Contemporary Period: Internal Development

In order to obviate internal disturbances or external interference, the

leaders of the movement which had dethroned Prince Cuza caused parliament

to proclaim, on the day of Cuza's abdication, Count Philip of Flanders--

the father of King Albert of Belgium--Prince of Rumania. The offer was,

however, not accepted, as neither France nor Russia favoured the proposal.

Meanwhile a conference had met again in Paris at the instance of Turk

and vetoed the election of a foreign prince. But events of deeper

importance were ripening in Europe, and the Rumanian politicians rightly

surmised that the powers would not enforce their protests if a candidate

were found who was likely to secure the support of Napoleon III, then

'schoolmaster' of European diplomacy. This candidate was found in the

person of Prince Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, second son of the head

of the elder branch of the Hohenzollerns (Catholic and non-reigning).

Prince Carol was cousin to the King of Prussia, and related through his

grandmother to the Bonaparte family. He could consequently count upon the

support of France and Prussia, while the political situation fortunately

secured him from the opposition of Russia, whose relations with Prussia

were at the time friendly, and also from that of Austria, whom Bismarck

proposed to 'keep busy for some time to come'. The latter must have viewed

with no little satisfaction the prospect of a Hohenzollern occupying the

throne of Rumania at this juncture; and Prince Carol, allowing himself to

be influenced by the Iron Chancellor's advice, answered the call of the

Rumanian nation, which had proclaimed him as 'Carol I, Hereditary Prince

of Rumania'. Travelling secretly with a small retinue, the prince second

class, his suite first, Prince Carol descended the Danube on an Austrian

steamer, and landed on May 8 at Turnu-Severin, the very place where,

nearly eighteen centuries before, the Emperor Trajan had alighted and

founded the Rumanian nation.

By independent and energetic action, by a conscious neglect of the will of

the powers, which only a young constitutional polity would have dared, by

an active and unselfish patriotism, Rumania had at last chosen and secured

as her ruler the foreign prince who alone had a chance of putting a stop

to intrigues from within and from without. And the Rumanians had been

extremely fortunate in their hasty and not quite independent choice. A

prince of Latin origin would probably have been more warmly welcomed to

the hearts of the Rumanian people; but after so many years of political

disorder, corrupt administration, and arbitrary rule, a prince possessed

of the German spirit of discipline and order was best fitted to command

respect and impose obedience and sobriety of principle upon the Rumanian


Prince Carol's task was no easy one. The journal compiled by the

provisional government, which held the reins for the period elapsing

between the abdication of Cuza and the accession of Prince Carol, depicts

in the darkest colours the economic situation to which the faults, the

waste, the negligence, and short-sightedness of the previous regime had

reduced the country, 'the government being in the humiliating position of

having brought disastrous and intolerable hardship alike upon its

creditors, its servants, its pensioners, and its soldiers'.[1] Reforms

were badly needed, and the treasury had nothing in hand but debts. To

increase the income of the state was difficult, for the country was poor

and not economically independent. Under the Paris Convention of 1858,

Rumania remained bound, to her detriment, by the commercial treaties of

her suzerain, Turkey, the powers not being willing to lose the privileges

they enjoyed under the Turkish capitulations. Moreover, she was specially

excluded from the arrangement of 1860, which allowed Turkey to increase

her import taxes. The inheritance of ultra-liberal measures from the

previous regime made it difficult to cope with the unruly spirit of the

nation. Any attempt at change in this direction would have savoured of

despotism to the people, who, having at last won the right to speak aloud,

believed that to clamour against anything that meant 'rule' was the only

real and full assertion of liberty. And the dissatisfied were always

certain of finding a sympathetic ear and an open purse in the

Chancellories of Vienna and St. Petersburg.

[Footnote 1: D.A. Sturdza, Treizeci de ani de Domnie ai Regelui Carol,

1900, i.82.]

