The Norwegian – Swedish Union (1814 – 1905) Part III

By | December 17, 2021

After a fierce electoral struggle, the left had a strong majority in 1882, and the government (prime minister in Norway, CA Selmer) was brought before the high court of justice, composed of the Lagting – subsection of the Storting – and by the supreme court. In the months of February-March the sentence passed: despite the votes against the assessors of the supreme court, Selmer and his colleagues were condemned to the loss of their offices, and to the payment of fines. The king had to accept the sentence of the high court, but appointed a new conservative ministry (ministry of April) which, however, already on 23 June 1884 had to make way for a left ministry headed by Johan Sverdrup. Thus the left party had won. The Selmer matter was settled with a compromise accepted by the king. Political radicalism in Norway had aroused concern in Sweden and fear of a weakening of the Union. The Swedes therefore sought to secure their position with stronger representation in the mixed council of ministers dealing with common affairs between the two countries, and with the appointment of the Swedish foreign minister as ex officio president of the council itself. As the Norwegian government could not find a way to resolve the situation satisfactorily for Norway, and as part of the ruling party was dissatisfied with the government’s over-cautious policy, the left-wing party split into two branches in 1887., moderate and pure; the Sverdrup ministry had to resign and leave power to Emil Stang, organizer of the right-wing party. In the following years the right and the left (J. Steen prime minister, 1891-93) succeeded to power, since unionist politics is a continuing question of discord. But since in the meantime the Swedes had begun to hold a threatening demeanor by arming themselves seriously and showing that they wanted to keep the Union by force, in June 1895 the Storting decided to enter into negotiations with Sweden on all foreign policy, starting from the request for a purely Norwegian consular body, a request that was repeatedly voted by the Storting without ever having obtained the royal sanction. The Swedish-Norwegian commission appointed to this did not agree on any point, and since the pure left party had a very strong majority in the elections of 1897, J. Steen was appointed prime minister for the second time (1898-1902) . During those years the disputes of the Union fell asleep, while Norway armed itself to be able, in case of need, to enforce by force its requests for an equal position in the Union. Army and fleet were strengthened by voting for extraordinary funds and fortresses were built on the Swedish borders. The Storting also approved the use of a purely Norwegian flag without the Union coat of arms, albeit only as a commercial flag and not as a military flag. For Norway political system, please check

In 1902 new negotiations were opened between Norway and Sweden for a separate consular body with a common foreign minister. A part of the left party was opposed to such negotiations, but the elections of 1903 brought the parties in favor of the negotiations, namely the right and the moderate left, to power. GF Hagerup, a member of the right-wing party, who formed the new cabinet (October 1903) presented shortly afterwards his proposal on the consular question. The Swedish proposal, made only in the late autumn of 1904, contained six points unacceptable for an independent state (the so-called “points of inferiority”). The negotiations had so failed and a crisis was inevitable. The Hagerup cabinet gave way to a concentration ministry with Christian Michelsen (March 1, 1905), whose program should have been to settle the consular issue satisfactorily for Norway without resorting to further negotiations. On the proposal of a special committee, the Storting unanimously voted a law by which a Norwegian consular body was undoubtedly constituted: on May 27 the king refused the sanction; but the entire government had previously stated that it would not countersign the refusal of the sanction, and that, moreover, no Norwegian would have wanted to do so. The government then instantly resigned; the king rejected them: and the ministers then resigned their offices in the hands of the Storting (June 7, 1905). The Storting voted to unanimity that the government would continue to govern in accordance with the statute with those changes that were necessary since “the union with Sweden under a single king was now dissolved, the king having ceased to act as Norwegian king”. With this act, the Storting declared the Norwegian side “dissolved the Union”; and the nation approved in a plebiscite on August 13, with 368,329 votes in favor against just 184 votes. Between August 31 and September 23, the Norwegian and Swedish rulers jointly discussed the conditions for a peaceful dissolution of the Union while the two sides armed themselves for fear of war. Meanwhile the negotiations led to quite satisfactory results for the two sides: on 26 October 1905 Norway was recognized by Sweden as an independent state, and immediately afterwards the recognition of the great powers followed. After the negotiations, the progress of which is not yet publicly known in detail, and after the nation with a new plebiscite declared itself in favor of the monarchy against the republic, Prince Charles of Denmark was elected by the Storting king of Norway on November 18.. He took the name of Håkon VII (Haakon) (1905).

In the last half of the see. XIX Parallel to the disputes of the Union, a social evolution had taken place in Norway which had increased the importance of the lower classes. Between 1815 and 1900 the population nearly doubled. A great mass of people was employed in industries which developed greatly, and in fishing which, towards the end of the century, had a stronger capitalist character. In the countryside the number of landowners increased, while the class of tenants decreased partly due to emigration to the United States of America, partly due to the phenomenon of urbanism and partly also because the tenants themselves became small owners. However, in many places the position of the peasants had become increasingly difficult due to increasing debts.

Most of the workers politically adhered to the left party which was in favor of extending the right to vote. A part of them formed in 1887 into a political party (the party of the Norwegian workers, who had already gathered in trade unions before); however, it was only after 1905 that the party had a certain importance in the Storting. With the help of the left, universal suffrage for men was introduced in 1898; then gradually the right to vote was extended to women, until in 1913 the right to vote was the same for everyone, men and women over 25, both in political elections and in municipal elections; in 1921 the age limit was lowered to 23 years.

The Norwegian - Swedish Union (1814 - 1905) Part III