Government Council/Council of State 1814

2. March 1814–27. November 1814

When the Danish-Norwegian realm was dissolved in the Treaty of Kiel on 14 January 1814, where Norway was transferred from Danish to Swedish rule, separate Norwegian governing bodies again became necessary.

Contributing to this was that the Danish Governor-General in Norway, Prince Christian Frederik, at this moment was rallying support for declaring Norway a fully independent state. The Prince was thus opposing the Swedish-Norwegian union dictated by the allied powers of the Napoleonic Wars: Prussia, Russia, Great Britain and Austria.

The first rather temporary Norwegian executive body in 1814, was a meeting of leading men assembled by Prince Christian Frederik at Eidsvold on 16 February. The meeting advised the Prince to let the people elect a national assembly, which again would pass a constitution and elect a king. Following the meeting at Eidsvold, Prince Christian Frederik on 19 February 1814 declared himself Norway’s Regent, and staged the election of a national assembly to meet at Eidsvold in April-May 1814.

On 2 March 1814, Prince Christian Frederik established a Council of Government in Christiania (Oslo), under his presidency. The Council was set up in line with the Danish Council of State of 1784, with mere consultative authority. The Council of Government was to meet twice a week, to discuss important matters that had already been circulated among its members. The members were given the title councillors of government (ministers).

The task as secretariat to the Council of Government was left to the office that had served Prince Christian Frederik as Danish Governor-General in Norway, the Chancery of the Governor-General, at Akershus Fortress. The office was from now named the Chancery of the Regency. Its leader was given the title of Secretary to the Regency,

The Council of Government was to work through five ministries, largely set up in line with government offices in Copenhagen.

As Carsten Anker, appointed minister of 5th Ministry (Economic Affairs), was in London on diplomatic mission, this ministry was led by its leading civil servant.

The Constitution of 17 May 1814 decided that the Council of Government was to be named the Council of State of the Kingdom of Norway, as the National Assembly elected Prince Christian Frederik as King of Norway. The Council was to consist of at least five members now named councillors of state (ministers). This was confirmed by royal resolution of 18 May 1814, active as of 19 May. The King presided over the Council’s meetings. In his absence, meetings were presided over by the most senior minister, often referred to as first minister. The title of prime minister was not used in this period. The Regency Secretariat was now named the State Secretariat and its leader the State Secretary.

Prince Christian Frederik had wanted Count Carl J. W. von Schmettow, general and commander-in-chief in Trondhjem, as minister of foreign affairs. Schmettow had declined, but had accepted to negotiate with Swedish authorities. In this capacity, he held talks in Strömstad on 6 March 1814 with Field Marshal Hans Henrik von Essen, commander-in-chief of the Swedish West Coast Army and since 15 January 1814 formally Swedish governor-general in Norway. As Schmettow declined to accept the post, Christian Frederik did not make further attempts to establish the office of a Norwegian foreign minister. Responsibility for Norway’s foreign affairs was thus resting solely with the King when the union with Sweden was established in November 1814.

As the Council of State during the summer of 1814 developed into a council holding the right of proposal, the possibility of inviting others to participate in the Council’s meetings was used several times. The first time was at Ladegaardsøen (Bygdøy) on 6 July 1814, when the Council discussed Prussia’s, Russia’s, Great Britain’s and Austria’s ultimatum concerning the union with Sweden. In addition to the ministers, the following had been summoned to participate: Landowner Peder Anker, Colonel Diderik Hegermann, Commodore Jens Schou Fabricius and Professor Georg Sverdrup - all members of the National Assembly’s presidency. Major Ludvig Fr. Brock and a Captain Holstein also participated.

In the Council’s meetings on 7 and 8 July 1814, the secretary to the National Assembly’s constitutional committee, Police General Director Christian Adolph Diriks, was summoned to participate.

In the Council’s meeting at Moss on 13 August 1814, the last meeting presided over by King Christian Frederik, these external members participated: Diriks, Sverdrup and Christian Magnus Falsen, chairman of the National Assembly’s constitutional committee. Christian Frederik now withdrew to Bygdøy, leaving the executive power to the Council of State.

After General Frederik Haxthausen’s resignation as minister of finance on 20 August 1814, Minister Marcus Rosenkrantz succeded him as first minister. 1st Ministry (Finance Affairs) was now led by a civil servant who was not member of the Council of State.

After King Christian Frederik had abdicated and left the country on 10 October 1814, the Storting on 13 October 1814 appointed two acting members of the Council of State: Colonel Diderik Hegermann and Captain Thomas Fasting.

After the Storting on 4 November 1814 had accepted the union with Sweden, and the Constitution had been revised accordingly, Count Hans Henrik von Essen was on 11 November 1814 installed as Governor-General by the Swedish Viceroy in Norway, Crown Prince Carl Johan. Count Essen had formally held the office since the Treaty of Kiel in January 1814. At the same time, the remaining members of Prince Christian Frederik's Council of State of 2 March 1814, were confirmed in their offices by Crown Prince Carl Johan.

On 18 November 1814, Prime Minister Peder Anker and other new members of the Council of State were appointed by Crown Prince Carl Johan. They took up their posts on 27 November 1814, the day after the dissolution of the Storting's session. At he same time, the acting ministers appointed by the Storting, Hegermann and Fasting, resigned. This is seen as the change between the Council of Government/Council of State 1814 and the First Wedel Government, named after the new Minister of Finance, Count Herman Wedel Jarlsberg.

In early December 1814, Prime Minister Peder Anker travelled to Stockholm to establish the Norwegian Council of State Division there. He was joined by Ministers Peter Motzfeldt and Christian Krohg.

First Ministers

Frederik Haxthausen 02.03.1814-20.08.1814
Marcus Rosenkrantz 20.08.1814-27.11.1814

Secretary to the Council of State:
Regency Secretary Carl Henrik von Holten, 2 March 1814-19 May 1814
State Secretary Carl Henrik von Holten, 19 May 1814-1 October 1814
Acting State Secretary Christian Fischer, from 1 October 1814

More about Norway’s Council of State during the Union with Sweden.

About the Government

Prime Minister: