Norway – Government And Defense

Norway is a constitutional monarchy. The present Constitution dates from May 17, 1814, though it has several times been modified in certain details since that time.

The executive power is vested in the sovereign, H. M. King Haakon VII, who was elected by the Norwegian people in November, 1905. He was born in 1872, the grandson of King Christian IX of Den-mark, the second son of Prince Frederick (now King Frederick VIII) of Denmark. He is the nephew of King George of Greece, of Queen Alexandra of England, and of the Dowager Empress of Russia. In 1896 he married his cousin, Princess Maud of England, third daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Crown Prince Olaf was born in 1903.

The legislative power of the Norwegian realm is vested in the Storthing (literally Great Assembly) or Parliament, which represents the people.

The King has command of the land and sea forces and makes all judicial and ecclesiastical and various other administrative appointments.

All male citizens 25 years of age and five years resident in the country may vote for members of the Storthing. Members have an allowance of $3.25 daily during sessions, besides traveling expenses. The Storthing assembles every year, of its own right, not merely as summoned by the sovereign. Its 117 members are elected by deputies of the people for three-year terms ; 39 represent towns and 78 represent rural districts.

The King may call extra sessions of the Storthing if necessary, but he cannot dissolve it. Members of the Storthing themselves divide their number into two bodies, electing one-fourth of their own number to constitute a sort of Upper House (Lagthing), the other three-fourths forming the Lower House (Odelsthing). The chief business of the Storthing is to enact or repeal laws, to impose taxes, supervise the finances and examine treaties. Bills are laid first be-fore the Odelsthing, then go up to the Lagthing. If the two houses do not agree, the bill is considered again in joint session and decided by a two-thirds majority vote. Bills that have passed both houses go to the sovereign for his approval before they become laws. The King’s veto is, however, not absolute, but only suspensive. If three successive Storthings, meeting after three successive elections, pass a certain measure, it may become a law in spite of the veto.

The Council of State, or Cabinet, is composed of ministers appointed by the King, with fields of responsibility divided into ; ___

Ecclesiastical and Educational Affairs. Charities. Justice and Police. Interior Affairs (Commerce, Consular Affairs, etc.) Agriculture. Public Works (Railways, Telegraphs, etc.) Finance. Defence (Army and Navy). Auditing and Revision.

The kingdom of Norway is divided into twenty provinces or counties (amter), i. e., eighteen large geographical districts, besides the towns of Christiania and Bergen, each of which constitutes an amt by itself. The head of a provincial administration is a prefect (Amtmand). The provinces have been sub-divided into districts under sub-prefects, whose duties included tax-collecting and certain police supervision. This grade of administrative service is, however, to be remodeled or abolished.

A “magistracy” composed of three burgomasters presides over local municipal affairs in Christiania and in Bergen. (The smaller municipalities usually have but one “magistrate” instead of a board of three members). There are 59 municipalities in the kingdom, twenty of these being very small, but keeping up the form of local government prescribed for such organizations. Each municipality has a Council, whose members are elected for three years, and the Council is divided into two sections, one-fourth of the members forming the special Aldermanic body (Formaend). The chairmanship of the Municipal Council is an honorary but honorable office.

In order to vote for members of a Municipal Council, a man must be 25 years of age, and at least two years a resident, must have paid taxes on property or income or both he must not be a pauper nor a house-servant.

Besides the municipalities, the amter include 525 rural districts (herreder), each of which in most cases includes several parishes. The parish is the social unit. The various districts in any one province (amt) together form a provincial corporation (amtskommune).

In the towns and rural districts civil disputes are carried first before a Board of Conciliation (Forligelseskommission). This Board is empowered to settle cases where values less than one thousand crowns ($270) are in question.

Regular Courts of justice of the first instance are established for various districts in a province, usually in some municipality. Above these lower courts are certain Appellate Courts, to which cases may be carried from the Courts of first instance. (In Christiania and Bergen, what are called “Town Courts” amount to the same thing as Appellate Courts.)

A Supreme Court stands above the Appellate Courts.

In country districts farmers often pay their taxes in work on road-making, bridge repairs, etc.

Capital punishment has not been practised since 1876.

Norway does not expend any considerable sums on her national defenses. The appropriations made by Parliament for the army and the constitution and maintenance of fortresses, 1904-5, amounted to only $3,316,680. The appropriations for the navy, 1904-5, were $1,065,960. Her fortresses are few and at present not of remarkable strength, though the approaches to Christiania, Christiansand, Bergen, Trondhjem, Vardo, and a few other ports, are guarded by certain fortifications.

The military troops are raised mainly by conscription, and to a small extent by enlistment. All men be-come liable to conscription at the age of twenty-two. Raw recruits are given 48 days training in the infantry and forest-artillery ; 72 days in the engineers ; 60 days in the mountain artillery ; 92 days in field artillery ; 102 days in the cavalry. After that they are put into regular battalions, where they practise a certain number of weeks yearly, and are the rest of the year on furlough, with the obligation to meet their regiments on summons. The nominal term of service lasts sixteen years—six in the regular Line and ten in Reserves. Every man in the realm, between eighteen and fifty years of age, may, if necessary, be called on by the sovereign to fight with the reserve troops for home defense, though the King’s summons must be approved by Parliament.

The navy is maintained solely for coast defense, and is of comparatively little strength, none of the armored vessels being formidable as to size and equipment. All seafaring men between the ages of twenty-two and thirty-eight are legally liable to maritime conscription, but in actual practice only a few hundred are drafted each year for a few weeks’ training.