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The Russian Humbug.
Gladstone's Failure.
Sir Charles Wood's East Indian Reforms.[98]

Karl Marx

London, Tuesday, June 7[a], 1853

According to a dispatch from Berne, the Bundesrath[b] has cancelled the judgment pronounced by the Court Martial at Fribourg against the late insurrectionists, ordering them to be brought before the Ordinary Courts, unless they should be pardoned by the Cantonal Council. Here, then, we have the first of the heroic deeds accompanying the "rupture between Switzer-land and Austria," the infallible result of which I traced in a former letter on the European "Model Republic."[c]

In transmitting to you the news of the Prussian Government having ordered several Artillery officers on furlough abroad to return immediately to their duties, I stated, by mistake, that those officers were engaged in instructing the Russian army, while I intended to have said the Turkish artillery, in field-practice.[99]

All the Russian Generals, and other Russians residing at Paris have received orders to return to Russia without delay. The language adopted by M. de Kisseleff, the Russian Envoy at Paris, is rather menacing, and letters from Petersburg are ostentatiously shown by him, in which the Turkish question is treated assez cavalièrement[d]. A rumor has issued from the same quarter, reporting that Russia demands from Persia the cession of the territory of Astrabad, at the south-eastern extremity of the Caspian Sea. Russian merchants, at the same time, dispatch, or are reported to have dispatched, orders to their London agents, "not to press any sales of grain at the present juncture, as prices were expected to rise in the imminent eventuality of a war." Lastly, confidential hints are being communicated to every newspaper, that the Russian troops are marching to the frontiers that the inhabitants of Jassy are preparing for their reception that the Russian Consul at Galatz[e] has bought up an immense number of trees for the t h rowing of several bridges across the Danube, and other canards, the breeding of which has been so successfully carried on by the Augsburg Gazette[f] and other Austro-Russian journals.

These, and a lot of similar reports, communications, etc., are nothing but so many ridiculous attempts on the part of the Russian agents to strike a wholesome terror into the western world, and to push it to the continuance of that policy of extension, under the cover of which Russia hopes, as heretofore, to carry out her projects upon the East. How systematically this game of mystification is being played, may be seen from the following:

Last week, several French papers notoriously in the pay of Russia, made the discovery, that the

"real question was less between Russia and Turkey than between Petersburg and Moscow — i.e. between the Czar and the Old-Russian party: and that for the autocrat, there would be less danger in war, than in the vengeance of that conuqest-urging party, which has so often shown how it deals with monarchs that displease it."[g]

Prince Menchikoff, of course, is the "head of this party. "The Times and most of the English papers did not fail to reproduce this absurd statement, the one in consciousness of its meaning; the others, perhaps, its unconscious dupes. Now, what conclusion was the public intended to draw from this novel revelation? That Nicholas, in retreating under ridicule, and abandoning his warlike attitude against Turkey, has won a victory over his own warlike Old-Russians, or that Nicholas, in actually going to war, only does so from the necessity of yielding to that (fabulous) party. At all events, "there would only be a victory of Moscow over Petersburg, or of Petersburg over Moscow;" and, consequently, none of Europe over Russia.

Respecting this famous Old-Russian party, I happen to know from several well-informed Russians, aristocrats themselves, with whom I have had much intercourse at Paris, that it has long been entirely extinct, and is only occasionally called back into apparent existence, when the Czar stands in need of some bugbear to frighten the West of Europe into passive endurance of his arrogant claims. Hence the resurrection of a Menchikoff, and his appropriate outfit in the fabulous Old-Russian style. There is but one party among the Russian nobles actually feared by the Czar the party whose aim is the establishment of an aristocratico-constitutional system, after the pattern of England.

