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Denmark to comply with this demand. It was in vain that Lord Russell himself proposed that the representatives of the five great powers in London, as well as those of Sweden and Denmark, should sign a protocol, ‘which should declare that the Danish Government should summon the Rigsraad at once,’ and that every endeavour should be made by the Danish Ministry to induce the Rigsraad to repeal the constitution. Austria and Prussia would listen to no argument for delay, and on February 1 Marshal Wrangel crossed the frontier, and entered Schleswig. This action on the part of the great German powers altered the position of affairs. Hitherto Lord Russell, to use his own expression in writing to Sir A. Paget, “had a twinge or feeling that Germany had much right on her side, and that Denmark was not a little wrong. Thenceforward he thought Denmark in the right, and Germany utterly in the wrong.
It thus became a grave question for Lord Palmerston's Cabinet whether they should advise the Queen to offer to the King of Denmark naval and military aid for his defence.
The Cabinet, after much deliberation, decided that, in the case supposed, they should offer to assist Denmark by force only in case France would join in an alliance for that purpose.
Although somewhat reluctant at the time to insist upon that condition, I am fully persuaded that it was a condition not only wise but absolutely essential. Lord Palmerston was convinced that it would be inexcusable to rush into a war against the whole of Germany inflamed and excited, without the security of a substantial alliance."
1 That Lord Russell did not exaggerate his own wishes and Lord Palmerston's objections may be seen from the following memorandum which he forwarded to the Prime Minister early in February 1864:—
Proposals to be made to France, February 1864.
1. That France and Great Britain should offer their mediation to Austria, Prussia, and Denmark. 2. That, if Denmark should refuse the mediation, the war should be allowed to go on without interference of France and Great Britain. 3. That, if Austria and Prussia refuse mediation, the measures indicated below should be taken. 4. That the bases of the mediation should be the integrity of the Danish
With France cold, with Russia indifferent, with this country unwilling to move, Austria and Prussia had no difficulty in working their will. Before the end of February Schleswig was almost entirely occupied by German troops; the Danish army had retired before then; and Denmark had appealed in vain to the signatories of the Treaty of 1852.
In the meanwhile Lord Russell was strenuously endeavouring to settle the matter by negotiation, and he at last succeeded in obtaining acceptance to his proposal for a conference at London. But, before the conference met, he sent Lord Clarendon to Paris to see whether he could arrive at some understanding with Napoleon III. Lord Clarendon reached
Monarchy and the engagements of 1851-52 as regards the Duchies of Holstein, Lauenburg, and Schleswig.
5. That, if Austria and Prussia refuse mediation, decline to accept the bases proposed, or insist upon terms which are, in the opinion of France and England, inconsistent with the integrity and independence of Denmark, Great Britain will at once despatch a strong squadron to Copenhagen, and France will place a strong corps of troops on the frontiers of the Rhine Provinces of Prussia.
6. Further measures to be the subject of concert between the two Governments of France and Great Britain.
Lord Palmerston wrote of this memorandum—
94 PICCADILLY: February 13, 1864.
MY DEAR RUSSELL, - . . . I rather doubt the expediency of taking at the present moment the step you propose. The French Government would probably decline it, unless tempted by the suggestion that they should place an armed force on the Rhenish frontier in the event of a refusal by Austria and Prussia, which refusal we ought to reckon upon as nearly certain.
The objections which might be urged against the measures which you suggest . . . may be stated to be—First, that we could not for many weeks to come send a squadron to the Baltic, and that such a step would not have much effect upon the Germans unless it were understood to be a first step towards something more, and I doubt whether the Cabinet or the country are as yet prepared for active interference. . . . Secondly, though it is very useful to remind the Austrians and the Prussians privately of the dangers they are running at home-Austria in Italy, Hungary, and Galicia; Prussia in her Rhenish Provinces—yet it might not be advisable, nor for our own interest, to suggest to France an attack upon the Prussian Rhenish territory. It would serve Prussia right if such an attack were made, and if Prussia remains in the wrong we could not take part with her against France. But the conquest of that territory by France would be an evil for us, and would seriously affect the position of Holland and Belgium. On the whole, I should say it would be best for us to wait a while before taking any strong steps in these matters.— Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON.
Paris on April 13, and had some conversation both with the Emperor and M. Drouyn de Lhuys.
The Emperor seemed desirous that his policy with respect to Denmark should not be misunderstood by us. He said there was no denying that we had received a gros soufflet with respect to Poland from Russia, and that to get another from Germany without resenting it was more than he could stand, as he would have fallen into contempt. He could not therefore join us in strong language to the German powers, not being prepared to go to war with them. The question did not touch the dignity or the interests of France, and caused no excitement here. The Corps Législatif faithfully represented public opinion here, which was for peace, now that France had had glory enough to save her from the charge brought against Louis Philippe of being servile to the foreigner. He was determined not to go to war for another reason, viz., that France would look for some compensation on the Rhine, and that would set all Europe against him. The universal belief that he wanted to extend the French frontier in this direction made him doubly cautious. The policy of favouring nationalities was popular in France, and it was congenial to his own feelings. He could not, therefore, be party to replacing the Holsteiners under the rule of Denmark which they detested; and, as his great desire was to see Venetia wrested from Austria and restored to Italy, he would not lay himself open to the charge of pursuing one policy on the Eider and a totally different one on the Po.
