1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Schleswig-Holstein Question
SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN QUESTION, the name given to the whole complex of diplomatic and other issues arising in the 19th century out of the relations of the two “Elbe duchies,” Schleswig and Holstein, to the Danish crown on the one hand and the German Confederation on the other, which came to a crisis with the extinction of the male line of the reigning house of Denmark by the death of King Frederick VII. on the 15th of November 1863. The central question was whether the two duchies did or did not constitute an integral part of the dominions of the Danish crown, with which they had been more or less intimately associated for centuries. This involved the purely legal question, raised by the death of the last common male heir to both Denmark and the duchies, as to the proper succession in the latter, and the constitutional questions arising out of the relations of the duchies to the Danish crown, to each other, and of Holstein to the German Confederation. There was also the national question: the ancient racial antagonism between German and Dane, intensified by the tendency, characteristic of the 19th century, to the consolidation of nationalities. Lastly, there was the international question: the rival ambitions of the German powers involved, and beyond them the interests of other European states, notably that of Great Britain in preventing the rise of a German sea-power in the north.
To take the racial question first, from time immemorial the country north of the Elbe had been the battle-ground of Danes and Germans. Danish scholars point to the prevalence of Danish place-names far southward into the German-speaking districts as evidence that at least the whole of Schleswig was at one time Danish; German scholars claim it, on the other hand, as essentially German. That the duchy of Schleswig, or South Jutland (Sönderjylland), had been from time immemorial a Danish fief was, indeed, not in dispute, nor was the fact that Holstein had been from the first a fief of the Germano-Roman Empire. The controversy in the 19th century raged round the ancient “indissoluble” union of the two duchies, and the inferences to be drawn from it; the “Eider Danes” claimed Schleswig as an integral part of the Danish monarchy, which, on the principle of the union, involved the retention of Holstein also; the Germans claimed Holstein as a part of Germany and, therefore, on the same historic principle, Schleswig also. The history of the relations of Schleswig and Holstein thus became of importance in the practical political question.
Though the designation of Schleswig-Holstein, implying the fusion of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein in a single Prussian province, only dates from 1866, the history of the duchies has since the 14th century been so closely interwoven Early history of the duchies. that it is impossible to treat them separately. Something must, however, be said about their origins and their separate history up to the time of their first union under the Holstein counts.
When it first appears in history South Jutland was inhabited by mingled Cimbri, Angles, Jutes and Frisians, upon whom the Danes exercised an unceasing pressure from the north. To the south of Schleswig what is now Holstein was Mark of Schleswig. inhabited mainly by Saxons, pressed upon from the east by the Wends and other Slavonic races. These Saxons were the last of their nation to submit to Charlemagne (804), who put their country under Frankish counts, the limits of the Empire being pushed in 810 as far as the Schlei in Schleswig. Then began the secular struggle between the Danish kings and the German emperors, and in 934 the German king Henry I. established the Mark of Schleswig (Limes Danarum) between the Eider and the Schlei as an outpost of Germany against the Danes. South of this raged the contest between Germans and Slavs. The latter, conquered and Christianized, rose in revolt in 983, after the death of the emperor Otto II., and for a while reverted to paganism and independence. The Saxon dukes, however, continued to rule central Holstein, and Countship of Holstein. when Lothair of Supplingenburg became duke of Saxony (1106), on the extinction of the Billung line, he invested Adolf I. of Schauenburg with the countship of Holstein. Adolf I.’s son, Adolf II. (1128–1164), succeeded in reconquering the Slavonic Wagri and founded the city and see of Lübeck to hold them in check. Adolf III. (d. 1225), his successor, received Dithmarschen in fee from the emperor Frederick I., but in 1203 the fortunes of war compelled him to surrender Holstein to Valdemar II. of Denmark, the cession being confirmed by the emperor Frederick II. in 1214 and the pope in 1217. Valdemar appointed Albert of Orlamünde his lieutenant in Holstein, and the Schleswig-Holstein question might have been thus early settled but for Valdemar’s ill fortune in being taken prisoner in 1223. During his captivity Albert of Orlamünde was beaten at Mölln by Count Adolf III., to whom Valdemar restored his countship as the price of his own release. A papal dispensation from oaths taken under duress excused a new war; but Valdemar himself was beaten at Bornhövede on the 22nd of July 1227, and Holstein was permanently secured to the house of Schauenburg. After the death of Adolf IV. in 1261, Holstein was split up into several countships by his sons and grandsons: the lines of Kiel, Plön, Schauenburg-Pinneberg and Rendsburg.
In 1232 King Valdemar II., who had retained the former German
Mark north of the Eider, erected South Jutland (Schleswig) into a
duchy for his second son, Abel. On the death of the
latter’s descendant, Duke Eric, in 1319, Christopher II.
