A New Zealand lighthouse keeper on Sweden-Norway relations, 1905

For journalists around the world, the Norwegian national plebiscite of 13 August 1905 offered a striking news item.

Newspapers had been following the disintegration of the increasingly misnamed United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, but the result of the popular vote was still remarkable. Of 371,911 votes cast, 368,208 had been in favour of independence, with just 184 for remaining with Sweden. The turn-out had been 85.42 percent.[1]

In distant New Zealand, editors had little alternative but to report the news through a brief wire service bulletin. The country's population would pass one million in 1908; two years later, it supported a remarkable 67 daily newspapers.[2] Although a few big-city titles exercised something like colony-wide influence, even they depended upon the laconic cablegrams of the United Press Association (UPA), the country's shared news agency.[3]  Thus the Wellington Evening Post carried a simple news item which was indistinguishable from its competitors. "A referendum was taken yesterday in Norway on the question of dissolving the union with Sweden. The people voted with enthusiasm, and were practically unanimous in favour of separation."[4] On the plus side, the UPA's news service meant that "a paper in a little bush village publishes the cream of all the intelligence at the same time as their metropolitan counterparts". The downside, as the Manchester Guardian commented in 1909, residents of the overseas Empire generally would never "have materials for the quick and thorough understanding of a great European dispute so long as cables are a shilling a word".[5] Norwegian independence was an intriguing story, but it hardly qualified as a clash of the great European powers. Several newspapers attempted to sketch the background to the plebiscite in more detailed editorial articles based either on British reviews or upon reports received through San Francisco. These were generally impressive and insightful – the standard of New Zealand journalism was remarkably high – but of necessity they were extrapolations derived from publications that were two months out of date, a reflection of the country's dependence upon slow maritime communications. By and large, their response bears out the apt description by the historian Rollo Arnold that the influence of the New Zealand press in the late nineteenth century stemmed from a combination of "telegraph, scissors and pen".[6] However, one newspaper had an original idea that would combine the Norwegian issue with a local human interest story.

The Timaru Herald was published in the south Canterbury port of Timaru, a town of 6,424 people in 1901, but it acted as a voice for a wider area, seeking to counteract the regional dominance of Christchurch. A new lighthouse had been built at Jack's Point (Tuhawaiki), three miles (5 kms) out of town in 1903, and placed in the charge of an articulate and popular immigrant from Sweden. A reporter was sent out to interview John Frederick Ericson, who gladly provided an idiosyncratic but illuminating account of Norwegian particularism.[7]

Ericson had been born in 1842,[8] probably in Sweden's second city, Gothenburg, although the interview gave his birthplace as somewhere near the Norwegian border.[9] In his teens, he became an apprentice to a boat-builder, but soon left to go to sea. By the age of twenty, he had made four voyages around Cape Horn, and found himself in Adelaide, from where he worked his passage to Nelson in New Zealand. When gold was discovered on the West Coast of the South Island in 1864, he headed for the diggings.  As with most gold rushes, few miners hit pay dirt, and the most enterprising established themselves in service occupations. Ericson used his skills to build and operate a ferry across the Grey River (Māwheranu), and became known as Fred the Boatman. The organised settlements in New Zealand projected themselves as genteel transplants from England and Scotland, but the West Coast was a dynamic boom-and-bust region. It became the political power base of a larger-than-life storekeeper and publican, Richard John Seddon, who rose to dominate New Zealand public life, serving a thirteen-year term as Premier, from 1893 until his death in 1906.[10]  Ericson was one of his earliest associates. A few months before his death, "King Dick" attended a railwaymen's banquet at Timaru, but kept the diners waiting while he made time to reminisce with Fred the Boatman about pioneer days.

