Bernstorf, John Hartwig Ernest, Count

, minister of state in Denmark, was born at Hanover, May 13, 1712. Some relations he happened to have in Denmark invited him thither, where his talents were soon noticed, and employed by the government. After having been ambassador in several courts, he was placed by Frederick V. at | the head of foreign affairs. During the seven years war (1755 62) he preserved a system of strict neutrality, which proved eminently serviceable to the commerce and internal prosperity of Denmark. In 1761, when the emperor of Russia, Peter III. threatened Denmark with war, and inarched his troops towards Holstein, Bernstorf exerted the utmost vigour in contriving means for the defence of the country, and the“sudden death of Peter having averted this storm, he employed his skill in bringing about an alliance between the courts of Copenhagen and St. Petersburgh. In 1767 he succeeded in concluding a provisional treaty, by which the dukedom of Holstein, which Paul, the grand duke of Russia, inherited by the death of Peter III. was exchanged for Oldenburgh, which belonged to the king of Denmark. This finally took place in 1773, and procured an important addition to the Danish territories. Soon after Bernstorf put a stop to the long contest that had been maintained respecting the house of Holstein having a right of sovereignty over Hamburgh, and that city vVas declared independent on condition of not claiming repayment of the money the city had advanced to the king of Denmark and the dukes of Holstein. These measures contributed highly to the reputation of count Bernstorf as a politician, but perhaps he derived as much credit from his conduct in other respects. He had acquired a large estate in the neighbourhood of Copenhagen, the peasants on which, as was the case in Denmark at that time, were slaves, and transferred like other property. Bernstorf, however, not only gave them their liberty, but granted them long leases, and encouraged them to cultivate the land, and feel that they had an interest in it. His tenants, soon sensible of the humanity and wisdom of his conduct, agreed to express their gratitude by erecting an obelisk in honour of him on the side of the great road leading to Copenhagen. Bernstorf was likewise a liberal patron of manufactures, commerce, and the fine arts. It was he who induced Frederick V. to give a pension for life to the poet Klopstock. On the death of that monarch, Bernstorf was continued in the ministry lor the first years of the new reign, until 1770, when Struenzee being placed at the head of the council, Bernstorf was allowed to resign with a pension. He then retired to Hamburgh, but, after the catastrophe of Struenzee, he was recalled, and was about to set out for Copenhagen when he died of an | apoplexy, Feb. 19, 1772. The political measures of this statesman belong to history, but his private character has been the theme of universal applause. Learned, social, affable, generous, and high spirited, he preserved the affections of all who knew him, and throughout his whole administration had the singular good fortune to enjoy at the same time courtly favour and popular esteem. His nephew, count Andrew Peter Bernstorf, who was born in 1735, and eventually succeeded him as foreign minister for Denmark, displayed equal zeal and knowledge in promoting the true interests of his country, which yet repeats his name with fervour and enthusiasm. It was particularly his object to preserve the neutrality of Denmark, after the French revolution had provoked a combination of most of the powers of Europe; and as long as neutral rights were at all respected, he succeeded in this wise measure. His state papers on the” principles of the court of Denmark concerning neutrality,“in 1780, and his” Declaration to the courts of Vienna and Berlin," in 1792, were much admired. In private life he followed the steps of his uncle, by a liberal patronage of arts, commerce, and manufactures, and like him was as popular in the country as in the court. He died Jan. 21, 1797. 1

1 Biog. Universelle, fcc.