What you should know about the Norwegian Constitution of 1814 and the circumstances leading up to its existence.

Writer and historian Karsten Alnæs wrote the book “1814 – Miraklenes år” (1814 – The Year of Miracles) about the Norwegian constitution for the commemoration in 2014. He points out that 1814 was a year when three revolutions took place.

"Eidsvold 1814" by Oscar Arnold Wergeland. Eidsvold is the place where the Norwegian Constitution was written and signed in 1814.
“Eidsvold 1814” by Oscar Arnold Wergeland. Eidsvold is the place where the Norwegian Constitution was written and signed in 1814. By Stortingsarkivet / Wikicommons

 

First, the union with Denmark was suddenly broken, as Norway was given to Sweden. After 434 years under Danish rule, this came as a shock. Second, from being a small province, Norway now became an independent nation. And third, from being part of an autocracy, the country suddenly became partly democratic, as much as the time allowed.

Alnæs points out five elements everyone should know about the Norwegian Constitution.

People’s Power

The Constitution is built on the idea of a popular sovereignty, because the people elect the government.

Equality

The principal of equality is very prominent. Norway was the only state in Europe that abolished the titles of aristocracy (lords and ladies), and the right to vote was widely expanded. About 40% of eligible voters could vote, which was sensationally high for the time. General military service was also introduced.

Declaration of Independence

The Norwegian Constitution is greatly influenced by the American, the section on independence in particular. Norway is a self-declared free, independent, and inseparable kingdom.

Freedom and Human Rights

“The freedom of speech is very strong. Bold utterances regarding the government are at all times allowed.” Alnæs believes this paragraph was a result of Norwegians being tired of being censored. Religious freedom, on the other hand, was not well secured. The paragraph on Jews was a particularly uncomfortable part of the constitution, which was removed in 1951.

The Rule of Law

“No law should have retroactive power. No man should be punished without a conviction. The authorities cannot perform a search without a search warrant. Rulings by judges are supreme.”