Carl Theodor Zahle

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Carl Theodor Zahle
Zahle.jpg
Council President of Denmark
In office
28 October 1909 – 5 July 1910
Monarch Frederick VIII
Preceded by Ludvig Holstein-Ledreborg
Succeeded by Klaus Berntsen
In office
21 June 1913 – 30 March 1920
Monarch Christian X
Preceded by Klaus Berntsen
Succeeded by Otto Liebe
Personal details
Born (1866-01-19)19 January 1866
Roskilde
Died 3 February 1946(1946-02-03) (aged 80)
Copenhagen
Political party Det Radikale Venstre

Carl Theodor Zahle (19 January 1866 in Roskilde – 3 February 1946 in Copenhagen), Danish lawyer and politician; prime minister of Denmark 1909-1910, 1913-1920. In 1895 he was elected member of the lower chamber of the Danish parliament, Folketinget, for Venstrereformpartiet. A campaigner for peace, in 1905 he co-founded Det Radikale Venstre together with other (mostly pacifistic) disgruntled members of Venstrereformpartiet. He continued on as a member of Folketinget for Det Radikale Venstre until 1928, when he became a member of the upper chamber of parliament Landsting. In 1929 he became Justice Minister, a post which he held until 1935. From 1936 until 1945 he was a board member of nationwide daily Politiken.

Early life[edit]

C. Th. Zahle was born in Roskilde as the son of cobbler Christian Lauritz Gottlieb Zahle and his wife Karen Emilie. He was interested in politics already in high school and saw himself as a convinced democrat in opposition to the Estrup government. He took a degree in law in 1890 and worked for some time at newspapers for instance the newspaper Politiken. In 1894 he passed the bar exam to the high courts.

Political career[edit]

In 1895 he was elected to the lower house of the Danish Rigsdag in the Ringsted election district. He won the seat and kept it in subsequent elections until 1928 where he was elected to the upper house of parliament. He kept his seat there until 1939. He was a co-founder of the Left Reform Party in 1895 and became a member of the parliamentary finance committee in 1901.

After disagreements with party leader J. C. Christensen on the defence budget Zahle broke with his party and co-founded the Social Liberal Party in 1905 and became the first chairman of the new party. In 1909 he was able to form a minority government but had to resign as prime minister the year later following an electoral defeat for his party. In 1911 he became mayor of Stege.

In 1913 the Social Liberal Party and the Social Democrats got a majority in the lower house and Zahle was able to form a government backed by the Social Democrats. This government was in office until 1920.

Zahle was prime minister during World War I and the main objective for his administration during the war was to keep Denmark neutral. Zahle succeeded in this thanks to foreign minister Erik Scavenius. Although Denmark was neutral the war meant a scarcity of goods and materials and regulation of the economy became necessary. Interior minister Ove Rode was in charge of these policies.

After the war the opposition had accumulated great anger towards the Zahle government. The government was accused of having been too friendly towards Germany during the war and the economic regulations limited the profits of business life. On top of that came the question about northern Schleswig and in particular Flensburg. A referendum was held on the return of parts of Schleswig to Denmark from Germany and it was demanded that Germany should cede the city of Flensburg with no regards to the result of the referendum. Zahle refused to call for an election on this question and was deposed by king Christian X in 1920. This resulted in the Easter Crisis of 1920 where social liberals, social democrats and socialists saw the king's dismissal of Zahle as unconstitutional.

Zahle never became prime minister again but he became minister of justice under Thorvald Stauning from 1929 to 1935. He had had this portfolio in his own governments and had worked for legal reforms. From 1936 to 1939 he was speaker of the upper house.

Political offices
Preceded by
Ludvig Holstein-Ledreborg
Council President of Denmark
28 October 1909 – 5 July 1910
Succeeded by
Klaus Berntsen
Preceded by
Svend Høgsbro
Justice Minister of Denmark
28 October 1909 – 5 July 1910
Succeeded by
Frits Bülow
Preceded by
Frits Bülow
Justice Minister of Denmark
21 June 1913 – 30 March 1920
Succeeded by
Otto Liebe
Preceded by
Klaus Berntsen
Council President of Denmark
21 June 1913 – 20 April 1918
Succeeded by
Office renamed to "Prime Minister"
Preceded by
Office renamed from "Council President"
Prime Minister of Denmark
21 April 1918 – 30 March 1920
Succeeded by
Otto Liebe
Preceded by
Svenning Rytter
Justice Minister of Denmark
30 April 1929 – 4 November 1935
Succeeded by
Karl Kristian Steincke
Preceded by
Jørgen Jensen-Klejs
Speaker of the Landsting
7 October 1936 – 2 October 1939
Succeeded by
C. F. Sørensen
Party political offices
Preceded by
New office
Parliamentary group leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party
1905–1909
Succeeded by
Ove Rode
Preceded by
Ove Rode
Parliamentary group leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party
1910–1913
Succeeded by
Thorvald Povlsen
Preceded by
Carl Slengerik
Parliamentary group leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party
1920–1928
Succeeded by
Niels Frederiksen