1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

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SAXE-WEIMAR-EISENACH (Ger. Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach), a grand duchy of Germany and a sovereign and constituent state of the German empire. It is the largest of the Thuringian states, and consists of the three chief detached districts of Weimar, Eisenach and Neustadt, and twenty-four scattered exclaves, of which Allstedt, Oldisleben and Ilmenau belonging to Weimar, and Ostheim belonging to Eisenach, are the chief. The first and last named of these exclaves are 70 m. apart; and the most easterly of the other exclaves is 100 m. from the most westerly. The total area of the grand-duchy is 1397 sq. m., of which 678 are in Weimar, 465 in Eisenach and 254 in Neustadt. The population in 1905 was 388,095 (189,422 males and 198,673 females), on an average 271 to the square mile, of whom the greatest bulk are Lutherans, the Roman Catholics only numbering about 18,000, and Jews and those of other confessions about 1500 in all. Of the population about 47% live in towns or communes exceeding 2000 inhabitants, and about 53% are rural.

The district of Weimar, which is at once the largest division and the geographical and historical kernel of the grand-duchy, is a roughly circular territory, situated on the plateau to the north-east of the Thuringian Forest. It is bounded on the N. and E. by Prussia, and on the S. and W. by Schwarzburg and detached portions of Saxe-Altenburg, and lies 23 m. east of the nearest part of Eisenach, and 7 m. north-west of the nearest part of Neustadt. The exclaves of Allstedt and Oldisleben lie in Prussian territory 10 m. to the north and north-west respectively; Urnenau as far to the south-west. The surface is undulating and destitute of any striking natural features, although the valleys of the Saale and Ilm are picturesque. The Kickelhahn (2825 ft.) and the Hohe Tanne (2641 ft.) rise in Ilmenau; but the Grosser Kalm (1814 ft.) near Remda, in the extreme south, is the highest point in the main part of Weimar. The Saale flows through the east of the district and is joined by the Ilm, the Elster and the Unstrut. The chief towns are Weimar, the capital, on the Ilm; Jena, with the common university of the Thuringian states, on the Saale; Apolda, the “Manchester of Weimar,” to the east; and Ilmenau, lying among the hills on the edge of the Thuringian Forest to the S.W. of Weimar.

Eisenach, the second district in size, and the first in point of natural beauty, stretches in a narrow strip from north to south on the extreme western boundary of Thuringia, and includes parts of the church lands of Fulda, of Hesse and of the former countship of Henneberg. It is bounded on the N. and W. by Prussia, on the S. by Bavaria (which also surrounds the exclave of Ostheim) and on the E. by Saxe-Meiningen and Saxe-Gotha. The north is occupied by the rounded hills of the Thuringian Forest, while the Rhön mountains extend into the southern part. The chief summits of the former group, which is more remarkable for its fine forests and picturesque scenery than for its height, are the Wartburgberg (1355 ft.), the north-western termination of the system, Ottowald (2103 ft.), the Wachstein (1900 ft.) and the Ringberg (2290 ft). The chief river is the Werra, which flows across the centre of the district from east to west, and then bending suddenly northwards, re-enters from Prussia, and traverses the north-eastern parts in an irregular course. Its chief tributaries in Eisenach are the Hörsel and the Ulster. Eisenach is the only town of importance in this division of the grand-duchy.

Neustadt, the third of the larger divisions, is distinguished neither by picturesque scenery nor historical interest. It forms an oblong territory, about 24 m. long by 16 broad, and belongs rather to the hilly district of the Vogtland than to Thuringia. It is bounded on the N. by Reuss (junior line) and Saxe-Altenburg, on the W. by Saxe-Meiningen and a Prussian exclave, on the S. by the two Reuss principalities and on the E. by the kingdom of Saxony. The Kesselberg (1310 ft.), near the town of Neustadt, is the chief eminence. This district lies in the basin of the Saale, its chief streams being the White (Weisse) Elster, the Weida and the Orla. Neustadt, Auma and Weida are the principal towns.

Agriculture forms the chief occupation of the inhabitants in all parts of the duchy, though in Eisenach and around Ilmenau a large proportion of the area is covered with forests. According to the return for 1900 about 55% of the entire surface was occupied by arable land, 26% by forest and 9% by pasture and meadow-land. Only about 5% was unproductive soil or moorland. In 1900 the chief crops were oats, barley, rye, wheat, potatoes, hay, beet (for sugar), flax and oil-yielding plants. Fruit grows in abundance, especially around Jena, and vines are cultivated with great success on the banks of the Saale. Of the forests, about 38% are deciduous and 62% coniferous trees, and the greater part ofthe former belong to the government. Cattle-raising is carried on to a considerable extent, especially in Eisenach and Neustadt, while the sheep-farming centres in Weimar. Poultry is also reared in considerable quantities. Although iron, copper, coal and lignite are worked, the mineral wealth is trifling. There are salt springs at Berka and Stadtsulza.

