General League of Roman Catholic Caucuses

Azure, billetty Or a lion with a coronet Or armed and langued Gules holding in his dexter paw a sword Argent hilted Or and in the sinister paw seven arrows Argent pointed and bound together Or. [The seven arrows stand for the seven provinces of the Union of Utrecht.] The shield is crowned with the (Dutch) royal crown and supported by two lions Or armed and langued gules. They stand on a scroll Azure with the text (Or) "Je Maintiendrai" (French for "I will maintain".)
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The General League of Roman Catholic Caucuses (in Dutch: Algemeene Bond van Roomsch-Katholieke Kiesverenigingen; informally called General League or Algemeene Bond) was a Dutch Catholic political party. The General League is historically linked to the Christian Democratic Appeal, currently a major party in the Netherlands.

Party History

Before 1904

During the 19th century, Catholics were a disadvantaged minority in the Netherlands. They enjoyed considerable independence in the southern provinces North Brabant and Limburg, where they formed 90% of the population. In the North, Catholics were forbidden to organize religious rallies and demonstrations. Until 1848 the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church was forbidden in the Netherlands. A mix of Protestantism and nationalism, inspired by the struggle for independence against the Catholic Spanish lay at the basis of this.

Until the 1890s the most important ally of the Catholics were the liberals, who advocated freedom of religion. Catholic supported several liberal governments. Internally the Catholics were divided between two groups, those around progressive Schaepman and those around the conservative Bahlman. The progressives favoured a corporatist economy and extension of suffrage while the conservatives, who represented business interests opposed both. Meanwhile, the organization of the Catholics was concentrated on the district or province. The Brabant caucuses was exceptionally strong.

In the late 1880s the Catholics became disillusioned with the liberals, because although they supported the freedom of religion, they refused to finance Catholic, or otherwise religious, schools. This became an important issue which united the Catholics. In 1888 the Catholic parliamentary party switched their allegiances to the Protestant Anti Revolutionary Party and became part of the first coalition cabinet led by Aeneas Mackay. This new cabinet also jump started the formation of a new party, in 1896 all Catholic candidates rally around one program, written by Schaepman. The program was insipred by the encyclical Rerum novarum, which advocated social Catholic politics. From 1897 Catholic MPs began to meet regularly.


Finally on October 15, 1904, the General League was founded as a federation of district and provincial Catholic caucuses and parliamentarians.

The 1905 elections were the first election the League had entered in. It retained the same number of seats as previously held by Catholic candidates: 25 (out of 100). This number remained remarkably stable in the subsequent elections. The party governed between 1908 and 1913 together with the ARP and the Protestant CHU, in the cabinet led by Heemskerk. Between 1913 and 1918 the party was out of power by a liberal minority cabinet. This cabinet was preparing an important constitutional revision. This revision sought to solve the two most pressing political issues of the past three decades: suffrage and equal financing for religious schools. In this process all parties were involved. In 1917 these changes were implemented.

After that year the General League grew in power. In the 1918 elections which were held under proportional representation, the League became the largest party and its alliance with the ARP and CHU won a considerable majority. For the first time in Dutch political history a Catholic, Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck, became Prime Minister.

This responsibility put considerable pressure on the party. In 1919 the MP Van Groenendael was removed form the party ranks, because he supported the independence of Dutch Limburg. In 1922 another Catholic party, Roman Catholic People's Party, was founded by former members of the General League. It was oriented towards Catholic workers. In 1923 ten Catholic MPs caused the fall of the Second Ruijs de Beerenbrouck cabinet, because they had voted against the budget of the ministry for the Navy. Ruijs de Beerenbrouck continued with a new cabinet. In 1925 the orthodox Protestant MP Kersten caused the fall of the first Colijn cabinet. Kersten had proposed every year that the Dutch representative at the Holy See should be abolished. Each year the conservative Protestant CHU, which was in government with the General League had supported the proposal. Now the socialist and liberal opposition supported the proposal too, which was unacceptable for the Catholic ministers, whose departure caused the cabinet to fall. These events and the pressure of governing accelerated the General League's change into a tightly organized mass party. In 1926 this new party was formed, the Roman Catholic State Party, the continuation of the General League with a stronger organization.


