1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Saxony

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See also Kingdom of Saxony on Wikipedia; and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer. Now it is a component of the Federal Republic of Germany.

SAXONY, a kingdom of Germany, ranking among the constituent states of the empire, fifth in area, third in population and first in density of population, bounded on the S. by Bohemia, on the W. by Bavaria and the Thuringian states and on the W., N. and E. by Prussia. Its frontiers have a circuit of 760 m. and, with the exception of the two small exclaves of Ziegelheim in Saxe-Altenburg and Liebschwitz on the border of the principality of Reuss, it forms a compact whole of a triangular shape, its base extending from N.E. to S.W., and its apex pointing N.W. Its greatest length is 130 m.; its greatest breadth 93 m., and the total area is 5787 sq. m. Except in the south, towards Bohemia, where the Erzgebirge forms at once the limit of the kingdom and of the empire, the boundaries are entirely political.

Physical Features.—Saxony belongs almost entirely to the central mountain region of Germany, only the districts along the north border and around Leipzig descending into the great north-European plain. The average elevation of the country, however, is not great, and it is more properly described as hilly than as mountainous. The chief mountain range is the Erzgebirge, stretching for 90 m. along the south border, and reaching in the Fichtelbergs (3979 ft. and 3953 ft.) the highest elevation in the kingdom. The west and south-west half of Saxony is more or less occupied by the ramifications and subsidiary groups of this range, one of which is known from its position as the Central Saxon chain, and another lower group still farther north as the Oschatz group. The south-east angle of Saxony is occupied by the mountains of Upper Lusatia (highest summit 2600 ft.), which form the link between the Erzgebirge and Riesengebirge in the great Sudetic chain. North-west from this group, and along both banks of the Elbe, which divides it from the Erzgebirge, extends the picturesque mountain region known as the Saxon Switzerland. The action of water and ice upon the soft sandstone of which the hills here are chiefly composed has produced deep gorges and isolated fantastic peaks, which, however, though both beautiful and interesting, by no means recall the characteristics of Swiss scenery. The highest summit attains a height of 1830 ft.; but the more interesting peaks, as the Lilienstein, Königstein and the Bastei, are lower. With the trifling exception of the south-east of Bautzen, which sends its waters by the Neisse to the Oder, Saxony lies wholly in the basin of the Elbe, which has a navigable course of 72 m. from south-east to north-west through the kingdom. Comparatively few of the numerous smaller streams of Saxony flow directly to the Elbe, and the larger tributaries only join it beyond the Saxon borders. The Mulde, formed of two branches, is the second river of Saxony ; others are the Black Elster, the White Elster, the Pleisse and the Spree. There are no lakes of any size, but mineral springs are very abundant. The best known is at Bad Elster in the Vogtland.

Climate.—The climate of Saxony is generally healthy. It is mildest in the valleys of the Elbe, Mulde and Pleisse and severest in the Erzgebirge, where the district near Johanngeorgenstadt is known as Saxon Siberia. The average temperature, like that of central Germany as a whole, varies from 48° to 50° Fahr.; in the Elbe valley the mean in summer is from 62° to 64° and in the winter about 30°; in the Erzgebirge the mean temperature in summer is from 55° to 57°, and in winter 23° to 24°. The Erzgebirge is also the rainiest district, 27½ to 33½ in. falling yearly; the amount decreases as one proceeds northward, and Leipzig, with an average annual rainfall of 17 in., enjoys the driest climate.

Population.—In 1905 the population of Saxony was 4,508,601, or 7.4% of the total population of the German empire, on 2.7% of its area. Except the free towns, Saxony is the most densely peopled member of the empire, and its population is increasing at a more rapid rate than is the case in any of the larger German states. The growth of the population since 1815, when the kingdom received its present limits, has been as follows: (1815) 1,178,802; (1830) 1,402,066; (1840) 1,706,275; (1864) 2,344,094; (1875) 2,760,586; (1895) 3,787,688; (1900) 4,202,216. The preponderating industrial activity of the kingdom fosters the tendency of the population to concentrate in towns, and no German state, with the exceptio_n of the Hanseatic towns, has so large a proportion of urban population, this forming 52.97% of the whole. The people of Saxony are chiefly of pure Teutonic stock; a proportion are Germanized Slavs, and to the south of Bautzen there is a large settlement of above 50,000 Wends, who retain their peculiar customs and language.

The following table shows the area and population of the whole kingdom and of each of the five chief governmental districts, or Kreishauptmannschaften, into which it is divided:—

Area in Eng.
sq. m.
Pop. 1900. Pop. 1905. Density per
sq. m., 1905.
Total    5787 4,202,216 4,508,601 779.1

The chief towns are Dresden (pop. 1905, 514,283), Leipzig (502,570), Chemnitz (244,405), Plauen (105,182), Zwickau (68,225), Zittau (34,679), Meissen (32,175), Freiberg (30,869), Bautzen (29,372), Meerane (24,994), Glauchau (24,556), Reichenbach (24,911), Crimmitzschau (23,340), Werdau (19,476), Pirna (19,200).

Communications.—The roads in Saxony are numerous and good. The first railway between Leipzig and Dresden, due entirely to private enterprise, was opened in part in April 1837, and finished in 1840, with a length of 71 m. In 1850 there were 250; in 1870, 685; in 1880, 1184; and in 1905, 1920 m., together with 25 m. of private line, all worked by the state. There are no canals in the kingdom, and the only navigable river is the Elbe.

Agriculture.—Saxony is one of the most fertile parts of Germany, and is agriculturally among the most advanced nations of the world. The lowest lands are the most productive, and fertility diminishes as we ascend towards the south, until on the bleak crest of the Erzgebirge cultivation ceases altogether. Saxon agriculture, though dating its origin from the Wends, was long impeded by antiquated customs, while the land was subdivided into small parcels and subjected to vexatious rights. But in 1834 a law was passed providing for the union of the scattered lands belonging to each proprietor, and that may be considered the dawn of modern Saxon agriculture. The richest grain districts are near Meissen, Grimma, Bautzen, Döbeln and Pirna. The chief crop is rye, but oats are hardly second to it. Wheat and barley are grown in considerably less quantity. Very large quantities of potatoes are grown, especially in the Vogtland. Beet is chiefly grown as feeding stuff for cattle, and not for sugar. Flax is grown in the Erzgebirge and Lusatian mountains, where the manufacture of linen was at one time a flourishing domestic industry. Saxony owes its unusual wealth in fruit partly to the care of the elector Augustus I., who is said never to have stirred abroad without fruit seeds for distribution among the peasants and farmers. Enormous quantities of cherries, plums and apples are annually borne by the trees round Leipzig, Dresden and Colditz. The cultivation of the vine in Saxony is respectable for its antiquity, though the yield is insignificant. Wine is said to have been grown here in the 11th century; the Saxon vineyards, chiefly on the banks of the Elbe near Meissen and Dresden, have of late years, owing to the ravages of the phylloxera, become almost extinct.

Live Stock.—The breeding of horses is carried on to a very limited extent in Saxony. Cattle rearing, which has been an industry since the advent of the Wends in the 6th century, is important on the extensive pastures of the Erzgebirge and in the Vogtland. In 1765 the regent Prince Xaver imported 300 merino sheep from Spain, and so improved the native breed by this new strain that Saxon sheep were eagerly imported by foreign nations to improve their flocks, and “Saxon electoral wool” became one of the best brands in the market. Sheep farming, however, has considerably declined within the last few decades. Swine furnish a very large proportion of the flesh diet of the people. Geese abound particularly round Leipzig and in Upper Lusatia, poultry about Bautzen. Bee-keeping flourishes on the heaths on the right bank of the Elbe.

