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The Attitude of the United States Toward Norway in the Crisis of 1905
By H. Fred Swansen (Volume IV: Page 43)

When the dual monarchy of Norway and Sweden was established in 1815, an arrangement which was forced upon Norway by the powers of Europe, it was established on the understanding that the constitution of Norway of 1814, with slight modification on account of the union, should still be the fundamental law of that realm. In the Rigsakt, the legal instrument of union between the two countries, Sweden recognized Norway as "a free, independent, indivisible, and inalienable kingdom, united with Sweden under one King." {2} This document stipulated the conditions under which the union should operate; but like most documents of that kind, it omitted a clear and adequate exposition of some important matters. It failed, for example, to set down regulations for the conduct of foreign affairs and this, in the course of time, led to misunderstanding and trouble. This matter, or, more correctly speaking, the question of the establishment of a separate Norwegian consular service, had repeatedly ruffled the waters of diplomacy in the period after 1885 and culminated in the rupture of 1905. Attempts had been made through special committees to effect an understanding between the two nations, but in vain. At length, on June 7, 1905, the Norwegian Storthing unanimously declared the union with Sweden dissolved and, at the same time, invested the cabinet of Norway with regent authority to insure the conduct of government during the crisis. This action was referred to the people through a special referendum on August 13 of that summer and was approved by the significant vote of 368,384 to 184. {3} These facts give some idea as to the status of Norway in the peculiar dual monarchy and, in addition, set forth some of the striking circumstances which arose in connection with the peaceful revolution of 1905.

With the separation from Sweden accomplished, the Norwegian Foreign Office naturally hoped to secure the early recognition of Norway as a separate and independent nation, inasmuch as such action would materially strengthen its cause. The question then arose as to how this might be achieved. On June 16 a press dispatch announced that Mr. Løvland, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, planned to send envoys within a few weeks to the great powers to seek recognition.

A few weeks later Mr. J. Irgens, who had served as secretary of the Norwegian-Swedish Commission that dealt with the consular question, and Mr. Chr. Hauge, secretary of the Swedish-Norwegian legation at Washington until his resignation in June, 1905, were in the United States promoting the interests of Norway. During the first part of July these gentlemen met Mr. F. H. Gade, mayor of Lake Forest, Illinois, and an ardent supporter of the cause of Norway, at New York and, with him, consulted John Bassett Moore and the Honorable John W. Foster. In a press statement on July 18, 1905, Mr. Gade said, "Recognition will be asked from the United States first because of the stand which this nation has already taken in international questions of this kind, and also because of the present prestige of the United States in international diplomatic circles. We were assured by authorities on international law with whom we consulted in the East and have not the slightest doubt ourselves of our right to recognition." {4} In the last sentence Mr. Gade undoubtedly refers to his consultation with Messrs. Moore and Foster. Mr. Foster had served as secretary of state under President Benjamin Harrison and Mr. Moore had won distinction through his work in international law; consequently the assurances of these prominent and able Americans meant much to the Norwegians.

In consequence of the meeting mentioned above, an informal document was drawn up for presentation to the United States Department of State as a "feeler" for an official communication which might follow. Under date of July 12, 1905, Mr. Hauge sent this to the Secretary of State, with "certain historical sketches dealing with the union period in question." {5} He reviewed briefly the progress of events in Norway after May 26, 1905, and in general presented the cause of the Norwegians. He then inquired whether the United States Government would officially receive diplomatic envoys and recognize consuls appointed by the Norwegian authorities. In a postscript Mr. Hauge stated that his letter was not intended as an exhaustive argument for recognition since that would be forthcoming later.

A few days later excitement ran high in the Scandinavian capitals over a telegram to Christiania to the effect that the Chicago Daily News on July 18 had published a statement that Norway had private agents in the United States who were sounding American opinion and trying to secure the speedy recognition of independence. {6} The Norwegian Department of Foreign Affairs promptly announced that Messrs. Hauge and Irgens were in the United States as private persons and had no official standing of any kind with the Norwegian Government. This incident is a fair indication of the eagerness of each group to frustrate any movement that might cause embarrassment or bring difficulty to its cause. The stir, however, did not dampen the spirit of Mr. Hauge.

