Danish national bankruptcy from 1813

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The Rendsburg Fortress was a bridgehead in the Duchy of Holstein

In Danish monetary history, the radical currency reform of January 5, 1813 , which affected the entire Danish state , is referred to as Danish national bankruptcy . In addition to government budgetary and currency difficulties that already existed towards the end of the 18th century, the Danish bankruptcy was caused in particular by the effects of the Napoleonic Wars on Denmark .

The monetary policy measures included a reduction in the repayment obligation of " Rigsdaler " denominated paper money and corresponding government bonds at a ratio of 6: 1 in the new currency Rigsbankdaler, ordered by the state . A compulsory tax of 6% was levied on real estate assets in Denmark to cover the new banknotes. It was not until the beginning of the 1830s that paper money and bonds could be exchanged for minted Rigsbankdalers at face value. A Rigsbankdaler had only 5 / 8 the content of fine silver compared to the old Rigsdaler.


At the beginning of Napoleon's campaigns , Denmark was a comparatively wealthy country. The sphere of influence of the Danish crown included a. Norway , Iceland , Greenland , the Faroe Islands , Schleswig and Holstein . Even then, however, there were large numbers of banknotes in circulation that were no longer required to be redeemed in silver coins.

During the coalition wars, the Danish government initially tried to remain neutral and refused all warring parties to pass through the Oresund . Great Britain did not want to accept this; so it came in 1801 to the first sea battle of Copenhagen . Denmark was completely defeated.

By 1807 the Danish fleet was rebuilt, and England feared that Napoleon might ally with Denmark and then turn the Danish fleet against England. The fear was not unfounded, as Napoleon had agreed with Tsar Alexander I in a secret supplementary agreement to the Peace of Tilsit to force Denmark-Norway , Sweden and Portugal to join the continental blockade. In Denmark itself, however, there was no such aspiration.

In the summer of 1807 England asked Denmark to ally with him. When this was refused, the second English attack took place from September 2nd to 5th, 1807 ( Naval Battle of Copenhagen 1807 ). Thereupon Denmark sought the alliance with Napoleon, since it now saw England as the greatest danger and since the attempt to remain neutral had again failed. The Peace of Kiel on January 14, 1814 marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars for Denmark. The country found itself on the losing side and it took a long time to recover economically.

Currency reform

The Great Britain Wars put a considerable strain on the economy, especially from 1807 onwards; Napoleon's troops, quartered in Denmark since 1807, also had to be supplied. Even the progressive income tax introduced in 1810 was unable to cover the budget deficit. In this situation, the Danish state issued banknotes and bonds denominated in full currency in Rigsdaler courant to pay its obligations . The increased circulation of money, not covered by real assets, led to inflation of more than 100%. Denmark could no longer service its national debt in full-value coins. Finance Minister Ernst Heinrich von Schimmelmann did not succeed in counteracting this for long.

Finally, on January 5, 1813, a currency reform was carried out and the old Rigsdaler “Kurantgeld” was replaced by a new currency from the - newly founded - Rigsbank. Paper money and government bonds were converted to the new currency Rigsbankdaler at a ratio of 6: 1. Officially, the Danish side strictly avoided the word bankruptcy. De facto , however, a state bankruptcy had taken place: A state bankruptcy is that state of the state economy in which the state, be it with, be it without an express declaration, does not meet its debt obligations or earns income, which with the constitution or at least with a healthy financial administration To be in contradiction with. That was exactly what happened here. A currency conversion at a ratio of 6: 1 does not mean national bankruptcy as such for the fiat currency that is customary today and is not covered by a metal value . The issued coins , banknotes and bonds are not based on a right to redeem them in full value coins (= precious metal). All obligations, prices and pieces of money are simply rearranged without any substantial change in ownership. However, this is different with a precious metal-backed currency: the Danish state honored a promise to pay out 1 Rigsdaler (~ 26 g silver) with just over 2.6 g silver: A Rigsbankdaler coin only had 10.5% of the amount of fine silver , like 6 old Rigsdaler coins.

The Rigsbankdaler initially only existed as banknotes and as an invoice size. The new banknotes did not initially have any significant silver stocks either. The new currency was therefore initially not trusted. The black market in other means of payment flourished. In fact, the new currency should be covered by a mandatory six percent tax on all property in Denmark. This tax was payable immediately in silver. Those who could not do this had to expect the foreclosure of their property. The proceeds went to the Rigsbank in order to build up real silver cover for the new currency in the medium term.

Efforts to stabilize the exchange rate of banknotes issued on Rigsbankdaler have for a long time only been moderately successful. The discount on banknotes in September 1813 was 91% compared to full-value silver coins. The course fluctuated strongly overall. The Minister of Finance resigned as a result.

Effects in Schleswig-Holstein

In 1813 the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein as well as Norway were part of the entire Danish state and were therefore also affected by the Danish state bankruptcy.

Schleswig-Holstein's own currency, the Schleswig-Holstein Courantgeld , was initially not affected by the currency turmoil surrounding the Rigsdaler Courant. Simultaneously with the actual Danish national bankruptcy, however, all banks in Schleswig and Holstein were closed on instructions on January 5, 1813. Courant money was officially suspended and the new Rigsbankdaler was introduced as the currency. The Schleswig-Holstein banknotes issued were in principle covered by their own stocks of special silver thalers stored in Altona . In the run-up to the national bankruptcy, however, the Danish government had the silver stocks brought from Altona to the Danish government fortress in Rendsburg and thus brought under direct control. The value of the banknotes therefore collapsed immediately.

As in the Danish heartland, an immediately payable six percent real estate tax was levied, which had to be paid in silver coins. As a result, the officially suspended silver coins of the Schleswig-Holstein courant money flowed to the new Danish Reichsbank. The harshness with which the tax - in contrast to the core state - was collected from the population, including the peasants, caused displeasure among the population about Danish rule. While a large part of the tax was waived for the Danish farmers, the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein had to raise an additional 5 million Rigsbankdaler.

Since the population preferred the bill in the traditional Schleswig-Holstein courant money, the Danish government also had the courant value indicated on Rigsbank coins from 1841 onwards.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Meyers Konversations-Lexikon from 1888
  2. 1813: The monetary reform known as the bankruptcy of the state ( Memento of the original from March 7, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . English. Online at nationalbanken.dk from May 4, 2011; Retrieved August 13, 2013.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.nationalbanken.dk
  3. Dieter Kienitz: The Cossack Winter . West Holstein Publishing House Boyens & Co, Heide 2000.

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