Mr. Judd to Mr. Seward.
Sir:Your despatch, No. 65, dated February 1, 1864, is received.
The belief in the final suppression of the rebellion and the re-establishment of the authority of our government over the entire territory of the Union is now almost universal throughout Germany. The leading reactionary papers in Berlin, which, during all the struggle, have omitted no opportunity to disparage our cause, now give utterance to the prevailing opinion as to the condition of affairs in the United States. This change of opinion is marked and radical, notwithstanding the false and garbled news that is telegraphed throughout Europe on the arrival of every steamer. The sensation reports in our newspapers, which magnify the most trivial movement of the rebels into something of great strategical importance, and, for want of real events, keep constantly parading their fears of threatened interruption of important lines of communication, proposed invasions, fancied sieges, blockading of the Mississippi, abandonment of places occupied by the Union forces, &c., are now regularly sent over the wires on the arrival of every steamer, but they have ceased to mislead or alarm any intelligent person. Events on this side of the ocean have drawn public attention from our affairs, and the impressions of ultimate success which had been made before the commencement of the war here are not affected by what appears to be the winter amusement of our own newspapers.
The military movements in Schleswig remain as I advised you in my last despatch. The Danish troops are mostly in the fortifications and on the island of Alsen, and their vessels-of-war are co-operating to prevent a further advance. The Prussian army is now lying in front of these fortifications, preparing for further movements. It is almost impossible to determine with accuracy what happens with the army, as the habit of exaggeration, which prevailed at one [Page 204] time in our country, in relation to military transactions, has been dwarfed by the capacity shown in Germany for military “roorbacks.” Shakspeare, were he living, would have left old Sir John and his men in buckram in obscurity and immortalized these German sensation-mongers. As a specimen, the telegraph killed and wounded a thousand men in Fleusburg, and the brave troopers swept over barricaded streets with a fury known only to patriots. Humble truth later decided that nobody had fought there, and consequently nobody was hurt. Canting hypocrites on this side have pitied the sufferings of our soldiers, and censured the government for indifference and improvidence, and yet this winter campaign in Schleswig has developed that a military government with a standing army of 200,000 men, and magazines supposed to be full of war supplies and munitions, had no tents, no blankets, no stockings; the overcoats rotten and dropping to pieces after a few days’ wear; the commissariat and hospital arrangements utterly deficient, so that the wounded soldier is snowed in and frozen to death before being cared for, and the living sustains life from his own animal vigor, half fed, unsheltered, among the snows of Schleswig, and all this within a distance of fifteen or twenty hours from this capital.
The question as to who were the belligerent parties has agitated German diplomacy for several days. There has been no declaration of war upon either side. The troops of the Bund, pursuant to the order of the Diet, occupied Holstein, a province belonging to the German confederation. The Danes, although affirming that such occupation would be hostile, retired without conflict before the advancing troops of the Bund, until the whole of Holstein was in possession of these troops under the decree of execution. At this point Austria and Prussia asked permission of the Diet to occupy Schleswig, in order to secure a guarantee that Denmark would fulfil its obligations to the German subjects in the duchies, as claimed to exist under the treaty of 1852. The authority being refused by the Bund, the two powers announced their determination to carry out their views and intentions independently of the Diet, and accordingly concentrated their armies and invaded Schleswig. There was still no declaration of war. On the contrary, they announced that they came for peaceable purposes. Denmark met them on the borders, and, considering the course of the allies a hostile proceeding, the conflict and actual war commenced.
Denmark has settled for herself the status, and recognized war as existing with all the states of Germany. The hostile act for which she holds the states of Germany, other than Prussia and Austria, responsible, is the permission allowed to the troops intended for the invasion of Schleswig to pass through the territory of Holstein, then in possession of the federal army of occupation, and civilly administered by commissioners appointed by the Diet. Following out this status, Denmark has established an admiralty court, and, it is believed, will proceed to blockade the ports of Germany. German vessels in Danish ports have been seized, without giving them the customary time to leave, although it is asserted that Denmark is ready to come to an agreement, so as to release again all those vessels that may have been seized before a certain time. This course of Denmark has been met by Prussia and other German states by at once placing an embargo upon Danish vessels within their ports, and the Diet, a few days since, has decreed an embargo upon all Danish shipping in all the German harbors. The text of the regulations established by Denmark regarding the blockade and the seizure of ships has not yet been received here, so that I am unable to advise of their precise effect; but they establish a condition of war with all of Germany. The representatives of German states, which have seaports, have informed me that such is the attitude of Denmark towards their respective states. Denmark has naval strength enough to put an end to German commerce in the North sea and the Baltic; to close the mouths of the two most important rivers, the Weser and the Elbe, and so destroy for the present the foreign commerce of Bremen and Hamburg. [Page 205] This successfully done, and again England profits by the distress of her neighbors, and seizes more of the carrying trade.
There will be no war by England in favor of the Danes. The same interests and influences which in our own case caused it to close its eyes to a violation of its own municipal laws, and to the disregard of the law of nations on the subject of hostile armaments, will regulate its conduct in the Dano-German conflict. It is in the power of the Emperor of France to change and determine the whole question, and he waits and watches.
To-day it is rumored that the allied forces are advancing from Schleswig into the Danish province of Jutland, thus leaving behind the professed objects in the invasion of Schleswig, and assuming the full hostile responsibility of invasion.
Internal matters in Germany are, meanwhile, assuming every day a more threatening aspect. I advised you in my last despatch of a convention of ministers of the smaller states, called by Bavaria, to meet at Wurzburg. It has met and adjourned, but its proceedings are not yet before the public. The minister for foreign affairs, in this kingdom, seems to revel in these complications. The Prussian government has ordered the mobilization of another army corps, to be stationed in the province of Silesia, on the border of Saxony.
It is said that the Saxon government has received assurances from the Emperor of France that in case of actual aggression on the part of Prussia he would sustain the smaller states of Germany, and so Germany itself may yet become the theatre of war, in which case it is generally believed Austria would be found taking the side against Prussia. Already, voices are being heard in the Austrian press protesting against Herr Von Bismarck’s course against the members of the Bund, and apprehensions are expressed that Prussia has ambitious projects under her zeal for the enforcement of treaties, and that territorial aggrandizement is among the dreams of Herr Von Bismarck.
The two nations have given assurances to the other great powers of Europe, more or less positive, of their intention to restore the territorial integrity of the Danish monarchy, after having established the rights of the duchies to their union, and separate administration upon a firm and lasting basis. Austria is believed to be in earnest in this declaration; but to the Prussian statesman, motives and purposes other than the declared ones are attributed. Besides his ambitious designs to gain for Prussia a territory with important harbors, liberals charge him with a desire to crush out the smaller states of Germany. The attempt to take from the Diet and its army of execution the possession of Holstein, and the quartering an army on the borders of Saxony, are considered proofs positive of these intentions.
So far as the official declarations of the Prussian government go, up to the present time, it means to restore, in due time, the duchies to Denmark, on the terms that the union with Denmark shall only be a personal rule of the King of Denmark, as Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, the duchies being united under a common administration of their own—a relation similar to the one existing between Sweden and Norway. Less, Prussia (so proclaims King William) will not accept, and not “until having at least accomplished so much will he sheathe the sword he has drawn.”
The difficulties and complications are increasing every day, and most of the diplomatic representatives here are well-nigh convinced that the approaching spring will see a European war.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.