Letter 1898

Hasselt, February 27th 1898.

Dearest Uncle Isidore and family, Jules and family, Edmond and family, Louis and family,

I’m going to allow myself to write a long letter and to inform you of all kinds of things that you might be interested in.

First, let’s occupy a little bit with the parents.
In Genoels-Elderen, everybody is fine. Father goes outdoors less frequently as before, but he eats very well and makes his daily walk trough the fields without exhausting himself too much. Mother is very well and Grandmother, she’s a miracle of health. Although she’s born in 1811, you would only give her 60 years. What is striking about her is her upright posture and thick body. She is round-cheeked and her hands are plump. She often says: “It’s a misery that I can’t see anymore, if only I will not become worthless!”

So far for the parents in Genoels-Elderen. They are feeling lonely now since Emile is married. You probably all know that Emile married Miss Fulvie Moës from Rutten. He’s running a large farm that owned by the count de Grünne. His farm has a size of approximately 80 hectares. He has some 20 horses, some 60 horned cattle and about 100 pigs. This year he grew 18 hectares of beets. I’m estimating the gross income to 20000 francs and the net profit to 5000 francs.
Since 5 or 6 months he’s the father of a small Louis. He’s now the 4th Louis Haumont that we have in the family.

Our Jef is still in Morlanwelz. This year he spent a large part of his vacation in Genoels-Elderen together with his wife Mathilde and their unique son Maurice. He’s about 10 years old. Maurice is a fine small boy, strong and intelligent. Instead of having a pleasant holiday, she had to spend most of her time in bed in Genoels-Elderen. And at the end of 3 weeks, no, at the end of about 6 weeks, with still no sight of quick recovery, she had to go back home to Morlanwelz. She went home by train, a sleeper especially equipped for the transportation of ill people. The doctors that were consulted all agreed that she was having an abscess in the left ovary and also one in the tube going from the ovary to the womb. In order to cure, one has to remove the ovaries.
And this is what has been done 3 months ago. The surgical treatment was successful and the patient is relatively well.

Our Sophie, her husband Jean and their 3 children are all well.
In Lanklaar everything is okay. The little Lucienne is nearly 5 months old. She’s very healthy, very quiet and beautiful. Tom, Sylvie and the little Laure and Julie are very well.
Uncle Jean is as always the old young one! He smokes 36 pipes every day and eats and drinks at each hour of the day. He is free from concerns and worries and leads a pleasant life.

Everything is also fine with Sophie Severijns and her children. Trinette, the oldest of the girls is 13 ½ years old but she is already bigger as her aunt Sylvie. Lucien, who is one year older, is much smaller.

In Vechmaal, they are also all in good health. Our little mother can’t be better. And we have the same good news on Julie, Henri and their little Sylvie. And since month, they got a little Lucien.

Finally we go to Hasselt. As said, I would make the complete round.
André, his wife and their 2 daughters Irène and Ivonne, are reasonably well. Irène is very weak. She looks a lot after André, who sometimes suffers from his digestive organs. He is sometimes very irritable, because the issue spreads to his nervous system.
At our house, or me if you want, there is nothing to complain.
The little Camille has not been very good for a long time because of and abscess at the inner side of the maxillary sinus. Very regularly he suffers from hives. This is a sign of the absorption of pus in the blood. I’m happy to tell you that he’s now recovered completely.
The unfortunate has had an accident in August. His right thumb came in the wheel of my velocipede (bicycle). It snatched off the first bone in his finger. At the same day as this accident, but 3 hours earlier, I dived into the branch of the canal to save a little girl that fell off a boat and was going to drown.
When somebody falls in the canal here, people content themselves and their eyes nearly popping out of their heads. They don’t even think of saving their fellow man.
Our boys Louis and Camille are strong and are studying very well. The little Camille, who has the build of Edmond when he was a child, is now 8 years old. He is in the 3rd preparatory year. Louis resembles in every respect a lot, a lot to Jules although he has my color of hair.
He now became 13 year on November 18th. He has followed lessons of Latin in the 7th and 6th year Latin. I’ve predestined him for a career in civil construction. So next year I’m planning not to send him to the 5th year Latin, but to the 5th year professional. Although he had typhoid fever and according to his teacher he is well behind in his studies, he did not yet have to repeat his year, and he is still the youngest of his class. There are approximately 40 students in his class.
I measured the length of my sons and some days ago I have weighed them. Louis weighs 46 kilo and he stands 1.55 meter. The little Camille weighs 30 kilo and stands 1.33 meter.

