CHARLES XV., the eldest son of Oscar I., succeeded his father, having for two years presided over the government during king Oscar’s last illness. King Charles was of gigantic stature, exceedingly handsome and of a manly and noble bearing. There dwelt a fiery soul within him, conscious of its power, longing for heroic deeds and in sympathy with all that was noble in life and art. The king possessed an abundance of youthful energy and vivacity. He was a passionate hunter and a gay companion, who surrounded himself with men equally boisterous and gay. He was fond of jokes and merry pas-times, and took no pains to hide his weaknesses, which were of a convivial nature. In his social intercourse the king was exceptionally open and frank, treating everybody alike in a good-natured, hearty manner, winning the whole heart of his people. He understood better than any king since Charles XI. how to put himself in cordial relation with the masses of the people. But fond of playing practical jokes on high and low, he did not like to receive in the same measure. Charles XV. was devoted to the pursuits of art. Especially in his youth, he wrote poetry and distinguished himself as a landscape painter through his love for typical Swedish sceneries. Sweden did not at first know what to expect of her new ruler, and no one was able to predict the course of his policy. There were fears that his youthfulness and his fiery southern temperament might lead him to feel satisfied with the exterior of things or that he might give way to the impulses of the moment. These fears soon proved to be without foundation. The king had chosen as his maxim “Land shall with law be built,” from the old provincial law of Upland, and he remained, with very rare exceptions, true to the constitutional spirit of these words. He had the good fortune to find highly capable advisers, in whose hands he placed the details of the administration, and, in contrast to his father, was satisfied to give his attention exclusively to matters of a more general importance. He gave his unreserved support to his cabinet, occupying a position above all party interests. Charles XV. often sacrificed, sometimes only after consider-able internal struggle, his own personal sympathies and inclinations at the request of the advisers when he saw that the welfare of his country and his own royal dignity demanded such a sacrifice. On account of this, his true constitutional spirit, he deserved as a ruler the blind adoration of his people. His summer residence, the castle of Ulricsdal, in the neighborhood of Stockholm, he changed into an artistic abode, with choice collections in various lines. Charles XV. had, in 1850, married Princess Louise of the Netherlands, of the royal house of Orange. Their daughter, Louise, was married to the crown prince of Denmark, and is still in life, while King Charles had to suffer the premature losses of his only son and of his consort.
The cabinet which surrounded Charles XV. was one of the strongest bodies of its kind that ever controlled the government of Sweden. During his regency, Crown Prince Charles appointed Baron Louis de Geer minister of justice and Ludvig Manderstrm minister of foreign affairs. These men continued their duties during the reign of Charles XV., while Gripenstedt, as minister of finance, followed up his beneficent activity for the emancipation and development of the national industries. The historian, Frederic Ferdinand Carlson, had been the teacher of King Charles and had successfully continued the monumental work of Swedish history, left unfinished by Geijer. Carlson occupied, during the greater part of the reign of Charles XV., the position of minister of ecclesiastics (church and education), in which capacity he did great work for the improvement of educational affairs. The high schools and colleges were reorganized through new regulations of 1859, being the work of Carlson before his appointment to the cabinet. Carlson also improved the public, or common, schools. King Charles was a warm friend of public instruction. In one of his speeches from the throne he said : “This is my ambition that a true and living culture shall penetrate our people and with its blessings reach the humblest of its cottages.”
The relations. between Sweden and Norway, during the first few years of the reign of Charles XV., were strained. The Norwegian Storthing once more voted the abolition of the office of a governor-general. It was thought that the king, who earlier, as viceroy of Norway, had spoken in a spirit of acquiescence upon this question, would sanction the vote of the Storthing. But in Sweden great indignation was felt. It was known and understood that the Act of Union contained nothing in regard to the office in question, but was created by a stipulation in the constitution of Norway which admitted the possibility of its being filled by a Swede.
