When entering upon his spiritual function Swedenborg did not relinquish his political duties. To contribute his best for the good of his country he considered to be implied in his service as a nobleman and the head of a family. There is no evidence that he ever missed a session of the Diet. If he was abroad in the year the Diet met, he planned to arrive home in time to attend. He was never "above" natural interests and obligations, nor thought his studies entitled him to exemption from practical affairs. But the impediment in his speech hindered him from addressing parliament orally, and for this reason his contributions were presented as written memorials now preserved in draft form among his other voluminous manuscripts, bound in a separate volume entitled Parliamentary Papers.[467a]
In estimating these papers we do not wish to exaggerate Swedenborg's importance in the field of politics but rather to point them out as examples of his judgment and mental balance. Whatever he put his hand to he did superlatively well. They are valuable too as showing how opposite to that of a dreamy speculator was the character of this man who was nothing if not practical. His nose was forever held to the grindstone, and he accepted his political duty as a matter of course. Naturally, his own income and welfare were also involved, but there is every evidence to show Swedenborg's complete trust in democracy, that he sprang to its defense whenever he felt it necessary and that dear to his heart - because of the freedom it granted - was the liberal form of government.
In order to account for Swedenborg's contributions it is essential to take a brief glance at the political history of Sweden, and note the chief personalities who had left their mark upon it.
When old King Frederick died in 1751, Sweden had enjoyed a long period of peace - thirty years, if we except the short and halfhearted war of 1741 - 3 fought on Finnish soil. This German-born consort of Queen Ulrika Eleonora had been an easygoing monarch, a man of mild, sensual disposition, who spent his life in voluptuous indulgence. The king was virtually a figurehead, for the government had been entirely taken over by the Houses of the Diet. When Bishop Swedberg - who always deplored the decline of royal power - once chided King Frederick for so seldom attending the Council, he received the answer that "it was no wonder, since there he had sixteen preceptors." Toward the close of his life of dissipation, the old king could scarcely write his own name, on account of his shaking hand, so a stamp was made which freed him from even the duty of signing state documents. He had never taken the trouble to learn the Swedish language.
This was the day when the taste of preceding generations for heavy grandeur, in dark blues and purples, was giving way to a liking for the neat, the bright, the elegant in furnishings and designs, emanating from France. People loved the graceful lines of rococo furniture, its delicate shepherds and shepherdesses, its lavish ornamentation. They dressed in gleaming silks, so that even before a lady came into view her rustling approach was heralded with a smile. The air in courtly salons was filled with amorous conversation, and even official receptions ended in love scenes in sofa-corners. It was the fashion to imitate the nature of butterflies, for jealous husbands to spy on adventurous wives, for rivals to use sugar-coated phrases to one another's faces while making venomous remarks behind their backs.
King Frederick's spiritual character is graphically described in Swedenborg's Spiritual Diary. Having been totally devoted to lewdness and idle pleasures in this world, his lot after death was among the unhappy, quite different from the blessed state of his consort, Ulrika Leonora.
Very different in character from Frederick's placid reign was that of his successor, Adolf Frederick. This king was an intelligent, well-disposed individual of a phlegmatic disposition who might have been willing to submit gracefully to the limitations imposed by the Diet, had he not allowed his haughty, quick-witted German wife, Lovisa Ulrika, to exercise so great an influence upon him. She could not forget that she was a sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia, and she fretted herself sick over the restrictions that had been put upon the royal power. Ambitious to rule Sweden in the tradition of luxury, she wanted to make her court a center of art, science and culture, and she found it hard to reconcile her ambitions with Sweden's ingrained democracy. It is said that when she came riding along in her carriage through the streets of the capital, people read in her eyes the wish, "Ach, if you only were my serfs!".
