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Hvorfor var det ikke nordmennene som forlot Fredrik 6

f. 1945, dr.philos. 1980, professor i historie ved Institutt for arkeologi, konservering og historie, Universitetet i Oslo.


Formuleringen «friheten i gave» er blikkfanget for en tolkning av 1814 som har tillagt fremmede stater avgjørende innflytelse på det som skjedde med Norge dette året. Kieltraktaten gjorde slutt på 434 års dansk dominans og 154 års enevelde. Men hvorfor frigjorde ikke nordmennene seg selv fra eneveldet? Flere historikere har forklart dette med at oppslutningen om kongemakten var stor. Det har vært liten interesse for å spørre om systemet selv skapte en samfunnssituasjon der det var svært vanskelig å gjøre noe med eneveldet. Denne artikkelen følger dette sporet, og den peker på viktige trekk ved systemet som forklarer hvorfor det ikke var nordmennene som forlot Fredrik 6., men kongen som forlot dem.

Why did the Norwegians not leave Fredrik 6th?

In recent years the revolutionary changes in Norway’s political system in 1814 have been characterized with the words «freedom as a gift» from foreign states, foremost among them Sweden, Russia and Great Britain. Historians have shown little interest in asking why there were no signs of open resistance or coup attempts in Denmark-Norway, when the Swedes carried out a coup against their king in 1809 despite Fredrik 6th’s war policy being just as unsuccessful as that of Gustav 4th Adolf’s. Some Norwegian historians have said that there was strong popular support for the Danish king. Neither has there been much interest in asking whether the system itself hindered opposition and regime change. This article does ask the question, and the answer is clearly ‘yes’: Danish -absolutism was Europe’s most consistent, which made it extremely difficult to imagine, let alone to carry through, a successful revolt against the king. Whether the king was genuinely popular is questionable, apart from the obvious fact that he was obligatorily praised in all public statements about him, i.e. in proclamations from the government itself, but also in all printed matter and in the press, which was strictly controlled. In Denmark-Norway there were no institutions independent of the monarchy, no meetings of estates, no judicial, municipal or ecclesiastical institution that could influence public opinion. Neither were there strong aristocratic milieus which could formulate corrective criticism with the capacity to make the king change his ways. Frederik 6th could pursue his foreign policy without a hint of public criticism; indeed it was said and written in public that his wisdom was unsurpassed. This was more than a fleeting discourse. It was regularly proclaimed and preached, most extensively in all churches. The royal Lutheran Church was overwhelmingly influential in indoctrinating a subservient attitude towards king and government. All ordinary Danes and Norwegians had to adhere to this state Church, which was strictly controlled by the authorities and bolstered by censorship that stifled all potentially dangerous opposition. It was just as important that people were used to decisions of the slightest importance being made in Royal departments in Copenhagen. This made the Norwegians dependent on men of authority. Especially the policy towards Norway contributed to this dependency. Absolutism fostered distrust in the subjects, and the king and leading officials in Copenhagen did not trust the Norwegians; they centralised as many functions of state as possible to the Danish capital. Another aspect of the distrust was all the more pleasing. Copenhagen took care not to offend the Norwegians too much with decisions the government knew would be unpopular, and the Norwegians were constantly flattered with declarations about how trustworthy they were. There was a grain of truth in this: The Norwegians shouldered an extensive military burden, and it was not they who left Fredrik 6th, but Fredrik who left them.

Keywords: Political history, constitutional history, royalism, historiography
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