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Chapter VIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5

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It may, however, be questioned whether, considering the small number of troops that England could bring into the field, there was any chance of a material intervention being successful in the face of the numerous battalions of two great military monarchies. Had both Austria and Prussia entered into the design of despoiling Denmark with equal heartiness, it may be admitted that material intervention on our part, though it might have retarded, would not have prevented, the catastrophe. But this was not the case; the Austrian Government was acting in the matter rather from a jealous disinclination to allow Prussia to take the lead and decide by herself questions in which German feeling was so deeply engaged, than because it desired to turn Denmark out of a duchy which had been linked to it for 800 years. "Had either " France or England, " or still more had they conjointly, said to Austria and Prussia in firm language that their attack on Denmark was a direct violation of public European law and could not be permitted, Austria would have been only too happy to find so plausible a pretext for extricating herself from a false position." It is also nearly certain that Sweden, whose people sided most warmly with Denmark, would have immediately joined us had we resolved upon giving material aid. The particular form in which our assistance might have been most effectually rendered would have been the sending of a combined military and naval force to Schleswig. Lord Grey said, in the debate on the address (February 4, 1864), that, "looking to the geographical position of Denmark, the great exertions which the Danes seemed inclined to make in their defence, and the great support our naval power could give in a defensive war to a military force, he was convinced that such a force as this country ought to be able to send with ease and expedition to Schleswig might have an important effect on the contest."

It is not for us, writing at so short a distance of time, either to vindicate or condemn the abstention of our country from all active interference in favour of Denmark. It was, however, strongly urged at the time by many that if there was to be no active interference, it is much to be regretted that there was so much diplomatic interference. Had England, like France, stood aloof from the whole struggle, at least it could not have been said that we fed Denmark with false hopes, and then left her to be destroyed. It was fair enough, argued Lord Grey (and Lord Derby had before spoken in the same strain), to induce the Danish Government to revoke the Constitution of the 18th November " if we intended to support Denmark afterwards, but to give the advice without the intention of supporting her was neither just nor generous." Perhaps, too, the nation has some cause to complain of the conduct of the ministers who conducted the negotiations. Had Lord Palmerston, upon finding that, in spite of his assertion, in July, 1863, that Denmark if attacked would not stand alone, Parliament and the country had no mind for war, immediately resigned his office, - and had Lord Russell, on discovering that for the same reason his expressions about material intervention could never take effect, and that his diplomacy had failed to preserve Denmark, followed the example of his chief, both the country and the ministers themselves would have been in a far more satisfactory position. Mr. Lincoln, speaking, in his Message to Congress this year, of slaves who had been liberated under his proclamations, said, " If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an executive duty to re-enslave such persons, another, not I, must be their instrument to propose it." Similarly, it would have been more honourable for the two ministers and also for the country, when they found that the nation would not permit the hopes which they had held out to be realised, to declare that others, not they, should consent to the dismemberment of Denmark.

While the war was proceeding on the mainland, the Danish navy - which was superior in force to that of Prussia - had not been inactive, but had made numerous captures of German merchant ships. To obtain compensation for these losses, Marshal Wrangel, after the fall of Düppel and the evacuation of Fredericia, entered Jutland and imposed a war contribution of 650,000 thalers (£97,000) upon that province. A naval action, indecisive as to its result, was fought a few miles to the east of Heligoland, on the 9th May, between a Danish and an Austro-Prussian squadron. There were engaged two Austrian frigates, one Prussian corvette, and two gun-boats; total, 121 guns - the whole under the command of Captain Tegethof. The Danes had two frigates and a corvette; total, 71 guns. The leading Austrian frigate, the Schwarzenberg, lost her foremast and 100 men of her crew killed and wounded; she also caught fire, but her crew succeeded in extinguishing the flames. Towards evening, the German squadron retired within the neutral waters of Heligoland, and the Danes steered northwards.

