Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
PERSONAL UNION, or dynastic union, is the combination by which two different states are governed by the same prince, while their boundaries, their laws and their interests remain distinct. Thus, in modern times, the king of England was at the same time king of Hanover; the king of Saxony, grand duke of Warsaw; the king of Denmark, duke of Schleswig-Holstein; the emperor of Austria, king of Hungary; the king of Prussia, prince of Neufchâtel; the king of Sweden, king of Norway; the king of The Netherlands, grand duke of Luxemburg; the emperor of Russia, grand duke of Finland; and the king of Prussia, duke of Lauenburg.
—Personal union scarcely ever exists except between countries the populations of which belong to different nationalities, or inhabit territories distant from each other. If the territories of the two countries were contiguous and their populations of the same race, speaking the same language, and a complete fusion did not take place between them, the mistake would be so great a one that it could not but result in serious inconveniences. It seems as if in such a case the separation could not be maintained.
—According to the letter of international law, one of the countries which is united to another by personal union may be at peace, while the other is at war. Thus, it might have happened, between 1816 and 1866, that the king of The Netherlands should have furnished for Luxemburg a military contingent to a war, which the Germanic confederation might have waged against Italy, for instance, without his minister plenipotentiary leaving Turin, or that of Italy demanding his passports at The Hague. We might even Imagine cases, improbable though not impossible, in which the grand duke of Luxemburg might have been in one camp, and the king of The Netherlands in the other. The same thing would be still more improbable in Sweden or in Norway, and entirely impossible in Finland, whose personal union with Russia is only on paper, while its real union is in the facts. Moreover there can be a personal union only between constitutional states. In absolute governments it is the sovereign who declares war; he is the state; and it is of little import that one of his territories is called Kamtschatka, and another Poland; it is still the emperor of Russia who acts, and against whom defense is made.
—We do not consider personal union a very rational combination. If two states have not enough mutual interest and sympathy to unite their destinies, let them remain separated; mutual independence does not exclude an alliance, which will not delay being formed if there is any reason for it, if it has any grounds and an aim. A personal union will almost necessarily influence the politics of one of the countries united, to the exclusive advantage of the other. It sometimes results in domestic animosities, which, as is well known, are the most bitter and inveterate.
—Personal union, it seems to us, is practicable only when the two countries form a unit vis-a-vis of foreign states. But it is not sufficient that the two countries be represented by one and the same diplomatic agent; it is also necessary that their armies should be united into one, and consequently, that the two countries should have common finances; from which it follows, that the two countries united must have, besides, their respective chambers for the special affairs of each country, a common parliament authorized to deal with international questions. The history of the United Kingdom furnishes an example which other countries should follow, and the ultimate fusion, which might be the result of the functioning of a common parliament, seems to us an advantage great enough to induce a state not to neglect the means to arrive at it. We are even surprised they have not yet thought of this in Sweden and Norway, where they ought to begin to constitute a common parliament if they indeed desire to firmly establish "Scandinavism" (which is not spoken of so much as it was in 1860-65).
Return to top