Lovisa Ulrika was determined to break the power of the nobles, especially of the Hats and their leader, Count Tessin. Her first move was to force him to resign as President of the Council and tutor to the Crown Prince - later Gustavus III. He was replaced by Count Anders von Höpken, also a Hat but a less determined man. Then she drew to her side many leading men in the government and formed the Court party, whose object was the extension of royal power. Toward the close of 1755, a plot was hatched to use the army as a means to overthrow the existing government and set up another form nearer to the royal heart's desire. The Queen was the soul of the revolutionary enterprise, and in order to raise money for it she intrigued with her brother in Prussia to sell certain of the Swedish court jewels which she claimed as her own. When this plot was discovered and the Council ordered an inventory of the crown jewels to be drawn up, the Queen in anger refused ever again to wear them. At the same time, through Baron Gustaf Horn, she had secretly conspired with the Empress of Russia for id against the Hats. The plot to overthrow the government was discovered and - although the Queen was let off with a severe rebuke administered by the Archbishops Henrik Benzelius and Samuel Troilius - the revolutionary attempt led to a sentence of execution for ten of the leading conspirators, among them some of the foremost officials in the government, such as Count Erik Brahe and Baron Horn. The twenty-third day of July, 1756, presented a sad spectacle to the citizens of Stockholm. The scaffold in front of the Riddarholm Church ran with some of the noblest blood of the realm. Wrote Swedenborg in his Spiritual Diary: "Brahe was executed at 10 o'clock a.m. and he conversed with me at 10 o'clock p.m., twelve hours later, and then almost continuously for several days ... 
Never had the royal power sunk so low, and never had the kingdom been in such sad financial straits. The Hats, in power since 1746, had involved the country in extensive foreign loans and the government had great difficulty raising enough money to pay for its excessively large imports.
Intemperance prevailed in Sweden to an alarming degree. This may be hard to believe of a country that is regarded, in modern times, as a model for the judicious handling of the liquor problem. But Swedenborg wrote on the flyleaf of one of his theological papers: "The immoderate use of spirituous liquors will be the downfall of the Swedish people."
Especially bad was the year 1755, when the excess of imports over exports amounted to between three and four million dalers in silver. When, besides this, the country was threatened with crop failure, increasing the need for foreign grain, the banks found it difficult to raise the money to pay for these purchases abroad. To remedy this condition, the Nobles tried to forbid the importation of a number of luxury articles and advocated conserving domestic grain by restricting the distillation of spirits.
When this question was being debated, Swedenborg suggested several remedies. One was "that all public houses in the town should be arranged like the bakery shops [of those days], with an opening in the window through which those who desired to do so might purchase brännvin [brännvin - literally brandy - is a form of gin now made of potatoes, but formerly of grain] without being allowed to enter and lounge about in the tavern." His proposition had in it the germ of the later Swedish "Gothenburg System" of liquor control. He also advocated the farming out of permits for the distillation of alcohol, those formerly engaged in the business to be reimbursed for their losses. Nevertheless it would be better for the country, he thought, if the consumption of brandy could be done away with entirely. "This would be more desirable for the country's welfare and morality than all the income which could accrue from so pernicious a drink. . ."
The opposition was heated. It was objected that, from time immemorial, the nobles had derived some of their income from taverns which it was their special privilege to keep. Speakers defended brännvin as the only pleasure the people have in this world. "The common people who have heavy, hard work to do are forced to depend upon dry and meager food, sometimes sour drink, and sometimes even water." To deprive them of liquor would lead to disunity throughout the kingdom)
However, the famine, which came as predicted in 1756, helped to get the restrictive measures adopted. Indiscriminate distillation was forbidden, the stills were sequestered and fines were imposed for violation. But prohibition went too far and - as always when a law goes counter to the general concept of justice and lacks the consent of the people - it was not obeyed. People distilled privately in their homes, a practice which eventually had the effect of undermining respect for law. Among the articles of luxury whose importation was restricted were coffee, tea, sugar, wine, tobacco and foreign fruits. The forbidden wares disappeared indeed from the custom-houses, but were nonetheless on sale in the stores, and it was said that never had so much coffee been consumed in the land as during the prohibition period!
When, in the midst of this confusion, war broke out between France and England in the American colonies, the Hats thought they saw a way of turning the situation to Sweden's advantage and at the same time averting a collapse of their party on the domestic front.
