Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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MECKLENBURG. Two grand duchies, situated on the Baltic and forming part of the German empire, bear this name; we shall treat of them together, because they have a constitution and a diet in common, though their territory is divided (with reference to executive power) into two grand duchies.


—Mecklenburg-Schwerin has an area of 13,346 square kilometres, and it had, in 1861, 548,449 and in (Dec.) 1871 557,897 inhabitants, of whom more than 540,000 belong to the Lutheran church. In 1880 the population was 577,055. The population in 1871 was distributed among the different parts of the territory as follows: domain lands or domanium, 201,829 inhabitants; knights' estates, 133,835 inhabitants; convent lands, 8,826 inhabitants; cities, 200,066 inhabitants; suburbs of cities, 13,151 inhabitants. The importance of these distinctions will be seen further on.


—Mecklenburg-Strelitz is composed of two principalities; Stargard on the east and Ratzeburg on the west of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The area of the two parts of the state is 2,717 square kilometres, and its population, in 1860, amounted to only 99,660 souls (chiefly Lutherans), of whom 48,773 occupied domain lands, 17,371 knights' estates, and the remainder the cities. The census of December, 1871, gave the number of inhabitants as 96,982. In 1880 the population was 100,269. In Mecklenburg a place containing a certain number of inhabitants is not always called a city, but a city is a locality represented at the diet. The capital, Neustrelitz, does not appoint a deputy, and if, nevertheless, it is treated officially as a city, this is in opposition to the spirit of the political language of the country. This language has preserved its superannuated character with a constitution whose principal provisions date from 1523, 1572, 1621 and 1755. It is true that, March 23, 1848, the grand duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin took the initiative of a reform. A new constitution was promulgated Aug. 23, 1849, the former estates were dissolved Oct. 10 of the same year, and the new representative body met Feb. 27, 1850. But Mecklenburg-Strelitz did not agree to this reform, and the equestrian order (proprietors of knights' estates, knights, Ritter), recovered from its stupor of 1848, complained to the German diet in session at Frankfort, arbitrators were appointed, and in consequence of their decision a grand ducal decree of Sept. 14, 1850, suppressed the constitution just sanctioned.


—Mediæval times were restored in what the equestrian order considered as their rights. In virtue of the pact of union of 1523, by which the estates (at that time the equestrian order, the cities and the prelates) declared their opposition for the future to a partition of the country, the two Mecklenburgs had but one diet with annual sessions alternately in the cities of Sternberg and Malchin, both situated in Mecklenberg-Schwerin. The grand duke of this country, who is considered the elder or the first of the grand dukes of Mecklenburg,*49 convokes the assembly and closes it. The grand duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz may assemble the estates of his territory to discuss their particular interests, for outside the diet the two duchies are entirely separate.


—The reformation having abolished the prelates, the estates are now composed of only two orders: the equestrian order and the cities, or, more correctly, the landschaft, or those outside the equestrian order. The estates admit of numerous territorial and other subdivisions, but with reference to the grand duke they form a body, a corporation. The equestrian order is composed of all the proprietors (nobles or not) of knights' estates residing in the country. They are more than 750 in number. The cities comprise Rostock, Wismar and thirty-eight others in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and seven in Mecklenburg-Strelitz; they are represented by members of their municipal councils, and more frequently by burgomasters. All the members of the equestrian order may take part in the deliberations of the diet, but can not be represented there. Those who assist at the deliberations, pay their own traveling expenses and support themselves, since each one exercises a personal right. The representatives of cities, on the contrary, are the mandatories of their fellow-citizens (or are considered to be), and receive a remuneration. Therefore, in a general assembly (in plenum), the equestrian order has a great numerical superiority; but the cities have the right of demanding that each order deliberate separately. Moreover, such a numerous assembly is not easily managed, and although there are many dignitaries in the assembly, it is nothing rare to hear several orators speak at once. Each member of the diet enjoys the right of initiative and may present his propositions to the general assembly: but when it is a question of changing the constitution, the proposition must first be submitted to a "limited committee" (engern Ausschuss) elected from among the members of the diet and sitting permanently. It will be understood that the constitution means merely privileges of the estates. Outside these privileges and finances the government has large powers. Almost all the laws not included in these two categories are termed indifferent. Besides, the estates exercise a certain influence on the administration of justice by their right of presentation to certain places of councilors and other special dispositions.


