1866 Constitution of Romania

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Constitution of Romania
Created 13 June [O.S. 1 June] 1866
Ratified 13 June [O.S. 1 June] 1866
Signatories Carol I
Purpose Replace the Statutul Desvoltător al Convenţiei de la Paris as Constitution of the Principality of Romania

The 1866 Constitution of Romania was the fundamental law that capped a period of nation-building in the Danubian Principalities, which had united in 1859. Drafted in a short time and using as its model the 1831 Constitution of Belgium, then considered Europe's most liberal, it was substantially modified by Prince (later King) Carol and adopted by the Constituent Assembly. The newly installed Prince then promulgated it on July 1; this was done without input from the major powers, including the Ottoman Empire, which still had formal sovereignty over Romania.

The document proclaimed constitutional monarchy as the form of government, on the basis of separation of powers and on the principle of national sovereignty. The throne was a hereditary office of the male descendants of Carol; women were excluded by salic law. Legislative power was exercised by the Prince and Parliament (composed of an Assembly of Deputies and a Senate), while executive power was entrusted to the Prince, who exercised it through his ministers. The political regime was liberal but not democratic; elections were held with a limited franchise (voters, all men, were divided into four colleges based on their wealth and social origins). The Prince's constitutional powers were hereditary, "from male to male through primogeniture and perpetually excluding women and their descendants". His person was proclaimed "inviolable"; his acts were valid only if countersigned by a minister, who then became answerable for the act in question. The Prince was the head of the army, he named and dismissed ministers, sanctioned and promulgated laws, named and confirmed men to all public functions, signed treaties and conventions on commerce and navigation with foreign countries, had the right to grant political amnesty, to pardon criminals or reduce their sentences, to confer military ranks and decorations, to coin money. At the same time, he opened and closed sessions of Parliament, which he could convoke in emergency session and which he could dissolve.

Citizens' rights and freedoms were of the most modern vintage: enshrined in the document were the freedom of conscience, of the press, of assembly, of religion; equality before the law, regardless of class; individual liberty; inviolability of the home. Capital punishment was abolished in peacetime, while property was considered sacred and inviolable. The Romanian Orthodox Church was accorded superior status ("the dominant religion of the Romanian state"), while article 7 provided that non-Christians could not become citizens (which chiefly affected Jews).

In 1879, under Western pressure, article 7 was ostensibly diluted but in fact it remained nearly impossible for Jews to gain citizenship. In 1881, the constitution was amended to proclaim Romania a kingdom. In 1884, the number of electoral colleges was reduced to three, thus expanding the franchise. In 1917, the Constitution underwent two major modifications in order to fulfil promised made to the soldiers then fighting World War I: the college-based electoral system was abolished, and the right to property weakened so that land reform could be carried out. It remained in effect until 1923, when a new constitution came into effect.

References[edit]

  • Stoica, Stan (coordinator). Dicţionar de Istorie a României, p. 88-9. Bucharest: Editura Merona, 2007.

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