Game and Fish.—Game is fairly abundant; hares and partridges are found in the plains to the north-west, capercailzie in the neighbourhood of Tharandt and Schwarzenberg, and deer in the forests near Dresden. The Elbe produces excellent pike, salmon and eels, its tributaries trout in considerable quantities, while the marshy ponds lying on the left bank furnish a good supply of carp, a fish held in great esteem by the inhabitants.

Forests.—The forests of Saxony are extensive and have long been well cared for both by government and by private proprietors. The famous school of forestry at Tharandt was founded in 1811. The Vogtland is the most densely wooded portion of the kingdom, and next comes the Erzgebirge. About 857,000 acres, or 85% of the whole forest land, are planted with conifers; and about 143,000 acres, or 15%, with deciduous trees, among which beeches and birches are the commonest. About 35% of the total belongs to state.

Mining.—Silver was raised in the 12th century, and argentiferous lead is still the most valuable ore mined; tin, iron and cobalt rank next, and coal is one of the chief exports. Copper, zinc and bismuth are also worked. The country is divided into four mining districts: Freiberg, where silver and lead are the chief products; Altenberg, where tin is mainly raised; Schneeberg, yielding cobalt, nickel and ironstone; and Johanngeorgenstadt, with ironstone and silver mines. There were, in 1907, 143 mines, including coal, in operation, employing 31,455 hands. The total value of metal raised in Saxony in 1907 was £7,036,000; in 1870 it was £314,916. The coal is found principally in two fields—one near Zwickau, and the other in the governmental district of Dresden. Brown coal or lignite is found chiefly in the north and north-west, but not in sufficiently large quantities to be exported; the total value of the output in 1907 was nearly £3,500,000. Peat is especially abundant on the Erzgebirge. Immense quantities of bricks are made all over the country. Excellent sandstone for building is found on the hills of the Elbe. Fine porcelain clay occurs near Meissen, and coarser varieties elsewhere. A few precious stones are found among the southern mountains.

Industries.—The central-European position of the kingdom has fostered its commerce; and its manufactures have been encouraged by the abundant water-power throughout the kingdom. Nearly one-half of the motive power used in Saxon factories is supplied by the streams, of which the Mulde, in this respect, is the chief. The early foundation of the Leipzig fairs, and the enlightened policy of the rulers of the country, have also done much to develop its commercial and industrial resources. Next to agriculture which supports about 20% of the population, by far the most important industry is the textile. Saxony carries on 26% of the whole textile industry in Germany, a share far in excess of its proportionate population. Prussia, which has more than nine times as many inhabitants, carries on 45%, and no other state more than 8%. The chief seats of the manufacture are Zwickau, Chemnitz, Glauchau, Meerane, Hohenstein, Kamenz, Pulsnitz and Bischofswerda. The centre of the cotton manufacture (especially of cotton hosiery) is Chemnitz; cotton-muslins are made throughout the Vogtland, ribbons at Pulsnitz and its neighbourhood. Woollen cloth and buckskin are woven at Kamenz, Bischofswerda and Grossenhain, all in the north-east, woollen and half-woollen underclothing at Chemnitz, Glauchau, Meerane and Reichenbach; while Bautzen and Limbach produce woollen stockings. Linen is manufactured chiefly in the mountains of Lusatia, where the looms are still to some extent found in the homes of the weavers. The coarser kinds only are now made, owing to the keen English competition in the finer varieties. Damask is produced at Gross-Schönau and Neu-Schönau. Lace-making, discovered or introduced by Barbara Uttmann in the latter half of the 16th century, and now fostered by government schools, was long an important domestic industry among the villages of the Erzgebirge, and has attained to a great industry in Plauen. Straw-plaiting occupies 6000 hands on the mountain slopes between Gottleuba and Lockwitz. Waxcloth is manufactured at Leipzig, and artificial flowers at Leipzig and Dresden. Stoneware and earthenware are made at Chemnitz, Zwickau, Bautzen and Meissen, porcelain (“Dresden china”) at Meissen, chemicals in and near Leipzig. Döbeln, Werdau and Lossnitz are the chief seats of the Saxon leather trade; cigars are very extensively made in the town and district of Leipzig, and hats and pianofortes at Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz. Paper is made chiefly in the west of the kingdom, but does not keep pace with the demand. Machinery of all kinds is produced, from the sewing-machines of Dresden to the steam-locomotives and marine-engines of Chemnitz. The last-named place, though the centre of the iron-manufacture of Saxony, has to import every pound of iron by railway. The leading branch is the machinery used in the industries of the country—mining, paper-making and weaving. The very large printing trade of Leipzig encourages the manufacture of printing-presses in that city. In 1902–1903 Saxony contained 601 active breweries and 572 distilleries. The smelting and refining of the metal ores is also an important industry.

The principal exports are wool, woollen, cotton, linen goods, machinery, china, pianofortes, cigarettes, flannels, stockings, curtains and lace, cloth from Reichenbach and Zittau, watches of superlative value from Glashütte and toys from the Vogtland.

Constitution.—Saxony is a constitutional monarchy and a member of the German empire, with four votes in the Bundesrath (federal council) and twenty-three in the Reichstag (imperial diet). The constitution rests on a law promulgated on the 4th of September 1831, and subsequently amended. The crown is hereditary in the Albertine line of the house of Wettin, with reversion to the Ernestine line, of which the duke of Saxe-Weimar is now the head. The king enjoys a civil list of 3,674,927 marks or about £185,000, while the appanages of the crown, including the payments to the other members of the royal house, amount to £29,544 more.

The legislature (Standeversammlung) is bicameral—the constitution of the co-ordinate chambers being finally settled by a law of 1868 amending the enactment of 1831. The first chamber consists of the adult princes of the blood, two representatives of the Lutheran and one of the Roman Catholic Church, a representative of Leipzig university, the proprietor (or a deputy) of the Herrschaft of Wildenfels, a proprietor of the mediatized domains, two of Standesherrschaften, one of those of four estates in fee, the superintendent at Leipzig, a deputy of the collegiate institution at Wurzen, 12 deputies elected by owners of nobiliar estates, ten landed proprietors and five other members nominated by the king and the burgomasters of eight towns. The second chamber consists of 43 members from the towns and 48 from the country, elected for six years. All male citizens twenty-five years old and upwards who pay 3 marks per annum in taxes have the suffrage; and all above thirty years of age who pay 30 marks in annual taxes are eligible as members of the lower house. With the exception of the hereditary and some of the ex-officio members of the first chamber, the members of the diet are entitled to an allowance for their daily expenses, as well as their travelling expenses. The executive consists of a responsible ministry (Gesammt Ministerium), with the six departments of justice, finance, home affairs, war, public worship and education, and foreign affairs. The minister of the royal household does not belong to the cabinet. The constitution also provides for the formation of a kind of privy council (Staatsrat), consisting of the cabinet ministers and other members appointed by the king.

For administrative purposes Saxony is divided into five Kreishauptmannschaften, or governmental departments, subdivided into twenty-seven Amtshauptmannschaften. The cities of Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz, Plauen and Zwickau, form departments by themselves. The supreme court of law for both civil and criminal cases is the Oberlandesgericht at Dresden, subordinate to which are seven other courts in the other principal towns. The German imperial code was adopted by Saxony in 1879. Leipzig is the seat of the supreme court of the German empire.

The Saxon army is modelled on that of Prussia. It forms the XII. and XIX. army corps in the imperial German army, with headquarters at Dresden and Leipzig respectively.

