Kootut teokset | Samlade skrifter | Selected Works

After 1765–6

His exclusion from the Diet in 1766 meant that Chydenius was forbidden to take part in the next Diet, held in Norrköping in 1769. He did in fact travel there but was sent back home again. It is too much to say that after this his career in active politics was over: he would take part in the Diet of 1778–9, and he was a delegate of the Clergy in Ostrobothnia at the short and somewhat peculiar Diet of 1792. This was held in Gävle shortly before Gustavus III was assassinated in the early spring of 1792, following the unsuccessful war with Russia after which the king had made himself almost a dictator with the so-called Union and Security Act (Förenings- och säkerhetsakten) in 1789. Eyewitnesses present at the Diet depicted Gävle as a military camp swarming with police spies.1

At the same time, it is clear that Chydenius would never again play such an important role as during the Diet of 1765–6. This did not mean that he had lost interest in economic and political reform issues. He published his radical views on workers and servants in “Thoughts Concerning the Natural Rights of Masters and Servants” (Tankar om husbönders och tienstehions naturliga rätt, 1778), and in “Whether Rural Trade Is Generally Useful or Harmful to a Country” (Huruvida landthandel för et rike i gemen är nyttig eller skadelig, 1777) he argued for the establishment of free enterprise, especially in the countryside. Much later in life he also wrote a piece titled “The Improvement of Finnish Agriculture” (Finska lantbrukets upphjälpande, 1799) in which he repeated many ideas and suggestions from his earlier works, but it was not printed during his lifetime.2

The pamphlet on the rights of servants mentioned above had directly to do with Chydenius’s activities during the Diet of 1778–9. He published it in order to push for the replacement of the existing statute on servants – which made it a crime for a propertyless worker to be without a master and in general treated servants as second-class citizens in their own country – to a system building on free contracts between masters and servants. Most probably because of its radical content, the proposal was rejected by a majority of the Estates. While this must have been a disappointment, Chydenius was more successful with regard to another burning issue at this time: religious tolerance. He wrote the important “Memorial Regarding Freedom of Religion” (Memorial, angående religions-frihet, 1779), in which it was suggested that while the Lutheran Church should still be the only recognized church in the Swedish realm, foreigners should have increased rights to practise their own religion. Moreover, it is clear that the king himself played an important role during the entire process. Ever since, it has been speculated whether or not Chydenius wrote the memorial in response to a direct exhortation from Gustavus III.3 Most probably, however, the initiative was taken by Chydenius himself, but possibly with the aim of gaining political favour with the monarch. On the other hand, there is no doubt that he from his own experience drew the conclusion that more religious freedom was beneficial. In Ostrobothnia at the time, Pietism was widespread and Chydenius was opposed to rash treatment of Pietists. Be that as it may, his engagement did not make him very popular among his clerical colleagues. By many in his Estate he was looked upon as a traitor against the unity of the Church and the true Lutheran evangelic gospel.4 The fact that he was not elected to take part in any new Diet before 1792 was most certainly a consequence of this.

A more general factor behind his absence from the national political stage was Gustavus III’s coup d’état in 1772. One of its effects was that the political system changed fundamentally, and the days of the Age of Liberty were over. From now on, the king would take a much more active part in ruling the country. As a consequence of the new constitution of 1772, the power of the Estates dwindled. Not even the Diets were what they once had been. No longer the power base of competing Hat and Cap politicians, this institution became less important and was transformed into a mere platform for royal power designed by the king himself. At the same time, it is clear that Chydenius in this situation changed his political sympathies. He was obviously no longer a Cap; his loyalty to the Caps’ cause had abruptly ended in 1766 when he was excluded from the Diet. During the 1770s and 1780s he was mainly recognized by contemporaries as a follower of Gustavus III and loyal to the new order. Hence, at the same time as he was reconciled to being a “democrat” – perhaps even more so than before – he was also a “Gustavian”. How this combination was possible we will return to in a moment.

