Tag Archives: 1849

The Promissory sections of the Danish Constitution is today’s failure

Yup, this one’s probably so niche that if it get’s anymore niche, I’d have to start a subreddit and sell tickets to my personal discord to freaky constitutional law fetishists. But enough about that, let’s party like it’s 1849.

Which, for those sadly unenlightened individual to the vast and utterly bonkers glory that is European history, in 1849 Europe was gripped by the “Spring of Nations“, a series of revolutions, revolts and general discord against the established monarchies and oligarchies of Europe.

It generally didn’t result in serious political change outside a few nations, it did however have other permanent effects: The end of serfdom in several countries, re-introduction of representative democracy in the Netherlands, Bismarck and the Danish Constitution of 1849.

So fancy.

Now, here’s the ting, that document was made by a Constitutional Assembly, and it had a strict deadline, a sensible thing to in any serious project, without deadlines things will rapidly get out of control.

Here’s the first failure, they ran out of time and whatever things they couldn’t agree on before the deadline, they simple basically add as “We’ll fix this in post” section of the constitution.

  • § 72. En Lov ordner nærmere Forfølgningsmaaden.
  • § 74. Den dømmende Magts Udøvelse kan kun ordnes ved Lov.
  • § 75. Den med visse Eiendomme forbundne dømmende Myndighed skal ophæves ved Lov. 
  • § 76. Retspleien bliver at adskille fra Forvaltningen efter de Regler, der fastsættes ved Lov. 
  • § 79. Offentlighed og Mundtlighed skal saa snart og saa vidt som muligt gjennemføres ved hele Retspleien. I Misgjerningssager og i Sager, der reise sig af politiske Lovovertrædelser, skulle Nævninger indføres. 
  • § 80. Folkekirkens Forfatning ordnes ved Lov. 
  • § 83. De fra Folkekirken afvigende Troessamfunds Forhold ordnes nærmere ved Lov. 
  • § 88. Alle Indskrænkninger i den frie og lige Adgang til Erhverv, som ikke ere begrundede i det almene Vel, skulle hæves ved Lov. 
  • § 96. Communernes Ret til, under Statens Tilsyn, selvstændig at styre deres Anliggender vil blive ordnet ved Lov.
  • § 98. Intet Lehn, Stamhuus eller Fideicommisgods kan for Fremtiden oprettes; det skal ved Lov nærmere ordnes, hvorledes de nu bestaaende kunne overgaae til fri Eiendom. 

Now, I have translated those into English, the translations range from pretty much spot on to rougher than hooligans after the World Cup:

  • §72 A law concerning the method of prosecuting minsters will be addressed later.
  • §74 The Judicial Power’s execution can only be handled by law.
  • §75: The Judicial authority commanded by certain properties must be disestablished by law.
  • §76 The Judicial System must be separated from the Executive, following those rules, as made by law.
  • §79: I’m not translating this mess, it’s basically stuff about getting Juries into the court system.
  • §80 The Constitution of the Danish State Church is to be arranged by law.
  • §83 Those religions organizations, that deviate from the State Church, are to have their conditions handled by law.
  • 88§ All limitations on the free and equal access to employments, which aren’t based on the common good, must be removed by law.
  • §96: The municipalities right to, under Central scrutiny, independently manage their affairs will be arranged by law.
  • §98 No noble estates or similar can be established in the future, those who presently exists are to be converted to free property, by later law.

Looks like fun right? Well, most of those were resolved, some fairly faster, other much less so.

72 was resolved in 1852, which is why Denmark has a Ministerial Court, that only handles cases against ministers of the Government, that is elected among the parties of the parliament. They rarely do anything, having only really handed out a single lone conditional prison sentence, ever.

74, 75,76 and 79, were a fair bit slower, as in over half a century, a law actually fixing this mess wasn’t passed until 1916 and didn’t come into force until 1919.

88 was fairly fast for the time, 1857, it basically abolished whatever was left of the old Guild Systems and gradually abolished the specially privileged cities around the country (1920 was the last gasp of that old system).

98 is special, very special, it to wasn’t passed until 1919, the reason being that the conservatives that had been in power for the decade prior, oddly didn’t seem to be in such a massive rush to get this dealt with. One wonders why a political movement that relied utterly on the nobles didn’t care to fix it. Hell, Jacob Brønnum Scavenius Estrup ruled as a dictator from 1885-1894, ignoring parliament utterly.

Here’s the best part, in the 1866 Constitution? We did it again, keep the above mentioned sections that hadn’t been dealt with in and adding TWO more.

One about what happened if the monarch is indisposed/sick or insane, which was made into a proper law in 1871, so not that bad.

The second one was about how the monarch wasn’t repsonsible for the action of the government, that responsibility lied in the hands of the ministers. This one took 98 year to actually get fixed.

And hey, in the 1953 Constitution? The latest one Denmark did? There’s just one, concerning the Ombudsman, and it was fulfilled the next year, with the first Ombudsman being elected in 1955. So that wasn’t that bad. There was an option for a diarchy here tough, which I think is a shame we didn’t go for.

Now comes to the true Failure:

  • §80 The Constitution of the Danish State Church is to be arranged by law.
  • §83 Those religions organizations, that deviate from the State Church, are to have their conditions handled by law.

Those two? Are still there. We never got any proper laws done about any of these things, everything is basically done based on customs and smaller laws. Nothing comprehensive, so they are still in the constitution and are still waiting laws.

Only 171 years delayed, nothing to worry about really.

The reason being that nobody really wants to mess around with the second on, the fact Denmark has a State Church is enough of a bother really.

This is Frederik VII, the Danish King who gave up on Absolutism.

I’m going to leave you with an anecdote: It was rainy evening in late 1848, a delegation of esteemed gentlemen was making their way to the Royal Palace, Amalienborg, this deputation carried a request for a Constitution to his Majesty the King, they were all granted access to the King’s office, his wife was sitting in the room too, these grand gentlemen politely presented their request to the King, expecting that they’d have to somehow either bargain or threaten him into giving up absolute power.

The king simply said: “Certainly, as long as all is done proper We have to Objections”.

The deputation profusely thanked his Majesty and bowed and scrapped and left. Just before the door closed, the legend goes that his Majesty turned to the queen and said: “Perhaps now I can sleep until noon every day”.

Some countries have constitutions born in blood, sweat and guillotines, some are born out of wars of freedom, some are negotiated into being by compromises and Denmark? They got one because the King was a big fat lazy son of a motherfucker.