Wallachian legislative election, 1857

Wallachian legislative election, 1857

September 1857

All ≈100 eligible seats in the ad-hoc Divan

  First party Second party Third party
Leader Constantin A. Crețulescu Gheorghe Bibescu Barbu Dimitrie Știrbei
Party Unionist Committee (National Party) Unionist Committee (conservative) Unionist Committee (conservative)
Leader since 1857 1856 1856
Leader's seat Brăila County Dolj Dolj

Wallachian constituencies, by number of deputies sent to the ad-hoc Divan.

Elections for the ad-hoc Divan were held in Wallachia in September 1857. They restored a liberalizing trend that had been repressed following the 1848 revolution, also giving expression to the national awakening that was taking part among the Romanians. The toppling of the conservative Regulamentul Organic regime in both Danubian Principalities made them possible: following the 1856 Treaty of Paris, Wallachia and Moldavia functioned as a protectorates of the European powers; both were also clients of the Ottoman Empire. Excluding the spontaneous rallies of 1848, this was the first public consultation to be held in eleven years. It ran in conjunction with the Moldavian Divan elections, and, like them, had unusually lax criteria for participation, allowing peasants and guilds to vote by indirect suffrage.

The result in both countries was a sweep for parties which demanded the union. In Wallachia, the progressive National Party, chaired by Constantin A. Crețulescu, was on this topic indistinguishable from the conservative unionist factions, respectively led by brothers Gheorghe Bibescu and Barbu Dimitrie Știrbei. A fourth party, supporting Alexandru II Ghica and Dimitrie Ghica, cooperated with Crețulescu's Committee, although disagreeing over some core policies. These groups held an absolute majority in the Divan, with only some seats going to non-unionists. Together, they formulated demands for union and increased autonomy, postponing debates about universal suffrage; middle-class progressives and the boyar elite also dissuaded peasant deputies from demanding land reform.

The Divan resolutions were taken into account by the European powers, and some were written into the Paris Convention of 1858, which became the new organic law for the "United Principalities". This document outlawed class privilege, but also reinforced old suffrage laws, eliminating the peasant vote. It also prevented the two states from fully merging, keeping the key institutions separate—but a loophole in the text allowed a personal union. In the repeat elections of January 1859, Wallachia voted a conservative "elective assembly", dominated by Bibescu supporters. Pressured by the National Party, which threatened violence, this new legislature gave its vote to a Moldavian, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, who became Hospodar, then Domnitor, of both countries.

Historical context

Regulamentul background

The Principalities had been occupied by the Russian Empire during the latter's war with the Ottomans (1829). The result was a shared Russian–Ottoman custody, with Regulamentul Organic as a constitutional law imposed on both vassals. Introducing modernizing principles such as the separation of powers, Regulamentul also reformed representation for the estates of the realm, producing the "Ordinary National Assembly"; in Wallachia, this comprised 42 members—19 of whom were elected by the 17 counties.[1] The electoral corps was exceedingly small: 20 representatives of the upper-crust boyar aristocracy were voted in by 56 electors, and the county representatives, generally low-ranking boyars, by some 400 electors.[2] This mixture of modernizing and traditional elements was arrived at by repressing both the emerging liberal current, which wanted more complete freedoms, and the traditionalist boyars, who resented power-sharing combinations.[3]

By 1836, the Assembly and the titular Prince of Wallachia, Alexandru II Ghica, were in open conflict, the boyars having discovered that sections of Regulamentul had been forged, giving legislative oversight to the Russian envoys. Although the event ended in defeat for the deputies, it helped consolidate a "National Party", which was increasingly anti-Russian.[4] This period saw early projects to unite Wallachia and Moldavia, with even liberal Russians encouraging the idea of a "Dacian" dukedom;[5] at least one such proposal, drafted by the Moldavian boyar Leonte Radu, also included the Principality of Serbia.[6]

Following Ghica's ouster, his replacement was to be elected by the estates and then recognized by Sultan Abdulmejid I. The vote took place in December 1842, confronting two Russophile brothers with discreet nationalist agendas—Gheorghe Bibescu and Barbu Dimitrie Știrbei—, with each other, with the anti-Russian Iordache Filipescu, and with the arch-conservative Alecu Filipescu-Vulpea.[7] Bibescu won by exhaustive ballot, picking 69% of the votes in the last round.[8] Although nepotistic, his government introduced various liberal reforms, including a customs union with Moldavia, the defense of education in the national language, and the first steps toward abolishing Roma slavery.[9] He soon found himself at odds with the National Party over the issue of mines concessions and dismissed the Assembly, effectively ruling as an absolute monarch from 1844 to 1846. When finally elections were held in November 1846, the Prince clamped down on the boyars' electoral privilege by outlawing multiple registrations and by imposing his own candidates: 18 of 20 elected by the first estate were his close associates.[10]

However, within two years, he and his friendly Assembly were toppled by the liberal-and-nationalist Revolution. Regulamentul was denounced and publicly burned.[11] During this brief interregnum, the Proclamation of Islaz promised universal male suffrage (tempered by indirect elections) within a republicized elective monarchy. Most revolutionaries agreed that there was still no social grounding for universal direct suffrage.[12] Some elections based on these quasi-democratic principles were held at Vlașca, but the process was cut short by more pressing political issues.[13] The new forms of representation allowed peasant deputies such as Ene Cojocaru to demand the abolition of corvée, which survived despite there being no formal serfdom. The issue became entangled with a lengthy and divisive discussion about land reform.[14]

