His brilliant endowment, one of the most illustrious, and, in spite of his glaring faults, one of the most beloved, of Swedish monarchs, was the first king since Charles XII. who was born in Sweden. For this very reason, and on account of his amiable and charming disposition, he had won for himself the sympathy of the people even before his succession to the throne. This nephew of Frederic the Great of Prussia had inherited the genius, ambition and pride of his gifted mother, all enlarged and intensified, and the gentleness and good nature of his father. He was in every particular a child of his time, and every inch a king. Gustavus was decidedly French in education, taste and superficiality, but had by his first teacher Dalin been inspired with a deep love of his country, its history, language and traditions. He handled the Swedish and French languages with equal skill, and a more eloquent monarch has never graced a throne. He was passionately fond of theatricals and impressive ceremony, and, like his mother and illustrious uncle, he sur-rounded himself with men of genius. Gustavus was betrothed to Princess Sophie Magdalene of Denmark when only four years of age, and married her when twenty. This union was arranged by the Riksdag, contrary to the wish of Gustavus’s parents. Gustavus appeared at first to be deeply in love with the gentle and unpretentious princess, but she soon found herself as neglected by her consort as she was detested by his mother. The crown prince early began to hate the form of government which had brought so much humiliation to his parents. This absolutism of the Riksdag, which could be bought and sold through bribery by foreign powers, he considered dangerous to the independence and welfare of the country, and was resolved to change the balance of power to the hands of the king, of whose dignity and importance he held an exalted opinion.
At the death of his father, Gustavus was in France, returning with the agreement of a secret alliance. At the Riksdag of 1771, where the Caps once more came into power, Gustavus III, signed a pledge with new restrictions of the royal authority. But while the king officially seemed to desire a pacification of both parties, and his time was principally occupied with theatricals, embroideries and costumes, he was secretly arranging a conspiracy. He was crowned in May, 1772, and in August the news of a revolt in Scania, led by John Christian Toll, reached the capital. The king feigned surprise, but waited for similar news from Finland, whence Jacob Magnus Sprengtporten was to bring troops to Stockholm. As Sprengtporten’s movements were somewhat delayed, the king had to take action himself. In the morning of August 19th he entered the officers’ hall of the body-guards, where he delivered a patriotic address, asking the officers to follow him as their ancestors had followed Gustavus Vasa and Gustavus Adolphus. He was greeted with an enthusiasm which soon spread throughout the capital, assuring the king of perfect loyalty. The state councillors were quickly arrested and order given that no one should be allowed to leave the capital. The Riksdag was called together August 21st, and addressed by the king in an eloquent speech which gave a striking view of the situation and its perils. He declared that he was not going to touch liberty, only to abolish misrule by the establishment of a firm administration. Then was read the proposition for a constitution which the king had prepared. The king alone was to be the executive, appointing higher officials and councillors, making alliances with foreign powers, but not commencing any war of attack without the consent of the Riksdag. The state council was to consist of seventeen members with deliberative, but no executive, power. The Riksdag was to convene at the order of the king, taxation and legislation to be decided on by the king and Riksdag in common. The judicial power of all committees was to be abolished. The Riksdag accepted the royal propositions, and one of the most smoothly and skilfully managed coups d’état over attempted was accomplished, much to the dismay of Russia, Prussia and Denmark. During half a score of years the country enjoyed a happy peace, the king winning the love of his people and being active in administrative improvements.
