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Bismarck, however, instead of setting up another German petty state, preferred to keep the spoils.
During all these vicissitudes the Danes in North Sleswic had remained steadfastly loyal. Placed in the unenviable position of having to protect themselves at once against the obtrusions of an inflated Sleswic-Holsteinism, on one side, and the deplorable consequences of systematic neglect at the hands of the rulers at Copenhagen, on the other, they never for a moment wavered in their fidelity to their national traditions. But with their every right ignored by their own government; with German established as the official language of central Sleswic, even where the Germans were in absolute minority; and with the officials all Germantrained at Kiel, German-speaking, and German-sympathizing, the result became inevitable : Low German speech and German sentiment crept slowly, stealthily northward.
It was not until the beginning of the past century that Danish statesmen grew
alarmed at this situation. Decrees were issued designed to arrest the invasion. But, the local authorities failing to co-operate, these soon became dead letters. Fifty years later, at the close of the rebellion, they were revived and amended, and stringent measures were adopted looking to their enforcement.
The substance of these rescripts was that in the purely German districts German, and in the purely Danish, Danish, should be exclusively used; in the mixed districts, where Danish was “spoken by the populace,” this language was to be employed in the instruction of the children, who were to have four hours weekly of German; and alternately with German in the churches. At the same time, the Sleswic-Holsteinian officials were replaced by Danes, and special governmental organs were created for the province, independently of Holstein.
This arrangement seems fair on its face, and there was an unquestionable intention that it should be fairly carried out. However, the clause, “where Danish is spoken by the populace,” presented a loophole for any who might be disposed to take advantage of it. As a matter of fact, by the construction put upon it by certain over-zealous administrators, whose patriotism
got the better of their discretion, Danish was made church and school language in several districts where it was spoken by a minority only, contrary to the spirit of the ordinances. Thus in Angeln, whose originally Danish population had become alienated as a consequence of the purblind policy of the Danish government, an attempt was made to regain the lost ground upon the same principle as is now underlying the German propaganda in Alsace-Lorraine. The tenability of this "historic right” dogma may well be drawn in question. In Sleswic, at any rate, the mistakes it fostered were few and of short duration. Neither in point of time and extension of territory, nor in severity, can a parallel justly be drawn between the acts of the Danish government in those days and the coercive measures of the present Prussian régime. This is openly admitted by unbiased Germans. It was for voicing this conviction that Professor Delbrück was disciplined. “What the Danes then did in Sleswic," he wrote, “was mere child's play compared with the violence with which we ourselves now rule that country.” A glance at the appended map— which is self-explanatory— will demonstrate how true to the facts this statement is. From a Danish Tillisch in 1851 to a German von Köller in 1899 is a pretty far cry.
Yet, mistakes were made—and realized. Already in 1852 the language ordinances were amended. An honest effort was made to incorporate such provisions as would “insure perfect equality and efficient protection to both Danish and German nationalities.” According to the new rescript, all laws and administrative announcements were to be promulgated in both languages; in the legislature, all communications by the government were to be read, and all debates reported, in both, while the deputies were at liberty to use either. All departments of the administration, secular and ecclesiastical, as well as the court of appeal, were subject to the same rule, and all examinations of candidates for office were to be conducted in Danish and German both.
In regard to the “mixed” districts, Danish was made the language of the school, but with a liberal provision for instruction in German; while in the churches the two languages were to alternate, and in the local courts of justice the use of either was permitted at the choice of the defendant.
COMPARING THE DANISH LANGUAGE ARRANGEMENT OF 1851 WITH THE PRUSSIAN ARRANGEMENT OF TODAY.
Danish administrative, church, school, court language.
Danish popular language.
German administrative, school, and court language.
Mixed Danish and German administrative, church,
school, court language.
Mixed Danish and Low German popular language.
Could a more liberal, a more uniformly just, scheme have been devised? Where else in the world, in countries of mixed races and languages, did then-do now - similar conditions prevail ? What other European nation has in modern times shown such toleration, such magnanimity, toward its foreign, hostile elements? Certainly not Germany. And yet Germans never tire of upbraiding Denmark and the Danes for what they did in Sleswic prior to 1864, which, they say, by the law of retribution, played the province into their hands — to have and to hold !
THE CULTURAL ARGUMENT. It has always been a favorite theory with a large class of German expansionists that, the two cultures being essentially alike— with the superiority rather on the side of the Germanonce the Danes in North Sleswic made up their minds to bow to the inevitable and become Germans in speech and thought, they would find the transition comparatively casy and in every way to their advantage. The annexation of Sleswic being an accomplished fact, they argue, and one not likely ever to be reversed, the population has everything to lose and nothing to gain by a continued clinging to their Danish traditions, when they might, with hardly any effort on their part, become sharers in the glories of Germany's greatness. To them the relation of Danish to German culture is very much the same as that of Dutch or Flemish—a sort of offshoot or satellite, whose insistence upon separate maintenance is nothing but sheer folly.
This argument would not be without weight, provided the premises hold. Recent history has clearly demonstrated the existence of vast numbers of enlightened and liberal-thinking people the world over viewing with equanimity or open approbation the consequences of a war waged by a stronger against a weaker power, on the theory that the success of its arms would be in the interest of a broad civilization and to the ultimate benefit of the conquered nation itself. To others it would seem as if the prevailing sentiment, expressed “in indubitable manner and constantly” — to quote Prince Bismarck-of a given population ought at any time to decide its political dependence,