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History of Denmark (1848 – 1905) Part 2

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November 15, 1863, Frederick VII died, the last representative of the governing Danish line. The death of the king opened a wide way for the presentation of claims to the ownership of the duchies – claims that the Duke of Augustinburg had not ceased to declare. He immediately adopted the name of Frederick VIII, while the new king Christian IX entered the Danish throne in accordance with the London tractate. Patriotic Germany, headed by the Saxon minister, as well as the majority of the Allied representatives spoke in favor of Augustinburg. The project to occupy Holstein, before a new solution to the question of inheritance, was met with enthusiasm. Prussia, however, recognized King Christian IX, but demanded the abolition of the 1863 constitution in agreement with Russia, England and France.

In response, the Danish government cleared Holstein and finally approved the 1863 constitution. On January 16, 1864, an ultimatum followed from Prussia and Austria: to abolish the 1863 constitution for Schleswig in 24 hours. Despite the fair protests of Denmark hostilities were opened.

Broken in an unequal battle Denmark gave Prussia and Austria not only Holstein and Lauenburg, but Schleswig with parts undoubtedly Danish, although confirmed by the Prague Treaty of 1866. From the once great power, Denmark finally turned to a secondary state.

Having lost Schleswig and areas inhabited by the German tribe, Denmark focused all its attention on internal affairs. The question of changing the constitution was in the foreground, since the federal constitution did not have and could not have any more meaning. Despite the energetic opposition of the peasant party, the 1849 constitution was amended to favor the interests of large land tenure rather than to be democratic. In general terms, the new constitution, (which has been held to the present day), was a repetition of the constitution of 1849 with the abolition of universal suffrage for elections. Article 26 of the constitution is distinguished by great uncertainty, which says that “in cases of extreme necessity, the king may issue temporary laws during the intervals between sessions of the Parliament.” With the help of this article,as well as the new organization of the supreme court, whose members half climb the landsting and who owns the right to interpret the laws, the government managed to bypass the opposition of parliament by dissolution, to which it resorted almost every year, relying on the sympathy of the landsting. Hence the mainly obstructive policy of parliament and the absence of major changes. The reasons for the clashes between the parliament and the ministry are especially budgetary issues, as well as the issue of arming and control of Copenhagen, which the democratic party (which desires total neutrality for Denmark), stubbornly opposes.

Despite the protest of parliament, on the expression of open distrust of the Ministry, the last 17 years remained unchanged. Often there were cases when opposition deputies were brought to court for their speeches in public meetings, manifestos to the people, etc. The repeated dissolution of parliament did not lead to a goal: every time the country elected opposition deputies. Since 1885, the mood of the country began to take an alarming character. Two new groups were formed in the chamber: the most significant group of the extreme left and a relatively small group of social democrats. The ministry banned the purchase of weapons, increased the punishments for resisting the authorities, increased the composition of the police, etc. The 1893 election found, apparently, a certain, albeit weak, turn in the public mood since for the first time since 1870, the opposition party lost several seats.

The election to parliament in 1892 was the triumph of the reactionary ministry of Estrup. Of the 210 thousand votes cast in the elections, the Conservatives collected 73 thousand and received 31 powers in parliament, “moderate”, generally supporting the ministry – 60 thousand votes and 43 powers; of the opposition parties, the radicals or the “left reform party”, as it is called in D., received 47 thousand votes and 26 mandates, the Social Democrats – 20 thousand votes and 2 mandates. For the first time after a long period of time, the government received a majority, and this ended the constitutional conflict.

At the beginning of 1894, both parliament and landsting adopted the budget for the next 1894-1895; This happened for the first time after 1885. At the same time, both chambers of the Parliament approved most of the measures taken by the government during the conflict without the consent of parliament, with the exception of increasing the number of secret police, the establishment of the gendarme corps and the new law on the press, which increased the penalties for press crimes. In order to maintain peaceful relations with the parliament, the government, in favor of the liberal members of its majority, introduced a draft reorganization of the army, with which the term of active military service was reduced to 400 days, and as a result, the number of infantry in a peaceful position decreased, which to some extent was compensated by increased artillery and sapper enclosures; in general, army reform should not have led to a rise,and a decrease in the military budget of 250,000 kronor annually. Both houses of the Rigsdag adopted this reform.

In August 1894, the elderly Estrup, considering his mission with the end of the constitutional conflict to be completed, resigned. The new foreign minister, Reedtz-Thott, was at the head of the new cabinet, which consisted mainly of members of the former – not excluding the well-defined reactionary, Estrup’s friend, Nelleman, as Minister of Justice. In general, the policy remained the same, but was carried out with less energy and more readiness to make concessions to the liberal members of the majority. During the session of 1894-1895, according to the data of the new census, the number of deputies in parliament was increased from 102 to 114, a significant part of the public debt was converted from 3.5 percent to 3 percent, and the tax on beer was increased from 7 to 10 crowns on a barrel.

Parliament elections in 1895 completely changed the attitude of parties in parliament; victory was on the side of the opposition, as it was earlier in the period of the conflict (1885–92). Conservatives got only 26 seats, moderate liberals – 27; the government had only 53 deputies, and that is far from unanimous. Just as many, 53 places, had radicals; 8 seats went to the Social Democrats, who received 25,000 votes in the elections. The number of Social Democratic deputies was far from their true strength; This was due to the fact that there were no re-ballot exercises in Denmark, and out of fear of delivering the triumph of the right, the Social Democrats in many districts did not dare to nominate their candidate, preferring to ensure victory behind the radical. The government, deprived of the majority in parliament , had support in landsting.There was a disagreement on the budget issue between the two chambers, but in the end both chambers went to mutual concessions, and the budget was adopted in a constitutional manner. Other plans of the ministry did not materialize, and in May 1896 the most reactionary elements of the ministry retired. The ministry lost the support of the extreme right, led by Estrup, but the more moderate members of the radical party did not refuse from time to time to support the transformed cabinet.

In December 1896, the government introduced a draft of a new customs tariff: import duties on luxury items rose, for example. game, oysters, southern fruits, wine, silk goods, flowers, duties on almost all raw materials (coal, metals) and on most of the items of the manufacturing industry, which do not have the character of luxury goods, were lowered. Considering tobacco, vodka and beer as luxury goods, the government increased the customs duty on these items and, accordingly, the excise tax on the last two doubled. The radicals did not agree with the latter, the conservatives protested against the first, and the new customs tariff did not materialize. However, the parliament struck out 200 thousand crowns from the emergency military budget; Landsting, in turn, struck out 2,000 crowns accepted by the parliament for the maintenance of the International Peace Bureau in Bern. The ministry not being able to resolve the conflict, retired.


Denmark // Encyclopedic Dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron
Helge Paludan, Eric Ulsig, Carsten Rasmussen, Hertz Boncerup, Eric Petersen, Henning Poulsen, Søren Rasmussen. History of Denmark


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