Gustavus III. was intensely interested in literature and art, and a writer of considerable ability, composing dramatic works of French pattern but with patriotic subjects. In his best creations he is influenced by Shakespeare. Among the poets whom he encouraged were Kellgren, Leopold, Creutz, Gyllenborg, Oxenstierna, Adlerbeth, the creators of a classical school of Swedish poetry and drama, influenced by the contemporary French writers. Above these towers Charles Michael Bellman, who, with his composite and rich endowment, became the first great national poet, and of an originality as remarkable as that of any genius in the literature of the world. The humor introduced into Swedish literature through the contact with the songs of the Edda, in Bellman reaches its perfection, while his poetry in exquisite and triumphant grace of form out-rivals that of his classical contemporaries. His poems were almost all produced under the inspiration of the moment, even if later remodelled, and sung to the lute to melodies of the day, or of his own composition. His impressionistic power of description leads the thought to the mod-ern artists, while his ambition to unite the arts of poetry, music and plastics makes him a precursor of Neo-Romanticism. There is not one accent of chauvinism, not even a note of patriotism, in his songs, yet he is the most beloved of Swedish poets, recognized as the highest exponent of the lyrico-rhetorical temperament of his people, a mixture of melancholy humor and exuberant joy in a graceful yet stately form. Anne Marie Lenngren was a, highly talented poetess, who preserves the classic form for her verse, in which she ridicules the faults and vices of her period. Tho rild and Lidner were men of great genius, but of somewhat bizarre and neglected literary form, influenced by contemporary Romanticism in Germany. Sweden continues to add a number of names to the galaxy of men distinguished in the service of natural science, those of Bergman and Scheele, the founders of modern chemistry, being the most renowned. To the Academy of Science and Academy of Art, established during the Period of Liberty, Gustavus added a Swedish Academy and a National Theatre for the encouragement of poetry, eloquence, music and drama. It is during this period that the Swedish language developed the beauty and plasticity for which it holds the first rank among Teutonic dialects, and is considered one of the most musical languages of the world. Of artists, the painters Hrberg, Hillestrm and Roslin rose to great continental fame, while Sergel, through the genius and tendencies of his works one of the most remarkable sculptors of modern times, won renown for his name, but hardly the very highest perfection within his possibilities. His statue of Gustavus III. is the finest monument of Stockholm.
Sweden, so rich in great poets, artists and scientists, is poor in philosophers, content with the systems of thinkers in more favored countries. Swedenborg is an important exception to this rule. Not satisfied with an original, system, with pure reason as the fundamental principle, he divined a system in which philosophy and religion are inseparably united. Kant, when made acquainted with Swedenborg’s earlier system, was utterly astonished, expressing fear that he himself had been an object of thought-transference, when writing his celebrated work, “Kritik der reinen Vernunft.” The system of Descartes was followed by Swedish philosophers of the Carolinian epoch. During the Period of Liberty and the reign of Gustavus III., Locke, Voltaire and Diderot were supreme. At the close of the eighteenth century, Kant began to exert great influence, Benjamin Hijer being his talented and individualistic disciple, and enjoying the reputation of having been Sweden’s greatest original thinker. Charles August Ehrensverd, an able warrior and statesman of the Gustavian epoch, devised an attractive and novel, although slightly dilettantic, system of his own, the Philosophy of Fine Arts.
The suspicions that Gustavus III. was not satisfied with the share of power which he obtained in 1772, and that he was anxious to gain fame by the means of war, were found to be justified. In 1786 he called a Riksdag, at which most of his propositions, to his great surprise, were stubbornly opposed. Catherine II. of Russia was intriguing with the Finnish nobles for the purpose of establishing the independence of Finland under Russian protection. But she was careful not to commence hostilities. Attempts made by Gustavus III. to bring the Norwegian people in revolt against Denmark failed. And so Gustavus, who had no authority to begin a war of attack, arranged for a simulated Russian assault on the Finnish boundary, executed by Finnish peasants in disguise. He declared war on Russia, in June, 1788, although nobody was found willing to believe in the feigned cause of it. The actual hostilities were opened by a brilliant naval battle at Hogland, fought with success by the Swedish fleet under command of Prince Charles, the brother of the king, against the Russians. The king had arrived in Finland resolved to attack St. Petersburg, which plan he was obliged to change. All further operations came to a sudden standstill through mutiny among the Finnish officers in the royal camp at Anjala, 113 of them signing a document in which they pledged themselves to force the king to make peace and to convoke the Riksdag. Another document offering peace and a union of Finland to Russia was despatched to St. Petersburg with Jægerhorn, one of the leaders. The officers received a favorable answer from Russia, which was handed to the king, and the whole army was made acquainted with the proceedings. The king found himself in a most perilous position, out, of which he was saved as by a miracle. Denmark declared. war, and the king hastened to embrace the opportunity to leave with honor the trap in which his life and liberty were in danger.