Prince Carol, not being sufficiently well acquainted with the conditions

of the country nor possessing as yet much influence with the governing

class, had not been in a position to influence at their inception the

provisions of the extremely liberal constitution passed only a few weeks

after his accession to the throne. The new constitution, which resembled

that of Belgium more nearly than any other, was framed by a constituent

assembly elected on universal suffrage, and, except for slight

modifications introduced in 1879 and 1884, is in vigour to-day. It

entrusts the executive to the king and his ministers, the latter alone

being responsible for the acts of the government.[1] The legislative power

is vested in the king and two assemblies--a senate and a chamber--the

initiative resting with any one of the three.[2] The budget and the yearly

bills fixing the strength of the army, however, must first be passed by

the Chamber. The agreement of the two Chambers and the sanction of the

king are necessary before any bill becomes law. The king convenes,

adjourns, and dissolves parliament. He promulgates the laws and is

invested with the right of absolute veto. The constitution proclaims the

inviolability of domicile, the liberty of the press and of assembly, and

absolute liberty of creed and religion, in so far as its forms of

celebration do not come into conflict with public order and decency. It

recognizes no distinction of class and privilege; all the citizens share

equally rights and duties within the law. Education is free in the state

schools, and elementary education compulsory wherever state schools exist.

Individual liberty and property are guaranteed; but only Rumanian citizens

can acquire rural property. Military service is compulsory, entailing two

years in the infantry, three years in the cavalry and artillery, one year

in all arms for those having completed their studies as far as the

university stage. Capital punishment does not exist, except for military

offences in time of war.

[Footnote 1: There are at present nine departments: Interior, Foreign

Affairs, Finance, War, Education and Religion, Domains and Agriculture,

Public Works, Justice, and Industry and Commerce. The President of the

Cabinet is Prime Minister, with or without portfolio.]

[Footnote 2: All citizens of full age paying taxes, with various

exemptions, are electors, voting according to districts and census. In the

case of the illiterate country inhabitants, with an income from land of

less than L12 a year, fifty of them choose one delegate having one vote in

the parliamentary election. The professorial council of the two

universities of Jassy and Bucarest send one member each to the Senate, the

heir to the throne and the eight bishops being members by right.]

The state religion is Greek Orthodox. Up to 1864 the Rumanian Church was

subordinate to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In that year it was

proclaimed independent, national, and autocephalous, though this change

was not recognized by the Patriarchate till 1885, while the secularization

of the property of the monasteries put an end de facto to the influence

of the Greek clergy. Religious questions of a dogmatic nature are settled

by the Holy Synod of Bucarest, composed of the two metropolitans of

Bucarest and Jassy and the eight bishops; the Minister for Education, with

whom the administrative part of the Church rests, having only a

deliberative vote. The maintenance of the Church and of the clergy is

included in the general budget of the country, the ministers being state

officials (Law of 1893).

Religion has never played an important part in Rumanian national life, and

was generally limited to merely external practices. This may be attributed

largely to the fact that as the Slavonic language had been used in the

Church since the ninth century and then was superseded by Greek up to the

nineteenth century, the clergy was foreign, and was neither in a position

nor did it endeavour to acquire a spiritual influence over the Rumanian

peasant. There is no record whatever in Rumanian history of any religious

feuds or dissensions. The religious passivity remained unstirred even

during the domination of the Turks, who contented themselves with treating

the unbelievers with contempt, and squeezing as much money as possible out

of them. Cuza having made no provision for the clergy when he converted

the wealth of the monasteries to the state, they were left for thirty

years in complete destitution, and remained as a consequence outside the

general intellectual development of the country. Though the situation has

much improved since the Law of 1893, which incorporated the priests with

the other officials of the Government, the clergy, recruited largely from

among the rural population, are still greatly inferior to the Rumanian

priests of Bucovina and Transylvania. Most of them take up Holy orders as

a profession: 'I have known several country parsons who were thorough


[Footnote 1: R. Rosetti, Pentru ce s-au r[)a]sculat [t'][)a]ranii, 1907,

p. 600]

However difficult his task, Prince Carol never deviated from the strictly

constitutional path: his opponents were free to condemn the prince's

opinions; he never gave them the chance of questioning his integrity.