Duchy of Schleswig or South Jutland.
of Denmark attempted to seize the duchy, the heir of which,
Valdemar V., was a minor; but Valdemar’s guardian
and uncle, Gerhard III. of Holstein-Rendsburg (1304–1340),
surnamed “the Great” and a notable warrior, drove back
the Danes and, Christopher having been expelled, succeeded in
procuring the election of Valdemar to the Danish throne. His
reward was the duchy of Schleswig and the famous charter, known
as the Constitutio Valdemariana, which laid down the principle
that the duchy of South Jutland was never to be incorporated
in the kingdom of Denmark or ruled by the same
The Constitutio Valdemar-
iana 1326. sovereign (7 June 1326). Thus Schleswig and Holstein were for the first time united. The union was, indeed, as yet precarious. In 1330, Christopher II. was restored to his throne and Valdemar V. to his duchy, Gerhard having to be content with the reversion in the case of the duke dying without issue. Gerhard, however, was assassinated in 1340 by a Dane, and it was not till 1375, when the male lines both in the kingdom and the duchy became extinct by the deaths of King Valdemar IV. and Duke Valdemar V., that the counts of Holstein seized on their inheritance, assuming at the same time the style of “lords of Jutland.” In 1386 Queen Margaret allowed their claim in return for the usual homage and promise of feudal service, and directed that Union of Schleswig and Holstein. one of their number should be elected duke of Schleswig. The choice fell on Gerhard VI., grandson of Gerhard III. of Rendsburg, who after the extinction of the line of Kiel (1390) obtained in 1403 the whole of the countship of Holstein, except the small Schauenburg territories. With this begins the history of the union of Schleswig and Holstein.
Gerhard VI. died in 1404, and soon afterwards war broke out between his sons and Eric of Pomerania, Margaret’s successor on the throne of Denmark, who claimed South Jutland as an integral part of the Danish monarchy, a claim formally recognized by the emperor Sigismund in 1424. It was not till 1440 that the struggle ended with the investiture of Count Adolf VIII., Gerhard’s son, with the hereditary duchy of Schleswig by Christopher III. of Denmark. On the death of Christopher eight years later, Adolf’s influence secured the election of his nephew Count Christian of Oldenburg to the vacant throne.
On the death of Adolf in 1459 without issue, King Christian I.,
though he had been forced to swear to the Constitutio Valdemariana,
succeeded in asserting his claim to Schleswig in right of
his mother, Adolf’s sister. Instead of incorporating
King-dukes of the Old-
enburg line. South Jutland with the Danish kingdom, however, he preferred to take advantage of the feeling of the estates in Schleswig and Holstein in favour of union to secure both countries. On Schleswig the Schauenburg counts had no claim; their election in Holstein would have separated the countries; and it was easy therefore for Christian to secure his election both as duke of Schleswig and count of Holstein (5 March 1460). The price he paid was a charter of privileges, issued first Charter of Ribe, 1460. The “indis-
soluble union.” at Ribe and afterwards at Kiel, in which he promised to preserve the countries for ever as “one and indivisible,” and conceded to the estates the right to refuse to elect as count and duke any Danish prince who should not undertake, on becoming king, to confirm their privileges. By these privileges the union between South Juliana and Holstein, established under the Schauenburg line, was officially recognized. For external affairs the two countries were to be regarded as one, the bishop of Lübeck and five “good men” elected by the estates of each country forming an advisory and executive council under the duke-count. For internal affairs duchy and county were to retain their separate estates and peculiar customs and laws. Above all, Holstein remained a German, Schleswig a Danish fief. The claims of the Schauenburg counts were surrendered for a money payment; Duchy of Holstein, 1472. it was not till 1640 however, that the extinction of their line brought Schauenburg itself to the Danish crown. Finally, in 1472 the emperor Frederick III. confirmed Christian I.’s overlordship over Dithmarschen, and erected Dithmarschen, Holstein and Stormarn into the duchy of Holstein.
On the death of King Frederick I. (1523–1533), under whom the
Reformation had been introduced into the
first of several partitions of the inheritance of the house
Subdivision of the duchies.
of Oldenburg; the elder son, Christian III., succeeding
as king of Denmark, the younger, Adolphus (Adolf) I.,
founding the line of the dukes of Gottorp. In 1581 a
further partition was made, by a compact signed at Flensburg,
between King Frederick II. and his uncle Duke Adolphus I., under
which the rights of overlordship in the various towns and territories
of Schleswig were divided between them; the estates, however,
remained undivided, and the king and duke ruled the country
alternately. To make confusion worse confounded, Frederick II.
in 1582 ceded certain lands in Ha
rdersleben to his brother John,
who founded the line of Schleswig-Sonderburg, and John’s grandsons
again partitioned this appanage, Ernest Günther (1609–1689),
founding the line of Schleswig-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, and
Augustus Philip (1612–1675) that of Schleswig-Beck-Glücksburg
(known since 1825 as Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg).
Meanwhile the Gottorp dukes were making themselves a great position in Europe. Frederick III., duke from 1616 to 1659, established the principle of primogeniture for his line, and the full sovereignty of his Schleswig dominions was The dukes of Gottorp. secured to him by his son-in-law Charles X. of Sweden by the convention of Copenhagen (12 May 1658) and to his son Christian Albert (d. 1694) by the treaty of Oliva, though it was not till after years of warfare that Denmark admitted the claim by the convention of Altona (30 June 1689). Christian Albert’s son Frederick IV. (d. 1702) was again attacked by Denmark, but had a powerful champion in Charles XII. of Sweden, who secured his rights by the treaty of Travendal in 1700. Frederick was killed at the battle of Klissow in 1702, and his brother Christian Augustus acted as regent for his son Charles Frederick until 1718. In 1713 the regent broke the stipulated neutrality of the duchy in favour of Sweden and Frederick IV. of Denmark seized the excuse to expel the duke by force of arms. Holstein was restored to him by the peace of Frederiksborg in 1720, but in the following year Frederick IV. was recognized as sovereign of Schleswig by the estates and by the princes of the Augustenburg and Glücksburg lines.
