THE COMMERCIAL VALUE OF A KING.
DANIEL L. Hanson has made a remarkable computation — the commercial value of a king. Writing in The World To-day he sets forth the case of King Haakon VII of Norway, and his effect on Norwegian trade. The
new era in Norway, says Mr. Hanson, had its inception in the year 1905, and took as its war
cry “Norway for the Norwegians.” Its initial step was a political crisis, handled so diplomatically—words displacing gunpowder—that Norway, without firing a shot, became independent of any other government, free to win or lose in the world’s race, as her policy and energy might direct.
To Norwegians in America who felt that it might be necessary to immolate themselves upon the presidential altar of the home land, this first step of the infant Norway seemed stumbling and calamitous. To re-establish a monarchy, to elect a king instead of a president, was termed suicidal. But the returned prodigal, spending a few months in Norway studying people and statistics, is convinced, gradually, nevertheless forcibly, that the home land did both wisely and well. For he finds the measure of the wisdom of Norway’s statesmen to be the progress made during the last five years.
Bjornson said, years ago, that Norway had the men and the wealth, but needed a crisis to give birth to some national idea, a standard around which a thrifty people could rally and be inspired.
The new king, Haakon VII., became that standard—a personality rather than an idea, there being already a surfeit of ideas. Norway welcomed a king twelve months in the year rather than a possible six weeks in the summer. She also had a queen, and, to insure stability to the new dynasty, a crown prince. ín this royal
family Norway found a new life and impulse.
There are kings and kings; some inspire respect by their personality and lineage, while others have origins shrouded in obscurity and find lessons necessary as to how the royal ermine should be trailed; their bourgeois names are more familiar than their kingly titles.
The new king of Norway qualifies in the first class. The grandson of “Europe’s father-in-law,” the late Christian of Denmark, he himself is the “nephew of Europe.” One uncle is king of Denmark, another of Greece. The dowager empress of Russia is his aunt, so is the queen mother of Great Britain. He is cousin to his own wife, to the uneasy Kaiser, to the royal family of Spain and to the king of England. King Haakon has a corner on royal pedigree. To hold more firmly the loyalty of his new subjects, he assumed the good old Norwegian -name of Haakon as his legal title; by nature he is physically equipped to call himself after that sturdy Norse king who took a delight in hanging barons, Haakon Longlegs.
To insure loyalty for his dynasty the Danish-born crown prince was quickly naturálized into Norsedom by being enswathed in the grand old saga name of Olav. So the tall king, the little, auburntressed queen and the yellow-haired crown prince constitute a royal family which, in five years, has endeared itself to a nation of over three million people.
Love and loyalty to a nation’s ruler on the part of the governed must have a real subjective value in order to be permanent and marketable. A mere objective adulation is not coinable into dollars. The value of kings is being measured more and more, like that of university presidents, by the gold standard. What of Haakon and of Norway?
Two events in the year 1910 can he looked upon as milestones in Norway’s march toward commercial prosperity; the exposition, at Bergen, and the new tariff law, effective July first.
The exposition, a small affair, sheltered itself behind the walls of the old fortress of the Hanseatic League. Small and unassuming, it was a revelation to the visitor from abroad, and, possibly, to the natives themselves, of the versatility and skill of Norwegian manufacturers and mechanics working under an inspiration.
The excessive diffidence and lack of self-assertion, which both Bjornson and Ibsen considered as being the chief Norwegian faults, and the Gyntish habit of going around obstacles instead of over or through them, seemed to have disappeared. There was nothing wanting in the long line of Norwegian home products from an anchovy to an automobile, from a sewing machine needle to a torpedo boat, the last mentioned giving its hourly salute from the fjord front.
It was my good fortune on that July afternoon to walk through the exposition behind one of Europe’s great rulers, who was making an incognito visit. He was attended by a lone attache, who made notes at his royal master’s bidding. Merely to enumerate even what Norway had to offer for inspection will be impossible within the limits of a magazine article, but we can touch upon a few items that seemed particularly interesting to both royaltv and plebeian.