Repressive regime

The clampdown by a joint Ottoman–Russian intervention, and the Convention of Balta Liman, restored Regulamentul but suspended the elective monarchy. Princes were designated by Abdulmejid, with Știrbei taking the throne of Wallachia for a period of seven years.[15] The Assembly, reconstituted as the "National Divan", mainly preserved consultative functions, being composed entirely of bureaucrats, judges, and bishops of the Wallachian Orthodox Church.[16] With most revolutionaries either expelled or self-exiled, the government also began a clampdown on political activities, persecuting even those remotely associated with the 1848 cause—for instance, the architect Iacob Melic.[17] The poet Constantin D. Aricescu, who circulated revolutionary poetry in manuscript form, was arrested and imprisoned.[18]

The National Party was reconstructed in exile by the 1848 revolutionaries, who, from ca. 1850, began pressing for union above all other points on the agenda,[19] although its leaders remained committed to international republican and European federalist causes to 1856.[20] In this context, there was a noticeable rapprochement between Bibescu and the exiled revolutionaries, pushing Știrbei to adopt an even more conservative stance, and making him more reliant on the military.[21] His repressive regime was cut short by the Crimean War, in which Western powers sided with the Ottomans against Russia. The events also interrupted Nicolae Pleșoianu's designs to participate with other former revolutionaries in the New South Wales gold rush. However, most failed to enlist in the Ottoman Army, as they had intended.[22]

In June 1854, the Austrian Empire occupied both Principalities, preventing Russia from maintaining a presence in the Balkans. With Count Coronini as military supervisor, Știrbei was reconfirmed as Prince. Alongside his minister Nicolae Crețulescu, he consolidated conservatism, refusing to grant entry permits to exile radicals, and instituting heavy censorship of the media.[23] Both however endorsed the unionist cause, explicitly so from 1855, when Crețulescu lobbied the Palmerston cabinet and Napoleon III for a unified Romania, governed from Bucharest and possibly ruled upon by Știrbei.[24] However, he also insisted that Wallachia preserve its dominant role, and campaigned against moving the capital to Iași.[25] His project was endorsed by the more conservative exiles, including Gheorghe Magheru and Ion Heliade Rădulescu; others, including the Romanian Revolutionary Committee of Paris, militated both against Știrbei and for unification.[26] As noted by diplomat Henry Stanley, the Wallachians at home were still divided. Boyars, who were especially fearful of land reform, included "many Russian partizans", while the middle classes were mostly against Russia, with students and peasants generally pro-Ottoman.[27]

Although he welcomed constitutionalism, Viscount Palmerston rejected the proposal to make Wallachia and Moldavia a condominium of the West and the Ottomans, regarding them as inalienably Ottoman. He remained agnostic about union, although Villiers of Clarendon and Napoleon came to support the idea.[28] Napoleon also envisaged a foreign dynasty for the new state, moving either Francis of Modena or Robert of Parma to the new throne.[29] Știrbei, who emerged as the Austrian favorite in a close race with Bibescu, continued to preserve an ambiguous course.[30] In February 1856, he issued letters of protest, directed against the Ottomans' attempt to re-annex the Principalities—but also criticizing the Wallachian revolutionaries active in Ottoman ranks. He also pressed for a boyar assembly to review and reform Regulamentul.[31]

In March, a Western protectorate was established under the Treaty of Paris; Ottoman sovereignty was kept in check by Austria, Russia, Britain, Imperial France, Prussia, and Sardinia. The Treaty also specified the notion of representation and public consultation, instituting the ad-hoc Divans. Consultation was going to take place including in respect to the Principalities' union—although the latter was opposed by the Ottomans and the Austrians.[32] The Ottoman viewpoint was embraced by Palmerston and Clarendon, who tried to persuade the French into renouncing the foreign dynasty scheme, which was particularly disliked by Abdulmejid.[33]


Ghica's regency

With censorship laws still in place, the unionist campaign was supported from Moldavia by the National Party magazine Steoa Dunărei.[34] Public disputes were focused on conflicts between the conservatives Știrbei and Alexandru II Ghica, who took over as Caimacam (regent); the National Party was organizing more discreetly, with Ioan I. Filipescu forming a club for what he called the Bucharest sans-culottes.[35] Unionism of various hues was also spread by the Freemasonry. A Masonic Lodge established for this purpose was particularly active in the border town of Focșanii Munteniei, reuniting boyar and bourgeois activists: Alexandru Plagino, Grigore D. Marghiloman, Constantin Robescu, Alecu Sihleanu, and Panaite Tufelcică.[36] Filipescu also contacted Aga Constantin A. Crețulescu, brother of the resigning minister, asking him to sponsor a unionist gazette. Crețulescu refused, reportedly because he disliked the movement's anti-boyar radicalization and "anarchism".[37]