England, through her Hanoverian king, was in alliance with Prussia, and this led to complications on the continent of Europe. France allied herself with Austria and Russia, in, a league against Prussia. Sweden, an ally of France, was invited to join the league against Frederick the Great and, as a reward for taking part in the war, was to be guaranteed the return of her lost province of Pomerania. It was to be a short but glorious war and the Hats, always warriors at heart - although now with a strange bedfellow in Imperial Russia - succumbed to the temptation. The idea of a war with Prussia was especially sweet since it would give a wholesome humiliation to the Queen and at the same time take peoples' minds off the unsound economic situation. Sufficient excuse was found in the fact that Frederick the Great, by marching into Saxony, had broken the Peace of Westphalia - signed in 1648 and guaranteed by Sweden in 1720. War was declared in September, 1757. But the badly equipped and poorly trained Swedish troops were no match for Frederick's well-disciplined soldiers.
Queen Ulrika's spirits rose in direct relation to Sweden's defeat and finally she hardly bothered to hide- her delight over her brother's successes! The Council suspected that the Queen was betraying the Swedish government's war plans to her brother. With many ups and downs in its fortunes the struggle ended in May, 1762, ingloriously, but to the great relief of the war-weary citizens of Sweden.
We now see why the distinguished gentlemen were so eager to know the secret that Swedenborg had disclosed to the Queen! But what it was that Her Majesty had said to her younger brother we will never know because the Seer never revealed it. Swedenborg's friends never said a word to posterity about all this in their accounts of his life. Perhaps they had forgotten it, or the course of time made it seem less important. It is only through a word dropped by his housekeeper that we get a hint of the eagerness of the gentlemen who drew up their carriages in front ' of Swedenborg's door, hoping to learn the Queen's secret.
The Pomeranian campaign had cost the country sixty-two million dalers in silver and thousands of soldiers in the prime of life. For the second time the Hats had failed to lead the country to victory in accordance with their glowing promises. But war also had its compensations. Many a campaigner, like Per Erik Asberg of Västmannland, returned home with a bagful of the new jordpäron ("earth pears" or potatoes), in his knapsack, and upon his arm a German wife carrying her little knabe. The resultant race mixture may have given Sweden some wholesome changes in her racial genes, and it certainly enriched her vocabulary. The potatoes gave her a welcome new source of nourishment. How good they tasted! How useful they were! When cooked and dipped in a little salt, potatoes took the place of both bread and meat, so that one could live on them for days at a time. The veterans set them out in their hard-plowed Swedish soil and, even the first year, they yielded a holiday treat for the children.
* * * * *
The fluctuation in the rate of exchange had gone from bad to worse. The office that was supposed to regulate the balance of trade failed in its attempt to do so: In twenty years the price of a rix-dollar of Hamburg currency had risen exorbitantly above its par value. Accordingly the Diet of 1760 appointed a special committee on Finance of which Councillor of Commerce Anders Nordencrantz was the head.
Swedenborg was convinced that the measures recommended by Nordencrantz would be ineffective and detrimental to the country. On November 17, 1760, he addressed the Diet on the subject of The Foreign Exchange. In a lengthy paper he argued that in Sweden, as in all countries, it is currency alone that regulates the exchange. No merchant, he says, is willing to hand over current coin - be it gold, silver or copper - for bills of exchange standing higher than the actual market value of the money itself. He can get more for it abroad.
So silver currency leaves the country, in order to restore the balance of exchange by raising it. In recent years, Swedenborg says, the exchange has thus risen from its par at 35 marks to as high as 66 marks Swedish money for one rix-dollar of Hamburg currency - all caused by the circulation of paper money "which represents money but is not money." The exchange, he says, now rests not on currency but on commodities, such as iron, giving certain merchants who have money invested abroad the power to regulate the price of the Swedish exchange. The result of this is a rise in prices and an increase in taxes and, as there is not a proportionate increase in wages, the people suffer and officials are driven to increase their pay by bribes. If this state of things continues, he declares, Sweden will be a ruined country.
The reason for this disastrous condition is that the banks have been allowed to issue paper money based on property. This leads to extravagant living by those who have mortgaged everything they own and now live in luxury unrelated to reality. The country is outwardly rich and inwardly poor, because people do not own their land, but the banks do.
