« AnteriorContinuar »
consequence would be the domination of the Duchies over the monarchy. As an example, in the present day, Denmark being subjected to an armed invasion, the Danish government had to appeal to the Chambers for support; if the German party had been in the majority it would have been at once refused, and the Danish monarchy would have been left without arms, or means, or power-prostrate at the foot of her enemy. Her sovereign might just as well sign a treaty by which he engaged himself not to raise a dollar or levy a soldier without the permission of the Confederation—that is to say, renounce for ever all claim to be numbered among the states of Europe-as to consent to such humiliating conditions.
And yet the Confederation, to render its domination still more firmly established, actually asks for more than this! She claims a right of interference in the internal affairs, not only of the Duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg, but also in those of Slesvig, from time immemorial a Danish province, and absolutely independent of Germany.
These exorbitant pretensions of the Confederation have arisen from questions of liberalism as opposed to feudalism as much as from questions of succession. When, on the 20th of January, 1848, Frederick VII. granted a constitution to his people, the aristocracy of Holstein, attached to their old feudal institutions and trembling for their safety, organised an opposition which entailed a war in which the Danes obtained brilliant victories, but which was put an end to by the intervention of Prussia. Certain gallant young princes are put forward in the present day as the representatives of the same old system of things. The treaty entered into at the expiration of the war (July 2, 1850) assured to Frederick VII. the statu quo ante—that is to say, the distinction of Holstein and Slesvig, and the union of the latter with Denmark Proper. Austria, however, at that epoch, in rivalry with Prussia for supremacy in the councils of the Confederation, intervened, and backed by Russia, a new protocol was sent forth (January 20, 1852,) from Vienna, by which the treaty of Berlin was superseded, and Holstein and Lauenburg became, like Slesvig, integral parts of the monarchy, and the different fractions of the state were no longer to be regulated by particular constitutions, but also by a constitution common to all.
This captivating idea of monarchical integrity, which seemed to consolidate the Danish throne, by attaching Holstein and Lauenburg to it by closer ties, in reality exposed it to the greatest perils. This community of constitution gave to the Confederation a power, through the medium of the Duchies, of interfering in the internal affairs of Denmark. The Duchies, instead of inclining towards Denmark, brought the latter further under the influence of Germany. Frederick VII. perfectly comprehended the position he was placed in, and struggled against it for eleven long years. A particular constitution was granted to Slesvig early in 1854, in June of the same year the same thing was extended to Holstein, and in 1855 the common constitution was adopted by the Rigsdag for the whole monarchy. The representatives of the Duchies protested against these particular constitutions, and they were backed in their opposition by the Confederation, which saw in the promulgation of separate constitutions a loss of influence through the Duchies in the internal affairs of Denmark. Prussia especially declared against the subordination of Holstein in the Rigsdag, and declared that its five hundred thousand
Germans should have the same influence as the two millions of DanoSlesvigians. The king, in a spirit of conciliation which never abandoned him amid all his trials, offered to submit the constitution to the decision of the majority within the Duchy itself, and it was rejected, although admitted to comprise liberties and rights long demanded and hitherto not conceded. The Confederation opposed its acceptance, and when a revision of the general constitution was proposed in the Rigsdag in Oetober, 1857, the Diet of Frankfort also rejected it as opposed to the claims, not of the Duchies, but of the Confederation of which they formed part, as well as of the Danish monarchy.
Denmark made fresh concessions, but in vain. Some paragraphs of the constitution, it had been objected, had not been submitted to the decision of the Duchy; the Danish minister proffered them for discussion, and adoption or rejection; but the Diet would not accept the concession, it declared that Denmark must submit all constitutions projected for Holstein to it, the Diet of the Confederation. Thus pressed in its very vitality as an independent monarchy, Denmark endeavoured to assuage the German storm by new constitutions. They were only received with derisive contempt.
Thus it is that this interminable struggle-which has been erroneously termed one of nationalities-as to who is to reign at Copenhagen, the King of Denmark and his Chambers, or the German Confederation represented by a Holstein-Slesvig majority, has gone on to the present day. It is true that new difficulties have risen up with the progress of the debate, but they have always become immersed in the one great vital question. This question, as it now stands before the world, involves as a basis and a first consideration, how far the German Confederation has a right to interfere in the internal and constitutional affairs of the duchy of Slesvig in order to protect the German subjects of the king-duke, and what international engagements Denmark has contracted towards the Confederation, that should authorise or palliate its intervention in those affairs by an armed execution.
