Peasants' War (1798)
The Peasants' War (French: Guerre des Paysans, Dutch: Boerenkrijg, German: Klöppelkrieg, Luxembourgish: Klëppelkrich) was a peasant revolt in 1798 against the French occupiers of the Southern Netherlands, a region which now includes Belgium, Luxembourg, and parts of Germany. The French had annexed the region in 1795 and control of the region was officially ceded to the French after the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797. The revolt is considered part of the French Revolutionary Wars.
Motivations for war
After the Southern Netherlands was annexed by France, the French revolutionaries began to implement their policies regarding the Catholic Church. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy required that priests take an oath of allegiance to the state. Priests who refused such an oath (non-juring priests) were considered to be enemies of the state and could be removed from their positions and homes. Additionally, in early 1798, the French Council of Five Hundred passed a law requiring compulsory military service. This law ordered the conscription of men between the ages of 20 and 25 in all French territories. General conscription like this was a relatively new product of the French Revolution, and was met with anger by the men who were forced into service.
The majority of the conflict during the Peasants' War occurred in Flanders (Lys and Scheldt départements) and Brabant (Deux-Nèthes and Dyle départements). Referred to as the Boerenkrijg, it is referenced by some historians as a Belgian national revolt, and an indication of a desire for independence by Belgium.
In Flanders the revolt was somewhat organized, with the people seeking aid from foreign nations such as England and Prussia. The revolution began on 12 October 1798, with peasants taking up arms against the French in Overmere. Initially the rebellion was somewhat successful, however, lacking proper arms and training it was crushed less than two months later, on 5 December, in Hasselt. An estimated 5,000–10,000 people were killed during the uprising. Additionally, there were 170 executions of the leaders of the rebellion.
In Luxembourg (Forêts département), the revolt was called Klëppelkrich. This revolt quickly spread, consuming most of West Eifel. The primary combatants in Luxembourg were the peasantry. The middle and upper classes were not driven to revolt as the anti-clericalism and the modernisation brought by the French Revolution were somewhat beneficial to them.
Lacking both financial support from the middle classes, and proper military training, the peasants were quickly put down by the French occupation force. Ninety-four insurgents were tried and of those, 42 were executed.
In later culture
- De Boerenkrijg: an 1853 novel by Hendrik Conscience
- Episodes of the war were depicted by the 19th century Belgian artist and sculptor Constantin Meunier. The war has been romanticized in some cases as a proper Belgian revolution, as it was a major uprising fighting for independence from external rule.
- Siege of Malta, which began as a peasant uprising against French rule in 1798
- "De Verlaf vum Klëppelkrich" (in Luxembourgish). Histoprim. Retrieved 10 September 2007.
- Andre de Vries (16 May 2007). Flanders: A Cultural History. Oxford University Press. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-19-983733-5.
- Ganse, Alexander. "The Flemish Peasants War of 1798". World History at KMLA. Korean Minjok Leadership Academy. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- Trausch (2002), p. 205
- Orts 1863, p. 211
- Kreins (2003), p. 66
- Brown, Howard (June 2005). "Revolt and Repression in the Midi Toulousain". French History. 19 (2): 252. doi:10.1093/fh/cri013.
- Kreins, Jean-Marie (2003). Histoire du Luxembourg (in French) (3rd ed.). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. ISBN 978-2-13-053852-3.
- Trausch, Gilbert (2002). Histoire du Luxembourg (in French). Paris: Privat. ISBN 978-2-7089-4773-3.
- Orts, Auguste (1863). La Guerre des Paysans, 1798–1799..
- Schrever, Rudi (11 August 2010). "The Peasants' War (1798)". historiek.net. Retrieved November 30, 2015.