When his father, Jakob, died in 1766, shortly before Anders Chydenius arrived home after the tumultuous events in the spring of 1766, he might have thought it only natural that he should succeed his father as rector at Kokkola. But when he was not put in the first place for the position, he himself at least drew the conclusion that this had to do with his exclusion from the recently finished Diet. However, a new opportunity appeared when his father’s successor as rector, Johan Haartman, left Kokkola after just one year in active service. Hence, in 1770 Chydenius was installed at Kokkola, and would remain there for the rest of his life. Moving up the Church hierarchy, he became dean in 1779, and the same year he was awarded with the title of doctor honoris causa in theology. Two years later he also became a rural dean, which was the highest position one could reach in the Church hierarchy without becoming a bishop. Now that he was installed in his new duties, his energies turned in new directions. During the 1780s he published a number of theological works in the format of sermons. What seems to have sparked him off in this direction was once again the launching of a new prize competition; this time it was the Theological Homiletic Society in Uppsala (Theologico-Homiletiska sällskapet), which put up a prize for the best sermon concerning the topic of the Ten Commandments. Chydenius submitted in total 11 sermons on this topic and received a first prize. They were subsequently published in the Society’s series Homiletiska försök (1781–2). Some years later he published another set of sermons in the same series concerning the articles of faith in which he elaborated on some themes taken from the Lutheran Catechism.5

While spending most of his time with duties that followed from his position as shepherd of his flock at Kokkola, he continued to take a keen interest in agricultural improvements and was always eager to try out new projects and schemes. However, during the 1780s he seems to have been particularly busy carrying out building projects: enlarging the parish church building as well as furnishing it with a new tower. Although times were not particularly good and a series of bad harvests had hit the Swedish realm during the 1770s, Kokkola had seen a rise in population which made the church too small. Chydenius was also able to engage in a pastime that he especially cherished: at Kokkola he had his own small orchestra, in which he seems to have been especially handy with the flute.6 While not taking any part in national politics after his return from the Diet in Gävle 1792 – perhaps old age and the experience of the journey back from Gävle, when he and his travel companions had almost lost their lives trying to cross the frozen Gulf of Bothnia in the middle of winter had been deterrent enough – he continued to write on different political and economic subjects. In 1795 he sent a piece on the production of saltpetre in Ostrobothnia (Saltpetter-sjuderierne, särdeles i Österbotten) to a recently created society for the distribution of useful knowledge in Stockholm, Sällskapet för allmänne medborgerlige kunskaper. It was in fact printed as the first number in the society’s series. In this essay, Chydenius repeated some of his well-known views on the importance of free trade and establishment of industry, but this time he pleaded particularly for the repeal of the existing state monopoly on producing saltpetre in order to make gunpowder. Why not allow the peasants in Ostrobothnia to develop this trade, as they had all the necessary raw materials as well as a multitude of hands? he asked. Another essay from this period, which remained unpublished, was on how Lapland could become richer and more populated. In a somewhat utopian fashion, Chydenius proposes in “A Proposal for the Improvement of Lapland” (Förslag til Lappmarkernes uphjelpande, most probably written in 1794 or 1795)7 the establishment of an economic free zone in northern Finland where industry, trade and agriculture would be totally unregulated. Lastly, we have already mentioned “The Improvement of Finnish Agriculture” from 1799, which was the result of yet another prize competition, this time launched by a newly established society for the improvement of agriculture particularly in Finland, the Royal Finnish Economic Society (Kungliga Finska Hushållningssällskapet). The subject this time was to identify obstacles to a more rapid increase of industry and agriculture in Finland. However, in the essay Chydenius dwelled rather little on the concrete conditions of Finland. The focus was instead on more general issues, particularly emphasizing that men everywhere were driven by their endeavour to improve their material conditions and that a great hindrance in present society against such improvements was regulations put forward by “aristocratic conspiracies”. Chydenius here also presents a critique of contemporary colonial plunder outside Europe practised by the mercantile powers, showing an outlook that was quite advanced for the period. Because the essay was so little concerned with Finland, it is perhaps no surprise that Chydenius did not receive a prize. However, the essay does include a small section discussing the national character of the Finns. Many criticize Finns for being lazy and drowsy and drinking too much, he says. But the real causes of their backwardness are political. Finland has been the most oppressed part of the kingdom, and Swedish economic regulations have particularly disfavoured the Finnish region, he believes. To this should also be added the consequences of the wars with Russia – the most recent having been waged by Gustavus III only ten years previously – which had led to occupation, devastation and an acute shortage of population. It is the voice of a disappointed Finn from the periphery that we can sense in his last political essay.

  1. Schauman, op. cit., p. 389f.
  2. Published in Anders Chydenius Samlade skrifter, Vol. 3, pp. 402-446.
  3. Virrankoski, op. cit., p. 321f.
  4. Virrankoski, op. cit., p. 323.
  5. Virrankoski, op. cit., p. 347. These sermons are presented and analysed thoroughly in Nordbäck, op. cit.
  6. Virrankoski, op. cit., p. 338.
  7. Virrankoski, op. cit., p. 392.