Belgium 1831 Constitution

Table of Contents


Article 25

All powers emanate from the nation.

They shall be exercised in the manner established by the Constitution.

Article 26

The legislative power shall be exercised collectively by the King, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Article 27

The right of initiative shall belong to each one of the three branches of the legislative power.

But all laws relative to the receipts or expenses of the State, or the contingent of the army, must be first voted by the House of Representatives.

Article 28

The interpretation of the laws in an authoritative manner shall belong only to the legislative power.

Article 29

To the King shall belong executive power within the limits prescribed by the Constitution.

Article 30

The judicial power shall be exercised by the courts and tribunals.

Arrests and sentences shall be executed in the King’s name.

Article 31

The interests which are exclusively communal or provincial shall be regulated by the respective communal or provincial councils according to the principles established by the Constitution.


Article 32

The members of the two houses represent the nation and not simply the province or the subdivision which may have elected them.

Article 33

The sessions of the houses shall be public.

Nevertheless each house may resolve itself into a secret committee upon the demand of its President or of ten of its members.

They decide then, by absolute majority, whether the session shall be continued in public upon the same subject.

Article 34

Each house shall judge of the returns and qualifications of its own members, and shall decide disputes arising upon these matters.

Article 35

No one shall be at the same time a member of both houses.

Article 36

A member of one or the other of the two houses, being appointed by the Government to a salaried position, shall in case of acceptance, cease immediately to exercise a member’s functions. He can resume them only by virtue of a new election.

Article 37

At each session, each house shall choose its own President, Vice-Presidents and other officers.

Article 38

Legislative action shall be taken only by an absolute majority of votes; with such exceptions regarding elections and presentations as the house may prescribe.

In case of a tie, the proposition under deliberation shall be lost.

Neither of the two houses can take action upon any matter except when a majority of the members be present.

Article 39

Votes are taken orally or by sitting and rising; upon the passage of laws the vote must always be taken by roll call and orally.

Elections and presentations of candidates shall be made by secret ballot.

Article 40

Each house has the right of inquiry.

Article 41

No bill can be passed by either house until it has been adopted article by article.

Article 42

The houses have the right of amending and of dividing proposed articles and amendments.

Article 43

No petition shall be presented in person to the houses.

Each house shall have the right of referring to the Ministers those petitions which have been addressed to it. The Ministers are required to report upon their contents, whether the house demands it.

Article 44

No member of either house shall be prosecuted or questioned concerning opinions and votes given by him in the exercise of his functions.

Article 45

No member of either house, during its session, shall be prosecuted or arrested save by the authorization of the house of which he is a member.

Exception is made in the case of being taken in the act.

Bodily restraint shall not be exercised against a member of either house during its session, save by the same authorization.

The detention or prosecution of a member of either house shall be suspended during the session until its termination, provided the house require it.

Article 46

Each house may determine by its own rules, the method by which it shall exercise its powers.

Section I. The House of Representatives

Article 47

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Deputies elected directly by those citizens paying the census prescribed by the electoral law, which shall not exceed 100 florins of direct tax nor be below twenty florins.

Article 48

The elections shall be conducted in such divisions of the provinces and in such precincts as the law shall determine.

Article 49

The electoral law shall fix the number of Deputies upon the basis of population; the number shall not exceed the proportion of one Deputy for every 40,000 inhabitants. The law shall also determine the conditions requisite for one to be an elector as well as all things relating to elections.

Article 50

In order to be eligible, it is necessary

  1. To be a Belgian by birth, or to have received supreme naturalization.
  2. To enjoy civil and political rights.
  3. To have attained the age of twenty-five years.
  4. To be a resident of Belgium.

No other condition of eligibility shall be required.

Article 51

Members of the House of Representatives shall be elected for four years.

One-half the members shall be renewed every two years in a method to be prescribed by law. In case of dissolution the house shall be entirely renewed.

Article 52

Each member of the House of Representatives shall be entitled to a monthly salary of 200 florins, during the continuance of the session. Those who live in the city where the session is held shall not be entitled to salary.

Section II. The Senate

Article 53

The members of the Senate shall be elected in proportion to the population of each province, by those citizens who may vote for the members of the House of Representatives.

Article 54

The Senate shall be composed of a number of members equal to half the Deputies of the other house.

Article 55

The Senators shall be elected for eight years; one-half retiring every four years in a method to be prescribed by the electoral law.

In case of dissolution, the Senate shall be entirely renewed.

Article 56

In order to be elected Senator and remain such it is necessary

  1. To be a Belgian by birth, or to have received supreme naturalization.
  2. To enjoy political and civil rights.
  3. To be a resident of Belgium.
  4. To have attained the age of forty years.
  5. To pay in Belgium at least 1,000 florins of direct taxes, including licenses.In the provinces, where the list of citizens paying 1,000 florins of direct tax, does not attain the proportion of one person in 6,000, it shall be completed by taking those paying the highest tax of the province, until this proportion of one to 6,000 has been attained.

