Friday, May 11, 2012

Jørgen Løvland -- biographical sketch

Jørgen Løvland
[photo:  courtesy of Alf Georg Kjetså]

As mentioned in postcard Thursday, 38, here is a brief biography of the Norwegian statesman Jørgen Løvland who is pictured above.  Alf Georg Kjetså sent the photograph and the biographical sketch of Løvland to me in 2005 for the Norwegian centennial celebration.

Jørgen Løvland was a remarkable man, a teacher, politician, customs officer, newspaper editor, and chairman of the Nobel Committee.  He was born 3 February 1848 at Lauvland farm in Evje, Aust Agder, Norway, the son of the farmer Gunnar Olson and his wife Siri Eilevsdatter.  As an interesting side note, on his mother’s side he was second cousin to the statesman Gunnar Knudsen who later also became a prime minister.  Løvlland’s paternal grandparents came from the farms of Haugen and Faret in Hornnes the neighborning community of Evje.

Upon completion of his elementary education he took additional studies as an apprentice teacher with Hans Faret at Hornnes.  Hans Faret gave him the highest honors in the parish.  It was the first and only time such a high grade had been given.

When he was 16 years old he went to teachers’ school in Holt.  He was there just one year before taking his final examination in 1865.  Then beginning in 1866 he began teaching elementary school in Kristiansand.  It was in 1876 that he also managed the county school for the interior communities of Aust Agder.  The school was held in Bygland 1876-1877.  He then took a year off from teaching (Tellef Davidson substituted for him) but Løvland returned to manage the county school in Setesdal and the interior communities of Aust Agder from 1878 to 1884.  He was the first diretor of the county school in these communities.  It was in 1884 that Jørgen Løvland married Laura Mathilde Torkildson from Kristiansand.

His political career began in 1882 when he was selected by the Evje community to meet with the district assembly held in Arendal.  During this time as a member of Parliament he did not take time off from his teaching responsibilities essentially holding down two jobs.

He was back in Kristiansand in 1885.  At that time he was the newspaper editor for “Kr.sands Stiftavis” and the year after that he represented Kristiansand at the Stortinget.  From 1892 to 1897 he was a member of the Parliament, serving as the Labor Minister in 1898 in the Steen administration.  After Steen left office in 1902 Løvland continued in Blehrs administration eventually yielding to the Conservatives in 1903.

When Christian Michelsen, a shipping tycoon from Bergen, became the leader of the coalition government on 11 March 1905 Løvland was appointed as statsminister in Stockholm, Sweden.  Løvland had the difficult job of dissolving the union without causing alienation or offense.  He right predicted that the Swedish King would not willingly sanction the separation.  Next he and two others wrote the protocol.  “I ordered them to write a miracle,” said the King.  “But I did not want to do it,” said Løvland.  “The man who tries to write it will shortly be without a country,” thought Løvland.  So he and the others left Stockholm.  Later that year they returned to Sweden where Løvland was a representative at the Karlstad Conference.  When the union with Sweden was dissolved Løvland became the first Norwegian foreign minister.

There were some other leaders in Otradal who were angry with Løvland because he was able to sanction the Norwegian division.  And because he found himself between those who wanted to have a monarchy and those who were for the republic, there was much anger directed at him.  However, after some time it became apparent that Løvland had showed much foresight.  At the Karlstad Conference the two countries were separated with coming to blows and without the loss of life.  That stands as a shining light of Swedish and Norwegian history, -- indeed for the entire world.

When Michelsen gave up the position of statsminister in 1907 Løvland took over as both prime minister and foreign minister.  But on the 18th of March 1908 he yielded the place to his second cousin Gunnar Knudsen.

For a period of time following he served as a Customs Officer in Oslo but towards the end of 1912 he rejoined the Parliament where he continued to serve between 1913 and 1915.  At that time he represented Aust Telemark.  He was the president of Parliament.  Then on the 17th of May 1914 when Parliament met in Eidsvoll, Løvland held the discussion for the day in Nynorsk.  He was the first president of the Parliament who spoke Nynorsk.

Lake Mjøsen seen from Eidsvold, Norway, ca 1900

It is said that for many years Løvland was the voice of the Liberals in Parliament and beginning 1913 he was the leader of the political movement for language reform in the entire country.  From 1915 to 1920 he was the minister of Church and Education in Gunnar Knudsen’s administration.  In 1917 he introduced the change to Nynorsk from Bokmål.  Then in 1918 he introduced the change over for the county names from “amt” to “fylke” taken from the older Norwegian meaning instead.  At the same time some of the Norwegian county names were changed as well.  He was a good advocate for the secondary schools.

Løvland had a direct, knowledgeable, sensible way of expressing his mind.  In Pariament he was called “The living dictionary or encyclopedia.”  And best of all he had good intentions with a strong desire to work for the benefit of all the people and the country.

From 1897 to 1922 Løvland was a member of the Nobel Committee, and the chairman for 21 years.  He died August 1922.

Everywhere Jørgen Løvland is remembered well.

I express deep appreciation and thanks to my “cousin” and friend, Alf Georg Kjetså, for sharing the photographs and the biographical sketch.

Jørgen Løvland and his wife in a horse drawn carriage.
[photo:  courtesy of Alf Georg Kjetså]

The first time I saw this photograph I didn’t really see all the men in the crowd tipping hats off to honor Løvland.  There is also a mounted guard just behind the carriage. 

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