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Johannes Franciscus Vonck (29 November 1743 – 1 December 1792) was a lawyer and one of the leaders of the Brabant Revolution from 1789-1790. This Revolution led to the founding of the United States of Belgium in January 1790. Vonck was the leader of the Vonckists faction which was named after him. They were inspired by the French Revolution, pleaded for the abolition of the feudal government of the state based on privileges and were in favour of a more centralised government.

Contents

Childhood

Jan Frans Vonck was born in Baardegem, the son of a well-to-do farming couple, Jan Vonck and Elisabeth van Nuffel. He had a brother who later became priest, Benedictus Hieronymus, and three sisters: Maria Anna Josepha, Anna Margaretha and Maria Theresia. Vonck studied humanities at the college of the Jesuits in Brussels. Afterwards, he attended the gymnasium in Geel . From 24 January 1763 onwards, he studied law in Leuven at the college "De Valk", ("the falcon"). After graduating, he was able to start his successful career as a lawyer.

Brabant Revolution

During the Brabant Revolution, Vonck initially cooperated with Hendrik van der Noot and his faction of the Statists. In the course of the Revolution, Hendrik van der Noot became Voncks’ opponent as Van der Noot strived for the restoration of old privileges such as the "Joyous Entry", the "Blijde Inkomst". Vonck, influenced by developments in France on the other hand, aimed for less privileges. He pleaded for more democracy and separation between legislative, executive and judicial powers. Vonck formulated his ideas in the Considérations impartiales sur l'état actuel du Brabant, which appeared in January 1790. Vonck aimed to reform the existing structures rather than an Assemblee nationale as established by the French Revolution. Vonck wanted to extend the representation of the three social classes in the States General of the Netherlands: clergy, nobility and the bourgeoisie. The clergy had to increase in number with secular representatives and the nobility also had to increase in number. According to Vonck, the representation of the third class, the bourgeoisie, who consisted of patricians, had to be extended to the higher middle class. Van der Noot wanted to preserve the privileges of the nobility and the church. He considered Vonck to be a danger and started to pursue him as he did with other opponents. The house of Vonck was looted. On 17 March 1790, Vonck had to go into hiding in Brussels. Together with some comrades, Vonck had to leave France, where he eventually arrived in Lille. Meanwhile, Vonck got a passport under the name of Van Nuffel, the name of his mother. There he translated his Considerations into Dutch as Onzeydige Aenmerkingen over den tegenwoordige ghesteltenis van Brabant and he added to it a Kort historisch verhael tot inleyding uytgegeven door den advocaat Vonck. Shortly afterwards, he died in Lille.

Vonck’s nightcap

Vonck was buried in the village where he was born, in Baardegem near Aalst. His resting place was rediscovered accidentely later on. In 1923, while digging, a gravedigger discovered a leaden coffin. In the coffin, he found Vonck’s skeleton, his wig and a well kept nightcap. That nightcap is nowadays carefully kept in the municipal archives and a monument now stands on his tomb. He bequeathed to the poor of the municipality among others and gave orders for a scholarship to be founded which still exists and which is managed by the East-Flanders province in Flanders. His partisan and bosom friend Jan Baptist Chrysostomus Verlooy (1747-'97), also a Brussels lawyer, wrote in 1788 an essay on d'onacht der moederlycke tael, the first sign of life of the Flemish movement: a plea for the native language, but also for freedom and democracy.

Sources and external links

This page has been translated from the Dutch article on Wikipedia.

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