Columbia University, Nov. 6, 1914.
Dr. Irene Sargent’s Reply to Dr. Dernburg
Professor of the History of Fine Arts, Syracuse University.
To the Editor of The New York Times:
Contradicting Dr. Eliot, Dr. Bernhard Dernburg says:
Schleswig-Holstein was a dual Dukedom that never belonged to Denmark; but, having as its Duke the King of Denmark, as long as he belonged to the elder line of the house of Oldenburg ... Frederick VII. wanted to incorporate the two German Dukedoms into Denmark.... Then the people stood up and expressed the desire to remain with the German Federation.
Such an assertion is a summary, inaccurate, and unfair manner of dealing with perhaps the most complex series of diplomatic, legal, and racial questions that arose in the nineteenth century. It would appear from the best evidence that Schleswig was indissolubly united with the Crown of Denmark. To maintain this principle Christian VIII. in 1846 issued letters patent declaring that the royal line of succession (female) was in full force, as far as Schleswig was concerned. As to Holstein, the King stated that he was prevented from giving an equally clear decision, and the reason of his hesitation lay in the assumption that the law of the Salic Saxons excluding women from the throne would naturally prevail in Holstein, where the Germans, their customs, and their language were dominant. Two years later, Prussia sought to restore her prestige, lost in the Revolution of 1848, by sending troops into the Duchies in order to enforce the principle that this territory constituted two independent and indivisible States, the government of which was hereditary in the male line alone. The Prussian troops were afterward withdrawn by the hesitating Frederic William, and there followed a succession of protocols, constitutions, and compacts until the time of Bismarck, who, in his “Reflections,” Volume II., Page 10, in writing of the Duchies, acknowledges:
“From the beginning I kept annexation steadily before my eyes.”
The master of statecraft conquered. But did the people “stand up and express their desire to remain with the German Federation,” as Dr. Dernburg asserts?
If his assertion be true, why were the Danish “optants” subjected to domiciliary visits, perquisitions, arrest, and expulsion? And why—only to mention one instance of espionage—did the Prussian police confiscate the issue of a Danish newspaper published in Schleswig because it contained a reference to that Duchy under its historic name of South Jutland?
The truth stands that the whole Schleswig-Holstein question is one that involves the modern principle of “nationality,” and, as such, enters of necessity into the present European crisis. It is broadly understood by Dr. Eliot and willfully misapprehended by his critic.