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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 130/202 -


22nd of March, the King spontaneously paid the last honours to those who had fallen in combat with his troops, as the long funeral procession passed his palace, it was generally believed that his expression of feeling was sincere.

[Schleswig-Holstein.]

In the passage of his address in which King Frederick William spoke of the external dangers threatening Germany, he referred to apprehensions which had for a while been current that the second French Republic would revive the aggressive energy of the first. This fear proved baseless; nevertheless, for a sovereign who really intended to act as the champion of the German nation at large, the probability of war with a neighbouring Power was far from remote. The cause of the Duchies of Schleswig-Holstein, which were in rebellion against the Danish Crown, excited the utmost interest and sympathy in Germany. The population of these provinces, with the exception of certain districts in Schleswig, was German; Holstein was actually a member of the German Federation. The legal relation of the Duchies to Denmark was, according to the popular view, very nearly that of Hanover to England before 1837. The King of Denmark was also Duke of Schleswig and of Holstein, but these were no more an integral portion of the Danish State than Hanover was of the British Empire; and the laws of succession were moreover different in Schleswig-Holstein, the Crown being transmitted by males, while in Denmark females were capable of succession. On the part of the Danes it was admitted that in certain districts in Holstein the Salic law held good; it was, however, maintained that in the remainder of Holstein and in all Schleswig the rules of succession were the same as in Denmark. The Danish Government denied that Schleswig-Holstein formed a unity in itself, as alleged by the Germans, and that it possessed separate national rights as against the authority of the King's Government at Copenhagen. The real heart of the difficulty lay in the fact that the population of the Duchies was German. So long as the Germans as a race possessed no national feeling, the union of the Duchies with the Danish Monarchy had not been felt as a grievance. It happened, however, that the great revival of German patriotism resulting from the War of Liberation in 1813 was almost simultaneous with the severance of Norway from the Danish Crown, which compelled the Government of Copenhagen to increase very heavily the burdens imposed on its German subjects in the Duchies. From this time discontent gained ground, especially in Altona and Kiel, where society was as thoroughly German as in the neighbouring city of Hamburg. After 1830, when Provincial Estates were established in Schleswig and Holstein, the German movement became formidable. The reaction, however, which marked the succeeding period generally in Europe prevailed in Denmark too, and it was not until 1844, when a posthumous work of Lornsen, the exiled leader of the German party, vindicated the historical rights of the Duchies, that the claims of German nationality in these provinces were again vigorously urged. From this time the separation of Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark became a question of practical politics. The King of Denmark, Christain VIII., had but one son, who, though long married, was childless, and with whom the male line of the reigning House would expire. In answer to an address of the Danish Provincial Estates calling upon the King to declare the unity of the Monarchy and the validity of the Danish law of succession for all its parts, the Holstein Estates passed a resolution in November, 1844, that the Duchies were an independent body, governed by the rule of male descent, and indivisible. After an interval of two years, during which a Commission examined the succession-laws, King Christian published a declaration that the succession was the same in Schleswig as in Denmark proper, and that, as regarded those parts of Holstein where a different rule of succession existed, he would spare no effort to maintain the unity of the Monarchy. On this the Provincial Estates both of Schleswig and of Holstein addressed protests to the King, who refused to accept them. The deputies now resigned in a mass, whilst on behalf of Holstein an appeal was made to the German Federal Diet. The Diet merely replied by a declaration of rights; but in Germany at large the keenest interest was aroused on behalf of these severed members of the race who were so resolutely struggling against incorporation with a foreign Power. The deputies themselves, passing from village to village, excited a strenuous spirit of resistance throughout the Duchies, which was met by the Danish Government with measures of repression more severe than any which it had hitherto employed. [419]

[Insurrection in Holstein, March 24.]

[War between Germany and Denmark.]

Such was the situation of affairs when, on the 20th of January, 1848, King Christian VIII. died, leaving the throne to Frederick VII., the last of the male line of his House. Frederick's first act was to publish the draft of a Constitution, in which all parts of the Monarchy were treated as on the same footing. Before the delegates could assemble to whom the completion of this work was referred, the shock of the Paris Revolution reached the North Sea ports. A public meeting at Altona demanded the establishment of a separate constitution for Schleswig-Holstein, and the admission of Schleswig into the German Federation. The Provincial Estates accepted this resolution, and sent a deputation to Copenhagen to present this and other demands to the King. But in the course of the next few days a popular movement at Copenhagen brought into power a thoroughly Danish Ministry, pledged to the incorporation of Schleswig with Denmark as an integral part of the Kingdom. Without waiting to learn the answer made by the King to the deputation, the Holsteiners now took affairs into their own hands. A Provisional Government was formed at Kiel (March 24), the troops joined the people, and the insurrection instantly spread over the whole province. As the proposal to change the law of succession to the throne had originated with the King of Denmark, the cause of the Holsteiners was from one point of view that of established right. The King of Prussia, accepting the positions laid down by the Holstein Estates in 1844, declared that he would defend the claims of the legitimate heir by force of arms, and ordered his troops to enter Holstein. The Diet of Frankfort, now forced to express the universal will of Germany, demanded that Schleswig, as the sister State of Holstein, should enter the Federation. On the passing of this resolution, the envoy who represented the Denmark. King of Denmark at the Diet, as Duke of Holstein, quitted Frankfort, and a state of war ensued between Denmark on the one side and Prussia with the German Federation on the other.

