Until 1866, the Swedish Riksdag (parHament) remained an assembly of four separate Estates, those of the Nobility, Clergy, Burghers and Peasants. Previous research concerning the movement for reforming the composition of the Riksdag at mid-century has primarily dealt with the liberals, while the conservatives have generally been assumed to have defended the status quo. As a result, the conservatives' reform proposals have not been seriously analyzed by historians. One exception to this rule is the proposal presented in 1851 by the conservatives' leader in the House of Nobility, August von Hartmansdorff Since his plan called for class elections which would eliminate the Nobility's role in the Riksdag, and since this idea led his earlier supporters to desert him, von Hartmansdorffs proposal cannot be considered representative of the conservatives' efforts in the reform controversy.
The present dissertation deals especially with the so-called Junkers, a group consisting primarily of landowning noblemen under the leadership of Carl Otto Palmstierna, Henning Hamilton and Gustaf Lagerbjelke. This group had begun to liberate itself from the civil servant von Hartmansdorffs influence in 1848, and at he following Riksdag in 1850—51 they had captured control of the House of Nobility.
The most important source materials for this study have been the minutes kept by the Estates of the Nobility and Clergy, Henning Hamilton's papers and August von Hartmansdorffs diary notes. In addition, Carl Otto Palmstierna's letters to Gustaf Lagerbjelke from the spring of 1850 have been invaluable for a vital portion of the investigation.
After reviewing the state of the reform question at the end of the 1840s with the help of previous literature, the author presents biographical data on the Junker leaders. Henning Hamilton was especially theoretically aware, and with the help of four documents from 1847 and three from 1850, all stemming from this Junker leader's hand, the author presents Hamilton's general view of society and of the reform issue. This presentation shows that Hamilton's views were essentially the same as those held by the majority of his contemporaries; his view of society can be described as organic and hierarchical. Starting from this general way of looking at things, Hamilton constructed a model of political representation based on classes. To retain the four old Estates was impossible, since the society's general development had left them more and more isolated.
The dissertation's central chapter investigates a series of proposals for representational reform in which the Junkers were involved. The disturbances on the Continent in 1848 awakened broader interest in the question of representational reform, and, at King Oscar Fs request, Henning Hamilt n drew up the main lines of a reform proposal in March of that year. Here he elaborated upon the idea that von Hartmansdorff had introduced earlier. Hamilton's proposal brought previously unrepresented groups into the framework of the Estates and created new co orate elective bodies for two groups among the unrepresented, i.e., for non-noble civil servants and for non-noble estate owners. Hamilton proposed that the Nobility should relinquish the right each noble family had to one seat in the House of Nobility and instead go over to a system of electing a limited number of representatives. Finally, Hamilton suggested that the representatives selected by each corporate elective body should be divided equally between two parliamentarychambers.
Hamilton's plan for election procedures served as the point of departure for further study in the Riksdag's Committee on the Constitution, which appointed a special sub-committee to investigate the matter further. This sub-committee later presented a complete proposal for a new Riksdag Act, which, however, was never adopted. In light of developm'=;nts abroad and at home, the Government instead drafted and presented a more radical proposal based on common elections. The Committee on the Constitution found it necessary to approve the Government's proposal, after which the proposal had to rest until the following Riksdag before it could be enacted as a revision of the fundamental laws. A number of the Committee's conservative members, including Gustaf Lagerbjelke, registered their dissent and at the same time presented their own proposal, which retained class elections. Their proposal was based on Hamilton's ideas, but it had probably been reworked by the Secretary to the Committee on the Constitution, Johan Jacob Nordström.
With the help of an energetic propaganda campaign, the conservatives tried to prepare for the defeat of the royal proposal at the following Riksdag and took steps to be in a position to present an alternate proposal of their own. These efforts increased in impetus early in 1850 when the general poUtical situation had improved the conservatives' prospects for success.
With the support and help of Carl Otto Palmstierna, Gustaf Lagerbjelke drafted a proposal during the spring of 1850 which further elaborated upon an idea that he had presented in 1848. According to this the Estates should select representatives to sit in a so-called riksnämnd (National Committee), which would replace the Riksdag's permanent committees. The National Committee should, according to Lagerbjelke, be given authority to appoint investigatory organs as might be found necessary, and its decisions should require confirmation by the Estates. If the Estates were not able to come to a majority decision among themselves on questions concerning budgetary and other important matters that demanded positive action, the opinion of those two Estates who agreed most closely with the National Committee's position should be considered the Riksdag's decision. This plan was designed to avoid the random procedure currently employed in such cases, i.e., the formation of a so-called enlarged committee.
Lagerbjelke's ideas were elaborated upon in 1850. The four Estates were to be allowed to admit representatives of certain previously unrepresented groups. Lagerbjelke and Palmstierna did not consider the number of unrepresented individuals large enough to necessitate the creation of any new corporate elective bodies. As opposed to their position in 1848, they were no longer prepared to allow any special representation for civil servants. The Nobility was to elect its representatives and to open its ranks to a number of representatives for landowning civil servants. It was also decided that each Estate should consist of seventy-five members and that all of the Estates' members should be included in the National Committee. The National Committee was given increased powers so that measures which it adopted on ordinary issues either by acclaim or by a two-thirds majority were not to be referred to the Estates. In those cases where the Estates were to have the final say, they were not to be allowed to debate the issues at hand.
During the summer of 1850, Hamilton drafted a new version of his proposal from 1848, perhaps at the suggestion of Carl Otto Palmstierna. Here Hamilton abandoned the idea of special representation, as Lagerbjelke was to do in his proposal in 1851. Work on Hamilton's new proposal ceased, however, when the Junkers learned that the King preferred a reform along the lines of Lagerbjelke's less sweeping proposal. In the end, the Junkers decided to present Lagerbjelke's proposal.
