30 SEPTEMBER 1905, Page 5


rilHE Norwegians have now to settle what their future government shall be,—that is, whether it shall be Republican or Monarchical. They have compromised their differences with Sweden by an arrangement which looks sensible, consenting to dismantle their fortresses, which would not be of much use in a war, but on the other hand securing a Treaty of Arbitration, which if it is kept will always give them warning that Sweden conceives herself to have a grievance, and thus secure them time to prepare for the defence of their passes. With every man trained to the rifle, and a strong corps of mountain artillery, which would not be very costly, they ought to be safe enough against any attack by land, and even their ports can be defended by science and the torpedo. With war so costly, Great Powers do not like losing battleships, and only Great Powers can keep formidable fleets in the condition which makes them effective. They have still, however, to organise themselves, and there will, we fancy, be a serious dispute between the Monarchists and the Republicans. People here generally fancy that this point is already settled, the Norwegian leaders having from the first agreed to accept a Prince of the house of Bernadotte ; ''but we suspect that offer was put forward originally as a make- weight in the negotiations. It is evident from his recent interview with a. Member of the Riksdag that King Oscar dislikes that arrangement exceedingly. He is wounded to the quick by what he thinks and calls his " dethrone- ment," and is not willing to see the affront to himself made more personal still by the election of one of his ' sons. The alternative candidature of Prince Charles of Denmark seems to be fading away, perhaps from fear of his English connections ; and though Prince George of _Greece and Crete is by origin a Dane, the Norwegians, when they have had time for reflection, are not likely to elect a Prince whose record in Crete can hardly be described as successful. There are, it is true, plenty more Princes - but though most of them wish for crowns, as adding to their dignity in Europe, the throne of Norway is not a very tempting one. The people, who in 1821 abolished titles of nobility, are essentially Republican peasants and traders ; they will leave the King very little power ; the Civil List will be small, and not paid without grudging ; and Norway will not have much influence on the politics of a world which has outgrown the armies and fleets Scandinavia can produce. There may, therefore, be difficulty in finding a Prince likely to be popular, or rich enough to be indifferent to allowances ; and as the necessary negotiations will wound their pride, the Norwegians are very likely to take fire and declare that in their circumstances a crown is a, superfluous, though possibly ornamental, addition to their administrative organisation. Their social system, they will say—and their most popular poet, Bjornson, will sing—is essentially Republican, and why should not their political system be Republican too ? If they want a Person to lead them, or to act as standard, they can find one among themselves just as well as the Americans ; but in truth they want nothing of the kind, any more than the Swiss do, who very often experience a difficulty in remembering who their President is. Like most peasant communities, they are free from apprehension of the " Red Spectre," and they have long been accustomed to be led by Ministers accept- able to the Storthing.

It is, we fancy, generally assumed here that the Courts of Europe will press the Norwegians to elect a King ; but we do not know why they should. Those Courts, no doubt, value the "Monarchical principle," and are rather indignant that one great State should grow so exceptionally prosperous and powerful without a Monarchy or a graded social hierarchy owing its prominence to the favour of the Crown ; but the experience of the Balkans has taught them that in little States the adoption of Monarchy is not very strengthening to the Monarchical principle. Few of the Sovereign Princes there have succeeded ; they are not particularly dignified even when they belong to what Nicholas I. termed " the family of Europe " ; and they are overthrown with an ease which the Courts find distressing. Switzerland does not give half as much trouble as Servia or Bulgaria. Norway, if let alone, as a quiet and contented little Republic will be almost for- gotten by diplomatists, and will be far less ready than her Princes would be to make herself more important by alliances. Great Britain has no manner of objection to Republics ; France will be pleased by what will seem the influence of her example ; Russia will think Norway the weaker for her Republican organisation ; and Germany will remember that her interest is in the Baltic, with which Christiania cannot interfere, though Stockholm might. The Great Powers will not, we think, squeeze Norway ; and Sweden, with her essentially aristocratic feeling, will have little fear of the influence of her example. If the Norwegians choose they can, we imagine, make of themselves a Republic without much dread of being attacked, or of a refusal to recognise them as an independent, and, so to speak, legal, Power.

Whether the Norwegians will choose we have, of course, no means of deciding. If the question were left to their leaders alone, we should think that the habitudes of ninety years would prevail, and that the persons who have been, or hope to be, Ministers would prefer a chief officer whose influence, as distinct from their own, would necessarily be limited. But it is improbable that a question so vital will be settled without a previous Referendum, and the inner thought of a nation when consulted on a great question is not always identical with that of its leaders. The Norwegian peasants may think a throne a highly dignified institution if they have it all to themselves, or may even believe that their foreign affairs, which with them mean affairs of trade, will be safer in the hands of a King than in those of any Ministers. They are a little afraid, we must not forget, of Sweden, and quite aware that to one at least of the Great Powers part of their territory is an object of desire. On the other hand, they are by instinct and by social organisation what we may call natural Republicans. We must await their decision, which in either case will be welcomed in Great Britain as that of a free people who have displayed in difficult circumstances much courage and great self-control. Their rivals have displayed the same qualities; but one has always thought of Sweden as a country which has pro- duced statesmen, a class of persons whom the exigencies of Norway have hitherto not demanded. One can hardly imagine a Norwegian Oxenstierna.