Jules Destrée, the compromise of the Belgians
Jules Destrée was born in Marcinelle on 29 August 1863 in a family of the intellectual bourgeoisie. A brilliant student, he earned his Doctor of Laws degree at the age of 20 and interned at Edmond Picart.
Apart from his work as a jurist, Jules likes to frequent the artistic and literary circles of his time. It was there that he met the engraver Auguste Danse, of whom he married the daughter Marie, niece of Constantin Meunier, in 1889.
In 1892 he founded the Democratic Federation with Paul Pastur. Moved by the bloody repression of the riots, which had broken out in Liège, then in the regions of Charleroi and the Center in March 1886, he began his political career in the Belgian Workers' Party (POB). He was elected in 1894 to the House of Representatives, where he would sit until his death.
He is the author of numerous and varied writings: prose, political and social essays or studies on artists such as Odilon Redon or Rogier van der Weyden.
In 1912, Jules Destrée took the pen to address the king, and on this occasion he had this premonitory phrase: "Sire, you reign over two peoples. There are Walloons and Flemings in Belgium, there are no Belgians. " Although Albert I never replied to his author, he confided to his secretary, Jules Ingenbleek: "I have read Destrée's letter, who is, without doubt, a very talented writer. Everything he says is absolutely true, but it is equally true that administrative separation would be an evil with more inconveniences and dangers of any kind than the present situation. "A century later, the contents of this letter Seems prophetic, as it seems to have anticipated the institutional evolution that Belgium has experienced since then.
After the invasion of Belgium by Germany in 1914, Jules Destrée went into exile in France at the request of the Belgian government to plead the cause of Belgium in London, Paris and Rome. He also participated in diplomatic missions to St. Petersburg and China in 1918.
From 1919 to 1921, he officiated as Minister of Arts and Sciences. He created the Gifted Fund, which aims to educate brilliant children from poor families: "We must go beyond philosophical antagonisms and give priority to the accessibility of Instruction for All." In 1920 he created The Royal Academy of French Language and Literature of Belgium.
In 1929, Jules Destrée signed with Camille Huysmans the "Compromis des Belges". This document condemns separatism, admits the cultural autonomy of Flanders and Wallonia and proposes more autonomy for municipalities and provinces.
At the end of his life, in parallel with his Walloon and artistic activities, he rose against fascism, the sad implications of which he never knew since the great man died in Brussels on 2 January 1936.