Joseph I Haumont

Joseph I Haumont

Written by: P Delhosse in 1857
contributed by: Peter Van Brabant

. Residence: Petersheim Castle, Munckhof near Hex, Lanklaar
. Occupation: Writer
. Note:
Joseph, the eldest, was born on May 31, 1783. "His mother, of Liege origin, was named Marguerite Grisar; the father died in 1819; one brother of Joseph former health officer in France and then in Holland died in 1820, another brother is a trader and communal tax collector in Hougaerde." and Felix Delhasse, who in 1857 write the biography of Joseph Haumont, continues and says "that he studied with the Augustinians at Tirlemont, entered civil service in 1806 and became conductor second class with the Bridge and Highway department from 1810 - 1814." (1) F. Delhasse, ibid. p.227) He resigned in 1817 pursuant to a discussion he had with a young engineer who wanted him to replace some young trees which had been destroyed in the beginning of May while Joseph declared that this was not the proper time. It was then, from 1817 to 1819, that he composed most of his works. But he needed to make a living. Thanks to the help of the count of Geloes and of the canon Delvigne, his uncle by marriage, he obtained the job of land registrar from the count of Mer ode at
Petersheim (Lanaken) despite the opposition of the count's general intendant, Mr. Evenepoel. At that time Petersheim was a desert, and Louis Haumont, his son from whom we have quoted the few lines which precede his family papers, adds, "If my father could have remained at Petersheim, he would have been happy for he was in his element. To work within a desert to reclaim the wasteland and to dram the swamps, to beautify it by plantations: that was his life. Therefore he worked admirably well according to a letter which Mr. de Caritat, then the actual supervisor, wrote to me, and who was amazed about it. But my father should have understood that he could not remain at Petersheim because the entire behaviour of Mr. Evenepoel towards him was hostile. (p. 10 of French)

This is what my uncle Isadore, Surgeon-Major, noted since the first time he visited his brother in his new residence, and that he was so indignant about it that he sought a meeting with Mr. Evenepoel who unfortunately also was at the castle. My uncle had a hot temper, used to battle. Mr. Evenepoel had a violent character to the point that he sometimes would horsewhip his domestic servants. Thus, when the two men came fact to fact on the first floor of the castle the discussion was not long. It became rapidly so animated that the intervention of the people who witnessed it became necessary in order to stop it. Following this incident my father was dismissed. Thanks to the intervention of Mr. Teichman, chief inspector of Bridges and Highways, my father re-entered the Administration which he had left ten years ago. We were now in 1827."

A brochure which he published in this year bears his title of employee of the Waterstaat. His services to the state involved his being in charge of the construction of the road to Tervueren, of the road from Louvain to Namur and the road of As to Lanklaar, Finally he retired to Munckhof near Hex, then to Lanklaar, in a house which he built on a property bordering upon the great highway of As, where he died on April 23, 1848. His wife, Marie-Catherine Cuvelier, born 1779, survived him and died also at Lanklaar on December 10, 1864, at the age of 84 years 10 months and 26 days.

Joseph Haumont began by writing poetry. Of his poems, "To the Nymphs of the
Gette" begins:
0 rivers of Bette! 0 fields of my homeland!
0 fields! for whom my heart is full of idolatry,

In about 1814 his thought becomes deeper and more generous:

Let us leave, let us leave behind all perverse men
In their errors, their vices, their aberrations
So that we may only speak of the philanthropic hearts
Whom the wicked have called misanthropes
Happy is he whose inclinations
direct all senses toward virtue,
For whom earth has too much wealth
to attach himself to their vain weakness

In 1818 appeared his first brochure entitles "Discourse on the arts and the sciences in general, and their language in particular" (Brussels, printed by Demat, 26 pages). In this discourse Joseph Haumont insists both upon the importance of science and also upon its identity with scientific language. To lay down the language of the (scientific) laws, one must first agree upon the meaning of the terms. "As is the language, such is the science," he says. "If the language is exact, precise, just natural, then the science is precise, positive, that is, in conformity with nature, with that which is." Later on the author adds: "no point of study is more important than that of the language of the country where one is born, since from its more or less perfect knowledge comes the degree of perfection with which we can not only study the arts and the sciences, but also fulfil our duty and make our fortune in this world and in the next." And his
biographer concludes: "One sees that Joseph Haumont is one of the precursors of the
intellectual movement which characterizes the middle of the 19th century. Would one not say of these pages dated 1818 that they have just been written by one of the staunchest thinkers of 1848" (1).

(There is more written and can be found in notebook) Delhasse goes on to say............... If
one notes, writes Felix Delhasse, that Joseph Haumont was Flemish, that he lived amidst Flemish people, that he had never been in France one will be astounded at the purity of his use of a language which was not his native one. (2) Indifferent to external advantages, Haumont never sought more than the enjoyment of his family and the no less intimate satisfactions of free meditation: he lived happily in a remote corner in heart and in spirit, he assigned no other end to his ambition but the discovery of truth, and by it the perfecting of his fellow men. He was a man who was all of one piece, difficult to convince, and with an absolute cast of character, a true thinker, of those who will bow to no other authority but reason.

(2)F. Delhasse, op. cit., p.230 (1) National Bibliography, Col. 775 to 777
also of cfPatria Belgica, Moral Intellectual Belgium, Volume ill p. 139

In his "History of Belgian Literature of French Expression" Henri Liebrecht does not
fear to write that the true Belgian school of Philosophy begins with Van Meenen and
Haumont (p. 234, 1910 edition)

From 1819 to 1826 there were no further publications: Joseph Haumont tilled, dried,beautified the property of the count of Mer ode at Petersheim. His return to the Bridges and Highways Department is marked, in 1827, by the publication "Of the Ancient Trinity and the Right to Life and to death" (Brussels, printed by Demat, 14 pages), a pleading remarkable by the depth and the novelty of the arguments against the death penalty."

Finally, in 1842, it appears a last and small work entitled "Three Words, by a Flemish Peasant, about Important things" (Brussels, printed by J. Geruzet, 42 pages) which ends with the defence of Fourier, the precursor of socialism, called upon to replace the ancient legislators because "his law is and will remain the law of life and of truth until the end of the ages." (2)

His printed works run scarcely to about one hundred pages. Nevertheless, writes Delhasse, they deserve a chosen place in the gallery of our illustrious men, as does not name merit to be named with theirs. This last wish has come true: the name of Joseph Haumont is listed among those of notable men in the National Biography. With regard to the statement that the author has left his work unfinished, this is not quite exact. Among the family papers left by his son Louis, it has been our privilege to consult a list of unpublished discourses of his father which we have unfortunately not been able to find again.

On this list were the following titles:

1) Discourse on usage and opinion
2) Discourse on freedom of thought
3) Discourse on the languages of the sciences in general, considered relative to each other and in nature, and as means of communication
4) Discourse on the causes and effects of revolutions in the arts and the sciences, and on the passing of tradition of languages and sciences from the ancients to the moderns.

(2) Three words by a Flemish Peasant about Important Things, p.47

(p.14 of French)

5) Discourse on liberty (Reply to Mr. Van Meenen)
6) Discourse on the genius of the French language considered under the material aspect.

This comment was by the hand of Louis Haumont: "These considerable works must have cost my father prodigious study, and all this for what? To leave him in the shadow. Oh that one of my grandsons may some day be learned enough to judge him! It is to be wished that these Discourses are not lost, and may be found again.