HL Deb 26 February 1864 vol 173 cc1158-60

Seeing the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in his place, I wish to ask him a Question, which, as I have given him no notice of it, he will, of course, answer or not, as he thinks proper. The Question I wish to ask him is, Whether he has received any information in the sense of a statement which appears in The Morning Post of to-day, in regard to a declaration made by the Government of Berlin with respect to Denmark. The statement to which I allude is to the following effect:— The Prussian Government explains the entry of the allied armies into Jutland upon the following grounds:—'The occupation of Jutland has a military reason, which is to prevent the Danes from concentrating all their troops behind the fortifications of Duppel and in the island of Alsen. To this motive may be added reasons of general policy. In the first place, the intention of the two Powers to occupy Schleswig as a pledge, and to localize the war, has been frustrated by the embargo laid upon German shipping and by the blockade of the ports. The war having been caused by the violation of treaties on the part of Denmark, the latter Power must pay not only the expenses of Federal execution in Holstein, but also those incurred by the occupation of Schleswig; the allied army will, therefore, occupy Jutland in order to hold a guarantee for the payment by Denmark of the expenses of the war. That statement being in complete contradiction to one which was made by the Prime Minister in another place, I should like to know if the noble Earl could give the House any information on the subject?


I am sorry the noble Earl did not give me notice of his Question, that I might have referred to the official papers before I came down to the House, and thus been enabled to answer his Question more correctly than I am now in a position to do. Still, I can state generally the sort of explanation which is put forward by the Government of Prussia with respect to the entry of the Prussian troops into Jutland. What is stated is, that the Commander-in-chief of the Prussian forces had no orders to send troops into Jutland, and that it was not his intention to do so; but afterwards, when the Danish troops were on the frontiers of Jutland, they took up a position so menacing to the Prussian corps that was in Schleswig, that that corps thought itself obliged and justified in crossing the frontier and occupying a town on the border. With that statement came the information, that although the Commander-in-chief had no orders to enter Jutland, and the conduct of the officer who entered it was not approved, yet the Prussian Government thought it was necessary to occupy part of Jutland, as it were, for the security of their troops. With respect to the latter part of the statement to which the noble Earl refers, I may observe that what I understood the Prussian Minister to say was this—the statement, however, was one which was not regularly made—that the Danish Go- vernment, by ordering the capture of German ships, and of Prussian ships in particular, had made the war general, whereas it was the intention of the Governments of Austria and Prussia to make it local, and simply to take what was called "a material guarantee;" but that, if German ships generally were seized, the Prussian Government might be obliged to demand—not indemnification of the general expenses of the war, but compensation for those ships and their cargoes, and to occupy Jutland until they obtained that compensation. I am not at all surprised at that statement, because I remember stating long ago, that although the words "material guarantee" may sound something different from war, yet that the Danish Government were not bound to look on the invasion of their territory as anything else but war, and would, therefore, be justified — if they thought it expedient to do so—in attacking German and Prussian ships, and making war on them on the high seas; but that if they did so they would raise the question of compensation, and thus a war, which was spoken of as of comparatively small proportion, would assume a much more extended magnitude. That I stated some months ago, in order to induce Austria and Prussia not to enter into this war. This has been fully borne out by what has since occurred, and, therefore, I see reason both for lamenting and condemning the conduct of Austria and Prussia.


I do not understand that the noble Earl has received any communication from Austria on this subject, but that what he has stated refers entirely to a communication he has had from the Prussian Minister.


Yes; the statement comes entirely from the Prussian Government, but not in the shape of an official despatch. All we have heard from Austria is, that the Austrian Government will endeavour to moderate as much as possible the action of their General.