Mr. Hauge, late Chargé d’Affaires of Sweden and Norway, to the Acting Secretary of State.

Sir: In order to complete the documents already sent you in my letters of July the 12th and 27th last, concerning Norway, I take the liberty also to forward translation of “Abstract from Parliamentary Document No. 66 (1904–1905.)” Documents relating to the question of sanction of the act passed by the Storthing with regard to the Norwegian consular service, etc.

Receive, etc.,

Chr. Hauge.
[Page 860]

Abstract from Parliamentary Document No. 66. (1904–1905.)

Documents relating to the question of sanction of the act passed by the Storthing with regard to the Norwegian consular service.

To the President of the Norwegian Government:

The section of the Norwegian council of state, resident in Stockholm, hereby begs to make the following report:

In a council of state before His Majesty, at the palace of Stockholm on May 27, was submitted the report of the Norwegian Government with reference to the sanction of the act passed by the Storthing with regard to the Norwegian consular service. The members of the section of the council of state thereupon expressed their assent to the report and urgently submitted to His Majesty to approve it. They pointed out the significance of the reform for the development of the country nationally and economically, and how it had now unanimously united the national assembly under the equally unanimous approval of the nation. There might be much divergence of opinion and discord with regard to the various public affairs, but in this case there was complete unity within all parties and all classes of society. Cooperating with the government the Storthing had kept apart from the law every question that might give rise to doubts in those quarters that objected to touching the political foreign administration and diplomacy, and the law had reference only to the consular service. It was therefore anticipated that every ground for resistance, even from this side, was removed. It was now the certain hope of the nation that His Majesty the King would herein accommodate himself.

The King thereupon read a statement, as follows:

“In a combined council of state, held on April 5 last, the crown prince in his capacity of regent has already pointed out the only way in which this important affair should be furthered, and whereby it will be possible to adjust all difficulties, viz, by way of negotiations. I absolutely agree to this statement, and consequently for the present do not find it expedient to sanction this law which is an alteration of the existing community in the consular service which can not be broken without mutual consent. The present arrangement has been established in accordance with a resolution passed in a combined council of state, and consequently a separate consular service for Norway or for Sweden can not be resolved upon until the case has been treated in the same constitutional forms in accordance with the act of union, section 5.

“When I now refuse to give my assent to the law, I found this refusal on the right warranted to the King in the fundamental law, sections 30 and 78. It is my equally great love to both peoples which makes it a duty to exercise this right.”

The section of the Norwegian council of state first suggested to postpone the case for further treatment in a council of state to Christiania in order to enable His Majesty to arrange this important question which might lead to the most serious crisis in a sitting of the entire government.

The King declared himself unable to comply with this suggestion and pointed out that the report of the Norwegian Government had been made and submitted.

The section of the Norwegian council of state thereupon made the most urgent representations with reference to the statement His Majesty had just read, which would be regretted in Norway where it had been hoped that the protracted and loyal exertions to settle the question—among which repeated negotiations with Sweden—would have led to a favorable result adequate to the requirements of the kingdom and to its rights. Norway’s interests here coincided with those of the union and with those of Sweden, the security in the union being conditional upon the rights of Norway being respected. A decision according to the statement of His Majesty against the unanimous recommendation of the government and based upon a declaration formed without Norwegian advice would entail consequences beyond computation. It would be at variance with constitutional usage, a reversal of the kingdom’s constitutional right to settle the question alone, and a violation of its liberty, independence, and sovereignty. It would probably lead to the dissolution of the union.

The section of the council of state further stated that no member of the present government would be able to countersign such a resolution and thereby give it constitutional validity. They must, consequently, tender their resignations.

His Majesty the King then read the following statement:

“It being evident to me that no other government can now be formed, I do not comply with the resignations of the ministers.”

His Majesty further referred to the fundamental law, section 30, and urged that the ministers had now, according to their duty, “freely pronounced their opinion” and “made urgent representations” against his resolution; they were, thereby, free from responsibility. But the same section reserved to the King the right to decide “according to his own opinion.” He therefore had the constitutional right to adopt a resolution, as he had done, and [Page 861] it was the duty of the ministers to draw up and countersign minutes (protocol) of the treatment of the affair and the decision taken in the same.

The section of the council of state in reply stated that according to the fundamental law, section 15, the minister of state was responsible for the carrying out of the resolutions adopted. As long as there was no counter signature the resolution was not final. A report of the transactions might certainly be given, but no regular minutes (protocol), which is at the same time a royal order. The counter signature gave expression to the fact that responsible men indorsed the royal decisions, but in this case the government could not take upon itself the responsibility. The fundamental law, section 31, prescribed such counter signature for all orders passed by the King (military commands excepted). But this provision was not a reglementary rule for the members of the council of state; it was a direction as regards the forms to be observed to give validity to a royal order. There might, consequently, be cases in which it was not only right but also one’s duty to refuse counter signature. The section of the council of state had obtained information regarding this question from the ministry of justice, showing that on several occasions the same views as here set forth had been maintained on the Norwegian side. The ministry still arrives at the same conclusion as in 1847 when pronouncing on the question in another connection, viz, in its considerations on the proposal then submitted for a new act of union. It is there asserted, with regard to the Norwegian constitution, that “there is nothing to deprive a member of the council of state of the natural right to refuse counter signature and resign his office.” This opinion is shared by the then government: Løvenskiold, Krog, Sibbern, Schmidt, Pettersen, Herm. Foss, and Fr. Stang, and by the then members of the section of the council of state resident in Stockholm: Due, J. H. Vogt, and Fleischer. It is stated in the same considerations that the obligation to countersign can not be based on the fundamental law, and that it is a misunderstanding to try to deduce such an obligation from its provisions.

The section of the council of state finally repeated that as a refusal of sanction in this case would be not only evidently injurious to the kingdom, but also a denial of its independence, they held themselves bound to refuse counter signature in order not to be accessory to this. A Norwegian who did so would from that very moment be without fatherland.

Thereupon resignations from the Norwegian Government and from the section of the council of state abiding with the King were presented and read. As regards this affair regular minutes have been taken.

  • J. Løvland.
  • E. Hagerup Bull.
  • Herald Bothner.