Church.—About 94% of the inhabitants of Saxony are Protestants; about 12,500 are Jews, and about 4.7%, including the royal family, are Roman Catholics. The Evangelical-Lutheran, or State, church has as its head the minister de evangelicis so long as the king is Roman Catholic; and its management is vested in the Evangelical Consistory at Dresden. Its representative assembly consisting of 35 clergymen and 42 laymen is called a synod (Synode). The Reformed Church has consistories in Dresden and Leipzig. The Roman Catholic Church has enjoyed the patronage of the reigning family since 1697, though it was only the peace of Posen in 1806 which placed it on a level with the Lutherans. By the peace of Prague, which transferred Upper Lusatia to Saxony in 1635, stipulations were made in favour of the Roman Catholics of that region, who are ecclesiastically in the jurisdiction of the cathedral chapter of St Peter at Bautzen, the dean of which has ex-officio a seat in the first chamber of the diet. The other districts are managed by an apostolic vicar at Dresden, under the direction of the minister of public worship. Two nunneries in Lusatia are the only conventual establishments in Saxony, and no others may be founded. Among the smaller religious sects the Moravian Brethren, whose chief seat is at Herrnhut, are perhaps the most interesting. In 1868 civil rights were declared to be independent of religious confession.

Education.—Saxony claims to be one of the most highly educated countries in Europe, and its foundations of schools and universities were among the earliest in Germany. Of the four universities founded by the Saxon electors at Leipzig, Jena, Wittenberg, later transferred to Halle, and Erfurt, now extinct, only the first is included in the present kingdom of Saxony. The endowed schools (Fürstenschulen) at Meissen and Grimma have long enjoyed a high reputation. There are over 4000 schools; and education is compulsory. Saxony is particularly well-equipped with technical schools, the textile industries being especially fostered by numerous schools of weaving, embroidery and lace-making; but the mining academy at Freiberg and the school of forestry at Tharandt are probably the most widely known. The conservatory of music at Leipzig enjoys a world-wide reputation; not less the art collections at Dresden.

Finance.—The Saxon financial period embraces a space of two years. For 1908–1909 the “ordinary” budget showed an income of £17,352.833, balanced by the expenditure. The chief sources of income are taxes, state-railways and public forests and domains. The chief expenditure was on the interest and sinking fund of the national debt. The national debt, incurred almost wholly in making and buying railways and telegraphs, and carrying out other public works, amounted at the end of 1909 to £44,841,880.

See the annual Jahrbuch für Statistik des Königreichs Sachsen (Dresden); P. E. Richter, Literatur des Landes und Volkskunde des Königreichs Sachsen (Dresden, 1903); Zemmrich, Landeskunde des Königreichs Sachsen (Leipzig, 1906); and Pelz, Geologie des Königreichs Sachsen (Leipzig, 1904).

History.—The name of Saxony has been borne by two distinct blocks of territory. The first was the district in the north-west of Germany, inhabited originally by the Saxons, which became a duchy and attained its greatest size and prosperity under Henry the Lion in the 12th century. In 1180 it was broken up, and the name of Saxony disappeared from the greater part of it, remaining only with the districts around Lauenburg and Wittenberg. Five centuries later Lauenburg was incorporated with Hanover, and Wittenberg is the nucleus of modern Saxony, the name being thus transferred from the west to the east of Germany. In 1423 Meissen and Thuringia were united with Saxe-Wittenberg under Frederick of Meissen, and gradually the name of Saxony spread over all the lands ruled by this prince and his descendants.

The earlier Saxony was the district lying between the Elbe and the Saale on the east, the Eider on the north and the Rhine on the west, with a fluctuating boundary on the south. During the 8th century it was inhabited by the Saxons (q.v.), and about this time was first called Saxonia, and afterwards Saxony. For many years the Saxons had been troublesome to the Franks, their neighbours to the east and south, and the intermittent campaigns undertaken against them by Charles Martel and Pippin the Short had scarcely impaired their independence. This struggle was renewed by Charlemagne in 772, and a warfare of thirty-two years' duration was marked by the readiness of the Saxons to take advantage of the difficulties of Charles in other parts of Europe, and by the missionary character which the Frankish king imparted to the war. The subjugation of the Saxons, who were divided into four main branches, was rendered more difficult by the absence of any common ruler, and of a central power answerable for the allegiance of the separate tribes. Einhard, the friend and biographer of Charles, sums up this struggle as follows:—“It is hard to say how often the Saxons, conquered and humbled, submitted to the king, promised to fulfil his commands, delivered over the required hostages without delay, received the officials sent to them, and were often rendered so tame and pliable that they gave up the service of their heathen gods and agreed to accept Christianity. But just as quickly as they showed themselves ready to do this, did they also always break their promises, so that one could not really say which of these two courses may truly have been easier to them, and from the beginning of the war scarcely a year passed without bringing such change of mind.”

In 772 the war was decided upon, and Charles marched from Worms into the land of the Engrians or Angrians. The frontier fortress of Eresburg which stood on the site of the modern Marburg was taken, the Irminsul was destroyed, and the treasures of gold and silver were seized. The Irminsul was a wooden pillar erected to represent the world-sustaining ash Yggdrasil, and was the centre of the worship of the whole Saxon people. Having received hostages Charles left the country; but in 774 while he was in Italy the Saxons retook Eresburg, and crossing the frontier attacked the church of St Boniface at Fritzlar and ravaged the land of the Franks. The king retaliated by sending troops of cavalry to devastate Saxony, and declared at Quierzy he would exterminate his foes unless they accepted Christianity. In pursuance of this resolve he marched against them early in 775, captured the fortress of Sigiburg on the Ruhr, regained and rebuilt Eresburg and left Frankish garrisons in the land. The Engrians, together with the Eastphalians and the Westphalians who dwelt on either side of them, made a formal submission and many of them were baptized; but about the same time some Frankish troops met with a serious reverse at Lübbecke near Minden. Charles thereupon again took the field, and after ravaging Saxony returned home under the impression that the war was over. In 776, however, the Saxons were again in arms and retook Eresburg; but they failed to capture Sigiburg, and showed themselves penitent when the king appeared among them. Eresburg was regarrisoned, a new fortress named Carlsburg was erected on the banks of the Lippe, and terms of peace were arranged. In 777 Charles held an assembly at Paderborn, henceforth his headquarters during this war, which was attended by most of the Saxon chiefs. Hostages were given, oaths of fealty renewed, while many accepted Christianity, and the rudiments of an ecclesiastical system were established. The peace did not last long. A certain Widukind, or Wittekind, who had doubtless taken part in the earlier struggle, returned from exile in Denmark, and under his leadership the Saxon revolt broke out afresh in 778. The valley of the Rhine from Coblenz to Deutz was ravaged, and the advance of winter prevented Charles from sending more than a flying column to drive back the Saxons. But in 779 he renewed the attack, and after an important Frankish victory at Bocholt the Westphalians again did homage. The civil and ecclesiastical organization of the country was improved, and in 782 the king held an assembly at the source of the Lippe and took further measures to extend his influence. The land was divided into counties, which, however, were given to Saxon chiefs to administer, and it was probably on this occasion that the capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae was issued. This capitulary ordered the celebration of baptism and other Christian rites and ceremonies in addition to the payment of tithes, and forbade the observance of pagan customs on pain of death.

This attack on the religion and property of the Saxons aroused intense indignation, and provoked the rising of 782 which marks the beginning of the second period of the war. The work of devastation was renewed, the priests were driven out, and on the Süntel mountains near Minden, the Frankish forces were almost annihilated. Charles collected a large army, and by his orders 4500 men who had surrendered were beheaded at Verden. This act made the Saxons more furious than ever, but in 783 Charles inflicted two defeats upon them at Detmold and on the river Hase, and ravaged their territory from the Weser to the Elbe. This work was continued during the following year by the king and his eldest son Charles, and the Christmas of 784 was spent by the royal family at Eresburg, whence Charles directed various plundering expeditions. The work of conversion was renewed, and an important event took place in 785 when Widukind, assured of his personal safety, surrendered and was baptized at Attigny together with many of his companions. Saxony at last seemed to be subdued, and Saxon warriors took service in the Frankish armies. But in 792 some Frankish troops were killed at the mouth of the Elbe, and a similar disaster in the following year was the signal for a renewal of the ravages with great violence, when churches were destroyed, priests killed, or driven away, and many of the people returned to heathenism. These events compelled Charles to leave the Avar war and return to Saxony in 794; and until 799 each year had its Saxon campaign. At the same time in 794, as a fresh experiment in policy, every third man was transported; while the king was assisted in his work of conquest by the Abotrites who inhabited a district east of the Elbe. The resistance Charles met with was not serious, and these expeditions took the form of plundering raids. Oaths and hostages were exacted; and many Saxon youths were educated in the land of the Franks as Christians, and sent back into Saxony to spread Christianity and Frankish influence. The southern part of the country was now fairly tranquil, and the later campaigns were directed mainly against the Nordalbingians, the branch of the Saxons living north of the Elbe, who suffered a severe reverse near Bornhöved in 798. Further transportations were carried out, and in 797 Charles issued another capitulary which mitigated the severe provisions of the capitulary of 782; and about 802 the Saxon law was committed to writing. The Nordalbingians were still restless, and it is recorded that their land was devastated in 802. Two years later a final campaign was undertaken, when a large number of these people were transported into the country of the Franks and their land was given to the Abotrites.

