No. 455.
Mr. Stevens to Mr. Evarts.

No. 43.]

Sir: The Swedish Diet, which has been in session since the 18th of January, will close its labors to-morrow. Outside of its customary routine proceedings, its chief deliberations and measures adopted have had their origin, directly or indirectly, in the commercial depression which reached Sweden later than most European countries, and has more seriously affected its business the past ten months, than at any other preceding portion of the crisis which has more or less touched all nations. The increase of the customs duties and excise tax, the details of which I have given in dispatch 42, had its chief cause in the lessened receipts of the government on the former scale of taxation, the result of the business and financial depression.

The most important measure adopted by the Diet grew, in a large degree, out of the same cause. I refer to the enactment of a loan bill, authorizing the government to issue its bonds to the amount of 23,000,000 kronors, for the purpose of assisting the private banks and railroads of the country. It has voted also to allow the government to make a right-out purchase of one line of railway which is in an embarrassed condition, at the cost of 4,000,000 kronors, which will be paid partly from the revenue of a railroad loan granted at a previous session of the [Page 960] Diet, and partly by a loan for the special purpose of covering the purchase cost of this railway. The government in preceding years, beginning in 1855, had granted to railways cash to the extent of more than 190,000,000 kronors, and is the present owner of nearly one-half of the railway property of the country, including nearly all the main or trunk lines.

The banks and the railway associations to which the government is to advance the proceeds of the 23,000,000 loan just authorized, are to give satisfactory mortgages of completed railways in operation or other property which shall be regarded absolute security for the money advanced. Not unlikely the larger portion of the railway property thus mortgaged will sooner or later become the absolute property of the government.

This loan bill was under consideration for a considerable time in the Diet, and was fully discussed in both houses. It was adopted in the first chamber at the first trial by a large majority, and was refused passage in the second chamber by a small majority.

This would have been fatal to the measure in most parliamentary bodies. But there is a provision in the Swedish constitution relating to taking the vote in the two houses of the Diet, in case of disagreement on first trial, somewhat peculiar, to which there is nothing similar in American Congressional and legislative organizations.

In the contingency that a measure is voted affirmatively in one chamber of the Diet and negatively in the other chamber, a day is appointed when the two chambers vote again, and then the affirmative votes of the two houses are added together, and also the negative votes of the two houses, and if the united affirmative vote is one more than the united negative vote, the measure is adopted; if the combined negative vote is one more than the combined affirmative vote, the measure is defeated, and cannot be taken up again during the session.

It was by the application of this provision of the constitution that the branch of the Diet most conservative in its composition and character secured the passage of this important financial measure, which a majority of the lower chamber had rejected after much deliberation and discussion.

Judging by the prevailing tone of the Swedish press, the measure is well received by the business and financial men of the country. The bill provides for a five per cent. loan, which will be promptly taken at par in France, England, and Germany.

I have, &c.,