The Norwegian view was that the Storthing had exclusive right to decide the question, while the Swedish view was that it was a question concerning the Union and to be decided on by the diets of the two countries. Practically the Swedes were right; theoretically, and from a purely patriotic standpoint, which considered necessary the development of a perfect national independence even at the expense of the Union, the Norwegians were right. Ankarsverd, well known since the days of Charles XIV., made a motion, at the Swedish Riksdag of 1859, for the revision of the Act of Union on the basis of the treaty of Kiel, which motion in Norway was accepted as an insult. V. F. Dalman made a motion that the Estates should ask the king not to render a decision in the question of a Norwegian governor-general before the Riksdag had had an opportunity to look into the international aspect of the question. Great was the commotion caused by this issue, both in the diets and the press of the two countries. Swedish pamphlets were circulated which accepted the possibility of a dissolution of the Union. But in Norway, where the security of a union with Sweden had become apparent, especially during the conflict with Russia, such utterances were repudiated. Both of the motions in question were passed by the four Estates of the Riksdag, but put in such a shape that a request to have a revision of the Act of Union made was sent up to the king, with the demand for a royal proposition on that issue. The king was then asked to consider the question of a Norwegian governor-general in connection with that revision. As there was a difference of opinion also in the cabinets of the two countries, the final decision rested with the king alone. The sagacity and discernment of which King Charles gave evidence saved the situation and is worthy of praise. He declared in the Norwegian cabinet that he could not sanction the abolition of the office of a governor-general. Shortly afterward, he gave in the Swedish cabinet as his opinion the advisability of postponing, for the time being, all deliberations of a revision of the Act of Union. By doing so, the king quieted the high feelings in both countries, and peace returned. It had become apparent to both Swedes and Norwegians that the Union was the result of great political foresight because it was preserved through the increasing feeling of faith and of the necessity of mutual protection. That great obscurity existed in regard to the affairs regulating the Union had also become evident.
The reforms and improvements which were effected during the reign of Charles XV. were highly important. New criminal and maritime codes were made at the Riksdag of 1862, and sanctioned by the government. Through the new regulations passed in the same year the foundations for increased municipal home rule were laid. Such home rule was as old as the country itself, but, in the same degree as the state organization, had attained a higher development, and the centralization of the administration was realized; it had weakened and was in peril of being entirely lost. Now the time was cone for the powers of state to give municipal home rule new strength, adapting its old forms and creating new ones, in accordance with modern requirements. Laws were made which gave the towns the right to elect members to local assemblies (stadsfullmoegtige), with authority to act in behalf of their communities. Similar institutions (koinmunalstcemmor) were arranged for the country communities. Landsting were instituted in every governmental district, or loen, at which representatives, elected by the people, were to take action on the public affairs of the district, especially on such that pertained to sanitary conditions, communications, etc. The conditions for suffrage and elective franchise in municipal affairs were based on personal income. The old class distinctions were thus disregarded and a return made to the still older democratic institutions of the ancient Teutonic communities, in which every free man is entitled to his word and vote in public affairs. But those only are considered “free” who by their work can gain enough to pay their taxes in return for the privileges of a citizen. The church got a representation of its own in the clerical assembly (kyrkomoetet), which meets every fifth year and consists of equal numbers of ministers and laymen.