About a month later, on August 18 to be exact, Mr. Hauge again wrote to Secretary of State Elihu Root. On this occasion he stated that the new government in Norway had been in successful operation for three months and that the case was "so clear that recognition of the Norwegian Government by the Government of the United States might be expected." {7} He suggested recognition on the grounds that it would expedite the settlement of the questions pending between Norway and Sweden. To strengthen his case he cited the liberal policy of the United States in promptly recognizing the new government of France in 1870 and also that of Brazil in 1889. From the above facts it is plainly evident that Norway in an unofficial way sought to obtain the recognition of her complete independence by the United States. If the American administration had given open encouragement to these unofficial advances, it is very probable that Norway would have made an official appeal.

The appeal for recognition was not confined to the representatives from far-away Norway, but was made by Americans of Norwegian birth or extraction. The New York Daily Tribune for June 9, 1905, stated that a petition addressed to President Roosevelt and urging the recognition of Norway as a free and independent nation had been circulated in Boston and that a group of citizens there had urged Norwegian-born citizens in other sections of the United States to do the same. The appeal was made directly to the President for the reason that the determination of the question would eventually rest with him. A monster petition, bearing 20,000 signatures. was circulated in Chicago and sent to the President at Oyster Bay on June 30, 1905. {8} On June 14 Senator Dolliver of Iowa called on the President and presented a memorial adopted by the delegates to the Norwegian Music Festival, held at Fort Dodge, Iowa, a few days before. {9} This memorial urged recognition of the diplomatic and consular officers appointed by Norway. The President after this call gave much time to the question of the recognition of Norway; but, not being certain what action to take, decided to await developments. {10} On July 20 a news dispatch from Washington announced that petitions containing thousands of names of Americans of Norwegian birth or descent "have been received by the State Department during the past month and they are coming at the rate of hundreds each day." {11} During the latter part of August, residents of Bottineau County, North Dakota, drew up resolutions urging recognition and transmitted them to Senator Hansbrough of that state, who sent them on to the President at Oyster Bay. In a letter to President Roosevelt, Senator Hansbrough said that he was "sure that this liberty-loving nation of ours will approve the recognition [of the independence of Norway] whenever her properly-accredited representatives shall present themselves." {12} This is not a complete account of the activities in this country on behalf of the cause of Norway, but it is at least a fair index of the extent of the interest and enthusiasm.

In spite of all these appeals for action, the United States did not recognize Norway as an independent nation until Sweden had done so. This fact suggests the question as to what action Sweden took to forestall the recognition of Norway by the leading nations of the world.

On June 8, 1905, the day after the Norwegian Storthing had declared the union dissolved, the legation of Sweden and Norway at Washington sent a confidential communication to the State Department saying that His Majesty, King Oscar II, did not recognize the provisional government which had been established in Norway. {13} About three weeks later, June 29, Mr. C. H. Graves, American minister at Stockholm, transmitted to the State Department a copy of an instruction sent out by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden to all diplomatic representatives abroad. {14} This document presented a resume of the whole separation episode and in closing stated that Sweden stood by its decision not to recognize the illegal government established at Christiania by the vote of June 7. The Swedish diplomatic representatives were requested to bring the explanation and the intentions of His Majesty, on the matter of the crisis with Norway, to the attention of the governments to which they were accredited. The object of these communications obviously was to prevent the various governments from recognizing the independence of Norway.

Shortly after the press had announced that Norwegian agents had made a formal appeal to the United States for recognition, Mr. Stråle, the charge d'affaires of the Swedish-Norwegian legation at Washington in the absence of Minister Grip, telegraphed to the State Department and inquired what action the United States would take. {15} Mr. Stråle also indicated that he would like to know so that he might inform his own government before the United States should make its decision public. This telegram was dated July 27. On July 31, Mr. Adee, temporarily in charge of the State Department, replied that no formal request had been made, but that the President was keeping himself informed and reserved to himself liberty of action. Here again is evidence of the keen interest and close observation of the Swedish-Norwegian legation in the attitude and action of the United States.

