Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung July 1848

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The Armistice with Denmark

by Frederick Engels

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 52
Translated by the Marx-Engels Institute
Transcribed for the Internet by, 1994

Cologne, July 21. As our readers know, we have always regarded the Danish war [36] with great equanimity. We have joined neither in the blatant bluster of the nationalists, nor in the well-worn tune of the sea-girt Schleswig-Holstein fraternity with their sham enthusiasm. We knew our country too well, we knew what it means to rely on Germany.

Events have fully borne out our views. The unimpeded capture of Schleswig by the Danes, the recapture of the country and the march to Jutland, the retreat to the Schlei, the repeated capture of the duchy up to Koenigsau-this utterly incomprehensible conduct of the war from first to last has shown the Schleswigers what sort of protection they can expect from the revolutionary, great, strong, united, etc., Germany, from the supposedly sovereign nation of forty-five million. However, in order that they lose all desire to become German, and that "the Danish yoke" appear infinitely more desirable to them than "German liberty", the Prussians, in the name of the German Confederation, negotiated the armistice of which we print toddy a word-for-word translation.

Hitherto it has been the custom, when signing an armistice, for the two armies to maintain their positions, or as a last resort, a narrow neutral strip was interposed between them. Under this armistice, the first result of "the prowess of Prussian arms", the victorious Prussians withdraw over 20 miles, from Kolding to this side of Lauenburg, whereas the defeated Danes maintain their positions at Kolding and relinquish only Alsen. Furthermore, in the event of the armistice being called off, the Danes are to advance to the positions they held on June 24, in other words they are to occupy a six to seven miles wide stretch of North Schleswig without firing a shot-a stretch from which they were twice driven out -- whereas the Germans are allowed to advance only to Apenrade and its environs. Thus "the honor of the German arms is preserved" and North Schleswig, already exhausted because it was deluged with troops four times, is promised a possible fifth and sixth invasion.

But that is not all. A part of Schleswig is to be occupied by Danish troops even during the armistice. Under Clause 8, Schleswig is to be occupied by regiments recruited in the duchy, i.e., partly by soldiers from Schleswig who took part in the movement, and partly by soldiers who at that time were stationed in Denmark and fought in the ranks of the Danish army against the Provisional Government. They are commanded by Danish officers and are in every respect Danish troops. That is how the Danish papers, too, size up the situation.

The Fadrelandet [37] of July 13 writes:

"The presence in the duchy of loyal troops from Schleswig will undoubtedly substantially harden popular feeling which, now that the country has experienced the misfortunes of war, will forcefully turn against those who are the cause of these misfortunes."

On top of that we have the movement in Schleswig-Holstein. The Danes call it a riot, and the Prussians treat it as a riot. The Provisional Government, which has been recognized by Prussia and the German Confederation, is mercilessly sacrificed; all laws, decrees, etc., issued after Schleswig became independent are abrogated; on the other hand, the repealed Danish laws have again come into force. In short, the reply concerning Wildenbruch's famous Note, [38] a reply which Herr Auerswald refused to give, can be found here in Clause 7 of the proposed armistice. Everything that was revolutionary in the movement is ruthlessly destroyed, and the government created by the revolution is to be replaced by a legitimate administration nominated by three legitimate monarchs. The troops of Holstein and Schleswig are again to be commanded by Danes and thrashed by Danes; the ships of Holstein and Schleswig are to remain "Danish property" as before, despite the latest order of the Provisional Government.

The new government which they intend to set up puts the finishing touch to all this. The Fadrelandet declares:

"Though in the limited electoral district. from which the Danish elected members of the new government are to be chosen we shall probably not find the combination of energy, talent, intelligence, and experience which Prussia will dispose of when making her selection" this is not decisive. "The members of the government must of course be elected from among the population of the duchies, but nothing is to prevent us giving them secretaries and assistants residing and born in other Parts of the country. In selecting these secretaries and administrative advisers one can be guided by considerations of fitness and talent without regard to local considerations, and it is likely that these men will exert a great influence on the spirit and trend of the entire administration. Indeed, it is to be hoped that even high-ranking Danish officials will accept such a post, though its official status may be inferior. Every true Dane will consider such a post an honor under the present circumstances."

This semi-official paper thus promises the duchies that they will be swamped not only with Danish troops but also with Danish civil servants. A partly-Danish government will take up its residence in Rendsburg on the officially recognized territory of the German Confederation.

These are the advantages which the armistice brings Schleswig. The advantages for Germany are just as great. The admission of Schleswig to the German Confederation is not mentioned at all. On the contrary, the decision of the Confederation is flatly repudiated by the composition of the new government. The German Confederation chooses the members for Holstein, and the King of Denmark chooses those for Schleswig. Schleswig is therefore under Danish, and not German, jurisdiction.

Germany would have rendered a real service in this Danish war if she had compelled Denmark to abolish the Sound tax, a form of old feudal robbery. [39] The German seaports, hard hit by the blockade and the seizure of their ships, would have willingly borne the burden even longer if it led to the abolition of the Sound tax. The governments also made it known everywhere that the abolition of this tax must at any rate be brought about. And what came of all this boasting? Britain and Russia want the tax kept, and of course Germany obediently acquiesces.

It goes without saying that in exchange for the return of the ships, the supplies requisitioned in Jutland have to be refunded, on the principle that Germany is rich enough to pay for her glory.

These are the advantages which the Hansemann ministry offers in this draft armistice to the German nation. These are the fruits of a war waged for three months against a small nation of a million and a half. That is the result of all the boasting by our national papers, our formidable Dane-haters!

It is said that the armistice will not be concluded. General Wrangel, encouraged by Beseler, has definitely refused to sing it, despite repeated requests by Count Pourtales, who brought him Auerswald's order to sign it, and despite numerous reminders that it was his duty as a Prussian general to do so. Wrangel stated that he is above all subordinated to the German central authority, and the latter will not approve of the armistice unless the armies maintain their present positions and the Provisional Government remains in office until the peace is concluded.

Thus the Prussian project will probably not be carried out, but it is nevertheless interesting as a demonstration of how Prussia, when she takes over the reins, is capable of defending Germany's honor and interests.