Gustavus III. sent word to several provinces, asking the inhabitants to rise in defence of their country. He went himself to Dalecarlia, where he addressed the peasants when coming from church, as had Gustavus Vasa. Everywhere the population rose in arms. The king hastened to Gothenburg, which was threatened by the Danes, and had the city strongly fortified. England and Prussia sided with Sweden, and the Danes found it best to retire from Swedish territory.
Gustavus had won the game. Now for the stakes! He called a Riksdag in 1789. Through his personal courage and patriotism, Gustavus III. had recaptured the love of his people. The nobility was hated and despised on account of its responsibility for the mutiny at Anjala and for its intrigues with Russia. Gustavus III. consequently stood exceedingly well with the three lower Estates of the Riksdag, but lost their respect through the many violations of the law which he committed in forcing upon the Riksdag a new constitution which made him a ruler with almost absolute power. The nobility stubbornly refused to accept any change in the constitution. There were many stormy scenes, both among the -nobles and in the presence of the king, who also paid a visit to the Riddarhus, which he left with the statement that the nobles were willing to subscribe, the latter loudly protesting. Axel von Fersen the Elder and several other aristocratic leaders were held in a prolonged arrest, Archbishop Troil told the king that he did not wish to be the first archbishop after Gustavus Trolle to sell the liberty of his country, and begged to be excused from being present at the deliberations. The poet and royal favorite Adlerbeth, himself a nobleman, pleaded in the Riksdag the right of his Estate to take action on the royal propositions. These were in private signed by the speakers of the four Estates and pronounced by the government as accepted, and were called an “Act of Union and Security.” This new constitution gave almost absolute power to the king. The state council was once more, and forever, swept away and not even mentioned in the constitution. It was divided into a supreme court and a department for “the preparation of public affairs.” By taking half of their members only from the nobility, the greatest privilege of that class was annulled. To the peasants was extended the privilege of buying land originally belonging to the nobility. By hard pressure, and in opposition to the nobles, the king forced the Riksdag to take the responsibility for the state debt, which had increased considerably.
Gustavus III. opened the Riksdag as the most popular man of the country. He closed it as an absolute sovereign who had lost the love of his people and aroused the revengeful hatred of the nobility. Gustavus III. was now enabled to continue the Russian war at will. His sub-commander Stedingk won a victory over the Russians at Porosalmi, the latter being led by Sprengtporten, the former supporter of Gustavus III., now a soldier of Empress Catherine. He was killed in the battle. Prince Charles won a victory at (land, but was by negligence of his sub-commander detained from reaping its benefits. Charles August Ehrensverd defeated a superior Russian naval force at Svensksund with the “Skerry Fleet,” the creation of his father, Augustinus Ehrensverd. At the order of the king, he then met a still larger fleet and was defeated. Dissatisfied with the king and the result, the valiant hero and philosopher made his report in the following laconic phrase: “Your majesty has no longer any Skerry Fleet,” and resigned from his position as admiral-general. In the following year, 1780, the combined naval forces of Sweden were shut up by the Russian fleet in the bay of Viborg, and seemed doomed to destruction. But the king gave orders that all the ships should force a passage, and this heroic effort was success-fully made, through the lines of colossal Russian warships chained together. The Russian losses were great, and also those of the Swedes, on account of an explosion on board one of the ships. The Russians were anxious to gain the victory that escaped them at Viborg, and decided on July 9th, the day of Empress Catherine’s coronation, as an appropriate date. The battle was fought at Svensksund, and turned into a humiliating defeat, the Russians losing 53 ships, 643 cannon and 14,000 men, and the imperial flag of state; twenty-six of these ships were entered in the Swedish navy. Peace was made at Vaeraslæ a month later. No change of territory was involved, but an end was put to Russian intrigues, and Sweden had once more and forever demonstrated her power of taking care of her independence.