The conversion of the Saxons to Christianity, which during this time had been steadily progressing, was continued in the reign of the emperor Louis I., the Pious, who, however, took very little interest in this part of his empire. Bishoprics were founded at Bremen, Münster, Verden, Minden, Paderborn, Osnabrück, Hildesheim and Hamburg, and one founded at Seligenstadt was removed to Halberstadt. Some of these bishoprics were under the authority of the archiepiscopal see of Cologne, others under that of Mainz, and this arrangement was unaltered when in 834 Hamburg was raised to an archbishopric. In 847 the bishopric of Bremen was united with Hamburg, but the authority of this archbishopric extended mainly over the districts north and east of the Elbe. The abbey of Corvey, where rested the bones of St Vitus, the patron saint of Saxony, soon became a centre of learning for the country, and the Saxons undertook with the eagerness of converts the conversion of their heathen neighbours. After a period of tranquillity a reaction set in against Frankish influences, and in 840 the freemen and liti separated themselves from the nobles, formed a league, or stellinga, and obtained a promise from the emperor Lothair I. that he would restore their ancient constitution. This rising, which was probably caused by the exaction of tithes and the oppression of Frankish officials, aimed also at restoring the heathen religion, and was put down in 842 by king Louis the German, who claimed authority over this part of the Carolingian empire.

The influences of civilization and the settlement of Frankish colonists in various parts of Saxony facilitated its incorporation with the Carolingian empire, with which its history is for some time identified. By the treaty of Verdun in 843 Saxony fell to Louis the German, but he paid little attention to the northern part of his kingdom which was harassed by the Normans and the Slavs. About 850, however, he appointed a margrave to defend the Limes Saxoniae, a narrow strip of land on the eastern frontier, and this office was given to one Liudolf who had large estates in Saxony, and who was probably descended from an Engrian noble named Bruno. Liudolf, who is sometimes called “duke of the East Saxons,” carried on a vigorous warfare against the Slavs and extended his influence over other parts of Saxony. He died in 866, and was succeeded by his son Bruno, who was killed fighting the Normans in 880. Liudolf's second son, Otto the Illustrious, was recognized as duke of Saxony by King Conrad I., and on the death of Burkhard, margrave of Thuringia in 908, obtained authority over that country also. He made himself practically independent in Saxony, played an important part in the affairs of the Empire, and is said to have refused the German throne in 911. He died in 912 and was succeeded by his son Henry I., the Fowler. Between this prince and Conrad I., who wished to curb the increasing power of the Saxon duke, a quarrel took place; but Henry not only retained his hold over Saxony and Thuringia, but on Conrad's death in 919 was elected German king. He extended the Saxon frontier almost to the Oder, improved the Saxon forces by training and equipment, established new marks, and erected forts on the frontiers for which he provided regular garrisons. Towns were walled, where it was decreed markets and assemblies should be held, churches, and monasteries were founded, civilization was extended and learning encouraged. Henry's son, Otto the Great, was crowned emperor in 962, and his descendants held this dignity until the death of the emperor Otto III. in 1002. Otto retained Saxony in his own hands for a time, though in 938 he had some difficulty in suppressing a revolt led by his half-brother Thankmar. The Slavs were driven back, the domestic policy of Henry the Fowler was continued, the Saxon court became a centre of learning visited by Italian scholars, and in 968 an archbishopric was founded at Magdeburg for the lands east of the Elbe. In 960 Otto gave to a trusted relative Hermann, afterwards called Billung, certain duties and privileges on the eastern frontier, and from time to time appointed him as his representative in Saxony. Hermann gradually extended his authority, and when he died in 973 was followed by his son Bernard I., who was undoubtedly duke of Saxony in 986. When Henry II. was chosen German king in 1002 he met the Saxons at Merseburg, and on promising to observe their laws Bernard gave him the sacred lance, thus entrusting Saxony to his care. Bernard was succeeded by his son Bernard II., who took up a hostile attitude towards the German kings, Conrad II. and Henry III. His son and successor Ordulf, who became duke in 1059, carried on a long and obstinate struggle with Adalbert, archbishop of Bremen, who was compelled to cede one-third of his possessions to Ordulf's son Magnus in 1066. The emperor Henry III. sought to win the allegiance of the Saxons by residing among them, and built a castle at Goslar and the Harzburg; and the emperor Henry IV. also spent much time in Saxony.

In 1070 Otto of Nordheim, duke of Bavaria, who held large estates in this country, being accused of a plot to murder Henry, was placed under the ban, his possessions were declared forfeited and his estates plundered. Otto, in alliance with Magnus, won considerable support in Saxony, but after some fighting both submitted and were imprisoned; and Magnus was still in confinement when on his father's death in 1072 he became titular duke of Saxony. As he refused to give up his duchy he was kept in prison, while Henry confiscated the estates of powerful nobles, demanded the restoration of ducal lands by the bishops, and garrisoned newly-erected forts with Swabians, who provisioned themselves from the surrounding country. These proceedings aroused suspicion and discontent, which were increased when the emperor assembled an army, ostensibly to attack the Slavs. The Saxon nobles refused to join the host until their grievances were redressed, and in 1073 a league was formed at Wormesleben. When the insurgents under Duke Otto were joined by the Thuringians, Henry was compelled in 1074 to release Magnus and to make a number of concessions as the price of the peace of Gerstungen; which, however, was short-lived, as the peasants employed in pursuance of its terms in demolishing the forts, desecrated the churches and violated the ducal tombs. Henry, having obtained help from the princes of the Rhineland, attacked and defeated the Saxons at Hohenburg near Langensalza, rebuilt the forts, and pardoned Otto, whom he appointed administrator of the country. The Saxons, however, were not quite subdued; risings took place from time to time, and the opponents of Henry IV. found considerable support in Saxony. During the century which followed the death of Hermann Billung, there had been constant warfare with the Slavs, but although the emperors had often taken the field, the Saxons had been driven back to the Elbe, which was at this time their eastern boundary. In 1106 Magnus died, and the German king Henry V. bestowed the duchy upon Lothair, count of Supplinburg, whose wife Richenza inherited the Saxon estates of her grandfather Otto of Nordheim, on the death of her brother Otto in 1116. Lothair quickly made himself independent, defeated Henry at Welfesholz in 1115, and prosecuted the war against the Slavs with vigour. In 1125 he became German king, and in 1137 gave Saxony to Henry the Proud, duke of Bavaria, who had married his daughter Gertrude, and whose mother Wulfhild was a daughter of Magnus Billung. The succeeding German king Conrad III. refused to allow Henry to hold two duchies, and gave Saxony to Albert the Bear, margrave of Brandenburg, who like his rival was a grandson of Magnus Billung. Albert's attempts to obtain possession failed, and after Henry's death in 1139 he formally renounced Saxony in favour of Henry's son, Henry the Lion (q.v.). The new duke improved its internal condition, increased its political importance, and pushed its eastern frontier towards the Oder. In 1180, however, he was placed under the imperial ban and Saxony was broken up. Henry retained Brunswick and Luneburg; Westphalia, as the western portion of the duchy was called, was given to Philip, archbishop of Cologne, and a large part of the land was divided among nine bishops and a number of counts who thus became immediate vassals of the emperor. The title duke of Saxony was given to Bernard, the sixth son of Albert the Bear, together with the small territories of Lauenburg and Wittenberg, which were thus the only portions of the former duchy which now bore the name of Saxony. Bernard, whose paternal grandmother, Eilicke, was a daughter of Magnus Billung, took a prominent part in German affairs, but lost Lauenburg which was seized by Waldemar II., king of Denmark. Dying in 1212, Bernard was succeeded in Wittenberg by his younger son Albert I., who recovered Lauenburg after the defeat of Waldemar at Bornhoved in 1227. Albert died in 1260, and soon after his death his two sons divided his territories, when the elder son John took Lauenburg which was sometimes called lower Saxony, and the younger, Albert II., took Wittenberg or upper Saxony. Both retained the ducal title and claimed the electoral privilege, a claim which the Lauenburg line refused to abandon when it was awarded to the Wittenberg line by the Golden Bull of 1356.

