HC Deb 03 May 1861 vol 162 cc1535-8

said, he rose to address a question to the noble Lord on another subject; but he could not help saying that the question on which the hon. Gentleman had just addressed them was one in which Members of all parties fully sympathized, and that in any representations which the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary might make on the subject he would be supported by the unanimous feeling of the House and the country. He, therefore, trusted that Her Majesty's Government would unite with the Government of France in an endeavour to obtain protection and relief for a people who had displayed such moderation and fortitude under their heavy sufferings. The question he had to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was, Whether, together with the Correspondence on the affairs of Schleswig and Holstein which he is about to lay upon the Table of the House, he has any objection to submit the Report made by John Ward, Esq., C. B., Her Majesty's Consul General at Hamburg, on the affairs of those Duchies, after a visit which he made there about five years ago? The subject to which his question related was one of very considerable importance, for unless some steps were taken to allay the excited feelings of the inhabitants of the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, the probability was that the present state of things would end in war. There was no one that was likely to interfere with more effect than the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs; and if the French Government could be persuaded to adopt the same view as the noble Lord, he believed that the present agitation in these provinces might be subdued, and that, instead of being a source of weakness and vexation to Denmark, they might be converted into a means of strength. It had been alleged on high authority in "another place" that the Schleswig Holstein dispute originated in the desire of the German inhabitants of the Duchies—misled by the revolutionary feeling in Germany—to engage in a revolutionary crusade against the Danish Government. Now, the very reverse was the fact. The real truth was that there had always been a party in Copenhagen who wished to get rid of the German element in Schleswig, and to incorporate that province with Denmark. As far back as 1846 Christian III., the then reigning King of Denmark, issued letters patent decreeing the separation of Schleswig from Holstein, and its incorporation with Denmark. That decree excited the greatest indignation and ill-feeling in the provinces, and the inhabitants resisted it by every means short of war. In consequence the letters patent were revoked two months after they were issued. When Christian died in 1848 the new King Frederick VII. issued a Proclamation confirming the rights of the Duchies, but excited by the revolutionary feeling that spread over Europe in that year, the Eider-Dane party, as they were called, from the war-cry of "Denmark to the Eider," soon after made a great demonstration at Copenhagen, and compelled the King to issue a Proclamation incorporating Schleswig with Denmark, changing the laws of succession, and in fact repealing all the ancient privileges which the Duchies had enjoyed for four centuries. That was the cause of the war which then broke out, and in which the Schleswigers fought with a gallantry and determination that excited the admiration of all who wit- nessed it. The German Bund interfered, as they had a right to interfere, for Holstein was a member of the German Confederation. It was said that the war was carried on to make the Duchies subservient to Prussia. But that was never said in Germany, and never by the authorities of Schleswig Holstein. He believed it was an entire fabrication. Nor was it true that the inhabitants of either Schleswig or Holstein had manifested the slightest desire to be separated from Denmark and united to Germany. All that they demanded was their ancient constitutional rights, and he was sorry to say that from a letter which he had received a few days ago he learnt that the Danish Government was even now interfering with those rights, and persecuting those who sought to establish them. Schleswig had no representative in this country; all the information they obtained was from the Danish minister; and, therefore, the Ministry some few years ago sent out Mr. Ward, a meritorious public servant, whose opinion was entitled to great weight, to inquire into the real facts of the ease. He thought the House ought to have the Report of that gentleman before them. As to the causes of the dispute, he was willing to admit that the conduct of the Danish Government was good in the main, but it was harsh and unconciliatory towards the Duchies. He hoped the noble Lord would use his influence to reconcile the parties, and make the Duchies a source of strength, instead of, as they now were, a source of weakness to Denmark.


said, he had a good deal of connection with Denmark, and if the hon. Member (Sir Harry Verncy) had known as much of the conduct of Denmark towards the inhabitants of the Duchies as he did, he would certainly never have stated that the conduct of the Government was unconciliatory or unkind. He, unhesitatingly, stated that in no part of Germany was there as much liberty as there was in Schleswig and Holstein. If Prussia and the German professors would only leave the King of Denmark, as Duke of Holstein, to administer the affairs of the Duchies as he was inclined to do, there would be none of those interminable complaints with which Europe was troubled. Nothing could exceed the anxiety of the Government of Denmark to meet the question in a fair and liberal spirit. He was there during the past year, and took pains to make himself acquainted with the state of the case and the feelings of the inhabitants. The people of the Duchies were perfectly satisfied; but there was a party called the professorial or professor party which was continually intermeddling, and with which it was perfectly impossible for any Government which had a practical aim to agree. Although he differed so much from the hon. Baronet who had asked the question upon this subject on so many other points, he agreed with him in hoping that the noble Lord would do his best to settle the differences between Denmark and the Duchies, and he was satisfied that he would find the Government of Denmark prepared to meet him in a conciliatory spirit. All that was required there was that affairs in Denmark should be properly administered.