to Mr. Bayard.
Stockholm, May 24, 1887. (Received June 13.)
Sir: Since my return to this mission I have endeavored to ascertain such facts relative to the political condition as will acquaint you with the present status thereof.
This country is usually free from political agitation, the current of public affairs running smoothly, and the people contented with their political condition.[Page 1037]
The past year, however, has been one of agitation, controversy, and excitement. The two distinctive questions discussed, and which have divided and excited public thought, are free trade or protection, and separation from Norway. The former of these is the paramount the latter the incident of the discussion.
Sweden for many years has been practically a free-trade country, but for the past four or five years there has been an extreme depression in all branches of mechanical industries, as well as of the agricultural interests. This condition has greatly tended to promote the theory of protection, and during the past two years a great many persons have joined the ranks of the protection party. Notably has this been the case among the landed proprietors, who usually have seats in one of the chambers of the Riksdag (parliament).
Upon the assembling of that body in January last, it was discovered that the protectionists had a majority in the lower chamber of 10, while the upper chamber had a majority of only 2 who favored the continuance of the long-adhered-to policy of the Kingdom in reference to trade with other nations.
Under the constitution of the kingdom all money bills, revenue laws, must be passed upon in joint convention of the two chambers and it was, therefore, clear that the protectionists were to be successful.
This success meant an impost duty upon all meats, breadstuff’s, and other articles of necessity.
It also meant the turning out of the present Government and the formation of a new one in sympathy with the changed condition of things.
The Government, as well as His Majesty, are free-traders, and have strenuously opposed the innovation of the protectionists upon the ancient custom and laws of the kingdom.
In this emergency the King had resort to the unusual and extraordinary privilege of declaring the lower chamber adjourned, a privilege never before exercised by the present dynasty.
Writs for a new election were issued fixing the voting times during the two first weeks of the present month, whereupon the Government appealed to the country.
The result has been to return to the lower chamber a majority in favor of the Government of 46
The election being a special one the term of the members-elect is only until September of this year, when a new election will take place for the term of three years, commencing in January, 1888.
The discussion is, however, continued with great bitterness, and the battle is not yet to the Government beyond the possibility of defeat.
There is some evidence that the long-continued depression in trade is about to be released, and that better industrial prospects are in the future. Notably is this so in the iron industry and shipping interests, the two principal ones of Sweden. The agricultural outlook is not very promising.
I have, etc.,