Saxe-Lauenburg was governed by John until his death in 1285, when it passed to his three sons John II., Albert III. and Eric I. As Albert had no sons the duchy was soon divided into two parts, until on the death of duke Eric III., a grandson of John II., in 1401, it was reunited by Eric IV., a grandson of Eric I. When Eric IV. died in 1412 he was succeeded by his son Eric V., who made strenuous but vain efforts to obtain the electoral duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg, which fell vacant on the death of the elector Albert III. in 1422. Eric died in 1436 and was followed by his brother Bernard IV., whose claim to exercise the electoral vote was quashed by the electors in 1438; and who was succeeded by his son John IV. in 1463. The next duke, John's son Magnus I., spent much time in struggles with the archbishop of Bremen and the bishop of Ratzeburg; he also assisted the progress of the Reformation in Lauenburg. Magnus, who was formally invested with the duchy by the emperor Charles V. in 1530, was the first duke to abandon the claim to the electoral privilege. After his death in 1543 his son Francis I. reigned for the succeeding twenty-eight years, and his grandsons, Magnus II. and Francis II., until 1619. Francis, who did something to improve the administration of his duchy, was succeeded in turn by his two sons and his two grandsons; but on the death of Julius Francis, the younger of his grandsons, in 1689 the family became extinct.

Several claimants to Saxe-Lauenburg thereupon appeared, the most prominent of whom were George William, duke of Lüneburg-Celle, and John George III., elector of Saxony. George William based his claim upon a treaty of mutual succession made in 1369 between his ancestor Magnus II., duke of Brunswick, and the reigning dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg. John George had a double claim. Duke Magnus I. had promised that in case of the extinction of his family Lauenburg should pass to the family of Wettin, an arrangement which had been confirmed by the emperor Maximilian I. in 1507. Secondly, John George himself had concluded a similar treaty with Julius Francis in 1671. In 1689 the elector received the homage of the people of Lauenburg. George William, however, took Ratzeburg, and held it against the troops of a third claimant, Christian V., king of Denmark; and in 1702 he bought off the claim of John George, his successor being invested with the duchy in 1728. Since that date its history has been identified with that of Hanover (q.v.).

In Saxe-Wittenberg Albert II. was succeeded in 1298 by his son Rudolph I., who in 1314 gave his vote to Frederick, duke of Austria, in the disputed election for the German throne between that prince and Louis of Bavaria, afterwards the emperor Louis IV.; and when the latter ignored his claims on the margraviate of Brandenburg Rudolph shared in the attempt to depose him, and to elect Charles of Luxemburg, afterwards the emperor Charles IV., as German king. Rudolph was followed in 1356 by his son Rudolph II., who had fought at the battle of Crécy; and who in turn was succeeded in 1370 by his half-brother Wenceslaus. This prince succeeded after some fighting in temporarily obtaining the duchy of Lüneburg for his house; he took part in the election of Wenceslaus as German king in 1376; and was followed in 1388 by his eldest son Rudolph III. Lavish expenditure during the progress of the council of Constance reduced Rudolph to poverty, and on the death in 1422 of his brother Albert III., who succeeded him in 1419, this branch of the Ascanian family became extinct.

A new era in the history of Saxony dates from 1423, the year when the emperor Sigismund bestowed the vacant electoral duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg upon Frederick, margrave of Meissen. Frederick was a member of the family of Wettin, which since his day has played a prominent part in the history of Europe, and he owed his new dignity to the money and other assistance which he had given to the emperor during the Hussite war. The new and more honourable title of elector of Saxony now superseded his other titles, and the name Saxony gradually spread over his other possessions, which included Meissen and Thuringia as well as Saxe-Wittenberg, and thus the earlier history of the electorate and kingdom of Saxony is the early history of the mark of Meissen, the name of which now lingers only in a solitary town on the Elbe.

Frederick's new position as elector, combined with his personal qualities to make him one of the most powerful princes in Germany, and had the principle of primogeniture been established in his country, Saxony and not Prussia might have been the leading power to-day in the German empire. He died in 1428, just before his lands were ravaged by the Hussites in 1429 and 1430. The division of his territory between his two sons, the elector Frederick II. and William, occasioned a destructive internecine war, a kind of strife which had many precedents in the earlier history of Meissen and Thuringia. It was in 1455 during this war that the knight Kunz von Kaufungen carried into execution his daring plan of stealing the two sons of the elector Frederick, Ernest and Albert, but he was only momentarily successful, the princes soon escaping from his hands. These two sons succeeded to their father's possessions in 1464, and for twenty years ruled together peaceably. The land prospered rapidly during this respite from the horrors of war. Encouraged by an improved coinage, trade made great advances, and other benefits also accrued from the discovery of silver on the Schneeberg. Several of the important ecclesiastical principalities of North Germany were about this time held by members of the Saxon ruling house, and the external influence of the electorate corresponded to its internal prosperity. But matters were not allowed to continue thus. The childless death of their uncle William in 1482 brought Thuringia to the two princes, and Albert insisted on a division of their common possessions. The important partition of Leipzig accordingly took place in 1485, and resulted in the foundation of the two main lines of the Saxon house. The lands were never again united. Ernest, the elder brother, obtained Saxe-Wittenberg with the electoral dignity, Thuringia and the Saxon Vogtland; while Albert received Meissen, Osterland being divided between them. Something was still held in common, and the division was probably made intricate to render war difficult and dangerous.

The elector Ernest was succeeded in 1486 by his son, Frederick the Wise, one of the most illustrious princes in German history. Under him Saxony was perhaps the most influential state in the Empire, and became the cradle of the Reformation. He died in 1525 while the Peasants' War was desolating his land, and was succeeded by his brother John, who was an enthusiastic supporter of the reformed faith and who shared with Philip, landgrave of Hesse, the leadership of the league of Schmalkalden. John's son and successor, John Frederick the Magnanimous, who became elector in 1532, might with equal propriety have been surnamed the Unfortunate. He took part in the war of the league of Schmalkalden, but in 1547 he was captured at Miihlberg by the emperor Charles V. and was forced to sign the capitulation of Wittenberg. This deed transferred the electoral title and a large part of the electoral lands from the Ernestine to the Albertine branch of the house, whose astute representative, Maurice, had taken the imperial side during the war. Only a few scattered territories were reserved for John Frederick's sons, although these were increased by the treaty of Naumburg in 1554, and on them were founded the Ernestine duchies of Saxe-Gotha, Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Coburg, Saxe-Meiningen and Saxe-Altenburg. For the second time in the history of the Saxon electorate the younger line secured the higher dignity, for the Wittenberg line was junior to the Lauenburg line. The Albertine line is now the royal line of Saxony.