The revolution in France made a deep impression upon the factions which in Sweden were secretly continuing their struggle. The nobility, in their aristocratic republicanism, sided with the revolutionists, while the king, an intimate friend of Louis XVI., tried to save the monarchy. Gustavus III. left Sweden in the summer of 1791, in order to receive Louis XVI. and his family at the frontier, while Count Axel von Fersen the Younger, a son of the old aristocratic party leader who had taken part with distinction in the American revolutionary war, was very near to saving the royal family through a flight from Paris. King Gustavus III. waited in vain for the royal fugitives, but commenced active operations for the forming of an alliance between Sweden, Russia, Prussia, Austria and Spain against republican France. Sweden and Russia made a treaty of mutual defence, but the negotiations for a general alliance were not at a favorable point when Gustavus III. himself fell by the aristocratic republicans of his own country.
A conspiracy between the nobles had been formed, the majority being men of the highest station. Jacob John Anckarstrom, a retired officer, was found willing to commit the deed of killing the hated despot. After several unsuccessful attempts, the act was accomplished at a mask ball in the Royal Opera, the king being shot through the hip. All of the accomplices present were arrested, and, much to their disappointment, the king not dying instantly, their plan for a revolution was thus frustrated. Gustavus III. was shot March 16, 1792, and died March 26, 1792, suffering his fate with fortitude and great presence of mind. He appointed his brother Charles and his favorite, Charles Gustavus Armfelt, members of the government during the minority of his son, Gustavus Adolphus.
The devotion of his country returned to Gustavus III. at his deathbed, never to leave him. In spite of his superficiality, violation of the law, disregard for a constitutional government, and adventurous and expensive wars, solid reasons remain to love and respect his memory. His noble patriotism, frank heroism, brilliant genius and great generosity are worthy of high praise. His revolution of 1789 brought disastrous consequences, but he furthered the progress of democracy by annihilation of the aristocratic republic and saved his country from the tragic fate of Poland. Even if the Period of Liberty is to be credited for a great deal of the cultural development during his reign, Gustavus has a large share therein, and Esaias Tegnér is right in his eulogy when he says :
“There rests o’er Gustav’s days a golden shimmer, Fantastic, foreign, frivolous, if you please;
But why complain when sunshine caused the glamour?
Where stood we now if it were not for these? All culture on an unfree ground is builded,
And barbarous once the base of patriotism true; But wit was planted, iron-hard language welded, The song was raised, life more enjoyed and shielded, And what Gustavian was, is, therefore, Swedish too.”
In the mixture of patriotism and unreserved cosmopolitanism, true genius and superficiality, earnestness and recklessness in the character of Gustavus III., the Swedes have recognized peculiarities of their own national temperament, for which they are tempted to love him as dearly, although not considering him to be as great, as his two predecessors and namesakes on the Swedish throne. By his eloquence, wit and amiability, his personality charmed even his enemies. In contrast to the sombre autocrats of the Barocco period, Gustavus III. was a typical Rococo monarch, and he tried to give the charms and grace of the Rococo epoch to his surroundings. In appearance, he was of middle size, slender and graceful, with a face which bespoke genius, and eyes of unusual size and brilliancy.