In as far as Slesvig is concerned, it has been from all times exclusively Danish. It would be admitting a most dangerous principle to the existence of many a European state if, in the present day, it were decided otherwise. If the Germans are now numerous in Slesvig, attracted there because wages are higher and the well-being of individuals better ensured than in their own country, they cannot detach the Duchy. The millions of Germans who have emigrated to North America have not yet converted the Northern States into a German province. The question of the rights of nationalities, which has obtained such popularity in recent times, may involve many states in demoralisation and extinction if carried out to the letter. What is Alsatia in such a view of the matter but a German province? What Savoy, but Swiss? What Nice, but Italian? What Venetia, Bohemia, and Hungary? What Servia, Bulgaria, and Wallachia? What Poland? Grant to every nationality its rights, and a European congress would have to reconstruct the map of the globe.
M. Aubert says that in Slesvig everything is still Danish; the name of the country, which the Germans have attempted to transform into Schleswig, the language of the majority of the inhabitants, manners and institutions, more especially in what regards civil laws. But the correspondents from the seat of war have almost all agreed in describing the
feelings of the majority as in favour of the Germans, at all events south of Flensburg. There is no doubt that Slesvig is historically Danish, as are its institutions, especially the possession of hereditary farms; but in the south of Denmark the German population now outnumbers the Danish. In the twelfth century, Slesvig gave its name to the younger son of the royal family. In 1448, the Count of Holstein was elected Duke of Slesvig, but as a vassal; and when the new dynasty became extinct, Slesvig returned to its natural sovereigns. Christian II. conferred the duchy of Holstein on his son Adolphus, and Slesvig on his son Christian, and the latter, succeeding to the throne in 1534, once more reunited the ancient Duchy to the crown.
An act of perpetual unity between the two Duchies, enacted by Christian I. in 1460, has recently been appealed to as establishing their unity. But this act was abrogated as soon after its enactment as 1481; and even when in force, it was as an annexation of Holstein to Slesvig, not of Slesvig to Holstein. Christian I., the most Scandinavian of all the kings, would have been strangely surprised had he been told that he was Germanising Slesvig!
The acts of the German emperors themselves attest that, till the present day, Slesvig has always been considered as purely Danish. Eric of Pomerania, having had a quarrel with the Duke of Slesvig and Holstein, he appealed to the emperor, who decided in the matter of Holstein, but declined to do so in the case of Slesvig, "because," he said, "it was Danish territory." When the battle of Tonningen (1713) restored Slesvig and Holstein to the Danes, the emperor intervened to obtain the restoration of its estates in Holstein to the House of Gottorp; but it never said a word concerning their claims in Slesvig. In 1815, Frederick VI. represented at the Diet the duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg, but so far was he from representing Slesvig, that when he asked that to preserve his states from Sweden, which had recently annexed Norway, they should all, Slesvig included, constitute part of the Confederation, the request was refused on the plea that "they were non-German territories," and Holstein and Lauenburg were alone admitted. Lastly, the Diet of Frankfort gave as an answer to the petition of the Slesvigers, who claimed its protection in 1823, that it could not interfere, Slesvig not being a German state.
Yet we are to believe in the presence of past historical facts, and the spontaneous declarations of German emperors and German diets, that Slesvig is now a German duchy. What, then, are the nature and extent of the engagements contracted in 1851-2, upon which this dictum is founded? The fourth article of the treaty signed at Berlin on the 2nd of July, 1850, decreed that Denmark could claim the intervention of the Confederation in re-establishing its legitimate authority in Holstein. The Danish king appealed to this right after the battle of Istedt, and further declared his intention of granting a separate constitution to Slesvig in what concerned its internal administration, but without placing it in such relations with Holstein as would in any way affect the political union of the state with the Danish crown-undertaking, at the same time, to submit a plan of general organisation to an assembly of notables drawn from all parts of the monarchy. The assembly was convened at Flensburg on the 14th of May, 1851, and was composed of nine Slesvig, six Danish, and six Holstein representatives; but, not having been able to come to April-VOL. CXXX. NO. DXX.
an understanding, the king determined that he would maintain the statu quo ante, except in what concerned the question of a general constitution. It was in consequence of this declaration that the German powers demanded explanations on certain points, including Slesvig, basing their intervention in what concerned that duchy, on the grounds that Holstein had a right to reclaim the re-establishment of the bonds that united her with Slesvig before 1848; declaring, at the same time, that Holstein would not be evacuated until a satisfactory answer was given. The king naturally protested against the principle here first enunciated of Germanising Slesvig, and making use of the occupation of Holstein as a weapon to destroy the integrity of his dominions; but, in order to secure the good will of the German powers, he submitted to them a project of a general organisation.