Maurice, who became elector of Saxony in consequence of the capitulation of Wittenberg, was a grandson of Albert, the founder of his line. His predecessors in ruling Albertine Saxony had been his father, Henry, who only reigned for two years, and his uncle George. The latter, a zealous Roman Catholic, had vainly tried to stem the tide of the Reformation in his dominions; Henry, on the other hand, was an equally devoted Protestant. Maurice, who succeeded his father in 1541, was also a Protestant, but he did not allow his religious faith to blind him to his political interests. His ruling motive was ambition to increase both his own power and the importance of his country. He refused to join the other Protestant princes in the league of Schmalkalden, but made a secret treaty with Charles V. Then suddenly invading the Ernestine lands while the elector John Frederick was campaigning against the imperialists on the Danube, he forced that prince to return hastily to Saxony, and thus weakened the forces opposed to the emperor. Although compelled to retreat, his fidelity to Charles V. was rewarded, as we have already seen, by the capitulation of Wittenberg. All the lands torn from John Frederick were not, however, assigned to Maurice; he was forced to acknowledge the superiority of Bohemia over the Vogtland and the Silesian duchy of Sagan. Moreover, Roman Catholic prelates were reinstated in the bishoprics of Meissen, Merseburg and Naumburg-Zeitz. Recognizing now as a Protestant prince that the best alliance for securing his new possessions was not with the emperor, but with the other Protestant princes, Maurice began to withdraw from the former and to conciliate the latter. In 1552, suddenly marching against Charles at Innsbruck, he drove him to flight and then extorted from him the religious peace of Passau. Thus at the close of his life he came to be regarded as the champion of German national and religious freedom.

Amid the distractions of outward affairs, Maurice had not neglected the internal interests of Saxony. To its educational advantages, already conspicuous, he added the three Fürstenschulen at Pforta, Grimma and Meissen, and for administrative purposes, especially for the collection of taxes, he divided the country into the four circles of the Electorate, Thuringia, Meissen and Leipzig. During his reign coal-mining began in Saxony. In another direction over two hundred religious houses were suppressed, the funds being partly applied to educational purposes. The country had four universities, those of Leipzig, Wittenberg, Jena and Erfurt; books began to increase rapidly, and, by virtue of Luther's translation of the Bible, the Saxon dialect became the ruling dialect of Germany.

Augustus I., brother and successor of Maurice, was one of the best domestic rulers that Saxony ever had. He increased the area of the country by the “circles” of Neustadt and the Vogtland, and by parts of Henneberg and the silver-yielding Mansfeld, and he devoted his long reign to the development of its resources. He visited all parts of the country himself, and personally encouraged agriculture; he introduced a more economical mode of mining and smelting silver; he favoured the importation of finer breeds of sheep and cattle; and he brought foreign weavers from abroad to teach the Saxons. Under him lace-making began on the Erzgebirge, and cloth-making flourished at Zwickau. With all his virtues, however, Augustus was an intolerant Lutheran, and used very severe means to exterminate the Calvinists; in his electorate he is said to have expelled 111 Calvinist preachers in a single month. Under his son Christian I., who succeeded in 1586, the chief power was wielded by the chancellor Nikolas Crell (q.v.), who strongly favoured Calvinism; but, when Christian II. came to the throne in 1591, Crell was sacrificed to the Lutheran nobles. The duke of Saxe-Weimar was made regent, and continued the persecution of crypto-Calvinism. Christian II. was succeeded in 1611 by his brother John George I., under whom the country was devastated by the Thirty Years' War. John George was an amiable but weak prince, totally unfitted to direct the fortunes of a nation in time of danger. He refused the proffered crown of Bohemia, and, when the Bohemian Protestants elected a Calvinist prince, he assisted the emperor against them with men and money. The edict of restitution, however, in 1629, opened his eyes to the emperor's projects, and he joined Gustavus Adolphus. Saxony now became the theatre of war. The first battle on Saxon soil was fought in 1631 at Breitenfeld, where the bravery of the Swedes made up for the flight of the Saxons. Wallenstein entered Saxony in 1632, and his lieutenants plundered, burned and murdered through the length and breadth of the land. After the death of Gustavus Adolphus at the battle of Lützen, not far from Leipzig, in 1632, the elector, who was at heart an imperialist, detached himself from the Swedish alliance, and in 1635 concluded the peace of Prague with the emperor. By this peace he was confirmed in the possession of Upper and Lower Lusatia, a district of 180 sq. m. and half a million inhabitants, which had already been pledged to him as a reward for his services against the Bohemians.

Saxony had now to suffer from the Swedes a repetition of the devastations of Wallenstein. No other country in Germany was so scourged by this terrible war. Immense tracts were rendered desolate, and whole villages vanished from the map; in eight years the population sank from three to one and a half millions. When the war was ended by the peace of Westphalia in 1648, Saxony found that its influence had begun to decline in Germany. Its alliance with the Catholic party deprived it of its place at the head of the Protestant German states, which was now taken by Brandenburg. John George's will made the decline of the electorate even more inevitable by detaching from it the three duchies of Saxe-Weissenfels, Saxe-Merseburg and Saxe-Zeitz as appanages for his younger sons. By 1746, however, these lines were all extinct, and their possessions had returned to the main line. Saxe-Neustadt was a short-lived branch from Saxe-Zeitz, extinct in 1714. The next three electors, who each bore the name of John George, had uneventful reigns. The first made some efforts to heal the wounds of his country; the second wasted the lives of his people in foreign wars against the Turks; and the third was the last Protestant elector of Saxony. John George IV. was succeeded in 1694 by his brother Frederick Augustus I., or Augustus the Strong. This prince was elected king of Poland as Augustus II. in 1697, but any weight which the royal title might have given him in the Empire was more than counterbalanced by the fact that he became a Roman Catholic in order to qualify for the new dignity. The connexion with Poland was disastrous for Saxony. In order to defray the expenses of his wars with Charles XII. Augustus pawned and sold large districts of Saxon territory, while he drained the electorate of both men and money. For a year before the peace of Altranstadt in 1706, when Augustus gave up the crown of Poland, Saxony was occupied by a Swedish army, which had to be supported at an immense expense.

The wars and extravagance of the elector-king, who regained the Polish crown in 1709, are said to have cost Saxony a hundred million thalers. From this reign dates the privy council (Geheimes Kabinet), which lasted till 1830. The caste privileges of the estates (Stände) were increased by Augustus, a fact which tended to alienate them more from the people, and so to decrease their power. Johann Friedrich Böttger made his famous discovery in 1710, and the manufacture of porcelain was begun at Meissen, and in this reign the Moravian Brethren made their settlement at Herrnhut. Frederick Augustus II., who succeeded his father in the electorate in 1733, and was afterwards elected to the throne of Poland as Augustus III., was an indolent prince, wholly under the influence of Count Heinrich von Brühl (q.v.). Under his ill-omened auspices Saxony sided with Prussia in the First Silesian War, and with Austria in the other two. It gained nothing in the first, lost much in the second, and in the third, the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), suffered renewed miseries. The country was deserted by its king and his minister, who retired to Poland. By the end of the war it had lost 90,000 men and a hundred million thalers; its coinage was debased and its trade ruined; and the whole country was in a state of frantic disorder. The elector died seven months after his return from Poland; Brühl died twenty-three days later. The connexion with Poland was now at an end. The elector's son and successor, Frederick Christian, survived his father only two months, dying also in 1763, leaving a son, Frederick Augustus III., a boy of thirteen. Prince Xaver, the elector's uncle, was appointed guardian, and he set himself to the work of healing the wounds of the country. The foundation of the famous school of mining at Freiberg, and the improvement of the Saxon breed of sheep by the importation of merino sheep from Spain, were due to his care.

