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NORWAY has been visited and described by Von Buch, Dr. Clarke, and other travellers of science and talent; but these enlightened observers have naturally directed their attention to the geology, botany, and sublime natural scenery which the country presents in the most interesting forms, and have bestowed little of it on the social condition and state of the Norwegian people. They are, however, the most interesting and singular group of people in Europe. They live under ancient laws and social arrangements totally different in principle from those which regulate society and property in the feudally constituted countries; and among them, perhaps, may be traced the germ of all the free institutions which distinguish the British constitution at the present day. They present to the political philosopher the singular spectacle of a nation emerging suddenly from under the hand of an uncontrolled and absolute sovereign power, with their civil liberties and social arrangements so well adapted to their condition, and so well secured by their ancient laws, that the transition from despotism to democracy was unmarked by any convulsion, or revolutionary
movement, or important change in the state of society and property. The remarkable firmness, moderation, and judgment with which this people have exercised the legislative power, vested by their constitution entirely in their representatives, place them, in the moral estimate of European nations, in a much higher rank than those who have received a much greater share of the public attention in this country.
Norway has a claim morally and politically upon the British nation, which renders her social condition and her present constitution of peculiar interest. In 1813, our government was party to a treaty with Sweden,—the foulest blot, perhaps, in British history, -by which we agreed, in consideration of Sweden joining the Allied Powers against Buonaparte, to give Sweden the kingdom of Norway, of which neither of the contracting parties had at that moment possession, even as military occupants of the territory, and far less any shadow of rightful claim to it. It would be a case in point, as far as regards principle, if Russia and Denmark were to conclude a treaty for giving to Russia the kingdom of Ireland. Providence sometimes will not allow our measures to be so flagitious as we design them. The Norwegians declared themselves an independent nation upon the Danish monarch renouncing the sovereignty of Norway, framed a constitution, and proclaimed the son of their former sovereign king. The
Danish prince abdicated his newly acquired crown rather than engage in so unequal a contest with Sweden and England; and these two contracting powers redeemed in so far the character of their private nefarious treaty, that the Norwegian nation was not, as in the case of Poland, handed over like a herd of black cattle from one potentate to another, but their distinct national existence was acknowledged, their new constitution, as established on the 17th of May, 1814, was accepted, and solemnly sworn to by the proposed monarch, the late king of Sweden, on the 4th of November; and on these conditions only, viz. the distinct existence as a nation of the kingdom of Norway, and the preservation of its constitution as sworn to, were the two crowns of Norway and Sweden united-under the guarantee of this country as one of the Allied Powers, to support each party, the Kings of Sweden and the Norwegian nation, in their just rights.* Great Britain is therefore morally and in honour bound to preserve the
*The treaty of Kiel, if it had even been founded on any just or admitted principle of the law of nations, was renounced by this acceptance as a ground of right to the sovereignty of the Norwegian nation. At the present day, when the excitement and occasion which gave rise to that nefarious treaty are past, and its object has been accomplished upon just principles, no Swedish cabinet could, in the face of civilized and moral nations, have the effrontery to claim rights over the Norwegian people as emanating from a treaty so repugnant to all principle. Norway has her guarantee in the moral feeling of mankind.
national independence of Norway, and her singularly liberal and well-constructed constitution. Norway never can become a province of Sweden, nor be deprived of her present constitution, while there exists in the British cabinet honour or respect for its own guarantee; and abhorrence in the nation of a participation in a measure which would have been in principle and in effect exactly similar to the partition of Poland, but for the redeeming circumstances of our recognising and guaranteeing the independent national existence and free constitution of Norway.
The writer of the following observations aims at a higher object than the amusement or instruction of those who may read them. He would draw the attention of this country, if he had the ability to do so, to the important duty which, by the transactions of 1813 and 1814, we are morally bound as a nation to perform to this handful of free and happy people living under a liberal constitution, flourishing under their own legislation, and making no demands, asking no favours, from the other governments of Europe, unless that Great Britain should watch over the guarantee she has given for their independent existence and the enjoyment of their constitution of the 17th of May, 1814.
August 12, 1836.