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The Western Powers and Turkey.
Imminent Economic Crisis.
Railway Construction in India.[243]

Karl Marx

London, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 1853

In my letter of July 19, I said:

"The Western Powers [...] commence by encouraging the Sultan[a] to resist the Czar, from fear of the encroachments of Russia, and terminate by compelling the former to yield, from fear of a general war giving rise to a general revolution."[b]

Now, at this moment the strength of the combined fleets is intended to be used for Russia against Turkey. If the Anglo-French fleet enter the Dardanelles at all, it will be done not to bombard Sebastopol, but to reduce to terms the Mussulmans who might prevent the Sultan from accepting without conditions the Vienna Note.

"On the 13th of September," says D. Urquhart, "[...] the four Foreign Secretaries[c] quietly assembled in Downing-st., and decided to send orders to Constantinople to enforce upon the Porte the withdrawal of the modifications which the European Conference had accepted. Not content with this, and in case the Sultan should find himself unable to resist the exasperation of his people, they send orders for the squadron to advance into the waters of the Bosphorus to support him against his subjects. Nor content with this, they also dispatched orders to Omer Pasha to forbid him from passing from one province to another in his Sovereign's Dominions.

"They have consequently contemplated the rebellion as the result of their dispatch, and provided means for putting it down, these means being the allied squadron."[d]

It was from Sunday's Journal des Débats that the English public became aquainted with this news. The Journal des Débats stated that Mr. Reeve, having left London on the 13th inst., with dispatches for Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, arrived in Paris on the morning and left it on the evening of the 14th, after he had communicated to the French Government the tenor of his instructions, ordering the English Ambassador to demand the entire adhesion of the Porte to the Vienna proposals, the retraction of its modifications of the 19th August, threatening it with the withdrawal of the support of the four Powers in the event of a war arising from its refusal to yield, and offering it the assistance of the French and English fleets for putting down any insurrection that might break out in Constantinople if the Porte were to comply with the Vienna Note, and against Omer Pasha, if he dared to act in disobedience to the orders of the Porte. Before the arrival of the Journal des Débats, we were informed that the Vienna Conference, on receipt of the Emperor's[e] refusal, sent proposals to the Sultan that he should recall his words, that he should sign the note he had refused to sign, and be content with an assurance that the Conference would put any interpretation on the note agreeable to the Sultan himself. The Times avoids speaking of the compromising revelations made by the Journal des Débats. So does The Morning Chronicle, The Morning Post, and the whole of the governmental London press. In the meantime The Morning Post denounces the fanaticism of the Constantinople mob, The Morning Chronicle is exciting its dull readers by romantic descriptions of the fierce and undisciplined Asiatic hordes inundating European Turkey, and swelling Omer Pasha's army; the gallant Globe publishes day after day carefully selected extracts from the peace-mongering press of the Manchester school, and, in due time, the respectable classes of England will be prepared "to annihilate Paganism", and to shout with Prince Gorchakoff, "Long life to the Czar! Long life to the God of the Russians!"

In its to-day's number The Times discovers that "the Turkish question has plainly become a question of words"; the inference to be drawn from its premises being, that the Sultan who intends exposing the peace of the world for mere words, must be forcibly brought to reason by the more sober-minded Palmerstons and Aberdeens. The Czar, we are told by The Times, having preferred unjust demands upon the Sultan, the Sultan rejected them, the Czar seized the Danubian Principalities, England and France dispatched their fleets to Besika Bay, and the representatives of these Powers met those of Austria and Prussia in Vienna.

Why did they meet them in Vienna? In favor of Turkey, says The Times.

"Not only could there be no desire of coercing the Ottoman Government, but there was no occasion for such an action."

If, then, there is now a desire on the part of the four Powers for coercing the Ottoman Government, "it is simply because there is now" an occasion for "such an action." Would it then be wrong to suppose that the sole and principal aim of the Vienna Conference and of the interference of Palmerston and Aberdeen has been the affording such an occasion, that they made only a show of resistance to Russia, in order to gain a pretext for coercing Turkey into submission to her?

"The demands of Russia," continues The Times, were "thought unjustifiable by the other Great Powers, [...] incompatible with the sovereign rights of the Sultan," and therefore, the Great Powers drew up a Note to be presented by the Sultan to the Czar, ratifying all the demands of the Czar and something more.

"The terms of this document," says The Times, "were liable to misconstruction, [...] but two points were unimpeachably clear—first, that the four Powers intended to maintain the territorial and administrative rights of the Porte; and, next, that in the event of dispute they would have been bound by this intention."