Under the conditions that have been presented, the position of the United States was difficult, to say the least. The historic policy of the United States had been to recognize de facto governments as soon as they showed that they were in full control of the situation and rested their authority on the consent of the governed. The actual application of this principle is difficult, as it is hard to lay down any rule which is universally applicable to facts and situations which vary so considerably from time to time. Applying the rule to the case of Norway, the President might with good grace have recognized the complete independence of Norway, as the Norwegian government had been efficiently administered since June 7, and, in addition, had been almost unanimously supported by the people. On July 19, just after Mr. Hauge had made his appeal to the Secretary of State, Mr. Adee, Assistant Secretary of State, sent a memorandum to Mr. Root in which he raised the question whether a de facto government actually existed in Norway at that time. {16} "There is a council of ministers," he said, "constituting a provisional interregnum, but there is as yet no regency or Sovereign independently established." He then inquired whether the United States could "regularly recognize the provisional council as a de facto unopposed government" or whether it should "await the installation of a Norwegian regency or King?" This memorandum is especially interesting in that it shows how one of the high officials of the department applied the principle of recognition and also explains in part the delay of the United States in taking action. The Norwegian Storthing, as already mentioned, had invested the ministry with regent authority; but the American administration, if we may judge its attitude from this memorandum, apparently considered that inadequate. Mr. Adee probably felt that the ministry was only a temporary one which was serving pending the establishment of a permanent government.

On October 27, 1905, the Swedish Government formally recognized the independent status of Norway. Two days later Mr. Løvland cabled to Secretary Root and announced the desire of Norway to enter into official relations with the United States. On the next day, October 30, Mr. Root replied that he would be pleased to enter into official relations with Norway. Thus when the official request for recognition was made by Norway, the President responded very promptly.

Surprise and disappointment were expressed by a few Norwegians because the United States Government delayed in granting recognition. {17} Some thought that the case of Norway was so clear that recognition should have been granted very soon after the announcement of the dissolution of the union. Evidently this group did not realize that the problem of recognition is one of the most serious that confronts a government in its relations with other nations. As already indicated, President Roosevelt was given the Norwegian version of the episode and urged to grant recognition both by Norwegians and by Americans of Norwegian birth or extraction. The Swedish version of the matter was also presented to him, especially by the officers of the Swedish-Norwegian legation at Washington. Protests against recognition were made by Americans of Swedish birth or extraction. If the United States, under these conditions, had recognized Norway prior to such action by Sweden, the act would have evoked the praise and gratitude of the Norwegians, to be sure, but it would also have called forth wrath and condemnation from the supporters of the cause of Sweden. The case required caution and deliberation and the President seemed bent on following that course.

As mentioned above, Mr. Hauge in his letter of August 18 to Secretary Root cited the prompt action of the United States in recognizing France in 1870 and Brazil in 1889. True it is that recognition was granted speedily in both instances, but in neither case was there a parallel to that of Norway. France in 1870 and Brazil in 1889 simply changed the internal administration of the government and in each case it was a change from the status of an empire to that of a republic. This was one of the considerations that affected the action of the United States. The Norwegian Storthing, in its address of June 7 to King Oscar II, tendered the crown of Norway to a prince of the Bernadotte family, hence the Americans had little reason to think that Norway seriously contemplated the establishment of a republic.

There are cases, too, where the United States has urged delay in the matter of recognition. Texas, for example, declared her independence of Mexico on March 2, 1836, but recognition of that status by the United States was not granted until March of 1837, in spite of the fact that both the Senate and the House had passed resolutions advocating such action and in spite of the actual participation of a considerable number of Americans in Texan affairs. In the case of the Spanish American colonies an agitation for their recognition took place in Congress over a span of about ten years, but no formal recognition was granted by the United States until 1822. These cases are not mentioned as parallels to that of Norway, but they are cited simply to show that the United States has delayed recognition, even in cases where the interests of American citizens were involved.

