HC Deb 25 July 1848 vol 100 cc808-11

wished to address an inquiry to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with regard to negotiations which were at present taking place, or had taken place, between Denmark and Germany, under the noble Lord's mediation. The House would recollect that he had brought the question of the hostilities between those Powers before the House in the month of May; and at a subsequent period the King of Denmark, with a view of terminating those hostilities, signed an armistice with great reluctance, as the terms of it were not very favourable to his crown and kingdom, and the signature of it was unsatisfactory to his subjects. But the king was influenced by feelings which would be appreciated in this country, and was especially anxious to terminate a conflict which was injurious to the commerce, not only of his own country, but particularly of England. The armistice having been signed under those circumstances by the King of Denmark, it was brought to Berlin, where it was signed and ratified by the King of Prussia, and he believed mainly through the auspices of the Crown of Sweden, and the activity and intelligence of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The House, then, would be surprised to learn that this armistice, thus signed and ratified, had been repudiated by the Prussian general; and after that sacrifice on the part of the King of Denmark he had the mortification of finding the armistice thrown in his face, and Europe had the mortification of learning that hostilities, so ruinous to commerce, were about to be recommenced. Now, he wished to ask the noble Lord whether he had any communication to make to the House on that almost unprecedented occurrence in diplomatic negotiations; whether he had received any communication from the Prussian Minister resident at the Court of St. James's explanatory of those circumstances; whether it were the fact that the King of Prussia, under the new constitution which at present prevailed in Germany—and which not even the King of Prussia himself seemed to understand—had informed Her Majesty's Government that he had no authority to sign and ratify that armistice; and whether he had informed Her Majesty that in consequence of his finding, to his astonishment, that he was deprived of those sovereign attributes, he intended to terminate any further diplomatic communications between his Court and the Cabinet of St. James's? Those were questions which he was sure the noble Lord would answer with all that fulness of detail which was called for by a subject so interesting to the public; and he trusted the noble Lord would be able to hold out a hope to the commercial interests of this country that there was a prospect of terminating the contest between Denmark and Germany in a manner which should be generally satisfactory to Europe, and advantageous to the interests of commerce.


had great pleasure in giving to the hon. Member and the House such explanation as was in his power to convey with regard to the very interesting and important matter to which his observations applied; and he trusted that the general result of his answer would be more encouraging, if not satisfactory, than perhaps the anticipations of the hon. Gentleman might have led the House to expect. The great difficulty which had arisen in those negotiations had sprung from the circumstance of there being so many different parties to be consulted, and in consequence of their being at a distance from each other, rather lengthened delays taking place in making the necessary communications preparatory to their assenting to an arrangement. What, in a few words, had taken place was, that Her Majesty's Government had proposed to the two parties—Germany and Denmark—articles of an armistice, which contained also the principles of the basis of a permanent settlement. As that appeared to the parties concerned to involve questions which might lead to lengthened discussions, the Prussian Government had sent an officer in their confidence to Malmöe to be in personal communication with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the King of Sweden, as a friendly mediator, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the King of Denmark; and they had arranged matters for an armistice, not including those principles of the basis of a permanent settlement which had been comprised in his (Lord Palmerston's) proposal. Those articles so agreed upon, but not signed, as the hon. Member supposed, by the organs of Sweden, Denmark, and Prussia, had been approved by the Danish Government, and sent to Berlin, where objections having been taken to some of the details, modifications were thought requisite, and the Prussian officer had been sent back with the articles, and those modifications had been accepted. Undoubtedly it was reasonable to suppose that the articles of the armistice were thus finally concluded, and would be signed. But when the Prussian Government had sent orders to the general commanding in Schleswig to sign the armistice, in conjunction with the military commander of the Danish forces, that officer started a difficulty with regard to the position in which he conceived himself placed, both with reference to his own Government and to the government of the Confederation which had been recently constituted at Frankfort. He need not trouble the House by going into further details on the subject; but he might safely from communications which he had received that morning from Berlin, hold out a hope that those difficulties—which were difficulties in form rather than in substance—were likely to be got over; and, notwithstanding the delay which had taken place, he felt a confident hope that the armistice would be signed and concluded. There might be a question of certain modifications, but he trusted the two parties would come to an agreement in substance on the articles of the armistice. There would then remain the main question to be settled, and that main question Her Majesty's Government would still continue their good offices to arrange; and when hostilities should permanently cease he trusted the two parties would bring to the consideration of that further question that spirit of mutual conciliation without which no satisfactory arrangement could be attained.