Nineteenth century Knootoss
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Tanah Burung Independence
Knootoss' official account of its 19th century history.
The United Provinces in decline
After successfully declaring independence from the Teutonic Empire of Lavenrunz in the sixteenth century, the United Provinces of Knootoss had quickly become a major power. But in the centuries that followed its power waned as the nation was torn apart by internal power struggles. There was conflict between the mercantile oligarchy running the Knootian East India Company on one side and those loyal to the Prince of Knootcap on the other side. The United Provinces remained a collection of conflicting interests and semi-sovereign provinces resting comfortably on the laurels of past glory. The trade monopolies slowly slipped away from the fingers of the East India Company and the princely armies were in a dismal state as the cities refused to provide soldiers for a common army commanded by the prince.
All of this abruptly ended with the Angstian invasion in 1800, when the waxing imperialistic power of Der Angst squashed the tiny remains of the princely army and claimed dominion over all the provinces. For ten years the Knootian people suffered terribly under the yoke of occupation. But in 1810 the Angstians left and a new century could truly begin for Knootoss.
A Republic with a Monarch
1810 saw the return of the Prince of Knootcap, the 53 year old Marc-Alexander, to Knootoss. But the country was very different from the one he had left. Most of the colonies – barring the holdings of the bankrupt Knootian East India Company in the Knootian East Indies – were gone and international trade was at an all time low. But popular opinion was with the House of Knootcap more then ever, and the decimated, impoverished mercantile elite was no longer in a position to resist his claims to the title of ‘Steward’ of all the provinces. The Knootian Republic was born – but it was a Republic ruled by a man with the power of Kings.
Soon dubbed ‘Marc-Alexander the Strong’, the first Steward ruled like a liberal autocrat without much opposition for the short period of his rule. The power of the provinces was transferred to the national level, more specifically to Marc-Alexander himself. He considered the Staten-Generaal (the ‘parliament’ where the representatives of the different regions gathered) to be a mere advisory body. Marc-Alexander was a believer in unfettered entrepreneurship, as well as at least some of the enlightenment ideas. Liberals were appointed in important government functions (including the powerful ministers of Finance, War and Colonial Affairs.) Free trade – traditionally a strong point of the Knootians – was restored and a plan was drawn up for a more systematic exploitation of the Knootian East Indies beyond the coastal trading posts. Soon, huge sums came from what is nowadays Tanah Burung under the new ‘culture system’ which included forced processing of more expensive agricultural goods for the world market. An upturn in the world economy also helped the Republic to get back on its feet.
The second Steward
While Marc-Alexander was an absolute ruler, he initiated some democratic reforms on the local level and extended more civil rights to the population in a new constitution in 1814. But progress was slow – too slow for many discontented radical liberals. But for now these people would have to wait. The death of Marc-Alexander a year after the new constitution brought a new Steward to in power, Marc-Alexanders son Maurice. The young and devout Maurice was much more conservative then his father and after the 1814 constitution no more reforms were made.
The Staten-Generaal in those days had two houses: one House was elected by census (everyone paying a certain amount of taxes was allowed to vote) in a districted system. The other House was elected by the representatives of the provincial governments. At this time, there were no political parties in the Staten-Generaal but individuals were usually associated in groups – like parties but without a formal party organisation as we know it today. The political landscape was dominated by the Progressive Democratic League (who wanted more reforms) and the Conservatives. Many of these conservatives had been considered progressive under the rule of Marc-Alexander but they were now satisfied with the reforms as they were. These conservatives maintained a firm grip on the nations administration with liberals in the opposition. The liberals in the League were lead by a remarkable figure who impressed both friend and foe; Mr. Johan Rudolf Vogels, a lawyer who was generally seen as absolutely brilliant, an academic with a keen mind, from one of the nations most eminent families. He was, however, a man with a sour character who made enemies much more easily then friends. Vogels was extremely stubborn in his convictions, ambitious, haughty and he openly loathed the new Steward. This divided even the liberals in pro-Vogels and anti-Vogels. Nevertheless, his brilliance and the sheer amount of work he did managed to propel him as the public face of Knootian liberalism.
