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Matthew (1864-07-01)


“The Danish Question”. Dundee Advertiser, Friday 1 July 1864, p.3 col.1-2 (pdf image)

(Letter written Jun 29 1864, published Jul 1 1864)
Matthew quotes from his Pamphlet to lay out once again his case in favour of Germany and against Denmark. Matthew sees his position as being based on fact, not mere opinion: “the undeniable facts which I adduce as proof of the correctness of the epithets I employ” … “my statements are facts, not pleadings”.



Sir,— I observe in your leading article of last Saturday some notice of my pamphlet, “Schleswig-Holstein,” in which you quote my “epithets” descriptive of the parties concerned, placing them in italics, for admiration, no doubt, as mere flourishes speech, like your own upon this question, without giving in a direct, intelligible manner the undeniable facts which I adduce as proof of the correctness of the epithets I employ. This, however, may be passed over, as the few hints you do give regarding my facts are a sort of acknowledgment that something is wrong “in the State of Denmark” — an admission that few of your brethren would have had the honesty to admit, their role on this subject being to keep facts as much as possible out of sight.

Passing, then, this little unfairness, as well as the insinuation that, from being connected with the Duchies, I may have a selfish bias in their favour. Here, it is true, I have a bias, from a knowledge of facts which mark the conduct Denmark as dishonest, aggressive, and rapacious, and the Germans long-suffering to a blameable extent in not checking the Danish usurpation of the Duchies sooner. In your critique, you go on to state “Mr Matthew’s pleading [my statements are facts, not pleadings] for Schleswig-Holstein are now of date. (!) His exposition of facts has been left behind in the rapid march of affairs” (!) — as if the fact of the attempt at the usurpation of the Duchies by the Danes, and the plunder and enslavement its indigenous German population were out of date. As well might you say that a murder and robbery committed in Dundee last autumn was out date. The Duchies were German from time immemorial, and united in one State for nearly five centuries. Here I am tempted to quote from my pamphlet:—

“In the year 1375 the reigning Duke Henry dying without issue, Schleswig fell by heritage to the Count Holstein, and from that period dates the connection or union of Schleswig with Holstein. In the beginning the fifteenth century King Erich of Denmark attempted to dissever Schleswig from Holstein, but was defeated. From that time the independence and union of the Duchies was acknowledged by Denmark till the recent usurpation.”

“In 1448 the Count Christian of Oldenburg became King of Denmark by election of the Danish Council of State, and in 1460 became absolute monarch of Denmark, and about the same time was elected Duke of the Duchies, limited by a Constitution which has been maintained till the recent Danish usurpation, while Denmark remained an absolute monarchy.”

“On being elected Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, Christian I solemnly pledged himself to maintain the following conditions, which all his followers, till the last three reigns, upon ascending the throne, also pledged to maintain.
1. The succession to the Duchies in the male line only (the succession in Denmark to heirs male and female was decreed 1665.
2. Schleswig-Holstein shall for ever remain united (ewig zusammen bleiben.)
3. The inhabitants of Schleswig-Holstein, without their own consent, shall have no new taxes laid upon them.
4. The internal administration of affairs in the Duchies, and everything recanting their own welfare, is to be conducted by themselves, in conjunction with the Landtag.
5. All the authorities of Schleswig-Holstein must be natives of the country.
6. No foreign war can be commenced without the consent of the Schleswig-Holstein Council of State.
7. No Schleswig-Holsteiner is to be forced to serve the King of Denmark out of the Duchies.”

“That all these constitutional pledges have been violated by Denmark every one knows. . . . The regular taxes imposed upon the Duchies at the will of the Danish Government, and which only could be paid through the extreme industry of the German population, was not enough. In 1813 a contribution of more than eighteen millions of dollars was imposed on the Duchies, to support the sinking credit of Denmark and levied in a manner upon the heritable property of the country, as to produce incalculable evil, amounting almost to general bankruptcy, and which the landed interest at this day has scarcely got above. This extraordinary impost upon the land of the Duchies took precedence of all heritable bonds, and the monied interest of Hamburg, &c., refused to allow their capital to be lent on Schleswig-Holstein property upon such doubtful security — when a Danish king could come in and say ‘Though your bond was the first registered, yet my impost shall take precedence of your bond.’ In justice this contribution must be paid back.”

