This article analyses the difficulties experienced by a distinguished Swede who, in travelling from Europe to the Antipodes early in the twentieth century found himself the possessor of excess baggage: more specifically cultural baggage, or as I will refer to it henceforth, cultural paradigms. The individual referred to was Count Birger Morner, the first Swedish consul to Australia from 1906-1910, and the cultural baggage, a set of paradigms whose construct related directly to the historical development of his nation: the consequence of which specifically characterized how Morner as an individual related to Australia, its migration policy and the manner in which his opinions on the subject were expressed. It was this interplay between Sweden's history, its national identity and future, coupled with the heritage of the Morner family in the development of Sweden, which saw the manifestation of a set of cultural paradigms on the part of Morner that created considerable controversy within the Australian public and press, and ultimately led to the premature demise of Morner's consular career.
Prior to this discussion, however, it would be useful to mention two factors briefly, firstly, who was Birger Morner, and what was significant about the Australian migration debate during the four years of his appointment to Australia. Morner was a sophisticated individual from a highly influential Swedish family, a dedicated amateur anthropologist and ethnologist, a novelist and poet of considerable repute: a man who mixed easily with the artists and literati of his day (counting August Strindberg amongst his closest associates). He was also noted for his idiosyncratic behaviour, including the shipping of three live tuatara lizards from New Zealand and a platypus from Australia to Uppsala University (all of which arrived safely and in good health), (1) and approximately one thousand artifacts from New Guinea, ranging from enormous canoes to shrunken heads (2). Prior to his Australian appointment, Morner held posts in Helsinki (1899-1900), Genoa (1900-1901), Barcelona (1901-1903), Constantinople (Istanbul) (1903-1904), South Shields, Newcastle on Tyne (1904-1906), and Copenhagen (February 1906-September 1906) (3). He had hoped his next appointment would be St. Petersburg, but received Sydney instead. Morner was not particularly looking forward to travelling so far from Europe, commenting himself; "I had never dreamed to be under the Southern Cross and would probably never have chosen it had I been given the opportunity to choose." (4). I think it is fair to say that he accepted the appointment hoping that with it he would have 'served his time', and ultimately be rewarded with a post more suitable to his taste.
The appointment of Morner coincided with a concerted effort on the part of both Federal and State governments to induce Scandinavian migrants to Australia through the utilization of assisted passage, in an attempt to increase the population in outlying farming districts. Issues such as the mortality of migrants who had arrived during the Gold Rush period of the 1850s and 1860s, the populate or perish ethos, and the increased concern regarding the employment of coloured races at the expense of white, all contributed to a new drive to recruit Northern Europeans, including Swedes. By the time Morner arrived in Sydney in September 1906, the drive for Scandinavian migrants was in full swing.
Morner did not care particularly who Australia sought as migrants, as long as they were not Swedes. He felt Australia was "…too socialistic…" (5) in its legislation and far too different a country for Swedes to forge a successful life (6). Whilst on leave in Sweden in late 1908, Morner made his views abundantly clear in his country's national press and proudly stated, "…he would do everything in his power to prevent Swedes from migrating to Australia." (7). I do not believe Morner intended these statements to reach the far Antipodean shores, but perhaps even in 1908 the world was a little smaller than was imagined, as through their London Bureau, the Sydney press received information regarding Morner's statements. By the time he arrived back in Australia, in mid 1909, questions were being asked regarding Morner's ability to make such value judgements and by what authority.
How is it possible that such an individual, known for his professional demeanour, both within the Swedish consular service and amongst those who knew him during his previous postings, could contemplate making such inflammatory statements regarding the receiving state to which he was still appointed? It is here that the presence of Morner's weighty cultural paradigms comes into focus.
It was the historical development of Sweden and the particular relationship which existed between the nobility and the Swedish State, which greatly dictated the manner in which Morner responded to Australian migration policy. The salient factors in this regard were the early development of an independent nobility, the allegiance between the nobility and civil administrators in support of a fledgling State, and the pervasive leadership role the nobility held in all facets of Swedish life, but primarily political and cultural. The more personal factors involved were those of a heritage within a 'kingmaker' family, and Morner's response to the political ramifications of the 1905 Breach in the Union between Sweden and Norway.