The government in the municipal reforms found a basis for the reorganization of the Riksdag. The royal proposition for a new parliamentary representation, placed before the Estates in 1862, was built upon the municipal suffrage and the Landstings or district assemblies, the latter being authorized to elect the members of the senate, or First Chamber. The old system of representation corresponded as little with the new municipal home rule as with the general tendencies in politics and social life. The nobility had lost its old importance. It was no longer advisable for the clergy to take a leading part in political affairs. A new industrial class of wealth and prominence had formed and demanded a representation in the burgher class. The peas-ants had ever since 1809 been carrying on their agitation for a reduction of taxes and abolition of the class privileges. They had met with an overwhelming opposition, which would fall with the old system of representation. A parliamentary reform had been fervently discussed ever since 1840. The municipal home rule reforms of 1862 had brought the question closer to a solution. The burghers and peasants at the Riksdag of 1860 petitioned the govern-ment to present a royal proposition for the reorganization of the Diet. Baron Louis de Geer, the minister of justice, was the author of this proposition, which was presented in 1862 and placed on the table until the next Riksdag. The great question was acted upon at the Riksdag of 1865. There was a great deal of commotion on account of the opposition which was expected from the nobility and clergy. The discussions in the periodical press and in pamphlet form were lively. The country population preserved its peaceful and sensible demeanor, but the excitement in the towns was considerable and increased as the decision drew nearer. The majority of towns and several rural communities in their close proximity sent deputations to Stockholm, who tendered their best wishes to the able minister of justice for the success of his proposition. The commotion in Stockholm was so great that troops were ordered ready in case of an emergency. The 4th of December the proposition was voted on by the burghers and peasants. At the question of the speaker, whether they were willing to accept the royal proposition, the peasants rose to their feet in a body and gave their answer with one laconic yea. A few of the burghers spoke against the proposition, but it was carried also in their Estate, and by an overwhelming majority. Long and heated discussions took place among the nobility and clergy. The clergymen were generally opposed to the parliamentary reform, but feared to be found remaining as the only opponents in the storm of disapproval which would follow. For this reason they postponed their decision until the nobility had taken action upon the proposition.
There rested a spirit of real grandeur over the deliberations at the Riddarhus upon this occasion, when the question of a voluntary surrender of the aristocratic privileges was to be decided. The Swedish nobility had its class instincts and prejudices, but very rarely it had been found lacking in men of the loftiest patriotism and highest attainments, ever ready to take the lead in the defence of the independence of their country or to follow up faithfully the ambitions of their great rulers. Arrangements had been made to allow noblemen from distant parts and of very limited means to be present, if not during the time of the discussions, which lasted four days, at least at the casting of the vote. Never in the memorable history of the knightly chapterhouse had more eloquent language or loftier thoughts been heard than upon this occasion. Both supporters and opponents of the royal proposition spoke with great sagacity and discernment. The former spoke of the inadvisability of a representation by Estates and by hereditary privileges, and of the dangers of a further postponement of the needed reform. The latter nicely scrutinized the royal proposition, which was considered to give too great influence to the peasants, to weaken the executive power and to depend upon municipal reforms as yet untried. They further considered the upper house, or First Chamber, too homogeneous with the Second to be able to exert the conservative or retaining power expected from it. The members of the cabinet all spoke with fervor and persuasive power in favor of the royal proposition, especially De Geer, Gripenstedt and Carlson. The outcome was that the royal proposition was accepted by a vote of 361 yeas against 294 nays. The nobility as a class thus left the political arena voluntarily and with honor. Now the turn was come to the clergy, who unanimously accepted the royal proposition without further discussion. The result was accepted with outbursts of enthusiasm from all over the country, but especially from the towns. The four Estates adjourned June 22, 1866, forever, and the law of the new system of parliamentary representation was sanctioned the same date.
The royal proposition, which became the law of a new Diet, is based upon the principle of general elections. The Riksdag meets at the commencement of every year. It is divided into two houses or Chambers. The members of the First Chamber, or upper house, are elected for a term of nine years, partly by the Landstings, or district assemblies, partly by the assemblies of towns which do not take part in a Landsting. Elective to the First Chamber are those who have a yearly income of at least $1,000 from some business or enterprise, or as the interest on a capital of their own. These members, or senators, must be at least thirty-five years of age; they do not enjoy any compensation. The members of the Second Chamber, or lower house, are elected by every judicial district in the country which has no more than 40,000 inhabitants and by every 10,000 in-habitants of a town. Towns which have a population of less than 10,000 inhabitants are joined into election districts of from 6,000 to 12,000 inhabitants. Elective to the Second Chamber are those who pay taxes on an income of at least $200 a year and who are twenty-five years of age. These members are compensated for the time spent at the Riksdag. The ordinary Riksdag, which meets every year, lasts for a period of at least four months. The extraordinary Riksdag is called by the king whenever he finds it necessary. The members of the cabinet are elective as members of the Riksdag, and should, during all sessions, be present at the deliberations of the Chambers. The standing committees remain the same as during the time of the old system. Special and temporary committees are appointed when considered necessary. When the two Chambers end in a conflicting vote upon one and the same subject, the committee which prepared it for discussion should try to obtain a satisfactory solution. If such fails, the question is dropped for that year. The expenses of state, the state appropriations and the management of the national bank, when involved, form exceptions to this rule and are voted upon by both Chambers together, the majority of votes from both making the decision.