The exertions of the Foreign Secretary to procure the consent of the belligerents and other great Powers to a Conference were at last crowned with a certain measure of success. Austria and Prussia agreed to the Conference but without an armistice. The first meeting was held on the 25th April, and the prime immediate object of the plenipotentiaries of the non-belligerent Powers was to obtain a suspension of hostilities. Denmark at first insisted that during the armistice her fleets should be allowed to maintain the blockade of the German ports, as an equivalent for the military occupation of the duchies; but to this the German Powers would not consent. Ultimately, Denmark, pressed by Lord Russell, consented to give up the blockade, and an armistice was arranged, to last from the 12th May to the 12th June. It is painful to trace the course of the negotiations which followed, and. their complete futility may dispense us from the task of doing so at any considerable length. It soon became clear that the German Powers deemed the Treaty of 1852 to have been cancelled by the outbreak of war, and the envoy of the Diet declared that Germany would not consent to the re-union of the duchies to Denmark under any conditions whatever. Austria and Prussia proposed that Schleswig and Holstein should form an independent single state, under the sovereignty of Prince Frederic of Augusten- burg; but such a solution the Danish plenipotentiaries declared to be wholly inadmissible. Lord Russell then brought forward the English proposal, which was that Holstein, Lauenburg, and the southern part of Schleswig, as far as the Schlei and the line of the Dannewerke, should be separated from the Danish monarchy. This arrangement, to the principle of which the Danish plenipotentiaries acceded, would have left Denmark in possession of about three-fourths of the duchy of Schleswig. The negotiations being now placed upon the basis of a partition of territory, the neutral Powers obtained with great difficulty the extension of the armistice from the 12th to the 28th June. Austria and Prussia agreed to a partition, but insisted that the line of demarcation should be traced from Apenrade to Tondern, thus leaving less than half of the duchy to Denmark, and depriving her of the purely Danish island of Alsen. Denmark would not yield this, and Prussia and Austria would concede no more. On the 18th June, eight days before the expiration of the armistice, Lord Russell proposed that the question of boundary should be referred to the arbitration of a friendly Power, but to this neither belligerent would consent. Finally, the French plenipotentiary proposed that the method of plebiscite, or popular vote, should be resorted to, and that the votes of the communes in Schleswig should be taken on the question whether they preferred continued union with Denmark or separation. The Danish envoy, M. de Quaade, positively negatived this proposal, which was also exceeding unpleasing to Austria, in whose Italian dominions the application of the principle of tho> plebiscite would have instantly terminated her rule. Thus the debates of the Conference came to an end, having produced no result. The conduct of Great Britain excited grief and astonishment in Denmark, and the President of the Council, Bishop Monrad, made an important statement in the lower house of the Rigsraad, on the 25th June, to the effect that Lord Russell, after having promised the Danish Government not to make or agree to any fresh proposal involving a less favourable boundary for Denmark than the line of the Schlei, had, by proposing that the question of the disputed boundary should be referred to arbitration, substantially departed from his word. Lord Palmerston, however, maintained, on behalf of his colleague, when questioned in the House of Commons on the subject, that there was no inconsistency. The Danish Government had under-estimated the fertility of Lord Russell's mind in the expedients of peaceful mediation. In former times, when England made a formal proposal for the settlement of a dispute between two nations, the world knew that if one of the two rejected the proposal, and continued to coerce its antagonist which acceded to it, England would go to war. But to Lord Russell, the rejection of one proposal, however just in; itself and seriously made, was merely the signal for the; framing of another, involving some concession.

The remainder of this melancholy history may be told in a few words. Hostilities recommenced, and on the 29th June the Prussians forced their way across the narrow sound which divides the island of Alsen from the mainland, and stormed with great gallantry the field works that had been thrown up on the opposite shore. The contest was bloody, and so infuriated had the feelings of the combatants by this time become, that there were several regiments on both sides, the men of which, when it came to hand-to-hand fighting, gave no quarter. The Prussians carried the position, but the greater part of the Danes made good their escape out of the island. The strong fortress of Fredericia had previously been abandoned; the Prussians were preparing to cross to Funen; and now nothing remained for the Danes, isolated as they were and without hope of aid, but to submit. Negotiations were immediately opened at Vienna, and on the 1st August the preliminaries of peace were signed, and embodied in the following October in a formal treaty - the Treaty of Vienna. Denmark ceded Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg, without reserve, to the Emperor of Austria and King of Prussia. Though thus compelled to ratify her own spoliation, the brave little kingdom came out of the struggle with honour, and with an undiminished right to the respect of Europe: it were much to be wished that of all the neutral Powers that looked on and did nothing the same could be said.