Besides these different spectres conjured up by Russian diplomacy, for the misguidance of England and France, another attempt to bring about the same result has just been made, by the publication of a work entitled, L'Empire Russe depuis le Congrès de Vienne, by Viscount de Beaumont-Vassy. It will be sufficient to extract one sentence only, for the purpose of characterising this opusculum:

"It is well known that a deposit of coin and ingots exists in the cellar of the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul. This hidden treasure was officially estimated, on the 1st of January, 1850, at 99,763,361 silver rubles."[h]

Has any one ever presumed to speak of the hidden treasure in the Bank of England? The "hidden treasure" of Russia is simply the metal reserve balancing a three times larger circulation of convertible notes, not to speak of the hidden amount of inconvertible paper issued by the Imperial Treasury. But, perhaps, this treasure may yet be called a "hidden" one, inasmuch as nobody has ever seen it, except the few Petersburg merchants selected by the Czar's Government for the annual inspection of the bags which hide it.

The chief demonstration of Russia in this direction is, however, an article published in the Journal des Débats, and signed by M. de St.-Marc Girardin, that old Orleanist sage. I extract:

"Europe has two great perils, according to us: Russia, which menaces her independence; and the Revolution, which menaces her social order. Now, she cannot be saved from one of these perils except by exposing herself entirely to the other. [...] Does Europe believe that the knot of her independence, and especially of the independence of the Continent, is at Constantinople, and that it is there that the question must be boldly decided; then, that is war against Russia. In that war France and England would struggle to establish the independence of Europe. What would Germany do? We know not. But what we know is, that in the present state of Europe, war would be the social revolution."

As a matter of course, M. de St.-Marc Girardin concludes in favor of peace on any condition against the social revolution, forgetting, however, that the Emperor of Russia has, at least, as much "horreur" of the revolution as he himself and his proprietor, M. Bertin.

Notwithstanding all these soporifics, administered by Russian diplomacy to the Press and people of England, "that old and obstinate" Aberdeen has been compelled to order Admiral Dundas to join the French fleet on the coast of Turkey, and even The Times, which, during the last few months, knew only how to write Russian, seems to have received a more English inspiration. I t talks now very big.

The Danish (once Schleswig-Holstein) question is beginning to create considerable interest in England, since the English Press, too, has at length discovered that it involves the same principle of Russian extension, as supplies the foundation of the Eastern complication. Mr. Urquhart, M.P., the well-known admirer of Turkey and Eastern Institutions, has published a pamphlet on the Danish Succession[i], of which an account will be given in a future letter[100]. The chief argument put forward in this publication is that the Sound is intended by Russia to perform the same functions for her in the North as the Dardanelles in the South, viz., the securing her maritime supremacy over the Baltic, in the same manner as the occupation of the Dardanelles would do with regard to the Euxine.

Some time since I gave you my opinion that the rate of interest would rise in England, and that such an occurrence would have an unfavorable effect on Mr. Gladstone's financial projects[j]. Now, the minimum rate of discount has in the past week been actually raised by the Bank of England from 3 per cent. to 3½ per cent., and the failure I predicted for Mr. Gladstone's scheme of conversion has become already a fact, as you may see from the following statement:

BANK OF ENGLAND, Thursday, June 2, 1853
Amount of new stock accepted until this day:
 3½ per cent£138,082 0/3
 2½ per cent£1,537,100 10/10
 Exchange Bonds£4,200 0/0
 Total£1,679,382 11/1

SOUTH SEA HOUSE[101], Thursday, June 2, 1853
Amount of convertible annuities till this day:
 For 3½ per cent annuities£17,504 12/8
 For 2½ per cent annuities£986,528 5/7
 Exchequer Bonds£5,270 18/4
 Total£1,009,302 16/7

Thus, of the whole amount of South Sea annuities offered for conversion, only one-eighth has been taken, and of the twenty millions new stocks created by Mr. Gladstone, only one-twelfth has been accepted. Mr. Gladstone will, therefore, be obliged to contract for a loan at a time when the rate of interest has increased and will most likely continue to increase, which loan must amount to £8,157,811. Failure! The saving of £100,000 anticipated from this conversion, and already placed to the credit of the Budget, has, accordingly, to be dispensed with. Respecting the great bulk of the Public Debt, viz.: the £500,000,000 of 3 per cents, Mr. Gladstone has obtained, as the only result of his financial experiment, that another year will have elapsed on the 10th of Oct., 1853, during which he has been unable to give notice of any conversion. The greatest mischief, however, is this, that £3,116,000 must be paid in money in a few days to holders of Exchequer Bills, who refuse to renew them on the terms offered by Mr. Gladstone. Such is the financial success of the Government of "all the talents."

