Hats (party)

Hats (party)

The Hats were a political faction during the Age of Liberty (1719-1772) in Sweden. Their name derives from the three-cornered hat worn by officers and gentlemen. The primary rivals of the Hats were known as the Caps.
The Hats are most (in)famously recognized for the disastrous Hats' Russian War, which was mainly caused by, and driven by them. The Hats were strong supporters of an expansive aggressionist foreign policy, especially towards Russia.


Count Arvid Horn, leader of the aisans and until 1738 the leader of government had reversed the traditional policy of Sweden by keeping France at a distance and drawing near to Great Britain. A thirty years' war was succeeded by a twenty years' peace, during which the nation recovered so rapidly from its wounds that it began to forget them. A new breed of politicians was springing up. Since 1719, when the influence of the few great territorial families had been merged in a multitude of needy gentlemen, the first estate had become the nursery and afterwards the stronghold of an opposition at once noble and democratic which found its natural leaders in such men as Count Carl Gyllenborg and Count Carl Gustaf Tessin. These men and their followers were never weary of ridiculing the timid caution of the aged statesman who sacrificed everything to perpetuate an inglorious peace and derisively nicknamed his adherents "Night-caps". These epithets instantly caught the public fancy and had already become party badges when the estates met in 1738. This Riksdag was to mark another turning-point in Swedish history. The Hats carried everything before them; and the aged Horny was finally compelled to retire from a scene where, for three and thirty years, he had played a leading part. The policy of the Hats was a return to the traditional alliance between France and Sweden. They aimed at restoring Sweden to her former position as a great power. France, naturally, hailed with satisfaction the rise of a faction which was content to be her armourbearer in the north; and the golden streams which flowed from Versailles to Stockholm during the next two generations were the political life-blood of the Hat party.

The first sign of weakness in the Hats' government came after the war with Russia, which ended in Swedish defeat. A motion for an inquiry into the conduct of the war was skilfully evaded by obtaining precedence for the succession question. Negotiations were opened with the Russian empress, Elizabeth of Russia, who agreed to restore the greater part of Finland to Sweden if her heir's uncle, Adolph Frederick of Holstein, were elected successor to the Swedish crown. The Hats eagerly caught at the opportunity of recovering the grand duchy and their own prestige along with it. By the Treaty of Åbo May 7, 1743 the terms of the empress were accepted; and only a small part which lay beyond the Kymmene river, often called Old Finland, was retained by Russia.

In the 1750s, Hats saw the utter collapse of their foreign system. At the instigation of France they plunged recklessly into the Seven Years' War; and the result was ruinous. The French subsidies, which might have sufficed for a six weeks demonstration, proved quite inadequate; and, after five unsuccessful campaigns, the unhappy Hats were glad to make peace and ignominiously withdraw from a little war which had cost the country 40,000 men. When the Riksdag met in 1760, the indignation against the Hat leaders was so violent that an impeachment seemed inevitable; but once more the superiority of their parliamentary tactics prevailed, and when, after a session of twenty months, the Riksdag was brought to a close by the mutual consent of both the exhausted factions, the Hat government was bolstered up for another four years. But the day of reckoning could not be postponed for ever; and when the estates met in 1765 it brought the Caps into power at last. Their leader, Ture Rudbeck, was elected marshal of the Diet over Frederick Axel von Fersen, the Hat candidate, by a large majority; and, out of the hundred seats in the secret committee, the Hats succeeded in getting only ten.

Majority leaders

These representatives of the Hats were elected as Lantmarskalk (speaker) of the Riksdag of the Estates, signifying a parliamentary majority.

*Carl Gustaf Tessin (1738-1739)
*Henning Gyllenborg (1751-1752)
*Axel von Fersen, senior (1755-1756, 1760-1762, 1769-1770)

See also

*Privy Council of Sweden
*Hats' Russian War

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