Austria and Prussia accepted the programme in substance, but submitted a Germanic interpretation of it, to which the king gave his acquiescence as so far conformable to his own views, yet upon the actual interpretation of which the existing complexity in main part arises. The declaration of the 6th of December, 1851, accepted by Austria on the 26th, and by Prussia on the 30th, was followed by a Royal Proclamation," a copy of which was annexed to a despatch, dated January 29, 1852, and in February, 1852, Holstein was evacuated.
M. Aubert argues that the King of Denmark is only bound by what forms part of the correspondence previous to the evacuation, and that as to what is contained in the "Royal Proclamation," it was a mere communication of intentions, the details of which, concerning solely the internal administration of his states, he and his Chambers of Representatives had power to carry out as was deemed best advisable. But Germany takes a different view of the engagement contracted (a view of the matter which has been entertained by the government of this country), that the evacuation having taken place on the grounds of that "Proclamation,” the Danish government is bound to carry out its provisos, and to grant the constitution to Slesvig as therein conceded.
But M. Aubert argues that the copy of the "Royal Proclamation" was added to the despatches of January 29, 1852, not as an appendix explanatory of a convention, but solely as a document which the powers might verify as being conformable to the declarations made by the Danish cabinet, and that it by no means constitutes a convention, but simply a communication conveying information as to what was proposed to be done, and this character belongs so much the more to this appendix or annex to the papers, inasmuch as it was perfectly spontaneous on the part of the king, and that the powers had neither reason or right to expect it from him. "The engagement contracted," he says, "by Denmark, in as far as concerns the intentions contained in the Royal Proclamation,' is only an honourable engagement in as far as eventualities are concerned." There is a great deal in this argument, for if the King of Denmark, at the time of forwarding this copy of his intentions as proclaimed in his royal manifesto, simply meant, in addition to the engagements contracted in his despatches, to convey an idea of what he intended to do for the Duchies, and the evacuation took place on the faith of the arrangements entered into and accepted in December, 1851, difficulties having since arisen in carrying out the intentions avowed in that manifesto, or other views having been since taken as more legitimate, or politically
more desirable or advantageous-it is a most dictatorial act to insist now upon the execution of mere intentions that never formed part of an accepted convention, that were spontaneously supplied clearly as the simple expression of intentions, and which the powers had nothing to do with, or were they at the time in no way influenced by them.
The whole question lies in a nutshell. Were the intentions avowed in the manifesto attached to the despatches of the 29th of January, 1852, part of the convention entered into with the Germans, or were they merely a privileged communication on the part of the king as to what his intentions might be when sanctioned by the notables of the country? If the despatches of the powers at the time have no reference to the said intentions as constituting part of the conventions, all excuses for the invasion of the Duchies by the powers, founded upon a pretended grant of a constitution, fall to the ground, and can only be looked upon as they have been generally, as an armed intervention intended to supersede that of the liberal party in Germany, which wished to place a German prince at the head of the Duchies.
As to this latter part of the question, which had, however, arisen previously to the intervention of the powers in defence of a constitution that shall Germanise Slesvig, M. Aubert argues that it is not strictly speaking a question at all; it is an argument, an arm which the adversaries of Denmark have taken up, and which never would have been broached but for the political tendencies of Germany.
The pretensions of several claimants had in the time of Frederick VII. caused the question to arise whether, in case of extinction of the dynasty, the successor to the throne should inherit the Duchies. Frederick VII. solved that question by instituting Prince Christian, now Christian IX., the inheritor of the entire monarchy. This arrangement was consecrated by the renunciation on the part of the Emperor of Russia to his claims upon Holstein, by that of the Dukes of Augustenburg, by that of the other collaterals, by a vote of the Danish parliament, and finally by the Treaty of London of the 8th May, 1852, and which was signed by the five great powers, as also by Sweden and Denmark. Hanover, Saxony, Wurtemburg, Electoral Hesse, Oldenburg, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and the Italian States were also participators to the protocol, than which it is difficult to imagine one of a more solemn European character, and the first principles of which were to ensure the integrity of Denmark and the balance of power in Europe.
Yet is the validity of this protocol now disputed? The Grand-Duke of Oldenburg pretends that the renunciation made by his father was never sanctioned by the parliaments of Slesvig and Holstein, and is therefore invalid. The Duke of Anhalt says the same thing with regard to Lauenburg. Now this duchy would belong to Christian IX. supposing that the Treaty of London had never been in existence, for he holds it in virtue of the renunciation of Frederick of Hesse, the nearest lineal claimant. Austria and Prussia have both admitted this at the sitting of the Diet on November 28, when they protested against the claims advanced by the Duke of Anhalt.
The Duke of Augustenburg also sets up a claim to the three Duchies, notwithstanding that his father had renounced all claims of the kind, both for himself or his children, receiving at the same time an indemnity of eleven millions of francs, and that the duchy of Lauenburg repudiates his