Why should the Sultan not subscribe a note derogatory of his sovereign rights and surrendering the protectorate of twelve millions of his subjects to the control of the autocrat, while he feels himself backed by the good "intentions" of the four Powers and by their being bound by hidden "good intentions" in the case of a dispute? As the Sultan has had occasion to learn, the four Powers feel themselves not bound either by the law of nations, or by explicit treaties, to defend him in the event of a dispute with Russia; why should he not trust to their valor in the event of a dispute arising from a note which endows Russia with open claims and Turkey with "hidden intentions?"

"Let us take," says The Times, "the extreme case of supposing that, after the acceptance [...] pure et simple of the original Vienna Note, the Czar should [...] have availed himself of those opportunities with which the note [...] is thought to have provided him."

What then?

"The Sultan would have protested, and the case would have arisen for the application of the adjustment of 1853."

As if there had arisen no case for the application of the adjustment of 1840 and 1841, of the treaty of Balta-Liman[244], and of the violation of the law of nations, characterized by Lord Clarendon himself as "an act of piracy!"

"The ambiguity," says The Times, "[...] would merely have misled the Emperor of Russia."

Exactly so, as the treaty of 1841 has "misled" him to keep the united fleets out of the Dardanelles while he himself entered the Principalities.

The Sultan, however, is stiff-necked. He has refused compliance with a note which was able to express its good intentions for Turkey only by delivering her up to Russia. He proposed certain modifications in this note, and "the four Powers," says The Times, "showed by their approval of the Turkish modifications, that they believed them to coincide with their own proposals." But, as the Emperor of Russia is of a contrary opinion, and as The Times thinks it most undoubtedly true, that the Czar's "proceedings in this dispute deserve no consideration whatever," The Times comes to the conclusion that, as Russia will not yield to the reasonable [...] conditions of Turkey, Turkey must yield to the unreasonable conditions of Russia, and that

"a state which [...] is yet so impotent as to require European protection at every menace of aggression from without or insurrection from within, must at least so far pay the penalty of its weakness as to receive aid indispensable to its existence on the terms least onerous to its supporters."

The four Powers, of course, must join Russia against Turkey, because Turkey is supposed to want their aid in order to resist Russia. Turkey must "pay the penalty for its weakness," in having had recourse to the four Great Powers she is obliged by treaties to appeal to.

"There is no alternative. Either the laws of England have to be exercised in their penal rigour[f] upon the persons of four traitors" (Aberdeen, Clarendon, Palmerston, and Russell), "or the Czar of Russia commands the world."

Such declamation as this uttered in The Morning Advertiser by D. Urquhart, is good for nothing. Who is to judge the four traitors? Parliament. Who forms that Parliament? The representatives of the Stockjobbers, the Millocrats, and the Aristocrats. And what foreign policy do these representatives represent? Thai of the paix partout et toujours[g]. And who execute their ideas of foreign policy? The identical four men to be condemned by them as traitors, according to the simple-minded Morning Advertiser. One thing must be evident at least, that it is the Stockjobbers, and the Peacemongering Bourgeoisie, represented in the Government by the Oligarchy, who surrender Europe to Russia, and that in order to resist the encroachments of the Czar, we must, above all, overthrow the inglorious Empire of those mean, cringing and infamous adorers of the veau d'or.[h]

Immediately after the arrival of the Vienna Note at Constantinople, the Ottoman Porte called 80,000 men of the Redifs[i] under arms. According to a telegraphic dispatch dated Constantinople, Sept. 5, the Turkish Ministry had resolved, after a conference held at the house of the Grand Vizier[j], to maintain their last note at the hazard of war. The enthusiasm of the Mussulman population has reached its highest pitch. The Sultan, having reviewed the Egyptian troops, and being received with deafening acclamations, was, after the review, lifted from his horse by the multitude and carried in triumph through the streets of Stambul. He has reiterated to the Hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia[k] his order to quiet the Principalities. As the Russian subjects resident at Constantinople have been convicted of intriguing against the Turkish Government, Reshid Pasha has given a warning to the Russian Consul on their behalf. A Constantinople journal states that the Israelite community at Constantinople has offered to the Sultan a million of piasters in order to contribute to the expenses occasioned by the military preparations of the Empire. The Smyrna Israelites are said to have come to a similar resolution. A letter in the Vienna Presse informs us that several boyards have been arrested at Galatz because they had entered into a secret correspondence with Omer Pasha informing him of all details with- regard to the state of the Russian army in the Principalities. A letter of Omer Pasha has been found inviting these boyards to enlist as many foreigners as possible.