Colonial governments were relatively efficient in the provision of basic infrastructure, and the construction of bridges probably brought the ferry to an end. Ericson went back to sea, working on small coastal vessels and securing his master's certificate. His seamanship was recognised by his appointment as a pilot, first at Nelson and then with responsibility for the hazardous approach to Wellington harbour. It was at this period that he met and married Charlotte Kidson. Marriage was a major step in the process of assimilation into New Zealand's predominantly Anglo-Celtic colonial society,[11] the more so as his bride was the daughter of an early settler, John Kidson, who had survived the Wairau affray of 1843. (Settlers attempting to occupy land in the Wairau valley of the province of Nelson were resisted by Maori of Ngāti Toa: 22 Europeans and four Maori were killed.[12]) Scandinavians, in the words of James Belich, were "Pakeha racial ideology's favourite foreigners": over four thousand of them were brought out as assisted emigrants in the eighteen-seventies. However, as indicated by the naming of the Hawke's Bay settlements of Dannevirke and Norsewood, Sweden was not a primary target for recruitment. This probably explains why New Zealand's small Swedish-born community – 1,548 people recorded at the 1901 census – displayed the sharpest gender imbalance of the three Nordic countries, being 86.37 percent male.[13] Thus Swedish men were likely to marry in the wider community, and inter-marriage would be the means of joining mainstream colonial society. By 1885, Ericson was an officer of the Nelson lodge of a popular welfare organisation, the Ancient Order of Foresters; in 1900, he subscribed to the Mayor of Wellington's Patriotic Fund in support of the Boer War.[14]

Marriage also generated a much more pressing challenge than the arcane definition of personal identity. The couple produced a large family – eventually there were eleven children – and, to secure their future, Ericson "considered it his duty to obtain a position ashore". Joining the lighthouse service was perhaps not the most obvious way of providing stability for his brood: employees were moved from place to place at intervals of about three years, while many of the locations were remote, virtually hardship postings.[15] In 1901, seniority took Ericson to a more attractive place, Cape Egmont in Taranaki, where the couple became involved in community activities: during a friendly send-off, local residents presented him with a marble clock when he was posted to Timaru three years later.[16] Ericson was committed to securing the education of his children, and remote postings meant that the couple were obliged to take charge of their schooling. "To aid this he felt he must keep ahead of them with his own education." He was certainly well informed, and the interview reflected "his cosmopolitan and broad outlook on life".[17] However, his lengthy periods of isolation raise the question: how up-to-date was his information on Sweden-Norway relations? At Timaru, where the lighthouse was virtually suburban, he had evidently chatted with the crew of a Norwegian vessel in port but, for much of the two previous decades, he could have had little or no direct contact with passing mariners. New Zealand's Scandinavian community was too small and too scattered to support an exile ethnic newspaper that might have kept them in touch with affairs back home.[18] J.F. Ericson's interview with the Timaru Herald should thus be read as an insight into the views of an intelligent person who had left his homeland forty years before but who retained firm opinions filtered through a lens of mild Swedish prejudice. Yet, even when allowance is made for its limitations, his point of view has a value of its own. Although the achievement of Norwegian independence was a very rare example of the peaceable birth of a European State, there is perhaps relatively little material on the events of 1905 available in English. As the offering of somebody who was neither diplomat, nor journalist, nor scholar, J.F. Ericson's interview contributes an unusual perspective and a small touch of colour to a half-forgotten episode.


Bad Neighbours. Feeling between Norway and Sweden. A Scandinavian's Explanation
[Timaru Herald, 17 August 1905: punctuation slightly emended]

A cablegram published yesterday stated that 80 per cent of the electors in Norway had voted in a referendum as to whether the union with Sweden should be broken off, and that only 1 in every 2000 had voted against separation. Feeling in Norway is therefore practically unanimous in favour of separation. Enquiries as to the reason of this antipathy towards Sweden were made by a member of the Herald staff from the lighthouse keeper at Jack's Point, Mr Ericson, who is a native of Sweden, and was born near the boundary of Norway. In his youth, therefore, and in his subsequent career as a seaman, especially in the Baltic, Mr Ericson had plenty of opportunity to observe the antagonism between the two people. The trouble, he says, was caused about a century ago through Norway being forced into the union against her will, and she has never forgotten nor forgiven it.[19] Briefly the story is something like this: Eric XIII who was King of Sweden at the beginning of last century, was a childless monarch, and in 1810, it became necessary to appoint a regent. The choice fell upon Marshal Bernadotte[20] one of the great Napoleon's most able officers. It was also decided to make Bernadotte heir to the throne, because there were so many Swedish aspirants that the people feared there would be great disturbances if one of them was selected. Hence they took the outsider, Bernadotte, who proved himself a splendid king, and the present dynasty was founded by him.

Now about this time, Sweden was at war with Russia over the possession of Finland, which belonged to Sweden. As a matter of history, Sweden was never beaten in battle by Russia, but after every battle, Russia had still such an excess of numbers over her rival, that Sweden thought it as well to stop fighting, and let Russia have Finland on condition that Finland was allowed to remain practically independent with only a Russian Governor, much in the same way as New Zealand is a dependency of England.[21] Still Sweden would have liked to retain Finland, and an opportunity to do so offered when Napoleon volunteered assistance to recapture the lost province.