The name of League conveyed three things: its federative nature, as it was a federal league of caucuses, its Roman Catholic ideology and its opposition to partisan politics, it was a general league. The long name was not abbreviated in an acronym, but just as General League. Before the foundation of the Roman Catholic State Party in 1926 the party was also generally known under that name.

Ideology and issues

The General League was a Catholic party, which explicitly based itself on the papal encyclical Rerum novarum. In this encyclical Pope Leo XIII expressed the principles of catholic social teaching. It called for stronger government intervention in the economy, while denouncing socialism.

As a Catholic party, it advocated equal finances for religious and public schools. Furthermore, the party supported religious freedom for Catholics in the Northern provinces, such as the right to hold religious demonstrations. It wanted a separate envoy at the Holy See and a strong Catholic mission in the Dutch Indies.

As a Catholic social party, it was a staunch proponent of a corporatist economy, where employers' organizations, unions and state work together for the common good. It supported the implementation of a system of social security, protection to develop national industry and the improvement of the position of workers. It advocated householder franchise in which only heads of families could vote.

After World War I it advocated increased spending on defense.


This table shows the General League's results in elections to the House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the party's political leadership: the fractievoorzitter, the chair of the parliamentary party, and the lijsttrekker, the party's top candidate in a general election, these posts are normally taken by the party's leader. It also possible that the party leader is member of cabinet, if the General League was part of the governing coalition, the "highest ranking" minister is listed.

Year HoR S Lijsttrekker Fractievoorzitter Cabinet
1905 25 17 not applicable Maximilien Kolkman opposition
1906 25 17 no elections Maximilien Kolkman opposition
1907 25 19 no elections Maximilien Kolkman opposition
1908 25 19 no elections Maximilien Kolkman opposition
1909 25 19 not applicable Jan Loeff Anton Nelissen
1910 25 18 no elections Wiel Nolens Anton Nelissen
1911 25 18 no elections Wiel Nolens Robert Regout
1912 25 18 no elections Wiel Nolens Robert Regout
1913 25 18 not applicable Wiel Nolens opposition
1914 25 18 no elections Wiel Nolens opposition
1915 25 18 no elections Wiel Nolens opposition
1916 25 17 no elections Wiel Nolens opposition
1917 25 17 not applicable Wiel Nolens opposition
1918 30 17 Wiel Nolens Wiel Nolens Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (PM)
1919 30 17 no elections Wiel Nolens Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (PM)
1920 30 17 no elections Wiel Nolens Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (PM)
1921 30 17 no elections Wiel Nolens Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (PM)
1922 32 21 Wiel Nolens Wiel Nolens Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (PM)
1923 32 16 no elections Wiel Nolens Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (PM)
1924 32 16 no elections Wiel Nolens Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (PM)
1925 30 16 Wiel Nolens Wiel Nolens Dionysius Koolen

Municipal and Provincial Government

The General League was particularly strong in North Brabant and Limburg, where it often won more than 90% of the vote, and was in a comfortable position in provincial legislatures and local legislatures.


The General League was supported by Catholics of all classes. In North Brabant and Limburg, it often got more than 90% of the vote.


Organizational structure

The party was a loose league of caucuses, with little party discipline. The weak party organization was dependent on the party's parliamentary party.

Pillarized organisations

The General League had close links to many other Catholic institutions such as the Roman-Catholic Church and together they formed the Catholic pillar. These organisations included a Catholic labour union, the Catholic employers' organization, the Catholic farmers' organisation, Catholic Hospitals united in the Yellow-White Cross and Catholic Schools.

Relationships to other parties

The General League was allied to the Protestant Anti-Revolutionary Party and Christian Historical Union, in alliance called the coalition. Their shared issue was the equal financing for religious schools by the government. The relationship with the ARP, which also supported the extension of suffrage and recognized the Catholic religion, was considerably better than with the CHU, which opposed the extension of suffrage and sought to minimize the rights of Catholics.

International Comparison

As a Catholic party in a dominantly Protestant country it is similar to the German Centre or the Swiss Conservative People's Party. All three were committed to the emancipation of Catholics from their disadvantaged position.

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