A new era in Swedish history opens up with the acceptance of the parliamentary reform. The constitution itself had suffered no change, except in points of contact with the new rules of the Riksdag. But the powers of state no longer held to each other the same position as of yore. The government hitherto had, in the very division into four Estates, a support against powerful class and party interests. An equally solid support was not to be expected from a Riksdag of only two Chambers, which in questions of state appropriations is practically one. For this reason many would have preferred the establishment of a system which, instead of abolishing the medieval arrangement of four Estates, would have added as many classes as there are really extant in the modern state, to gain the desired equilibrium through a manifold and dynamically operating representation. As things shaped themselves after the two Chamber system, the government ought more than ever to have a conservative, retaining power in order to preserve the proper balance. But such was not the case, for the Riksdag had been placed in a position to watch and control the executive power much closer than before, thanks to its authority to fix for each year the appropriations and expenditures of the state. The stipulation that the members of the cabinet are to take part in the deliberations of the Chambers gives another pillar of strength to the Riksdag. If the ministers of state are to exert any influence upon the decisions of the Riksdag, it is requisite to have its full confidence. The king is forced to select for his cabinet such members as are supposed to have an influence with the representatives of the people. The influence of the Riksdag has been steadily increasing ever since 1867.
While the issue of a parliamentary reform occupied the attention of all public-spirited men, the interest in the political situation of Europe was hardly less intense. The sympathy with the unhappy Poles was almost feverish. In 1863 two motions were made at the Riksdag to petition the government to take an active part in the restoration of the kingdom of Poland, by means of diplomatic intervention. The position of the government was a difficult one. The complications between Denmark and Germany had recommenced, and it was important to stand in good relations to Russia. The Swedish public did everything to make these relations precarious, by demonstrations of various kinds in favor of Poland, warlike newspaper articles and subscriptions of money to the leaders of the revolt. Thanks to the sagacity and tactful demeanor of Manderstrm and the common sense of the Riksdag the motions in question were defeated and a dangerous conflict avoided. Complications of a more serious nature arose on account of the reopened conflict between Denmark and Germany. The Danish government had failed in its efforts to make a satisfactory arrangement in the relations between the crown and the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The Germans repeatedly mixed themselves up in the interior affairs of Denmark, and the Danes themselves were divided into several parties. King Frederic VII. at last concluded to give up the idea of gathering in the duchies as integral parts of the kingdom, satisfied to sacrifice the ultimate connection of Holstein and Lauenburg with the crown, but resolved to connect the originally Danish Schleswig with Denmark. The purely German parts were, through the so-called “March Patent” of 1863, separated from the rest of the monarchy, while Schleswig was reunited with it, according to the constitution. This policy was approved by the Scandinavian party in Sweden and Norway, supported by Swedish diplomacy, and, in the first place, by Charles XV. himself. King Charles was inspired by general sympathy with the Scandinavian movement and by personal friendship for Frederic VII. to follow up the Scandinavian policy of his father. The two Scandinavian monarchs met twice during the summer of 1863 and influenced the Swedish-Norwegian and Danish cabinets to draw the outline of a treaty of defence on the basis of the river Eider as the Danish boundary to the south. The Danish government made the proposition for a new constitution according to which Schleswig was to be united to Denmark. This was contrary to the promise made by King Frederic to the German powers in 1852. The proposition for a new constitution was placed before the Danish Diet and accepted. Two days later, November 15, 1863, King Frederic suddenly died, before he had sanctioned the new law. This was a severe blow. The popular king left his beloved people in a most inopportune moment, fraught with peril and disastrous mistakes. The people of Schleswig and Holstein renewed an old contention in regard to the right of succession. The new Danish king, Christian IX., gave in to the pressure brought to bear on him by his cabinet and the inhabitants of Copenhagen. He signed the new constitution, which gave to the German powers a valid excuse to interfere. The Prussian and Austrian troops crossed the river Eider to make good the agreements of 1852.
