The urban petitioning campaigns of 1837-1838 and early 1841.

The Urban Petitioning Campaigns Of 1837-38 And Early 1841: During the 1830's and 1840's the political set-up in Belgium was such that the Catholic Party held the reins of power at national level thanks to the support of the many rural electors, and that the Liberal Party was remote from government not withstanding the fact that it held a wide majority in the urban centres. So the liberals of the time turned to the local councils as a means of putting pressure on the catholic government and Parliament, making abundant use of the right of petition which the towns could assume, should urban interests be at stake. The author examines two of these petitioning campaigns. The first took place in the period 1837-38 and proposed a change in the electoral law in favour of the liberal electorate; the second, during the first three months of 1841, opposed on the one hand a catholic bill aimed at bestowing legal status on the University of Louvain, and was on the other hand intended to put pressure on the King so that he would extend the short-lived experiment of the liberal Lebeau-Rogier government. A close examination of the origin of these petitions in twenty of the most important towns in the country confirmed the hypothesis put forward that campaigns of this nature had to satisfy two conditions before a local council would consent to petition. A petitioning action with essentially political objectives could only succeed if the liberals held a majority in the council and had a care of active militants to set up an efficient propaganda campaign in the council; the catholic opposition in these conditions was of no avail. This majority moreover was not required if it was a question of petitions which, although of a political nature, were indirectly linked with urban interests, such as those connected with the electoral law. Tenacious propaganda from a few militant liberals was enough to shatter the catholic opposition and assure the petitions' success.