Under the rule of the second steward, a third force emerged on the political landscape: the Catholic party. Catholicism was a minority religion in a country of minorities, but the parties support was high in the southern regions which were almost exclusively Catholic. These regions had long been considered pseudo-colonies by the powerful northern (protestant) provinces and Catholics were unofficially discriminated in all aspects of society. But now, while protestants were divided amongst themselves, the Catholic party presented a united front for equal representation, their own religious schools and the re-establishing of the Papal hierarchy in the Republic (The Bishops had all been unceremoniously expelled from the United Provinces after the declaration of independence from Catholic Lavenrunz.) The Catholic Party favoured neither liberalism nor conservatism, but only sought to work together with whoever would help them with these goals.
A year of unrest
In the year 1848 terrible unrest raged across the European continent. The mood of revolution was in the air and in neighbouring countries Royal Houses were threatened with destruction. The tiny Republic – squashed between the sources of unrest – was no exception. The elites feared overspill across the borders and the liberals petitioned again and again for reform. Change came when on a warm summer day of that year the carriage of the Steward was stopped by a group of angry farmers in Gelre. Maurice and his wife were forced to spend an entire afternoon on a farm in captivity listening to the grievances of the farmers before being released without incident. The Steward realised that things had to change now that his personal safety could not be guaranteed even in his own lands. The liberal Vogels was appointed as the head of a committee that was to write a new constitution.
The new constitution was confirmed by a special assembly of 600 dignitaries from across the land three months later. It severely limited the power of the Steward and introduced elections for all levels of government. The constitution also entitled more powers to provincial and local councils as well as many other institutional reforms. Other articles favoured the Catholics – such as an article regarding the separation of church and state (stating that no religion was to be favoured by the government instead of reaffirming the Republic as a Protestant state) and scrapping the demand that the Steward had to be of the Dutch Reformed religion. New elections gave the Progressive Democratic League a near-majority in both Houses of the Staten Generaal and a government was formed with Liberal and Catholic ministers. Mr. J.R. Vogels was reluctantly appointed by the Steward as Prime Minister and minister of Internal Affairs.
‘Vogels I’ went to work like crazy in order to produce all the laws the new constitution required. Vogels wrote many of these laws himself and a Liberal-Catholic alliance in parliament pushed them through at remarkable speed. Outmatched, the conservative opposition and the Steward did very little to oppose the passing of the new laws.
The ‘April movement’ and the downfall of the liberals
While the liberal-catholic coalition government was still well underway, the Republic still had not restored the Papal hierarchy, which displeased the Catholics. Marc-Alexander had - as one of his last acts before his death - issued an edict that allowed the appointment of two Catholic bishops in Knootoss provided they swore an oath of loyalty to uphold the laws of the state. This edict had never been enforced however, due to heavy protestant resistance which his devout son Steward Maurice had gladly listened to.
In 1851 the Knootian minister of foreign affairs was informed that the Pope believed the time for the restoration of the Papal hierarchy had come. The church cautiously inquired if the government considered the edict from 1827 to be binding under the new constitution. The minister replied quickly that there were no objections at all, and that they considered the edict to be no longer binding. He even urged the church to make haste because future governments might be less accommodating.
In march 1853, Papal letters were issued introducing four new Bishops and an Archbishop for the new hierarchy in the Republic (without swearing an oath as the edict had required.) These letters also referred to the appointments as not being new, but instead being the restoration of the hierarchy as it existed under the rule of the Lavenrunzian Emperors. They referred to Knootoss as ‘the provinces of Holland and Brabant’ and interpreted the restoration of the hierarchy as Knootian recognition of the Pope as the head of the church.
These letters found their way to the press, causing a huge uproar in the following month which became known as the ‘April movement’. Protestant communities all over the country petitioned the government and the Steward to prevent this from happening; petitions which gained hundreds of thousands of signatures in only a few days. Dutch-reformed leaders argued that recognising the Papal hierarchy was a constitutional violation and as such unacceptable. The protestant press further spread the word, crying outrage over both the contents of the Papal letters and the sheer number of Bishops.
