Appendix D. Speeches For Study And Practise. Part 2
So largely have we been dependent upon Belgium that many of the engines used in digging the Panama Canal came from the Cockerill works that produce two thousands of these engines every year in Liege. It is often said that the Belgians have the best courts in existence. The Supreme Court of Little Belgium has but one Justice. Without waiting for an appeal, just as soon as a decision has been reached by a lower Court, while the matters are still fresh in mind and all the witnesses and facts readily obtainable, this Supreme Justice reviews all the objections raised on either side and without a motion from anyone passes on the decision of the inferior court. On the other hand, the lower courts are open to an immediate settlement of disputes between the wage earners, and newsboys and fishermen are almost daily seen going to the judge for a decision regarding a dispute over five or ten cents. When the judge has cross-questioned both sides, without the presence of attorneys, or the necessity of serving a process, or raising a dollar and a quarter, as here, the poorest of the poor have their wrongs righted. It is said that not one decision out of one hundred is appealed, thus calling for the existence of an attorney.
To all other institutions organized in the interest of the wage earner has been added the national savings bank system, that makes loans to men of small means, that enables the farmer and the working man to buy a little garden and build a house, while at the same time insuring the working man against accident and sickness. Belgium is a poor man's country, it has been said, because institutions have been administered in the interest of the men of small affairs.
The Great Belgium Plain In History
But the institutions of Belgium and the industrial prosperity of her people alone are not equal to the explanation of her unique heroism. Long ago, in his Commentaries, Julius Caesar said that Gaul was inhabited by three tribes, the Belgae, the Aquitani, the Celts, "of whom the Belgae were the bravest." History will show that Belgians have courage as their native right, for only the brave could have survived. The southeastern part of Belgium is a series of rock plains, and if these plains have been her good fortune in times of peace, they have furnished the battlefields of Western Europe for two thousand years. Northern France and Western Germany are rough, jagged and wooded, but the Belgian plains were ideal battlefields. For this reason the generals of Germany and of France have usually met and struggled for the mastery on these wide Belgian plains. On one of these grounds Julius Caesar won the first battle that is recorded. Then came King Clovis and the French, with their campaigns; toward these plains also the Saracens were hurrying when assaulted by Charles Martel. On the Belgian plains the Dutch burghers and the Spanish armies, led by Bloody Alva, fought out their battle. Hither, too, came Napoleon, and the great mound of Waterloo is the monument to the Duke of Wellington's victory. It was to the Belgian plains, also, that the German general, last August, rushed his troops. Every college and every city searches for some level spot of land where the contest between opposing teams may be held, and for more than two thousand years the Belgian plain has been the scene of the great battles between the warring nations of Western Europe.
Now, out of all these collisions there has come a hardy race, inured to peril, rich in fortitude, loyalty, patience, thrift, self-reliance and persevering faith. For five hundred years the Belgian children and youth have been brought up upon the deeds of noble renown, achieved by their ancestors. If Julius Caesar were here today he would wear Belgium's bravery like a bright sword, girded to his thigh. And when this brave little people, with a standing army of forty-two thousand men, single-handed defied two millions of Germans, it tells us that Ajax has come back once more to defy the god of lightnings.
A Thrilling Chapter From Belgium's History
Perhaps one or two chapters torn from the pages of Belgium's history will enable us to understand her present-day heroism, just as one golden bough plucked from the forest will explain the richness of the autumn. You remember that Venice was once the financial center of the world. Then when the bankers lost confidence in the navy of Venice they put their jewels and gold into saddle bags and moved the financial center of the world to Nuremburg, because its walls were seven feet thick and twenty feet high. Later, about 1500 A. D., the discovery of the New World turned all the peoples into races of sea-going folk, and the English and Dutch captains vied with the sailors of Spain and Portugal. No captains were more prosperous than the mariners of Antwerp. In 1568 there were 500 marble mansions in this city on the Meuse. Belgium became a casket filled with jewels. Then it was that Spain turned covetous eyes northward. Sated with his pleasures, broken by indulgence and passion, the Emperor Charles the Fifth resigned his gold and throne to his son. King Philip. Finding his coffers depleted, Philip sent the Duke of Alva, with 10,000 Spanish soldiers, out on a looting expedition. Their approach filled Antwerp with consternation, for her merchants were busy with commerce and not with war. The sack of Antwerp by the Spaniards makes up a revolting page in history. Within three days 8,000 men, women and children were massacred, and the Spanish soldiers, drunk with wine and blood, hacked, drowned ana burned like fiends that they were. The Belgian historian tells us that 500 marble residences were reduced to blackened ruins. One incident will make the event stand out. When the Spaniards approached the city a wealthy burgher hastened the day of his son's marriage. During the ceremony the soldiers, broke down the gate of the city and crossed the threshold of the rich man's house. When they had stripped the guests of their purses and gems, unsatisfied, they killed the bridegroom, slew the men, and carried the bride out into the night. The next morning a young woman, crazed and half clad, was found in the street, searching among the dead bodies. At last she found a youth, whose head she lifted upon her knees, over which she crooned her songs, as a young mother soothes her babe. A Spanish officer passing by, humiliated by the spectacle, ordered a soldier to use his dagger and put the girl out of her misery.