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JOHAN SVERDRUP (1816--1892)

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Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 176 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHAN SVERDRUP (1816--1892), Norwegian statesman, was born at Jarlsberg on the 3oth of July 1816. His father, Jakob Sverdrup, was a land steward, and the founder of the first school of agriculture in Norway. Johan entered the Storthing in 185o, sitting first for Laurvik, and then for the district of Akershus, and was its president from 1871 to 1884, during the whole of the dispute over the prerogative of the Crown. He built up a strong political party, which, relying for support chiefly on the Norwegian peasantry, was determined to secure strict constitutional government and practically to destroy the power of the king. Under his leadership the opposition, in 1872, secured the passing of a bill for the admission of the ministers to the Storthing, which was a step to the establishment of the dependence of the cabinet on a majority in that assembly. King Charles XV. refused his sanction to this bill, and on its third passing in 188o Oscar IT. opposed his veto, at the same time claiming his right to the absolute veto. Sverdrup then proposed the proclamation of the law in defiance of the king's action. The retirement of Frederik Stang removed Sverdrup's chief political opponent from the field. He was aided in his campaign by Bjornstjerne Bjornson, and after a series of political crises he became prime minister in June 1884. But when he became prime minister he soon found himself at issue with Bjornson on church matters. Inspired chiefly by his nephew Johan he secured the refusal of a pension to the novelist Kielland because of his anti-clerical views, and he further wished to give the parish councils the right to strike off the voting list persons who had broken away from church discipline. Therefore, although during his term of office no fewer than eighty-nine measures, many of them involving useful reforms, became law, he failed to satisfy the extremists among his supporters, and was driven to rely on the moderate Liberals. He was compelled to retire in 1889, and died on the 17th of February 1892 at Christiania.
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