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Bible Encyclopedias

The Catholic Encyclopedia

Jean-Baptiste and Alphonse Nothomb


Belgian statesman, b. 3 July, 1805, at Messancy, Luxemburg; d. at Berlin, 16 September, 1881. He received his secondary education at the athénée of Luxemburg, studied law in the University of Liège, and was awarded a doctor's degree in 1826. He practiced law in Luxemburg, then in Brussels, where he took an active part in the war that was then waged in the press in behalf of the independence of Belgium. During the riots of August, 1830, he was in his native province; but hearing of the fight which had taken place between the patriots and the troops of the Prince of Orange he hurried back to the capital.

The provisional government appointed him secretary of the committee which was preparing the first draft of a new constitution. Three electoral districts of Luxemburg chose him as their representative in the first legislature of Belgium. He declared for the district of Arlon to which, in 1831, he gave proof of his gratitude by doing his utmost to prevent its union with Germany. Nothomb, who was the youngest member of the legislative assembly, was appointed one of its secretaries and a member of the committee on foreign affairs. In the chamber he strongly opposed the advocates of the union of Belgium with France and those who were for a republican government. His political ideal, which he defended with great eloquence, was a representative monarchy with two houses, liberty of the press, and complete independence, in their own spheres, of the secular and religious powers.

From 1831-36 he was general secretary for foreign affairs; with Devaux he went to London to carry on secret negotiations at the conference which had met in that city to settle the new state of affairs created by the Belgian revolution, and did much to remove the difficulties which had delayed the departure for Belgium of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. He published in 1833 his "Essai historique et politique sur la révolution beige", a remarkable work which was translated into German and Italian and was reprinted three times in the same year. In 1836 Nothomb resigned as general secretary for foreign affairs and in 1837 became minister of Public Works in the Catholic administration of de Theux. He gave a powerful impetus to the construction of railroads and when he resigned in 1840 more than 300 kilometers had been built. In the same year he was sent as an extraordinary envoy to the German Confederation and in 1841 became minister of the interior in a unionist administration; but the positions of the parties were not what they had been in the preceding decade, and Nothomb soon realized that a union of the Catholics and Liberals was no longer possible. In 1845 he withdrew from the political arena to enter the diplomatic corps. He was for many years minister plenipotentiary of Belgium in Berlin. In 1840 he had become a member of the Royal Academy of Brussels; and he received many distinctions from foreign countries.

Alphonse Nothomb

Brother of Jean-Baptiste, b. 12 July, 1817; d. 15 May, 1898. He had a brilliant career in the magistracy, was minister of justice in 1855, and became a member of the lower house of Parliament in 1859. In 1884 he was made a minister of State. Like his brother he was a staunch Catholic; in the latter part of his life he had become a convert to the political creed of the new Catholic democratic party.


JUSTE, Le Baron Nothomb (Brussels, 1874); THONISSEN, Histoire du regne de Leopold I (LOUVAIN, 1861); HYMANS, Histoire parlementaire de la Belgique (BRUSSELS, 1877-80).

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Bibliography Information
Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'Jean-Baptiste and Alphonse Nothomb'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.

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