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The Russian Victory.
Position of England and France.[359]

Karl Marx

London, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 1853

"With the fleets of France and England in the Black Sea, the astonished Sultan of Turkey is already surprised that one of his ships is captured with impunity by a Russian vessel. The spring will bring him further wonders."

Thus we were informed by last Saturday's Press[a]. The following Monday brought the "further wonders," not expected until spring. Defeat of a Turkish squadron by a Russian fleet in the Black Sea, off Sinope[360] such were the contents of a Russian dispatch from Odessa, dated 5th inst., confirmed afterward by the French Moniteur[b]. Although we are not yet in possession of the exact details of this occurrence, so much is clear that the Russian report greatly exaggerates the case; that the whole matter in question is to be reduced to the surprise of some Turkish frigates and a certain number of transports, which had on board troops, provisions, ammunition and arms, destined for Batum; that the Russian force was largely superior in number to the Turkish one, and that, nevertheless, the latter only surrendered after a desperate engagement, lasting an hour.

"Our fleet," says the Englishman[c], "at all events, is not there to prevent the Russians from attacking Turkey. The fleet is not there to interfere with Russian convoys of men and arms to the Caucasus. The fleet is not there to see that the Black Sea is not a Russian lake. The fleet is not there to help our ally, nor to save him from destruction. The fleet is not there to avert a Navarino, after the memorable pattern.... Russian Admirals may maneuver, we suppose, within gun-shot of Constantinople, and the screws of England will continue as impassive as the prime screw of Lord Aberdeen himself. Will these costly farces be tolerated by the people?"

The coalition is exasperated at the Czar having beaten the Turks at sea instead of on the terra firma. A victory of the latter sort they wanted. Russian successes at sea may endanger their places, just at the moment when Count Buol has assured the Sultan[d] of the Czar's strictly defensive intentions, and when Lord Redcliffe was urging on him a three months' armistice. It is very amusing to observe how the business of soothing down the public has been distributed between the several organs of the Coalition Ministry.

The Times, as the representative of the whole of the Cabinet, expresses its general indignation at the ingratitude of the Czar, and ventures even upon some* menaces.

The Morning Post, of course, is still more warlike, and gives its readers to understand that the "untoward" event at Sinope could never have occurred if Lord Palmerston were the Premier, or at least the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

"It is at least evident," says The Post[e], "that a Russian naval force, dispatched to act on the Turkish coast, has been able to strike a sudden and heavy blow at the resources of the Porte, precisely in the quarter where the Divan had the best reason to expect that if there were anything substantial, anything beyond mere ostentation, in the professed services of her allies, the value and operation of such services might now be expected to become available. It will hardly be urged, we suppose, that the Black Sea is an appropriate stage for another scene of the diplomatic comedy which has as been played in the Principalities under the name of the 'Material Guarantee'[361]. The Russians, therefore, may be taken to have abandoned the hypocrisy of their defensive attitude. [...] It must be a subject of deep regret, that the extent to which our" (read Aberdeen's) "suiting policy has gone, has brought heavy damage on our ally and a shadow of reproach on ourselves. It would be a matter of lasting blame and scandal, should a second such disaster be suffered to occur for want of that protection which our fleets were expressly dispatched to afford."

The philosophical Morning Chronicle, the special organ of the Peelites, thinks

"it not improbable that the power which has disturbed the peace of the world may now be disposed to acquiesce in the termination of the war."[f]

The Emperor Nicholas, on the plea that "he does not wish to oppose the expression of the free will" of the Hospodars Stirbei and Ghica to withdraw from the government of Moldavia and Wallachia, has, by rescript of Nov. 8, entrusted their functions to General von Budberg, placed, however, under the superior control of Prince Gorchakoff.