As soon as the King was convinced that the proposal would be presented to the Riksdag, he disengaged himself from further involvement in it. The King's interest in the proposal stemmed primarily from his desire to have something to point to when, as he hoped would happen and as in fact did happen in December 1850, the proposal adopted by the Committee on the Constitution in 1848 was defeated. The King's main concern about the reform issue was to see that the debate on it remained on a harmless level. The Crown Prince later reported that his father had withdrawn his support for the Lagerbjelke proposal completely.
Lagerbjelke's proposal was discussed and scrutinized by a group of conservatives during the months around the New Year 1851. It became evident at that time that the Estate of the Clergy was opposed to a reawakening of the reform issue, but Lagerbjelke's proposal was nevertheless adopted by the Committee on the Constitution with the narrowest majority possible. The Clergy's representatives on the Committee had more or less been forced to follow the Nobility's lead against their own will in order to avoid any sort of liberal proposal's being adopted instead.
In addition to the fact that the Junkers' reform proposal introduced simplified operating procedures for the Riksdag, it also introduced a change in the power relationships in that national body. Most important, agriculture's position would have been strengthened at the cost of other economic interest groups. Not only large landowners, but also small farmers were to be ensured greater influence. All of the proposals lack any specific description of election methods, so it is difficult to determine their consequences with any degree of accuracy. It does seem clear, however, that the Junkers used the reform issue as a means to free the Estate of the Peasants from its long-standing dependence on the Burghers. There is clear evidence that the Junkers made efforts in this direction in other areas. During the debate in the Estates on Lagerbjelke's proposal, the Junkers introduced a modified version of the proposal which called for additional members for the Estate of the Peasants at the cost of the Clergy and the Burghers. However, this prospect did not win the support of a majority in the Estate of the Peasants.
With a few minor alterations, Lagerbjelke's proposal was adopted by the Nobility and the Clergy, while it was rejected completely by the Burghers and the Peasants. Criticism of the proposal was also sharp in the two upper Estates where not only the liberals and the fanatic proponents of automatic representation for each noble family, but also reform-minded conservative politicians opposed it. Within both the Nobility and the Clergy, on the other hand, the proposal won the support of a small number of moderate liberals who preferred minor reform to no reform at all.
In their debates, the two upper Estates devoted special attention to the proposal's abolition of automatic representation for each noble family and to the fact that it did not grant civil servants the right to special representation. The most important reservations, however, concerned the fact that no details had been presented about the laws which would regulate elections to the different Estates. According to the proposal, each Estate was to write its own election regulations, and the critics argued that this lack of clarity made it impossible to foresee the proposal's consequences. Many opposed the proposal since they feared that the projected National Committee would reduce the powers of the Estates to nil. One possible result of the proposal was that it could lead to a unicameral system, thus eliminating double scmtiny and paving the way for premature legislation. After further discussions in the Committe on the Constitution and in the Estates, the Lagerbjelke proposal was adopted as resting until the following Riksdag by an enlarged Committee on the Constitution.
One would expect the men behind the Lagerbjelke proposal to have gathered material for the adaptation of the rules of the Estates to the proposed system in an effort to disarm critics before final deliberation of the proposal at the upcoming Riksdag, but they did nothing of the sort. The proposal was defeated at the Riksdag of 1854. The Burghers gave the proposal their approval, but its fate had already been sealed by the other three Estates. Although more members of the House of Nobility spoke in favor of the proposal than against it, the vote taken on the issue revealed a clear majority for the proposal's opponents. As had been the case in 1851, the opponents came from all imaginable political groupings. The proposal's supporters were to be found primarily among the Junkers, but a few moderate liberals lent it their support this time, too.
Both with regard to what happened in connection with the Lagerbjelke proposal and with regard to what happened later on in the 1850s concerning proposals for partial reforms related to the defeated conservative proposal, it is perfectly clear that the Junker's support for the Lagerbjelke proposal was primarily motivated by tactical considerations. The conservatives, and especially the Nobility, felt the need to demonstrate their willingness for reform and to oppose liberal advances by presenting proposals of their own. The present study has also shown that relations between the Nobihty and the Clergy were sometimes quite strained. While conservative leaders in the House of Nobihty were mostly interested in reform, the Clergy's principal actors were inclined to defend the status quo. This study has also revealed the great problems involved in working out the details of class election proposals. Such a proposal had to mirror the society and its interest groups, but there was great disagreement as to how much representation the separate interest groups should be given and as to how boundaries between the interest groups should be defined. Supporters of class elections can be said to have had a program which was more suited to voicing negative criticism than to presenting positive initiatives.
With the defeat of the Lagerbjelke proposal in 1854, each of the three main currents in Swedish politics — the liberals, the Government and the conservatives — had tried to solve the question of representational reform and had failed. Only attempts at partial reform were made at Riksdags during the rest of the 1850s, while the issue in its entirety was not brought to the fore again until Prime Minister Louis De Geer presented his proposal for the abolition of the Estates and the constitution of a bicameral Riksdag based on common elections in 1863. The counterproposal presented by the conservatives at that time had no chance of being adopted. It was based on a bicameral system built primarily on common elections, but with certain remnants of the Estate system in the upper chamber. The primary conservative guarantee, however, was the plutocratic nature of the upper chamber. Thus the conservatives had abandoned the principle which they had followed previously in the reform debates, i.e., class elections. Instead they had adopted property and income quahfications as a means to secure conservative values, a means which they had previously found repulsive.
Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1975. , 128 p.