Napoleon made this offer probably with the object of undermining Bernadotte's influence. He had consented to the elevation of his general to the Swedish throne, but all the same he did not like the arrangement, because Bernadotte knew more about his aims and tactics than perhaps any other man living and he foresaw danger should Bernadotte turn against him. Napoleon's offer to help Sweden to retake Finland from Russia would have been gladly accepted had not Bernadotte known that Napoleon could not be trusted. He therefore advised Sweden rather to accept Russia's offer to get Norway ceded to Sweden if he joined in the coalition which was then being formed against Napoleon. A treaty was then signed with England, Russia, and Prussia, and Bernadotte landed in Germany with 30,000 Swedes and took command of what was called the northern division of the combined army. Napoleon was twice defeated by the northern army, and at last by the combined forces at Leipzig[22] where his power in Europe was effectually broken. Napoleon's ally, Denmark, had in the meantime taken Lubeck and Bernadotte attacked the Danes there, drove them out, and forced them to sign a treaty of peace and to cede Norway to Sweden.

Norway had been under Danish sovereignty for nearly 400 years, and they did not like being handed over in that manner without having been consulted about it at all, so they set up a government of then own, and made Prince Fredrick of Denmark their king. The united or allied Powers refused to acknowledge this arrangement, but Norway rushed to arms and defied them. Bernadotte and his Swedes returned home in 1814, and immediately invaded Norway, and the Norwegians were driven back on their capital, Christiania.[23] A convention was then agreed on, and held in August 1814, when the selected King of Norway gave up his crown to the Swedish King. Bernadotte realised that although the Norwegians were defeated they were not conquered, and therefore did all he could to make the union between the two kingdoms fair and equal on both sides. The Norwegian constitution was agreed to, and home rule in every sense of the word was granted.

Each country was to have its own Parliament independent of each other in all respects except in foreign policy and a few minor questions, which had to be agreed to by both Parliaments, the King being the arbitrator on any questions where both countries were interested. Several such questions have cropped up from time to time, and have been got over amicably, usually in favour of Norway, but the question of an independent foreign policy was the rock of destruction.[24] The Norwegians held, which was the truth, that their shipping and foreign trade was far greater than that of Sweden; hence their demand. The Swedes said that it would endanger the peace of the United Kingdoms[25] as each country could create foreign complications for which both would be responsible. Hence the King had to put his veto on the Norwegians' demands.[26]

After the way in which the Norwegians were treated, when it would have been easy for Bernadotte to have incorporated their kingdom into that of Sweden[,][27] one would have thought that they would have settled down, contented and accepted the friendship so freely offered them by the Swedes, but on the contrary they hated Sweden, her King and everything Swedish, and from the first did everything by legislation and otherwise to break the bonds of the union.[28] Of course they had some reason for this, on account of the union being forced on them, but the result of the union under the House of Bernadotte has been, that both kingdoms have enjoyed unbroken peace for nearly 100 years, their resources have been developed,[29] and education advanced until other nations have copied their system, and many world-known[30] men in literature, science, art, and discoveries have been produced by Scandinavia. It is well known by maritime nations, especially in England and America, that no better seamen exist. Many are employed in the American navy as well as in the mercantile service, and as settlers in the United States, they have always been and encouraged. It is to be regretted that two so closely related people could not agree amongst themselves.

Mr Ericson, in his seafaring days, saw many instances of the hostility between the Norwegians and the Swedes.[31] Both were largely engaged in the timber trade in the Baltic, and many a fight occurred between crews of Norwegian and Swedish ships lying in the same port. "You had only to use the phrase, 'Swedish subjects'," he says, "and war would be declared at once. And such wars! Why a Donnybrook[32] would be fun in comparison with them. I remember a funny affair on one occasion, a dance house built on a cliff close to the harbour being the battleground. A couple of Norwegian crews had been badly worsted, and they betook themselves on board their ships, moored close by, and got a rope ashore and around the house unperceived. They then took the other end to their capstan, and hove away, and had not the creaking of the house alarmed the dancers, and an axe been found handy to cut the rope[,] the whole institution, dancers and all would have been tumbled into the harbour. So much for brotherly love."