The paradigms Morner exhibited, as they related to his country's historical development, were apparent in his propensity to view his opinions and actions as simply the civic duty of a patriot. The Swedish nobility was accustomed to centuries of public duty and considerable political autonomy, for example, the provinces had been loosely self governed since the Viking Period (900-1100) (8). As new individuals were ennobled, rather than competition developing, the old and new worked together to forge national unity (9). In effect, the betterment of Sweden was the priority, although with typical Swedish pragmatism, aligning personal destiny with that of the nation was also eminently practical. Thus, when Morner aired his opinions on the issue of Swedish migration to Australia, it was in the context of civic duty, and he was surprised that Australians took his comments as a personal slight rather than on the basis, as he saw it, of duty to his own nation. However as newspaper articles and correspondence in the Letters to the Editor section of the national press began to indicate, it was not a display of civic duty, but the arrogance of the 'old world'; uncomprehending of the considerable economic, social and political potential the 'new' Australia offered, which the Swedish consul exhibited (10).
Morner sprang from a long line of influential civil administrators, as he was himself, and in this capacity he saw the expression of his opinions on Swedish matters as a duty which should be couched in forthright terms. One of the primary reasons Morner was held in such respect as an accomplished consul within the Swedish Foreign Ministry was due to the fact that, in placing Swedish interests as paramount, he had proven his effectiveness in previous appointments in assessing and reporting on economic areas in which a niche market for Swedish commerce could be developed (11). The Ministry expected Morner's views to be concise and to the point. However, his forthright manner in discussing what was for him an issue vital to his own nation's development and progress, only served to alienate Australians and produced a strong reaction against an outsider who suggested Swedes could never forge a successful life in a country foreign in so many respects (12).
As mentioned earlier, Morner was a popular author and poet in Sweden and was included within a small class of intellectuals who throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was viewed in Sweden as progressive, democratic and leaders in cultural life; in other words, initiators, with their opinions sought after (13). This was a climate in which Morner was accustomed to airing opinions on diverse subjects of the day with such views treated with respect. Therefore, when he spoke out with candour in Sweden on the subject of migration to Australia, he was admired (14). But in Australia the reaction was one of initial confusion followed by increased aggravation towards an individual who appeared intent upon thwarting the fundamental liberty of his countrymen and women to forge a new life in a country free from the constraints and prejudices of a Europe personified by Morner: that of an unequal society of titled 'haves' and the rank and file of 'have-nots' (15).
Unlike the negative aspects a title seemed to produce within Australia, Morner was immensely proud of his noble heritage and viewed it in some ways as an extension of his own personality. The family name was well known in Sweden due to the fact that Carl Otto Morner, a cousin twice removed, had been instrumental in assisting Jean Baptise Bernadotte, Napoleon's marshal, to the Swedish throne, as Karl Johann X1V, in 1819 (16). It is no small measure to place an individual at the apex of power, be it in Sweden or elsewhere, and the circumstance was made even more impressive by the fact that the Swedish parliament and public alike were willing to give Bernadotte what could only be described as a chance of a lifetime. Certainly, part of his appeal was due to the influential pro-French attitude within Sweden at the time, but it also provides a fascinating insight into the Morner family psyche. Lieutenant Otto Morner had been directed by elements within the Swedish parliament to contact Bernadotte in Paris through diplomatic channels. However, on his own initiative, he bypassed these, and approached the marshal directly (17). To utilize one's initiative in the service of the Swedish State was a trait the family Morner was proud to lay claim to. A century later, Otto's descendant, Birger, never lost sight of the significance of his family in the creation and support of a new royal house, nor did he cease in his determination to fulfill his familial heritage. Therefore, when he detected an issue, the ramifications of which he was certain would prove detrimental to Swedes, Morner used his initiative to present the true situation, as he saw it, back home.