The fact of England urging upon Turkey an armistice at a moment when it cannot but assist the Czar in gaining time to concentrate his troops and to work at the decomposition of the ostensible alliance between France and England; the simultaneous intrigues of Nicholas to upset Bonaparte and to replace him by Henry V; the loudly boasted-of "fusion" of the two Bourbon branches negotiated in common by King Leopold, Prince Albert and the Princes of Orléans such are the circumstances which induce the public to direct anew their attention to Windsor Castle, and to suspect it of a secret conspiracy with the courts of Brussels, Vienna and St. Petersburg.

"The present race of Englishmen," says the aristocratic Morning Herald, "should see that the policy of this country be not made subordinate to Orleanistic dreams of restoration, Belgian terrors of annexation, and infinitesimal German interests."

"There are," insinuates Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, "conspirators not watched by the Home Office [...], conspirators whose names, like stars upon a frosty night—glitter in The Court Circular. They do not live in St. John's Wood, neither dwell they in Chelsea. No: They enjoy a somewhat larger accommodation in the Halls of Claremont[362]. One of those conspirators—the frequent guest of our gracious Queen—called by compliment the Duke of Nemours, went fresh from his English home to Frohsdorf to make that bridge—that is, to bridge the abyss for the Bourbons back to France. And doubtless he will return and again eat his venison at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.[g]

"Your ministers," writes the Paris correspondent of The Leader, "are doing what Victoria tells them to do. Queen Victoria wishes all that King Leopold wishes. King Leopold desires all that Emperor Nicholas desires, so that Nicholas is de facto the present King of England."[h]

The position of Bonaparte is at this moment more critical than ever before, although, at first view, his chances of fortune never seemed more promising. He has succeeded in slipping into the circle of European royalty. The character Nicholas has lost, he has won. For the first time in his life he has become "respectable." The power which, combined with Russia, tumbled down his uncle[i] from his gigantic throne, England, has been forced into an apparent alliance with himself against Russia. Circumstances have almost constituted him the arbiter of Europe. The prospect of a European war, dragging along with it insurrectionary movements in Italy, Hungary, and Poland countries where the people looking almost exclusively to the recovery of their national independence, are by no means too scrupulous as to the quarter from which to receive assistance these eventualities seem to allow the man of the 2d of December to lead the dance of the peoples, if he should fail to play the pacificator with the kings. The enormous blunders committed by his predecessors have given his policy even the appearance of national vigor, as he, at least, evokes apprehensions on the part of the powers, while they, from the Provisional Government down to the Burgraves of the Assemblée Legislative[363], had assumed only the power to tremble at every-thing and everybody.

But now let us look at the opposite side of the medal. The fusion between the two branches of the Bourbon dynasty, whatever may be its intrinsic value, has taken place under the auspices of the Courts of London and Vienna, and at the dictation of the Emperor Nicholas. It is, therefore, to be considered as the first act of a Holy Alliance directed against Bonaparte. On the other hand it has, for the moment, conciliated the different parties of the French Bourgeoisie, whose very divisions prevented them in 1848-51 from opposing the usurpation of the hero of Strasbourg and Boulogne[j]. The blue Republicans themselves, meeting at the house of Mr. Carnot, have decided, almost unanimously, that they would lend their aid to the Legitimists in any attempt to overthrow Bonaparte. These gentlemen seem fully resolved to run again through the traditionary cycles of restoration, Bourgeois-monarchy and Republic. For them the Republic meant never anything but, "Ote-toi de là, que je m 'y mette"[k], and if they cannot take themselves the place of their rival, they will at least inflict upon him the greatest punishment they are aware of the loss of place. The parts to be acted have already been distributed. The generals, the ministers, all the principal functionaries are already nominated. The danger threatening Bonaparte from this side is a military insurrection which, if it do not lead to the restoration of the Bourbons, may afford the occasion for a general outbreak. But after all this Malet conspiracy, dependent on the support of the Cossacks, is no more dangerous than the Ledru-Rollin conspiracy, dependent on the support of the Turks. Let me remark, en passant, that if the whole French emigration at London and Jersey were to meet, Ledru would hardly venture to present himself. The great majority of the French refugees belonging to different fractions of the socialist party, have joined together in the Société des proscrits démocrates et socialistes, avowedly hostile to the pretensions of Ledru. He is said to possess still some influence with the French peasantry, but power must be conquered, not in the departments, but at Paris, and at Paris he will meet with a resistance he is not the man to overcome.