—In this organization, that part of the country which is called domain lands, domanium, and which has 250,000 inhabitants, is not represented at all. The two grand dukes, each in his own territory, enjoy power the more absolute since they are considered the proprietors of the soil. It seems to us, also, that the 150,000 inhabitants of equestrian or knights' estates should be added to the non-represented Mecklenburgers. The knights represent themselves and do not give themselves out as representatives of their tenants, laborers and house servants. The latter, therefore, find themselves under an absolute government. As an offset, the city of Rostock is almost independent. It is authorized to coin money, and enjoys the right of pardon and of mitigating punishments less than death or forced labor for life.


—The decree of Nov. 16, 1867, applicable to the two grand duchies, emancipated the peasants on the domains of the state. In virtue of this decree the peasants on the domains are to acquire the property which they work at present as simple farmers. But to do this they are bound to submit to the following conditions: 1. The peasant to retain his land to the amount of thirty-nine hectares, by paying a sum representing twenty-five times the yearly rental which he has hitherto paid; 2. Farm buildings to be charged to the peasant, the peasant to be credited, in the estimate made of their value, with the sums which he has contributed to their construction; 3. The peasant also to pay for farming implements and cattle, according to a certain rate; 4. The sums coming from the application of these different clauses, with the exception of a part to be collected afterward, to constitute a principal sum not redeemable, with interest at 4 per cent., and a sinking fund of 1 per cent. The peasants on the domains of the state have not the power of choosing between the old and new situation. They must either accept the conditions just enumerated, or vacate the lands which they occupy, the area of which is estimated at 150,000 hectares.


—It is plain that a constitution like that which existed up to the present time in Mecklenburg, requires a peculiar social organization. It could not remain altogether intact in view of the movement taking place everywhere in our day, but this remote corner of Germany has been but slightly influenced from without. Except in the cities, the middle class is scarcely represented; great landed proprietors, some tenants and many laborers constitute the population. Even in the so-called domain lands, which comprise half the country, there were before 1867 scarcely any of those small proprietors, at once independent and unpretentious, who form the strength of so many other countries. The land belonged to the state, and there were 254 farms on temporary leases, 1,283 on long leases, 4,165 so-called peasant farms (bauerstellen) generally held on hereditary leases, 7,209 still smaller farmers called budner, 2,244 cottagers (häusler), or day laborers, to whom were leased houses and gardens for long terms. We pass over certain subdivisions, as 750 mills, farrieries and public houses given on lease.


—The ancient institution of guilds continued to flourish on the shores of the Baltic till the introduction of the German constitution; therefore industry is scarcely known in the country; agriculture, too, is worth the attention of the observer only on great estates. Still another distinction should be made. Agriculture is neither skillful nor intensive; it is extensive, that is to say, it is carried on so as to employ as few men as possible. The climate is moist, the earth is soon covered with herbage; it was easy, therefore, to introduce the rotation of crops (koppelwirthschaft) common in Holstein. The proprietor prospers by this management, but the estate supports fewer men, since many of the former inhabitants were driven out to be replaced by cattle. We can not congratulate the country on this kind of progress.


—The foreign commerce of Mecklenburg (which exports nothing but agricultural products) is carried on through the two ports of Rostock and Wismar. It is fairly active, and reaches perhaps 8,000,000 thalers imports and 7,000,000 exports.


—Communal organization exists only in the cities. On equestrian or knights' estates the proprietor unites all powers in himself, and the peasant knows nothing of the commune except payments in money or in kind. In twenty-three cities the burgomasters are appointed by the grand duke, in the others they are elected by the burghers; but in some localities this choice must be confirmed by superior authority. Each city has a municipal council; the cities are free to manage their own affairs, but they must send a copy of their accounts to the ministry, which has them revised. The communal organization, nevertheless, leaves much to be desired; the government has frequently attempted to introduce reforms, but its efforts fail, owing to the resistance of the estates.


—Till 1867 the various religions did not enjoy the liberty which is granted them at present in most of the states of Europe Mecklenburgers who are not Lutherans, practiced their religion only by toleration, and it is well understood that Lutherans themselves can not change the least ceremony without the consent of "competent" authority. Mecklenburg was obliged to submit to the law of equality of religions decreed by the constitution of the empire.


