Sir Arthur Herbert to Sir Edward Grey, 19 April 1907, No. 17 Commercial (Public Record Office, London, FO 368/117)


Christiania. April 19. 1907.


I have the honour to enclose a Précis of Mr. Michelsen's statement in the Storthing on the 13th instant, as to his views of the course which should be pursued in regard to the legislation to be introduced, controlling the purchase of waterfalls, forests and mines by foreigners.

No legislation, he said, could be introduced this Session, as the Report of the Commission appointed to report on the question would not be ready, and meanwhile Mr. Konow (Left) proposed that no concessions whatever be granted. This proposal is to be further discussed at a future sitting.

The most remarkable part of Mr. Michelsen's speech, and one which has given rise to much comment, is where he says that he is sceptical as to the advantages to be gained by the country in going over from the old peasant life to an industrial life, which transition is visible in severa1 places.

He continued ­ that this could not be done without creating a Proletariat, which would be a misfortune, and he would rather see Norway with some two million inhabitants, all in a fairly prosperous state, than in a few years with twice as many inhabitants and a large proletariat.

In speaking on this question during the Easter recess, Mr. Gunnar Knudsen said that he would be sorry to see Norway like Egypt or the Transvaal. The simile at first sight does not seem to fit the case, but what was meant though it was perhaps not well expressed, was that Norway does not want to be controlled by any single Power which would supply the capital and eventually absorb the whole country.

This is also the idea which Mr. Michelsen has in his mind, and the question of how foreign capital is to be allowed into the country without having this result, is a question which is absorbing the interest of many thinking people here at present.

In regard to this matter I would beg to refer you to an explanation I gave of the situation in my despatch No.22,Very Confidential, of April 10. 1907.

There has been a good deal of outcry in the press as to Mr. Michelsen s speech, but the above I venture to think is the true explanation of it, though to the outside world I fear his reputation as a Statesman has temporarily not been improved, as it is said that he is too conservative and wishes to put the country back one hundred years, and prevent its legitimate development, etc.

I have the honour to be,

With the highest respect,


Your most obedient

humble servant

(Arthur Herbert)