The distribution of landed property into small farms produces a degree of equality which I have seldom seen elsewhere; and the rich being all merchants, who are obliged to divide their personal fortune amongst their children, the boys always receiving twice as much as the girls, property has met a chance of accumulating till overgrowing wealth destroys the balance of liberty.
You will be surprised to hear me talk of liberty; yet the Norwegians appear to me to be the most free community I have ever observed.
The mayor of each town or district, and the judges in the country, exercise an authority almost patriarchal. They can do much good, but little harm,—as every individual can appeal from their judgment; and as they may always be forced to give a reason for their conduct, it is generally regulated by prudence. “They have not time to learn to be tyrants,” said a gentleman to me, with whom I discussed the subject.
The farmers not fearing to be turned out of their farms, should they displease a man in power, and having no vote to be commanded at an election for a mock representative, are a manly race; for not being obliged to submit to any debasing tenure in order to live, or advance themselves in the world, they act with an independent spirit. I never yet have heard of anything like domineering or oppression, excepting such as has arisen from natural causes. The freedom the people enjoy may, perhaps, render them a little litigious, and subject them to the impositions of cunning practitioners of the law; but the authority of office is bounded, and the emoluments of it do not destroy its utility.
Source: Mary Wollstonecraft, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, (1796), Cassell & Company Ltd, 1889