By August 1856, Caimacam Ghica, an anti-unionist and "not a man of progress",[38] had split the conservatives by ordering a purge of Știrbeists from the administration. Barbu Știrbei, his son George, and Plagino were all driven into passivity or collaboration with the National Party.[39] Most boyars rallied with yet another conservative-and-unionist faction, which was headed by Bibescu; Ghica sought to counter the trend by allying himself with middle-class conservatives such as those involved with the newspaper Timpul.[40] Filipescu also used this confusion to set up a clandestine Unionist Committee, which branched out into all Wallachian cities and began petitioning foreign governments to obtain a timetable for the unification. The Committee was also behind the enthusiastic welcoming of the French Commissioner, Baron Talleyrand, which doubled as an anti-Ottoman and anti-Austrian demonstration.[41]

Over those months, the revolutionary exiles began testing Caimacam Ghica's resolve by making their way back into the country, sometimes with Știrbei's tacit endorsement: Magheru, Alexandru G. Golescu[42] and Grigore Serrurie[43] had regained Bucharest before the end of 1856. Ion Brătianu returned in the early months of 1857.[44] In September, Alexandru's nephew, judge Dimitrie Ghica, who had kept a low profile ever since 1848, publicized his own manifesto, which offered a crossover of liberal and conservative doctrines, chiding youth for the Talleyrand incident.[45] This younger Ghica did not oppose union with Moldavia, but advised its partisans not to draw too much attention to their project.[46] Heliade's conservatives also began reorganizing themselves into a more cohesive group: by November, Heliade and his associate Niculae Rusu Locusteanu were putting out their own newspaper, Conservatorul, from exile in Bellinzona. It published political essays critical of other emergent factions, and praised the Caimacam as a balanced reformist.[47]

Election firman

After consultations with Western plenipotentiaries,[48] the Sultan took the initiative and, on January 13, 1857, issued a firman sanctioning elections. This was read out publicly in Bucharest in March, and signed into law by Ghica in April.[49] It set the voting age at 30, and splitting the electoral corps into five classes of voters, with massive enfranchisement.[50] Overall, there were 94 to 100 deputies. Accounts differ because of the unspecified number of supplementary seats for the Wallachian clergy, which now enfranchised priests and stareți. The bishops were members by right; clergy also elected 6 or 10 deputies altogether—4 of which represented the high clergy.[51] Outside the church class, there were 90 Divan deputies, representing the 17 counties, with at least one deputy per county capital and at least 4 from the rural constituencies. Dolj and Prahova had 6 deputies each, and Ilfov had 8, 4 of them representing Bucharest.[52]

Boyars were controversially merged into a single group, and, except for the wealthiest, were not allowed to vote outside their home county, partially confirming Bibescu's earlier limitations of suffrage. High-ranking boyars, comprising some 90 people, were thus fused with the 2,700 of the low-and-middle boyar category; the only requirement for membership was owning an estate over 111 hectares (0.4 square miles), although candidates had to own at least 334 hectares (1.3 square miles).[53] By September, the category had been restructured to include 753 voters, about 20% of whom were concentrated in Ilfov and Buzău.[54]

Urban constituencies included all 17 county capitals, each electing one deputy, except for Bucharest's 4, and for 2 each in Craiova and Brăila. Brăila was eventually relegated to one deputy, and Ploiești moved up to where it had two.[55] Voting rights were only extended to some portions of the urban class, with various grandfather clauses attached; groups included: state-recognized professionals, regardless of wealth, who had been living in the respective town or city for no less than three years; homeowners with a taxable wealth set at 8,000 kuruşlar—or 20,000 in Bucharest; attested tradesman and master craftsmen; and journeymen (voting indirectly, with 4 electors per guild).[56] This electoral geography produced an urban constituency comprising, overall, 3,000 voters: 1,300 were in Bucharest (about 2% of that city's population), and 285 at Craiova, with as few as 43 for Târgu Jiu.[52]

The other two classes, both rural, voted indirectly: 8,000 non-aristocratic landowners were defined as having at least 11 hectares (27 acres), and sent 5 electors and 1 deputy per county (although their numbers ranged from 1,630 in Romanați to only 12 in Brăila County); 220,000 peasants were represented through their 2,931 village assemblies, which elected two delegates each, with all county delegates electing one deputy per county.[57] The latter provision was especially unpopular with the boyars, who feared a surge of "mean passions". Resigning from the ministry in April 1857, N. Crețulescu asked Édouard Thouvenel, France's Ambassador to the Porte, to withdraw that requirement (although he conceded on the inclusion of non-boyars and guilds).[58]

Unionist consolidation

In February, C. A. Crețulescu was finally allowed to put out a moderate unionist paper, Concordia, published in Bucharest.[59] Eventually, Caimacam Ghica also renounced anti-unionism and, alongside the Timpul faction, moved closer to the National Party, hoping to defeat Bibescu. Also in February, the Caimacam's counsels Gheorghe Costaforu and Constantin Bosianu, his nephew Dimitrie, alongside Barbu Bellu, published an "ultra-liberal" manifesto for the foreseeable elections.[60] Writing for Timpul, Costaforu invited the grand boyars to voluntarily relinquish all privilege or risk placing themselves "outside the nation." The party did not support land reforms, but stated its opposition to the corvée system, declaring it a breach on personal sovereignty.[61] Union, Costaforu argued, was an "old idea of our nation", the "political tendency of the whole people", and was therefore inevitable.[62]

