignity and self-respect demanded his adherence to the usage. He would not put the vote on the appeal, and tendered his absolute resignation.
The incident caused quite a “flurry,” and the parliamentary question remains undecided.
I have, &c.,