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UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE FOR THE PEOPLE
BELGIUM, one of the smaller European states, consists of the southern portion of the former kingdom of the Netherlands (as created by the Congress of Vienna). In the time of the Romans, it formed a part of Gallia Belgica.
Geography and Statistics.-Belgium lies between lat. 49° 27′ and 51° 30′ N., and between long. 2° 33' and 6° 5' E. It is bounded on the N. by Holland; en the E. by Dutch Limbourg, Luxembourg, and Rhenish Prussia; on the S. and S. W. by France; and on the N. W. by the North Sea. Its greatest length, from north-west to south-east, is 173 English miles; and its greatest breadth, from north to south, 112 English miles. The whole area is 11,313 square miles. The following table gives a list of the provinces in Belgium, with the area, population, and chief town of each:
Area in Square Miles, 1,094
Population, Dec. 31, 1870.
A DICTIONARY OF
Chief Cities. Antwerp. Bruges. Ghent.
B. is the most densely peopled country in Europe, the population being about 404 to the square mile; and in the particular provinces of East Flanders, Brabant, Hainault, and West Flanders, respectively, not less than 675, 594, 537, and 502 to the square mile. The rural population is to that of the towns as 3 to 1.
Physical Aspect.-B. is, on the whole, a level, and even low-lying country; diversified, however, by hilly districts. In the south-east, a western branch of the Ardennes highlands makes its appearance, separating the basin of the Maas from that of the
Moselle, but attains only the moderate elevation of 2000 feet. In Flanders the land becomes so low, that in parts where the natural protection afforded by the downs is deficient, dikes, &c., have been raised to check the encroachments of the sea. In the northeast part of Antwerp, a naturally unfertile district named the Campine, and composed of marshes and barren heaths, extends in a line parallel with the coast. The once impassable morasses of the Morini and the Menapii, which stayed the progress of Cæsar's legions, are now drained, and converted into fertile fields, surrounded by dense plantations, which make the land at a distance look like a vast green forestthough, when more closely regarded, we see only numerous dwellings interspersed among fields, canals, and meadows.
Hydrography, Climate, Agriculture, &c.-The abundant water-system of B. is chiefly supplied by the rivers Scheldt and Maas, both of which rise in France, and have their embouchures in Holland. At Antwerp, the Scheldt, which, like the Maas, is navigable all through Belgium, is 32 feet deep, and about 480 yards wide. Its tributaries are the Lys, Dender, and Rupel. The Maas, or Meuse, receives in its course the waters of the Sambre, the Ourthe, and the Roer. These natural hydrographical advantages are increased by a system of canals which unite Brussels and Louvain with the Rupel, Brussels with Charleroi, Mons with Condé, Ostend with Bruges and Ghent, and this last place with Terneuse. According to the resolution passed by the government in 1842, the long postponed project of cutting canals through the Campine district was at length commenced, and has been very advantageous to the spread of agriculture. A large portion of the Campine seems destined to perpetual barrenness-a dreary, silent, irreclaimable waste; but wherever it has been possible to rescue a patch from the stubborn heath or the relentless sand, there agricultural colonies have been planted, and cornfields shine, and pastures brighten in the heart of the immemorial wilderness. The climate of B., in the plains near the sea, is