Sunday, March 27, 2016

From the Archives, 1831: Birth of a "Nation"

[Editors' Note:  One of the benefits of a 246-year publication history is the ability to look back at how great historical events were portrayed in the columns of the Spy.  Or in the case of this 1831 item, not so great.]

His Majesty's Government Resolves to Recognize Belgian Independence
“What Harm Could It Do?” Grey Asks Fellow Aristocrats
Effect on Continent to be Offset by Reinforcements of Condescension

By Fast Clipper to The Massachusetts Spy

The arrival of the noted clipper ship Squalid in Boston Harbor was eagerly anticipated by all as it was expected to contain dispatches with the latest British and European news, as so happened.  Our London Correspondent sent a variety of items [Including an expense claim of $200 for “club dues, tailoring, and other miscellaneous” – Pub.], of which by far the most interesting was the following.
The debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday last appeared to demonstrate the acquiescence of that chamber in the decision of His Majesty's Government to recognize the recent declaration of the independence of the Spanish Netherlands, which will henceforth be yclept “Belgium.”

In leading the debate for the Government,  Lord Lushwell, Deputy Undersecretary for Continental Matters in the Foreign Office, stated that “the recognition of the state of affairs in Brussels is broadly consistent with the long-term interest of the British Empire in a weak and unstable country pointing like a dagger at the heart of Kent.”

“The Government notes with satisfaction that the country to be henceforth known as Belgium is hopelessly split between French and Dutch speakers, neither of whom can understand or indeed stand each other,” said the seventh Marquess of Snidely-Whiplash.  “This fatal founding flaw will forever foreclose the possibility of a strong and effective government in this region.”
The Lords' debate on Belgian independence as it happened

Speaking for the Tory Opposition, an apparently tired Lord Tanqueray said that while he in principle accepted the Government's position, he was left to wonder whether it was wise to create such a powerless entity “wedged as it was twixt the Frogs and Krauts.”

In response, the 14th Earl of Consumption stated: “I would be more worried about interruptions of the Genever supply from The Netherlands than the possibility that the Germans would ever unite to seriously threaten the peace and stability of Europe.”  This riposte generated not inconsiderable merriment in the House.

Pleased by the reception his witticism elicited, the peer continued: “One might as well express concern that Belgium is so weak and divided it could be conquered by six followers of Mahomet.”  Whereupon the House exploded with merriment and adjourned to the Peers' Bar for what was unanimously regarded by the Members as unreasonably delayed refreshment.

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