Wergeland House - Democracy Centre

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Produced by Eidsvoll 1814 and Dinamo


An exhibition on democracy for young people On 10 April 1814, 112 men assembled at Eidsvoll for an important meeting. They had been elected by local communities up and down the country to form a Constituent Assembly. Their task was to establish Norway as an independent nation and decide the principles by which it would be governed. By 17 May their work was done, and a new nation had its very own constitution. This document was an important starting point for the development of democracy and the rule of law in Norway. 200 years later Norway has become a rich country, a free country, a country where the majority can live good lives, have the chance to influence public policy, say what they like and believe what they like. But those opportunities are still not equally shared by all. And we are not alone in the world. The Democracy Centre at Wergeland House seeks to promote and reflect the civic engagement of young people aged 12 to 16. Democracy is about more than ballot papers. Children and young people have important opinions and are entitled to be heard and taken seriously. Welcome! The Democracy Centre has been created in collaboration with eight young people: Vetle, Soukeyna, Ole Gunnar, Balder, Stine, Davin, Anna and Alva. Their pictures hang here on the wall. This centre is all about democracy, about what we can do to make our society even better. You can use your ticket, for example, to choose your favourite Eidsvoll Assemblyman, take a photo of yourself and ‘like’ the Constitution. Enjoy your visit!

The Democracy Centre includes : • A gallery displaying portraits of the Eidsvoll Assemblymen, as well as stories and objects linked to those intense six weeks at Eidsvoll in the spring of 1814. • A Young People’s Constitution, that everyone can sign. • A photo booth, where everyone can have their portrait taken as an Eidsvoll Assemblyman. • Various stops where visitors can make up their minds about a variety of issues. In so doing they create their own democratic profile, which is displayed on a dedicated website. • A unique film shown in a specially constructed cinema.

RO O M 1

The Eidsvoll Assemblymen and the Constitution This room contains portraits of Prince Christian Frederik and the Eidsvoll Assemblymen. You can also see various objects that belonged to them. At the far end of the room is a large-format copy of the Constitution.

Struggle for independence At the start of 1814 Prince Christian Frederik governed Norway on behalf of the King of Denmark, who ruled as absolute monarch. At the end of January, the prince learned that the major European powers had signed a treaty in Kiel. Under the treaty Norway was to be transferred from the Danish crown to the King of Sweden. Prince Christian Frederik refused to accept such a transfer. The young prince sought advice, and convened a meeting of Norway’s most important men at Eidsvoll on 16 February. Those attending agreed that Norway should declare itself an independent country. At the same time it was decided that elections should be held for a Constituent Assembly, and that this assembly should elect a king to lead the new nation. In practice, this meant the end of absolute rule.

Eidsvoll Assemblymen The 112 Eidsvoll Assemblymen arrived at Eidsvoll House on 10 April 1814. They had all been elected to represent their local districts or military units. The Assemblymen came from all over the country except the North of Norway, which was unable to complete the election process in time. The Assemblymen came from a variety of social classes. They were government officials, clergymen, merchants, farmers and soldiers. But there were no servants, tenant farmers or wage earners. And there were no women. The Constituent Assembly’s six-week sitting was filled with bitter conflict, not least between the Unionist Party and the Independence Party. Nevertheless, after six intense weeks the result was one of the most democratic constitutions in existence in Europe at that time. There are 82 portraits in this room. Many were painted years after the Constituent Assembly had taken place.

RO O M 1

Who is your favourite Eidsvoll Assemblyman? You can choose between nine Assemblymen. The last one you select counts as your choice.

The Eidsvoll Assemblymen in person After 1814 the Eidsvoll Assemblymen gained a growing place in Norway’s national consciousness. As the 19th century progressed they were hailed as the heroes of liberation from 1814. One of the first uses to which Eidsvoll House was put when it became a national heritage centre, was as a gallery for portraits of the Assemblymen. Later the museum acquired a large collection of objects that had belonged to them, some of which are on display here. Together with the portraits, diaries and letters which the Assemblymen wrote while they were here, they help to bring us a bit closer to the living human beings who created the Constitution. The gilt coach belonged to Count Herman Wedel Jarlsberg, one of Norway’s most powerful men and leader of the opposition at Eidsvoll. The minority believed that Norway had no option but to accept union with Sweden. The cases along the wall contain personal items belonging to the Eidsvoll Assemblymen, which show various aspects of life surrounding the meetings. The three freestanding cases contain small tableaux inspired by scenes described in letters and diaries. Assemblyman Jacob Aall describes his anxiety about speaking up and addressing the Assembly. A forgotten pair of shoes lead to rumours of a Swedish spy, but prove to belong to a boy who has had a late-night assignation with one of the serving girls. Assemblyman Alexander Møller complains about the wretched conditions and the dreadful food at the farm where he has been allocated lodgings.