The situation was ultimately simplified by the marriage of Duke Charles Frederick with the tsarevna Anna Pavlovna, and the recognition in 1742 of their son Charles Peter Ulrich as cesarevitch by the empress Elizabeth of Russia. For Russia resigns her rights in the duchies, 1767, 1773. Peter as duke of Gottorp, Adolphus Frederick, bishop of Lübeck, son of Christian Augustus, acted as regent until 1745; in 1751 he became king of Sweden. But the rulers of Russia had no interest in maintaining their part of Holstein and their confused and disputed common rights in Jutland, and in 1767 the empress Catherine II. resigned them, by the treaty of Copenhagen, in the name of her son Paul, who confirmed this action on coming of age in 1773. Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, surrendered by the Danish king in compensation, were handed over to Frederick Augustus, bishop of Lübeck, the second son of Christian Augustus, who thus founded the younger line of the house of Gottorp. Schleswig and Holstein were thus once more united under the Danish king.
On the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Holstein was practically, though not formally, incorporated in Denmark. Under the administration of the Danish prime minister Count Bernstorff, himself from Schleswig, many reforms were carried out in the duchies, e.g. abolition of torture and of serfdom; at the same time Danish laws and coinage were introduced, and Danish was made the official language for communication with Copenhagen. Since, however, the Danish court itself at the time was largely German in language and feeling, this produced no serious expressions of resentment.
The Congress of Vienna, instead of settling the questions involved
in the relations of the duchies of Denmark once for
all, sought to
stereotype the old divisions in the interests of Germany.
of Vienna, 1815. The settlement of 1806 was reversed, and while Schleswig remained as before, Holstein and Lauenburg were included in the new German Confederation. The opening up of the Schleswig-Holstein question thus became sooner or later inevitable. The Germans of Holstein, influenced by the new national enthusiasm evoked by the War of Liberation, resented more than ever the attempts of the government of Copenhagen to treat them as part of the Danish monarchy and, encouraged by the sympathy of the Germans in Schleswig, early tried to reassert in the interests of Germanism the old principle of the unity of the duchies. The political atmosphere, however, had changed at Copenhagen also; and their demands were met by the Danes with a nationalist temper as intractable as their own. Affairs were ripe for a crisis, which the threatened failure of the common male heirs to the kingdom and the duchies precipitated.
When Christian VIII. succeeded his father Frederick VI. in 1839 the elder male line of the house of Oldenburg was obviously on the point of extinction, the king’s only son and heir having no children. Ever since 1834, when joint Question of the succession. consultative estates had been re-established for the duchies, the question of the succession had been debated in this assembly. To German opinion the solution seemed clear enough. The crown of Denmark could be inherited by female heirs; in the duchies the Salic law had never been repealed and, in the event of a failure of male heirs to Christian VIII., the succession would pass to the dukes of Augustenburg. Danish opinion, on the other hand, clamoured for a royal pronouncement proclaiming the principle of the indivisibility of the monarchy and its transmission intact to a single heir, in accordance with the royal law. To this Christian VIII. yielded so far as to issue in 1846 letters patent declaring that the royal law in the matter of the succession was in full force so far as Schleswig was concerned, in accordance with the letters patent of August 22, 1721, the oath of fidelity of September 3, 1721, the guarantees given by France and Great Britain in the same year and the treaties of 1767 and 1773 with Russia. As to Holstein, he stated that certain circumstances prevented him from giving, in regard to some parts of the duchy, so clear a decision as in the case of Schleswig. The principle of the independence of Schleswig and of its union with Holstein were expressly reaffirmed. An appeal against this by the estates of Holstein to the German diet received no attention. The revolutionary year 1848 brought matters to a head. On the 28th of January, Christian VIII. issued a rescript proclaiming a new constitution which, while preserving the autonomy of the different parts of the country, incorporated them for common purposes in a single organization. The estates of the duchies replied by demanding the incorporation of Schleswig-Holstein, as a single constitutional state, in the German Confederation. Frederick VII., who had succeeded his father at the end of January, declared (March 4) that he had no right to deal in this way with Schleswig, and, yielding to the importunity of the Eider-Danish party, withdrew the rescript of January (April 4) and announced to the people of Schleswig (March 27) the promulgation of a liberal constitution under which the duchy, while preserving its local autonomy, would become an integral part of Denmark.
Meanwhile, however, the duchies had broken out into open insurrection; a provisional government had been established at Kiel; and the duke of Augustenburg had hurried to Berlin to secure the assistance of Prussia in asserting Prussian Intervention, 1848. his rights. This was at the very crisis of the revolution in Berlin, and the Prussian government saw in the proposed intervention in Denmark in a popular cause an excellent opportunity for restoring its damaged prestige. Prussian troops were accordingly marched into Holstein; and, the diet having on the 12th of April recognized the provisional government of Schleswig and commissioned Prussia to enforce its decrees, General Wrangel was ordered to occupy Schleswig also.