The Norwegians, he continued, were a very proud, and independent people. They inhabit a country in which existence is aIways a struggle, and there is much the same difference between them and the Swedes as there is between the Highlanders and the Lowlanders of Scotland. One could see the results in their shipping. It was a very common thing for Norwegians to buy up old ships which everyone else thought were past service, and run them for years, and make money out of them. To show the character of these vessels, they frequently had windmills rigged on them to keep the pumps going continually, so that it became a by-word that these pumping windmills on a ship were the "Norwegian coat-of-arms."[33]

Moreover, they had the principle of co-operation developed to its fullest extent. When a ship was bought or built, it was the usual thing for every man in the crew, from the cook to the captain, to own a share in her. Owing to their capacity as seamen, and their carefulness in money matters, their shipping trade has gone ahead wonderfully, and the Norwegian flag now flies over some very fine ships which, in fact, are too fine to be accommodated in the ports where they are owned. The Karmo, for instance, now lying at the Moody wharf, is too big to go into Skudenaes, her port of registry.[34] As is often the case with people reared in a hard country, the spirit of jealous independence and pride is pretty strong in the Norwegians. This was shown in the case of the Arctic expedition made by Dr Nansen in the Fram. Every man aboard was Norwegian, whereas the Viga [Vega] expedition, fitted out in Finland by a Swede, had Danes and Norwegians and other nationalities as well as Swedes.[35]

"The Norwegians," added Mr Ericson, "claim the honour – a very doubtful honour – of being descendants of the ancient Vikings or sea rovers who committed so many depredations on the coasts of England, France, and the Mediterranean in the olden times, but I am afraid these robbers had their first origin in the Baltic. At least, history gives accounts of their doings there as early as 1000 years before Christ; but they were confined to that sea by ice for about six months in the year. As soon as they found out that the fiords on the west coast of Norway were iceless all the year round, they found these more convenient for bases, from which they could with ease carry on their depredations. The Norwegians also claim the honour with good reason, of being the first discoverers of the New World."[36]

"The present King Oscar II is the fourth king of the Bernadotte family, and I am safe in stating that they have done all they could for the happiness of their subjects. They have all been well beloved by all classes and even the Norwegians must acknowledge these facts. With regard to the breaking up of the union, I don't think there are many Swedes that would object to it at all. Indeed, I believe they will be better friends and more protection to each other if they are separated."[37]

John Frederick Ericson with his wife Charlotte and one of their eleven children. The photograph, widely published in the New Zealand press, was taken in 1901 when he was principal keeper of the Dog Island lighthouse in Foveaux Strait. It is a typical "early settler" portrayal. 

ENDNOTES From my study in County Waterford, Ireland, I pay tribute to the wealth of electronic resources that make the New Zealand past so accessible to students overseas. Particular use has been made here of the National Library of New Zealand's PapersPast online newspaper archive (https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers). Mention should also be made of Te Ara: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand (which includes the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography) (https://teara.govt.nz/en) and Victoria University's New Zealand Electronic Text Collection (https://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/). In addition, PapersPast gives access to New Zealand's extensive parliamentary papers (the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives), as well as to magazines and books. Detailed census reports are available for 1871-1916 via https://stats.govt.nz/census/previous-censuses/historical-census-collection/. See also https://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3/316-australian-new-zealand-and-canadian-newspapers-as-resources-for-research-in-modern-british-history. There must be many research projects in modern British, Irish and North American history that could benefit from some comparative examination of New Zealand coverage, and the point almost certainly applies to the histories of other countries too. In navigating these resources, and much more, I owe thanks to Professor Jim McAloon of Victoria University, Wellington. 

[1] Norwegian publicists claimed that the effective turnout was 93 percent, since 35,000 sailors were overseas and unable to take part. Participation was 50 percent higher than at the 1903 Storting election. There were 3,519 blank and invalid ballot papers, which meant that a shade over 1 percent of the electorate failed to endorse independence. Universal adult male suffrage had been introduced in 1897. Shortly after the plebiscite, its result was endorsed by a petition signed by around a quarter of a million Norwegian women. This impressive gesture, mentioned in modern accounts, does not seem to have been reported in the international press at the time. Expressions of such apparently impressive unanimity have often been reported by totalitarian regimes, but in free societies perhaps the closest approach to the Norway result was achieved in Guinea, where in 1958 95.22 percent of the electorate voted for independence from France. The French President, Charles de Gaulle, promptly withdrew from the country in a huff. Curiously, for all its emphatic outcome, arguably the plebiscite settled nothing. Norwegian leaders had framed the question as an endorsement of an outcome that they asserted had already taken place, through the refusal of King Oscar II to assent to legislation passed by the Storting. Swedish politicians, who had insisted on a public vote in the sister kingdom, treated the outcome as a mandate for negotiations. See the statement by the explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who was acting as Norway's unofficial ambassador in Britain, in The Times, 16 August 1905, and the account by Fatimah Hameed (2013): https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/norwegian-workers-women-campaign-independence-sweden-1905

[2] K. Jackson and A. McRobie, Historical Dictionary of New Zealand (2nd ed., Lanham, Md, 2005), 207.

