Mr. Judd to Mr. Seward.
Sir:Your despatch to Mr. Kreismann, as chargé d’affaires, No. 9, and dated January 7, 1864, is received.
The interior politics of Prussia, and the contest between the ministers and the Chamber of Deputies, have again culminated in a prorogation of the two houses. The budget for the current year, presented by the ministry to the Chambers, contained the oft rejected items for the reorganization of the army, and the same overwhelming majority again rejected these items.
The ministry also asked authority to make a loan of twelve millions, to meet the expenses to be incurred by the Prussian government in performing its obligations as a member of the German Bund in the federal execution in Holstein, and his Majesty, in a message in response to the address voted by the second Chamber, pledged his royal word that the funds should be applied to the object specified. The house refused to authorize the loan, and, in addition, resolved that a loan effected without its sanction would be a violation of the constitution, and its repayment would not be obligatory upon Prussia. In the conduct of Prussian finances it has been for years the practice not to anticipate revenue, but to use [Page 200] the collections of a previous to pay the expenses of the current year, any surplus remaining from appropriations being hoarded in the vaults of the old castle, as a reserve fund to meet contingencies. This fund had been accumulating for years, and no one knew (except a board of commissioners, specially charged by the King with its control and safe keeping) what sum was in the vault. The Chamber of Deputies desired to investigate and examine the accounts of the funds there kept in coin, but was refused, on the ground that it was not subject to the control of the house nor to the legislative action. It is supposed that the government will resort to this fund to meet the expenses for which authority to contract a loan was asked, but refused.
It is true the prorogation of the Chambers leaves the ministry, as at the close of the two preceding sessions, without any budget constitutionally established; but they are enabled to carry on the government without the aid of the Chambers, from the fact that, under the existing revenue laws, an income sufficient is obtained to meet all ordinary requirements and disbursements of the government. It is only in the establishment of new taxes that the Chambers would become indispensable. The revenues of the kingdom are annually increasing, amounting at present to nearly one hundred and thirty millions of thalers.
With such a revenue system, and a royal decree to expend the funds derived therefrom, the ministry is independent of the Chambers and the constitution, so long as no extraordinary taxation is required, and the people submit to this nullifying of their constitution. Without a general convulsion in Europe, this position of antagonism between the government and the representatives of the people, and the people themselves, may continue for a long time. In fact the wisest liberals fail to perceive any mode of regaining any power or control in the affairs of the kingdom.
Revolution is not in the character of the people, and, while officially maintaining their rights without flinching, the liberal members urge upon the people to avoid all violence and not to give a welcome pretext to strike a blow entirely destroying all hopes for liberal reforms to those controlling an army amounting on a peace footing to two hundred and forty thousand men.
The people of Prussia are a thoroughly loyal people. They are administratively well governed, their taxes not burdensome, and in the main they are prosperous and advancing in political knowledge and experience, but their progress in this direction has not yet reached the sublimity of fighting for an idea, viz: constitutional rights—the practical benefits of which are but little understood by the masses of the present generation of Prussians. No violent contest with the ruling powers will occur, except in the event of a general European convulsion, and probably not then, as long as Prussian arms are successful.
As I advised you in my last despatch, the federal troops of Saxony and Hanover have, by order of the Bund, completely occupied Holstein, which is being governed by federal commissioners. The Diet stopped at this point and entered upon the consideration of the question as to the right of succession in that duchy, as between Prince Frederick of Augustenburg and Christian IX, King of Denmark, when Prussia and Austria introduced a proposition in the Diet to proceed to occupy Schleswig. The Diet refused to concur, because the occupation of Schleswig appeared not to be in the interest of a union of the duchies with Germany, under the Prince of Augustenburg as duke, whereupon Austria and Prussia set the authority of the Diet aside, by declaring that they should henceforth take the whole matter into their own hands as European powers and as the parties to the London protocol and the stipulations of 1851 and 1852.
They at once commenced the movement of large bodies of troops to the frontier of Schleswig, and demanded of Denmark the revocation of the constitution of last November incorporating Schleswig into the Danish monarchy.[Page 201]
On the first day of the present month the troops began to enter Schleswig, and the first collision between the Prussians and Danes occurred on the same day at Eckernforde. So far as reported, the contest was between some vessels-of-war stationed in the harbor of Eckernforde and a battery of Prussian rifled artillery, and resulted in the vessels being compelled to retire out of reach of the guns. After which the town was occupied by the Prussian troops without serious resistance.
Austria and Prussia evidently intend to throw troops enough into Schleswig to overcome the Danish forces before any aid can possibly come to them from abroad. The allies must have upwards of seventy-five thousand men on the spot, while the Danish forces are estimated at forty thousand; but they occupy a very strong position in a series of earthworks, some fifteen miles in extent, known as the “Danneoirke.” There is now no appearance from this standpoint that any foreign power will come to the aid of Denmark, and the complete occupation of Schleswig will be a mere question of time. Denmark cannot successfully resist the force that is being brought against it.
The occupation completed, it will have relieved the German population in the duchies of Danish control, and I do not believe that the German powers dare restore them to Denmark. This long-pending dispute has once before sought a solution on the field of battle, the only result of which was an increase of the repressive measures by Denmark, the increase of the discontent of the governed, and the still deeper dissatisfaction of the whole German people. The Germans have felt so much and thought so long upon this question, that such an act as a repeated surrender of the duchies to Denmark, after a victorious campaign, would produce an excitement which the rulers would scarce wish to face.
From the German standpoint it is our brethren, a superior race, oppressed and trodden down by an inferior race, against law and right, at the feet of dynasties, or dynastic interests, and hence the Germans are enlisted heart and soul in the question.
In this kingdom the Schleswig-Holstein is stronger even than the interior constitutional struggle. There are three solutions of the question of occupation:
First. The restoration to Denmark, with guarantees, of the rights and freedom of the people of the duchies.
Second. The establishment of the Prince of Augustenburg as Duke of Schleswig-Holstein.
Third. The annexation of the duchies to Prussia.
Herr Von Bismark, his Majesty’s minister of foreign affairs, is believed to be in favor of the first; his Majesty himself preferring the last proposition. The people of Germany, I am inclined to believe, would gladly accept either of the last two modes of solving the question, rather than have the duchies revert to Denmark.
If his Majesty separates from his minister upon this question, and carries out a vigorous German policy, the way is open to a restoration of a good understanding between himself and his people. It is thought that the initiative is taken—that the King will act, holding that the commencement of actual hostilities has relieved him from all former treaty and protocol obligations.
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I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.