“This enormous financial robbery was not enough — was only one item of the whole amount of plunder. For number of years back the pillage of the Duchies by Denmark has been maturing to a complete system, and has been brought to as high perfection any thing of human construction can well reach. Every encroachment the needy place-hunters of Copenhagen could contrive has been sedulously out. The German population of the Duchies are comparatively a more industrious people than the Dane, and the powerful Danish fleet of men-of-war, far too great for any purpose of good, and quite beyond Denmark’s own means, has in fact been constructed by the wealth and money produced by German industry, and indeed maintained, and to a considerable extent manned from German sources. The Danes, originally sea robbers, and comparatively averse to honest industry, could never of themselves by honest means have put this fleet upon the ocean. In former times the sea kings of Denmark plundered in a bold above-board manner. But the modern Dane has resorted to other means in carrying out his predatory instincts. The Dane has succeeded for a length of time in turning the industry of the patient German to account. But patience has its limits even among Germans.”

“When Hanover and Britain came, much in the same manner as the Duchies and Denmark, to be under the same monarch, no advantage, no usurpation on the part of the stronger state took place to render the weaker subservient as a field for pillage, or to interfere with its nationality as one of the German Bund. How, then, is Denmark to be permitted this usurpation? Where would the honour and prestige of Germany be, were she to submit to such treatment of one of her own body? . . . the young men of from 20 to 21 years of age taken away from their homes to man the fortresses and fleet at Copenhagen, principally under Danish officers, and to work in the dockyards, and so insufficiently paid that their fathers (working men) were under the necessity to remit money to their sons to keep them from starving, &c., &c. . . . As the Duchies were regarded only as a field of plunder by the Danes, no wonder the Danes Copenhagen are in consternation and wrath.”

I may add — Is Britain to become the tool of Denmark in an attempt to carry out this iniquity?

But to return to your critique. In the first half, impartiality, sense, judgment, are not wanting; but in the second half you bring forward Denmark in a position even worse than I have described her — as demon of evil placed at the mouth of the Baltic to repress the commerce and progress of the Baltic nations, by blockading the water highway kind Nature has afforded them (as she has till recently, bribed not to do, so far followed out); and you wish to protect her continuing to hold a portion of her neighbour’s territory she had usurped, that, by your own account, she may be the more able to carry out this diabolical end. This is the whole scope, bearing, and purpose of the latter half of your critique, which I am really sorry to observe.

In perusing the pitiful and lame speeches of our two leading diplomatists in your paper of yesterday I also deeply regret the degradation to which the insolent and unjust threats these wiseacres have made (and happily been obliged to recede from) have reduced us. Here the unprincipled pet plan of our intermeddling scheming Prime Minister has fortunately been wrecked, ruining his future prestige as a successful diplomatist — now no longer to be trusted in the position he has too long occupied for his country’s reputation. Here we pity his coadjutor’s position, whom he seems to have dragged through the mud. The present degradation of Britain exemplifies the fact that straightforward honesty is the best policy, and that the cunning, manoeuvring statecraft of unprincipled politicians only leads to mischief or disgrace. Why did our two unsuccessful diplomatists not once own they had mistaken the nature of the Schleswig-Holstein question, and that they, upon fuller enquiry, had found Germany justified in her proceedings, and that they were sorry for their error. But this would have implied a consciousness of ignorance upon a subject they ought to have had a correct knowledge of before they resorted to threaten — a humiliation their pride would not bend to. They preferred the humiliation of their country. How differently would these two Ministers have been estimated by the present age and by posterity had they come forward and ingenuously owned they had erred from misconception of the subject.

In your leading article of yesterday I observe a statement which I think deserves some notice. You say, “The time was when British Ministers would have been ashamed to face Parliament with the confession that they had no foreign ally help them, or, having to make that confession, that they were afraid do what was right unaided. The time was when British statesmen, the more they distrusted other Powers, trusted more in the power of their own nation. Now, however, the most boastful Ministers of the proudest people on earth humble themselves and their country by declaring that, because other Governments are treacherous, they dare not be steadfast and true.” Does this mean to express that because other nations will not join Britain against Germany that they are treacherous, or that our Government declares they are treacherous? I am not aware that our Government has declared this. No doubt other nations are not possessed like Britain with the Danish mania. But that they, on this account, are treacherous, can only be received a maniacal conclusion.

There are two principles upon which legitimate government is based — constitutional rights and nationality. By the former, Schleswig-Holstein is fixed, independent, and indivisible, a limited Dukedom Monarchy, which can only be changed by the general will of the people themselves. Should ancient constitutional right be here impracticable, the principle of nationality must be fallen back upon, and rigidly followed out, and the people choose their own government as a portion of ancient Germany — only with the Holstein half under sanction of the Imperial Diet — of course the Danish usurpation an imposition of force, justly to be repelled by Germans.

Gourdiehill, June 29, 1864

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