Lord John Russell, in the debate on the Ecclesiastical Revenues of Ireland (House of Commons, 31st ult.), expressed himself as follows:

"It has been evident, of late years, that the Roman Catholic Clergy—looking to its proceedings in this country-looking to that church acting under the direction of its head[k], who himself a foreign sovereign, has aimed at political power [hear! hear!], which appears to me to be at variance with the due attachment to the Crown of this country [hear! hear!]—with the due attachment to the general cause of liberty—with the due attachment to the duties a subject of the State should perform toward it—now, as I wish to speak with as much frankness as the honorable gentleman who spoke last[l], let me not be misunderstood in this House. I am far from denying that there are many members of this House, and many members of the Roman Catholic persuasion, both in this country and in Ireland, who are attached to the Throne, and to the liberties of this country; but what I am saying, and that of which I am convinced, is, that if the Roman Catholic clergy had increased power given to them, and if they, as ecclesiastics, were to exercise greater control and greater political influence they do now, that power would not be exercised in accordance with the general freedom that prevails in this country—[Hurrah!]-and that neither in respect of political power, nor upon other subjects, would they favor that general freedom of discussion and that activity and energy of the human mind, that belongs to the spirit of the constitution of this country. [Flourish of trumpets!] I do not think that, in that respect, they are upon 0a par with the Presbyterians of Scotland [bagpipes!], the Wesleyans of this country[102], and the Established Church of this country. [General rapture.] ... I am obliged, then, to conclude, most unwillingly to conclude, but most decidedly, that the endowment of the Roman Catholic Religion in Ireland, in the place of the endowment of the Protestant Church in that country, in connection with the State, is not an object which the Parliament of this country ought to adopt or to sanction."[m]

Two days after this speech of Lord John, in which he attempted for the six-thousandth time, to make a show of his love of "general freedom," by his zealous genuflexions before particular sects of Protestant bigotry, Messrs. Sadleir, Keogh, and Monsell gave in their resignations to the Coalition Ministry, in a letter addressed by Mr. Monsell to My Lord Aberdeen. My Lord Aberdeen in his answer dated 3d June, assures these gentlemen that

"the reasons given by Lord John Russell and the sentiments of which you complain, are not shared by me, nor by many of my colleagues.... Lord John Russell desires me to say, that he did not impute want of loyalty to the Roman Catholics."[n]

Messrs. Sadleir, Keogh and Monsell accordingly withdrew their resignations, and the arrangements for a general reconciliation passed off last night in Parliament, "to the greatest satisfaction of Lord John Russell."

The last India Bill of 1783 proved fatal to the Coalition Cabinet ni Mr. Fox and Lord North. The new India Bill of 1853 is likely to prove fatal for the Coalition Cabinet of Mr. Gladstone and Lord John Russell. But if the former were thrown overboard, because of their attempt to abolish the Courts of Directors and of Proprietors, the latter are threatened with a similar fate for the opposite reason. On June 3, Sir Charles Wood moved for leave to bring in a bill to provide for the Government of India. Sir Charles commenced by excusing the anomalous length of the speech he was about to deliver, by the "magnitude of the subject," and "the 150,000,000 of souls he had to deal with[o]." For every 30,000,000 of his fellow-subjects, Sir Charles could do no less than sacrifice one hour's breath. But why this precipitate legislation on that "great subject," while you postpone it "for even the most trifling matters?" Because the Charter of the East India Company expires on the 30th April, 1854. But why not pass a temporary continuance bill, reserving to future discussion more permanent legislation? Because it cannot be expected that we shall ever find again "such an opportunity of dealing quietly with this vast and important question" i.e., of burking it in a Parliamentary way. Besides, we are fully informed on the matter, the Directors of the East India Company express the opinion that it is necessary to legislate in the course of the present session, and the Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie, summons the Government by an express letter by all means to conclude our legislation at once. But the most striking argument wherewith Sir Charles justifies his immediate legislation, is that, prepared as he may appear to speak of a world of questions, "not comprised in the bill he proposed to bring in," the

"measure which he has to submit is, so far as legislation goes, comprised in a very small compass."

