15 AUGUST 1846, Page 14


THE letter-patent recently promulgated by the King of Denmark has produced an intense ferment in all the states of the North. It has brought under the official cognizance of European states- manship a question long and vehemently agitated in Denmark and many neighbouring countries, and which cannot remain much longer unsettled without imminent danger to the general peace. The question is this—Must Denmark lose two of her best pro- vinces, Holstein and Schleswig, so soon as her present royal line is extinct ? Christian the Eighth and the Crown Prince are both childless ; and the next heir to the throne is the Prince of Hesse Cassel, the King's nephew by the sister's side : but his rights, it is said, cannot extend to Holstein, that province being a member of the German Confederation, and subject, like Hanover, to the Salique law. The right of succession to it is claimed by the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. The adjoining province of Schleswig never, indeed, belonged to the German Confederation ; it is, as the King distinctly admits, a dutchy annexed to the crown, but otherwise independent ; and it has been for centuries knit to Holstein in very close and pecu- liar bonds of political and social relationship. The two provinces have for centuries enjoyed a common administrative system, distinct from that of the other Danish dominions ; and they assert both chartered and prescriptive rights to remain indissolubly united together. The King of Denmark peremptorily denies this claim. He has caused the matter to be investigated by his Privy Council ; and this is the result. He admits that the right of his heirs in the female line to certain parts of the Holstein succession is doubtful, but that their title to Schleswig is incontestible, being founded on the treaty of Stockholm, (1720,) guaranteed by England and France, and on two subsequent treaties with Russia. This con- clusion is bitterly contested by the German party in the two pro- vinces, and by their foreign abettors. On the 18th July, the Estates of Hanover passed the following resolution, with only three dissentient voices—" The Estates feel confident that the Government will exert all its efforts to prevent any infringement of the independence of the dutchies of Schleswig-Holstein by a foreign power."

A brief historical retrospect is necessary in order to put the reader in possession of the main facts relied on by the contending parties respectively. The Eider, the Southern boundary of Schleswig, constituted the Northern limit of the empire of Char- lemagne ; but Schleswig itself was long a debateable land, and many portions of it passed as pledges and by way of conquest into the hands of the Counts of Holstein. In 1459, on the death of Adolf the Eighth, Count of Holstein and Duke of Schleswig, without children, his nephew, Christian the First, King of Den- mark and Count of Oldenburg, was elected Sovereign of both territories ; and a new constitution was granted by him, and sworn to by his successors. It declared that Schleswig and Hol- stein should for ever remain united under one sovereign, who should always be eligible only from among the descendants of King Christian ; but that the united territories should not be bound to any community either in war or peace with Den- mark, though their sovereign were also king of the latter country. Christian the Second, the tyrant, the grandson of the first mo- narch of the Oldenburg line, was deposed in 1523: his uncle, Duke Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein, was elected King of Den- mark and Norway ; and thus a second branch of the Oldenburg family acceded to the Danish throne. Christian the Third, Fre- derick's son, made a partition of his territory with his brother, and so founded the ducal house of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp. One of its representatives, the nephew of Charles the Twelfth of Sweden, after the disasters of that sovereign, had Schleswig wrested from him by Denmark ; in whose possession it has re- mained ever since. The Holstein-Gottorp family afterwards suc- ceeded to the Imperial throne of Russia; and Peter the Third was about to make war for the recovery of his ancient patrimonial domains when he was murdered. Catherine the Second, his suo- cessor, did not pursue the quarrel, but entered into a treaty of al- liance with the King of Denmark, (1767,) giving up her claim to Schleswig, and ceding to him a portion of Holstein possessed by the family of Gottorp, in exchange for the counties of Olden- burg and Delmenhorst. Thus we see that Christian the Eighth rests his case on the right of conquest, confirmed by treaty with the representative of the vanquished, and with other powers ; whilst his opponents contend that neither by the conquest nor by the treaties have the old fundamental laws of the dutchies been abrogated. The con- queror succeeded only to the rights of the sovereign he evicted, rights limited and defined by the ancient constitution. King Christian appears himself to admit as much when he promises that "he will in future, as heretofore, protect the Dutchy of Schleswig in the exercise of the rights it possesses as a &itchy irrevocably annexed to our realm, but still a province independent in other respects." Now these rights it derives solely from the constitution of Christian the First, one clause of which provides that Schleswig and Holstein shall remain for ever united. The question at issue is an intricate one ; and it is much to be desired that some happy accident or device may help to cut the knot before German and Russian diplomacy render it still more complicated. Schleswig and Holstein constitute more than a third of the Danish dominions ; their loss would extinguish Den- mark as an independent state : it would probably be• attended with no advantages to the severed provinces, and it would be a cause of dangerous and lasting disturbance to the general eco- nomy of Europe. The Kin°.b has perhaps done wisely in chal- lenging a decision of the matter by his manifesto; but it still re- mains for him to take a more effectual means of conjuring away the threatened calamity. The national antipathy to the Danes which pervades the Germanic part of the population of Schleswig and Hol- stein is greatly exasperated by their political grievances, and would lose much of its rancour if their demand for liberal institutions, were frankly complied with. With the exception of the people of North Schleswig, who are of Scandinavian race, the inhabitants have no -cause for attachment to Denmark ; they are bound to it neither by community of language and origin nor by the advan- tages of good government. They are, therefore, apt subjects for foreign agitators to work upon. If the German party in the two provinces succeed in dismem- berino.e' the kingdom, they may find that they have not much bettered their condition' and that they have only been playing the game of Russia, and preparing the way for that crafty power to assert the paramount rights of the house of Holstein-Gottorp. In this way the Germanizing tendencies of the Holsteiners and Schleswickers may end, after all, in giving the Emperor Nicholas a footing in Western Europe, and making him a member of the Germanic Confederation.