Naturally, Norway stands pre-eminent in furnishing the table with smoked, dried and salted meats; fish preserved in more than fifty-seven ways, and cheese made from goat’s milk, most delicious to the palate, some of it selling for seventy cents a pound in American markets. A biscuit establishment in Christiana had an exhibit of seventy-one different kinds of cake and crackers. Evaporated creams and milk also were displaved, and preserved fruit in glass jars, all bearing the national guarantee for puritv. In this section the attache was very busy.
The furniture booths showed examples not only of national designs which were most attractive, but also imitations of French styles, named after various profligate kings. With her vast timber resources and workmen who have become
skilled through long years of apprenticeship, Norway is doing wonders in the manufacture of furniture and interior woods.
In house-heating apparatus I felt sure of America’s pre-eminence, but Norway has made long strides in that way as well. Among others was a decidely unique house-heating boiler with some features about it that could be well copied by American manufacturers. Radiation I saw in only the plain patterns, with no attempt at decoration, but the tendency with us is in the same direction.
Enameled kitchen utensils were exhibited in large quantities, as well as enamel painted tin, and also printed tin. In this last mentioned were some fine examples of colorwork, and the attendant insisted that the tints were fast.
In the book department were shown some beautiful samples of the printer’s and bookbinder’s art, while the custodian with justifiable pride pointed to four hundred different volumes, written by Norwegian authors in fifty years—a concrete exhibit of the Norwegian renaissance in literature.
One of the surprising exhibits was that of jewelry, the export trade in which has grown rapidly during the last five years. There was shown enamel work in silver and gold, bangle and filagree ornaments, the designs of which were much more chic than I had seen earlier along the Grand boulevards, in Paris. Christiana is especially interested in the manufacture of this sort of material, and the tourist will see along Carl Johans Gade of that city some very attractive show windows devoted almost entirely to bijouterie. Cutlery was also much in evidence, and silvermounted harnesses for either king’s horse? or the Laplander’s reindeer. Boots also from the spiked affair of the lumbermpn to a lady’s dancing slipper, were exhib ited, and the finer grades of shoes com pared well with the American product much better than I had seen on the Con tinent.
It was fitting that Ole Bull’s homp town, Bergen, should not neglect musical instruments. There were cases of violin? and other stringed instruments, and sev eral booths of organs and pianos, all made in Norway, and bearing a legend to that effect. I mentioned to an attendant that
on the steamer from Germany I had seen a score of pianos and organs, made in Munich and Dresden.
“Yes, the cheaper ones come from there, but sixty-five dollars duty on a piano and twenty per cent, on an organ will soon stop that.”
Only mention can be made of carriages, wagons of all sorts, sleighs, skates, skis— a most wonderful collection—guns, fishing rods, tackle and ammunition, all made in Norway. Royalty seemed very much interested in automobiles and motor boats, which had a separate building set aside for them.
An Englishman said to me: “Now I know where we can get goods without the ‘made in Germany’ label. If we withhold trade from our Teutonic enemy, we will do more to cure his Anglophobia than if we were to send a dozen Dreadnoughts to Hamburg and Kiel.”
My friend spoke in no uncertain accents, and I wondered if the ears of incognito royalty had caught his words.
On passing out through the gates I noticed a table laden "with green-colored pamphlets. I paid half a crown for one and read its title while waiting for one of Bergen’s intermittent showers to do its work: “The Tariff List, effective July 1, 1910.”
Yes, Norway had a tariff, an infant as to days, but sturdy and able to hold its own ; around it the whole economic fabric was already revolving. The studv of the Norwegian people and their institutions became more complicated than had at first promised. This was no longer a simple people, but a people with a protective tariff, therefore a complex nation. I mentioned tariff at the breakfast table in Christiana one day to have the Storthing member, from Hardanger, say:
“It was sent from heaven to poor Norway.”
The sentence rang with all the sincerity . Ernest belief, and could not but waken in an American’s heart the hope that a heaven-sent tariff might descend on the Land of the Free, where, with a larger population to work upon, it could do more good than in little Norway.
“But it is such a little tariff?” exclaimed the theological student at the other end of the table. We ventured a
prophecy that it would grow—in time— as we had seen other tariffs grow.
“There are three kinds of customs levied,” explained he from the Storthing, “one for revenue only, to light and protect our coast line, another for protection under which to build up manufacturing industries, and a third to cover luxuries.”
“But they are all drawn from the same pockets,” I suggested.
