of the kingdom. In order to expand credit flow in these southern provinces, King William decided to set up a second financial institution there, in collaboration with some Brussels businessmen. Accordingly in 1822, he created the Algemeene Nederlandsche Maatschappij ter Begunstiging van de Volksvlijt, known in French as the Société Générale des Pays-Bas pour Favoriser l Industrie Nationale. He himself took a majority shareholding in this new financial institution. The assets he injected into the company were predominantly in the form of land estates, such as the Forêt de Soignes, a forest/woodland area to the south of Brussels. The word bank was deliberately omitted from the name of the new institution so as not to ruffle the feathers of the Nederlandsche Bank in Amsterdam, which claimed it had exclusive privilege , as one commentator99 puts it. Nevertheless, the Algemeene Maatschappij/Société Générale also received the right to issue banknotes.

Some weeks after the Bank was founded, the king entrusted it with the role of State treasurer in the southern provinces of the Netherlands. The Bank began to collect all public monies and make payments for all expenses authorised by the Ministry of Finance on behalf of the State. In order to carry out this difficult task, the Bank was entrusted with new powers: it was allowed to open branches in the biggest towns of the southern provinces.

The king believed that an important objective of Société Générale should be to help stabilise public finances. The Bank granted loans guaranteed by state bonds known as losrenten similar to later instruments such as premium bonds which involved periodic prize draws. This was supposed to help to popularise these bonds in the southern provinces. The Bank used to put up a good proportion of its own assets to back losrenten and when in 1826, a forty million florin issue, repayable on State property, failed to find takers, the Bank was forced to subscribe 90% of the issue itself.

All in all, Société Générale in the 1820s appears to have been more or less a cog in the machinery of the State, which the King made use of whenever the authorities needed money. Moreover, many of the Bank s managers and shareholders held political office. The governor of the bank, the Dutchman Repelaer van Driel, was Minister of State, one of the auditors, Louis van Gobbelschroy, was the king s close advisor and would soon be appointed Minister of Internal Affairs, while four shareholders were members of the Estates-General (parliament) seven others were provincial governors or members of the provincial parliament, and eight were members of the Brussels municipal council the mayor, a deputy mayor and six municipal councillors. Société Générale was thus under strong political influence at many levels.

99. Courrier Belge, Februaury 13, 1842.

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