Article 57

The Senators shall receive neither salary nor expenses.

Article 58

At the age of eighteen years, the heir apparent of the King shall be, by right, a Senator. He shall have only a deliberate voice until he attains the age of twenty-five years.

Article 59

The Senate shall not assemble except during a session of the House of Representatives.


Section I. The King

Article 60

The constitutional powers of the King shall be the King hereditary, in the direct, natural and legitimate descent from His Royal Highness Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, from male to male, by rule of primogeniture and to the perpetual exclusion of women and their descendants (Text published the first of September, 1831.)

Article 61

In case of failure of male heirs from His Royal Highness Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, he shall be allowed to name his successor, with the assent of the two houses, expressed in the manner prescribed by the following article. (Text published 1st of September, 1831.)

If there be no nomination made in this manner, the throne shall be vacant.

Article 62

The King cannot be, at the same time, the chief of another State, without the assent of both houses.

Neither of the two houses shall deliberate upon this subject, unless two-thirds, at least, of the members who compose it are present and action can be taken only by the consent of two-thirds of the voters.

Article 63

The person of the King shall be inviolable; his Ministers shall be responsible.

Article 64

No act of the King shall have any effect, if it be not countersigned by a Minister, who by this act alone, makes himself responsible.

Article 65

The King shall appoint and dismiss his Ministers.

Article 66

He shall confer grades in the army.

He shall appoint the employees of the general administration and foreign affairs with such exceptions as may be established by law.

He shall make other appointments only when authorized to do so by law.

Article 67

He shall make the rules and regulations necessary for the execution of the laws, without power to suspend the laws themselves or to dispense with their execution.

Article 68

The King shall command the land and naval forces, declare war, make treaties of peace, of alliance and of commerce. He shall give information in respect to the foregoing matters to the two houses as soon as the interest and safety of the State permit it, joining therewith the customary communications.

Treaties of commerce and those which might seriously burden the State, or individually bind the Belgians shall go into effect only after having received the assent of the houses.

No cession, no exchange, no addition of territory can take place except by law. In no case shall the secret articles of a treaty be destructive of the published articles.

Article 69

The King shall sanction and promulgate the laws.

Article 70

The houses shall have the right to meet each year upon the second Tuesday of November, unless they have been previously summoned by order of the King.

The houses shall be in session each year, for at least forty days.

The King shall close the sessions.

The King shall have the right of convoking the houses on extraordinary occasions.

Article 71

The King shall have the right of dissolving the houses simultaneously or separately. The act of dissolution shall announce the date of new elections within forty days and the assembling of the houses within two months.

Article 72

The King may adjourn the houses. Nevertheless the adjournment shall not exceed the term of a month nor shall it be repeated in the same session without the assent of the houses.

Article 73

He shall have the right to remit or to reduce the sentences pronounced by the judges, save those who are decreed regarding the Ministers.

Article 74

He shall have the right to coin money in accordance with the law.

Article 75

He shall have the right to confer titles of nobility, without power of ever attaching any privilege to them.

Article 76

He shall confer military titles, observing in this regard, that which the law prescribes.

Article 77

The law shall fix the civil list for the duration of each reign.

Article 78

The King shall have no other powers than those which the Constitution formally confers upon him and the particular laws passed in pursuance of the same Constitution.

Article 79

Upon the death of the King the houses shall assemble without waiting to be summoned not later than the tenth day after his decease.

If the houses have been previously dissolved and the time of meeting had been set in the act of dissolution, for a time later than the tenth day, the old houses shall resume their functions until the meeting of the new houses.

If only one house has been dissolved, the same rule is to be followed regarding the other house.

From the death of the King until the taking of the oath by his successor to the throne or by the regent, the constitutional powers of the King shall be exercised in the name of the Belgian people, by the Ministers united in council, and under their own responsibility.

Article 80

The King shall attain his majority at the age of eighteen years.

He shall take possession of the throne, only after he has solemnly taken, in the presence of the assembled houses, the following oath:

“I swear to observe the Constitution and the laws of the Belgian people, to maintain their national independence and the integrity of their territory.”

Article 81

If, at the death of the King, his successor is a minor, the two houses shall meet in joint session in order to provide for a regency and for the public safety.

Article 82

If the King should be found unable to govern, the Ministers, after having established this inability, shall immediately call together the houses.

Public protection and the regency shall be provided for by the two houses.

Article 83

The regency shall be conferred only upon one person.

The regent shall enter upon his functions only after having taken the oath prescribed by article 80.

