Mr. Bartlett to Mr. Seward.
Legation of the United States,
February 3, 1868.
Sir: The two chambers of the Diet of this
government met on the 17th ultimo; at the grand hall of the palace, to
be formally opened by an address from the throne. The members of the
diplomatic corps were present by invitation, and every courtesy extended
The address, of which enclosure No. 1 is a copy, and No. 2 a translation,
was read by the King. It presents no remarkable feature to be commented
upon, unless it be perhaps the acknowledgment of an extreme solicitude
on the part of the government to perfect its armament by means of the
latest improved breech-loading rifles, which were obtained from the
United States, and to put the country generally in a better state of
defense. This, as stated by the address, was rendered necessary by the
increase of the armed forces in nearly all the countries of Europe.
The destitution in the north of Sweden, spoken of in the address, is very
severe, yet everything has been done for the sufferers that it is
possible to do, until navigation opens. The people of several of the
contiguous countries sent contributions which reached the distressed
district before the close of navigation, and the south of Sweden have
responded nobly to the cry for relief. The government sent ships with
supplies, which were first taken to the extreme northern ports and
distributed as the ice drove them southward. A full knowledge of the
extent of the famine did not reach me until it was too late for any
relief to come from the full granaries of our country. Next spring,
however, much good could be rendered them by the sympathizing
benevolence of our countrymen. Yet I doubt very much if Sweden is not as
able to take care of its own poor as any of the countries of Europe.
This famine being confined to a single district of the kingdom, from
loss of three consecutive crops, is brought more immediately, in all its
terrible details, to the notice of the world than as though the
suffering were general throughout an entire country. Therefore, while we
sympathize with the poverty here, we overlook an equal amount at present
existing in almost every country in Europe.
Sweden, with its rich agricultural south, and vast northern mineral
resources, under an enterprising development which has recently inspired
capitalists and laborers to greater exertions, is able to sustain three
times its present number of inhabitants.
There is a noticeable increase of liberal sentiment evinced by a large,
and perhaps the controlling political party of the country, which if
carried very much further in the direction of democracy, will soon leave
but the shadow of past royal prerogatives for the throne, and make the
line of demarcation between a monarchical and republican form of
government so dim as to be inconsistent with either.
In diplomatic circles, the difference between our government and England,
arising from the Alabama and other claims, is often the subject of
conversation. There is but one expression, which is, that England [Page 100] would not be justified in
jeopardizing the political and commercial interests of the whole world
by refusing an indemnity, which, in their several opinions, our
government has more or less right to demand. The payment of our claims
is considered vastly disproportionate to the terrible consequences of a
war between the two countries. The English minister at this court is not
an exception to this general expression of opinion, but freely admits
that his government had better pay at once and allay the agitation which
daily widens the breach between the two countries.
I have the honor to be, sir, with great respect, your obedient
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Speech of His Majesty the King, at the opening of the Diet,
January 17, 1868.
I highly appreciate, at this moment, the provision finally introduced
into the fundamental law, by which, without the delays established
thus far, I find you again reassembled about me, to participate with
me in proper measures to insure the welfare of the country.
My relations with all foreign powers continue to be satisfactory, and
marked with sincere friendship. The general political situation, and
the zeal shown in nearly all the countries of Europe to increase
their armed forces, imposes equally upon us the duty to organize our
means of defense conformably with the necessities of the times.
The multiplicity and constantly increasing administrative business
demands a more suitable distribution of matters to be referred to
the council, especially if we would arrive at a desired
simplification of preparatory work in subordinate departments.
Consequently, I have resolved to propose to you a change in the
constitutional statute, by means of which may be instituted, with
other prescriptions relating thereto, a new ministerial department
for agriculture, manufactures, and public works.
The joint committee named for the revision of the compact of union
between Sweden and Norway has handed me its important work, and the
project is at present the subject of important preparatory
A very limited crop, absolutely insufficient in the northern
provinces of the kingdom, has produced a considerable increase in
the price of the first necessaries of life, threatening the very
existence of the poor population. By employing the funds you placed
at my disposal, I have endeavored to aid them; and private
benevolence, not only at home but from kindred peoples, as well as
from foreign countries, has promptly and generously been offered for
the relief of this unfortunate population.
In spite of the difficulties which unforeseen expenditures and the
diminution of revenue, resulting from the dearness of subsistence,
could not fail to produce, the general situation of finances,
however, permits us to renounce, commencing with next year, the
special tax, which at the last Diet you voted for, arming our
military forces, without any increase of other tax being necessary
to satisfy the necessities of the government.
The underestimate which, on account of the circumstance I have just
mentioned, could not be avoided, for the present year will be
supplied, partially, by funds in hand, and might have been fully, if
the excesses of preceding years had not been absorbed by their use
in railway constructions—sums exceeding the total of loans made for
I have been unceasing in my active solicitude for the organization of
our means of defense, and I hope to be able, in the course of this
session, to communicate to you a plan upon which, I think, they
should be based and established. Starting upon the principle also
expressed by yourselves, that it is the duty of every citizen to
take part in the defense of his native soil, I have adopted, in
conformity with your advice, and with a view to lighten the
sacrifices which, in time of peace, spring from a general duty, a
plan for the preservation of well-exercised and permanent frameworks
to form the nucleus of our army. After mature deliberation, I have
found that frameworks sufficient, in every respect, could, with the
least felt expense, and without offensive injustice, be most
suitably formed upon the base of old national institutions,
characteristic of our country and adopted in our customs.
It is my intention to maintain them in their fundamental principles,
proposing, at the same time, to introduce therein useful
With a view to furnish our troops with arms of an improved
construction, I have [Page 101]
adopted measures which, though the fulfillment of contracts made
abroad experienced delays, contrary to my expectations, insure us a
satisfactory certainty for an uninterrupted manufacture of these
arms at home.
The projected changes in important branches of legislation, and the
more equitable application of duty, which for a long time already
have been under consideration, have not yet been brought to a
requisite maturity to be submitted to you. I have resolved, however,
to present to you a proposition for the abolition of arrest of
debtors of good faith.
I shall ask allowances for public works with a view, particularly, to
aid immediately those provinces where labor offers equally the
advantage of assuring the existence of a great number of needy, and
shall also ask your support for the voting of necessary funds for
the active continuation of railway works, destined to connect the
capitals of the united kingdoms.
At the universal industrial competition, opened at Paris during the
past year, Sweden honorably maintained her rank by the side of
countries which lead in the development of peaceful callings.
So far as statistics show, the progress of our industry, in spite of
difficulties with which the most part of our manufactures have had
to struggle during the last year, has acquired a progressive
Resting upon this accomplished fact and upon multiplied indications
denoting that Sweden establishes herself more and more upon the
sound base of economical independence—that of measuring her
necessities with her resources, and of renouncing expenses which are
neither indispensable nor justifiable—we can face the future with
the full conviction that the obstacles to which we have been exposed
will have taught us salutary lessons, and will thus become the
source, not of discouragement nor of the prostration of our
strength, but of their new development for a substantial
Convinced of your enlightened zeal for all that can insure the public
good, I invoke for your work the benediction of Divine Providence,
and in declaring, in conformity with the constitution, the present
session open, I renew to you, gentlemen, the assurance of my
friendship and of my royal affection.