The principles which Prussia was commissioned to enforce as the mandatory of Germany were: (1) that they were independent states, (2) that their union was indissoluble, (3) that they were hereditary only in the male line. Attitude of the powers. powers. But the Germans had reckoned without the European powers, which were united in opposing any dismemberment of Denmark, even Austria refusing to assist in enforcing the German view. Swedish troops landed to assist the Danes; Nicholas I. of Russia, speaking with authority as representing the elder Gottorp line, pointed out to King Frederick William IV. the risks of a collision; Great Britain, though the Danes rejected her mediation, threatened to send her fleet to assist in preserving the status quo. Frederick William now ordered Wrangel to withdraw his troops from the duchies; but the general refused to obey, on the plea that he was under the command not of the king of Prussia but of the regent of Germany, and proposed that, at least, any treaty concluded should be presented for ratification to the Frankfort government. This the Danes refused; and negotiations were broken off. Prussia was now confronted on the one side by the German nation urging her clamorously to action, on the other side by the Convention of Malmoe. European powers with one voice threatening the worst consequences should she persist. After painful hesitation, Frederick William chose what seemed the lesser of two evils and, on the 26th of August 1848, Prussia signed at Malmoe a convention which yielded practically all the Danish demands. The Holstein estates appealed to the German parliament, which hotly took up their cause; but it was soon clear that the central government had no means of enforcing its views, and in the end the convention was ratified at Frankfort.
The convention was only in the nature of a truce establishing a temporary modus vivendi, and the main issues, left unsettled, continued to be hotly debated. At a conference held in London in October, Denmark suggested an arrangement on the basis of a separation of Schleswig from Holstein, which was about to become a member of the new German empire, Schleswig to have a separate constitution under the Danish crown. This was supported by Great Britain and Russia and accepted by Prussia and the German government (27th January 1849). The negotiations broke down, however, on the refusal of Denmark to yield the principle of the indissoluble union with the Danish crown; on the 23rd of February the truce was at an end, and on the 3rd of April the war was renewed. At this point the tsar intervened in favour of peace; and Prussia, conscious of her restored strength and weary of the intractable temper of the Frankfort government, determined to take matters into her own hands. On the 10th of July 1849 another truce was signed; Schleswig, until the peace, was to be administered separately, under a mixed commission, Holstein was to be governed by a vicegerent of the German empire — an arrangement equally offensive to German and Danish sentiment. A settlement seemed as far off as ever; the Danes still clamoured for the principle of succession in the female line and union with Denmark, the Germans for that of succession in the male line and union with Holstein. In utter weariness Prussia proposed, in April 1850, a definitive peace on the basis of the status quo ante bellum and the postponement of all questions as to mutual rights. To Palmerston the basis seemed meaningless, the proposed settlement to settle nothing. The emperor Nicholas, openly disgusted with Frederick William’s weak-kneed truckling to the Revolution, again intervened. To him the duke of Augustenburg was a rebel; Russia had guaranteed Schleswig to the Danish crown by the treaties of 1767 and 1773; as for Holstein, if the king of Denmark was unable to deal with the rebels there, he himself would intervene as he had done in Hungary. The threat was reinforced by the menace of the European situation. Austria and Prussia were on the verge of war, and the sole hope of preventing Russia from throwing her sword into the scale of Austria lay in settling the Schleswig-Holstein question in the sense desired by her. The only alternative, an alliance with “the devil’s nephew,” Louis Napoleon, who already dreamed of acquiring the Rhine frontier for France at the price of his aid in establishing German sea-power by the cession Treaty of Berlin, 1850. of the duchies, was abhorrent to Frederick William. On the 2nd of July 1850 was signed at Berlin a treaty of peace between Prussia and Denmark. Both parties reserved all their antecedent rights; but for Denmark it was enough, since it empowered the king-duke to restore his authority in Holstein with or without the consent of the German Confederation.