Frederick assumed the government in 1768, and in his long and eventful reign, which saw the electorate elevated to the dignity of a kingdom, though deprived of more than half its area, he won the surname of the Just. As he was the first king of Saxony, he is usually styled Frederick Augustus I. The first ten years of his active reign passed in peace and quiet; agriculture, manufactures and industries were fostered, economical reforms instituted, and the heavy public debt of forty million thalers was steadily reduced. In 1770 torture was abolished. When the Bavarian succession fell open in 1777, Frederick Augustus joined Prussia in protesting against the absorption of Bavaria by Austria, and Saxon troops took part in the bloodless “potato-war.” The elector commuted his claims in right of his mother, the Bavarian princess Maria Antonia, for six million florins, which he spent chiefly in redeeming Saxon territory that had been pawned to other German states. When Saxony joined the Fürstenbund in 1785, it had an area of 15,185 sq. m. and a population of nearly 2,000,000, but its various parts had not yet been combined into a homogeneous whole, for the two Lusatias, Querfurt, Henneberg and the ecclesiastical foundations of Naumburg and Merseburg had each a separate diet and government, independent of the diet of the electorate proper. In 1791 Frederick declined the crown of Poland, although it was now offered as hereditary even in the female line. He remembered how unfortunate for Saxony the former Polish connexion had been, and he mistrusted the attitude of Russia towards the proffered kingdom. Next year saw the beginning of the great struggle between France and Germany. Frederick's first policy was one of selfish abstention, and from 1793 until 1796, when he concluded a definite treaty of neutrality with France, he limited his contribution to the war to the bare contingent due from him as a prince of the Empire. When war broke out in 1806 against Napoleon, 22,000 Saxon troops shared the defeat of the Prussians at Jena, but the elector immediately afterwards snatched at Napoleon's offer of neutrality, and abandoned his former ally. At the peace of Posen (11th December 1806) Frederick assumed the title of king of Saxony, and entered the Confederation of the Rhine as an independent sovereign, promising a contingent of 20,000 men to Napoleon.

No change followed in the internal affairs of the new kingdom, except that Roman Catholics were admitted to equal privileges with Protestants. Its foreign policy was dictated by the will of Napoleon, of whose irresistibility the king was too easily convinced. In 1807 his submission was rewarded with the duchy of Warsaw (to which Cracow and part of Galicia were added in 1809) and the district of Cottbus, though he had to surrender some of his former territory to the new kingdom of Westphalia. The king of Saxony's faith in Napoleon was shaken by the disasters of the Russian campaign, in which 21,000 Saxon troops had shared; when, however, the allies invaded Saxony in the spring of 1813, he refused to declare against Napoleon and fled to Prague, though he withdrew his contingent from the French army. Whatever misgivings he may have had were, however, removed by Napoleon's victory at Lützen (May 2, 1813), and the Saxon king and the Saxon army were once more at the disposal of the French. After the battle of Bautzen, Napoleon's headquarters were successively at Dresden and Leipzig. During the battle of Leipzig in October 1813, the popular Saxon feeling was displayed by the desertion of the Saxon troops to the side of the allies. Frederick was taken prisoner in Leipzig, and the government of his kingdom was assumed for a year by the Russians. Saxony was now regarded as a conquered country. Nothing but Austria's vehement desire to keep a powerful neighbour at a distance from her boundaries preserved it from being completely annexed by the Prussians, who had succeeded the Russians in the government. At the congress of Vienna the claim of Prussia to annex the whole kingdom was supported by Russia, and opposed by Austria, France and Great Britain, the question all but leading to a complete break-up of the alliance (see Vienna, Congress of). As it was, the congress assigned the northern portion, consisting of 7800 sq. m., with 864,404 inhabitants, to Prussia, leaving 5790 sq. m., with a population of 1,182,744, to Frederick, who was permitted to retain his royal title. On the 8th of June 1815 King Frederick joined the new German Confederation.

From the partition in 1815 to the war of 1866 the history of Saxony is mainly a narrative of the slow growth of constitutionalism and popular liberty within its limits. Its influence on the general history of Europe ceased when the old Empire was dissolved. In the new German Empire it is too completely overshadowed by Prussia to have any objective importance by itself. Frederick lived twelve years after the division of his kingdom. The commercial and industrial interests of the country continued to be fostered, but only a few of the most unavoidable political reforms were granted. Religious equality was extended to the Reformed Church in 1818, and the separate diet of Upper Lusatia was abolished. Frederick Augustus was succeeded in 1827 by his brother Antony, to the great disappointment of the people, who had expected a more liberal era under Prince Frederick Augustus, the king's nephew. Antony announced his intention of following the lines laid down by his predecessor. He accorded at first only a few trifling reforms, which were far from removing the popular discontent, while he retained the unpopular minister, Count Detlew von Einsiedel (1773–1861), and continued the encouragement of the Roman Catholics. The old feudal arrangement of the diet, with its inconvenient divisions, was retained, and the privy council continued to be the depository of power. An active opposition began to make itself evident in the diet and in the press, and in 1830, under the influence of the July revolution in Paris, riots broke out in Leipzig and Dresden. Einsiedel was now dismissed, Prince Frederick Augustus, son of Maximilian, who resigned the succession, became co-regent, and a constitution was promised. After consultation with the diet the king promulgated, on the 4th of September 1831, a new constitution which is the basis of the present government. An offer from Metternich of Austrian arms to repress the discontent by force had been refused. The feudal estates were replaced by two chambers, largely elective, and the privy council by a responsible ministry of six departments. Bernhard von Lindenau was the head of the first responsible cabinet, and the first constitutional assembly sat from the 27th of January 1833 till the 30th of October 1834.

While Saxony's political liberty was thus enlarged, its commerce and credit were stimulated by its adhesion to the Prussian Zollverein and by the construction of railways. Antony had died in 1836, and Frederick Augustus II. became sole king. Growing interest in politics produced dissatisfaction with the compromise of 1831, and the Liberal opposition grew in numbers and influence. The burning questions were the publicity of legal proceedings and the freedom of the press; and on these the government sustained its first crushing defeat in the lower chamber in 1842. In 1843 Lindenau was forced by the action of the aristocratic party to resign, and was replaced by Julius Traugotte von Könneritz (1792–1866), a statesman of reactionary views. This increased the opposition of the Liberal middle classes to the government. Religious considerations arising out of the attitude of the government towards the “German Catholics,” and a new constitution for the Protestant Church, began to mingle with purely political questions, and Prince John, as the supposed head of the Jesuit party, was insulted at a review of the communal guards at Leipzig in 1845. The military rashly interfered, and several innocent spectators were shot. The bitterness which this occurrence provoked was intensified by a political reaction which was initiated about the same time under Könneritz. Warned by the sympathy excited in Saxony by the revolutionary events at Paris in 1848, the king dismissed his reactionary ministry, and a Liberal cabinet took its place in March 1848. The disputed points were now conceded to the country. The privileges of the nobles were curtailed; the administration of justice was put on a better footing; the press was unshackled; publicity in legal proceedings was granted; trial by jury was introduced for some special cases; and the German Catholics were recognized. The feudal character of the first chamber was abolished, and its members made mainly elective from among the highest tax-payers, while an almost universal suffrage was introduced for the second chamber. The first demand of the overwhelmingly democratic diet returned under this reform bill was that the king should accept the German constitution elaborated by the Frankfort parliament. Frederick, alleging the danger of acting without the concurrence of Prussia, refused, and dissolved the diet. A public demonstration at Dresden in favour of the Frankfort constitution was prohibited as illegal on the 2nd of May 1849. This at once awoke the popular fury. The mob seized the town and barricaded the streets; Dresden was almost destitute of troops; and the king fled to the Königstein. The rebels then proceeded to appoint a provisional government, consisting of Tzschirner, Heubner and Todt, though the true leader of the insurrection was the Russian Bakunin. Meanwhile Prussian troops had arrived to aid the government, and after two days' fierce street fighting the rising was quelled. The bond with Prussia now became closer, and Frederick entered with Prussia and Hanover into the temporary “alliance of the three kings.” He was not sincere, however, in desiring to exclude Austria, and in 1850 accepted the invitation of that power to send deputies to the restored federal diet at Frankfort. The first chamber immediately protested against this step, and refused to consider the question of a pressing loan. The king retorted by dissolving the diet and summoning the old estates abolished in 1848. When a quorum, with some difficulty, was obtained, another period of retrograde legislation set in. The king himself was carried away with the reactionary current, and the people remained for the time indifferent. Beust became minister for both home and foreign affairs in 1852, and under his guidance the policy of Saxony became more and more hostile to Prussia and friendly to Austria.