From an economical point of view and also in general, the whole family is doing very well. In Genoels-Elderen there are only 3 old people together. I advised them a considerable time ago to stop their agricultural activities.

The situation of the farmers in Belgium is sad. A large part of them are doing very bad business. At this moment, the price of the cereals is reasonably high. Since a month there is a constant increase in prices. Here is a small overview of the prices:
Wheat: 20 (Franc) per %kg
Rye: 13
Oat: 16
Potatoes: 5 to 8 depending on the variety. 
If we could maintain these prices, then this would be a very good thing for our farmers. But I’m afraid that is will not last for a long time.
The agriculture in Limburg starts to understand is it is beneficial to feed corn to the cattle.
This grain costs in Antwerp depending on the variety in between 10 and 12 frank per % kilo.
We sell to the ‘Syndicat’ hundreds of thousands of kilo of this grain. We also sell a lot of cotton flour that comes from America, from Texas. This flour costs now 13 franc, price in Antwerp and it has the double nutritional value compared with rye. This product gives beautiful results in fattening up the cattle. And it is at such a low price! Unfortunately it causes sometimes lethal side effects and certainly when the product is given in high dose to young cattle. The accidents are partially caused by the black pellicles in the flour that contain toxic elements.
I believe that the cotton fibers that are still in the flour and that can’t be digested are also dangerous. At a certain moment, it fills the third stomach (what they call in Flemish ‘Bladermaag’) and creates there a kind of plug of which the organ cannot release itself.
To have a good quality of floor, it should be purified of the black pellicles and cotton fibers.
I’ve ordered somebody to make a sieve to remove the black pellicles and cotton fibers to make the flour less dangerous. But it is still an open question if the farmer is willing to pay more for this purified flour and that in relation to new purchase prices.
Unfortunately, the farmer (especially here) is not very intelligent and he has a very suspicious nature. And that is perfectly understandable. The unfortunate has been cheated so often and his purse is so empty that he doesn’t dare to open it.

It is also remarkable that the one who is currently still cheating him most and also who cheated him most in the past, is still the same that cheats him the easiest! It is the priest, the most dangerous of all tapeworms for the human kind. He exploits his equals in the most revolting manner in the material as well in the immaterial field. The religion and more specifically the Catholic religion of which is told so many nice things, is not the goal but an admirable means of emptying the purses and remove the human intelligence. The smaller and the unhappier he is, the easier he can be exploited. The peasant class and lower middle class people are most exploited. These 2 groups are the large majority of the Belgian population.
With great pleasure I am telling you however that the priests are more and more afraid of the growing socialism. Socialism makes a lot of progress. To curb this progress they are setting up now farmers’ unions (‘Boerengilden’). Everywhere where these unions are created, the chairman is the priest. It is him who’s in charge. All unions have their own funds that are linked to the central fund in Leuven.
The so-called goal of the unions is to provide the farmer with everything he needs by purchasing in large volumes and thus offering him the goods at advantageous conditions.  Our Catholic government is singing the praises of the farmers’ unions. The farmer, under the domination of the soutane, has no change to get out of it, because the landlords conspire in league with the priests.
The union of farmers’goal is to destroy the retail trade and above that abandon the peasants to the tender mercies of the landlord and the priest.
Instead of keeping himself busy with religion, the priests are constantly setting up these ‘Boerengilden’.
In my capacity as agricultural speaker of the State, I’m even invited by the Ministry of Agriculture to join a model conference on setting up the farmers’ unions. The goal is to give myself similar lectures!
If I really have to deal with this problem being a speaker in service of the State, then I will make the opposite propaganda for the priests. And I will tell them all the details of the problem.
When I talk about this issue, I remember very well what Uncle said to father more than 30 years ago: “In order to succeed in getting rid of the priests, they should hang them all!”. And he was telling the truth, he understood that radical means would be necessary to dispose of that vermin.

