Charles Latour Rogier - Encyclopedia

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CHARLES LATOUR ROGIER (1800-1885), Belgian statesman, descended from a Belgian family settled in the department of the Nord in France, was born at St Quentin on 17th August 1800. His father, an officer in the French army, perished in the Russian campaign of 1812; and the family moved to Liege, where the eldest son, Firmin, held a professorship. Charles, after being called to the Bar, founded, in collaboration with his lifelong friends, Paul Devaux and Joseph Lebeau, the journal Mathieu Laensberg (afterwards Le Politique), which by its ardent patriotism and its attacks on the Dutch administration soon acquired a widespread influence. When the insurrection of 1830 broke out at Brussels, Rogier put himself at the head of 150 Liegeois, and inscribing on his banner the motto, "Vaincre ou mourir pour Bruxelles," he obtained arms from a local factory, and marched upon the capital. Here he took his place at once among the leaders of the revolutionary party. His influence saved the town-hall from pillage on r9th September. On the 24th a commission administrative was formed, of which Rogier became president. The energetic measures of this body and of its successor, the gouvernement provisoire, soon freed the greater part of the country from the Dutch troops. Rogier was sent in October to suppress an outbreak among the colliers of Hainaut, and then as delegate of the provisional government to Antwerp, where the citadel still held out for Holland. He succeeded in arranging an armistice, and then, in the exercise of the absolute power with which he was invested, reorganized the entire administration of the city. He sat for Liege in the National Congress, voted for the establishment of a hereditary monarchy, and induced the congress to adopt the principle of an elective second chamber. In the long-drawn debates on the bestowal of the crown he ranged himself on the side of Louis Philippe: he first supported the candidature of Otto of Bavaria, and on his rejection declared for the duc de Nemours. Finally, when Louis Philippe declined the crown on behalf of his son, Rogier voted with the majority for Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. In June 1831 he was appointed governor of the province of Antwerp, a post rendered exceptionally difficult by the continued presence of Dutch troops in the citadel. In October 1832 he was made minister of the interior in the Goblet-Devaux cabinet. In the following June he intervened in a quarrel in the chamber of deputies between Devaux and the Opposition leader, Alexandre Gendebien, claimed a prior right to give satisfaction, and fought a duel, in which he was severely wounded. During his term of office he carried, in the teeth of violent opposition, a law that established in Belgium the first railways on the continent of Europe, and thus laid the foundation of her industrial development. Owing to dissensions in the cabinet, he retired in 1834, together with Lebeau, and resumed the governorship of Antwerp. On Lebeau's return to power in 1840, Rogier became minister of public works and education. The proposals that he made in the latter capacity were defeated by the determined opposition of the Clerical party, and on the resignation of the ministry in 1841, Rogier gave his support to a compromise on the subject of education, which passed into law in 1842. He led the Liberal party in Opposition till 1847, when he formed a cabinet in which he held the ministry of the interior. He at once embarked on a programme of political and economic reform. He took effective steps to remedy the industrial distress caused by the decay of the Flemish linen trade. The limits of the franchise were extended; and as the result of the liberal policy of the government Belgium alone escaped the revolutionary wave that spread over the Continent in 1848. He passed a law in 1850 organizing secondary education under the control of the State, and giving the clergy only the right of religious instruction. The Clerical party, though unable to defeat this measure, succeeded in shaking the position of the cabinet; and it was finally undermined, after Prince Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat of 1851, by the hostility of the French government, which found its political exiles welcomed by the liberal cabinet at Brussels. Rogier retired in October 1852, but was brought back into office by the liberal reaction of 1857. He again became president of. the council and minister of the interior in a cabinet of which Frere-Orban was the most conspicuous member. The first important measure passed by the ministry was one for the fortification of Antwerp. In 1860 the fear of French designs on the independence of Belgium led to a movement of reconciliation with Holland, and inspired Rogier to write the only one of his numerous poems that is likely to survive, his national anthem, "La Nouvelle Brabanconne." Some of the ministers resigning in 1861, on the question of recognizing the kingdom of Italy, the cabinet was reconstructed, and Rogier exchanged the ministry of the interior for that of foreign affairs. In this capacity he achieved a diplomatic triumph in freeing the navigation of the Scheldt, and thus enabling Antwerp to become the second port. on the mainland of Europe. Defeated at Dinant, he sat for Tournai from 1863 till his death. His younger and more energetic colleague, Frere-Orban, gradually overshadowed his chief, and in 1868 Rogier finally retired from power. He continued, however, to take part in public life, and was elected president of the extraordinary session of the chamber of representatives in 1878. From this time his age, his devoted patriotism and the unassuming simplicity of his life made him the idol of all classes. The fiftieth anniversary of the kingdom of Belgium in 1880, and two years later that of his entry into parliament, were the occasion of demonstrations in his honour. He died at Brussels on the 27th of May 1885, and his remains were accorded a public funeral.

See T. Juste, Charles Rogier, 1800-1885, d'apres des documents ine'dits (Verviers, 1885).

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