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Batavian Republic

From 1795 to 1806, the Batavian Republic (Bataafse Republiek in Dutch) designated the Netherlands as a republic modelled after the French republic to which it was a vassal state.

In contrast to events in France, revolutionary changes in the Netherlands occurred comparatively peacefully. The country had been a republic for two centuries and had few nobles. The guillotine was not necessary. The old Republic had been a very archaic and ineffective political construction. Decision-making had proceeded very slowly and sometimes did not happen at all. The Provinces had so much power that they blocked many sensible innovations. The Batavian Republic marked the transition to a more centralised and functional government. Many of its innovations were retained in later times.

The new Republic took its name from the Batavii, a tribe that lived in the Netherlands in Roman times and which was considered to be the ancestor of the Dutch nation.

Again in contrast to France the new Republic did not experience a terror regime or lapse into dictatorship. Changes were imposed from outside after Napoleon Bonaparte's rise to power. In 1806, the country was renamed Kingdom of Holland, and Napoleon's brother Louis Bonaparte became King.

The only sign of political instability were coups. The first coup occurred in 1798, when revolutionary commanders were annoyed by the slow pace of democratic reforms (the National Assembly, convened in 1796, was divided by faction struggle). The second coup occurred in 1801, when a French commander, backed by Napoleon, staged a conservative coup reversing changes made after the 1798 coup.

In 1805 Napoleon installed the shrewd politician Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck as raadspensionaris (Grand Pensionary) to strenghten the executive branch. In 1806 Napoleon forced Schimmelpennink to resign and transfer powers to Napoleon's brother, the new king of Holland.

See also: Batavia