Beyond Concordia and Timpul, the unionist campaign also relied on direct tactics, including oratory: voter interest was exceptionally high, with as many as 700 attendees at campaign meeting in Bucharest in March (almost half of the entire electoral basin).[63] Majority groups rejected the radical platform advanced by the Ghicas, leading Bosianu to withdraw from his alliance with the National Party.[49] Before March 3 (New Style: March 15), he was talked into rejoining and awarded with a seat on the Unified Committees, alongside Costaforu. The party as a whole, co-chaired by C. A. Crețulescu and banker Lazăr (Lazaros) Kalenderoglu, issued a program demanding union under a foreign dynasty, with autonomy and perpetual neutrality, with extended suffrage and representative government. The extended agenda proposed equality before the law, a codified right to property, freedom of contract and the suspension of corvée.[64] These principles were communicated to the local branches, which also organized in the open. While heading the National Party as a whole, C. A. Crețulescu also organized the Brăila County section.[65] At Vlașca, Serrurie held a chair on the regional Committee, alongside State Ariton and Ioniță Gurki.[43] Aricescu emerged as the radical unionist leader in Muscel County, also putting out political plays as a means of propagating the nationalist slogans.[66] The Bucharest trend was also witnessed in Prahova, were, as historian Silvia Marton notes, "liberals and unionists feverishly organized themselves".[67]

Bibescu's party channeled the conservative vote, forming its own Unionist Committee on March 10 (March 22). This faction insisted on maintaining boyar representation, chiding radicals such as Rosetti, who wanted it gone. Bibescuists also claimed authorship for the core unionist program, accusing the Crețulescu group of plagiarism.[68] In their version, included a hereditary monarch, or Domnitor; representative government and meritocracy; a limited Ottoman rule with adherence to the Capitulations; and full respect for the property rights.[69] Bibescu himself held no official seat on the organization, which was nominally headed by Barbu Catargiu, Ion Emanuel Florescu, and Scarlat Bărcănescu.[70] Seven days later, some conservatives quit this group to join Crețulescu's Committee, which now clarified its stance by declaring itself against land reforms.[71] Bibescuists remained especially strong at Craiova, where its organizers included Emanoil Quinezu and Nicolae Haralambie. Bibescu himself was welcomed in triumph by the city, but remained hesitant about capturing the unionist movement for his own goals.[72]

Știrbei also published a constitutional project with virtually the same proposals.[73] Meanwhile, a Caimacam party again emerged when Bosianu again withdrew from the National Party venture, establishing his own Unionist Committee, and hoping to elect Dimitrie Ghica as Prince. Very few joined him,[74] since, at the time, even Dimitrie Ghica supported the notion of electing a foreigner.[75] Bosianu established his own newspaper, called România. It depicted itself as a moderate and dispassionate voice in politics, and on such grounds presented arguments in support of the common unionist platform; by June, Bosianu himself had endorsed the project to import a Western European ruling house.[76]

Elsewhere, differences of opinion between the unionists were muted by agreements between voters. For instance, all 292 voters registered in Vlașca vowed to support the candidate deemed best during Unionist Committee primaries.[77] In that context, very few Wallachians still rejected union, and did not ever form a party of their own. As noted by historian A. D. Xenopol, they included Colonel Dimitrie Papazoglu, and also those boyars who feared competition from the more numerous Moldavians for the ranks and offices of the court.[78] Opposition to the unionist project came from the outsiders Heliade and Rusu Locusteanu. They endorsed the union on principle, but objected to the Divans being convened by the Porte; overall, they also favored a crowned republic under a native ruler.[79]

On March 11 (March 23), 1857, the Austrians evacuated Bucharest, and the longest ever campaigning in Romanian political history began officially.[80] The principles behind the suffrage were first put to the test in the Moldavian election of July, where conflicts opposed an anti-unionist Caimacams, Teodor Balș and Nicolae Vogoride, to the National Party. Vogoride's attempt to repress Moldavian unionism alienated Wallachian conservatives, who denounced him as a conspirator.[81] As clampdown was signaled by the closure of Steoa Dunărei, which reappeared from Brussels with Nicolae Ionescu as editor.[82] The prolonged dispute culminated in attempted fraud by Vogoride and an election boycott by the unionists. This tactic invalidated the scrutiny there, and Moldavia had its own repeat election in September.[83] Unbeknown to the Romanian unionists of both countries, in August 1857 Britain and France agreed not to recognize union, regardless of the election results.[84]

Resulting Divan


"Severe and sound" supervision by the Caimacam ensured that election in Wallachia was beyond reproach.[85] It saw a landslide for the unionist camps: according to Steoa Dunărei, a near-complete count revealed that "only 3 or 4 deputies were doubtfully unionist, but even they will likely follow the general mood".[86] This was similar to the concurrent Moldavian election, where a minuscule number of the September Divan were separatists.[87] C. A. Crețulescu and party colleague Grigore N. Filipescu were elected as grand boyars for Brăila County, part of an all-unionist sweep which also gave seats to Mihalache Marghiloman, Marcu N. Dulie, and the peasant Stroe Ivașcu.[88] Of the prominent revolutionaries in Wallachia, Ion Brătianu won by four votes in the landowners college at Argeș, while his colleague C. A. Rosetti took a seat for the bourgeois class at Bucharest.[89] His brother Dimitrie won the seat at Pitești, with Scarlat Turnavitu as peasant deputy; in neighboring Muscel, Alexandru and Nicolae Golescu, alongside Aricescu, were among the elected (although Aricescu's victory was touched by allegations of fraud).[90]

