Batavian Republic

From Academic Kids

Template:Netherlands state From 1795 to 1806, the Batavian Republic (Bataafse Republiek in Dutch) designated the Netherlands as a republic modelled after the French Republic, to which it was a vassal state.

The Batavian Republic was proclaimed on January 19 1795, a day after stadtholder William V of Orange fled to England. The invading French revolutionary army, however, found quite a few allies in Holland. Eight years before, the Orange faction had won the upper hand in a small, but nasty civil war only thanks to the military intervention of the King of Prussia, brother-in-law of the stadtholder. Many of the revolutionaries (see: Patriots (faction) had fled to France and now returned eager to realize their ideals.

In contrast to events in France, revolutionary changes in the Netherlands occurred comparatively peacefully. The country had been a republic for two centuries and had a limited nobility. The guillotine proved unnecessary to the new state. The old Republic had been a very archaic and ineffective political construction, still largely based on old feudal institutions. Decision-making had proceeded very slowly and sometimes did not happen at all. The individual provinces had possessed so much power that they blocked many sensible innovations. The Batavian Republic marked the transition to a more centralised and functional government, from a loose confederation of (at least nominally) independent provinces to a true unitary state. Many of its innovations were retained in later times, such as the first official spelling standard of the Dutch language by Siegenbeek (1804). Jews, Lutherans and Roman Catholics were given equal rights. A Bill of Rights was drafted.

The new Republic took its name from the Batavii, a Germanic tribe who had lived in the area of the Netherlands in Roman times and who were then romantically regarded as the ancestors of the Dutch nation.

Again in contrast to France, the new Republic did not experience a reign of terror or become a dictatorship. Changes were imposed from outside after Napoleon Bonaparte's rise to power. In 1805 Napoleon installed the shrewd politician Schimmelpenninck as raadspensionaris ("Grand Pensionary", i.e. president of the republic) to strengthen the executive branch. In 1806 Napoleon forced Schimmelpenninck to resign and declared his brother Louis Bonaparte king of the new Kingdom of Holland.

The only signs of political instability were two coups. The first occurred in 1798, when revolutionary commanders were annoyed by the slow pace of democratic reforms. The National Assembly, which had been convened in 1796, was divided by a struggle amongst the factions. The second occurred in 1801, when a French commander, backed by Napoleon, staged a conservative coup reversing changes made after the 1798 coup.

As a French vassal state, the Batavian Republic was an ally of France in its wars against Great Britain. This led to the loss of most of the Dutch colonial empire and a defeat of the Dutch fleet in the Battle of Camperdown in 1797. The collapse of Dutch trade caused a series of economic crises. Only in the second half of the 19th century would Dutch wealth be restored to its previous Republiek de:Batavische Republik eo:Batava Respubliko nl:Bataafse Republiek fi:Batavian tasavalta


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