Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung July 1848

The Faedreland on the Armistice with Denmark [171]

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 253;
Written: by Engels on July 20, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 51, July 21, 1848.

Cologne, July 20. In order that the fatherland may see for itself that the so-called revolution with its National Assembly, Imperial Regent [Archduke John of Austria] etc. accomplished nothing more than a thorough revival of the famous Holy Roman Empire of the German nation,[172] we reprint the following article from the Danish Faedreland It is to be hoped that the article will suffice to prove to even the most trusting friends of the established order that forty million Germans have once again been duped by two million Danes with the assistance of English mediation and Russian threats just as happened all the time under the “constant augmenters of the Empire”. [part of the title of the Holy Roman Emperors]

The Faedreland, Minister Orla Lehmann’s own newspaper, speaks about the armistice as follows:

“If one looks at the armistice solely from the vantage point of our own hopes and wishes one cannot, of course, be satisfied with it; if one assumes that the Government had the choice between this armistice and the prospect of expelling the Germans from Schleswig with Swedish and Norwegian aid, forcing them to recognise Denmark’s right to settle the affairs of this duchy in conjunction with its inhabitants — then, indeed, one would have to admit that the Government has acted irresponsibly by agreeing to the armistice. This choice, however, did not exist. One has to assume that both England and Russia, the two great powers which have the most direct interest in this controversy and its settlement, have demanded the conclusion of an armistice as a condition for their future sympathy and mediation; that the Swedish-Norwegian Government has likewise demanded that an attempt at a peaceful arrangement be made before it decides to render any effective aid and that it win give such aid only with the delimitation set out at the very beginning, namely that such aid must not serve a reconquest of Schleswig but merely the defence of Jutland and the islands. Thus the alternative was as follows: on the one hand the gain of a respite so as to await the course of events abroad and to complete the political and military organisation at home; on the other hand the prospect of desperate single combat against superior strength; even if our army, which is half as strong as the federal army, were to have launched an assault upon the advantageous positions of the enemy, it would have been as good as impossible to achieve victory but the fight could well have led to the occupation of the entire peninsula by the Germans after the withdrawal of the Swedish-Norwegian forces; a combat which would at best have led to dearly bought, useless victories and at worst held out the prospect of the exhaustion of all our defence forces and a humiliating peace.”

The Danish newspaper then proceeds to defend the conditions of the armistice as advantageous to Denmark. It describes as groundless the fear that the resumption of war would occur during the winter when the German troops could cross the ice to Fünen and Alsen. The Germans would be as incapable as the Danes of sustaining a winter campaign in such a climate whereas the advantages of a three-month truce would be very great for both Denmark and the loyal population of Schleswig. If no peace was concluded within the three months, the armistice would be automatically prolonged until spring. The paper continues:

“The lifting of the blockade and the freeing of the prisoners will be approved; the return of the seized ships, however, may perhaps have aroused the dissatisfaction of certain individuals. it must be remembered that the capture of German ships was rather a means of coercion to deter the Germans from crossing our frontier, and had by no means the purpose of enriching ourselves by the acquisition of foreign private property; moreover, the value of these ships is not nearly so great as some would like to believe. If these ships were to come under the hammer during the present stagnation both in our own and in European trade generally, they would at the very most fetch 1 1/2 million, i.e. the cost of the war for two months. And in exchange for these ships we obtain the evacuation of both duchies by the Germans as well as compensation for the goods requisitioned in Jutland. Thus the means of coercion we have used has fulfilled its purpose and its now being halted is quite in order. It seems to us that the evacuation of three counties by a superior army which we had no prospect of evicting by our own strength makes up tenfold for the small advantage that the state might have derived from the sale of the seized ships.”

Paragraph 7 is described as the most questionable one. It is supposed to prescribe the continuation of the special Government for the duchies which in fact means a continuation of “Schleswig-Holsteinism”. The King of Denmark is supposed to be bound to the notables of Schleswig-Holstein for the selection of the two members of the Provisional Government and it would be quite difficult to find one who is not a “Schleswig-Holsteinian”. In return, however, the entire insurrection” is expressly disavowed, all decisions of the Provisional Government are annulled and the status quo ante March 17 is restored.

“Thus we have examined the most essential conditions of the armistice from a Danish point of view. Now, for a change, let us try to take the German point of view.
"All that Germany is demanding is the release of the ships and the lifting of the blockade.
It gives up the following:
"Firstly, the duchies, occupied by an army which up to now has suffered no defeat and is strong enough to maintain its positions against an army twice as strong as the one which has confronted it up to now;
"Secondly, Schleswig’s admission to the Confederation, which was solemnly announced by the Federal Diet and confirmed by the National Assembly’s admission of the deputies from Schleswig;
"Thirdly, the Provisional Government, which it recognised as legitimate and with which it negotiated in that capacity;
"Fourthly, the Schleswig-Holstein party, whose demands, which were supported by the whole of Germany, have not been ratified but referred to the decision of non-German powers;
Fifthly, the Augustenburg pretenders, [Duke Christian August and Prince Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein] to whom the King of Prussia had personally pledged his support but who are not mentioned at all in the armistice, and who have been assured of neither amnesty nor asylum;
"Finally, the costs caused by the war, which are borne in part by the duchies and in part by the Confederation, but which will be refunded insofar as they were borne by Denmark proper.
"It seems to us that our overwhelmingly strong enemies have much more to find fault with in this armistice than we, the small, despised nation.”

Schleswig has had the incomprehensible desire to become German. It is quite in order that it should be punished for that and that it should be left in the lurch by Germany.

Tomorrow we shall carry the text of the armistice.