Article 84

No change in the Constitution shall be made during a regency.

Article 85

In case of a vacancy of the throne, the houses convened in joint session shall provisionally establish a regency, until the meeting of the houses, which shall be entirely renewed. This meeting shall take place within two months. The new houses convened in joint session shall provide definitely for the vacancy.

Section II. The Ministers

Article 86

No one shall be a Minister who is not a Belgian by birth or who has not received supreme naturalization.

Article 87

No member of the Royal Family shall be a Minister.

Article 88

The Ministers shall have a deliberative voice in one or the other house only when they are members thereof.

They shall have free access to each of the houses and must be heard when they demand it.

The houses may require the presence of the Ministers.

Article 89

In no case shall the verbal order or writ of the King relieve a Minister from his responsibility.

Article 90

The House of Representatives shall have the right of impeaching the Ministers and of bringing them before the Court of Appeal, which alone shall have the right of judging them. This court is the joint meeting of both houses. Exception is made in those cases which may be established by law, as to the resort to civil action by the party injured and as to crimes and misdemeanors which the Ministers may have committed when not in the performance of their functions.

A law shall determine the cases of responsibility, the penalties to be inflicted upon the Ministers and the mode of procedure against them; whether upon the accusation submitted by the House of Representatives, or upon the prosecution of the injured parties.

Article 91

The King cannot pardon a Minister condemned by the Court of Appeals, except upon the demand of one of the two houses.


Article 92

Disputes which have for their object civil rights are to be tried only by the tribunals.

Article 93

Disputes which have for their object political rights are to be tried by the tribunals, with such exceptions as may be established by law.

Article 94

No tribunal nor civil court shall be established except by law. No extraordinary commissions or tribunals shall be established under any name whatsoever.

Article 95

There shall be for all Belgium one Court of Appeal.

This court shall not have original jurisdiction in any case, but the trial of Ministers.

Article 96

The sessions of the tribunals shall be public, unless this publicity be dangerous to public order or morals; and in such a case, the tribunal must declare it to be so in a formal manner by a legal decision.

In the matters of political offenses and in those relating to the press, the unanimous opinion of the court is necessary in order to exclude the public.

Article 97

Every judgment shall be accompanied with an opinion. It shall be pronounced in public session.

Article 98

The jury shall be established in all criminal matters and for political and press offenses.

Article 99

The Justices of the Peace and the judges of the tribunals shall be named directly by the King.

The Councillors of the Appellate Court and the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the tribunals of first instance in their jurisdiction shall be appointed by the King from two lists; one presented by the courts, the other by the Provincial Councils.

The Councillors of the Court of Appeal shall be appointed by the King from two double lists, one presented by the Senate, the other by the Court of Appeals.

In these two cases the candidates named upon one list can be also named upon the other.

All these presentations shall be made public at least fifteen days before the appointment.

The courts shall choose from their own body their Presidents and Vice-Presidents.

Article 100

The judges shall be appointed for life.

No judge shall be deprived of his place nor suspended except by a judgment.

The removal of a judge from one place to another can take place only by a new appointment and with his consent.

Article 101

The King shall appoint and dismiss the representatives of the public ministry in the courts and tribunals.

Article 102

The salaries of the members of the judicial class shall be fixed by law.

Article 103

No judge shall accept from the government any salaried appointment; but he may perform the duties connected with such appointment gratuitously; reserving those cases of incompatibility established by law.

Article 104

There shall be three Courts of Appeal in Belgium.

The law shall determine their jurisdiction and the places where they shall be established.

Article 105

Particular laws shall regulate the organization of the military tribunals, their powers as well as the rights and obligations of the members of these courts and the duration of their functions.

There shall be commercial tribunals in the places established by law. Their organization, their powers, the mode of appointment of their members and the duration of the functions of these latter shall be prescribed by law.

Article 106

The Court of Appeals shall decide questions of jurisdiction in a manner to be determined by law.

Article 107

The courts of tribunals shall enforce administrative orders and general regulations both provincial and local only when they are in conformity with law.


Article 108

The provincial and communal institutions shall le regulated by law.

These laws shall secure the application of the following principles:

  1. Direct election, save the exceptions which the law establishes in regard to the chiefs of communal administrations and the representatives of the government at the provincial council.
  2. The assignment to provincial and communal councils of all matters which are of provincial and communal interest, without prejudice to the right of approving their acts in such cases and in such manner as the law may determine.
  3. The publicity of the meetings of the provincial and communal councils within the limits established by the law.
  4. The publicity of budgets and accounts.
  5. The intervention of the King or the legislative power to hinder the provincial and communal councils from exceeding their powers and injuring the general interest.

Article 109

The printing of the records of the civil, State, and the keeping of the registers are exclusively a matter of the communal authorities.