[3] The dependence of the New Zealand press upon telegraph reports for overseas news coverage is discussed by S.J. Potter, News and the British World … (Oxford, 2003), esp. 31-3 for the origins of the UPA in 1878-9.

[4] Wellington Evening Post, 15 August 1905, report dated Christiania, 14 August.

[5] Potter, News and the British World, 33, 145.

[6] R. Arnold, New Zealand's Burning … (Wellington, 1994), 233-4, via the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection: https://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-ArnNewZ.html. Newspaper analysis based on London publications such as the Daily Chronicle or the National Review was attempted, e.g., by the Wanganui Chronicle, 15 August, Greymouth Evening Star, 17 August, Auckland Star, Feilding Chronicle, North Otago Times (Oamaru), 19 August and Thames Star, 14 September 1905, all consulted via the National Library of New Zealand's PapersPast online press archive (https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers).

[7] For Timaru and its lighthouse, The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Christchurch, 1903), 968 (via https://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc03Cycl-t1-body1-d7-d1-d1.html); https://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/public/history/lighthouses/Tuhawaiki-Point/default.asp#history. For Timaru newspapers, G.H. Scholefield, Newspapers in New Zealand (Wellington, 1958), 233-8, updated by:

[8] Ericson's life story is drawn from obituary notices in Timaru Herald, 9, 11 August 1932.

[9] Gothenburg is about 75 miles (120 kms) from the Norwegian border, but there are several small coastal communities in between which might have been the location of Ericson's birth.

[10] T. Brooking, Richard Seddon: King of God's Own... (Auckland, 2014). Ericson's obituary in Timaru Herald, 11 August 1932, stated that the future Premier was "very seldom spoken of as Mr Seddon, but as 'Dick the Packer'", a comment apparently derived from Ericson himself. There is a reference from 1866 to an unidentified "Dick the Packer" who was employed by a local merchant to deliver goods to isolated mining communities along the Grey River. Seddon arrived in New Zealand that year, but did not immediately become a store-keeper. As Premier, Seddon's appointments to the Legislative Council, the colony's weak upper house, were not intended to strengthen its independence, but the two notable attempts at "packing" were made shortly before he became Premier, the most notorious by a political opponent. Had the nickname referred to his abuse of Legislative Council appointments, it would presumably have been in wider use. It is therefore possible that Ericson had preserved an early nickname derived from Seddon's activities as a store keeper: Grey River Argus, 6 November 1866. I am grateful to Professor Tom Brooking and to Professor Jim McAloon for comments on Seddon.

[11] "Today the Scandinavians are submerged and assimilated", wrote A.H. McLintock in 1966. "They look like the English and Scots; they have married them." 'Scandinavians', from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/1966/national-groups/page-8.

[12] For detailed accounts of the Wairau clash, J. McAloon, Nelson: a Regional History (Nelson, 1997), 29-35; P. Temple, A Sort of Conscience… (Auckland 2002), 311-22. In older histories, the clash was referred to as the Wairau Massacre. John Kidson escaped the slaughter by hiding in the bush: Nelson Examiner, 5 August 1843.

[13] J. Belich, Making Peoples… (Auckland, 1996), 317; https://www3.stats.govt.nz/historic_publications/1901-census/1901-results-census/1901-results-census.html#d50e148579.  In 1901, fewer than 5,000 New Zealanders had been born in Scandinavia. 86.37% of the 1548 Swedes were male, compared with 72.8% of the 1,279 Norwegians and 65.3% of the 2,120 Danes. The differences almost certainly reflect the impact of assisted migration schemes. A critic in 1872 argued that "the mixed emigration of Norwegians and Danes is a mistake, in consequence of the existence of a very bitter national feeling of animosity between them, which prevents their co-operating in anything". The Norwegians were generally "cheerful and contented" while the Danes were "shiftless, thriftless, unable to work with the axe, and uneager to learn". The newcomers had been set to clear thick forest in the Seventy Mile Bush: Norwegians were more familiar with trees. Evening Star (Dunedin), 12 September 1872. There was no comparable Swedish settlement.

