Batavian Republic


The flag of the Batavian Republic

The flag of the Batavian Republic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the sister Republics of revolutionary France, it replaced the UNITED PROVINCES (Dutch Republic) in 1795, French troops having occupied the entire Republic in 1794-5.   A provisional government had been formed in February 1795 and in May the Republic was established by the Treaty of the Hague with France.   By the Treaty Dutch Flanders, Venlo and Maastricht were ceded to France;  by a secret clause the Dutch contributed financially to the French occupation.

Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck as Grand Pensionary

Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck as Grand Pensionary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The name came from the Batavians, a German tribe who about the beginning of the Christian era were allied to Rome and settled in the region between the Lek and the Waal, two of the arms of the River Rhine in the district that is still called Betuwe.   They led a rebellion against Rome in 69-70, a rebellion ended by a settlement with the Empire.   They were thus heroic forerunners of the Dutch, in the world of romantic history at any rate.

The Republic was riven by political disputes, principally between federalists, who wished the Republic to continue the emphasis on provincial power that had been one of the features of the old Dutch Republic, and those who wanted a unitary Republic.   The latter gained power in a coup d’état in 1798, when the old provinces were done away with.   A new unitary state was created, divided into departments with geographical names.

A change of régime in 1801, and back came the provinces, a federal order, and many of the old guard.   In 1805 another change brought back the unitary state but with the old provinces as the local manifestation of central authority, not departments on the French model.   The following year the last Grand Pensionary was forced out, along with the Batavian Republic, and in came the Kingdom of Holland with Louis Bonaparte, brother of the Emperor, as King.

The unitary idea prevailed:  the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which emerged in 1813/5 out of the ruins of Napoleonic defeat, was not federalist like the old Dutch Republic.

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