to Mr. Evarts
Copenhagen , May 10, 1878. (Received May 29.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that yesterday at 12 o’clock m. a newly-built iron-clad war-vessel was launched at the royal dock-yard near this city, in the presence of the King, the royal family, the diplomatic corps, and many naval, military, and civil officers, all of whom had been specially invited to attend, “en gala”, the imposing ceremony. The occasion furnished a holiday to the people of the city. Said ironclad, Helgoland by name, given it in honor of the sea-fight near the isle of Helgoland on the 9th of May, 1864, is a casemated ship of 5,350 tons displacement, and will be armed with four 26-centimeter and one 30½-centimeter breech-loading Krupp guns, besides a number of guns of smaller caliber. It is built entirely of iron, is 250 feet long and 57½ feet wide amidships, and draws 18 feet water. Its armor-plates vary in thickness from 12 inches to 4 feet, and has an apparatus for projecting Whitehead torpedoes. It is altogether the largest and strongest war-vessel of the Danish navy, and large hopes are built upon its efficiency in case Denmark should become involved in a war.
In this connection it may be of interest to you to be informed that, in the event of a war between Great Britain and Russia, the Danish Government would—so it is reported in several leading Danish newspapers—issue a proclamation of neutrality, based upon the principles contained in the Danish and Swedish-Norwegian proclamation of neutrality, issued at the breaking out of the Crimean war in 1853. This latter proclamation, among other things, reserved to Denmark the right of closing its harbors against the war-vessels of the several belligerents.[Page 160]
Another important measure adopted by the Danish Government is the following: During the past twelve years a part of the Danish army were annually, during the summer months, in camp at Hald, in Jutland. for drilling and maneuvering purposes. But, on account of the present critical state of affairs in Europe, the government has decided not to scatter the army over the whole kingdom, but to concentrate it near its capital. Hence, the army maneuvers for the approaching summer will take place in a camp prepared for that purpose near this city. The government wants to be prepared for any emergency, as regards either the maintenance of a strict neutrality in the event of a war between the two powers named above, or the free self-determination, in case either one of these powers should either encroach upon the country’s right or attempt to coerce it out of its neutrality. For this reason it has also decided to put its war-navy into a state of readiness, for which purpose the Rigsdag at its late session voted a special sum of money. Altogether, there is great uneasiness felt here among the people on account of the critical state of affairs between Great Britain and Russia, and the possible if not probable outbreak of a war between them. As for the sympathy of the public in this case, it is almost universally on the side of Russia.
I am, &c.,