Danish troops now marched in to coerce the refractory duchies; but while the fighting went on negotiations among the powers continued, and on the 2nd of August 1850 Great Britain, France, Russia and Norway-Sweden signed a protocol, to which Austria subsequently adhered, approving the principle of restoring the integrity of the Danish monarchy. The Copenhagen government, which in May 1851 made an abortive attempt to come to an understanding with the inhabitants of the duchies by convening an assembly of notables at Flensburg, issued on the 6th of December 1851 a project for the future organization of the monarchy on the basis of the equality of its constituent states, with a common ministry; and on the 28th of January 1852 a royal letter announced the institution of a unitary state which, while maintaining the fundamental constitution of Denmark, would increase the parliamentary powers of the estates of the two duchies. This proclamation was approved by Prussia and Austria, and by the German federal diet in so far as it affected Holstein and Lauenburg. The question of the succession was The Succession Protocol of London, 1852. next approached. Only the question of the Augustenburg succession made an agreement between the powers impossible, and on the 31st of March 1852 the duke of Augustenburg resigned his claim in return for a money payment. Further adjustments followed. After the renunciation by the emperor of Russia and others of their eventual rights, Charlotte, landgravine of Hesse, sister of Christian VIII., and her son Prince Frederick transferred their rights to the latter’s sister Louise, who in her turn transferred them to her husband Prince Christian of Glücksburg. This arrangement received international sanction by the protocol signed in London on the 8th of May 1852 by the five great powers and Norway and Sweden. On the 31st of July 1853 King Frederick VII. gave his assent to a law settling the crown on Prince Christian, “prince of Denmark,” and his heirs male. The protocol of London, while consecrating the principle of the integrity of Denmark, stipulated that the rights of the German Confederation in Holstein and Lauenburg should remain unaffected. It was, in fact, a compromise, and left the fundamental issues unsettled. The German federal diet had been unrepresented in London, and the terms of the protocol were regarded in Germany as a humiliation. As for the Danes, they were far from being satisfied with the settlement, which they approved only in so far as it gave them a basis for a more vigorous prosecution of their unionist schemes. On the 15th of February and the 11th of June 1854 the king of Denmark, after consulting the estates, promulgated special constitutions for Schleswig and Holstein respectively, under which the provincial assemblies received certain very limited powers. On the 26th of July 1854 he published a common constitution Danish Unitary Constitution of 1855. for the whole monarchy; this, which was little more than a veiled absolutism, was superseded on the 2nd of October 1855 by a parliamentary constitution of a modified type. The legality of this constitution was disputed by the two German great powers, on the ground that the estates of the duchies had not been consulted as promised in the royal letter of the 6th of December 1851; the diet of the Confederation refused to admit its validity so far as Holstein and Lauenburg were concerned (11th February 1858).
The question was now once more the subject of lively international debate; but the European situation was no longer so favourable as it had been to the Danish view. The Crimean War had crippled the power of Russia, and Nicholas I. was dead. France was prepared to sell the interests of Denmark in the duchies to Prussia in return for “compensations” to herself elsewhere. Great Britain alone sided with the Danes; but the action of British ministers, who realized the danger to British supremacy at sea of the growth of German sea-power in the Baltic, was hampered by the natural sympathy of Queen Victoria and the prince consort with the German point of view. The result was that the German diet, on the motion of Bismarck, having threatened federal intervention (July 29), King Frederick VII. issued a proclamation abolishing the general constitution so far as it affected Holstein and Lauenburg, while retaining it for Denmark and Schleswig (November 6).
Though even this concession violated the principle of the
“indissoluble union” of the duchies, the German diet, fully
occupied at home, determined to refrain from further action
till the Danish parliament should make another effort to pass a
law or budget affecting the whole kingdom without consulting the
estates of the duchies. This contingency arose in July 1860,
and in the spring of the following year the estates were once
more at open odds with the Danish government. The German
diet now prepared for armed intervention; but it was in no
condition to carry out its threats, and Denmark decided, on the
advice of Great Britain, to ignore it and open negotiations
directly with Prussia and Austria as independent powers. These
demanded the restoration of the union between the duchies, a
question beyond the competence of the Confederation. Denmark
replied with a refusal to recognize the right of any foreign power
to interfere in her relations with Schleswig; to which Austria,
anxious to conciliate the smaller German princes, responded
with a vigorous protest against Danish infringements of the
compact of 1852. Lord John Russell now intervened, on behalf
of Great Britain, with a proposal for a settlement of the whole
question on the basis of the independence of the duchies under
the Danish crown, with a decennial budget for common expenses
to be agreed on by the four assemblies, and a supreme council of
state consisting in relative proportion of Danes and
This was accepted by Russia and by the German great powers,
and Denmark found herself isolated in Europe. The international
situation, however, favoured a bold attitude, and she met the
representations of the powers with a flat defiance. The retention
of Schleswig as an integral part of the monarchy was to her a
matter of life and death; the German Confederation had made
Denmark repudiates the compacts
of 1852. the terms of the protocol of 1852, defining the intimate relations between the duchies, the excuse for unwarrantable interference in the internal affairs of Denmark; and on the 30th of March 1863 a royal proclamation was published at Copenhagen repudiating the compacts of 1852, and, by defining the separate position of Holstein in the Danish monarchy, negativing once for all the claims of Germany upon Schleswig.
The reply of the German diet to this move was to forward a note to Copenhagen (July 9) demanding, on pain of federal execution, the withdrawal of the proclamation and the grant of a fresh constitution, based on the compacts Danish Constitution of 1863. of 1852 or on the British note of the 24th of September 1862. Instead, King Frederick VII. issued on the 28th of September 1863 a new constitution for “our kingdom of Denmark-Slesvig.” The diet now resolved on federal execution; but action was delayed, partly through British efforts at mediation, partly because Bismarck judged the time for a satisfactory solution of the whole question had not yet come. Encouraged by this hesitating attitude, the Danish parliament passed the new constitution on the 13th of November. Two days later Frederick VII. died.
