International Journal of Government Auditing – Spring 2016
We, the people!
(Photo credit: Marcel Bakker)
On March 12, 1848, King William II of the Netherlands woke up in the middle of the night, sweating, his heart pounding, and with an upset stomach, despite having eaten that evening. His troubled mind was on the revolutions sweeping across Europe and parts of Latin America. Uprisings in Paris against the King of France and his government, in several German states and in Denmark, had led to the sudden ousting and reform of ancient European regimes. People all over Europe joined ad hoc movements of the middles classes, workers, and reformers to express their discontent with the leadership in their countries. They demanded more participation in government and more democracy.
Similar calls had been growing louder in his Kingdom of the Netherlands over the last four years. So far, William had bluntly refused any reforms. In recent days, however, the demand for reforms in the kingdom was being made not only by members of parliament, but also by large mobs roaming the streets of Amsterdam and The Hague. Revolution was sitting at the King’s bedside and was ready to strike. Fearful of losing his position altogether, William eventually decided to give in to the demands. He later explained that he had “changed from a conservative to a liberal overnight.” That very morning, he appointed a commission to review the Dutch constitution. This new constitution paved the way for a parliamentary democracy. It enshrined freedom of education, freedom of association and a free press. It ensured direct elections at all levels of government, an annual budget set by parliament, and governmental accountability.