N. Golescu also came first in the Bucharest constituency, taking 1,004 votes,[91] while Magheru took a seat as a great landowner for Gorj County.[92] Serrurie won the vote of Giurgiu city constituents; with the other Vlașca deputies being Aga Emanuel Lahovari and Paharnic Nae Tătăranu (for the boyars), Postelnic Constantin Rădulescu (for the landowners), and Stan Panaiti (for the peasantry).[43] Winners for the National Party also included, among the boyars of Teleorman, Captain Eliodor Lapati and Nicolae Butculescu,[89] with both Marghiloman and Robescu elected for Râmnicu Sărat County.[36] Guilds also gave their votes to former revolutionaries, including Iancu Ionașcu at Slatina[93] and Constantin T. Grigorescu at Ploiești.[94]

Prominent conservatives elected to the Divan included Princes Bibescu and Știrbei. Both ran at Buzău, but lost by large margins: Bibescu had 11 votes, and Știrbei 2, whereas the winners, Nicolae N. Pieleanu and Scarlat Voinescu, had 49 and 44, respectively.[95] Both former rulers also recovered from this setback: as titular grand boyars, they could still run in two or more constituencies, taking Divan seats at Dolj.[89] However, Caimacam Ghica was able to prevent other conservative critics from getting elected, in particular Catargiu.[96] In the church sections, the bishops led campaigns for or against union. As early as April 1857, Calinic, the Biship of Râmnic, described union as "the crowning of our battles and of the blood we shed for the Cross", pushing his monks to vote in favor; Metropolitan Neofit II was more reserved about his opinions at that stage.[97] Clergymen elected in their respective class included four protopopes, represented four sees: Constantin of Râmnic, Iancu of Bucharest, Constantin of Argeș, and Vasile of Buzău.[52] Other seats were taken by Atanasie Stoenescu of Sadova Monastery and Ieronim of Bistrița.[97]

Wallachia's ad-hoc Divan opened on September 29 (New Style: October 10), 1857, seven days after its Moldavian counterpart. The rainy weather did not chase away the crowd gathering in a show of support on Dealul Mitropoliei, Bucharest.[98] The celebration lasted into the night, with Bucharest festively lit with the newly introduced gas lighting and adorned with the National Party's slogans.[99] The Divan's first session saw enthusiastic speeches, including one by Rosetti which ended with shouts of Trăiască România! ("Long Live Romania!").[89] It subsequently organized itself: two committees were set up to validate the deputies and come up a parliamentary procedure; one was chaired by Grigore Gr. Ghica.[43] Metropolitan Neofit was, ex officio, the Divan's president, and tacitly endorsed the union,[97] with N. Golescu elected vice president by a large margin.[100] The Divan's secretaries included C. A. Crețulescu, Rosetti, Scarlat Turnavitu,[101] Ștefan Golescu, and Bosianu.[102] Iancu Ionașcu oversaw the official printing office.[103]

From common policies to conflicts

In Moldavia and Wallachia alike, the unionist camps of all hues agreed on the core agenda, with demands which they presented to the overseeing powers: the unification under the name of "Romania", with the election of a foreign hereditary Domnitor; increased autonomy toward the Ottoman Empire, with the (re)introduction of Capitulations; a new Divan with a fuller democratic mandate.[104] Bibescu openly supported the election of Westerner, but for particular reasons: he argued that a European prince could not only pacify tensions between the classes, but also instill a greater political ideal.[105] A main issue of contention between conservative and radical unionists was that of electoral law and philosophy: radicals such as Rosetti felt themselves bound by an imperative mandate, or "dutiful program", whereas conservatives rejected such notions as impinging on individual freedom.[106]

The four principles were drafted into a motion, carried by unanimous suffrage on October 21 (November 2).[107] Its consultative function fulfilled, the Divan only survived to late December 1857, closing some days after the Moldavian assembly.[108] By then, as the attention moved to social issues, the conservative and liberal factions were again emerging, and clashing. In October, Bibescu warned that party politics were the sordid future of the post-union era, "making this forsaken country of ours into an arena, collecting all her strengths and vitality".[109] In late November, some controversy was sparked by the letter sent to the Moldavian Divan, which A. G. Golescu described as "unbecoming and dangerous", generating a public dispute with the other deputies.[110] On November 27, Bibescu resigned and left the country, arguing that progressive elements, though a minority of the country, were "imposing their ruinous politicking on the majority".[111] On the right, the Știrbeists were evasive on the topic of union: Știrbei and his son George Barbu were hopeful that they could preserve friendly relations with the Ottoman Empire, which they prioritized over the nationalist goals.[112]