As a remedy Swedenborg proposed that mortgages on property be discontinued, the loans gradually recalled and that iron should not be made the basis of exchange. And again he advocated the control of alcohol to increase the revenue and reduce the consumption of grain. "All this, as a member of the Diet, I consider myself in duty bound to submit." The matter is of utmost importance since the general welfare of the country depends upon it, "for the currency in a country is like the blood in the body, upon which depends its life, health, strength and defense."
For his insight into the subject of foreign exchange and other contributions, Swedenborg was offered a seat on the Special Committee on Finance. But he considered that this committee had been set up contrary to law, so he begged to be excused. All the members were nominated by Councillor Anders Nordencrantz, of the Cap party, a member of the House of Burghers. They operated under cover of an oath of secrecy.
Nordencrantz had published a bulky book of 700 pages on the financial crisis which he submitted to the Four Houses of the Diet. "Full of poison and will-o'-the-wisps," Tessin calls it, and so dull that "one yawns at the third page and falls asleep at the tenth." In this book the author sounded an alarm over the disastrous condition of the country, charging judges, senators and civil servants with incompetence. He proposed the most radical changes in the form of the government, as that all state officials high and low, with the exception of the ecclesiastical and the military, should be changed every second or third year.
This was very dangerous talk, Swedenborg thought, and in a memorial to the Diet he deprecated the spreading of complaints against the government on account of mistakes that may have been committed:
After enumerating the perfections of the Swedish government the article concludes:
Swedenborg then listed nine specific points made by Nordencrantz and refuted them, one by one, in a single sheet of paper, a masterpiece of conciseness. He shows how detrimental it would be to change all government officials every two or three years, as the senator recommended, and how impossible it would be to replace these trained men with new ones.
Another recommendation of Nordencrantz was that no government official should have a vote in the Diet or be a member of any committee. Swedenborg explains how this would upset the whole structure and impair the security of the state.
Nordencrantz attacked the power exercised by cliques, on account of their corruption. Swedenborg said that it is impossible to prevent corrupt practices and power from being exercised by cliques, but that the danger of a return to despotism was much more to be feared. "Corrupt practices in free governments are like small ripples," he said, "compared with large waves in absolute monarchies; in absolute or arbitrary monarchies favorites and the favorites of favorites, yea, the absolute monarch himself, are corrupted by men studying and appealing to their passions; of which many terrible instances may be cited." He cites the example of Charles XII who ruined the country by indulging Baron Görtz' lust for power over the banks, and forcing all who could bear arms into the army. By this means Baron Görtz had corrupted the King by pandering to his passion for war. "From this it may be seen that one absolute or arbitrary monarch is capable of doing more mischief in a year than a clique or combination, . . in a hundred years."
Swedenborg then makes a very pointed remark aimed at the Nordencrantz Committee: "Since the author makes such an ado about the power exercised [by cliques], being more insufferable than that exercised in an arbitrary, monarchy, I wish he would reflect upon the following case . . . that one man nominates forty-eight members . . . to form a committee of which he himself is the speaker, and that he binds these members by an oath not to divulge what is transacted and discussed in that committee." This sally must have infuriated the councillor, whose Finance Committee was set up in the very way described.
Swedenborg recommends that Nordencrantz' book be widely discussed so that people will not be confused by. its prolixity and digressions, which might cause a mistaken impression on the reader that Nordencrantz' proposals are profoundly wise and learned. Councillor Nordencrantz was a massive, uncouth man, self-made and self-taught, a man of obstinate temperament and iron will, but brilliant and admittedly an honest citizen. In our own day Nordencrantz might be called a progressive, and with all his faults it must be admitted that he was opposing a party that tottered on the brink of deserved collapse. Many of the Hats, Swedenborg among them, were well aware of the corruption in their own party and of the need for reform in the direction of liberal legislation. But Swedenborg's efforts were concentrated on averting a sudden upset in the form of government which would give the ambitious court party a chance to reinstate an unlimited monarchy. There is no doubt, however, that his natural form of mind ran into classical and form-perfect molds rather than to liberal channels. He was never a straight party man, however, but judged each matter as it came up according to its merits.
