Monthly Archives: December 2012

Lemma on the Kuyper cabinet (1901-1905)

Here you can read this lemma, which I wrote for the Canon of Dutch Christian Democracy (see previous blogpost):

‘The case is clear to us: shut out the Roman Catholics from present-day Christianity, then Protestant Christianity will be bound hand and foot, and forever at the mercy of the unbelieving majority, and all resistance to the revolutionary principle will be purposeless’, Kuyper said in his address to delegates on 17 April 1901.

After the fall of the Mackay cabinet in 1891, it would be another ten years before a new coalition cabinet, the Kuyper cabinet, was formed. The reason was partly the divisions in anti-revolutionary and Catholic circles. The cabinet was formed after the election in which the confessional parties (right wing) had won no less than 58 of the total of 100 seats. Kuyper, who had gradually cast aside his initial reservations with regard to working with the Catholics, defended the new coalition by referring to the notion ‘Antithesis’. He believed that when entering into a political union, the leading question ought to be whether a certain group wished to acknowledge the sovereignty of God as the leading principle in the constitution. Considered in this light, Protestants and Catholics, though acting as separate organisations, were politically more dependent on each other than one might initially expect on the grounds of their religious beliefs and history.

The Kuyper cabinet, that took office on 1 August 1901, developed important legislation in the field of education. Its Higher Education Act, giving graduates from the VU University Amsterdam, founded by Kuyper in 1880, the same rights as students who graduated from a state university, was initially rejected as a bill by the Upper House of the Dutch parliament. But when the Upper House was dissolved by Kuyper, the Liberals lost their majority. However when the cabinet submitted the rejected bill once more, it was adopted by both Houses.

In contrast, there was significantly less progress in the field of social legislation, possibly because during the cabinet formation the Department of Employment was placed under Kuyper`s Ministry of Home Affairs which also included Education. It is also likely that the tension between Kuyper`s vision of an organic society on the one hand, and the social reality on the other, was an aggravating factor. The vision of an organic society required a restrained approach by government. Civil society had also not fully matured and was to some extent even intractable.

The manner in which the cabinet reacted to the rail strikes in 1903 also did little to contribute to its social standing. The cabinet did not submit bills to the Lower House to forbid civil servants and rail workers from striking in writing, as was customary, but in person on behalf of the Queen. After a failed new rail strike these ‘coercive acts’ were adopted in quick succession.

As a result the disparity between the confessionals and the socialists grew. In more general terms too, the cabinet went on to become one of the most controversial cabinets in the political history of the Netherlands. The election contest in 1905 was completely dominated by support for Kuyper or not. When the left wing joined forces during the re-count, the right wing came no further than 48 seats. On 3 July 1905 the Kuyper cabinet handed in its resignation.

Following a short intermezzo, the Heemskerk cabinet (1908-1913) became the third and last coalition cabinet before World War One broke out. As with the previous Kuyper cabinet, in addition to support from the anti-revolutionaries and Catholics, this cabinet enjoyed the loyal support of the Christian Historical members of parliament.

Canon of Dutch Christian Democracy now also available in English

In order to understand how Christian Democracy in the Netherlands came into existence, this Canon takes the mid-nineteenth century as a starting point. An important date is the publication in 1847 of the book Ongeloof en Revolutie (Unbelief and Revolution) by Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer in which he let his religious beliefs permeate politics. To many, the legacy of Christian Democracy in the Netherlands can be traced back to Groen.

In the 39 lemmata that follow this political movement is outlined in more detail. Important milestones include the founding of the CDA (1980) and that of its predecessors ARP (1879), CHU (1908) and KVP (1945). More colour has been added to the Canon by the inclusion of other significant events such as the establishment of the Dutch ‘equipe’ in Europe, and cabinets with a confessional character and confessional members. Attention is also devoted to policy issues such as ethical colonial politics, development cooperation and the new health care system in which Christian Democracy played a significant role.

The Canon also pauses to look at reports that were a determining factor for Christian Democracy, such as Grondslag en karakter (1966) (Fundamentals and Character) and Nieuwe wegen, vaste waarden (1995) (New roads, firm values). The Canon concludes with the formation conference of October 2010.

The Canon was edited by Raymond Gradus (Director of the Research Institute of the CDA), George Harinck (Professor of History at the VU University Amsterdam), Alexander van Kessel (researcher at the Centre for Parliamentary History) and myself, among others. A reading committee, consisting of Carla van Baalen (Professor of Parliamentary History at Radboud University Nijmegen), Arie Oostlander (former director of the Research Institute of the CDA) and Gerrit Voerman (Professor in Development and Functioning of the Dutch and European political party systems at Groningen University), read through the draft and provided expert commentary on its content.

The English language version of the Canon, of which only a limited number of copies is available, can be ordered for the amount of 20 Euro (excluding shipping costs) by sending an email to

Publication of report ‘Legislative processes in transition; a comparative study of the legislative processes in Finland, Slovenia and the United Kingdom as a source of inspiration for enhancing the efficiency of the Dutch legislative process’


In the Netherlands, since January 2011 a taskforce for faster legislation has been active within the framework of the Interdepartmental Commission for Constitutional Affairs with repect to Legislative Policy (ICCW), as a result of the policy aims and objectives of the Rutte cabinets. This taskforce looks at the question which measures have been taken and are currently being taken to accelerate the legislative process (and how consistent these measures are), and develops proposals for further measures concerning both the internal and external phases of the procedure with respect to process and support.

The above study, which I co-authored with several colleagues from the Department of Public Law and the Department of Public Administration, was commissioned by the WODC (the research centre of the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice) at the request of the Section of Legislative Quality of the Ministry of Security & Justice as an input for the Interdepartmental Commission on Legislation (ICCW).

The main research question of the study is whether the efficiency of the Dutch legislative procedure for parliamentary acts indeed constitutes a problem, in particular if we compare it to the achievements of legislative processes in several other European countries and, if that turns out to be the case, whether lessons can be learned from those legislative processes and practices abroad with respect to pace and duration of the legislative process, phases and actors, transparency and the role of ICT.

For the study, see

Article in Oxford Journal of Law and Religion on ‘The State, Civil Society and Religious Freedom’

The free link to the above article, that I co-authored with Jaco van den Brink, is:

The abstract of the article reads as follows:

‘How is the legal principle of religious freedom supposed to regulate the relationship between state and religion, especially in cases where state and religion seem to make competing claims? This article argues that, in order to fully appreciate this complex relationship, we need to reflect on the proper place of the state within society. In both the Catholic and the Reformed lines of thought it has traditionally been emphasized that society doesn’t consist merely of individuals and a state. There are also a variety of institutions (eg families and civil society organizations) providing different, yet equally necessary, goods. Applying this way of thinking about the state in a theory on religious freedom, provides a distinctive and promising theoretical point of view and is more likely to guarantee adequate protection in a range of current religious freedom cases in both Europe and the United States than the dominant individual autonomy perspective.’

The URL in this post currently takes you to the Advance Access version of our paper. Once the article appears in a paginated issue, the link will automatically lead to the latest version.