After this introduction Sir Charles delivered himself of an apology for the administration of India for the last twenty years. "We must look at India with somewhat of an Indian eye" which Indian eye seems to have the particular gift of seeing everything bright on the part of England and everything black on the side of India.

"In India you have a race of people slow of change, bound up by religious prejudices and antiquated customs. There are [...],in fact, [...] ail obstacles to rapid progress."

(Perhaps there is a Whig Coalition party in India.)

"The points," said Sir Charles Wood, "upon which the greatest stress has been laid, and which are the heads of the complaints contained in the petitions presented to the Committee, relate to the administration of justice, the want of public works, and the tenure of land."

With regard to the Public Works, the Government intends to undertake some of "the greatest magnitude and importance." With regard to the tenure of lands, Sir Charles proves very successfully that its three existing forms the Zemindari, the Ryotwari, and the Village systems are only so many forms of fiscal exploitation in the hands of the Company[p], none of which could well be made general, nor deserved to be made so. An idea of establishing another form, of an altogether opposite character, does not in the least preoccupy the mind of Sir Charles.

"With regard to the administration of justice," continues he, "the complaints relate principally to the inconvenience arising from the technicalities of English law, to the alleged incompetency of English judges, and to the corruption of the native officers and judges."

And now, in order to prove the hard labor of providing for the administration of justice in India, Sir Charles relates that already, as early as 1833, a Law Commission was appointed in India. But in what manner did this Commission act, according to Sir Charles Wood's own testimony? The first and last result of the labors of that Commission was a penal code, prepared under the auspices of Mr. Macaulay. This code was sent to the various local authorities in India, which sent it back to Calcutta, from which it was sent to England, to be again returned from England to India. In India, Mr. Macaulay having been replaced as legislative counsel by Mr. Bethune, the code was totally altered, and on this plea the Governor-General, not being then of opinion "that delay is a source of weakness and danger," sent it back to England, and from England it was returned to the Governor-General, with authority to pass the code in whatever shape he thought best. But now, Mr. Bethune having died, the Governor-General thought best to submit the code to a third English lawyer[q], and to a lawyer who knew nothing about the habits and customs of the Hindoos, reserving himself the right of afterward rejecting a code concocted by wholly incompetent authority. Such have been the adventures of that yet unborn code. As to the technical absurdities of the law in India, Sir Charles takes his stand on the no less absurd technicalities of the English law-procedure itself; but while affirming the perfect incorruptibility of the English judges in India, he nevertheless is ready to sacrifice them by an alteration in t he manner of nominating them. The general progress of India is demonstrated by a comparison of the present state of Delhi with that under the invasion of Khuli-Khan. The salt-tax is justified by the arguments of the most renowned political economists, all of whom have advised taxation to be laid on some article of first necessity. But Sir Charles does not add what those same economists would have said, on finding that in the two years from 1849-'50, and 1851-'52, there had been a decrease in the consumption of salt, of 60,000 tuns, a loss of revenue to the amount of £415,000, the total salt revenue amounting to £2,000,000. The measures proposed by Sir Charles, and "comprised in a very small compass," are:

1. The Court of Directors, to consist of eighteen instead of twenty-four members, twelve to be elected by the Proprietors, and six by the Crown.

2. The revenue of Directors to be raised from £300 to £500 a year, the Chairman to receive £1,000.

3. All the ordinary appointments in the civil service, and all the scientific in the military service of India, to be thrown open to public competition, leaving to the Directors the nomination to the Cadetships in the Cavalry-of-the-Line.

4. The Governor-Generalship to be separated from the Governorship of Bengal, and power to be given to the Supreme Government to constitute a new Presidency in the districts on the Indus.