Gustavus IV. Adolphus was a boy of thirteen at the death of his father. His uncle, Prince Charles, was regent in name, but Baron Reuterholm, the latter’s favorite, was the real head of the government. Compared to the eccentric but energetic, generous and liberal despotism of Gustavus III., Reuterholm’s was a rule of pettiness, incapability, revenge and hypocrisy. Prince Charles was a good soldier, but early lost all energy through dissipation and a natural tendency to mysticism, secrecy and simulation. Reuterholm was a good worker, but of no ability as a states-man, sharing and increasing the love of mysticism and superstition characteristic of his master. The new policy was to estrange the friends and favorites of Gustavus III. as much as possible, they all being sent away under various pretexts. Prince Charles had from the start declared in-valid the postscript of the king’s will, according to which Count Armfelt was to take part in the government. Later a conspiracy, with Armfelt as the leader, was detected, when he, who was abroad and later entered Russian service, was declared to have forfeited his property, rank and life. A young woman, Lady Madelaine Rudenschiold, who was one of the conspirators, was punished by being exhibited to the mob on the place of execution and. afterward imprisoned.
Prince Charles was criticised for the leniency shown toward his brother’s murderers, perhaps without justice, for the dying king had pleaded clemency in their behalf. Only Anckarstrom was executed, the other conspirators all receiving surprisingly mild sentences. This was contrasted to the petty and revengeful hatred shown the opponents of the new government, and one now recalled the fact that Gustavus III. in his last moments had refused to see the prince. That Charles also had aspirations of his own seems evident from the fact that he had the young king examined by physicians, raising doubt as to his physical and mental fitness to ever take a hand in the government.
Reuterholm made himself hated and ridiculous by his pettiness. Thus restrictions were placed on extravagance in food and clothing, the use of coffee for some time being entirely prohibited. The Swedish Academy was disbanded because it did not make Reuterholm a member. The liberty of the press was extended and then suddenly restricted. Thorild, the writer and poet, was exiled for agitation against the old division of the Riksdag into four houses, “because its four Estates always have been bringing about one unsettled state.” Characteristic of the opinion of Reuterholm’s administration are the words which the warrior and philosopher, Charles August Ehrensverd, gave him in the course of a quarrel between the two : “Monsieur is ambitious to govern, but monsieur does not know how.” The best things accomplished during this period were the establishment of a military academy at Carlberg, and improvements of the Bible translation and the ritual and hymn-book of the church.
The attitude toward France was changed with the change of government, Sweden being the first power to recognize the French republic. With that country and Denmark close intimacy was formed, which enraged Russia and England. In order to pacify the empress, old negotiations for a marriage between King Gustavus Adolphus and Alexandra, a niece of Empress Catherine II., were reopened and a decision reached. The king left for St. Petersburg. When the great ceremony was to take place, the empress sat there waiting with her brilliant court for several hours. No Gustavus Adolphus appeared. In the last moment he had been asked by a priest to grant his future consort, Alexandra, liberty to practice her Greek Catholic faith in public, which he refused to do, thus dropping the whole matter. The indignant empress was suddenly taken ill and died a few weeks later. Soon afterward the king married the beautiful princess Frederica of Bade.
Gustavus IV. Adolphus was declared of age and took charge of the government when eighteen (in 1796). Reuterholm was dismissed, and Prince Charles retired. The king surrounded himself with the friends of his father, Armfelt and Toll being recalled, the latter taking excellent care of foreign affairs, as far as his authority went. But Gustavus IV. ruled alone, without favorites or influential advisers. This was most unfortunate, for he was entirely without the gifts of a regent. He was a lover of order, economy, justice and pure morals, but through lack of mental and physical strength his good qualities were misdirected. His father’s tragic fate had a sinister influence upon his mind, the equilibrium of which was shaken also by the outrages of the revolutionists in France. Of a morbid sensibility, and without inclination to confide in any one, his religious mysticism led him into a state close to insanity. He imagined himself to be a reincarnation of Charles XII., while in Napoleon he recognized the monster of the Apocalypse, which he himself was sent to fight and conquer.