The “Protocol-King,” Christian IX., who now ascended the throne, was in a position of extraordinary difficulty. The first sovereign act he was called upon to perform was to sign the new constitution. To sign was to violate the at Accession of Christian IX., 1863. terms of the very protocol which was his title to reign; to refuse to sign was to place himself in antagonism to the united sentiment of his Danish subjects. He chose what seemed the remoter evil, and on the 18th of November signed the constitution. The news was received in Germany with violent manifestations of excitement and anger. Frederick, duke of Augustenburg, son of the prince who in 1852 had renounced the succession to the duchies, now claimed his rights on the ground that he had had no share in the renunciation. In Holstein an agitation in his favour had begun from the first, and this was extended to Schleswig on the terms of the new Danish constitution becoming known. His claim was enthusiastically supported by the German princes and people, and in spite of the negative attitude of Austria and Prussia the federal diet decided Decree of federal execution. to occupy Holstein “pending the settlement of the succession.” On the 24th of December Saxon and Hanoverian troops marched into the duchy in the name of the German Confederation, and supported by their presence and by the loyalty of the Holsteiners the duke of Augustenburg assumed the government under the style of Duke Frederick VIII. With this “folly” — as Bismarck roundly termed it — Austria and Prussia, in the teeth of violent public opinion, would have nothing to do, for neither wished to risk Attitude of Austria and Prussia. a European war. It was clear to Bismarck that the two powers, as parties to the protocol of 1852, must uphold the succession as fixed by it, and that any action they might take in consequence of the violation of that compact by Denmark must be so “correct” as to deprive Europe of all excuse for interference. The publication of the new constitution by Christian IX. was in itself sufficient to justify a declaration of war by the two powers as parties to the signature of the protocol. As to the ultimate outcome of their effective intervention, that could be left to the future to decide. Austria had no clear views. King William wavered between his Prussian feeling and a sentimental sympathy with the duke of Augustenburg. Bismarck alone knew exactly what he wanted, and how to attain it. “From the beginning,” he said later (Reflections, ii. 10), “I kept annexation steadily before my eyes.”
The protests of Great Britain and Russia against the action of the German diet, together with the proposal of Count Beust, on behalf of Saxony, that Bavaria should bring forward in that assembly a formal motion for the recognition of Duke Frederick’s claims, helped Bismarck to persuade Austria that immediate action must be taken. On the 28th of December a motion was introduced in the diet by Austria and Prussia, calling on the Confederation to occupy Schleswig as a pledge for the observance by Denmark of the compacts of 1852. This implied the recognition of the rights of Christian IX., and was indignantly rejected; whereupon the diet was informed that the Austrian and Prussian governments would act in the matter as independent European powers. The agreement between them was signed on the 16th of January 1864. An article drafted by Austria, intended to safeguard the settlement of 1852, was replaced at Bismarck’s instance by another which stated that the two powers would decide only in concert on the relations of the duchies, and that they would in no case determine the question of the succession save by mutual consent.
At this stage, had the Danes yielded to the necessities of the situation and withdrawn from Schleswig under protest, the European powers would probably have intervened, a congress would have restored Schleswig to the Danish Austria and Prussia occupy the duchies. Prussia crown, and Austria and Prussia, as European powers, would have had no choice but to prevent any attempt upon it by the duke of Holstein. To prevent this possibility Bismarck made the Copenhagen government believe that Great Britain had threatened Prussia with intervention should hostilities be opened, “though, as a matter of fact, England did nothing of the kind.” The cynical stratagem succeeded; Denmark remained defiant; and on the 1st of February 1864 the Austrian and Prussian forces crossed the Eider.
An invasion of Denmark itself had not been part of the original
programme of the allies; but on the i8th of February some
Prussian hussars, in the excitement of a cavalry
skirmish, crossed the frontier and occupied the village
ments during the Danish War. of Kolding. Bismarck determined to use this circumstance to revise the whole situation. He urged upon Austria the necessity for a strong policy, so as to settle not only the question of the duchies but the wider question of the German Confederation; and Austria reluctantly consented to press the war. On the 5th of March a fresh agreement was signed between the powers, under which the compacts of 1852 were declared to be no longer valid, and the position of the duchies within the Danish monarchy as a whole was to be made the subject of a friendly understanding. Meanwhile, however, Lord John Russell on behalf of Great Britain, supported by Russia, France and Sweden, had intervened with a proposal that the whole question should once more be submitted to a European conference. The German powers agreed on condition that the compacts of 1852 should not be taken as a basis, and that the duchies should be bound to Denmark by a personal tie only. But the proceedings of the conference, which opened at London on the 25th of April, only revealed the inextricable tangle of the issues involved. Beust, on behalf of the Confederation, demanded the recognition of the Augustenburg claimant; Austria leaned to a settlement on the lines of that of 1852; Prussia, it was increasingly clear, aimed at the acquisition of the duchies. The first step towards the realization of this latter ambition was to secure the recognition of the absolute independence of the duchies, and this Austria could only oppose at the risk of forfeiting her whole influence in Germany. The two powers, then, agreed to demand the complete political independence of the duchies bound together by common institutions. The next move was uncertain. As to the question of annexation Prussia would leave that open, but made it clear that any settlement must involve the complete military subordination of Schleswig-Holstein to herself. This alarmed Austria, The Powers and August-
enburg. which had no wish to see a further extension of Prussia’s already overgrown power, and she began to champion the claims of the duke of Augustenburg. This contingency, however, Bismarck had foreseen and himself offered to support the claims of the duke at the conference if he would undertake to subordinate himself in all naval and military matters to Prussia, surrender Kiel for the purposes of a Prussian war-harbour, give Prussia the control of the projected North Sea Canal, and enter the Prussian Customs Union. On this basis, with Austria’s support, the whole matter might have been arranged without — as Beust pointed out (Mem. i. 272) — the increase of Prussia’s power beyond the Elbe being any serious menace to Austrian influence in Germany. Fortunately, however, for Bismarck’s plans, Austria’s distrust and jealousy of Prussia led her to oppose this settlement and at her instigation the duke of Augustenburg rejected it.