Prince Menchikoff had arrived at Vienna on the 13th instant, accompanied by a Secretary, and as the bearer of a new manifesto of the Emperor Nicholas, addressed to the European Powers, and explaining his reasons for rejecting the Turkish modifications. The Emperor himself will arrive at Olmütz on the 21st instant, accompanied by Count Nesselrode and by Baron de Meyendorff. The King of Prussia[l] whom he had summoned by Prince de Lieven to the Olmütz Conference, has refused to make his appearance on the ground that, under existing circumstances, such a step on his part would have too much éclat. A Russian corps d'armée 30,000 strong is stationed now at Krajova on the frontiers of Bulgaria. Until now there have existed only eight army commissariats in the Russian Empire. A regular ninth commissariat has just been established at Bucharest —a sure indication that the Russians do not think of evacuating the Principalities.

On the 15th of Sept. the Bank of England raised its rates of interest to 4½ per cent. The Money article in to-day's Times tells us that "The measure is regarded with general satisfaction." In the same article, however, we find it stated that,

"at about 2 p.m. business at the Stock Exchange was in fact almost wholly suspended, and when the announcement was made, shortly afterward, of the advance to 4½ per cent., prices declined to 95 for money and 95 1/8 to 1/4 for the 13th of Oct. A general opinion prevailed, that if the advance had been to 5 instead of 4½ per cent., the effect on the market would possibly have been less unfavorable, since the public would then have considered the probability of any further action to have ceased.... In the Railway market [...] a severe relapse occurred after the breaking up of the Bank Court, and prices of all kinds left off with a very unsettled appearance."[m]

The writer in The Times congratulates the Bank Directors on their following up the policy of the Peel Act.

"In proportion as the circulation diminished from the drain of gold, the Directors have asked a higher price for the use of what remained, and have thus allowed the Bank Charter Act of Sir R. Peel that free course, by which alone its soundness can be demonstrated, and which was prevented by the infatuated proceedings of the Directors in 1847."

Now I have shown in a former letter that the infatuation of the Directors in 1847 consisted precisely in their close adherence to the Peel Act, the "free course" of which had to be interrupted by Government, in order to save the Banking Department from the necessity of stopping payment[n]. We read in The Globe:

"It is highly improbable that the causes which have produced -our present prosperity will continue to operate in the same proportion. Unhealthy results have already appeared in Manchester, where some of the largest firms have been compelled to limit their amount of production.... All departments of the Stock Exchange continue in a very depressed state. The Railway market is in a complete state of panic.... The efflux of gold to the Continent continues, and nearly half a million of money goes over to St. Petersburg in a day or two by steamer.... One object of its" (the Bank's) "husbanding its resources of specie is probably a desire to assist the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the seven or eight millions which he will require to pay off the South Sea stockholders and other dissentients."[o]

The Morning Post of the 14th inst. reports from Manchester:

"The market for cloth and yarn is dull, and the prices of all descriptions of manufactures are barely supported. The absence of demand from almost every foreign market and the anticipated money pressure at home, have mainly contributed to a state of things which is most anomalous, when contrasted with the accounts of prosperity generally current."

The same journal, of the 15th inst., winds up a leading article on the collecting elements of the approaching crisis in the following terms:

"We warn the commercial world that we are at a phase in which care and steady consideration are eminently requisite in the conception and conduct of enterprise. Our financial position, besides, is one which, in our view, is full of dangers even more serious and more difficult of avoidance than our commercial."

From the combined statements of The Globe and Morning Post, it follows that while the demand is declining on the one hand, the supply, on the other, has been overdone. Manufacturers will attempt to cover their retreat by falling back on the quarrel existing with their workmen. The trade reporter in yesterday's Morning Chronicle writes from Manchester:

"Manufactures are becoming greatly indifferent about entering into engagements, from the persuasion that an extensive, if not universal stoppage of mills must take place before any settlement of the wages question can be effected. On this subject there have been conferences among employers in various parts of the districts within the last few days; and it is evident that the exorbitant clamors set up by the operatives, together with the wild attempts at dictation, are forcing the millowners into a general combination for self-defense."

We read in the money article of The Times:

"Masters are forming Unions for self-defense in all the districts. At Ashton, Stalybridge, Hyde, and Glossop, nearly 100 firms have placed their names to a deed of Union within the last few days. At Preston the masters have entered into heavy bonds to each other to resist the operatives by closing their mills for three months."[p]

A telegraphic dispatch from Marseilles reports that wheat has again advanced by 2 frs. 25 cent. per hectolitre.