Another rift opposed the landed or urban classes to the peasantry. During the election, Conservatorul had alleged that peasants were not interested in the vote, describing peasant candidates to a boyar assembly as "sheep among wolves".[113] In the peasant college of Vâlcea County, interest in voting had been marginal, possibly a sign that this class did not find itself represented.[114] In one Divan session, peasant deputy Gheorghe Lupașcu advanced a concrete proposal for direct suffrage. Described as untimely by Crețulescu, it was withdrawn by its proponent; a motion was passed according to which the Divan would refrain from ruling on electoral matters.[115]

As explained in a speech by Ion Brătianu, nominally a leader of the "far-left", all middle- and upper-class deputies agreed on not instituting or demanding universal suffrage.[116] Overall, Brătianu advocated class collaboration for "the general interest", hoping not to antagonize the conservatives.[117] In its final sessions, the Divan heard another plea from peasant delegates Constantin Tănase of Olt and Marin Pârcălăbescu of Romanați, who demanded "laws based on justice" and an increased electoral weight for the peasantry.[118] Debates over the suspension of the corvée ensued, with the boyars advancing their own report. It restated that land used by the peasants was boyar property paid for in labor, and noted that mechanized agriculture and the resulting drop of labor costs justified maintaining and expanding the corvée.[119]


On February 22, 1858, another firman officially dissolved the Wallachian Divan. Its text described the country as a "province and integral part" of the Ottoman territory, which caused consternation among the deputies; 24 of them signed to a letter of protest.[120] It then fell on the European powers to evaluate the demands stated by both Divans. This they did in a new conference, delayed by the war in Montenegro[121] and eventually convened at Paris in August 1858. The resulting Convention of Paris recognized the concept of "United Principalities" under Ottoman suzerainty. It designated the Domnitor as Hospodar, but did not allow hereditary rule and limited eligibility to local men of property, of any social standing, with a view to formally abolishing boyar ranks and titles.[122] Under the Convention, both the thrones and the assemblies remained separate. The legislatures were only supervised by a quasi-federal Central Commission, meeting in Focșani, with attributions only in the matter of "legislation of common interests to both Principalities", having some elements of a constitutional court and an election commission.[123] A technicality made it legally possible for the same person to be elected as ruler of both countries.[124]

The Convention also supplanted the firman of January 1857 in matters of electoral legislation, operating some major changes, all of them having a conservative bias, and cutting the electoral corps back to some 2,000 voters, less than half of whom voted directly.[125] The five classes of both Principalities were replaced with two, of rural and urban voters, subdivided into groups which elected directly or indirectly; the voting age was lowered to 25, and the minimum property requirement was set as 100 ducats. Each county dispatched 3 rural deputies, of whom 2 were directly elected; cities and towns voted 1 deputy each, except for Bucharest, which had 3, Craiova and Ploiești, which sent 2.[126] Candidates, who had to be aged 30 and possess 400 ducats to their name, could be elected in several constituencies at once, but were required to settle for only one.[127]

In the rural constituencies, all those under 1,000 ducats could only vote indirectly—prompting members of the National Party to donate some of their land to landless colleagues, in a bid to increase their relative voting power; that threshold was set at 6,000 ducats in the cities, but property as defined for that class could include many forms of capital assets.[128] Extreme discrepancies resulting from these requirements included Muscel County, which now had only 7 qualified direct voters in the rural constituencies, while its capital town, Câmpulung, produced 17 voters of all categories. In nearby Pitești, there were only 8 voters in all.[129] In Moldavia, the same rules created an infamous paradox at Ismail, where there was only one qualified voter, Vladimir Stoica.[130]

According to the Swiss traveler Johann Fridolin Herzog, Caimacam Ghica survived for the rest of his term as a "powerless plaything" of the boyardom, his executive power rendered null by their "petty intrigues".[131] The political spectrum was again dividing itself, with moderates such as Costaforu and Vasile Boerescu declaring themselves placated by the Convention, while radicals such as Brătianu openly embraced the concept of an "independent Romania".[132] Despite its anti-revolutionary bias, the new electoral law again produced a victory for the unionist camps, when it came to voting in the Hospodar. In Moldavia, the Elective Assembly was voted in in December 1858, and unanimously selected deputy Alexandru Ioan Cuza for the throne.[133] In Wallachia, conservative unionism took hold with the triumvirate of Caimacams, favoring either Bibescu or Barbu Știrbei: Ioan Manu, Emanoil Băleanu, Ioan A. Filipescu.[134] The Ottoman Empire supported Știrbeist conservatives, but reportedly kept neutral during the actual round of voting.[135]

The Assembly of Bucharest was elected in January 1859, after which negotiations began about whether Cuza should also be put up as a candidate in Bucharest. Although technically a minority in the new chamber, with the vast majority of delegates favoring Bibescu,[136] radical unionists colluded to advance Cuza as the surprise option, and also stoked tensions between the various conservative unionists. Conservatives such as Caimacam Ghica and Catargiu reconciled with each other and also joined the National Party coalition.[137] A guild of tanners entered the assembly hall and forced through the invalidation of seven conservative mandates, then stood their ground menacingly as Cuza was proposed and voted as Hospodar.[138]