On the 25th of June the London conference broke up without having arrived at any conclusion. On the 24th, in view of the end of the truce, Austria and Prussia had arrived at a new agreement, the object of the war being now Treaty of Vienna, 1864. declared to be the complete separation of the duchies from Denmark. As the result of the short campaign that followed, the preliminaries of a treaty of peace were signed on the 1st of August, the king of Denmark renouncing all his rights in the duchies in favour of the emperor of Austria and the king of Prussia. The definitive treaty was signed at Vienna on the 30th of October 1864. By Article XIX., a period of six years was allowed during which the inhabitants of the duchies might “opt” for Danish nationality and transfer themselves and their goods to Denmark; and the right of “indigenacy” was guaranteed to all, whether in the kingdom or the duchies, who enjoyed it at the time of the exchange of ratifications of the treaty.
The Schleswig-Holstein Question from this time onward became merged in the larger question of the general relations of Austria and Prussia, and its later developments are sketched in the article Germany: History. The last phase of the question. So far as Europe was concerned it was settled by the decisive result of the war of 1866. It survived, however, as between Danes and Germans, though narrowed down to the question of the fate of the Danish population of the northern duchy. This question is of great interest to students of international law and as illustrating the practical problems involved in the assertion of the modern principle of “nationality.”
The position of the Danes in Schleswig after the cession was determined, so far as treaty rights are concerned, by two instruments — the Treaty of Vienna (October 30, 1864) and the Treaty of Prague (August 23, 1866). By Article XIX. of the former treaty The Danish “optants.” subjects domiciled in the ceded territories had the right, within six years of the exchange of ratifications, of opting for the Danish nationality and transferring themselves, their families and their personal property to Denmark, while keeping their landed property in the duchies. The last paragraph of the Article ran: “Le droit d'indigénat, tant dans le royaume de Danemark que dans les Duchés, est conservé à tous les individus qui le possèdent a l'epoque de l'échange des ratifications du présent Traité.” By Article V. of the Treaty of Prague Schleswig was ceded by Austria to Prussia with the reservation that “the populations of the North of Schleswig shall be again united with Denmark in the event of their expressing a desire so to be by a vote freely exercised.” Taking advantage of the terms of these treaties, about 50,000 Danes from North Schleswig (out of a total population of some 150,000) opted for Denmark and migrated over the frontier, pending the plébiscite which was to restore their country to them. But the plébiscite never came. Its inclusion in the treaty had been no more than a diplomatic device to save the face of the emperor Napoleon III.; Prussia had from the first no intention of surrendering an inch of the territory she had conquered; the outcome of the Franco-German War made it unnecessary for her even to pretend that she might do so; and by the Treaty of Vienna of October 11, 1878, the clause relating to the plébiscite was formally abrogated with the assent of Austria.
Meanwhile the Danish “optants,” disappointed of their hopes, had begun to stream back over the frontier into Schleswig. By doing so they lost, under the Danish law, their rights as Danish citizens, without acquiring those of Prussian subjects; and this disability was transmitted to their children. By Article XIX. of the Treaty of 1864, indeed, they should have been secured the rights of “indigenacy,” which, while falling short of complete citizenship, implied, according to Danish law, all the essential guarantees for civil liberty. But in German law the right of Indigenat is not clearly differentiated from the status of a subject; and the supreme court at Kiel decided in several cases that those who had opted for Danish nationality had forfeited their rights under the Indigenat paragraph of the Treaty of Vienna. There was thus created in the frontier districts a large and increasing class of people who dwelt in a sort of political limbo, having lost their Danish citizenship through ceasing to be domiciled in Denmark, and unable to acquire Prussian citizenship because they had failed to apply for it within the six years stipulated in the Treaty of 1864. Their exclusion from the rights of Prussian subjects was due, however, to causes other than the letter of the treaty. The Danes, in spite of every discouragement, never ceased to strive for the preservation and extension of their national traditions and language; the Germans were equally bent on effectually absorbing these recalcitrant “Teutons” into the general life of the German empire; and to this end the uncertain status of the Danish optants was a useful means. Danish agitators of German nationality could not be touched so long as they were careful to keep within the limits of the law; pro-Danish newspapers owned and staffed by German subjects enjoyed immunity in accordance with the constitution, which guarantees the liberty of the press. The case of the “optants” was far other. These unfortunates, who numbered a large proportion of the population, were subject to domiciliary visits, and to arbitrary perquisitions, arrest and expulsion. When the pro-Danish newspapers, after the exulsion of several “optant” editors, were careful to appoint none but German subjects, the vengeance of the authorities fell upon “optant” type-setters, printers and printers' devils. The Prussian police, indeed, developed an almost superhuman capacity for detecting optants: and since these pariahs were mingled indistinguishably with the mass of the people, no household and no business was safe from official inquisition. One instance out of many may serve to illustrate the type of offence that served as excuse for this systematic official persecution. On the 27th of April 1896 the second volume for 1895 of the Sönderjyske Aarböger was confiscated for having used the historic term Sönderjylland (South Jutland) for Schleswig. To add to the misery, the Danish government refused to allow the Danish optants expelled by Prussia to settle in Denmark, though this rule was modified by the Danish Nationality Law of 1898 in favour of the children of optants born after the passing of the law. It was not till the signature of the treaty between Prussia and Denmark on the 11th of January 1907 that these intolerable Treaty of January 11, 1907. conditions were ended. By this treaty the German government undertook to allow all children born of Danish optants before the passing of the new Danish Nationality Law of 1898 to acquire Prussian nationality on the usual conditions and on their own application. This provision was not to affect the ordinary legal rights of expulsion as exercised by either power, but the Danish government undertook not to refuse to the children of Schleswig optants who should not seek to acquire or who could not legally acquire Prussian nationality permission to reside in Denmark. The provisions of the treaty apply not only to the children of Schleswig optants, but to their direct descendants in all degrees.
