to Mr. Frelinghuysen
Brussels, June 15, 1882. (Received June 29.)
Sir: I have the honor to state that the election of the 13th instant, referred to in my dispatch No. 153, resulted in favor of the liberal party.
Ghent, which elects four senators and eight deputies, proved to be the key of the situation.
At four o’clock in the afternoon it was announced that the Catholics had elected their candidates. Later advices assured the success of the ministerial party by a majority of sixty in that city.
The demonstrations which followed on the part of the liberals at the capital during a large part of the night was of the most enthusiastic character. The streets were thronged with people parading with bands of music and illuminations. There was apprehension of disturbance, and a portion of the civic guard was called out under arms and distributed in different parts of the city, but no violent demonstrations occurred.
The liberals have a small increase of strength in both houses. Their majority will be six in the new senate, instead of four, and of eighteen in the chamber of deputies, instead of fourteen, as in the last Parliament. This secures the continuation of the general policy of the liberal government.[Page 16]
The school law of 1879 will be maintained. This law is regarded by the Catholic party the most dangerous of all the liberal measures, not only for their political ascendancy, but for the maintenance of the Catholic faith among the peasantry.
It will compel Catholics to accept the secular school system or to continue at very heavy expense their church schools. The centralization of the educational department in the government, instead of giving the control of state schools to the several communes, will be maintained.
It was avowed in the canvass by the leader of the Catholic party that should it succeed at the election the office of minister of instruction would be abolished. The suspension of diplomatic relations with the Vatican will doubtless be continued. They would have been resumed had the Catholic party succeeded.
The liberal party has been heavily weighted in this canvass by the radicalism of some of its members and candidates.
The bulk of the party are not in favor of any considerable extension of the suffrage.
A portion of its radical element demanded universal suffrage; another portion a suffrage based upon an educational test.
The more radical element is organized in a permanent body called “La Ligue pour la Réforme Electorale.” The extreme attitude taken by some of the leaders of this organization on the suffrage question, involving a revision of the constitution in that respect, gave alarm to many of the moderates, and in the capital led to an “independent” movement, with which the Catholics allied themselves and seriously imperiled the success of the liberal candidates. Their majority was reduced by this action from 4,000 to 1,000 in Brussels.
The liberal party has now as much to fear from its own internal divisions on the suffrage question as from the opposition. The rapid growth of the large towns and of manufacturing centers, where the liberal strength principally lies, and the stationary population of the rural districts, where the clerical influence prevails, favor the continued ascendancy of the liberal party. On the other hand, the radicalism of a minority of the party alarms the more conservative portion, and it will tax the the wisdom of the ministry to the utmost to harmonize the elements.
The liberal government has now two years to solidify its power. It will then be again subjected to the ordeal of a general election.
I have, &c.,