Swedenborg sent the councillor a copy of his Remarks on the Nordencrantz Book, enclosing a letter expressing the hope that Nordencrantz would not take offense at them. His excuse was that . . . "Our form of government and our freedom are dear to me. You will not find any cause to retort in strong terms upon my remarks since I have gone the mild and not the hard way, and have not employed harsh terms in exposing what you wrote against our established form of government for the purpose of upsetting its chief fundamental pillar . . . Moreover, I do mot intend to pursue the hard way unless you should express yourself in too strong terms respecting my remarks, which I do not anticipate . . . "
" . . . As you are animated by such praiseworthy zeal for enlightening our fellow-citizens with respect to some errors committed against the constitution and against truth and justice, no better opportunity could be given than will be afforded by myself. But if your honor should suffer as much in this undertaking as - even at the expense of truth - you have sought to tarnish mine, I must beg you not to lay the blame for it on me." He insisted that Swedenborg publish his comments through the press. "I desire you to rest assured that neither the censor nor I will allow the charge to be brought against us, either publicly or privately, of having written against the constitution. We repudiate that charge as a charge of treason, which could be expiated only by the loss of life, honor and property . . . "
Swedenborg's paper was read in the House of Nobles on January 12, and Nordencrantz' reply a week later, while the assessor was out of town. On the sixteenth, however, Swedenborg was back with a statement for the minutes that what he had written in his memorial was intended to refer not to Nordencrantz personally but to all who bring up charges against "our excellent government," seeking to make people dissatisfied and thus prepare the way for a revolution through which the country might unwittingly fall into the hands of an arbitrary monarch. Swedenborg did not find a single passage in the book in which the government was praised; only fault is found with it from beginning to end. "However," he adds, "I excuse all those who by nature are inclined to find fault with everything they see and hear, since they cannot do otherwise than follow their own nature and bent, according to the proverb that every bird sings according to the form of its beak."
He wrote Nordencrantz a note the same day expressing his surprise at the councillor's having applied everything written in the memorial to himself. "My having mentioned you in it, and placing you in the same category as myself, was for the purpose of exempting you and thus of preventing you from attributing to yourself anything of what follows.
"I hope when spring comes to have the honor of your company in my garden, and I hope that you will enjoy yourself there with Councillor of the Chancery Oelreich and his good lady."
This friendly gesture was ignored by Baron Nordencrantz in his heated reply. Again he challenges Swedenborg to put his charges into print and says that when he answers them he will classify them as libels if they have been circulated secretly. Swedenborg's charge that he has written something against the federal constitution, Nordencrantz regards as a calumny and a lie of the most infamous kind. He turned to the House of Nobles for protection against such persecution.
Swedenborg replied that he has not circulated anything in secret but in the Four Houses of the Diet, which is everything short of printing it: "The words `calumny and lie of the most infamous kind' ought not to have flowed from your head into your pen; for to write in such style is the mark of an irrational man rather than of a rational one." He suggests that Nordencrantz refrain from indulging in offensive and insulting expressions, as they may recoil upon himself.
Swedenborg was very much upset about this letter and drafted several replies to Nordencrantz before sending it. The matter seems to have dropped after he made a statement to the minutes of the House of Nobles withdrawing his charges against Councillor Nordencrantz. "God preserve him and me from all this!" he exclaims. "I have but in a becoming manner extracted from the book whatever concerns our Swedish government and commented upon it; more I do not intend to do, for then I should be disputing what is clear without dispute."
* * * * *
Things had become too involved for the Hats., The country was now burdened with heavy taxes. Sweden's commerce lay prostrate and the land was paralyzed by a flood of irredeemable paper money. On February 28 the prime minister, Count von Höpken, had to resign from the Senate with his associates, Baron Palmstjerna and Count Scheffer, as they bore the blame for the war. Nor was it forgotten that they were also responsible for the harsh measures used some years before against Brahe and the other conspirators.
So unjust did Swedenborg consider this forced resignation that he addressed a memorial to the Diet On Behalf of his Excellency Count A. J. von Höpken, defending the Senator as a man who had done his duty to the country. He argued that von Höpken had advised that only 6,000 troops be sent to fight in Pomerania, and it was the Council that had voted to send 20,000. After the troops had been sent out it was, of course, von Höpken's duty to provide for them in the field. Had the number been limited, as von Höpken had advised, the country would not have been burdened with such heavy maintenance costs. Von H6pken had been actuated by the honest purpose of doing his best for his country and ought to continue to enjoy the confidence of the Diet.