The Swedish-Norwegian government was placed in an embarrassing position. The alliance of defence that was planned was to a great extent based upon the relations of personal friendship between Charles XV. and Frederic VII. Sweden was not legally pledged to shield Denmark as a consequence of the acceptance of the new constitution. But Sweden had taken a conspicuous part in the deliberations, for which reason a change of policy could not be made with-out considerable difficulty. The liberal organs of the Swedish press, headed by “Aftonbladet,” whose editor was August Sohlman, did everything in their power to make such a change an impossibility. But Sweden was not pre-pared to make war on two of the great powers of Europe, especially as no other power was willing to join in an alliance in behalf of Denmark. The change must be made; and was effected, principally because of the persuasive arguments and resolute demeanor of Gripenstedt. King Charles re-solved to take the painful measures of a retreat. The standpoint of his government he gave to the Riksdag in the following words : “It cannot be expected from us that we should place our sword on the scale of justice without considering if the object can be attained with the resources at our command.” It was a supreme sacrifice that Charles XV. made when, for the safety of his countries, he was forced to draw back the hand of support and comradeship which he had offered a brother in distress. The noble-hearted king, in one of his poems, has given a touching expression of the sorrow he felt in being unable to assist Denmark in her hour of peril. King Charles might, with proper resources at his command, have proved a formidable enemy. He had given evidence of possessing all the qualities requisite for the make-up of a great general, without doubt an inheritance from his two grandfathers, Prince Bernadotte and Eugene Beauharnais. A few hundred Swedish and Norwegian volunteers took an honorable part in the Danish war, which was the only practical result of the Scandinavian policy. The Swedish press was violent in its attacks upon the government for its change of policy. In March, 1864, the mob of Stockholm assailed the residences of Manderstrm, Gripenstedt and other cabinet members, breaking the windows with stones.
Poor Denmark was left alone. Napoleon Ill. made the mistake of not attempting to defeat Prussia before she had reached her climax of strength. He was tied up with his Mexican adventure and unwilling to help Denmark, Charles XV. could not endure to see Denmark thus deserted. Privately he offered Christian IX. an alliance which stipulated that the three Scandinavian kingdoms should be joined into a union with one common foreign policy and common defence. Charles was also willing to make the succession one, if necessary. This alliance was to embrace only such parts of Denmark which were not to enter the German union. Sweden-Norway would do their utmost to prohibit a separation between Denmark and Schleswig. Denmark refused to accept this offer. Her leading statesman, Monrad, held stubbornly to the idea of an undivided Danish monarchy. For this reason, Denmark was for a second time abandoned to fight out alone her uneven battle. It ended in the loss of Holstein, Lauenburg and the greater part of Schleswig, through the treaty of Vienna, October 30, 1864. In Denmark a hard feeling against the Swedes and Norwegians sprang up as a consequence of the disastrous war fought without allies; and the Scandinavian policy and enthusiasm had received a blow from which they have never fully recovered. Charles XV, did all in his power to revive them. He had the pleasure of uniting the efforts of Sweden, Norway and Denmark in a peaceful work of great significance, the first Scandinavian Exposition of Industry and Art, which was opened at Stockholm in June, 1866. The consequence was a perfect Norwegian conquest of Sweden, in a cultured sense. The painters Tidemand and Gude captured the prizes. The composers Kierulf and Nordraak took the lead in song and music. Ibsen and Bjornson became the craze in literature. The literary contact with Norway was begun in 1861, when Lorenz Dietriechson was appointed a docent at the University of Upsala, and for the first time made the contemporary Norwegian and Danish poets acquainted in Sweden, What Sweden received from Norway was a quaint, late-born Romanticism of a strong national flavor. When this Romanticism was changed into stern Realism its influence upon Swedish culture, especially her literature, was only increased, Swedish literature receiving strong realistic impulses from the neighboring Scandinavian countries. The Norwegian influence ceased, when the Swedes at last be-came aware that there was in it a deeply pessimistic trait, akin to the stern Norwegian and Scotch Christianity, which is incompatible with the Swedish national temperament, slightly inclined to melancholy, but of a robust and irrepressible desire to live and enjoy.