"The augmentation of the interest on treasury bonds, announced in the Moniteur, produced a most unfavorable impression at the Bourse, that measure being generally considered as a sign that the Government is in want of money. [...] A loan was spoken of which the Government would be obliged to contract. [...] The Minister of Finance[q] has sent a circular to a vast number of landed proprietors, asking them to pay six months' taxes in advance, as a mark of gratitude for the great benefits which the present Government had conferred on them, and for the additional value which it had imparted to property." "This," remarks The Observer, "is the beginning of the end."[r]

Having dwelt in a former letter on the vital importance of railways for India[s], I think fit to give now the latest news which has been published with regard to the progress and prospects of the intended network. The first Indian railway was the line now in operation between Bombay and Thane. Another line is now to be carried from Calcutta to Russnehael on the Ganges, a distance of 180 miles, and then to proceed along the right bank of the river to Patna, Benares and Allahabad. From Allahabad it will be conducted across the Doab to Agra and thence to Delhi, traversing in this manner a space of 1,100 miles. It is contemplated to establish steam ferry-boats across the Soane and Tunona[t], and that the Calcutta line will finally proceed from Delhi to Lahore. In Madras a railway is to be commenced forthwith, which, running 70 miles due west, will branch off into two arms one pursuing the Ghats and terminating at Calicut, the other being carried on by Bellary and Poona to Bombay. This skeleton of the chain of railways will be completed by the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, the preliminary surveys for which are now proceeding under the sanction of the Court of Directors. This line will pass from Bombay by Baroda to Agra, where it will meet the great trunk railway from Calcutta to Delhi, and by its means Bombay, the Capital of Western India and the best port of communication with Europe, for all Hindostan, will be put in communication with Calcutta on the one hand, and with the Punjab and the north-western provinces on the other. The promoters of this scheme intend also to throw out branches into the great cotton district of the interior. In the meantime, measures are in progress for extending the electric telegraph throughout the whole of the peninsula of India.

Written on September 20, 1853
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3889,
and the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 872, October 4, 1853;
reprinted in the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 630, October 8, 1853
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[b] See this volume, p. 212.—Ed.

[c] Clarendon, the Foreign Secretary at the time, and the former Foreign Secretaries Aberdeen, Palmerston and Russell.—Ed.

[d] [D. Urquhart,] "The Political Malefactors", The Morning Advertiser, September 20, 1853. Below on pp. 315-16 Marx quotes from the same article.—Ed.

[e] Nicholas I.—Ed.

[f] The Morning Advertiser has "vigour".—Ed.

[g] Peace at all costs.—Ed.

[h] The golden calf.—Ed.

[i] Reserve troops in the Ottoman Empire.—Ed.

[j] Mustafa Pasha.—Ed.

[k] Ghica and Stirbei.—Ed.

[l] Frederick William IV.—Ed.

[m] This and the following quotation are from The Times, No. 21535, September 16, 1853.—Ed.

[n] See this volume, pp. 300-01.—Ed.

[o] The Globe, September 13, 1853.—Ed.

[p] The Times, No. 21537, September 19, 1853.—Ed.

[q] J. M. Bineau.—Ed.

[r] The Observer, September 19, 1853.—Ed.

[s] See this volume, pp. 218-21.—Ed.

[t] Jumna.—Ed.

[243] The first section of this article concerning the Russo-Turkish conflict was published under the title "The Vienna Note (continued)" in The Eastern Question.

[244] A reference to the London Convention of July 15, 1840 signed by Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia on support to the Turkish Sultan against the Egyptian ruler Mehemet Ali, and also to the London Convention of 1841 (see Note 117 ↓) and the Balta-Liman Convention of 1849 (see Note 116 ↓). France, which supported Mehemet Ali, did not sign the first Convention, but the threat of an anti-French coalition made it deny its support to the Egyptian ruler and take part in the drawing up of the London Convention of 1841. Besides the clauses on armed intervention in the Turko-Egyptian conflict and an ultimatum to Mehemet Ali to give up all his possessions except Egypt to the Sultan, the 1840 Convention had a clause on the joint protection of the Straits, which served as a prerequisite for the stipulation in the 1841 Convention that the Straits should be closed to men-of-war of all states.

[116] The Balta-Liman Convention was concluded between Russia and Turkey on May 1, 1849, following the occupation of Moldavia and Wallachia by Russian and Turkish troops for the purpose of suppressing the revolutionary movement. According to the Convention the occupation was to continue until the danger of revolution was completely removed (the occupation troops were withdrawn in 1851), the Hospodars were to be appointed temporarily by the Sultan in agreement with the Tsar, and a number of measures, including an occupation, to be taken by Russia and Turkey in the event of a new revolution were laid down.

[117] The Convention of 1841 on the Black Sea Straits was signed by Austria, Britain, France, Prussia, Russia and Turkey in London on July 13, 1841. According to the Convention the Bosporus and the Dardanelles were to be closed in peacetime to all foreign warships. The Convention said nothing about wartime, leaving Turkey to decide the question at her own discretion.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.309-317), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
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