In a later Memorial entitled Frank Views on the Preservation o f Freedom, Swedenborg shows, from still another angle, how disastrous would be an unlimited monarchy, for "we inhabit the extreme north, which may be called a corner of the earth, and if an absolute monarchy should again be introduced among us, there would be no balance or protection left for us." Bad propensities may be inrooted by birth and lie concealed in the disposition of a sovereign, as in every other human being. No one should resign his life and property to the absolute power of any single individual, for God alone is the Master and we are merely His stewards in this world.
To enumerate only one of the direful consequences, he says, everyone knows how "the Babylonish whore" fascinated and bewitched the reigning princes of Saxony and the previous royal house of England (the Stuarts), and the rulers of Prussia and Poland. Is there any reason why she should not as easily delude and infatuate a Swedish monarch? She did in the case of Queen Christina. We would expose ourselves to some form of slavery if our noble form of government were to be overturned and our invaluable freedom lost. "I shudder when I think what may happen and probably will happen, if private interests - by which the common good is shrouded in thick darkness - should gain the ascendancy here. Besides, I cannot see any difference between a king of Sweden who possesses absolute power, and an idol, for all turn themselves heart and soul to the one as well as to the other; they obey his will and worship what proceeds from his mouth."
The French alliance is, he thinks, Sweden's best protection in case one of the neighboring powers causes her any trouble. France is situated at a distance from Sweden so no possible jealousy could arise between these two powers on account of territorial claims or increase of wealth.
These two grounds, (1) the protection of Sweden's excellent form of government and (2) the maintenance or her most important alliance are the two pillars upon which the welfare and safety of the country depend. He has furnished proof that the three senators, von Höpken, Palmstjerna and Scheffer, have supported these two pillars, and he submits that it is therefore proper to recall the gentlemen to the senate, especially Baron von Höpken, inasmuch as justice has declared in their favor. Later, reaction set in in their favor and all three of the ousted senators were reinstated, but the Hat party held the power only one more year.
After Count Anders von Höpken's retirement, the office of Prime Minister of Sweden was filled by Count Klas Ekeblad who, like his predecessor, was a Hat and opposed to making peace with Prussia. The cause of peace was nevertheless urgent and had a powerful defender in the government of England. The office of peacemaker was therefore entrusted to a Swede who lived in London as a kind of political exile. He was Christopher Springer, a great friend of Swedenborg; who had had an eventful life on account of his enthusiastic championship of democratic principles. In 1743, while spokesman for the House of Burghers, Springer had made powerful political enemies and suffered imprisonment and banishment. After a dramatic escape and colorful adventures in Russia and elsewhere, he had settled in England, where he won the confidence of leading men. A sum of £100,000 was given him to assist in the making of peace between Sweden and Prussia, which was actually declared in May, 1762, in spite of all the efforts of Prime Minister Ekeblad and his followers to thwart it.
Swedenborg hated war and throughout his life showed consistent opposition to it. As a young man he thanked God that he had escaped Charles XII's campaign in Norway. In 1740 he addressed a memorial to the Riksdag advising against war with Russia, and now he favored a speedy end to the war with Prussia. "Peace on earth-would that it might come!" he wrote in his Diary.
Von Höpken summed up Swedenborg's contributions to the political life of his time in the following words: "He possessed a sound judgment upon all occasions; he saw everything clearly and expressed himself well on every subject. The most solid memorials and the best penned, at the Diet of 1761, on matters of finance, were presented by him" Indeed, in these papers Swedenborg shows so much originality and insight into a subject often misunderstood by practical men, that it has been suggested he would have made an excellent chancellor of the exchequer.
His desire for reconciliation with Nordencrantz was fulfilled a year later, on New Year's Day, when the assessor's friend, Nicholas von Oelreich, wrote him:
"The Councillor of Commerce, Herr Nordencrantz, invites Herr Assessor and myself to come to church tomorrow morning, at ten o'clock, and afterward to dine with him. ' He will send his carriage, and at the above-mentioned time I shall call for Herr Assessor with the carriage. I am very anxious that you two should become good friends."