But the liberals, in their hour of triumph, had grown overconfident and defied both the Steward and public opinion. Vogels and his ministers initially responded indifferently to the protests, claiming it the right of the pope to appoint whoever they wanted as it was an internal matter of the church. In the Staten, Vogels remarked that “Even if the Pope were to appoint fifteen archbishops for Brabant alone it would not be a matter for this government as long as they act in accordance with the constitutional freedoms granted to all denominations.” But the Steward was of a different opinion, and in private they clashed bitterly over the matter when Maurice announced that he would be accepting the petitions in person at a meeting in Amsterdam. The latter, deeply concerned about the event, literally prescribed how Maurice was to respond when accepting the petitions and the ministers jointly presented him with a speech that had been written for him. But the Steward did things his own way, and at the meeting in Amsterdam he proclaimed his complete agreement with the petitioners, finally stating how “this day has strengthened the ties between my House and the people of Knootoss, who are so close to my heart.”
Vogels was bitterly disappointed and resigned three days later along with all the other ministers. In their place, the Steward appointed conservatives. The election for the Staten that followed was characterised by extreme bitterness on both sides of the divide. Vehement personal attacks made mutual mistrust evident more than ever in the divided nation. In the end, the Progressive Democratic League was decimated and condemned once again to a frustrated role in the opposition for duration of the second Stewards rule.
The new conservative ministers loyally reaffirmed the power of the Steward, and one of the ministers eloquently proclaimed that “the ministers are but the servants of the Stewards; the instruments whose purpose it is to do his biddings.” New reactionary legislation imposed restrictions on Catholic worship. (Restricting the ringing of their church bells on Sunday and banning the appointments of foreigners to their church functions.) But while the more moderate elements of the conservative party tried to get past the events of April, the alliance between Catholics and liberals was stronger then ever and both parties fulminated together against the new regime in no less then three national newspapers that had been founded specifically with the aim to oppose the new government. And while Vogels had been voted down in all the protestant districts where he had been candidate, he was lovingly re-elected by the people of Maastricht and Breda in the Catholic south.
It was during this time that the Republic began to industrialise. The seafaring nation had traditionally been oriented more on trade than on the production of goods and with little natural resources industrialisation was limited mostly to the textile industries. Nevertheless, progress was made by the new industrialists and slowly the sight of smokestacks churning out thick black smoke began to dominate the hearts of cities in the west. Along with industrialisation a labour movement rose, and soon the socialists managed to capture one or two districts in the elections. Still, minimal welfare reforms managed to largely contain labour unrest.
The little princess
Steward Maurice died peacefully in The Hague in 1862, leaving only a single heir: his daughter Amalia. After a grand state-funeral for her father she rose as the new Steward (Or, in her case, “lady-protector”) of Knootoss. The young woman with her fragile build, snow-white face and long black hair stood in stark contrast with her father and grandfather. Amalia of Knootcap hardly ever ventured outside Huis ten Bosch Palace when in her own lands and she never dabbled in the affairs of politics. Instead she chose to travel, attending all the Royal balls and ceremonies one could think of. It was during one of these balls, the Winter ball in Hofburg, that she met Andrew from the Royal House of Priestus, the eldest son and heir-apparent to the Iesus Christi King. The two fell in love, and their affair continued in secret with Amalia spending all seasons of the year in the Royal Palace in St Augustine
Without a strong ruler, the Staten-Generaal filled the power vacuum. After the autocratic and interfering Maurice, ‘the little princess’ as they called her was a welcome change. The Progressive Democratic League and the Catholics had by now fully recovered from the 1853 blow. Laws to reverse the anti-Catholic measures of Maurice were passed easily –with the full support of Amalia, under the sway of her Iesus lover. Vogels, now in his seventies and of much milder character, returned to The Hague to head a second government bearing his name. It was during this time that a new ethical colonial policy recognised an ‘eereschuld’ or ‘responsibility of honour’ of the Knootians towards the Burungi people; to guide them to prosperity instead of thinking of their lands as a freely exploitable resource. State-funded schools were founded and roads were built with Knootian money. (But using Burungi forced labour.) on the other hand, the changes in colonial policy opened up the Knootian East Indian markets to private entrepreneurs. Domestic reforms included programmes against extreme poverty, an ambitious railroad programme and extension of voting rights to most of the working class.
