altenburg duchy division saxe
SAXE-ALTENBURG (Germ. Sachsen-Altenburg), a duchy in Thuringia, and an independent member of the German empire, consists of two detached and almost equal are in the east or Altenburg division and 256 in the west watered by the Pleisse and its tributaries, forms an undulating and fertile region, containing some of the richest agricultural soil in Germany. The western district, through which the Saale flows, is rendered hilly by the beginnings of the Thuringian Forest, and in some measure makes up by its fine woods for the comparatively poor soil. The mineral wealth of Saxe-Altenburg is scanty; lignite, the chief mineral, is worked mainly in the eastern district.
According to the returns for 1883, 58i per cent. of the entire duchy was occupied by arable land, and 27i per cent. by forests, of which four-fifths were coniferous. The chief crops were rye (42,317 acres, yielding 20,412 tons), oats (36,807 acres, 22,996 tons), barley (21,390 acres, 13,912 tons), wheat (17,490 acres, 9724 tons), and potatoes (19,870 acres, 113,209 tons). The cattle- raising and horse-breeding of the duchy are of considerable importance. In 1883 the duchy contained 9934 horses, 60,335 cattle, 20,996 sheep, 46,387 pigs, and 12,420 goats. About 35 per cent. of the population are directly supported by agriculture. The manufactures of the duchy are very varied, but none is of any great importance ; woollen goods, gloves, hats, porcelain and earthenware, and wooden articles are the chief products. Trade in these, and in horses, cattle, and agricultural produce, is tolerably brisk. The chief seats of trade and manufacture are Altenburg the capital (29,422 inhabitants in 1885), Ronneburg (5485 inhabitants in 1880), Schmolln (6394), Gossnitz (4949), and Menselwitz (3402) in the Altenburg division ; and Eisenburg (6277), Roda (3465), and Kahla (2999), in the Saal-Eisenburg division. Besides these there are the towns of Lucka (1505) and Orlamiinde (1461), and 449 villages, of which Russdorf (1781), in an exclave, is the largest.
Next to the two principalities of Reuss, Saxe-Altenburg is the most densely peopled part of Thuringia. In 1880 the population was 155,036, or 304 per square mile. Of these 154,187 were Protestants, 741 Roman Catholics, 33 Jews, and 75 of other sects. The population in 1885, according to a provisional return of the census of that year, was 161,129. In the west division the population (49,788) is wholly Teutonic, but in the east (111,341) there is a strong Wendish or Slavonic element, still to be traced in the peculiar manners and costume of the country-people, though these are gradually being given up. The farmers and peasant-proprietors of the east division (Altenburger Banern) are an industrious and well-to-do class, but like similar classes in other countries they are said to be avaricious and purse-proud. Their holdings are seldom divided ; a custom corresponding to BOP.OlIGH-ENGLISII (q.v.), though not supported by law, obtains among them ; and sometimes the elder brothers are employed by the youngest as servants on the paternal farm. The destitution to which the disinherited children are often reduced by this custom is seriously prejudicial to morality. The Altenburg peasants are pleasure-loving, and in spite of their avarice are said to gamble for very high stakes, especially at the complicated card-game of " skat," now universal in Germany, which many believe to have been invented here.
Saxe-Altenburg is a limited hereditary monarchy, its constitution resting on a law of 1831, subsequently modified. The diet consists of 30 members, elected for 3 years, of whom 9 are returned by the highest taxpayers, 9 by the towns, and 12 by the country districts. The franchise is enjoyed by all males over 25 years of age who pay taxes. The duke has considerable powers of initiative and veto. The government is carried on by a ministry of three members, of whom two administer justice and finance respectively, and the third all the other departments of home anclloreiobn affairs. The budget for 1884-86 estimated the yearly income at £127,180 and the yearly expenditure at P25,530. The Altenburg troops are united with the contingents of Schwarzburg, Rudolstadt, and the two Reusses to form the 7th Thuringian infantry regiment of the imperial army. Saxe-Altenburg has one vote in the Reichstag and one in the federal council.
After the conquest of the Wends, the present Altenburg district became an imperial possession, lying partly in the Pleissengau and partly in the Voigtland, while the west district was divided among a number of small nobles. The margravc of Saxony obtained permanent possession of Altenburg about 1329, and the west division was also early incorporated with his dominions. Both districts were among the lands assigned to the Ernestine line of the house of Saxony by the convention of Wittenberg in 1547 (see SAxoxY). From 1603 till 1672 there -existed an independent duchy of Altenburg ; but in 1826, when the present division into the four Saxon duchies was made, both Altenburg and Eisen-burg belonged to Gotha. Duke Frederick, who exchanged SaxeHildburghausen for the present duchy of Saxe-Altenburg in 1826, was the founder of the reigning line. A constitution was granted in 1831 in answer to popular commotion ; and greater concessions were extorted by more threatening disturbances in 1848. The second duke (Joseph) abdicated in 1848 in favour of his brother George. Under Ernest, who succeeded his father as fourth duke iu 1853, a period of violent reaction set in, so that even now the constitution is considerably less liberal than it was in 1849. In 1873 the long-disputed question as to the public domains was settled, two-thirds of these being now regarded as belonging to the duke in ficleicommissum and in lieu of a civil list.