In the spring of 1814, 25 years after the ratification of America’s Constitution, a group of 112 Norwegian men—civil servants, lawyers, military officials, business leaders, theologians, and even a sailor—gathered in Eidsvoll, a rural village 40 miles north of Oslo. For five weeks, while meeting at the manor home of the businessman Carsten Anker, the men debated and drafted what is today the world’s second-oldest written constitution.
Like America’s Founders, Norway’s independence leaders were in a precarious situation. Norway had been part of Denmark for more than 400 years, but after Denmark’s defeat in the Napoleonic Wars, the victorious powers, led by Great Britain, decided to transfer the territory to Sweden. This triggered a wave of nationalism in Norway. Unwilling to be traded away “like a herd of cattle,” as one observer at the time put it, Norwegians asserted their independence and elected the constitutional assembly that met at Eidsvoll.
Photo Credit: Illustration by Matt Chase, Courtesy of The Atlantic