This adjustment, brought about by the friendly intercourse between the courts of Berlin and Copenhagen, seemed to close the last phase of the Schleswig question. Yet, so far from allaying, it apparently only served to embitter the inter-racial feud. The “autochthonous Germans of the Northern Marches” regarded the new treaty as a betrayal, and refused “to give the kiss of peace” to their hereditary enemies. For forty years Germanism, backed by all the weight of the empire and imposed with all the weapons of official persecution, had barely held its own in North Schleswig; in spite of an enormous emigration, in 1905, of the 148,000 inhabitants of North Schleswig 139,000 spoke Danish, while of the German-speaking immigrants it was found that more than a third spoke Danish in the first generation; and this in spite of the fact that, from 1864 onward, German had gradually been substituted for Danish in the churches, the schools, and even in the playground. But the scattered outposts of Germanism could hardly be expected to acquiesce without a struggle in a situation that threatened them with social and economic extinction. Forty years of dominance, secured by official favour, had filled them with a double measure of aggressive pride of race, and the question of the rival nationalities in Schleswig, like that in Poland, remained a source of trouble and weakness within the frontiers of the German empire.
Authorities.—The literature on the subject is vast. From the German point of view the most comprehensive treatment is in C. Jansen and K. Samwer, Schleswig-Holsteins Befreiung (Wiesbaden, 1897); see also H. C. L. von Sybel, Foundation of the German Empire (Eng. trans., New York, 1890–1891); Bismarck’s Reflections and Reminiscences, and L. Hahn, Bismarck (5 vols., 1878–1891). The Danish point of view is ably and moderately presented in La Question du Slesvig, a collection of essays by various writers edited by F. de Jessen (Copenhagen, 1906), with maps and documents. (W. A. P.)
- I.e. place-names according to popular usage, not the official names given in German maps (e.g. Haderslev for Hadersleben). See La Question du Slesvig, p. 61 seq., “Noms de lieux.”
- I.e. the party at Copenhagen which aimed at making the Eider, the southern boundary of Schleswig, the frontier of the Danish kingdom proper.
- Question du Slesvig, p. 78.
- The Church (Lutheran) was organized under a Probst (provost) and consistory, the king himself assuming the jurisdiction of summus episcopus.
- The king by a convention of the same date secured the full sovereignty for his own particular appanage in Schleswig. The attempt of the dukes of Gottorp to partition the actual government of the duchy broke on the opposition of the estates.
- Adolphus Frederick had renounced his rights in Schleswig by an agreement with the Danish king signed on the 25th of April 1750.
The best solution, which afterwards had the support of Napoleon
III., would have been to partition Schleswig on the lines of nationality,
assigning the Danish part to Denmark, the German to Holstein.
This idea, which subsequently had supporters both among Danes
and Germans, proved impracticable later owing to the intractable
temper of the majority on both sides. See La Question
deSlesvig, p. 135 seq., “Historique de l'idée d'un partage du Slesvig.”
- This was the argument of Karl Samwer, the German jurist, in his Die Staatserbfolge der Herzogthümer Schleswig und Holstein, published in 1844 at the instigation of the duke of Augustenburg.
- Hertslet, Map of Europe, ii. 1151.
- See Queen Victoria to Lord Malmesbury, 1st of May 1858, in Letters (pop. ed., 1908), iii. 280. Compare the letters to Palmerston of 21st of June 1849, ii. 222, and 22nd of June 1850, ii. 279, with Palmerston to Russell, 23d of June 1850, and Queen Victoria to Russell, ii. 250.
- Note of Sept. 24, 1862. For the diplomatic correspondence on the duchies see Parl. Papers, lxxiv. (1863).
- For this and later correspondence see Parl. Papers, lxiv. (1864), p. 40 seq.
- Parl. Papers (1864), lxv. 124 seq. Beust (Mem. i. 252) says that Queen Victoria personally intervened to prevent British action in favour of Denmark.
- The full text of the treaty is in La Question du Slesvig, p. 173 et seq.