(Published Jul 1 1864)
In this editorial response to Matthew’s letter, the editors accept that Denmark has not governed Schleswig-Holstein entirely honourably, but suggest that this is nothing compared to the level of mistreatment of the affairs of Ireland by Britain, or of certain other territories by Prussia and Austria.
It is evident that there is no prospect whatever of agreement between us and our respected correspondent, Mr MATTHEW. We regard the question at issue from a British, and from a Schleswig-Holstein point of view. We look to the conduct, antecedents, and interests of all parties in the contention, not merely to those of the Danes and Schleswig-Holsteiners. We have never asserted that the Danes acted strictly according to their written engagements in the Government of the Duchies; but what we have asserted and repeat is that they have governed the Duchies far better than we ourselves have governed Ireland, as the present condition of the two countries testifies, and that Prussia and Austria would, on the pretence of misgovernment, be more justified in attempting to wrest Ireland from us than the Duchies from Denmark. What we have also asserted and repeat is that the complaints made by the Holsteiners against Denmark are of the mildest possible character compared with the complaints made by the inhabitants of Posen against Prussia, and of Hungary, Gallicia, and Venetia against Austria. The minor Federal States of Germany were quite justified in taking up the cause of Schleswig-Holstein, but for Prussia and Austria — two of the most cruel oppressors on the face of the earth — to pretend to be vexed at the sight of oppression in Schleswig-Holstein is the most monstrous hypocrisy ever witnessed.
Of course, we do not assent to Mr MATTHEW’s version our views with regard the European importance of Denmark being able to maintain her national existence by holding the wardenship of the Baltic. If, from the pusillanimous counsels of a degenerate race of British Statesmen, the gates of the Baltic pass into the hands of either Russia or Prussia, Britain will be the first to learn whether or not it was for her interest that the Sound should be held by a small, free, and friendly, or by a large, despotic, and necessarily unfriendly Power.
It is unfortunate for our Ministers that their recent conduct is denounced even more by the friends of Schleswig-Holstein than by those of Denmark. Mr MATTHEW condemns it quite as vigorously, although on different grounds, as the press, which is suffering from what he designates “the Danish mania.” As to the passage in our Tuesday’s article on which he desires explanation, our meaning was that France and Russia, having refused to join our Government in maintaining the Treaty to which they had been parties, have acted treacherously; and we did not previously know that it was “a maniacal conclusion” that either nations or individuals should stand to their written engagements. We are sure that Mr MATTHEW himself is too honourable a man to repudiate any agreement which he has adhibited his name. As to the general principles of legitimate government, we are at one with our correspondent; and, now that the Danes are virtually driven out of the Duchies, we shall see how Mr MATTHEW’s Prussian and Austrian friends apply those principles in Schleswig-Holstein.