Today is Norway’s Constitution day. It’s always a big day for celebration, but this year it’s the 200th anniversary of the signing of their Constitution in Eidsvoll, so it’s even more celebratory. A little historical background:
From the Parliament’s website:
The Norwegian Constitution of 17th May 1814 occupies a special place in Norwegian history. Not only did it lay the foundations for democratic development, it was also instrumental in providing Norway with status as an independent country.
The event that spurred the writing of the Norwegian Constitution was the Treaty of Kiel, dated January 14th 1814. Norway was at the time subjugated by Denmark, but was to be given to Sweden because of the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars. Hearing of the treaty, the Norwegian Constituent Assembly gathered at Eidsvoll and wrote the constitution, signing it on May 17th – our independence day.
Sweden intervened and took control of Norway by force, but the constitution was embraced as a national symbol of freedom. The Swedish king was denied the right of veto over Norwegian affairs, and never got the authority he wanted; it culminated in Norwegian independence in 1905.
The bicentenary is an opportunity to shed light on:
– Norway’s historical and international role in the development of democracy and law.
– Issues concerning human rights, freedom of speech, gender and equality. The Norwegian Constitution was groundbreaking in these respects, and in spite of several revisions, the original document is still largely in use today.
– Smaller nations’ right to independence with respect to the influence of major countries whose decisions and actions have ramifications far beyond their own borders. The constitution was a symbol of independence from Norway’s neighboring countries.
From Norway Post:
The committee at Eidsvoll ensured that the focus was on the individual and his/her own rights in the constitution that was written in 1814. They looked to the U.S. and France for inspiration, which also meant a revolutionary new look on the citizens’ role in society, human rights and division of power.
Today, Norway’s constitution is the world’s second oldest acting constitution. Only the U.S. constitution is older and still in effect. That alone says a lot about the men at Eidsvoll’s capability to look ahead of their own time.
Those quotes are factual (and just my chosen highlights; please visit the pages linked for the complete story!), but you can read between the lines to understand the human aspect behind the words. A huge country, with pockets of people living in remote areas found near the frozen northlands or at the end of a fjord deep in the mountains; no cars or roads, airplanes or airports, or motorized boats of any size; weeks of difficult travel to be a part of the gathering at Eidsvoll. Many who knew of that gathering and wanted an input couldn’t reach it in time. But yet, a Constitution was drafted and signed with the interests of all a country’s people as the main focal point. Inspiring!
Online photos, with credit given on each image:
We drove into Bergen this morning; it was exciting to be a part of the 200th anniversary celebration. Photos of the day coming soon!