Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston - Prime Minister: 1859–1865 - Denmark

Denmark

The Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck wanted to annexe the Danish territories of Schleswig-Holstein, chiefly for its port of Kiel, and had an alliance with Austria for this purpose. In a speech to the Commons on 23 July 1863, Palmerston said the British government, like those of France and Russia, wished that "the independence, the integrity, and the rights of Denmark may be maintained. We are convinced—I am convinced at least—that if any violent attempt were made to overthrow those rights and interfere with that independence, those who made the attempt would find in the result that it would not be Denmark alone with which they would have to contend". Palmerston's stance derived from the traditional belief that France was the greater threat to Britain and believed she was much stronger than Austria and Prussia.

For five months Bismarck did nothing. However in November the Danish government instituted a new constitution whereby Schleswig-Holstein was bound closer to Denmark. By the year's end, the Prussian and Austrian armies were massing on the River Eider. On 1 February 1864 the Prussian-Austrian armies invaded Schleswig-Holstein and ten days afterwards the Danish government requested British help to resist this. Russell urged Palmerston to send a fleet to Copenhagen and persuade Napoleon III that he should mobilise his soldiers that were placed on the borders of Prussia's Rhineland provinces. Palmerston replied that the fleet could not do much to assist the Danes in Copenhagen and that nothing should be done to persuade Napoleon to cross the Rhine.

In April Austria's navy was on its way to attack Copenhagen and Palmerston saw the Austrian ambassador and informed him that Britain could not allow their navy to sail through the English Channel if their intent was to attack Denmark, and if it entered the Baltic the result would be war with Britain. The ambassador replied that the Austrian navy would not enter the Baltic and it did not do so.

Palmerston accepted Russell's suggestion that the war should be settled at a conference in London but at the conference in May and June the Danes refused to accept their loss of Schleswig-Holstein. The armistice ended on 26 June and Prussian-Austrian troops quickly invaded more of Denmark. On 25 June the Cabinet were against going to war to save Denmark but Russell's suggestion to send the Royal Navy to defend Copenhagen was only carried by Palmerston's vote. Palmerston however said the fleet could not be sent in view of the deep division in the Cabinet.

On 27 June Palmerston gave his statement to the Commons and said Britain would not go to war with the German powers unless the existence of Denmark as an independent power was at stake or that her capital was threatened. The Conservatives replied that Palmerston had betrayed the Danes and a vote of censure in the House of Lords was carried by nine votes. In the debate in the Commons the Conservative MP General Peel said: "It is come to this, that the words of the Prime Minister of England, uttered in the Parliament of England, are to be regarded as mere idle menaces to be laughed at and despised by foreign powers?" Palmerston replied in the last night of the debate: "I say that England stands as high as she ever did and those who say she had fallen in the estimation of the world are not the men to whom the honour and dignity of England should be confided".

The vote of censure was defeated by 313 votes to 295, with Palmerston's old enemies in the pacifist camp, Cobden and Bright, voting for him. The result of the vote was announced at 2.30 in the morning and when Palmerston heard the news he ran up the stairs to the Ladies' Gallery and embraced his wife. Disraeli wrote: "What pluck to mount those dreadful stairs at three o'clock in the morning, and eighty years of age!"

In a speech at his constituency at Tiverton in August, Palmerston told his constituents:

I am sure every Englishman who has a heart in his breast and a feeling of justice in his mind, sympathizes with those unfortunate Danes (cheers), and wishes that this country could have been able to draw the sword successfully in their defence (continued cheers); but I am satisfied that those who reflect on the season of the year when that war broke out, on the means which this country could have applied for deciding in one sense that issue, I am satisfied that those who make these reflections will think that we acted wisely in not embarking in that dispute. (Cheers.) To have sent a fleet in midwinter to the Baltic every sailor would tell you was an impossibility, but if it could have gone it would have been attended by no effectual result. Ships sailing on the sea cannot stop armies on land, and to have attempted to stop the progress of an army by sending a fleet to the Baltic would have been attempting to do that which it was not possible to accomplish. (Hear, hear.) If England could have sent an army, and although we all know how admirable that army is on the peace establishment, we must acknowledge that we have no means of sending out a force at all equal to cope with the 300,000 or 400,000 men whom the 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 of Germany could have pitted against us, and that such an attempt would only have insured a disgraceful discomfiture—not to the army, indeed, but to the Government which sent out an inferior force and expected it to cope successfully with a force so vastly superior. (Cheers.) ... we did not think that the Danish cause would be considered as sufficiently British, and as sufficiently bearing on the interests and the security and the honour of England, as to make it justifiable to ask the country to make those exertions which such a war would render necessary.

Read more about this topic:  Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, Prime Minister: 1859–1865

Other articles related to "denmark":

June Movement
... It took its name from the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty that took place in Denmark in June of that year ... The June Movement acknowledged Denmark's membership of the European Union, but opposed the process of tighter European integration including the Lisbon Treaty, and in general the ... but neither in local elections nor in elections for the Parliament of Denmark ...
Gustav III Of Sweden - Absolute Monarchy
... he sought to gain Russian support to acquire Norway from Denmark ... When Catherine II refused to abandon her ally Denmark, Gustav declared war on Russia in June 1788, while it was deeply engaged in a war with the Ottoman Empire to the south ... Denmark declared war in support of its Russian ally, but was soon neutralized through British and Prussian diplomacy ...
Frederick VIII, Duke Of Schleswig-Holstein - Life
... the Danish Royal dynasty in his generation (at the time of Denmark's most recent succession crisis ... Both lines claim descent from the medieval Danish House of Estridsen via Christian I of Denmark's ancestress Richeza of Denmark, Lady of Werle, the daughter of Eric V of Denmark, but ... an ancient Danish family (Danneskiold-Samsøe), and his paternal grandmother Louise Auguste of Denmark was its royal princess ...
Vilhelm Lauritzen - Selected Buildings
... Daells Varehus, Copenhagen, Denmark (with Frits Schlegel, 1933 ) Radiohuset, Frederiksberg, Denmark (1936–41) Copenhagen Airport terminal (1937–1939) Gladsaxe Town Hall ...
Denmark, Wisconsin - Images
... Denmark High School Post office Velkommen sign showing relationship with the country of Denmark Water tower Downtown Denmark ...