Charles XV. followed up his practical Scandinavian policy by marrying his only daughter Louise to Crown Prince Frederic of Denmark. King Charles was as unsuccessful in his noble efforts to unite more closely his two kingdoms as in his foreign policy. The king allowed some time to pass in order to let the ill-feeling, caused by the conflict of 1859 and 1860, die out. In February, 1865, he considered that the moment had arrived to institute the review of the Act of Union. He appointed a committee of Swedes and Norwegians to prepare the proposition of a new Act of Union, on the basis of perfect equality and right to decide separately all matters, except such pertaining to the Union. The committee performed the work, but their proposition was defeated at the Norwegian Storthing of 1871, at the instigation of John Sverdrup and K. Motzfeldt. The Swedish Riksdag for this reason also failed to accept it. At the close of the Riksdag, King Charles made the following utterance in regard to the defeated proposition : “What has now failed to attain success shall perhaps win out without difficulty when the two nations once have learned to place confidence in each other, as the result of a more intimate intercourse.” He saw with great satisfaction the completion of a railway which forever unites the Swedish and the Norwegian capitals with ties of steel.
The administration of Charles XV. persevered in its liberal policy concerning questions of economy and jurisprudence. This was particularly noticeable in commercial matters. The idea of free trade had won ascendency in Europe. Napoleon III. had entered a treaty of commerce with England, in strict opposition to the protective system. Other nations were one by one admitted into the free-trade system by means of new treaties. Sweden made a treaty of commerce and navigation in 1865. This step was severely criticised by the Riksdag of 1865-1866, both from a constitutional and financial point of view. Gripenstedt was accused of leading the way over demolished industries, but he defended his position with great eloquence. The treaty was ratified in spite of the powerful opposition in the Riksdag. The press condemned both the treaty and the government in the most violent language.
The first Riksdag of the new parliamentary system met January 19, 1867. The “Landstings” had sent to the First Chamber the most prominent men of the country. It was a truly representative gathering, a house of peers elected by the people. Lagerbielke, the landtmarshal of the preceding Riksdag, was appointed speaker. The Second Chamber counted a larger number of peasants as representatives than of any other class. Anton Nicolaus Sundberg, then bishop of Carlstad, now archbishop of Sweden, was made speaker of the Second Chamber. The power of the peasants made itself felt at once. There was formed a strong and influential party, the landtmanna, or country-men’s party, consisting of small landowners. The peas-ants constituted the majority, but the party also counted many titled and untitled country gentlemen in interests united with them. The founder of the party was Count Arvid Rutger Posse, later minister of state. Emil Key and the peasants Charles Ifvarsson and Liss Olof Larsson were among the leaders of the party. The policy of the Landtmanna party demanded simplification of the administration, economy in the matter of appropriations and a solution of the questions of the defence and taxation in harmony with the interests of the owners of the soil. The party followed up its policy with stern consistency from Riksdag to Riksdag, until in perfect control of the whole government. The opposition consisted of “the Intelligence” or intellectual party, which, without a solid constitution or a fixed policy, has in vain fought the spreading influence and power of the Landtmanna party. The latter has gone almost too far in its endeavors for economical reform, but has also given evidence of appreciation of the material needs of a cultural development, appropriating large sums for the benefit of science and education.