But the story of Amalia wasn’t over yet. In 1866 she announced her intention to marry Andrew and, to this end, convert to Catholicism. This would unite the crown of Iesus with the fate of Knootoss. Prime Minister Vogels, remembering the April movement, was very concerned indeed. Clearly, he felt, she couldn’t marry the heir to Imperial/Royal throne. He proposed that she instead marry a duke from protestant Reichskamphen but his attempts were all in vain. The couple was wedded in a majestic ceremony in Iesus Christi – without a representation of the Knootian government or the Staten. The protestant part of nation was horrified and the ink of the headlines was dipped in blood. According to The Batavian Courier Amalia was betraying all generations of her line before her, as well as the nation she had sworn to protect and the Protestant cause itself. These feelings were echoed in the Staten-Generaal and in other protestant nations.
After the wedding, Amalia made one last fateful visit to Knootoss. When her ship arrived in the harbour of Amsterdam, proudly waving the banner of the House of Knootcap, the little princess and her guards where overcome by an angry mob of Amsterdam workers. Her elegant silver diadem was torn from her and her long black hair was cut short. A group of policemen trying to interfere but they were driven away. The group dragged Amalia to Dam square and in front of the city hall she was decapitated with a blunt axe. Her last words are said to have been: “Please God, pity me and my people.”
Word of events in Amsterdam reached The Hague soon enough, and mixed feelings of shock and shame reverberated around the nation. It was then that the Prime Minister decided to send in the Home Guard to clear Amsterdam of all unrest. The thumping of field artillery resounded in the capital for twenty-four hours before Dam square was retaken from a group of people who were – rightfully – fearing for their lives. Twenty-three men where found guilty and executed. But over 200 people – many of whom where innocent – had perished in attempts to secure the city.
The Knootian war of succession
The grieving family of the groom claimed that, in death, this wedding united the Crowns of both noble Houses. This briefly sparked the Knootian war of succession over the question of whom now possessed sovereignty over the Republic. (The States-General maintained it had was now the legally sovereign institution while the Iesus family claimed its inheritance.) The declared ‘war’ however did not see a lot of military action and it only lasted for forty-six days. The only real military engagement was a small naval battle off the coast of Tiga Burung when the ‘Brunhilde’ stumbled into the unescorted Knootian merchant vessel ‘Zeebrugge’, which was engaged and sunk. It still lies on the bottom of the Emerald seas.
Politicians ended the war with a compromise between the Catholic empires and the Republic. The Prime Minister seized the negotiations as an opportunity to resolve that no new Steward would be appointed in the Republic and that Knootoss would remain independent with power being with the Staten-Generaal. The Iesus Royal family was officially handed the crown and the other ceremonial items of the House of Knootcap as Amalia’s inheritance in exchange for a pledge not to use them to claim sovereignty over the land. In an address to the nation that followed, Vogels encouraged the nation to “Pray without remorse” and slowly the dust settled and the Knootian war of succession became a historic curiosity. Johan Rudolf Vogels himself would not live to see the new future he had helped shape; he died on the fifth of June 1872 of natural causes.
Burying the past
The closing decades of the nineteenth century are what historians call the transfer to the age of modern democracy. The Staten-Generaal was reformed by liberal majority governments into a parliament with one house, directly elected by universal suffrage without districts. In 1873 capital punishment was abolished. The liberal-catholic alliance crumbled as the differences between the two parties became quite obvious without a common foe. In several stages, the liberals pushed trough non-denominational public lower and middle schools with compulsory attendance. This effectively rooted out church-organised schooling. Already in 1871 the ministry of foreign affairs withdrew its emissary with the pope, making the Republic the first western nation in the world to do this.
The nineteenth century profoundly changed Knootoss and the world, in the areas of industry, politics, culture, technology and religion. Many challenges would lie ahead in the twentieth century.