Farsi    Arabic    English   

Rise in the Price of Corn.
Sailors' Movement.[231]

Karl Marx

London, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 1853

The Breslau Gazette states that the exportation of corn from Wallachia is definitively prohibited.

There is at this moment a somewhat greater question at issue than the Eastern one, viz.: the question of subsistence. Prices of corn have risen at Königsberg, Stettin, Dantzic, Rostock, Cologne, Hamburg, Rotterdam, and Antwerp, and of course at all importing markets. At the principal provincial markets in England wheat has advanced from 4 to 6s. per qr. The constantly increasing prices of wheat and rye in Belgium and France, and the consequent dearness of bread, create much anxiety. The French Government is buying up grain in England at Odessa, and in the Baltic. The conclusive report of the crops in England will not be out before next week. The potatoe disease is more general here than in Ireland. The export of grain has been prohibited by all Italian Governments, including that of Lombardy.

Some cases of decided Asiatic cholera occurred in London during the last week. We also hear that the cholera has now reached Berlin.

The battle between labor and capital, between wages and profits, continues. There have been new strikes in London on the part of the coal-heavers, of the barbers, of the tailors, ladies' boot and shoe makers, umbrella and parasol coverers, shirtmakers and makers of underclothing generally, and of other working people employed by slopsellers and wholesale export-houses. Yesterday, a strike was announced from several bricklayers, and from the Thames lightermen, employed in the transit of goods between the wharfs and ships in the river. The strikes of the colliers and iron-workers in South Wales continues, and a new strike of colliers in Resolven has to be added to the list, etc., etc.

It would be tedious to go on enumerating, letter after letter, the different strikes which come to my knowledge week after week. I shall therefore merely dwell occasionally on such as offer peculiar features of interest, among which, though not yet exactly a strike, the pending conflict between the police-constables and their chief, Sir Richard Mayne, deserves to be mentioned. Sir Richard Mayne, in his circular addressed to the several divisions of the metropolitan police force, has prohibited policemen from holding meetings, or combining, while he professed himself willing to attend to individual complaints. The policemen respond to him that they consider the right of meeting to be inalienable from Englishmen. He reminds them that their scale of wages was struck at a time when provisions were much dearer than they are at present. The men reply that "their claim is not grounded on the price of provisions only, but that it rests on the assurance that flesh and blood are not so cheap as they have been."

The most important incident in this history of strikes is the declaration of the "Seamen's United Friendly Association," calling itself the Anglo-Saxon Sailor's Bill of Rights. This declaration refers to the Merchant Shipping Bill, which repeals the clause of the Navigation Act[232], rendering it imperative on British owners to carry at least three-fourths of British subjects on board their ships; which bill now throws open the coasting trade to foreign seamen even where foreign ships are excluded. The men declare this bill to be, not a Seamen's bill but an Owners bill. Nobody had been consulted but the ship-owner. The manning clause had acted as a check on the conduct of masters in the treatment and retention of crews. The new law would place seamen completely in the power of any bad officer. The new law proceeded upon the principle "that the 17,000 masters were all men of kind disposition, overflowing with generosity, benevolence and amiability; and that all seamen were untractable, unreasonable and naturally bad." They declare that while the owner may take his ships wherever he pleases, their labor is restricted to their own country, as the Government had repealed the Navigation law without first procuring reciprocal employment for them in the ships of other nations.

"Parliament having offered up the seamen as a holocaust to the owners, we as a class are constrained to combine and take measures for our own protection."

These measures consist chiefly in the intention of the seamen to uphold on their part the manning clause, it being declared at the same time

"that the seamen of the United States of America be considered as British; that an appeal be made to them for aiding their union; and that, as there would be no advantage to sail as an Englishman after the first of October, when the above law will be passed; as on the contrary freedom from impressment or service in Her Majesty's Navy during war might be secured by serving as foreigners in British ships during peace, and as there would be more protection during peace by possessing the freedom of America, [...] the seamen [...] will procure certificates of the United States citizenship, on arrival at any port of that Republic."[233]

Written on August 30, 1853
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3873, September 15, 1853;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 867, September 16
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 627, September 17;
published simultaneously in abridged form in German in Die Reform, No. 49, September 17, 1853
Signed: Karl Marx


[231] In all probability the editors of the New-York Daily Tribune omitted the part of the article concerning the Russo-Turkish conflict. In his next newspaper report of September 9, 1853, Marx refers to the passage in his article written on August 30, 1853 (i.e., this article) in which he wrote about the actual rejection of the Vienna Note; this passage is not given in the text included in the present publication. The comparatively short length of the article testifies to the fact that it was abridged. The editors may have had other material at hand on the subject (Ferenc Pulszky's article) ready for publication in the same number (September 15, 1853). It is also possible that thé omitted part was used by the editors for the leader which read, in part, as follows: "The news from Europe would seem to leave the Eastern question as far from actual settlement as ever. The Czar had accepted the Vienna propositions on the express condition that the Sultan should make no modification in them, and without any stipulation as to the withdrawal of his troops from the Turkish dominions. The Porte has, however, made some modifications in these proposals, and one or two of them are sufficiently shrewd and important, as our reader may see by reference to another column. Now it remains to be seen whether the Czar will allow these changes, or will go to war. To us it is by no means certain that he will not, after sufficient time for consideration, and after the season for naval operations has fully passed, reply that he can submit to no such indignities, and that he will now proceed to take further guarantees by annexing as much of Turkey as he may judge proper. We are no believers in a long maintenance of peace, and shall admit there has been a settlement of the Turkish question only when the papers have been signed on both sides, and the Russian army marched back to its own side of the Pruth" (New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3873, September 15, 1853).

[232] Navigation Acts were passed in Britain to protect British shipping against foreign competition. The best known was that of 1651, directed mainly against the Dutch, who controlled most of the sea trade. It prohibited the importation of any goods not carried by British ships or the ships of the country where the goods were produced, and laid down that British coasting trade and commerce with the colonies were to be carried on only by British ships. The Navigation Acts were modified in the early nineteenth century and repealed in 1849 except for a reservation regarding coasting trade, which was revoked in 1854.

[233] The text of the declaration of the Seamen's United Friendly Association, which may have been quoted by Marx from a leaflet, was published later in The People's Paper, No. 80, November 12, 1853.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.287-289), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME0757en.html