The army question was the most important issue of Swedish politics. The events of 1866 had made it evident that a strengthening of the defences was necessary. King Charles was anxious to have the question solved in a satisfactory manner, finding therein the only reliable safeguard for the future independence of Sweden. It was apparent that any attempts to settle the question in accordance with the system adopted by Charles XI. would be devoid of result. It was based upon direct taxation of the soil and must be opposed by the strong majority of small landowners of the Landtmanna party. A compromise policy was for this reason begun in 1867, the question of an abolition of the land tax being connected with the army question, although the two ought to have had no connection. The question was started with promises of a reduction or exemption of the duties of the old army system as compensation for the acceptance of a new arrangement for the country’s defence. The government made an army proposition to the Riksdag of 1869, promising several reductions to the land-owners who furnished soldiers according to the old system (indelningsverket). The proposition was prepared by a committee, of which the new minister of war, Gustavus Rudolph Abelin, was the chairman. It was based upon the preservation of the old system for the furnishing of the body force of officers and men. The larger force was to be provided for through militia, The militia was to be drilled in the neighborhood of their various homes during sixty days of the year. The proposition was not accepted. The militia compulsory service, as the duty of every citizen for the defence of his country, had nothing to do with the regular army as provided by the stipulations of the old system. But the majority of the Second Chamber confused the two and refused to allow the establishment of the former on a wider basis, because the offers made to reduce the burdens of the old system did not appear to them liberal enough. In 1871 another proposition was made by Abelin to the Riksdag. It was similar to the first one, and its cause was eloquently pleaded by Abelin, Axel Gustavus Adlercreutz, minister of justice, Peter Axel Bergstrm, minister of civil service, and Gunnar Vennerberg, minister of ecclesiastics. They warned against the mistake of attaching impossible conditions to the acceptance of the proposition. The proposition for an extended militia service was accepted by both Chambers, But when the Second Chamber raised, as a condition for its acceptance, the suspension, for fifteen years, of the old system which provided for the regular army, the government found it impossible to grant this, and the proposition was dropped.
King Charles was grieved and vexed with the fate of the army bills. The Franco Prussian war made it, in his opinion, of added importance to Sweden to have her defences remodelled. He called an extraordinary session of the Riksdag, in the autumn of 1871, when Abelin brought out a third proposition, It was chiefly of the same contents as the preceding ones. But a remarkable change in the public opinion had now taken place, as to the advisability of retaining the old system. Men who looked upon the question more from a military than an economic point of view entertained doubts as to the practical value of the old regular army as the body force of a compulsory militia. Military officers commenced to attack the old system as the basis of a new army. The Landtmanna party persevered in the request for an abolition of the old system, and this killed the army bill at the extraordinary Riksdag.
Together with the request for an abolition of the old army system, demands for redemption from other burdens placed upon the owners of the soil made themselves heard. The land-tax was the principal one of these burdens and caused as much difference of opinion as the army system. The Landtmanna party considered the land-tax to be of the same nature originally as other taxes, which ought to be more evenly distributed and shared by all classes in the same proportion. The Intelligence party was of the opinion that the land-tax in the course of time had come to be rents or mortgages which always were taken into consideration at the exchange of property, as reducing the stock value of the property in question. To free a present generation from the payment of land-tax, was in the eyes of the opposition, an injustice to the other classes whose taxes thereby were to be increased. The Landtmanna party had, in 1869, commenced an agitation for the reduction of the land-tax for shorter periods and on a small scale at first, but with increasing demands at every new Riksdag.
The government, whose members had been the champions of parliamentary reform, was soon disregarded by the triumphant party, while its old opponents never forgot it. The earlier advisers of the king retired one by one when they saw their influence in the Riksdag vanish. King Charles himself took the defeat of the army bills deep at heart. His health commenced to fail in 1871, and when his faithful consort died, in the same year, having exposed her own health in her attempts to improve the condition of the king, the latter grew worse. After a trip abroad for his health, King Charles XV, died at Malm, September 18, 1872, deeply mourned by the two nations. In the following year his youngest brother Nicolaus August, duke of Dalecarlia, died, leaving only two of the children of Oscar 1., Oscar Frederic, duke of East Gothland, and Princess Eugenie. The history of Charles XV. carries the principal traits of his character. His sweeping reforms in social, political and economical matters, and his great plans for the future, even if sometimes immature, or high-strung, were always characterized by loftiness of purpose. A typical Swede both in his merits and his faults, this was the secret of the immense popularity of King Charles, which always followed him, although he never sought it.
