Norwegian Immigrant Views on Slavery and the War

lupaglupa

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Fairfield

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An interesting set of articles on Norwegian immigrants, slavery, and the Civil War. The first article is translated from a Norwegian website, the second is a rebuttal of sorts, posted on the same site, written by an American.

https://sciencenorway.no/history/many-norwegians-supported-slavery-in-the-united-states/1851000

https://sciencenorway.no/immigratio...migrants-supported-slavery-in-the-usa/1850499

Very interesting but, in truth, this is the first time I've ever read anything stating that Norwegians supported slavery. AFAIK, the word "slave" is not a Norwegian word (although it is now used). There is a word that I forget because I've encountered it only once (but I'll check back in my genealogical notes) that is translated as "slave" but which means a criminal who is sentenced to labor.

The Norwegians seem to have been pretty much opposed to slavery. Vesterheim (the Norwegian-American museum that is located in Iowa) maintains a data base of Norwegian-American U.S. soldiers (including my G+ Uncle). The major Norske figure in the ACW was Hans Christian Heg who was killed at Chickamauga.

Doing genealogical research on Uncle Andreas, I spent time in Madison, WI--at the Wisconsin Historical Society, going over all records (since my relatives name was butchered on the official roster, I cast a very wide net). I encountered no mention of pro-slavery sentiment which isn't to say it didn't exist in some measure.

The journalist who wrote the first piece may have a rather shaky grasp of the history of her own country. Hans Hauge was a pietist who was often at odds with Norwegian authorities; I don't believe that he ever came to the U.S. and I know that the Hauge Synod is rather small (the greatest number of Norwegian settlers belonged to the Missouri Synod and their American BMD records are incorporated into the archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church). A synod is not a state religion but a governing or administrative council. AFAIK, there was no regulation that everyone who lived in Norway had to be a member of the state church: kirkebøker (church books that contained BMD--and other--records) have sections for such vital events that pertain to Jews, Catholics and other non-Lutherans. What was required was that everyone should have a vital event registered in these books.

I'm with Dr. Coleman on this.
 

lupaglupa

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@Fairfield I knew I wanted your eyes on this :smile:

I'd be curious to read the untranslated article to see if the errors arise there or in the translation. Not that I can read Norwegian, but my husband is pretty proficient.

I thought the first article's headline was a bit misleading - it's one thing to say, as the article does, that many Norwegian immigrants though slavery was okay in some instances, especially as it is described in the Bible. That description fits a whole lot of Americans - North and South. Nothing in what they wrote seemed to fit with the idea of supporting slavery in a "we will fight to preserve this institution" way.
 

Fairfield

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@Fairfield I knew I wanted your eyes on this :smile:

I'd be curious to read the untranslated article to see if the errors arise there or in the translation. Not that I can read Norwegian, but my husband is pretty proficient.

I thought the first article's headline was a bit misleading - it's one thing to say, as the article does, that many Norwegian immigrants though slavery was okay in some instances, especially as it is described in the Bible. That description fits a whole lot of Americans - North and South. Nothing in what they wrote seemed to fit with the idea of supporting slavery in a "we will fight to preserve this institution" way.
I'll have to go over the Norwegian article in depth but, scanning it, I don't see any major translation issues--your husband may be sharper than I (I'm afraid that I'm distracted at the moment--poor little Maximus has just been diagnosed with heart disease 😫). But Ms. Dæhlen may be coming up with a conclusion that her own facts don't support (and haven't we all been guilty of that?) and a basic misunderstanding of doctrine (not that I am any kind of expert in the field). I suspect that she is more a victim or her own assumptions rather than of translators.

There has been an ongoing discussion in Norway over slavery and the role that Norwegian-Americans played. Norwegians tend to make the same misidentification of slavery and discrimination that Americans are guilty of. Certainly the Norwegian settlers believed that they were a step above blacks--but they believed that they were a step above anyone who wasn't Norwegian 🤐; Jorange's book is irrelevant to the issue of slavery.

Dr. Terje Jorange is the director of the Norwegian Emigrant Museum (in Stavanger) and has written about assimilation problems of Norwegian settlers in the U.S. He spoke at the recent RootsTech conference.

There was a population of Norwegians in Texas and I suspect (but do not know) that they supported the Confederacy. My guess is that Norwegian immigrants (like most immigrants) were guided by considerations more immediate..
 

Fairfield

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I checked Theodore Blegan's History of Norwegian Migration to America (Dr. Blegan has written THE book on Norwegian immigration). There was a debate regarding slavery among Midwestern pastors with some holding the Old Testament argument. In 1863 they appealed to Norway for a ruling; the Norwegian Synod responded unequivocally: Postulating slavery as an institution in which a human being is treated as property — as a thing — it [the Norwegian Synod] declared this to be contrary to God ' s original will to man , for God placed men in a relationship of essential equality as persons . Slavery , it went on , was no divine institution , but a fruit of sin intruding upon the world against God ' s will . Slavery pertains to the heathen world and Christianity must seek its abolition . In fact , the conquest and abolition of slavery are fruits of the cleansing and transforming influence of Christianity upon human society , working not through externals but by means of the rebirth of human hearts . [Blegan, v.2, p.440]

edited for grammar (mine--not Dr. Blegan's)
 
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