MONRAD, Ditlev Gothard
Danish statesman, Bishop of the Lutheran Church, and pioneer New Zealand farmer.
Ditlev Gothard Monrad was a son of Otto Sommer Monrad, an attorney of the Danish Revenue Department, and came of a long line of theologians and jurists, a direct ancestor, Jacob Monrad, being among the first to introduce the reformed faith to Denmark. Monrad was born in Copenhagen on 24 November 1811. As a child he lived with an aunt in Praesto, Zealand, where he received his primary education. He showed talent and was assisted by townsfolk to attend Vordingborg Latin School, entering Copenhagen University as a theological student in 1831. He graduated Master of Arts and made a special study of oriental languages, gaining a facility in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Syrian, and Arabic. A travelling scholarship enabled further study in Paris.
At Copenhagen University Monrad participated in the Liberal political movement and later was editor (1840–41) of the Liberal paper Faedrelandet, but his brilliant political contributions and pamphlets supporting liberalism resulted in suppression of the paper, confiscation of his writings, and personal censorship. In 1840 he married Marie Lytthans, daughter of a Copenhagen building contractor.
Appointed in 1848 to the first Copenhagen Citizens' Council, he interested himself in educational reform and travelled extensively studying educational methods. From 1843 to 1846 he edited Dansk Folkeblad, a Liberal weekly, and was then appointed pastor of Vester-Ulslev on Lolland, elected to the Copenhagen Diet (Staender) (1846), and, later (March 1848), appointed Cabinet Minister for Church and Schools. He was mainly responsible for the drafting of the Democratic Constitution that replaced the absolute monarchy. In 1849 he was appointed Bishop of Lolland-Falster, only to be dismissed in 1854 because he opposed a Conservative reaction against the constitution. Sent unopposed to the first democratically elected parliament (Rigsdag), he remained a member from 1849 to 1865.
On 31 December 1863, on the eve of the Slesvig-Holstein war with Germany, Monrad became Prime Minister in a new cabinet. The defeat of Denmark and loss of the duchies brought such intense, if unjust, criticism on Monrad's conduct of the war and peace negotiations that on 30 November 1865 he left Denmark with his family to seek peace in New Zealand. There he purchased 482 acres of heavily bushed land in the Karere Block near the future site of Palmerston North. Living first in a small clay hut, he built a house of pit-sawn timber for his family and set about clearing the bush, introducing cattle and sheep and experimenting in tobacco culture. He had brought with him many art treasures, and his settlement in the roadless bush became an oasis of culture.
When, however, his work was interrupted by the southward incursions of the Hauhaus under Titokowaru, he buried his precious possessions and left with his family for Wellington, whence he embarked for Denmark, arriving there on 28 April 1869. His sons Viggo and Johannes returned to Karere to continue farming.
On his departure Monrad presented to the Colonial Secretary a valuable collection of engravings and etchings by famous masters, including Rembrandt, Rubens, Durer, and Van Dyck, which are now housed in the National Art Gallery. He later translated an abridgment of Maning'sOld New Zealand into Danish.
Monrad was one of the most outstanding men his country has produced. As a theologian, scholar, and politician he was foremost in the introduction of enlightened and progressive ideas in church, school, and government. His mental powers earned him the highest academic honours; he was a skilled translator of the Old Testament from the originals as well as an eminent political writer. His political downfall was coincidental with his country's defeat by Bismarck's ascendant Prussia, his attempt to introduce Christian ideals and principles into the political field availing little when he had to oppose the ruthless chancellor single handed. In New Zealand he showed his courage and versatility by attacking the heavy task of bush settlement. Though Monrad was only a passing figure on the New Zealand scene, this country owes much to him for his example of successful forest settlement and for his encouragement to thousands of his countrymen to emigrate here and undertake the same task.
by George Conrad Petersen, Editor, Who's Who in New Zealand, Palmerston North.
- D. G. Monrad, Norgaard, F. (1918)
- Politiker og Gejstlig (1948), D. G. Monrad, Stavnstrup, P.
- Pioneering Days in Palmerston North, Petersen, G. C. (1952)
- D. G. Monrad, Petersen, G. C. (1965).