Marking the 100th anniversary of the death of the politician, Minister of Finance and Prime Minister, Kálmán Széll, the Magyar Nemzeti Bank has issued this 5,000 fprint silver and a HUF 2,000 copper-alloy collector coin. The front of the coin shows the original Elisabeth Bridge in Budapest which was constructed under Prime Minister Széll and destroyed by the retreating German forces in 1945. A portrait of Széll is found on the back, with the inscription “Law, order, justice”, his motto as Prime Minister. Designer Balázs Pelcz.
(b. Gasztony, 8 June 1843 – d. Rátót, 16 August 1915)
“Law, order, justice”
As a politician, Széll was the Dualism period’s most successful Minister of Finance and Prime Minister; he was also a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Born to a noble family in the summer of 1843, his father, vice-count József Széll, was a member of parliament and later count; his mother was Júlia Bertha de Felsőeőr. He attended school in Sopron and Szombathely, and studied law in Budapest, receiving his PhD in 1866. One year later he served as an assistant judge in Vas county. He had a close friendship with Ferenc Deák, and began his financial studies at his suggestion, quickly becoming one of the best-known financial experts of the period. In 1868 he was a member of Deák’s party, which operated under the name Liberal Party after merging with the Left-Centre in 1875. In this party, he first served in the Wenckheim government and then became Finance Minister in the government of Kálmán Tisza. He was able to consolidate the chaotic situation in public finances. He lowered government debt by restructuring and tax increases, reorganised the financial administration, and paved the way for the later nationalisation of the railways with the purchase of the Tisza and Eastern Railways. One of his greatest achievements was the “6% gold annuity”, which laid the foundation for international borrowing by the Hungarian budget. Working efficiently and resolutely, he organised the country’s finances and played a key role in the foundation of the dual central bank, the Austro-Hungarian Bank.
After resigning in 1878, he returned to his estates in Rátót, which he developed into an exemplary farm. He made a name in cattle breeding and also headed the Trans-Danubian Cultural Association. Széll initiated the foundation of the Hungarian Mortgage Credit Bank and Discount Bank. He was chairman of the National Millennium Committee, the Representatives’ Finance Committee, the Interparliamentary Conference from 1896 and the National Quota Commission.
Emperor Franz Joseph selected Széll to resolve the political crisis of 1897. He was appointed Prime Minister on 26 February 1899, simultaneously acting as Minister of the Interior. 120 laws were passed during the four-year period. He settled the Fiume issue, and a new economic agreement was reached based on the Széll formula. He also passed new house rules and a conflict of interest law. In 1903, even though the government enjoyed broad support, disputes once again erupted with the opposition and within his own party over increasing the troop numbers in the joint army needed to develop fortress defences. Consequently, he submitted his resignation that year, quitting the post of Prime Minister and also leaving his party.
Until 1911 he was politically active in the Constitution Party, and then as an independent. He lived on his estates in Rátót until his death in 1915. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold in 1893 and the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Stephen in 1902 by Franz Joseph. He was a committed supporter of peaceful development and cooperation, as evidenced by his work.