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Iceland's Famous Isle

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In the latterpartof the ninth century, when Norway was disturbed by political animosities, many of her nobility quit their nativo land, their estates and homes, and settled in Iceland. Ilere, on an isolated island in the broad Atlantic, they founded a republic which for centuries fiourished, f ree f rom thetyranny of kings or an alien government. It was a model republic. The legislative power was vested in the althing, an assembly where the more influential men met once a year to discuss national questions. In this modest legislature some specimens of oratory and statesmanship were displayed that have nevcr been cxcelled. The althing vies with the immortal Roman senate for the glory of ancient legislation. The only religión of the Icelanders was the same as that of other Scandinavian nations, their principal gods being Thor and Odin. Christianity was established in the year 1000, and the manner in which it was finally accomplished was remarkable. All the nobles and leaders of the island had flocked with their retinues to the althing. Some of these had already adopted Christianity; the others were radically opposed to it. A discussion now arose as to which religión should be taken as the state religión. Both parties contended desperately for their principies and both prepared ior battle, that the sword might decide, but at the last hour a compromise was effected by selecting one man, a man admitted to be the wisest of the land, who should decide the question. This person was Thorgier. He betook himself to his om "booth," where he stayedfor three dáys, not taking any food nor permitting anyone to come near him. Having reached a conclusión, Thorgier aróse and went to the althing to announce his decisión. It was that Christianity should be the religión of the land. Both factions, true to their promise, submitted to the decisión. During this medieval period literature and learning flourished on the island and Iceland came to be known as the "Land of the Skald (poet) and Saga (history)." Hither resorted the historian, and even to-day all the Scandinavian nations draw their historical knowledge from facts preserved in the Icelandic language. It was in the tenth century that an Icelander by the name of Eric and called the Red, discovered Greenland. In 1001 his more íamons son, Leifur Heppni (Leif the Fortúnate), discovered an unknown land on the west side of the Atlantic, which he called, from the abundance of vines growing there, Vinland. The point at which Leif landed is now known to have been within the present confines of the United States, probably in Massachusetts or Jthode Island. Here the Icelanders formed a little colony, which struggled along f or a few years and then vanished; but the fact remains that the voyagers from Iceland were the carliest European settlers of our country. A period of decay in the Icelandic history begins when it was brought under the Norwegian scepter. Later on the island became a province, and remains so yet. With the loss of independence begins a condition of oppression from foreign government. A constitution given to the country in 1874, however, has greatly improved the recent political status of the country, and the island is at present making rapid progress both in commercial and industrial matters. Twenty years ago the IcelaEders began to immigrate to America, and those in the United States and Canada now number ten thousand. Minnesota and North Dakota are favorito locations in the United States and Manitoba in Canada. In J:he city of Winnipeg, Man., there are no less than three thousand of them. Icelanders prove themselves to be desirable citizens tnd are every where aeknowledged as an honest and industrious people. In the interest of these people there are now published in America three newspapers, one monthly periodical devoted to ecclesiastical matters, and an annual pamphlet of the same nature. They have a synod of their own belonging to the Lutheran church, to which church the larger number of the scattered congregations belong. Preparations are now being made for establishing a higher institution of learning under the auspices of the Icelandic Eynod.


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Ann Arbor Courier