The sudden death of the king, by a fall from his carriage in Tirol in 1854, left the throne to his brother John, a learned and accomplished prince, whose name is known in German literature as a translator and annotator of Dante. His brother's ministers kept their portfolios, but their views gradually became somewhat liberalized with the spirit of the times. Beust, however, still retained his federalistic and philo-Austrian views. When war was declared between Prussia and Austria in 1866, Saxony declined the former's offer of neutrality, and, when a Prussian force crossed the border, the Saxon army under the king and the crown prince joined the Austrians in Bohemia. The entire kingdom, with the solitary exception of the Königstein, was occupied by the Prussians. On the conclusion of peace Saxony lost no territory, but had to pay a war indemnity of ten million thalers, and was compelled to enter the North German Confederation.

During the peace negotiations Beust had resigned and entered the Austrian service, and on the 15th of November the king in his speech from the throne announced his intention of being faithful to the new Confederation as he had been to the old. On the 7th of February 1867 a military convention was signed with Prussia which, while leaving to Saxony a certain control in matters of administration, placed the army under the king of Prussia; from the 1st of July it formed the XII. army corps of the North German Confederation under the command of Crown-Prince Albert. The postal and telegraph systems were also placed under the control of Prussia, and the representation of the Saxon crown at foreign courts was merged in that of the Confederation. A new electoral law of the same year reformed the Saxon diet by abolishing the old distinction between the various “estates” and lowering the qualification for the franchise; the result was a Liberal majority in the Lower House and a period of civil and ecclesiastical reform. John was succeeded in 1873 by his elder son Albert (1832–1902) who had added to his military reputation during the war of 1870. Under this prince the course of politics in Saxony presented little of general interest, except perhaps the spread of the doctrines of Social Democracy, which was especially remarkable in Saxony. The number of Social Democratic delegates in a diet of 80 members rose from 5 in 1885 to 14 in 1895. So alarming did the growth appear, that the other parties combined, and on the 28th of March 1896 a new electoral law was passed, introducing indirect election and a franchise based on a triple division of classes determined by the amount paid in direct taxation. This resulted in 1901 in the complete elimination of the Socialists from the diet. On the 7th of June 1902 King Albert died, and was succeeded by his brother as King George. The most conspicuous event of his reign was the flight in December 1902 of the crown-princess Louise with a M. Giron, who had been French tutor to her children, which resulted in a grave scandal and a divorce. More important, however, was the extraordinary situation created by the electoral law of 1896. This law had in effect secured the misrepresentation of the mass of the people in the diet, the representation of the country population at the expense of that of the towns, of the interests of agriculture as opposed to those of industry. A widespread agitation was the outcome, and the temper of the people, of what became known as the “Red Kingdom,” was displayed in the elections of 1903 to the German imperial parliament, when, under the system of universal suffrage, of 23 members returned 22 were Social Democrats. This led to proposals for a slight modification in the franchise for the Saxon diet (1904), which were not accepted. In the elections of 1906, however, only 8 of the Social Democrats succeeded in retaining their seats. In 1907 the government announced their intention of modifying the electoral system in Saxony by the adding of representation for certain professions to that of the three classes of the electorate. This was, however, far from satisfying the parties of the extreme Left, and the strength of Social Democracy in Saxony was even more strikingly displayed in 1909 when, in spite of plural voting, under a complicated franchise, 25 Socialist members were returned to the Saxon diet.

King George died on the 15th of October 1904 and was succeeded by his son as King Frederick Augustus III.

The Saxon Duchies.—The political history of the parts of Saxony left by the capitulation of Wittenberg to the Ernestine line, which occupy the region now generally styled Thuringia (Thüringen), is mainly a recital of partitions, reunions, redivisions and fresh combinations of territory among the various sons of the successive dukes. The principle of primogeniture was not introduced until the end of the 17th century, so that the Protestant Saxon dynasty, instead of building up a single compact kingdom for itself, has split into four petty duchies, of no political influence whatever. In 1547 the ex-elector John Frederick the Magnanimous was allowed to retain Weimar, Jena, Eisenach, Gotha, Henneberg and Saalfeld. Altenburg and a few other districts were added to the Ernestine possessions by the treaty of Naumburg in 1554, and other additions were made from other sources. John Frederick, who had retained and transmitted to his descendants the title of duke of Saxony, forbade his sons to divide their inheritance; but his wishes were respected only until after the death of his eldest son in 1565. The two survivors then founded separate jurisdictions at Weimar and Coburg, though arrangements were made to exchange territories every three years. In 1596 Saxe-Coburg gave off the branch Saxe-Eisenach; and in 1603 Saxe-Weimar gave off Saxe-Altenburg, the elder Weimar line ending and the younger beginning with the latter date. By 1638 Weimar had absorbed both Coburg and Eisenach; Altenburg remained till 1672. John, duke of Saxe-Weimar, who died in 1605, is regarded as the common ancestor of the present Ernestine lines. In 1640 his three surviving sons ruled the duchies of Weimar, Eisenach and Gotha. Eisenach fell in in 1644 and Altenburg in 1672, thus leaving the dukes of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha to become the ancestors of the modern ruling houses. Saxe-Weimar was still repeatedly divided; in 1668 a Saxe-Marksuhl appears, and about 1672 a Saxe- Jena and a new Saxe-Eisenach. All these, however, were extinct by 1741, and their possessions returned to the main line, which had adopted the principle of primogeniture in 1719.

Saxe-Gotha was even more subdivided; and the climax was reached about 1680, when Gotha, Coburg, Meiningen, Romhild, Eisenberg, Hildburghausen and Saalfeld were each the capital of a duchy. By the beginning of 1825 only the first three of these and Hildburghausen remained, the lands of the others having been divided after much quarrelling. In that year the Gotha line expired, and a general redistribution of the lands of the “Nexus Gothanus,” as this group of duchies was called, was arranged on the 12th of November 1826. The duke of Hildburghausen gave up his lands entirely for Altenburg and became duke of Saxe-Altenburg; the duke of Coburg exchanged Saalfeld for Gotha and became duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha; and the duke of Saxe-Meiningen received Hildburghausen, Saalfeld and some other territories, and added Hildburghausen to his title. The existing duchies are separately noticed.

The chief authority for the early history of Saxony is Widukind, whose Res gestae Saxonicae is printed, together with the works of other chroniclers, in the Monumenta Germanica historica, Scriptores. Modern authorities are C. W. Böttiger, Geschichte des Kurstaates und Königreichs Sachsen, new ed. by T. Flathe (1867–1873); Sturmhöfel, Geschichte der sächsischen Lande und ihrer Herrscher (Chemnitz, 1897–1898); and Tutzschmann, Atlas zur Geschichte der sächsischen Länder (Grimma, 1852). Collections which may be consulted are: Codex diplomaticus Saxoniae regiae (Leipzig, 1862–1879); the Archiv für die sächsische Geschichte, edited by K. von Weber (Leipzig, 1862–1879); and the Bibliothek der sächsische Geschichte und Landeskunde, edited by G. Buchholz (Leipzig, 1903). See also Germany: Bibliography, and the articles on the various dukes, electors and kings of Saxony.