[14] Nelson Evening Mail, 15 April 1885; New Zealand Times, 17 February 1900.

[15] Ericson and his family endured postings to Farewell Spit, at the end of a 20-km sand bar at the far north of the South Island, noted for its Sahara-like sandstorms, at the notoriously lonely Puysegur Point in Fiordland, as well as at Waipapa Point and on Dog Island on the stormy Foveaux Strait, where the next landfall to the south is Antarctica.

[16] Evening Post (Wellington), 13 February 1901; Taranaki Herald, 9 March, 6 May 1904. Ericson retired in 1909 and settled in Timaru.

[17] Timaru Herald, 9 August 1932.

[18] Four publications existed briefly in the 1870s: Carl Walrond, 'Scandinavians - Culture', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/scandinavians/page-3.  

[19] Ericson's potted history of the origins of the Sweden-Norway union is confirmed by T.K. Derry in New Cambridge Modern History, ix... (Cambridge, 1965), 480-94.

[20] The text has "Bendadotte" here, but is given correctly as "Bernadotte" further down. Bernadotte did not accede to the joint throne until 1818 (as Karl XIV Johan), and Ericson's use of his surname (while praising him as a monarch) perhaps reflected a general Swedish attitude. He ruled until his death in 1844, but never learned to speak either Swedish or Norwegian.

[21] The parallel between the status of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire and New Zealand's self-governing status was hardly close. Ericson seemed unaware that the Tsarist regime was pursuing policies of "Russification": the Russian governor-general associated with the project had been assassinated the previous year. 

[22] "Liepzig" in the text: the reporter evidently knew no German.

[23] Christiania (Kristiania from 1877) was the 19th-century name for Oslo, which was adopted in 1925.

[24] For much of the 19th century, foreign policy was not a political issue, partly because Scandinavian diplomacy was essentially a defensive attempt to survive within the framework of Great Power rivalry, but mainly because it was essentially the dynastic prerogative of the king. Hence it did not matter that the foreign minister was always a Swede, since he simply carried out the sovereign's instructions. Foreign policy was formally ratified by a Ministerial Council. Originally this comprised the king and two Swedish ministers. From 1835, a Norwegian minister was also admitted, but only to discuss matters affecting his own country. The advance of democracy and parliamentary control blew the issue open in 1885, when Sweden adopted a constitutional amendment that formally recognised the foreign minister's responsibility for external relations, and enlarged the Ministerial Council to include three members of the Swedish ministry. The Swedes offered to admit three Norwegian politicians, but only on condition that the post of foreign minister should always be held by a Swede. It was impossible for Norwegian pride formally to accept this subordination, yet it was equally impractical for a government based in Stockholm to function except through Swedish personnel. From 1892, a new external relations issue came to the fore: Norway had the third largest merchant fleet in the world, and Norwegians demanded an independent consular service to support its sailors around the world. It is hard not to conclude that the issue could have been resolved by compromise: a conciliatory Swedish foreign minister appointed large numbers of Norwegians to represent the United Kingdoms jointly, and by 1903 a negotiated settlement seemed possible. Unfortunately, attempts to resolve details fuelled a renewed clash, and it was the consular question that precipitated the rupture of 1905. Other problems coloured the attitude of the two political elites, such as Swedish impatience at what they saw as Norwegian failure to face up to the challenges of defence in an increasingly divided Europe: it was not entirely coincidental that separation occurred in the immediate aftermath of Russia's humiliation in the war against Japan, which prevented the Tsar from meddling and possibly demanding territorial concessions in northern Norway, where British diplomats had long feared that Russia coveted an ice-free port. Perhaps the basic Sweden-Norway problem lay in their population ratio: 5 million Swedes were too numerous to concede equal status to 2 million Norwegians, but hardly strong enough to contemplate forcing their awkward neighbours into subordination. T.K. Derry, A History of Modern Norway 1814-1972 (Oxford, 1973), 70, 116, 140-2, 147-9, 158-60. The interplay between nationalisms and democracy is subtly reviewed in R. Berg, "Norway's Foreign Politics during the Union with Sweden, 1814-1905: a Reconsideration", Diplomacy & Statecraft, xxxi (2020),1-21.

[25] The Sweden-Norway union was referred to as the United Kingdoms (plural), in distinction to the fusion of England and Wales with Scotland, and Ireland, which used the singular form.