The serious dangers to be apprehended on the part of Bonaparte rise from quite a different quarter, viz.: from the high prices of provisions, the stagnation of trade, and the utter dilapidation and exhaustion of the Imperial exchequer. It was the peasantry who, in their superstitious faith in the magic powers of the name of "Napoleon," and in the golden promises held out by the hero of Strasbourg, first imposed him on France. For them the restoration of the Bonaparte dynasty was the restoration of their own supremacy, after they had been abused by the restoration, speculated upon by the monarchy of July, and made by the Republic to pay the expenses of the revolution of February. They are now disabused, not only by dragonnades but by famine too. Incendiarism spreads, at this moment, through France at an unparalleled pace. As to the middle classes, they were foolish enough to suspect the Assemblée Nationale of having caused, by the disputes and intrigues going on among its different fractions, and by their common opposition to the executive power, the transitory commercial stagnation of 1851. They deserted not only their own representatives, but they provoked intentionally the coup d'état with a view to restore what they called "a regular Government," and above all, "sound business." They have now discovered that industrial crises are neither to be prevented by military despotism nor alleviated by its stretching public credit to its utmost limits, exhausting it by the most lavish expenditure, and making a financial crisis the inevitable partner of a commercial one. The middle class pine, therefore, for a new change of power, to afford them at last "a regular Government" and "sound business." As to the proletarians, they accepted Bonaparte from the first moment only as a transitory necessity, as the destroyer of the république cosaque[l], and their avenger on the party of order[365]. Weakened as they were by successive defeats before the 2d of December, and fully occupied as they were during the years 1852 and 1853, they have had time to watch the occasion when general causes and the universal discontent of all other classes would enable them to resume their revolutionary work anew.

The following Paris commercial report will throw some light on the social state of France:

"The state of commercial affairs in Paris during the last week is not satisfactory. Except the manufacturers who are preparing New Year's presents for the shop-keepers, and those employed in dress-making, trade appears to be at a complete standstill. One great cause of this is the dearness of provisions in the provinces, which prevents the mass of the population from making their usual purchases. The wheat crop, the chestnuts, and the vintage failed simultaneously in the central departments of France, and the peasants, being compelled to make sacrifices in order to buy bread, deprive themselves of everything but articles of first necessity. The provincial letters state that the principal portion of the cotton goods offered for sale at the late fairs found no buyers, which easily accounts for the stagnation in trade apparent at Rouen. All exportation is confined at present to the South American States. The markets of New-York and New Orleans are represented as glutted with French produce, and consequently no orders are expected from those quarters. The houses which fabricate generally for Belgium and Germany have almost all suspended their works, all orders from their correspondents abroad having ceased. [...] Business must be dull in Paris when the Bank of France finds, as it does at present, the commercial bills offered for discount decrease considerably in amount. The corn market, which was dull ten days since, with declining prices, has become animated, and the holders of wheat are more firm in their banks[m]. The bakers have shown a greater inclination to purchase flour, and several buyers from the eastern departments have definitively arrested the downward tendency of prices. The corn factors in Paris not being able to execute all the orders received on Wednesday last, the buyers proceeded to Havre, where a decline of 2f. a barrel had previously been announced. Flour immediately on the arrival of the buyers rose from 44f. to 47f. the barrel, and wheat from 83f. to 86f. the measure of 200 kilogrammes. A similar rise took place in the markets through the department of the North. The corn market at Strasbourg has been well supplied, and wheat has declined 1 f. the hectolitre; at Lyons the market was quiet, but without a fall. Rye has again risen in Paris; [...] sales 12,000 quintals of oats at 22f.9c. the 100 kilogrammes. A letter from Marseilles of the 2d inst., states that 341 ships, bearing 804,270 hectolitres of wheat entered that port between the 1st and 30th of November. These arrivals make 2,102,467 hectolitres of wheat imported into Marseilles by 714 ships, within the last 4 months."[n]

Written on December 13, 1853
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3961, December 21, 1853;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 897, December 30 and
in abridged form in the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 642, December 31, 1853
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] Of December 10, 1853.—Ed.

