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Page:Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War.djvu/32

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The Free Constitution of 1849

A new day, however, dawned on the country with the introduction of the Free Constitution, which held forth many promises of social readjustment. Now the aim was to bring all these promises into effect. It was in conformity with the fundamental idea of the new constitution, as well as with existing economic ideas, to cut all ties with the past as quickly as possible. If we look through the laws of the period, this fact is vividly impressed upon us. These laws are evidently based on the view generally prevalent at the time, that the chief aim must be to organize the community with reference to the free development of the powers of the individual. The individualist community was thus the great goal. The task of the state was to be limited so far as possible to the protection of rights and the maintenance of order.

We may mention a few parliamentary acts that seem to support this view. The constitution, of course, asserted religious freedom. In 1851 an act was passed permitting civil marriage for persons belonging to different sects or for persons not belonging to any recognized sect. In 1855 an act was passed releasing members of the established church from the so-called Sognebaand (obligation to accept the services of the pastor of their own parish) and permitting them to have recourse to another pastor of the same church. In 1857 compulsory baptism was abolished. Some years later, in 1868, an act was passed permitting free congregations to be formed within the established church by persons who had been released from the Sognebaand and desired a pastor of their own choosing. In reality this law was not often applied, but it is thought to have been of great importance as a sort of safety valve.

The constitution likewise asserted the principle of freedom of speech, and a Press Act was accordingly passed in 1851. A few years later, in 1856, an act was passed concerning elementary schools in the towns and rural