[26] On 27 May 1905, Oscar II refused to consent to legislation passed by the Storting to establish an independent consular service. On 7 June, the Norwegian cabinet announced that it was, in effect, on strike. By careful pre-arrangement, the Storting declared that the king's action had dissolved the union with Sweden, and requested the ministry to resume office as the government of an independent  country. The coup was accompanied by a conciliatory address to the king, pledging friendship to Sweden, and offering to accept a prince of the House of Bernadotte as king of Norway, provided the candidate renounced all claim to the Swedish throne. Oscar II, who was 76 and in poor health, replied indirectly with a manifesto to the people of Sweden which stated: "The revolution which the State Council and the Storthing of Norway have brought about against their King and their brother-people by breaking the sacred laws to which they took an oath has inflicted deep, yes, incurable wounds on my heart." A Bernadotte king for Norway was out of the question. Moreover, in a series of interventions that were kept secret at the time, Britain's king Edward VII energetically campaigned to make Prince Charles of Denmark the new king of Norway. The Tsar objected that the Danish prince was "an insignificant and indolent man" but he had the advantage of being Edward VII's son-in-law. The king's official biographer, Sir Sidney Lee, cautiously observed that Edward VII's activities "appeared to bring him into some conflict with the strict neutrality from which his government did not swerve". The alarm felt by the crowned heads of Europe at the possibility of a Norwegian republic now seems comical. Derry, A History of Modern Norway, 160-4; New Zealand Herald, 26 August 1905; S; Lee, King Edward VII: a Biography (2 vols, London, 1927), ii, 315-26.

[27] The interview here ranges back to the period in and after 1814. Ericson's bias overestimated the possibility that Bernadotte might have absorbed Norway into Sweden. More intriguing might-have-beens could be constructed around his demand in 1813 for the cession by Denmark of the diocese of Trondheim, which covered the whole of central and northern Norway. While geography and language would have rendered very difficult the effective assimilation of the region by Sweden, the division of Norway might well have reinforced the strong (and essentially deferential) cultural ties between the southern half of the country and Denmark. It is striking to note that, as late as 1869, Grieg's Piano Concerto – acknowledged as the epitome of Norwegian music, the fiords expressed in chords – received its first performance in Copenhagen. New Cambridge Modern History, ix, 490.  For Danish cultural influence in mid-century Norway, Derry, A History of Modern Norway, 76-9.

[28] Ericson exaggerated here. The mid-19th century period, when he was growing up in Sweden, was generally a time of political harmony. The 1848 revolutions generated a low-key feeling in favour of "Scandinavianism", and in 1855 Britain and France demonstrated the utility of the Union by guaranteeing the integrity of the United Kingdoms at the time of the Crimean War. (The carrot of renewing that guarantee for the separated States gave the Powers some leverage in 1905.) A phase of bad feeling in 1859-60 was largely provoked by Swedish miscalculation. In 1864, many Norwegians joined in celebrations of the half-century of Union, despite its having been forced upon them in 1814. Derry, A History of Modern Norway, 77-93.

[29] This point was explicitly acknowledged in the Storting's address to Oscar II of 7 June 1905. Derry, A History of Modern Norway, 164.

[30] "[W]orld-known" was probably Ericson's phrase: his English seems to have been excellent.

[31] Ericson here became anecdotal and revealing. There might seem to be some mystery about the poor relations between Norwegians and Swedes, if only because – with the exception of agricultural districts adjoining the border to the east and south-east of Oslo – there was hardly any contact between the two peoples.  Swedish labour played a disproportionate part in the construction of the Norwegian railway system, but (for obvious reasons) railways came relatively late (in the 1860s and 1870s), and links to Sweden were not a priority in either country. Derry, A History of Modern Norway, 60, 95, 128, 158. Ericson's emphasis on poor relations between Norwegian and Swedish sailors to some extent fills an explanatory gap, and also helps us to understand why the consular issue became the touchstone of Norwegian national aspirations. It also suggests that the 35,000 merchant sailors who were overseas and hence unable to vote in 1905 would have been strongly for separation.  

[32] The report has "Donnibrook". The allusion was to a traditional Irish faction fight.