[b] The reference is to the reports published on December 12, 1853 in The Times, No. 21609, and in Le Moniteur universel, No. 346.—Ed.

[c] A. Richards, "The New Battle of Navarino", The Morning Advertiser, December 13, 1853.—Ed.

[d] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[e] Of December 13, 1853.—Ed.

[f] The Morning Chronicle, December 13, 1853.—Ed.

[g] "Our Foreign Conspirators", Lloyd's Weekly London Newspaper, No. 577, December 11, 1853.—Ed.

[h] "Letters from Paris. Letter CII", The Leader, No. 194, December 10, 1853.—Ed.

[i] Napoleon I.—Ed.

[j] An allusion to the abortive Bonapartist putches in Strasbourg on September 30, 1836, and in Boulogne on August 8, 1840.—Ed.

[k] Go so that I can take your place.—Ed.

[l] A paraphrase of Napoleon's statement: "In fifty years Europe will be republican or Cossack" (cf. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, present edition, Vol. 11, p. 182).—Ed.

[m] The Economist has "... in their demands".—Ed.

[n] "France", The Economist, No. 537, December 10, 1853.—Ed.

[359] Passages from this article were published in The Eastern Question.

[360] The battle of Sinope was fought on November 30, 1853. The Turkish fleet on its way to deliver troops and arms to the Caucasian coast, was detected and attacked by the Russian Black Sea squadron, under the command of Vice-Admiral P. S. Nakhimov. The Russian fleet included six battleships and two frigates; the Turks, supported by coastal batteries, had sixteen ships, including two steamships. The Russian armament was superior, however, and during the battle fifteen Turkish ships were sunk and their commander, Admiral Osman Pasha, was taken prisoner. The Sinope victory consolidated Russia's position on the Black Sea and at the same time precipitated a declaration of war on Russia by Britain and France.

[361] The Manifesto issued by Nicholas I on June 26, 1853 in connection with the Tsarist Government's decision to bring troops into the Danubian Principalities, and also a number of Russian diplomatic documents, stated that the aim of occupying the Principalities was to create "material guarantees" to safeguard the rights and privileges of the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey and ensure that the Sultan fulfilled his obligations to Russia.

[362] Claremont—a house near London, the residence of Louis Philippe after his escape from France.

[363] A reference to the commission of seventeen Orleanist and Legitimist deputies of the Legislative Assembly, notorious for their reactionary views, appointed by the Minister of the Interior in May 1850 to draft a new electoral law. The name is borrowed from the title of an historical drama by Victor Hugo set in medieval Germany where the Burggraf was governor, appointed by the Emperor, of a Burg (city) or district.

[364] An allusion to General Malet's unsuccessful plot against Napoleon I in October 1812. The organisers of the plot, in which both extreme Royalists and Republicans took part, were counting on Napoleon's defeat in Russia and tried to make use of a rumour of his death during the Russian campaign.

[365] A reference to the Committee at rue de Poitiers—the leading body of the so-called Party of Order which was a coalition of two monarchist factions in France: the Legitimists (supporters of the Bourbon dynasty) and the Orleanists (those of the Orleans dynasty). This party of the wealthy conservative bourgeoisie, formed in 1848, held key posts in the Legislative Assembly of the Second Republic from 1849 until the coup d'état of December 2, 1851. The failure of its policy was used by supporters of Louis Bonaparte in the Bonapartist interests. General Baraguay d'Hilliers, who supported the Committee during the Republic, sided with the Bonapartists on the eve of the coup.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.536-542), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
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