Prince Carol relied upon the position in which his origin and family

alliances placed him in his relations with foreign rulers to secure him

the respect of his new subjects. Such considerations impressed the

Rumanians. Nor could they fail to be aware of 'the differences between the

previously elected princes and the present dynasty, and the improved

position which the country owed to the latter'.[1]

[Footnote 1: Augenzeuge, Aus dem Leben Koenig Karls von Rum[)a]nien,

1894-1900, iii. 177.]

To inculcate the Rumanians with the spirit of discipline the prince took

in hand with energy and pursued untiringly, in spite of all obstacles, the

organization of the army. A reliable and well-organized armed force was

the best security against internal trouble-mongers, and the best argument

in international relations, as subsequent events amply proved.

The Rumanian political parties were at the outset personal parties,

supporting one or other of the candidates to the throne. When Greek

influence, emanating from Constantinople, began to make itself felt, in

the seventeenth century, a national party arose for the purpose of

opposing it. This party counted upon the support of one of the

neighbouring powers, and its various groups were known accordingly as the

Austrian, the Russian, &c., parties. With the election of Cuza the

external danger diminished, and the politicians divided upon principles of

internal reform. Cuza not being in agreement with either party, they

united to depose him, keeping truce during the period preceding the

accession of Prince Carol, when grave external dangers wore threatening,

and presiding in a coalition ministry at the introduction of the new

constitution of 1866. But this done, the truce was broken. Political

strife again awoke with all the more vigour for having been temporarily


The reforms which it became needful to introduce gave opportunity for the

development of strong divergence of views between the political parties.

The Liberals--the Red Party, as they were called at the time--(led by C.A.

Rosetti and Ioan Bratianu, both strong Mazzinists, both having taken an

important part in the revolutionary movements of 1848 and in that which

led to the deposition of Cuza) were advocating reforms hardly practicable

even in an established democracy; the Conservatives (led by Lascar

Catargiu) were striving to stem the flood of ideal liberal measures on

which all sense of reality was being carried away.[1] In little more than

a year there were four different Cabinets, not to mention numerous changes

in individual ministers. 'Between the two extreme tendencies Prince Carol

had to strive constantly to preserve unity of direction, he himself being

the only stable element in that ever unstable country.' It was not without

many untoward incidents that he succeeded. His person was the subject of

more than one unscrupulous attack by politicians in opposition, who did

not hesitate to exploit the German origin and the German sympathies of the

prince in order to inflame the masses. These internal conflicts entered

upon an acute phase at the time of the Franco-German conflict of 1870.

Whilst, to satisfy public opinion, the Foreign Secretary of the time,

M.P.P. Carp, had to declare in parliament, that 'wherever the colours of

France are waving, there are our interests and sympathies', the prince

wrote to the King of Prussia assuring him that 'his sympathies will always

be where the black and white banner is waving'. In these so strained

circumstances a section of the population of Bucarest allowed itself to be

drawn into anti-German street riots. Disheartened and despairing of ever

being able to do anything for that 'beautiful country', whose people

'neither know how to govern themselves nor will allow themselves to be

governed', the prince decided to abdicate.

[Footnote 1: A few years ago a group of politicians, mainly of

the old Conservative party, detached themselves and became the

Conservative-Democratic party under the leadership of M. Take Ionescu.]

So strong was the feeling in parliament roused by the prince's decision

that one of his most inveterate opponents now declared that it would be an

act of high treason for the prince to desert the country at such a crisis.

We have an inkling of what might have resulted in the letter written by

the Emperor of Austria to Prince Carol at the time, assuring him that 'my

Government will eagerly seize any opportunity which presents itself to

prove by deeds the interest it takes in a country connected by so many

bonds to my empire'. Nothing but the efforts of Lascar Catargiu and the

sound patriotism of a few statesmen saved the country from what would have

been a real misfortune. The people were well aware of this, and cheers

lasting several minutes greeted that portion of the message from the

throne which conveyed to the new parliament the decision of the prince to

continue reigning.

