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BERNSTORFF, J. H. E.

where his maternal uncle, Count Leopold Friedrich zu Stolberg, was Danish ambassador. His uncle’s influence, as well as his own social qualities, obtained him rapid promotion; he was soon chargé d’affaires, and in 1791 minister plenipotentiary. In 1794 he exchanged this post for the important one of ambassador at Stockholm, where he remained until May 1797, when he was summoned to Copenhagen to act as substitute for his father during his illness. On the death of the latter (21st June), he succeeded him as secretary of state for foreign affairs and privy councillor. In 1800 he became head of the ministry. He remained responsible for the foreign policy of Denmark until May 1810, a fateful period which saw the battle of Copenhagen (2nd of April 1801), the bombardment of Copenhagen and capture of the Danish fleet in 1807. After his retirement he remained without office until his appointment in 1811 as Danish ambassador at Vienna. He remained here, in spite of the fact that for a while Denmark was nominally at war with Austria, until, in January 1814, on the accession of Denmark to the coalition against Napoleon, he publicly resumed his functions as ambassador. He accompanied the emperor Francis to Paris, and was present at the signature of the first peace of Paris. With his brother Joachim, he represented Denmark at the congress of Vienna and, as a member for the commission for the regulation of the affairs of Germany, was responsible for some of that confusion of Danish and German interests which was to bear bitter fruit later in the Schleswig-Holstein question (q.v.). He again accompanied the allied sovereigns to Paris in 1815, returning to Copenhagen the same year. In 1817 he was appointed Danish ambassador at Berlin, his brother Joachim going at the same time to Vienna. In the following year Prince Hardenberg made him the formal proposition that he should transfer his services to Prussia, which, with the consent of his sovereign, he did.

It was, therefore, as a Prussian diplomat that Bernstorff attended the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle (October 1818), at the close of which he returned to Berlin as minister of state and head of the department for foreign affairs. Bernstorff’s management of Prussian policy during the many years that he remained in office has been variously judged. He was by training and temperament opposed to the Revolution, and he was initiated into his new duties as a Prussian minister by the reactionary Ancillon. He is accused of having subordinated the particular interests of Prussia to the European policy of Metternich and the “Holy Alliance.” Whether any other policy would in the long run have served Prussia better is a matter for speculation. It is true that Bernstorff supported the Carlsbad decrees, and the Vienna Final Act; he was also the faithful henchman of Metternich at the congresses of Laibach, Troppau and Verona. On the other hand, he took a considerable share in laying the foundations of the customs union (Zollverein), which was destined to be the foundation of the Prussian hegemony in Germany. In his support of Russia’s action against Turkey in 1828 also he showed that he was no blind follower of Metternich’s views. In the crisis of 1830 his moderation in face of the warlike clamour of the military party at Berlin did much to prevent the troubles in Belgium and Poland from ending in a universal European conflagration.

From 1824 onward Bernstorff had been a constant sufferer from hereditary gout, intensified and complicated by the results of overwork. In the spring of 1832 the state of his health compelled him to resign the ministry of foreign affairs to Ancillon, who had already acted as his deputy for a year. He died on the 18th of March 1835.

See J. Caro in Allgem. Deutsch. Biog. s.v.; also H. von Treitschke, Deutsche Geschichte (Leipzig, 1874-1894).

 (R. N. B.) 

BERNSTORFF, JOHANN HARTWIG ERNST, Count von (1712-1772), Danish statesman, who came of a very ancient Mecklenburg family, was the son of Joachim Engelke, Freiherr von Bernstorff, chamberlain to the elector of Hanover, and was born on the 13th of May 1712. His maternal grandfather, Andreas Gottlieb Bernstorff (1640-1726), had been one of the ablest ministers of George I., and under his guidance Johann was very carefully educated, acquiring amongst other things that intimate knowledge of the leading European languages, especially French, which ever afterwards distinguished him. He was introduced into the Danish service by his relations, the brothers Plessen, who were ministers of state under Christian VI. In 1732 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the court of Dresden; and from 1738 he represented Holstein at the diet of Regensburg, from 1744 to 1750 he represented Denmark at Paris, whence he returned in 1754 to Denmark as minister of foreign affairs. Supported by the powerful favourite A.G. Moltke, and highly respected by Frederick V., he occupied for twenty-one years the highest position in the government, and in the council of state his opinion was decisive. But his chief concern was with foreign affairs. Ever since the conclusion of the Great Northern War, Danish statesmen had been occupied in harvesting its fruits, namely, the Gottorp portions of Schleswig definitely annexed to Denmark in 1721 by the treaty of Nystad, and endeavouring to bring about a definitive general understanding with the house of Gottorp as to their remaining possessions in Holstein. With the head of the Swedish branch of the Gottorps, the crown prince Adolphus Frederick, things had been arranged by the exchange of 1750; but an attempt to make a similar arrangement with the chief of the elder Gottorp line, the cesarevitch Peter Feodorovich, had failed. In intimate connexion with the Gottorp affair stood the question of the political equilibrium of the north. Ever since Russia had become the dominant Baltic power, as well as the state to which the Gottorpers looked primarily for help, the necessity for a better understanding between the two Scandinavian kingdoms had clearly been recognized by the best statesmen of both, especially in Denmark from Christian VI.’s time; but unfortunately this sound and sensible policy was seriously impeded by the survival of the old national hatred on both sides of the Sound, still further complicated by Gottorp’s hatred of Denmark. Moreover, it was a diplomatic axiom in Denmark, founded on experience, that an absolute monarchy in Sweden was incomparably more dangerous to her neighbour than a limited monarchy, and after the collapse of Swedish absolutism with Charles XII., the upholding of the comparatively feeble, and ultimately anarchical, parliamentary government of Sweden became a question of principle with Danish statesmen throughout the 18th century. A friendly alliance with a relatively weak Sweden was the cardinal point of Bernstorff’s policy. But his plans were traversed again and again by unforeseen complications, the failure of the most promising presumptions, the perpetual shifting of apparently stable alliances; and again and again he had to modify his means to attain his ends. Amidst all these perplexities Bernstorff approved himself a consummate statesman. It seemed almost as if his wits were sharpened into a keener edge by his very difficulties; but since he condemned on principle every war which was not strictly defensive, and it had fallen to his lot to guide a comparatively small power, he always preferred the way of negotiation, even sometimes where the diplomatic tangle would perhaps best have been severed boldly by the sword. The first difficult problem he had to face was the Seven Years’ War. He was determined to preserve the neutrality of Denmark at any cost, and this he succeeded in doing, despite the existence of a subsidy-treaty with the king of Prussia, and the suspicions of England and Sweden. It was through his initiative, too, that the convention of Kloster-Seven was signed (10th of September 1757), and on the 4th of May 1758 he concluded a still more promising treaty with France, whereby, in consideration of Denmark’s holding an army-corps of 24,000 men in Holstein till the end of the war, to secure Hamburg, Lübeck and the Gottorp part of Holstein from invasion, France, and ultimately Austria also, engaged to bring about an exchange between the king of Denmark and the cesarevitch, as regards Holstein. But the course of the war made this compact inoperative. Austria hastened to repudiate her guarantee to Denmark in order not to offend the new emperor of Russia, Peter III., and one of Peter’s first acts on ascending the throne was to declare war against Denmark. The coolness