Both Bibescu and Știrbei were slowly made to reconsider under this pressure—they only ceded to, and voted for, Cuza under the assumption that the Ottomans would invalidate this personal union.[139] The Principalities' merger and the name "Romania" were eventually recognized in December 1861, with Cuza styling himself Domnitor rather than Hospodar, and being referred to only as Bey by his overlord, Abdülaziz I. The new firman also provided Cuza with sweeping executive powers, which he immediately used against his conservative Assemblies.[140]


  1. Preda, pp. 39–47
  2. Preda, p. 46
  3. Hêrjeu, pp. 78–88; Xenopol, pp. 147–149
  4. Demetriescu, pp. 19–21; Hêrjeu, pp. 86–98; Preda, pp. 57–59; Xenopol, pp. 160–169
  5. Xenopol, pp. 174–176, 181
  6. Preda, p. 68
  7. Bibescu, pp. 33–53; Hêrjeu, pp. 99–101; Preda, pp. 23, 51–54
  8. Bibescu, pp. 33–53; Hêrjeu, pp. 99–100; Preda, p. 54
  9. Hêrjeu, pp. 101–108, 181; Xenopol, pp. 182–190
  10. Preda, p. 59. See also Hêrjeu, pp. 100–103, 129
  11. Preda, pp. 63–65
  12. Filitti, pp. 355, 357; Preda, pp. 60–63. See also Hêrjeu, pp. 142–147
  13. Preda, pp. 61–62
  14. Xenopol, pp. 154–156, 259–263, 288–295
  15. Giurescu, p. 139; Hêrjeu, pp. 161–162, 182; Iorga (1910), pp. 136, 186–188; Preda, p. 67
  16. Demetriescu, pp. 24–25; Hêrjeu, pp. 161–163; Iorga (1910), pp. 106–111; Preda, pp. 65–68
  17. Potra I, pp. 452–453; II, pp. 84–85, 125, 223
  18. Tomescu & Velicu, pp. 104–105
  19. Giurescu, p. 137; Iorga (1939), p. 699; Maciu (1959), pp. 43, 45 and (1967), pp. 418–422; Xenopol, pp. 301–317, 327–330, 354
  20. Hêrjeu, pp. 164–165
  21. Iorga (1910), pp. 50–54, 136–137, 139–141
  22. Potra II, pp. 101–104
  23. Maciu (1959), pp. 44–49
  24. Maciu (1959), pp. 45–47; Xenopol, pp. 318–319, 326–327, 355. See also Hêrjeu, pp. 181–182
  25. Xenopol, pp. 318–319
  26. Maciu (1959), pp. 46–47. See also Maciu (1967), pp. 421–424, 425; Temperley, pp. 237–240
  27. Temperley, pp. 233–234
  28. Temperley, pp. 219–229
  29. Temperley, p. 222
  30. Temperley, pp. 234–235
  31. Maciu (1959), pp. 47–48; Xenopol, pp. 326–327
  32. Giurescu, pp. 141–142; Hêrjeu, pp. 175–184; Maciu (1959), pp. 45, 47–48, 54, 59–60; Marton, pp. 45–46; Potra I, p. 20; Preda, pp. 68–69; Temperley, pp. 219–229
  33. Temperley, pp. 230–231, 241–242
  34. Maciu (1959), pp. 50–54, 60–61; Roman, pp. 280, 284–285
  35. Maciu (1959), pp. 47–49, 62–63
  36. 1 2 (in Romanian) Bogdan Constantin Dogaru, "Francmasoneria, Focșanii și Unirea de la 1859", in Ziarul de Vrancea, January 24, 2015
  37. Maciu (1959), pp. 48–49
  38. Temperley, pp. 235–236
  39. Maciu (1959), p. 62
  40. Maciu (1959), p. 68. See also Bibescu, pp. 370–371
  41. Iorga (1939), p. 705; Maciu (1959), pp. 62–65, 68
  42. Maciu (1959), p. 65
  43. 1 2 3 4 Potra II, p. 105
  44. Hêrjeu, p. 268
  45. Iorga (1939), pp. 700–705
  46. Iorga (1939), p. 705
  47. Iorga (1939), pp. 706–713
  48. Maciu (1959), pp. 65–66
  49. 1 2 Maciu (1959), p. 69
  50. Preda, pp. 69–73
  51. Preda, pp. 70, 73
  52. 1 2 3 Preda, p. 73
  53. Preda, p. 70
  54. Preda, pp. 72–73
  55. Preda, pp. 71, 73
  56. Preda, pp. 71–72
  57. Preda, pp. 71, 72–73, 74
  58. Maciu (1959), p. 48
  59. Maciu (1959), p. 68. See also Giurescu, p. 141; Potra I, p. 479; Vârtosu, p. 46
  60. Maciu (1959), pp. 68–69
  61. Isar, pp. 34–36
  62. Isar, pp. 35–36
  63. Maciu (1959), p. 69; Preda, p. 73
  64. Demetriescu, p. 26; Maciu (1959), pp. 69–71. See also Vârtosu, pp. 45–47
  65. Vârtosu, p. 46
  66. Tomescu & Velicu, p. 105