Such a communication made it tolerably plain that this country could not rely on the co-operation of France in the cause of Denmark. With no force to meet two great military powers single-handed, Britain could only hope to obtain favourable conditions for her in the conference, which opened on April 25. Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell were, however, both in favour of stronger measures than their colleagues. The Prime Minister wrote on April 18–
* As far back as February Lord Russell had written to Sir C. Paget
Pebruary 24, 1864. MY DEAR PAGET,-I hope the Danes will go into a conference. Neither France nor Russia will stir a finger to help them; and we shall not do so alone. They cannot drive the 750,000 men of Austria and Prussia out of Schleswig alone. We have not abandoned the engagements of 1851-2, though Austria
and Prussia may do so.—Yours truly, RUSSELL,
If the French and Russians and Swedes would agree with us, we might say to Austria at the meeting of the conference on Wednesday that, unless the German powers agree to an immediate armistice on the basis of present occupation, our fleet is under orders and will go at once to the Baltic to execute such orders as we may think fit to give it. Public opinion in this country would be much shocked if we were to stand by and see the Danish army taken prisoners, and Denmark thus laid prostrate at the feet of Germany. Lord Russell thoroughly agreed with Lord Palmerston. He had already obtained from the Duke of Somerset, the First Lord of the Admiralty, full information as to the time which it would take for the Channel Squadron to proceed from Portland (where it was held in readiness) to Copenhagen; and on the last Saturday in April he brought forward a formal proposal on the subject in the Cabinet. The Cabinet, however, did not display the same resolution as its Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary; and Lord Palmerston, to use his own words, annoyed at ‘the timidity and weakness’" of his colleagues, proceeded to make what he called ‘a notch off his own bat,’ and told the Austrian Minister that— If an Austrian squadron were to pass along our coasts and ports, and go into the Baltic to help in any way the German operations against Denmark, I should look upon it as an affront and insult to England. That I could not, and would not stand such a thing; and that, unless in such case a superior British squadron were to follow with such orders for acting as the case might require, I would not continue to hold my present position. Lord Palmerston's language was naturally communicated to the Cabinet; and Lord Russell proposed to embody it in a despatch to the British Minister at Vienna. LONDON : May 5, 1864. MY DEAR LORD RUSSELL,--I remained in attendance at Osborne
yesterday after the Council. Last night the Queen sent me your two draft despatches to Vienna with a message. Her Majesty does not like Lord Palmerston's conversation with Apponyi, nor the embodiment of it in a despatch with the Cabinet's adoption and approval. Her Majesty asked whether my understanding was the same as yours of the approval of the Cabinet. I thought it better, instead of answering the last question, to send word to the Queen that I should be in town early to-day, and that I would talk with you on the subject. My own impression is that the Cabinet did not adopt the language of Lord Palmerston. I was not at the Cabinet of Saturday, but I understood that you proposed to send the fleet to the Baltic, with orders to prevent the Austrian fleet entering it. The Cabinet dissented; and at last a draft was agreed upon in which all allusion to the movement of our fleet was omitted. Lord Palmerston, disagreeing with this decision, which he thought weak and timid, sent for Apponyi, and pressed upon him with force and point his personal views and intentions. Lord Palmerston's conversation was discussed in the Cabinet with the respect and deference due to him, and Clarendon expressed his approbation of what he had said to Apponyi, and his manner of doing it. No one else spoke in the same terms. When it was asked what the Government was to decide, you proposed a draft differing from that agreed upon on Saturday, and again announcing the departure of our fleet under certain contingencies. Many members of the Cabinet, including Clarendon, pressed you to omit all allusion to our fleet, which you consented to do. Now I do not understand why the Cabinet should have done this, if they had been aware that another despatch (not mentioned) was going the same day, officially adopting all that had been said about the fleet in Lord Palmerston's private interview with Apponyi. A large portion of the Cabinet have all along wished to keep for ourselves perfect liberty of action—to be free to act how and when we like, but to avoid committing ourselves to any threat of definite action, particularly action of an isolated character. This policy seems particularly advisable at a time when, after infinite pains, you have succeeded in bringing together all the parties interested into a conference.—Yours sincerely, GRANVILLE.
1 So the letter to Lord Russell of May 1, 1864, originally ran. Two days later Lord Palmerston told Lord Russell that he could, if he liked, scratch out the words ‘timidity and weakness' and substitute the word ‘decision. Thus the letter ran (as it is printed by Mr. Ashley, vol. ii. p. 432), ‘I feel so little satisfied with the decision of the Cabinet,' &c.