[The German Ante-Parliament, March 30-April 4.]

[Republican rising in Baden.]

The passionate impulse of the German people towards unity had already called into being an organ for the expression of national sentiment, which, if without any legal or constitutional authority, was yet strong enough to impose its will upon the old and discredited Federal Diet and upon most of the surviving Governments. At the invitation of a Committee, about five hundred Liberals who had in one form or another taken part in public affairs assembled at Frankfort on the 30th of March to make the necessary preparations for the meeting of a German national Parliament. This Assembly, which is known as the Ante-Parliament, sat but for five days. Its resolutions, so far as regarded the method of electing the new Parliament, and the inclusion of new districts in the German Federation, were accepted by the Diet, and in the main carried into effect. Its denunciation of persons concerned in the repressive measures of 1819 and subsequent reactionary epochs was followed by the immediate retirement of all members of the Diet whose careers dated back to those detested days. But in the most important work that was expected from the Ante-Parliament, the settlement of a draft-Constitution to be laid before the future National Assembly as a basis for its deliberations, nothing whatever was accomplished. The debates that took place from the 31st of March to the 4th of April were little more than a trial of strength between the Monarchical and Republican parties. The Republicans, far outnumbered when they submitted a constitutional scheme of their own, proposed, after this repulse, that the existing Assembly should continue in session until the National Parliament met; in other words, that it should take upon itself the functions and character of a National Convention. Defeated also on this proposal, the leaders of the extreme section of the Republican party, strangely miscalculating their real strength, determined on armed insurrection. Uniting with a body of German refugees beyond the Rhine, who were themselves assisted by French and Polish soldiers of revolution, they raised the Republican standard in Baden, and for a few days maintained a hopeless and inglorious struggle against the troops which were sent to suppress them. Even in Baden, which had long been in advance of all other German States in democratic sentiment, and which was peculiarly open to Republican influences from France and Switzerland, the movement was not seriously supported by the population, and in the remainder of Germany it received no countenance whatever. The leaders found themselves ruined men. The best of them fled to the United States, where, in the great struggle against slavery thirteen years later, they rendered better service to their adopted than they had ever rendered to their natural Fatherland.

[Meeting of the German National Assembly, May 18.]

On breaking up on the 4th of April, the Ante-Parliament left behind it a Committee of Fifty, whose task it was to continue the work of preparation for the National Assembly to which it had itself contributed so little. One thing alone had been clearly established, that the future Constitution of Germany was not to be Republican. That the existing Governments could not be safely ignored by the National Assembly in its work of founding the new Federal Constitution for Germany was clear to those who were not blinded by the enthusiasm of the moment. In the Committee of Fifty and elsewhere plans were suggested for giving to the Governments a representation within the Constituent Assembly, or for uniting their representatives in a Chamber co-ordinate with this, so that each step in the construction of the new Federal order should be at once the work of the nation and of the Governments. Such plans were suggested and discussed; but in the haste and inexperience of the time they were brought to no conclusion. The opening of the National Assembly had been fixed for the 18th of May, and this brief interval had expired before the few sagacious men who understood the necessity of co-operation between the Governments and the Parliament had decided upon any common course of action. To the mass of patriots it was enough that Germany, after thirty years of disappointment, had at last won its national representation. Before this imposing image of the united race, Kings, Courts, and armies, it was fondly thought, must bow. Thus, in the midst of universal hope, the elections were held throughout Germany in its utmost federal extent, from the Baltic to the Italian border; Bohemia alone, where the Czech majority resisted any closer union with Germany, declining to send representatives to Frankfort. In the body of deputies elected there were to be found almost all the foremost Liberal politicians of every German community; a few still vigorous champions of the time of the War of Liberation, chief among them the poet Arndt; patriots who in the evil days that followed had suffered imprisonment and exile; historians, professors, critics, who in the sacred cause of liberty have, like Gervinus, inflicted upon their readers worse miseries than ever they themselves endured at the hands of unregenerate kings; theologians, journalists; in short, the whole group of leaders under whom Germany expected to enter into the promised land of national unity and freedom. No Imperial coronation ever brought to Frankfort so many honoured guests, or attracted to the same degree the sympathy of the German race. Greeted with the cheers of the citizens of Frankfort, whose civic militia lined the streets, the members of the Assembly marched in procession on the afternoon of the 18th of May from the ancient banqueting-hall of the Kaisers, where they had gathered, to the Church of St. Paul, which had been chosen as their Senate House. Their President and officers were elected on the following day. Arndt, who in the frantic confusion of the first meeting had been unrecognised and shouted down, was called into the Tribune, but could speak only a few words for tears. The Assembly voted him its thanks for his famous song, "What is the German's Fatherland?" and requested that he would add to it another stanza commemorating the union of the race at length visibly realised in that great Parliament. Four days after the opening of the General Assembly of Frankfort, the Prussian national Parliament began its sessions at Berlin. [420]


History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 130/202

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