Gustavus IV, went to an extreme in his fear of liberal movements, placing severe censorship on the periodical press, book market and universities. Benjamin Hijer, the great philosopher, for some time left his chair at Upsala and the country. A man who was resolved to “go even to the doors of hell in search of truth” could not be in sympathy with the bigot despot. Hard times, produced by failure of crops and fisheries, and by maritime losses during the war between England and France, threw added umbrage over the reign of Gustavus IV. He convoked a Riksdag, in 1800, in order to raise money to cover the debts involved by his predecessor. He never repeated the experiment. The nobles sanctioned the absolute rule, but stormy sessions ensued over the royal propositions, six nobles re-signing from titles and privileges, six others their seats in the Riksdag. The peasants, almost as unyielding, were pacified by Toll. By his own authority, the king mortgaged the Swedish city of Wismar, in Mecklenburg, to the ruler of said duchy for a period of one hundred years, in receipt for a sum of some two million dollars.
There was no question in which the insanity of the king became more apparent or disastrous than in his foreign policy. An alliance of armed neutrality between Sweden, Russia and Denmark came to naught through the in-activity of Gustavus IV., and he stubbornly refused to accept the repeated offers of Napoleon of an alliance with France in the combat with the powers. Things took a sinister aspect when an intimate alliance was effected between Napoleon and Alexander of Russia, in 1807. Napoleon had lost patience with the lunatic king, and tried to call forth a catastrophe by urging Alexander to capture Finland, which he at first was unwilling to do. The French invaded Swedish Pomerania, and Toll was able to save the little Swedish army of 10,000 only by means of a most skilful diplomacy. Denmark, attacked by England, declared war against Sweden. Gustavus IV. made great preparations, sending Armfelt with one army to the Norwegian frontier and Toll with another to Scania. The regular army counted 100,000 men, and a great force of militia was organized. But through gross incapability of the govern-ment the majority of troops were never used, the militia suffering immensely through neglect and hunger.
Czar Alexander at last decided to capture Finland. He called it himself an act of bad faith and treason against a relative and ally, and in a treacherous way he carried on his preparations. The Swedish ambassador was misled as to the object of the latter, and when informed received exaggerated accounts as to the force which was to invade Fin-land. Gustavus IV. was alarmed and gave the old and incapable field-marshal, Klingspor, appointed to command the army in Finland, directions to save his troops in the best way possible. And so commenced, in February, 1808, the war which after a heroic struggle was to separate the Finns from their Swedish brethren. Not only were the Finnish troops possessed of the noblest patriotic spirit, but they had also courageous and distinguished commanders, who, if duly supported and intrusted with more authority, would probably have been able to ward off the attack. Conspicuous among the latter were C. J. Adlercreutz, born in Fin-land, the hero of Siikajoki, Lappo and Oravais; G. C. von Dbeln, the victor of Juutas, and J. A. Sandels, the hero of Pulkkila, Indensalmi and Virta, all three of them veterans from the war of Gustavus III.
The aged General Klercker commanded a Finnish army at Tavastehus, where Klingspor arrived with his royal orders, which were for retreat and evacuation of the country. The troops were deprived of their hopes of a battle and forced to make a retreat of nearly 600 miles, suffering from cold and hunger. The retreat continued without interruption for two months, until the army, in April, found itself between Brahestad and Uleoborg. A battle was fought at Siikajoki, April 18th, the sub-commander, General Adlercreutz, receiving instructions to make a stand against the enemy until the safety of the army supplies could be insured. After five hours of fighting, the Finns won a gloriot’s victory over the Russians. But royal orders for a continued retreat arrived, and the Russians took possession of Siikajoki.
