1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nansen, Hans

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NANSEN, HANS (1598-1667), Danish statesman, son of the burgher Evert Nansen, was born at Flensburg on the 28th of November 1598. He made several voyages to the White Sea and to places in northern Russia, and in 1621 entered the service of the Danish Icelandic Company, then in its prime. For many years the whole trade of Iceland, which he frequently visited, passed through his hands, and he soon became equally well known at Glückstadt, then the chief emporium of the Iceland trade, and at Copenhagen. In February 1644, at the express desire of King Christian IV., the Copenhagen burgesses elected him burgomaster. During his northern voyages he had learnt Russian, and was employed as interpreter at court whenever Muscovite embassies visited Copenhagen. His travels had begotten in him a love of geography, and he published in 1633 a “Kosmografi,” previously revised by the astronomer Longomontanus. During the siege of Copenhagen by the Swedes in 1658 he came prominently forward. At the meeting between the king and the citizens to arrange for the defence of the capital, Nansen urged the necessity of an obstinate defence. It was he who on this occasion obtained privileges for the burgesses of Copenhagen which placed them on a footing of equality with the nobility; and he was the life and soul of the garrison till the arrival of the Dutch fleet practically saved the city. These eighteen months of storm and stress established his influence in the capital once for all and at the same time knitted him closely to Frederick III., who recognized in Nansen a man after his own heart, and made the great burgomaster his chief instrument in carrying through the anti-aristocratic Revolution of 1660. Nansen used all the arts of the agitator with extraordinary energy and success. His greatest feat was the impassioned speech by which, on October 8th, he induced the burgesses to accede to the proposal of the magistracy of Copenhagen to offer Frederick III. the realm of Denmark as a purely hereditary kingdom. How far Nansen was content with the result of the Revolution—absolute monarchy—it is impossible to say. It appears to be pretty certain that, at the beginning, he did not want absolutism. Whether he subsequently regarded the victory of the monarchy and its corollary, the admittance of the middle classes to all offices and dignities, as a satisfactory equivalent for his original demands; or whether he was so overcome by royal favour as to sacrifice cheerfully the political liberties of his country, can only be a matter for conjecture. After the Revolution Nansen continued in high honour, but he chiefly occupied himself with commerce, and was less and less consulted in purely political matters. He died on the 12th of November 1667.

Bibliography.-Oluf Nielsen, Kjöbenhavns Historie, iii. (Copenhagen, 1877); Julius Albert Fridericia, Adelsvaeldens sidste Dage (Copenhagen, 1894); Danmarks Riges Historie, v. (Copenhagen, 1897-1905).