Wilhelm Frimann Koren Christie

Christian Magnus Falsen

Thomas Konow




Christie was a stipendiary magistrate and supporter of independence. He represented Bergen and became the Constituent Assembly’s permanent secretary. Even more importantly, he became the first president of Norway’s parliament (Storting) in the autumn of 1814. In that capacity he led the strenuous negotiations with Sweden on the terms of the union. Not only that, he had to get the other members of the Storting to endorse the result. All this required shrewdness, cunning and courage. We can certainly call Christie the year’s ‘political master craftsman’. He succeeded in setting up a union with Sweden without making any major changes to the Norwegian constitution.

Falsen was a stipendiary magistrate from Akershus, and has been called the ‘Father of the Constitution’. Large parts of the Constitution were clearly inspired by the draft text he and secondary school teacher Johan Gunder Adler had drawn up before the Constituent Assembly came together. At Eidsvoll, Falsen became Vice President and later President of the Assembly, and chaired the important Constitution Committee. He was also the informal leader of the Independence Party – those who supported Prince Christian Frederik’s plan and fought against union with Sweden. Falsen was a strong and forthright leader, admired by his supporters but feared and hated by his opponents.

Aged just 17, Second Lieutenant Konow from Bergen was the youngest of the Eidsvoll Assemblymen. He represented the navy, and voted with the Independence Party. Although the teenage Assemblyman did not contribute much to the debates in 1814, he had already seen wartime service, and had a bright career in the Norwegian Navy ahead of him. Konow was also the last of the Eidsvoll Assemblymen to pass away. It became a tradition for the 17 May children’s parade to call a greeting to the last Eidsvoll Assemblyman.

Teis Lundegaard

Hans Christian Ulrik Midelfart

Alexander Christian Møller

Jonas Rein

Herman Wedel Jarlsberg

Nicolai Wergeland







Teis Lundegaard came from Southern Norway and was the most important spokesman for the farmers at the Constituent Assembly. Despite his humble origins, Lundegaard had become a wealthy merchant and substantial farmer. He was tall and powerfully built, full of confidence, and showed no deference to government officials or other people with power and status. Lundegaard participated actively in the debates at Eidsvoll, where he fought against proposals to link the vote to property size. In his view, it was the man, not the money, who should speak in parliament.

Pastor Hans Midelfart was primarily concerned about educating the masses and building schools. A liberal and tolerant man, he was most active in the debates at Eidsvoll about discrimination and religious freedom. Among other things, he was against banning Danes from taking government positions in Norway. He was also strongly opposed to compulsory religious conformity and the exclusion of the Jews in the Constitution’s article on religion. However, he lost that battle.

Pastor Rein was a passionate supporter of independence, as were all the Assemblymen from Bergen. He gave fiery speeches which could swing the Assembly over to his point of view. His opponents feared his bitter attacks and caustic tongue. Rein’s emotional orations decided the outcome of two important debates. On 19 April the issue was whether the Constituent Assembly should content itself with framing the Constitution and leave foreign policy to Prince Christian Frederik. On 13 May the issue was whether Norway had the financial strength to afford independence. On both occasions the heart of the matter for Rein was love of country: a true patriot could have no doubts.

Count Wedel Jarlsberg represented the vast Jarlsberg estates in Vestfold County. He was also one of Norway’s most accomplished leaders before 1814. Although Wedel Jarlsberg was the foremost aristocrat in Norway, he was also a supporter of a liberal constitution with freedom of the press, religious freedom and freedom of commerce. He was primarily an opponent of Danish absolutism. For this reason he had been working in secret for many years for a union with Sweden in which Norway could obtain internal self-governance. By the end of 1814, this had come about, and Wedel Jarlsberg became Norway’s Finance Minister. At the Constituent Assembly, however, the majority was against him.

Nicolai Wergeland was a clergyman, elected to represent Kristiansand. He arrived at Eidsvoll better prepared than most in 1814. He brought with him his own comprehensive draft constitution and several ready prepared speeches. His voice was among the clearest in the debates, but his strong views angered the members of the majority Independence Party. Wergeland’s hatred of Danish absolutism made him a supporter of union with Sweden, and the learned idealist was soon one of the most unpopular men at the Constituent Assembly. As the father of Henrik Wergeland and Camilla Collet, he would later follow a new generation’s struggle for greater freedom.

Dr Møller was one of those who spoke up most strongly at the Constituent Assembly against aristocracy, honours and privilege. As the District Medical Officer in Arendal, he was concerned about the situation for the poor, and he was highly critical of society’s rich and powerful. Of all the Assemblyman, Dr Møller was perhaps the one most strongly influenced by the radical ideas of the French revolution.


What rules shall apply to us?

Visitors are allowed to turn the pages of the large copy on display here. The Constitution The constitution that was drawn up at Eidsvoll was dated 17 May. That is why this date has become Norway’s national day. The text was written in Gothic handwriting in an ordinary writing book. On the back of the stand you can see a copy in its original size. The original is kept in the Norwegian parliament building, the Storting, in Oslo. The last part of the document is made up of the Assemblymen’s signatures and seals imprinted in red sealing wax. Although the Norwegian constitution’s individual articles have been amended many times, it has never been set aside and replaced with an entirely new one. Of the many constitutions that were adopted around the world during this historical period, only the USA’s and Norway’s have survived to this day. The Norwegian constitution may be called a ‘moderate constitution’. It has liberal and democratic, but also conservative features. However, it was general and flexible enough to allow it to be adapted to accommodate the major changes society has undergone up to the present day.