The final aspect to Morner's considerable negativity towards Australian migrationary policy, rested on what he perceived as the diminished prestige of Sweden due to the 1905 Breach in the Union with Norway. The motivation behind the Union and its subsequent disintegration is not within the scope of this paper, suffice to say that the Union itself occurred in 1814 and remained problematic for both nations for its duration. The fact that the junior partner, Norway, forced the dissolution was not the sole cause of Morner's angst, but the fact that Norway intended to swiftly create its own consular service (18). During the period of the Union, the Swedish consular service had ostensibly represented the commercial interests of both countries internationally. Norway had never been content with this arrangement, arguing that with its considerable mercantile fleet and commercial potential, it was deserving of Norwegian consuls to represent its own interests (19). This concern, coupled with the rise throughout the nineteenth century of nationalism in both Norway and Sweden, exacerbated tensions between both nations. The dissolution of the Union had the effect of invigorating Norwegian national pride, whilst sapping Sweden of much of its own. The reaction of shock, followed by anger on the part of Swedes, was the typical reaction of a state which perceived its international prestige to have been tarnished (20). Thus when Morner arrived in Sydney less than a year after the dissolution had taken effect, he was aware of the continued economic tension between Norway and Sweden and determined to regain his nation's status internationally. But such dedication to duty contained a pervasive emotional element that in part distracted Morner from viewing his consular duties in a more dispassionate light. The Norwegian 'threat' to Swedish commerce in the Antipodes took on a nationalistic symbolism for Morner that propelled him towards an overly reactive stance on Australian issues as they related to Sweden. The distortion of patriotism also led Morner to become increasingly determined to induced Swedes to remain in their own country and develop its potential. With Norway in the forefront of Morner's mind as prime competition for international trade, Morner felt Swedish citizens had a duty to stay put, and contribute to the development and expansion of the Swedish State. Thus Swedish migration as an issue developed into a crisis of national significance for Morner, with the perception of his role as a leader in Swedish society gradually overshadowing his responsibilities as consular representative of the same country. Morner viewed the Australian migration issue as a subject upon which he not only had a duty to comment upon, but a right to do so, placed in the context of his cultural paradigms.
The significance of his family's heritage, allied as it was to that of Sweden's royal house, the tradition of a nobility whose independence had wide parameters politically, a civil service which encouraged and cultivated initiative and the independence of ideas, and a society which admired and sought the opinions of its intellectuals, culminated in Morner's cultural baggage being packed with paradigms many Australians felt were at the very least misguided, if not decidedly offensive.
The public debate which ensued from mid 1909 until Morner was recalled by the Swedish Foreign Ministry in August 1910, initially took place between the consul, the Minister for Customs and former Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin and the New South Wales Premier, Charles Wade. However it was confined to these three for a very short time, as the airing in the national press (especially along the eastern seaboard), of claim and counter-claim, readily captured the attention of the reading public. Discussion ensued regarding not only Australian migration policy per se, but what that country offered migrants, and what kind were actually deemed 'appropriate'. Letters to the Editor sections in the national press, and the fortnightly publication for Scandinavian expatriates, Norden, contained a diverse array of strongly worded opinions ranging from relatively new arrivals, those who had become naturalized Australian citizens, those born in Australia and a minority who wished they had never arrived (21). It is interesting to note that amongst the many comments expressed by Swedes in Norden, the majority, whilst recognizing Morner's integrity as a patriot and member of the Swedish nobility, argued that their lives although not necessarily easy in Australia, still exhibited a marked improvement from that experienced in their former homeland. Many were at pains to declare both enduring affection for the 'mother country', and their loyalty and gratitude to their new home (22). Examples were continually presented of the 'newness' of Australia: its great potential for expansion, not simply in a commercial sense, but in a political and social sense also. For many migrants, not Swedes alone, it was this very newness which was exciting and gave them the courage to venture such a distance to try their luck in a country the majority of them actually knew so little about.
Interestingly, it was the potentiality of Australia's newness and what it offered migrants that Morner failed to perceive when he surveyed the Australian political and social landscape. The seasoned traveller and adventurer failed to recognize one of the most salient features Australia had to offer a migrant was the romance of frontier: something Morner himself constantly craved. In addition, he failed to see the allure of new beginnings in a society which proudly proclaimed itself unfettered by the social constraints of 'old Europe'. Morner also missed the attraction of a dynamic economy and the potential that existed for hardworking and astute migrants to either begin new ventures for themselves, or have regular employment and perhaps move up the ladder. In placing the debate of Swedish migration to Australia firmly in the public domain and arguing forcefully against it, Morner made response irresistible, and unintentionally compelled a number of Australians to address his argument and why, to many, it simply did not have validity. It is apparent from the tone of correspondence from expatriate Scandinavians in the Letters to the Editors columns in the national press, that they were loath to enter into disputation with Morner in light of his status. However it is significant that a number felt his opinions regarding Australia were skewed to such an extent that they felt compelled to make comment. Certainly there were some correspondents who agreed with Morner, but these were in the minority of writers, although it must be recognized that the number of those disaffected Scandinavians for whom Australia had not fulfilled their expectations but were unable to return home, either through financial or other constraints, and who did not venture their opinions in the Australian press, must also be taken into consideration in this context.