As long as Sveaborg, the Gibraltar of the North, was safe, the final outcome of the struggle must remain undecided. Sveaborg, the creation of Augustinus Ehrensverd, is situated on seven islets and consists of several strong works partly cut out of the rock and in an admirable way protecting and supplementing each other. The fortress was defended by 6,000 men, with 1,000 cannon and ample pro-visions of all kinds; in the harbor a division of the Swedish navy was at anchor. Olof Cronstedt, the commander, was dissatisfied with the king and a secret supporter of Prince Charles. His sub-commander, Jaegerhorn, a brother of the leader of the Conspiracy of Anjala, was a traitor, probably in understanding with the Russians even before the war. A little army of 4,000 Russians under the command of Van Suchtelen was sent against Sveaborg. This force was too small to make a serious attack; it was not able to capture any of the fortifications; the naked rocks made it impossible to build any earthworks. What the Russians could not effect. by force they accomplished by treachery, winning over the commanding officers of Sveaborg through threats and promises. When the Swedish and Finnish soldiers saw the queer behavior of their officers they planned a mutiny; but this was not carried out on account of lack of leader-ship. The officers tried by the most shameful lies to pacify the soldiers, Jaagerhorn taking the leading part in these proceedings. Sveaborg surrendered May 3d, all Swedes being made prisoners of war, but the Finns given free leave. When the troops saw the small force of Russians and their miserable equipment, whey were enraged, breaking their weapons and tearing their banners to pieces. Croninstedt, Jaegerhorn and the other commanding officers became Russian citizens, and received high outward distinctions; but by both Russians and Finns they were ever treated with cold contempt on account of their shameless treason.
With the fall of Sveaborg, all hope of saving Finland was lost. In the summer of 1808, her army fought several glorious battles under the command of Adlercreutz, Dbeln and Sandels, but in the autumn it was attacked by a superior Russian force and was nearly closed in between Old Carleby and Vasa. Gripenberg stood with one division at Old Carleby, furthest to the north, Dbeln lay prostrated by illness at New Carleby., and Adlercreutz stood with the central body of troops at Oravais, about twenty miles south from the latter town. The Russian army attacked the force which was with Dbeln, resolved to cut off Adlercreutz from a retreat. One attack was already made at Juutas, near New Carleby, when Dbeln, alarmed by the news and heedless of his serious illness, was seen approaching. His men received him with enthusiasm, collected their scattering forces and proved victorious over the attacking enemy. The Russians retreated and Adlercreutz was saved.
The famous battle of Oravais was fought the following day, September 14th. The Swedish army was arranged on a promontory in the sea, with artillery on a hill to the north, close to which a detachment of the regiment of Helsingland was arranged in an excellent position. Another detachment of the same regiment was by a little brook at the south base of the promontory, with two cannon, under the command of Count William von Schwerin, a boy of six-teen years. At this latter point the battle was begun at five o’clock in the morning. The Russians, 8,000 strong, with twenty cannon and commanded by Kamenski, approached a bridge leading over the brook. The 400 Swedes offered a plucky resistance to the overwhelming force. Every time the bridge was filled by Russians, Schwerin swept it clear with the fire from his two cannon. This heroic struggle was kept up for four hours, when the Helsings had no more cartridges for their guns wherewith to support the artillery fire. The aide-de-camp Biornstierna, who was despatched thither by Adlercreutz, saw a pitiable sight. Most of the officers of the 400 Swedes were killed and the Russians were storming across the bridge in heavy masses. “Now, count,” cried Biornstierna, “let us see what your artillery amounts to!” Schwerin let the Russians approach until only fifty feet from the cannon, when he ordered : “Fire!” The whole first line of the Russian column fell. Schwerin gave command to have the cannon dragged a hundred yards back and then fired, with the same disastrous effect. Thus the retreat was made from hill to hill. At last the young hero received a mortal wound and his men were surrounded on every side. With a final effort he rose to his feet, broke through the lines with his valiant Helsings, and died in the midst of the Swedish troops.
Adlercreutz closely watched the movements of the Russians, and saw an opportunity to break through their centre, which was successfully done, the enemy turning into flight. It looked like an overwhelming defeat for the Russians, when reinforcements arrived in the last moment, and the exhausted Swedes had to stop fighting on account of the darkness of the night. After a battle of fifteen hours the Swedes had lost 2,600 men, or nearly one-third of their forces, but not one single cannon or banner. The remnants of the army followed the “royal orders of retreat,” crossing the Swedish frontier. Finland was lost and Sweden proper in danger.
