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Rudolf Schleiden

Rudolf Schleiden

German diplomat
Rudolf Schleiden
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German diplomat
Was Diplomat
From Germany
Type Politics
Gender male
Birth 22 July 1815, Ascheberg, Plön (District), Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Death 25 February 1895, Freiburg im Breisgau, Freiburg Government Region, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (aged 79 years)
Politics Imperial Liberal Party
The details


Rudolf Schleiden (22 July 1815 Gut Ascheberg near Plön - 25 February 1895 Freiburg im Breisgau) was a German administrative jurist. Like many German officials, he served the crown of Denmark in the duchy of Schleswig and the duchy of Holstein. In the Schleswig-Holstein survey he entered the diplomatic service of the Provisional Government of Schleswig-Holstein. He later became Hanseatic Minister-President in Washington D.C., and London. Before and after the German Reichsgründung, he sat in the Reichstag.


Rudolf's father Christian Schleiden was a merchant and landlord. His mother was Elise née of Nuys (born 6 July 1785 in Aurich). After marriage, the couple moved to Bremen in 1806. Because the business was not flourishing as a result of the continental blockade, his father acquired the estate Ascheberg near Plön in 1810/11. There Rudolf was born. In 1825, his father had to sell the estate, and took a commercial position at the German-American Mine Association in Elberfeld. He worked for several years in Mexico. The family moved back to Bremen. Here Rudolf began school. After his father's return, the family lived in Elberfeld in 1828, where Rudolf graduated from the Wilhelm-Dörpfeld-Gymnasium in 1834. Two years before, his father had died of typhus on a mission abroad.

With the help of an older brother, Rudolf began studying law at the University of Kiel. In 1838 he was one of the founders of the Corps Saxonia Kiel (ten years later in the Schleswig-Holstein War). As an inactive, he joined the Universität Berlin, the University of Jena and the University of Göttingen. There, Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann was a friend of the family. Rudolf was immediately impressed by his dismissal as one of the Göttinger Seven. At the end of his studies, he returned to Kiel. Since he had participated in a pistol duel (before the examination), he was sentenced to two years of fortress imprisonment. Christian VIII pardoned him after his coronation.

Schleswig and Holstein

In 1840 Schleiden took the Staatsexamen and became secretary in Reinbek. He then moved to Copenhagen as a worker in the General Customs Chamber and the Commerzcollegium. Schleiden was soon entrusted with important tasks such as inspecting the Customs office in Schleswig and Holstein, and then studied railway and customs in some states of the German Confederation, Belgium, Holland, and France. After the return of 1845 he gave his report to the king. He was then promoted to the second head of the entire customs service and trade of the duchies. In 1846 he was appointed a secret councilor of justice. As Denmark became increasingly centralized, Schleiden continued to advocate the old rights of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. As a result, conflicts ensued with his superiors. Even more difficult was the situation after the accession of Frederick VII and the revolution in Copenhagen in March, 1848. Schleiden resigned his offices and went to Kiel, as many German officials in Danish service.

Schleiden placed himself at the disposal of the provisional government of Schleswig-Holstein in Rendsburg. He was sent to Hanover as a diplomat to ask for military help. Then he traveled as a representative of the duchies as a member of the parliament in Frankfurt. In the second session, the Duchy of Schleswig was already able to take part in the German Confederation. Schleiden also belonged to the Fifties Committee.

In the middle of May 1848, he returned to Schleswig-Holstein to be sent from there to the diplomatic mission to Berlin. There, he has also endeavored to recruit soldiers and officers for the emergent army of the duchies. He returned to Schleswig and worked in the Department of Foreign Affairs. In the course of the first German-Danish War, the state was extended to Flensburg, and he continued to work in the interest of the duchies. In 1850 he traveled to Brussels and Paris. In Paris a memorandum, written by him in French, was printed and made available to all the major politicians. After the end of the war, Schleiden was exiled from the entire Danish sphere of power, to which the two duchies also belonged.

Minister in Washington and London

In 1852 Schleiden moved to Bremen and was commissioned by the mayor Johann Smidt to set up a Bremen diplomatic mission in the United States. In the summer of 1853 he traveled to Washington as a Bremen minister (diplomatic rank). He soon undertook an extensive journey through various states of the USA and Canada. In the middle of the 1850s, he traveled to Mexico on behalf of the Hanseatic cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck to negotiate a trade and shipping agreement. However, this was not ratified by the Mexican side.

He succeeded in 1861 in establishing a good relationship with the new American President Abraham Lincoln. At the same time, however, he also had good relations with the Confederate government. He tried in vain to mediate between both sides. During the difficult situation of the Civil War, he often successfully intervened with the war parties in favor of Bremen and other German ships. He advised the US State Department on questions of international law. Other diplomats in Washington, as well as the British ambassador, took the advice of Schleiden. In 1862 he became officially Hanseatic Plenipotentiary for Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck in the United States. In 1864 he moved to London. After sharply criticizing the Prussian-Austrian occupation of the duchies of Holstein and Schleswig as a result of the German-Danish War, he could no longerh hold his a diplomatic position.

Member of Parliament

Schleiden was then a member of the magistrate in the now Prussian city of Altona; But he only held this post until 1870. After the [ Unification War], he was elected to the constituent Reichstag of the North German Confederation in 1867 for Altona. He belonged to Parliament and then to the German Reichstag until 1873. He was a member of the Liberal Reichspartei around Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst. In 1870 he belonged to the Reichstag commission, which William I at Versailles asked to accept the imperial crown.

Last years

After losing his constituency to a Social Democrat in 1873, he moved to Freiburg im Breisgau, where a sister lived from him. He was active as a writer and wrote above all for the scientific supplement of the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung.

He published the Memoires of a Schleswig-Holsteinian, in four volumes between 1886 and 1894. A history of Schleswig-Holstein remained unfinished. He also published smaller works. He also traveled to the USA twice. In 1883 he took part in the opening of the Northern Pacific Railway. Despite his relatively low income, he was able to leave a foundation for the promotion of international law work after his death to the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg.

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