Why was Ghent chosen as the location for the peace negotiations and the signing of the treaty? First and foremost, there was a need for a “neutral” venue. The parties to the war, the United States and Great Britain, were immediately excluded for this reason, although London had very much hoped to host the talks. France, the country defeated in the fight against the European allies was not considered. Another candidate, Gothenburg, was also excluded because Sweden had a monarch loyal to Napoleon on the throne. The Southern Netherlands had been under allied administration since February 1814 (and would remain so until September 1815).
Neutral by definition, they immediately became the first choice. The city of Ghent offered plenty of possibilities for hosting the talks: over the previous decades it had experienced great growth and prosperity, giving the city all the style and comfort needed to accommodate the international negotiators. Ghent was also favourably located geographically at the centre of the Southern Netherlands; it was easy to reach and sufficiently close to the coast to allow a rapid evacuation to Great Britain should hostilities break out again with France.
The American delegation rented the baroque Schamp hotel, which was uninhabited at the time.The hotel consisted of three 18th century townhouses situated on the corner of Veldstraat and Volderstraat, known successively under the names of “Cour de Lovendeghem”, “Hotel Schamp” and “Hotel d’Alcantara”. When the property was sold in 1898, the complex was divided into two and the ground floor was converted at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the property is home to the retail stores The Body Shop & Esprit/C&A.
The British were installed in the former residence of Lievin Bauwens on Fratersplein. In 1798 Lievin Bauwens purchased the old Carthusian monastery of Meerhem , – which was suppressed by Joseph II in 1783 -, to live there and set up a factory. Canon De Decker bought a large section of the estate in 1843 for the Brothers of St John of God, who took up residence in 1844. In 1946, the congregation of the Hieronymite Brothers took over management of the Institute of St Jan de Deo. In 1964, commemorative plaques were placed on the façades of the two buildings.
At Christmas 1814 a thanksgiving service was celebrated in the St.Bavo Cathedral, attended by all delegates and on 8th January 1815 a banquet was offered them by the city council in the Throne Room of City Hall.
by Prof. Luc François