“Yes, but in different ways,” insisted the Hardanger man.
The question of the tariff in Norway still can be looked upon by the visitor from the objective viewpoint, but as a student of economics he is anxious to see how that country will have its future affected by it. Can a land as small as she is, with limited, _ tillable acreage, prosper under this institution of national exclusiveness?
Some nations learn rapidly, and Norway among them. The new tariff went into effect July 1, 1910, and the first strike of mechanics was well under way in early May. Building operations in Christiana stood still for over a month, but the men won and had three weeks of increased wages wherewith to anticipate the higher prices which the tariff was suspected of trailing with it.
Said a retired sea captain who could look down from his island home on the economic turmoil which seemed to be agitating the land :
“It is harder to get money this year than it was last.”
Well, a lot of new manufacturers are starting up small factories and are willing to pay more than either a farmer or a vessel owner feels justified in doing. But it will be all right in the long run, when we have learned what we can profitably manufacture and what we will have to let alone.”
And our American heart echoed, “Yes, m the long run.”
Norway’s tariff law seems to have back of it a united people and not a bureaucracy. The Storthing, which passed it, is a body of representatives from the entire people, and not of a venal faction desirous of exploiting itself at the expense ot a whole nation.
^ don’t believe that your tariff is going to build up any large factories,” I said to the Storthing man from Hardanger.
“That is what we want to avoid, sir; we want a dozen small factories in an industry rather than a single large one.”
In other words, the new tariff law of Norway is intended as a scientific solution of the country’s commercial problems. Or, looking at it from another viewpoint, as the foundation on which to build up its permanent material prosperity.
Already one sees the signs of unrest throughout the kingdom. But it is a magnetic unrest that holds the young men at home, the emigration from Norway during the last year being the smallest in the forty years during which records have been kept. There is a disposition among even the younger element to see the game to its finish.
The tariff, however, has already touched the breakfast table. I asked a housewife in one of Christiana’s suburbs:
“What does veal cost a pound?”
She hesitated a moment before replying, then said:
.“I’m just figuring it up as we, this year, haven’t bought more than a quarter of a pound at a time. It is so much higher than it was twelve months ago. And cheese is higher, too; twenty-seven cents a pound for goat cheese against seventeen cents last July.”
Inquiry developed the fact that everything was higher—bread, butter, eggs, cheese, oil, as well as house furnishing goods and clothing, but yet no one complained, or else ended a mild complaint with: “It’s going to cost us something
to boost Norway, but we are willing to pay the price.”
But what of Haakon the Seventh?
We have seen what five years have done among the people in manufacturing, nerving it to incorporate so serious an economic document as the tariff law into its commercial life. What more will be done along that line during the next four years, the great National Exposition at Christiana, in 1914 will demonstrate.
The government, however, has not been idle. It has put into operation a system of land grants that is developing agriculture and forestry. Steps have been taken under national auspices to utilize the tremendous power that heretofore has been hurling itself in ten thousand places over the rocks in the form of waterfalls.
During the reign of Haakon, the national railway mileage has been almost doubled, and the Storthing of 1910 passed appropriations for lines opening up hitherto undeveloped sections. There might also be mentioned as one of the steps in Norway’s march—whether progressive or retrogressive, time only will show—the granting of universal suffrage to women. Not, however, because of any militant qualities they have displayed.
More than all these, however, is the change that has come over the national character. The Norwegian has passed, from a pessimistic attitude that formerly made him a destructive critic of whatever the government did, into that of a constructive optimist. Nothing so clearly indicated that, as the debates to which I listened in the Storthing during July. They were so different from the acrimonious discussion that had characterized that body under the old regime.
And has Haakon done all these things?
Yes, by being a personality rather than a system, by smiling cheerfully when other rulers would have made speeches, necessitating their being pulled out by a derrick. Haakon the Seventh smiles whenever one of his subjects comes within the zone of communication, and is said to look pleasant even when in repose.
Around him has crystalized a sentiment of patriotism and of national ambition, which, in their last analysis, have proved to have a value in dollars and cents.
Verily, a smile is better than a speech.
These things have all been done, not by Haakon Seventh, but because of him.
This is the twentieth century miracle— the transmutation of royalty into gold.