We are now February 29th. Because of an absence, the letter remained unfinished.
As I wrote earlier, the clergy is becoming afraid of the socialism and they are taking measure to bring their rise to a standstill. Yes, the socialism is winning ground a lot and they have to win ground.
The number of Liberals is decreasing every day. The good Liberals, the true Liberals, have adopted the name of Socialists to distinct themselves from them who are mere Capitalists. Some of them still keep the name, but since Capitalism as we know it is opposite to Socialism, these Liberals finally have to end up in the camp of the Clericals.
But also the Clericals are becoming divided. There are the conservative Catholics (called ‘Ultramontanen’), and the democratic Catholics. The future is to the latter and to the socialists.

The little Camille is standing beside me now and is reading my writings now. He’s telling me that I made a mistake that absolutely has to be corrected.
You wrote here, he tells me, that I’m weighing 30 kilo, but at this moment my weight is 31 kilo! You have to correct this!

We’re importing nowadays a lot of small horses from America. The agricultural sector is quite worried about this. People fear that the value of the own horses will decrease strongly. I personally think that this competition is pernicious for our riding horses, but there is nothing to fear for our workhorses. These are not so easily replaceable and highly valued over the whole world. At the most recent inspection of stallions in Tongeren there were buyers from different foreign countries. I saw a Sweden offering 7000 francs for a stallion that has not even won a price. And I saw somebody offering 6000 francs for a young stallion that still had the teeth of foal. The big geldings sell at 1200 to 1500 francs and sometimes even more.

I just finished reading your letter again that arrived last month. This letter has given us a lot of pleasure. We are very sensible for your good wishes. Our wishes to you are the best that we’re able to make.

Jules writes that he makes use of the fact that it’s snowing to write us. Today it also snowed here quite a lot. We’re now February 28th and so to speak we have had nor snow nor frost. We did not have a winter yet.

 I thank you a lot for the pictures of the children of Jules that look very well. Louis must be very happy with his new beautiful and large home. The satisfaction for him must be even greater since he helped building the house himself for a large part. It made us laugh to hear that niece Jeanne, the wife of Louis, wanted to spend the money to build the house to visit us. Yes, we really had a good laugh about that. But at the same time it makes us very happy. It proves that Jeanne has good feelings and that is the most beautiful quality a person can have.

I’m reading in the letter from Jules that you are paying workers up to 1.9$ per workday, so approximately 10 francs and even then it is difficult to find workers.
Here in Hasselt, there are unfortunate people that earn only 1 franc per day. A lot of them even don’t have a job. It looks as if a whole mass of people is degenerating. What a sad distribution of wealth and what horrible consequences!
Everybody says that the number of sugar plants will continue to grow. Here a lot of sugar manufacturers are doing a good business. The grower of the crop is being stolen from the beginning until the end. A large part of them stops with the culture if they can replace it by another one that yields more. But unfortunately the price of the grains is so low that no advantage can be taken out of that crop.

Jules, you were also asking me to subscribe you a French newspaper. I could regularly provide you with ‘Le Peuple’. But I think you already have the opportunity to read it. Is father not regularly sending them to Uncle. It is certainly not to forget the French language. That language you know this too well.

My dearest Mina, you were also asking if Louis is studying English. I’ve told him to answer himself to this question. Marie is also writing you. Her letters will leave tomorrow on March 2nd from here.

I just received a newspaper from France called “Aurore”. They write a lot about the case “Zola”. I’ll buy some for you and send them to Jules who wants to subscribe to a French newspaper. What are they telling at your side about the case “Zola”? My opinion is: “Long live Zola!”. But it is with regret that I see that the clergy and the army are the ruins of France.

I’m now finishing, Marie is pushing me to go outside. Brrr..
We embrace you with all our heart.

                        Julien

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