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Danish Straits / Kattegat / Skagerrak

The limits of the Kattegat are, on the side of the Skagerrak, a line drawn from Skagen (or Scaw) reef to entrance of the Uddewala canal on the Swedish shore, including Marchand and leaving outside the Paternoster rocks; on the side of the sound, a line drawn from Kullen to Gilbjerg Head; and on the side of the Belts, a line drawn from Kniben point (the NW. extremity of Sealand) to Cape Hosinore in Jutland. The exact limits are thus given to serve in matters of insurance. The Kattegat is divided naturally into two channels — one passing to the east, and the other to the west of the islands and shoals which cut it, somewhat diagonally, from N. to S. Both are practicable for large vessels; but the western channel, south of Lseso, is crossed by a plateau of from 5 to 6 fms. of water, with rocky heads of 4 fms. and less.

Straits and seas bordering upon the continental territory of a state, which, although not entirely under cannon range, are nevertheless recognized by other powers as closed seas (mare clausum), that is to say, as subjected to a dominion. As examples may be cited the Danish Straits, Bristol, and St. George's Channel, the Irish Sea, the Dardanelles, etc."

The Kiel canal was constructed in 1895 by Germany chiefly for military or strategic purposes. The importance of the undertaking will readily be understood by a glance at a map. Hitherto the part of Germany intersected by the canal has been cut in two by the Cimbrian Peninsula, so that communication could only be'opened by the narrow Danish straits, likely enough to be closed in time of war. Now the German navy would be able to proceed from the North Sea to the Baltic by the new waterway in a very short space of time.

Denmark may wish to step outside the ring in case an Anglo-German conflict should take place, but she will hardly be able to act the part of a mere spectator. The mastery of the Kattegat may decide the issue of an Anglo-German war—and more. The possession of the Danish Straits would be of vital importance to both belligerents. Consequently Denmark can hope to observe a strict neutrality only if she is strong enough to keep her territories neutral and to defend them against all comers. This she could not do, for she was too weak.

From the German point of piew the possession of the entrances to the Baltic was absolutely necessary for the peace, safety, and greatness of the country. If Denmark valued her independence, she would side with this country, which had every interest in seeing Denmark independent and strong. If Denmark did not value her independence, she may side with Germany, which had every interest in acquiring, or at least in dominating, the territories of Denmark in order to possess herself of the command of the Baltic and of the excellent Danish harbors.

Several important straits, either by long-continued usage and general consent, or by the positive stipulations of treaties, are or have been under the exclusive control of the nation through or along whose territories they pass. If the opposite shores are held by different states, there would seem to be no claim for exclusive dominion in either. Where, then, the banks both form a portion of the soil of a single power, its claim to territorial sovereignty and property may be absolute, may assert complete and exclusive possession, as of an internal river; or it may be qualified, asserting an exclusive right of fishing in the waters, or forbidding the passage of foreign vessels of war, while the innocent use by merchant vessels is not objected to.

It can hardly be said of any such strait, even though it be so wide as not to be commanded from the shores, that the right to fish, or to traverse with armed ships, as well as with ships of commerce, is given by the general law to all peoples; while, at the same time, it can be said of few or none, that, independent of convention, the innocent use for purposes of traffic and intercommunication is, or may be, forbidden.

The three important passages which lead into the Baltic Sea are called the Sound, the Great Belt, and the Little Belt, and are all within the territorial limits of Denmark. That country, for several centuries, has claimed and received certain tolls and duties from all merchant ships and their cargoes passing through them into the Baltic. These tolls have been recognized as payable, and their amount regulated and fixed, by a succession of treaties with almost every maritime power. The first establishment of an uniform rate of toll was made in 1645 by treaty between Denmark and the United Provinces. Similar treaties were made with France in 1663, 1742, 1842; also with England at divers times. The ground for insisting upon these duties mostly relied on was the great difficulty and danger of the navigation, and the great expense which the keeping up a proper system of lights, buoys, pilots, etc., entailed.

In 1848 the United States formally announced to Denmark that she would no longer submit to this claim. After much negotiation, on the 14th of March, 1857, a treaty was concluded between Denmark, Austria. Belgium, France, Great Britain, Hanover, MecklenburgSchwerin, Oldenburg, Holland, Prussia, Russia, Sweden and Norway, the free cities of Bremen, Lubeck, and Hamburg, by which, in consideration of the payment of a fixed indemnity in money, Denmark forever renounced all claim to these tolls. A similar treaty was concluded between Denmark and the United States on the 11th of April, 1857; the latter country paying a consideration of 717,829 rix-dollars.

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Page last modified: 03-01-2017 19:50:43 ZULU