Vonck, Jean-François
(1743-1792)
   Born in Baardegem, East Flanders, on 29 November 1743, Jean-François Vonck was working as a lawyer in Brussels when he served, in 1787, as a founding member of Pro Aris et Focis, a committee organized to oppose reforms enacted by Emperor Joseph II. Fearing arrest, he fled to Breda, the Netherlands, on 30 August 1789. Vonck became the acknowledged leader of the Pro Aris group and secured a merger with the Breda committee of Henri Van der Noot by which the revolutionaries, now united, secured the expulsion of the Austrians in the Brabant Revolution in October 1789. He advocated gradual reforms in doubling the representation of the Third Estate in the Estates so as to equal the other two combined. Failing to secure popular backing for his proposals, and fearing arrest by supporters of traditional privileges led by Van der Noot, Vonck fled Brussels in May 1790.
   In Lille, France, he formed with other followers Pro Patria, a group dedicated to the same principles of Pro Aris et Focis. Pamphlets distributed in Brussels called on the citizens to overthrow the tyrannical Estates, and Vonck proclaimed his preference for a return of the Austrian regime. However, when the Austrians did return and extended numerous invitations for him to come back to Belgium, he refused, not trusting Vienna to grant a democratically elected assembly, which he believed constituted the cornerstone of reform. In late 1791, Vonck counselled his followers in Brussels to leave the city following virtual civil war between democrats and traditionalists and a crackdown by the Austrians against both factions. Advocates of French intervention, who sought radical democratic reforms, left Vonck and his moderate democrats sandwiched between extremes of left and right. The arrival of French forces in Brussels in November 1792 and elections in December found Vonck absent as a player. He died in Lille on 1 December 1792.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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