An incident, ominous of the strife which was soon to cover Germany with contending armies, occurred at Rendsburg in the middle of July. A quarrel having broken out there between some Prussian and Saxon soldiers, Prince Frederic Charles marched a strong body of Prussian troops into the place and turned out the Saxons. Lieut.- General von Hake, the commander of the execution troops, protested against this insult; the Saxon Chambers took up the matter with great heat, and Baron Beust, the Saxon Premier, delivered a reply which, under its guarded phrases, betrayed extreme irritation on the part of his Government. The Lower House then passed the following resolution: - " The Second Chamber, in conjunction with the Upper Chamber, declares that the occupation of Rendsburg by Prussian troops, effected by abuse of an overwhelming force, is a violation of the rights of the German Confederation, and an outrage upon the honour of the German Federal troops. The Chamber protests against this act of violence on the part of a German Federal Power."

Austria and Prussia having now entered into full possession of the conquered territory, acted together for some time in considerable harmony. By a convention, dated the 16th January, 1864, it had been agreed between them that, if war arose in Schleswig, and treaty engagements came to an end, the future condition of the duchies should be established only by way of mutual understanding. One Austrian and two Prussian brigades were left in the duchies, for the civil government of which two commissioners were appointed - Yon Lederer (soon succeeded by Baron Halbhuber) by Austria, and Von Zedlitz by Prussia. The government was to be in common, and its seat the city of Schleswig. The execution forces were now withdrawn from Holstein by a decree of the Diet. Count Rechberg, the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, was replaced about this time by Count Mensdorff. A difference of opinion soon manifested itself between the occupying Powers in regard to the proposal which they had jointly made at the London Conference, favourable to the hereditary claims of the Prince of Augustenburg. Austria still desired that the duchies should be disposed of in that way, but such an arrangement no longer suited the expanding views of the Count von Bismarck. He was resolved that Prussia should be great by sea as well as by land, and for this end the fine harbour of Kiel was a valuable and indispensable acquisition. Availing himself, therefore, of the fact, that a claim had been, since the Conference, put forward by the Grand Duke of Oldenburg, in whose favour (as the arrangements of the Treaty of 1852 had fallen through) the Emperor of Russia had lately renounced his reversionary interest in the Gottorp portion of Schleswig, - and of the further fact, that a very small minority of the population of the duchies had petitioned that they might be annexed to Prussia, - Bismarck declined to take any step tending to favour the succession of the Prince of Augustenburg. The wishes of the vast majority of the German population of the duchies were on the Prince's side, but that trifling circumstance made no impression whatever on Bismarck. The Diet, in December, took into consideration a motion to regulate the succession in the duchies by its sole authority, but the Prussian minister quickly informed the Courts of Dresden and Munich that no such interference would be permitted. At the same time (December 13, 1864) he hinted, in a despatch to Vienna, that the annexation of the duchies to Prussia, though not to be carried out except with the assent of Austria, would be highly advantageous to German interests, and not detrimental to those of Austria. Count Mensdorff replied in a despatch which, surreptitiously conveyed to the Berlin papers, did infinite damage to the reputation of Austria. Instead of taking a high tone, as he might so easily have done, Count Mensdorff said that " Austria would only assent to the incorporation of the duchies with Prussia upon an equivalent augmentation of her own German territory being guaranteed to her." Such an augmentation could not be made except at the expense of some existing German state, which would have to be despoiled for the purpose; it seemed, therefore, that Austria was even less scrupulous than Prussia, for the rights of the Prince of Augustenburg, however well grounded they might be, had never yet been translated into actual possession.

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