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
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