The manufacturing industries in the grand-duchy are considerable; they employ 41% of the population. The most important is the textile industry, which centres in Apolda. The production of woollen goods (stockings, cloth, underclothing) forms the leading branch of this industry; but cotton and linen weaving and yarn-spinning are also carried on. Large quantities of earthenware and crockery are made, especially at Ilmenau. The optical instruments of Jena and the scientific instruments of Ilmenau are well known. Leather, paper, glass, cork and tobacco are among the less prominent manufactures. There are numerous breweries in the duchy. The volume of trade is not very great, although some of the productions are exported all over Europe, and in some cases to other continents as well.

Constitution. — Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach is a limited hereditary monarchy, and was the first state in Germany to receive a liberal constitution. This was granted in 1816 by Charles Augustus, the patron of Goethe, and was revised in 1850 and again in 1906. The diet consists of one chamber with thirty-eight members, of whom five are chosen by owners of land worth at least 150 a year, five by those who derive a similar income from other sources, five by the university of Jena and other public bodies, and twenty-three by the rest of the inhabitants. The deputies are elected for six years. The franchise is enjoyed by all domiciled citizens over twenty-one years of age. The government is carried on by a ministry of three, holding the portfolios of finance; of home and foreign affairs; and of religion, education and justice, with which is combined the ducal household. The duchy is represented by one vote in the Bundesrat and by two members in the Reichstag.

The Saxe-Weimar family is the oldest branch of the Ernestine line, and hence of the whole Saxon house. By a treaty with Prussia in 1867, which afterwards became the model for similar treaties between Prussia and other Thuringian states, the troops of the grand-duchy were incorporated with the Prussian army.

The budget is voted by the chamber for a period of three years. That from 1908 to 1910 estimated an annual income and an annual expenditure of about £620,000. A large income is derived from the state forests. The public debt amounted to £145,000 in 1908, but it is amply secured by real estate and invested funds. Justice is administered by two high courts (Landesgerichte), at Weimar and Eisenach respectively; the district of Neustadt falling under the jurisdiction of the Landesgericht at Gera; while the supreme court of appeal for the four Saxon duchies, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Reuss, together with portions of Prussia, is the Oberlandesgericht at Jena.

History. — In early times Weimar with the surrounding district belonged to the counts of Orlamünde, and from the end of the 10th century until 1067 it was the seat of the counts of Weimar. In the 14th century it passed to the elector of Saxony, falling at the partition of 1485 to the Ernestine branch of the Wettin family. Although John Frederick the Magnanimous was deprived of the electorate in 1547 his sons retained Weimar; and one of them, John William (d. 1573), may be regarded as the founder of the present ruling house, but it was not until 1641 that Saxe-Weimar emerged into an independent historical position. In this year, having just inherited Coburg and Eisenach, the three brothers William, Albert and Ernest founded the three principalities of Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Eisenach and Saxe-Gotha. Eisenach fell to Saxe-Weimar in 1644, and although the enlarged principality of Saxe- Weimar-Eisenach was temporarily split up into the lines Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Eisenach and Saxe-Jena, it was again united under Ernest Augustus, who began to reign in 1728, and the adoption of the principle of primogeniture about this time secured it against further divisions. Ernest Augustus II., who succeeded in 1748, died in 1758, and his young widow, Anna Amelia, vas appointed regent of the country and guardian of her infant son Charles Augustus. The reign of this prince, who assumed the government in 1775, is the most brilliant epoch in the history of Saxe-Weimar. An intelligent patron of literature and art, he attracted to his court the leading scholars in Germany; Goethe, Schiller and Herder were members of this illustrious band, and the little state, hitherto obscure, attracted the eyes of all Europe.[1]

The war between France and Prussia in 1806 was fraught with danger to the existence of the principality, and after the battle of Jena it was mainly the skilful conduct of the duchess Louise, the wife of Charles Augustus, that dissuaded Napoleon from removing her husband from his place as a reigning prince. In 1807 Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach entered the Confederation of the Rhine and in the subsequent campaigns it suffered greatly. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 added about 660 sq. m. to its area and gave its ruler the title of grand-duke. Just after the conclusion of peace Charles Augustus gave a liberal constitution to his land; freedom of the press was also granted, but after the festival of the Wartburg on the 18th of October 1817 this was seriously curtailed. The next grand-duke, Charles Frederick, who succeeded in 1828, continued his father's work, but his reforms were not thorough enough nor rapid enough to avert disturbances in 1848, when power was given to a popular ministry and numerous reforms were carried through. Reaction set in under Charles Alexander, who became grand-duke in 1853, and the union of the crown lands and the state lands was undone, although both remained under the same public management. In 1866 the grand-duchy joined Prussia against Austria, although its troops were then garrisoning towns in the interests of the latter power; afterwards it entered the North German Confederation and the new German empire. Charles Alexander died in January 1901 and was succeeded by his grandson William Ernest (b. 1876).

See C. Kronfeld, Landeskunde des Grossherzogtums Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (Weimar, 1878-1879); and the official Staatshandbuch für das Grossherzogtum Sachsen (Weimar, 1904).


  1. See Goethe's famous lines, Epigramme (35): —

    Klein ist unter den Fürsten Germaniens freilich der meine;
       Kurz und schmal ist sein Land, mässig nur, was er vermag.
    Aber so wende nach innen, so wende nach aussen die Kräfte
       Jeder; da wär' es ein Fest, Deutscher mit Deutschen zu sein.”