1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Saxe-Meiningen

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SAXE-MEININGEN (Ger. Sachsen-Meiningen), a duchy in Thuringia, forming an independent member of the German empire and consisting chiefly of an irregular crescent-shaped territory, which, with an average breadth of 10 m., stretches for over 80 m. along the south-west slope of the Thuringian Forest. The convex side rests upon the duchy of Coburg and is in part bounded by Bavaria, while the concave side, turned towards the north, contains portions of four other Thuringian states and Prussia between its horns, which are 46 m. apart. The districts of Kranichfeld, 15 m. N.W., and Kamburg, 22 m. N. of the eastern horn, together with a number of smaller scattered exclaves, comprise 74 of the 953 sq. m. belonging to the duchy. The surface on the whole is hilly and is partly occupied by offshoots of the Thuringian Forest; the highest summits are found in the eastern half, where the Kieferle reaches 2849 ft. and the Blessberg 2835 ft. The chief streams are the Werra, which traverses the south and east of the duchy, and various tributaries of the Main and the Saale, so that Saxe-Meiningen belongs to the basins of the three great rivers Weser, Rhine and Elbe.

The soil is not very productive, although agriculture flourishes in the valleys and on the level ground; grain has to be imported to meet the demand. Only 41% of the total area is devoted to agriculture, while meadow-land and pasture occupy 11%. The chief grain crops are oats, rye and wheat, and the cultivation of potatoes is general. Tobacco, in the Werra district, hops and flax are also raised. The Werra valley and the other fertile valleys produce large quantities of fruit. The raising of cattle, pigs and sheep is a fairly important branch of industry throughout the duchy; horses are bred in Kamburg. The extensive and valuable forests, of which 75% consist of coniferous trees, occupy 42% of the entire area. About 42% of the forests belong to the state and about 33% to public bodies and institutions, leaving only 25% for private owners. The mineral wealth of the duchy is not inconsiderable. Iron, coal and slate are the chief products, and copper and cobalt may be added. There are salt-works at Salzungen and Neusulza, the former the most important in Thuringia; and the mineral water of Friedrichshall is well known. The manufacturing industry of Saxe-Meiningen is active, especially in the districts of Sonneberg, Grafenthal and Saalfeld. Iron goods of various kinds, glass and pottery, school slates, pencils and marbles are produced; the abundant timber fosters the manufacture of all kinds of wooden articles, especially toys; and the textile industry and the manufacture of leather goods, papier mâché and sewing-machines are also carried on.

The capital of the duchy is Meiningen; the other principal towns are Salzungen, Hildburghausen, Eisfeld, Sonneberg, Saalfeld, Pössneck and Kamburg. In 1905 the population was 268,916, of whom 30% live in communities of more than 2000. As in the other Saxon duchies the population is almost exclusively Protestant; in 1905, 262,243 belonged to the Lutheran confession, 4845 were Roman Catholics and 1256 Jews.

Saxe-Meiningen is a limited monarchy, its constitution resting on a law of 1829, subsequently modified. The diet, elected for six years, consists of 24 members, of whom 4 are elected by the largest landowners, 4 by those who pay tax on incomes of £150 or more, and 16 by the other electors. The franchise is enjoyed by all domiciled males over twenty-five years of age who pay taxes. The government is carried on by a ministry of five, with departments for the ducal house and foreign affairs, home affairs, justice, education and public worship and finance. The revenue, £190,000 of which is drawn from the state domains, stands at about £480,000 a year. The expenditure, including a civil list of £20,000, stands at £445,000. In 1909 the state had a debt of £302,270. Saxe-Meiningen has one vote in the German federal council (Bundesrat) and sends two members to the Reichstag.

History. — The duchy of Saxe-Meiningen, or more correctly Saxe-Meiningen-Hildburghausen, was founded in 1681 by Bernard, the third son of Ernest the Pious, duke of Saxe-Gotha, and consisted originally of the western part of the present duchy, the district around Meiningen. Bernard was succeeded in 1706 by his three sons, Ernest Louis, Frederick William and Anton Ulrich, but after 1746 the only survivor was the youngest, Anton Ulrich, who reigned alone from this date until his death in 1763. By this time the duchy had increased considerably in extent, but petty wars with the other Saxon princes combined with the extravagance of the court and the desolation caused by the Seven Years' War to plunge it into distress and bankruptcy. A happier time, however, was experienced under Charlotte Amalie, Anton's widow, who ruled as regent for her sons, Charles (d. 1782) and George (d. 1806). Under the latter prince the country prospered greatly, and having introduced the principle of primogeniture, he died and was succeeded by his infant son, Bernard Ernest Freund (1800-1882), whose mother, Eleanora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, governed in his name until 1821. The war with France at the beginning of this reign, with its attendant evils, quartering of troops, conscription and levies of money, joined with cattle disease and scanty harvests in plunging the land again into distress, from which it recovered very slowly.

In 1825 the extinction of the family ruling Saxe-Gotha made a rearrangement of the Saxon duchies necessary, and Saxe-Meiningen benefited greatly by the settlement of 1826, its area being more than doubled by the receipt of 530 sq. m. of territory. The additions consisted of the duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen, founded in 1680 by Ernest, the sixth son of Ernest the Pious; the duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld, founded by John Ernest, the seventh son of Ernest the Pious, which had been united with Saxe-Coburg in 1735; and the districts of Themar, Kranichfeld and Kamburg. In 1823 Bernard had granted a liberal constitution to his duchy, but these additions made further changes inevitable and a new constitution was granted in 1829. Saxe-Meiningen had entered the confederation of the Rhine in 1807, but had joined the allies in 1813 and became a member of the German confederation in 1815. In 1866, unlike the other Saxon duchies, Saxe-Meiningen declared for Austria in the war with Prussia; at once the land was occupied by Prussian troops, and in September 1866 Duke Bernard abdicated and was succeeded by his son George (b. 1826), who immediately made peace with Prussia and joined the North German Confederation, his land becoming a member of the new German empire in 1871. In 1871 the dispute which had been carried on since 1831 between the duke and the diet about the rights of each to the state domains was settled by a compromise, each party receiving a share of the revenues. The heir-apparent Prince Bernard (b. 1851) has no sons, so by a law of 1896 the succession is settled upon the sons of his half-brother Prince Frederick (b. 1861).

See Statistik des Herzogtums Sachsen-Meiningen (Meiningen, 1892 fol.); Brückner, Landeskunde des Herzogtums Sachsen-Meiningen (Meiningen, 1853); Goeckel, Das Staatsrecht des Herzogtums Sachsen-Meiningen (Jena, 1904); Anschütz, Industrie, Handel und Verkehr im Herzogtum Sachsen-Meiningen (Sonneberg, 1904) ; and the publications of the Verein für sachsen-meiningische Geschichte und Landeskunde (Hildburghausen, 1888 fol.).