5. And lastly, the whole of this measure only to continue until the Parliament shall provide otherwise.

The speech and measure of Sir Charles Wood was subjected to a very strong and satirical criticism by Mr. Bright, whose picture of India ruined by the fiscal exertions of the Company and Government did not, of course, receive the supplement of India ruined by Manchester and Free Trade. As to last night's speech of an old East-Indiaman, Sir J. Hogg, Director or ex-Director of the Company, I really suspect that I have met with it already in 1701, 1730, 1743, 1769, 1772, 1781, 1783, 1784, 1793, 1813, etc., and am induced, by way of answer to his directorial panegyric, to quote merely a few facts from the annual Indian accounts published, I believe, under his own superintendence.

Total Net-Revenues of India
1849-'50 ....... £20,275,831}
Loss of Revenue within
three years, £348,792
1850-'51 ....... £20,249,932
1851-'52 ....... £19,927,039

Total Charges
1849-'50 ....... £16,687,382}
Increase of expenditure
within three years,
1850-'51 ....... £17,170,707
1851-'52 ....... £17,901,666

Bengal oscillated in last four years from £3,500,000 to £3,560,000
North West oscillated in last four years from      £4,870,000 to £4,900,000
Madras oscillated in last four years from£3,640,000 to £3,470,000
Bombay oscillated in last four years from£2,240,000 to £2,300,000

 Gross Revenue
in 1851-52
Expenditure on Public
Works in 1851-52
Bengal£10,000,000 £87,800
Madras£5,000,000 £20,000
Bombay£4,800,000 £58,500
-------------- --------------
    Out of£19,800,000
have been expended on roads, canals, bridges and other works of public necessity.

Written on June 7, 1853
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3801, June 22, 1853;
reprinted without the section "The Russian Humbug" in
the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 615, June 25, 1853
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] The New-York Daily Tribune erroneously has "Saturday, May 7".—Ed.

[b] Federal Council.—Ed.

[c] See this volume, pp. 107-08.—Ed.

[d] Too freely.—Ed.

[e] M. Cola.—Ed.

[f] Allgemeine Zeitung.—Ed.

[g] Quoted, with slight changes, from The Times, No. 21446, June 4, 1853.—Ed.

[h] A quotation from Viscount de Beaumont-Vassy's book as cited by The Times, No. 21446, June 4, 1853.—Ed.

[i] The reference is to the section, "The Danish Succession", in David Urquhart's pamphlet, Progress of Russia in the West, North and South.—Ed.

[j] See this volume, p. 102.—Ed.

[k] Pope Pius IX.—Ed.

[l] F. Lucas.—Ed.

[m] John Russell's speech is quoted, with slight changes, from the report in The Times, No. 21443, June 1, 1853.—Ed.

[n] See The Times, No. 21447, June 6, 1853.—Ed.

[o] Here and below Charles Wood's speech is quoted from the report in The Times, No. 21446, June 4, 1853.—Ed.

[p] See this volume, pp. 213-16.—Ed.

[q] B. Peacock.—Ed.

[98] This article was published in The Eastern Question.

[99] Marx's article, to which he refers in citing this fact, has not been discovered in the New-York Daily Tribune. Judging by the notes made by Jenny Marx on the dispatch of articles to the newspaper, it was written by Marx on June 3, 1853, but for some reason was not published. The report on the recall of the Prussian officers appeared in the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung on June 1, 1853.

[100] The article which Marx intended to write was not published in the New-York Daily Tribune.

[101] The South Sea Company was founded in England about 1712 officially for trade with South America and the Pacific islands, but its real purpose was speculation in state bonds. The government granted several privileges and monopoly rights to the Company, including the right to issue state securities. The Company's large-scale speculation brought it to bankruptcy in 1720 and greatly increased Britain's national debt.

[102] Wesleyans or Methodists—a religious sect founded by John Wesley in Britain in the eighteenth century. At the end of the century it split off from the Church of England and also became popular, as a form of Protestantism, in the USA and Canada. Its distinguishing feature was its demand for a strict and methodical adherence to Christian doctrines, concerning which divisions arose between Wesleyan Methodists and "Primitive" Methodists.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.115-124), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
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