Premature recognition is a breach of international law which may lead to war with the offended parent nation. When France during the American revolution recognized the independence of the colonies before Great Britain did so, the act became a cause for war. When the United States in 1903 recognized the independence of Panama prior to Colombia, the latter country took offense. In both of these cases the recognition was granted before the mother country had acted. Sweden, to be sure, was not a parent country, but, as a member of the dual monarchy, naturally had a real interest in any important action that Norway might take. Sweden would very likely have construed an act of premature recognition as an open expression of unfriendliness. Since the United States enjoyed cordial relations with Sweden in 1905, there was ample reason for the use of discretion in handling this delicate matter.

Under the conditions that obtained, delay was the logical procedure, as haste would have led to dissatisfaction and offense. The question was especially difficult on account of the status of Norway in the peculiar dual monarchy, an arrangement which was unusual in world politics. The President in following the program of "watchful waiting" was steering a course similar to that of the other nations of the world. The British Government, according to the New York Daily Tribune of July 28, 1905, announced that it could recognize the independence of Norway with perfect propriety, but that out of regard for Sweden it would await a settlement of the union question. The United States, in addition, with prior interests in the Western World, could not consistently recognize the independence of a European nation before nations in the same general region should find it expedient to do so. The Norwegian leaders realized this. Then there is the fact that the delay, which did not result in any serious inconvenience or real difficulty to Norway, apparently was prompted primarily by the attitude of the Swedish Government. This consideration the United States could not brush aside.

As soon as the several formalities incidental to the dissolution of the union were brought to a close, the ways were cleared and the necessary preparations made for the launching of the new ship of state. The usual formalities and ceremonies for such an event were observed. The United States very willingly participated and cheerfully waved its "bon voyage."


<1> This paper aims to present a few facts that relate to the attitude of the United States toward Norway in the crisis with Sweden during the summer of 1905. It is prompted by the fact that the writer has recently had access to several important documents that have not been released by the United States Department of State for publication. These documents with a large amount of other material have been used to shed light on the attitude of the Roosevelt administration during that crisis.

<2> H. L. Brækstad, The Constitution of the Kingdom of Norway, 59 (London, 1905).

<3> United States Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, House Documents, 59 Cong., I sess., vol. I, p. 861.

<4> New York Daily Tribune, July 19, 1905, p. 2.

<5> House Documents, 59 Cong., I sess., vol. I, p. 856.

<6> Skandlnaven, July 26, 1905, p. I.

<7> House Documents, 59 Cong., I sess., vol. I, p. 861.

<8> Minneapolis Journal, June 30, 1905, p. I.

<9> New York Daily Tribune, June 15, 1905, p. 2.

<10> Minneapolis Journal, June 14, 1905, p. 2.

<11> Minneapolis Journal, July 20, 1905, p. 2.

<12> Minneapolis Journal, August 28, 1905, p. 2.

<13> Department of State, Notes from the Legation of Sweden and Norway, XII.

<14> Department of State, Dispatches from the American Legation at Stockholm, XXVIII.

<15> Notes from the Legation of Sweden and Norway, XII.

<16> Department of State, Notes from the Legation of Norway, I.

<17> One of the interesting cases is that of Mr. Gunnar Knudsen, Norwegian Minister of Finance in the new government. Theodore Stanton, an American, wrote an article in the Independent on the subject, "Why Norway Is Not a Republic," in which he quotes Mr. Knudsen. On November 27, 1905, Mr. Knudsen said that the moral support of the two great republics, the United States and France, during the crisis of 1905 would have been of great importance in the movement for the establishment of a republic in Norway. He attributed the failure of the movement in part to the attitude of the United States. Independent, vol. 60, part 2, p. 1542 (June 28, 1906).

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