Only a revolution could save the country. The republican aristocrats were the ones to bring it about. A conspiracy among them was formed, George Adlersparre and Ch. H. Anckarsverd being the leaders. When it was rumored that the former, with the western army division, of which he was the commander, had left the Norwegian frontier and was marching on Stockholm, Gustavus IV. sent order to Toll in Scania to meet him with his troops, while the king seemed to make preparations to leave. Great excitement reigned in Stockholm, and General Adlercreutz, who recently had been received in the capital with enthusiasm, resolved to take action in preventing the king’s departure. Accompanied by half a dozen officers, he entered the king’s bedchamber the morning of March 13th, and took possession of the king in person, who made a struggle and later a frustrated attempt to escape. The body-guards were persuaded to remain inactive. Prince Charles was proclaimed regent. Neither this fact nor the arrest of the king seemed to impress the population, who received the news with ice-cold reserve. The king was conducted to Drottningholm, and later to Gripsholm, where he signed the document of abdication, finally to be escorted out of the country with his family, never to return. He died in St. Gallen in 1837.
The regent’s first duty was to ward off the Russian invasion of Norrland and to obtain peace. Napoleon congratulated Sweden on having got rid of the “supremacy of a fool,” and sanctioned an armistice, granted by his general Marshal Bernadotte, who commanded an army in Seeland, ready to attack Sweden. Peace was made in Paris, Sweden receiving back Pomerania in return for a promise to close its own harbors against English ships. Peace with Denmark was made, with no change of territory on either side. Attempts to rout the Russian army of invasion at Ratan, in West Bothnia, were unsuccessful, but it withdrew by its own choice_ In the treaty of peace signed at Fredericshamn, September 17, 1809, Finland, the archipelago of Aland and a part of Swedish Bothnia were ceded to Russia, the rivers of Torne and Muonio to form the boundary line Finland, since time immemorial in intimate relations with Sweden, from whom she had received a portion of her population, had for 600 years with her mother country formed integral parts of the same realm. Sweden had given to Finland her religion, constitution, laws, privileges and culture, and in return received her fidelity and a host of patriotic men eminent in affairs of war and peace. Together the Swedes and Finns had fought on the battlefields of Europe for the political grandeur of their country and the religious liberty of the world. United to Russia, Finland preserved her institutions and privileges unmolested, and has, up to date, enjoyed a peaceful development greater than would perhaps have been her share under Swedish rule. The mother country was after this great loss forced to concentrate her energy on a more solid material progress, and has, according to the prophecy of Esaias Tegnér, “within the boundary of Sweden reconquered Finland.” The Finns have proved themselves to be one of the most talented and energetic of nations. Out of the two million inhabitants of Finland, two-fifths are Swedish, forming the nobility and the majority of the cultured classes. Already at the time of the separation from Sweden was born the national singer of Finland, John Ludvig Runeberg, who was to become the greatest poet that ever wrote in the Swedish language and one of the greatest that ever lived. In his immortal songs of “Finland’s latest war,” the two countries have a great common inheritance. Sweden dreamed of reconquering Finland as soon as a good warrior ascended the throne, This hope was given up forever. But the most intimate sympathy still reigns between the two countries. In case that harm to Finland or her home-rule should be done, and her independence be lost, the Swedish people would not be in a position to avenge such a crime, but it would cause profound grief and indignation, and would be considered a shameful act of violence which the glory of no peace emperor would suffice to cover.
By the revolution of 1789, Sweden for a second time in her history surrendered her liberty into the hands of an energetic and patriotic ruler, only to see the absolute power utterly abused by an incompetent successor. The loss and suffering were almost as great as at the death of Charles XII., but the era of democracy, peace and prosperity so much closer at hand. It was the spirit of the aristocratic republicanism which caused the timely downfall of absolute monarchy, but it was in its turn destined to fall for the spirit of democracy and a constitutional government.