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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; on 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:
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 bears to that of the towns a proportion of about 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
cool, humid, and somewhat unhealthy; but in the higher south-east districts, hot summers alternate with very cold winters. April and November are always rainy months. These varieties of climate are favourable to a greater variety of produce than the neighbouring country of Holland can supply. The Ardennes districts yield a large supply of wood; while the level provinces raise all kinds of grain-wheat, rye, barley, oats, &c., leguminous plants, hemp, flax, colza, tobacco, hops, dye-plants, and chicory. Belgium contains upwards of 7,000,000 acres, of which one-half is arable, rather more than one-fifth in meadow and pasture, the same in woods and forests, and not above 500,000 acres lying waste. Some hundreds of acres are devoted to vineyards, but the wine produced is of an inferior quality. The forests of Ardennes abound in game and other wild animals. Good pasturage is found on the slopes and in the valleys of the hilly districts, and in the rich meadows of the low provinces. Gardening occupies not less than 130,000 acres; indeed, it has been said that the agriculture of B. is just gardening on a large scale, so carefully and laboriously is every inch of soil cultivated. The spade is still the principal instrument used. In the Campine, the care of bees is very productive, and the cultivation of the silkworm is encouraged. There are valuable fisheries on the coast, which employ about 200 boats. B. is famous for its horses, and in 1846 contained 294,537 of these animals, 1,203,891 horned cattle, and 662,508 sheep.
Geology. The geological formations of B. are closely associated with those of France and Britain. The greater portion of the country is covered with Tertiary deposits. A line drawn across the course of the Scheldt, by Mechlin, along the Demer and Maas, will have on its northern and north-western aspect a tract of tertiary deposits, bounded northwards by the sea. In these tertiary strata the different geological periods are fully represented; but only the second, containing the Pleiocene deposits, is rich in fossils. The Secondary deposits occupy an extensive tract in the centre of Belgium, between the Scheldt and the Demer. The most important district, economically, is the south-western, consisting of Paleozoic rocks-Silurian, Devonian, and Carboniferous. These beds have a very complicated structure, from the numerous and extensive flexures and folds they have undergone, and these are often accompanied with great upward shifts, by which beds of many different ages are brought to the same level.
Mineral Products.-B. is rich in minerals, which, next to its abundant agriculture, constitute the chief source of its national prosperity. The four provinces in which they are found are Hainault, Namur, Liege, and Luxembourg. They include lead, copper, zinc, calamine, alum, peat, marble, limestone, slate, iron, and coal. Lead is wrought, but only to a small extent, in Liege; copper in Hainault and Liege; manganese in Liege and Namur; black marble at Dinant; slates at Herbemont; and calamine principally at Liege. But these products are insignificant compared to the superabundance of coalfrom anthracite to the richest gas coal-and iron, in which B. ranks next to England. In 1857, the number of coal-pits was 205; and the amount of coal 'put out' was 8,383,902 tons, valued at upwards of £4,000,000; while the amount of iron ore was between one and two million tons, and of the prepared iron, more than half a million. The number of workmen employed during the same year in the Belgian coal-fields was 72,577. B. also possesses several mineral springs, of which the most celebrated is the chalybeate water of Spa, visited by thousands both from the Old World and the New.
The modern industrial character of the Belgians
may be traced back to a very early period, even to the time of the Romans, who noticed the love of traffic prevailing in the Celtic districts of Gallia Belgica. This characteristic has remained steadfast to the present time. It is impossible not to recognise in the cloth-weaving Atrebate the ancestors of the industrious race who gradually extended themselves towards the east and north of Belgium. During the early commerce of Europe, when trade was secure only within walled towns, Flanders was the principal seat of productive industry; and its recent separation from Holland has also been indirectly favourable to the development of its internal resources. A state which, like B., begins its career under a burden of debt, which is shut in between nations who possess important ports and colonies, and which is peopled by races not yet sufficiently blended to constitute a perfect nationality, must, before all other things, develop its internal, material resources. This has been well understood in Belgium. Since the commencement of its independent career, it has devoted its attention almost exclusively to those branches of industry and commerce by which its future greatness must be supported.
Manufactures.-The chief manufactures are linen, woollen, cotton, silk, lace, leather, and metals. The great seats of the linen manufacture-recently revived after a long depression-are_Courtray and Bruges, in West Flanders; Ghent, in East Flanders; Brussels, in Brabant; Mechlin, or Malines, in Antwerp; and Tournay, in Hainault. The number of linen pieces annually produced is about 900,000. The lawn and damask fabrics of Bruges are celebrated, as well as the lace made in and near Brussels, Malines, Louvain, and Bruges, which sometimes commands a price of £40 per yard. But the Belgian hand-spun yarn, though superior in quality, cannot maintain its ground against machinery. Verviers, Liege, Dolhaim, Ypres, Doperinghe, Limbourg, Bruges, Mons, Thuin, and Hodimont are centres of the woollen manufacture. Ypres alone employs 50,000 workmen in this branch of industry. Brussels and Tournay have large carpet manufactures, and Hainault supplies a considerable amount of hosiery. The principal manufactures of cotton are at Ghent and Lokeren, in East Flanders; Bruges and Courtray, in West Flanders; Malines, Louvain, and Anderlecht, in Brabant; Tournay and Mons, in Hainault; and also at Antwerp. The separation of B. from Holland had at first a prejudicial effect on this as on other trades; but the opening of the navigation of the Scheldt, the intersection of the country by railways and canals, and, in consequence, the rapid and extensive communication with other countries, have revived the activity of the cotton trade, which now gives employment to between one and two hundred thousand workmen. Maestricht, which belongs to Holland, is one of the chief seats of manufactures of leather; but this trade is also carried on at Limbourg, Liege, Stadelot, Namur, Dinant, and especially at Bruges and Ghent. The manufacture of gloves has made great progress in recent years. Metallurgy also has rapidly increased in productiveness since 1816, when Cockerill introduced into B. the English method of smelting iron with coke. The principal seats of the metal manufacture are Liege, Namur, Charleroi, Mons, and their neighbourhoods. There are large ordnance foundries at Liege and Malines, and celebrated makers of firearms and machinery in Liege; nail-making at Charleroi; tinware, &c., at Liege and in Hainault; wire and brass factories at Namur; zinc manufactures at Liege; lead and shot factories at Ghent; the gold and silver goods of Brussels and Ghent may also be noticed as important branches of Belgian industry. Flax is