[33] The Suva (Fiji) correspondent of the Otago Witness (Dunedin) reported (23 March 1893): "The sailing vessels visiting this port, as well as Levuka, are mostly Norwegian craft, as they appear to be able to accept rates of freight which are impossible to British-owned vessels. One now in harbour, the barque Poseidon, is, like many other Norwegian ships, provided with a windmill for working the pumps in case the vessel should make more water than can be easily dealt with in the usual way. All that can be observed is a stout upright spar with some gearing at the top, to which are attached iron vanes when it is, required to make use of this excellent contrivance, and they say that if the ship is hauled on the wind a three-knot breeze will give force enough to work the pumps. This is a wrinkle [sic] which some of our own shipbuilders might copy with advantage." A windmill can be seen on the sailing ship Chance, aground at Bluff in the far south of New Zealand's South Island, in 1902, although there is no indication that the vessel was Norwegian-registered: https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22748045.

[34]  The Karmo was a 1,651 ton, 3-masted iron sailing ship, built at Glasgow in 1885 as the Circe. The ship was scuttled after a fire in 1901, then salvaged and refloated. The name was changed in 1903 when the vessel was purchased by a Norwegian firm, O. G. Gjessen.  Skudenaes refers to Skudenes or Skudeneshavn, a small port in south-western Norway. Moody (or Moody's) Wharf, Timaru's main landing place, was built c. 1886 and named after a local businessman, William Moody.

[35] The Vega expedition (1878-80) was the first successful transit of the North-East passage, finding sufficient open water to sail from Scandinavia to the Bering Strait in the summers of 1878-9. It was led by Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, a member of Finland's Swedish minority, who had fled from Russian rule in 1857. The crew included several nationalities, with another member of Finland's Swedish minority acting as Russian interpreter. Fridtjof Nansen's Fram expedition of 1893-6 aimed to lock the reinforced ship into the Arctic ice at a point where currents were calculated to carry it to North Pole. In line with his insistence, 11 of Nansen's 12-man crew were Norwegians; the 12th successfully disguised his Swedish identity. It is not clear whether Ericson was making a comparison or simply engaging in an old sailor's admiring reminiscences of great maritime feats: the Vega expedition achieved its aims; the Fram was a heroic failure. However, in human terms, Nansen's project was the more impressive, since it planned for up to 5 years of isolation stuck in polar ice, whereas the crew of the Vega had some potential for contact with the outside world as they traversed the northern coast of Siberia. (They also enjoyed a world cruise, via Suez, on their way home.) Nansen became a Norwegian super-hero, and his adherence to the independence movement in 1905 was one of the clear signs that the union with Sweden was over. The story of the Fram aroused admiration beyond Norway: I recall reading about it in some boys' own annual in England during the early 1950s.

[36] "Sea rovers" is given as one word. It is hardly necessary to point out that Ericson's account of Viking history is of value in showing how it was interpreted in the 19th century as a means of distinguishing Norwegian and Swedish identities. Swedish Vikings established Kiev (Kyiv) and penetrated as far as Constantinople. Most scholars trace the word Rús, the core of modern Russia, to a Finnish word for Swedish boat people: e.g. G. Jones, History of the Vikings (rev. ed., Oxford, 1984, cf. 1st ed., 1968), 246-7n. However, appeals to Viking ancestry were endemic in the self-definition of Norwegian identity, and Ericson can hardly be blamed for taking them at face value. In an influential work of 1839, the historian J.R. Keyser propounded the thesis that Norwegians were more purely "Nordic" than Swedes or Danes. This view was endorsed by P.A Munch in an 8-volume history of Norway published between 1851 and 1863, although the narrative did not progress beyond 1397. Derry, A History of Modern Norway, 75-6.

[37] Here we need to remember that Ericson had not lived in Sweden for over forty years, and could only guess at the reactions of ordinary Swedes to the dissolution of the Union. The Swedish political elite accepted the inevitability of the break-up, but with bad grace, and the two countries mobilised for possible conflict during the tense negotiations of September 1905: Derry, A History of Modern Norway, 167-8. Sir Cecil Spring Rice, appointed as British ambassador to Stockholm in 1908, encountered considerable resentment in official circles about the events of 1905. "They bitterly repent not having fought the Norwegians and would be only too glad for an opportunity of having a go at them. ... The army would much like to go for Norway, and a war is by means out of the question."   135, 137 (private letters – and indiscreet ones too – of 31 March and 8 April 1909), S. Gwynn, ed., The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring Rice: a Record (2 vols, London, 1929), ii, 135, 137. In comparison with Norway, Sweden was a relatively hierarchical society and – again – it is difficult to know how far elite resentment was shared by the general population.

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