The philosopher Christian Jacob Bostrm is the most popular of Swedish thinkers and the first who founded a national system and school of philosophy, idealistic and rational, and in strict opposition to the system of Hegel. Bostrm was born in Pitea, in 1797, was the teacher of the sons of Oscar 1., and succeeded the able philosopher Samuel Grubbe, a talented follower of Hijer, as professor of philosophy at the University of Upsala. Bostroem was a highly fascinating and suggestive teacher, while he neglected his literary production, which is neither exhaustive nor quite representative of his philosophy, He exerted a considerable influence by his outline of a philosophical state, which pleased the conservatives, while a much more widespread and lasting impression was produced by his criticism of the doctrines of a hell and a devil. A whole literature sprang into life, discussing vehemently the existence or non-existence of the fiend. To this literature and the works and writings of Bostrm is to be credited the spirit of religious tolerance which characterized life and literature during the reign of Charles XV. It fostered in the cultured few a leaning toward Unitarianism or Theosophy, while it gave rise to a shallow materialism and religious indifference in the less cultured classes and individuals.
The artistic, literary and musical life bore a decided resemblance to the intellectually interested but dilettantic king. Charles XV. was surrounded by a great number of painters who, although possessing a good deal of talent, succeeded only in the smaller field of genre painting. Remarkable exceptions are J. F. Hckert, Marcus Larsson and C. H. L. D’Uncker, who possessed sterling genius and acquired great fame. Several promising painters, like George von Rosen, developed later the full scope of their power. The sculptor J. P. Molin was highly talented, a worthy follower of B. E. Fogelberg, who had enriched Swedish art with a number of highly important sculptures.
In the world of letters, the spirit of dilettantism was more strongly felt than in art, Swedish literature, after its several glorious epochs, experiencing one of its most stagnant periods. A veritable giant among pygmies was Victor Rydberg, whose remarkable novel, “The Last Athenian,” appeared in 1859, but whose principal productivity as a poet and scientist belongs to a later period. So do, to a great extent, the best works of the poets Eduard Beckstrm, also an able dramatist, and Count Carl Snoilsky. Zacharias Topelius, the Walter Scott and Hans Christian Andersen of Finland, must be mentioned here. Writing in the Swedish language, and for his principal work using subjects of Swedish history, he was as highly beloved in Sweden as in Finland. His excellent series of historical novels, called “The Surgeon’s Stories,” have been translated into several languages. His juvenile stories are not characterized by the same degree of inventive power as are the tales by Andersen, but Topelius had the latter’s ability of placing himself in intimate contact with the pure minds of all ages.
In the most national of Swedish cultural elements, the song, the epoch of dilettantism found its most beautiful and lasting expressions. The quartet and chorus singing at the universities of Upsala and Lund was cultivated to the highest standards of excellence and had a splendid repertory in the songs of Otto Lindblad, Vennerberg, Prince Gustavus, Josephsson, Crusell, Cronhamn, etc. The Upsala students caused a great sensation by their singing at the Paris Exposition of 1867, and have repeated their successes at the Paris Exposition of 1878, and in Berlin in 1898. Swedish quartets of men’s and women’s voices have travelled all over the world and made a lasting fame for this minor but bewitching branch of musical art. As dramatic singers of the first rank, Louise Michaëli and Christine Nilsson have been the worthy successors of Jenny Lind. To this period, as well as to the next, belongs Elisa Hvasser, the greatest and most versatile actress Sweden has ever had. This artist was equally at home in the farce and melodrama, but excelled in the tragic parts of the Shakespeare, Schiller, and Ibsen repertory. Indispensable in their positions at the Royal Theatre of Stockholm, Michaëli, the songstress, and Hvasser, the tragedienne, did not travel, thereby losing the fame a world would have been only too glad to give them.