—There are many benevolent establishments in the country, and praiseworthy attention is paid to primary education. Education is compulsory. Besides, in domain lands every head of a family, whether he has children or not, is obliged to contribute to the school fund. In knights' lands the proprietor, and in cities the municipal council, appoint the teacher. The teachers are poorly paid. Among the conscripts (in 1856) 88 per cent. knew how to read satisfactorily; those who came from knights' estates were the least instructed. Each grand duchy has primary normal schools. There are eight gymnasia in the two grand duchies, and a university in Rostock which dates from 1419.


—The judicial organization of the country is very backward. Patrimonial or knights' jurisdiction has been preserved in most of the cities; the magistrate exercises both judicial and administrative functions. Civil legislation is not uniform in the different parts of the country, but at Rostock there is a supreme court common to both grand duchies.


—As to taxes imposed by the estates, they comprise, in addition to ancient tolls, the "ordinary contribution" which is at once a land and poll tax (a personal and property tax) in knights' estates. In domain lands the tax appears under the form of so much per cent. on the rent. In cities the ordinary tax is composed of various levies on lands, houses and professions, to which is added the fifth pfenning for the city. Rostock has a system of its own, which is a kind of octroi.*50 There is, besides, an "extraordinary tax" which appears also in a direct form, but figures in one place as a land tax, in another as a license, and in a third as a tax on income or capital. The financial system of the two Mecklenburgs is the most complicated labyrinth that can be imagined. The following is the opinion of the government of the country on this subject (official document of 1846). "False in principle, contrary to the most ordinary rules of political economy, the imposts, taxes and tolls hinder and trouble domestic commerce to the profit of the foreigner, weigh upon the poorer tax payer, while the rich may escape their action without infringing the law, render exportation difficult, increase the cost of collecting taxes, without making fraud difficult. * * *." We have enough of this description, but there is reason to think that the events of 1866 and 1870-71 have improved the situation.


—The government not being obliged to render an account of the funds which it collects, there is no budget. The revenues of the grand duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, before 1866, were estimated at 4,000,000 thalers, of which 2,400,000 came from domain land, 320,000 came from transit dues, 1,000,000 from taxes, and 440,000 from posts and other dues called regalian rights. But the forced connection of Mecklenburg with the tariff system of the empire has abolished the transit dues; it is true, however, that by the same act the grand duchies were relieved from various expenditures. The revenues of the grand duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz are about 600,000 thalers, 500,000 of which arise from the domains, 82,000 from imposts, and the rest from various sources. The debt of one of the grand duchies is about 9,000,000 thalers, that of the other 1,000,000, a part of which was contracted to build a railway and to redeem the Sound dues. If the reform which we mention above, though far less than is demanded by public opinion in Germany, is realized, there is reason to think that a regular budget will be established in this country which is so backward.


—German legislation is in force with reference to the army, the Mecklenburg troops (treaty of February, 1873) forming a part of the ninth army corps of Prussia.


—BIBLIOGRAPHY. Boll, Geschichte Mecklenburgs mit Berucksichtigung der Culturgeschichte, 2 vols., New Brandenburg, 1855, and Abriss der mecklenb. Landeskunde, Wismar, 1861; Raale, Mecklenb. Vaterlandskunde, 2d ed., 3 vols., Wismar, 1863, Wiggers, Kirchengeschichte Mecklenburgs, Parchim, 1840; Nizze, Volkswirthschaflliche zustände in Mecklenburg, Rostock, 1861; Lisch, Jahrbucher des Vereins fur mecklenb. Geschichte und Landeskunde, 1835; Wiggers, Die merklenb. constituirende Versammlung, Rostock, 1850, Das Virfassungsrecht im Grossherzogthum Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Berlin, 1860, and Die mecklenb. Verfassungsfrage, Leipzig, 1877.


Notes for this chapter

At home each one of the two grand dukes is called grand duke of Mecklenburg without any distinctive designation. If in 1701 a second line was formed, it was not without opposition, but space does not permit us to give its history.
By the convention and the law of May 15, 1863, the financial organization of the country was sensibly improved; the tolls (octrois) were abolished and internal barriers replaced by custom houses on the frontiers, which are assimilated to those of Germany since 1867.


End of Notes

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