Peter Schmidt 1782-1845

When selecting two political figures to represent Trondheim at the national assembly in Eidsvoll in 1814, the choice did not go to the loudest voices in the on-going debate on the formation of the nation. Rather the opposite, it appears that both the selected men actually needed to be persuaded to allow themselves to be nominated. One, Andreas Rogert (1754-1833), was a civil servant and among the oldest of the representatives in the national assembly. The merchant Peter Schmidt (1782-1845), on the other hand, was one of the youngest who attended.
His father, Claus Petersen Schmidt, was originally from Flensburg in Germany, and in 1794 he was one of “the 12 men of Trondheim” [corresponding to the executive board of the city council today]. Peter, educated in trade and commerce, participated actively in his father's business. During a business trip to Germany in 1808, father and son and their travelling company were arrested by the English and held as prisoners of war. Peter married Anna Sophie Grudt in 1804, and they had a large family. They owned a large town house on Strandgaten (later called Olav Tryggvasons gate), and also the country resort Veisletten in Strinda.
Then came 1814. Neither of the two Trondheim representatives had a major impact on the negotiations in Eidsvoll. Rogert is given much of the credit for having embedded in the Constitution that Nidaros Cathedral was to be the national coronation church. Schmidt probably also supported this. He was placed on the nine-man finance committee. Bearing in mind the slightly murky division into the Independence Party ["Selvstendighetspartiet"] and the Union Party ["Unionspartiet"] there is speculation as to whether Schmidt belonged to the minority (the Unionists), who believed that the "Swedish line" was the most realistic choice in the current political climate.
Schmidt later stood for election for the first "real" Storting (in 1815 and 1818), but only achieved modest deputy positions. Thus his was not a long political career. He is described as a supremely gifted man, but also that trade was perhaps not his best choice. Business was poor, and in 1826 he was forced to wind down many of his operations. This caused much trouble, and many creditors made life difficult for the previously much honoured Eidsvoll representative. Probably as compassionate compensation, he was given a number of public duties that provided income: prison inspector, stock exchange commissioner, head of the weighing and measures bureau. However, this generous provision of employment also led to reactions. On his death in 1845, he left behind substantial financial debts.
To celebrate the Constitution centennial, Trondheim local authority erected a large memorial stone in the Cathedral yard to honour the Eidsvoll representatives Rogert and Schmidt. They each also have a street named after them, symbolically close to Eidsvolls gate in Singsaker.
Recommended reading: Sigval Schmidt-Nielsen: Den Throndhjemske Flensburger-Schmidt-families descendenter til aar 1900. [The descendants of the Flensburg-Schmidt family from Trondheim up to 1900]. Throndhjem, 1901.

Author: Einar Rædergård