  67. Marton, p. 46
  68. Demetriescu, pp. 25–27
  69. Demetriescu, pp. 25–27. See also Iorga (1939), p. 732
  70. Demetriescu, pp. 25–26; Maciu (1959), p. 71. See also Iorga (1939), p. 710
  71. Maciu (1959), p. 71. See also Filitti, pp. 354–355
  72. Iorga (1939), pp. 731–732
  73. Filitti, p. 355
  74. Maciu (1959), p. 70
  75. Hêrjeu, p. 193
  76. Isar, pp. 30–34
  77. Apostol, p. 242; Potra II, p. 105
  78. Xenopol, pp. 331, 337, 354
  79. Iorga (1939), pp. 709–712
  80. Maciu (1959), pp. 71–72
  81. Bibescu, p. 370
  82. Maciu (1959), pp. 60–62, 66–67, 72–73.See also Roman, pp. 281–284
  83. Apostol, pp. 242–243; Giura, pp. 11, 12; Hêrjeu, pp. 184–194, 198; Preda, pp. 74–77; Xenopol, pp. 337–352
  84. Hêrjeu, pp. 187–188, 195; Temperley, p. 231
  85. Giura, p. 11
  86. Preda, pp. 73–74
  87. Preda, pp. 76–77; Xenopol, pp. 351–352
  88. Vârtosu, pp. 46–47
  89. 1 2 3 4 Preda, p. 74
  90. Novac, pp. 236–237
  91. Novac, p. 236
  92. I. D. Suciu, "Recenzii. Apostol Stan, Constantin Vlăduț, Gheorghe Magheru", in Studii. Revistă de Istorie, Vol. 23, Issue 6, 1970, p. 1251
  93. Tîlvănoiu, pp. 26–28
  94. Marton, pp. 45–46
  95. Preda, pp. 59–60, 74
  96. Demetriescu, p. 27
  97. 1 2 3 Ciprian-Marius Sîrbu, "Episcopii Râmnicului și viața politică românească în perioada 1859–1918", in Buridava, Vol. 10, 2012, p. 172
  98. Preda, pp. 77–78
  99. Giurescu, p. 141
  100. Novac, p. 237
  101. Novac, pp. 237, 239; Potra I, p. 479
  102. Gheorghe & Șerbu, pp. 39, 63, 84
  103. Tîlvănoiu, pp. 27–28
  104. Giurescu, p. 141; Hêrjeu, pp. 192–194; Preda, pp. 77, 78; Xenopol, pp. 355–356. See also Demetriescu, pp. 25–26; Filitti, pp. 355–356; Maciu (1959), pp. 69–71 and (1967), pp. 424–425
  105. Hêrjeu, p. 194
  106. Preda, p. 76
  107. Giurescu, p. 141; Vârtosu, pp. 46–47; Xenopol, pp. 355–356
  108. Giurescu, pp. 141–142; Preda, p. 77
  109. Hêrjeu, p. 194; Xenopol, p. 355
  110. Novac, pp. 237–238
  111. Bibescu, pp. 367–368
  112. Iorga (1910), pp. 191–192
  113. Iorga (1939), p. 711
  114. S. Columbeanu, "Recenzii. Studii și articole de istorie, Vol. II", in Studii. Revistă de Istorie, Vol. XI, Issue 2, 1958, p. 217
  115. Xenopol, pp. 356–359
  116. Filitti, pp. 356–357
  117. Filitti, pp. 357–358
  118. Tîlvănoiu, p. 27
  119. Xenopol, pp. 156–157
  120. Maciu (1967), p. 427
  121. Hêrjeu, p. 196
  122. Giurescu, p. 142; Preda, pp. 78–79. See also Hêrjeu, p. 195
  123. Preda, pp. 79–81. See also Giurescu, p. 142; Hêrjeu, p. 195; Maciu (1967), pp. 425–426
  124. Giurescu, p. 142; Preda, p. 78
  125. Preda, pp. 82–83
  126. Preda, pp. 81–84. See also Filitti, p. 356
  127. Preda, pp. 81–82
  128. Preda, pp. 81, 83
  129. Preda, p. 84
  130. Preda, p. 85
  131. J. F. Herzog (contributor: Mircea Dumitriu), "Călătorie spre Țara Românească", in Magazin Istoric, September 1977, p. 20
  132. Maciu (1967), p. 426
  133. Giura, pp. 12–13; Hêrjeu, p. 198; Preda, pp. 84–88, 91; Xenopol, p. 379
  134. Hêrjeu, pp. 197–199; 268; Xenopol, pp. 377, 380–381. See also Demetriescu, pp. 27–28
  135. Giura, p. 12
  136. Hêrjeu, pp. 199–200; Iorga (1939), pp. 732–733; Xenopol, p. 378
  137. Demetriescu, p. 28. See also Giura, pp. 13–14; Hêrjeu, p. 205; Iorga (1939), pp. 732–733
  138. Apostol, pp. 243–244; Giurescu, p. 142. See also Hêrjeu, pp. 199–201; Iorga (1939), pp. 732–733; Xenopol, pp. 379–382
  139. Preda, pp. 85–86. See also Gheorghe & Șerbu, pp. 27, 47
  140. Preda, pp. 87–90. See also Maciu (1967), pp. 427–429


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