The situation was considerably strengthened during a period of five years'

Conservative rule. Prince Carol's high principles and the dignified

example of his private life secured for him the increasing respect of

politicians of all colours; while his statesmanlike qualities, his

patience and perseverance, soon procured him an unlimited influence in the

affairs of the state. This was made the more possible from the fact that,

on account of the political ignorance of the masses, and of the varied

influence exercised on the electorate by the highly centralized

administration, no Rumanian Government ever fails to obtain a majority at

an election. Any statesman can undertake to form a Cabinet if the king

assents to a dissolution of parliament. Between the German system, where

the emperor chooses the ministers independently of parliament, and the

English system, where the members of the executive are indicated by the

electorate through the medium of parliament, independently of the Crown,

the Rumanian system takes a middle path. Neither the crown, nor the

electorate, nor parliament possesses exclusive power in this direction.

The Government is not, generally speaking, defeated either by the

electorate or by parliament. It is the Crown which has the final decision

in the changes of regime, and upon the king falls the delicate task of

interpreting the significance of political or popular movements. The

system--which comes nearest to that of Spain--undoubtedly has its

advantages in a young and turbulent polity, by enabling its most stable

element, the king, to ensure a continuous and harmonious policy. But it

also makes the results dangerously dependent on the quality of that same

element. Under the leadership of King Carol it was an undoubted success;

the progress made by the country from an economic, financial, and military

point of view during the last half-century is really enormous. Its

position was furthermore strengthened by the proclamation of its

independence, by the final settlement of the dynastic question,[1] and by

its elevation on May 10, 1881, to the rank of kingdom, when upon the head

of the first King of Rumania was placed a crown of steel made from one of

the guns captured before Plevna from an enemy centuries old.

[Footnote 1: In the absence of direct descendants and according to the

constitution, Prince Ferdinand (born 1865), second son of King Carol's

elder brother, was named Heir Apparent to the Rumanian throne. He married

in 1892 Princess Marie of Coburg, and following the death of King Carol in

1914, he acceded to the throne as Ferdinand I.]

From the point of view of internal politics progress has been less

satisfactory. The various reforms once achieved, the differences of

principle between the political parties degenerated into mere opportunism,

the Opposition opposing, the Government disposing. The parties, and

especially the various groups within the parties, are generally known by

the names of their leaders, these denominations not implying any definite

political principle or Government programme. It is, moreover, far from

edifying that the personal element should so frequently distort political

discussion. 'The introduction of modern forms of state organization has

not been followed by the democratization of all social institutions....

The masses of the people have remained all but completely outside

political life. Not only are we yet far from government of the people by

the people, but our liberties, though deeply graven on the facade of our

constitution, have not permeated everyday life nor even stirred in the

consciousness of the people.'[1]

[Footnote 1: C. Stere, Social-democratizm sau Poporanizm, Jassy.]

It is strange that King Carol, who had the welfare of the people sincerely

at heart, should not have used his influence to bring about a solution of

the rural question; but this may perhaps be explained by the fact that,

from Cuza's experience, he anticipated opposition from all political

factions. It would almost seem as if, by a tacit understanding, and

anxious to establish Rumania's international position, King Carol gave his

ministers a free hand in the rural question, reserving for himself an

equally free hand in foreign affairs. This seems borne out by the fact

that, in the four volumes in which an 'eyewitness', making use of the

king's private correspondence and personal notes, has minutely described

the first fifteen years of the reign, the peasant question is entirely


[Footnote 1: The 'eyewitness' was Dr. Schaeffer, formerly tutor to Prince


Addressing himself, in 1871, to the Rumanian representative at the Porte,

the Austrian ambassador, von Prokesch-Osten, remarked: 'If Prince Carol

manages to pull through without outside help, and make Rumania governable,

it will be the greatest tour de force I have ever witnessed in my

diplomatic career of more than half a century. It will be nothing less

than a conjuring trick.' King Carol succeeded; and only those acquainted

with Rumanian affairs can appreciate the truth of the ambassador's words.