The 1814 constitution was a first step towards democracy in Norway. The Eidsvoll Assemblymen put an end to the monarchy’s absolute power. Society has changed a great deal since 1814. And so has the Constitution. Many more people can now cast their vote and participate in the decision-making process. And we have rights that were unimaginable 200 years ago. For this reason we constantly have to debate what rules should apply here, to us. Just as the Eidsvoll Assemblymen did. How can we make sure that everyone is included, and that no one is excluded? How can we ensure that everyone can live safe and secure, and that everyone’s voice is heard?

Does the 17 may constitution deserve a ‘like’? The constitution that was adopted on 17 May 1814 was far from perfect. But it was an important first step towards democracy in Norway. Well done. I LIKE!


«Young People’s Constitution» Downstairs on the left you will find a photo booth. On the wall to the right you will find the ‘Young People’s Constitution’, principles that schoolchildren have formulated and voted for. At the signature booth, everyone who wants to can sign this ‘law’. Further inside is the cinema.

P H OTO BO OT H Take a photo and become an Eidsvoll Assemblyman or Assemblywoman. 1. Position yourself so that your face is inside the mirror’s frame. 2. Activate the camera with your card. 3. The photo will be taken after 7 seconds.

S I G N AT UR E BO OT H Sign the Young People’s Constitution that you see on the wall in front of you. Put your ticket on the reader to register and begin. Have you taken a picture? If not, you should do so first. Page 2: First name. Surname. Municipality Page 3: Sign here. Approve and send/I don’t want to sign Page 4: Log in to our website …




Young people’s Constitution Adopted 4 April 2014 by means of a digital referendum. Everyone under the age of 18 was entitled to vote. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

We respect everyone, regardless of gender, background, religion, sexual orientation or appearance. You can believe, think and say what you like. Everyone is entitled to be heard! Take care of the environment. We must have clean air, animal life and opportunities to grow food. Children and young people shall grow up in safe homes in a safe environment. We shall live our own lives, without being forced to make choices against our will. Norway shall be a driving force for global peace and environmental protection. People are people, love is love and that shall be respected.


Make up your mind! On your way out of the exhibition in this room you will find various booths where you are encouraged to make up your mind and make a choice. .

Do you AGREE or DISAGREE? 1. 16-year-olds should not be allowed to vote in general elections. 2. I will tell bullies to stop. Always! 3. We must cut down on car driving. 4. Norway should give more money to poor countries. 5. Drug addicts should be punished for using illegal drugs. 6. I will not eat meat more than twice a week to save the environment. 7. Begging should be illegal. 8. Norway should not accept any more refugees. 9. Norway should not take part in foreign wars. 10. People who are in prison should not be allowed to vote. 11. Use of religious clothing should always be allowed. 12. School uniforms would be a good idea, to combat bullying and pressure to buy. 13. It is not a crime to steal an apple if I am hungry. 14. Pupils should participate in decisions on all important matters at school. 15. A bit of racism is alright.

Which is best? Sometimes you have to make difficult choices. Maybe all the possibilities are positive? Nevertheless, you must make a choice. Which is best? Young People’s Constitution Freedom, Wealth or Wisdom – which article is the most important of all? Choose the article from the Young People’s Constitution that you think is the most Which is worst? important of all (1-7 in Room 2 above). Sometimes you have to make difficult choices. Maybe all the possibilities are negative? Nevertheless, you must make a choice. Which is worst? Racism, Bullying or Poverty

Show you care – a film about civic engagement 10466



In the cinema at furthest end of the exhibition you can see a film about civic engagement. The film is primarily aimed at children and young people aged 12-16. The film has been made in collaboration with eight young people, who also play a key role in front of the camera. Adults, too, will find the film well worth seeing. The film’s main message is that a living democracy needs people who care about what is happening around them, and who stand up against injustice. Even those who are too young to vote are entitled to be heard and taken seriously. 10466

The film comprises a mosaic of different film and photographic formats, which have been edited together specifically for the specially built cinema, where the images are beamed onto the walls and floor from a number of projectors. The audience has the feeling of being ‘inside’ the film. B

The film was produced by Dinamo for Eidsvoll 1814. Director: Bjørn Tumyr Producer: Morten Norvang Rap music: Øivind «Vinni» Sauvik Duration: 13 min.

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The objective of the Wergeland House Democracy Centre is to engage and challenge young people. Even those who are too young to vote have important opinions and are entitled to be heard. They are concerned about people and issues that require our engagement. But adults of all ages will also find a great deal to interest them at the Democracy Centre – from an opportunity to learn more about the Eidsvoll Assemblymen and the birth of the Constitution at the start of the exhibition, to a unique film experience in the specially built cinema.


Magovegen 13 , 2074 Eidsvoll Verk TELEPHONE

+47 63 92 22 10 EMAIL

kontor@eidsvoll1814.no BOOKING

requests should be sent to booking@eidsvoll1814.no

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