De "Société Générale" als drukkingsgroep. Een concreet voorbeeld : de grondspeculaties rondom het Brusselse justitiepaleis (1838-1840).

The "Societe Generale" As A Pressure Group. A Case Study : The Real Estate Speculations Over The Brussels Court Of Justice, 1838-1840: In 1837, the "Société Générale", the biggest financial corporation of Brussels at the time, developped a huge project of real estate speculation : to have a brand new district of Brussels raised just outside town. A real estate partnership was duly established, including of course the partners and managers of the corporation. Most of them were people of the highest social ranks, some even were very influential politicians. To make the idea more palatable to future buyers of real estate, the promotors of the real estate project hit on the idea of having a new court of justice, which was to be constructed, in the middle of the new contemplated district. They were quite ready to grant the building site free of any charge. One can understand why : the court of justice would make the new quarter a real part of town; real estate prices would soar. Big business was ahead ! But, alas, another project had already been approved : a blue-print of the new court established in the very middle of the old town. A fight flared up, because, out of electoral considerations, the influential Brussels "liberals" stood up for the interests of the barristers and the tradesmen living in the center of town. They waged war against the "capitalists" of the "Société Générale". The "Société Générale" made the government act on its behalf. This was easy for the corporation, for the government was in dire need of a loan. What is more, some of the people most interested in the real estate project held functions of strategic importance in the making of the final decision. But the "liberals" were in control of the town council that had a say in the matter. Eventually, the bankers were defeated. Of course, it is of little importance to us that the court was built on one site rather than on another, but the whole matter gives us an extraordinarily clear insight indeed into the way the powers worked — bankers, government, town council, liberal party, freemasons, etc. — into the ways and means they used to stir up public opinion in one direction or another — newspapers, petitions, financial strings pulled, personal abuse, arousing of hate against high finance. Nothing was left out, and for that very reason, this matter, unimportant as it looks on first sight, is highly significative of the way pressure groups of around 1840 act to achieve their aims.