Hubert Joseph Walther Frere-Orban - Encyclopedia

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HUBERT JOSEPH WALTHER FRERE-ORBAN (1812-1896), Belgian statesman, was born at Liege on the 24th of April 1812. His family name was Frere, to which on his marriage he added his wife's name of Orban. After studying law in Paris, he practised as a barrister at Liege, took a prominent part in the Liberal movement, and in June 1847 was returned to the Chamber as member for Liege. In August of the same year he was appointed minister of public works in the Rogier cabinet, and from 1848 to 1852 was minister of finance. He founded the Banque Nationale and the Caisse d'Epargne, abolished the newspaper tax, reduced the postage, and modified the customs duties as a preliminary to a decided free-trade policy. The Liberalism of the cabinet, in which Frere-Orban exercised an influence hardly inferior to that of Rogier, was, however, distasteful to Napoleon III. Frere-Orban, to facilitate the negotiations for a new commercial treaty, conceded to France a law of copyright, which proved highly unpopular in Belgium, and he resigned office, soon followed by the rest of the cabinet. His work La Mainmorte et la charite (1854-1857), published under the pseudonym of "Jean van Damme," contributed greatly to restore his party to power in 1857, when he again became minister of finance. He now embodied his free-trade principles in commercial treaties with England and France, and abolished the octroi duties and the tolls on the national roads. He resigned in 1861 on the gold question, but soon resumed office, and in 1868 succeeded Rogier as prime minister. In 1869 he defeated the attempt of France to gain control of the Luxemburg railways, but, despite this service to his country, fell from power at the elections of 1870. He returned to office in 1878 as president of the council and foreign minister. He provoked the bitter opposition of the Clerical party by his law of 1879 establishing secular primary education, and in 1880 went so far as to break off diplomatic relations with the Vatican. He next found himself at variance with the Radicals, whose leader, Janson, moved the introduction of universal suffrage. Frere-Orban, while rejecting the proposal, conceded an extension of the franchise (1883); but the hostility of the Radicals, and the discontent caused by a financial crisis, overthrew the government at the elections of 1884. Frere-Orban continued to take an active part in politics as leader of the Liberal opposition till 1894, when he failed to secure re-election. He died at Brussels on the 2nd of January 1896. Besides the work above mentioned, he published La Question monetaire (1874); La Question monetaire en Belgique in 1889; Echange de vues entre MM. Frere-Orban et E. de Laveleye (1890); and La Revision constitutionnelle en Belgique et ses consequences (1894). He was also the author of numerous pamphlets, among which may be mentioned his last work, La Situation presente (1895).

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