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The Coalition between Tories and Radicals

Karl Marx

London, February 19. The coalition between Tories and Radicals, the first signs of which we reported in our last contribution[a], is today being talked of as a fait accompli by the whole of the London daily press. The government Morning Chronicle observes on the subject:

"Yet there never yet was a revolution which was not accelerated from pique, wounded vanity, misplaced ambition, or sheer folly, by its predestined and unconscious victims; and the motley combination of Derbyites and Liberals who have coalesced with Mr. Roebuck are treading in the very footsteps of those members of the Chamber of Deputies who, when getting up the Reform banquets of 1848, sought only to displace a Ministry, and ended by upsetting a throne."[b]

Roebuck, it asserts, is ready to play the part of a Robespierre or (a most remarkable or!) of a Ledru-Rollin. His intention is to form a "committee of public safety". He had had no qualms about proposing the following names for the committee which he had requested: Roebuck, Drummond, Layard, Sir Joseph Paxton (who built the palace for the Great Exhibition[31]), Lord Stanley (Derby's son), Ellice, Whiteside, Disraeli, Butt, Lowe (a member of The Times' secret council) and Miles.

"It is useless," continues The Morning Chronicle, "to disguise that we are openly threatened with a revolutionary crusade against the aristocracy of this country. [...] The demagogues [...] are seeking the overthrow of Lord Palmerston's Administration, by skilfully playing off against it the associated, though not combined, forces of Mr. Disraeli and Mr. Roebuck. Democracy is seeking to bring about a revolution by methodically overthrowing one cabinet after another."[c]

Finally, a government paper threatens the dissolution of Parliament, [an] "appeal to the people", as Bonaparte did a few months before the coup d'état

The Economist, whose publisher Wilson is Secretary of the Treasury, declares "a representative Constitution" to be incompatible with the conduct of war[d]. The former hat-maker Wilson therefore proposes that Members of Parliament who accept offices of state should be released from the obligation of re-election and cabinet ministers should ex officio be granted a seat and voice in the House of Commons. Thus the ministry is to become independent of electors and the House of Commons, but the House would become dependent on the ministry. With regard to this, The Daily News warns:

"The people of England must be on their guard, and prepared to make a resolute stand in defence of their representative institutions. [...] An attempt is about to be made to render Government more independent of the House of Commons. [...] This [...] would bring the [...] Government into conflict with the House of Commons. The result would be a revolution."[e]

And in fact in Marylebone—considered to be one of the most radical districts of London—a meeting has been called for next Wednesday[f], to pass resolutions on "the government's attempt [...] to resist the parliamentary inquiry".[g]

Whilst The Morning Chronicle is thus prophesying revolution and The Daily News an attempt at counter-revolution, The Times also is making reference to the February Revolution, although with regard not to the reform-banquets but to Praslin's murder. For a few days ago, in the Irish Court of Chancery, an inheritance case was brought in which the Marquis of Clanricarde an—English peer, ambassador at the court of St. Petersburg during Melbourne's administration and Postmaster-General during Russell's—appeared as the principal actor in a truly Balzacian drama of murder, adultery, legacy hunting and fraud.[32]

"In the gloomy autumn of 1847," observes The Times, "when the mind of France was disturbed by the indefinable presage of approaching revolution [...] a great scandal in the very highest circles of Parisian life startled still further the already excited public and contributed most powerfully to accelerate the then impending catastrophe. Those who contemplate with attention the highly excited state of the public mind at this moment cannot contemplate without similar emotion the great scandal which has been disclosed to the public [...] in the Irish Court of Chancery."[h]

Crimes within the ranks of the ruling caste, revealed at the same time in their arrogant helplessness and impotence, the destruction of the flower of the British army, the dissolution of old parties, a House of Commons without a majority, ministerial coalitions based on outlived traditions, the expense of a European war coincident with the most fearful crisis in commerce and industry--here are symptoms enough of an imminent political and social upheaval in Great Britain. It is of particular significance that the wreck of political illusions is taking place at the same time as the wreck of free-trade illusions. Just as the former ensured the government monopoly of the aristocracy, so the latter ensured the legislative monopoly of the bourgeoisie.

Written on February 19, 1855
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 92, February 24, 1855
Marked with. the sign x
Printed according to the news-paper
Published in English for the first time in MECW


[a] See this volume, pp. 24-25.—Ed.

[b] "The prudence, fairness and consistency of nominating Mr. Roebuck's committee...", The Morning Chronicle, No. 27504, February 19, 1855. The item containing the passage "It is useless to disguise..." which is quoted below was published in the same issue.—Ed.

[c] The concluding sentence given by Marx is not a direct quotation from The Morning Chronicle, but rather summarises the gist of several paragraphs.—Ed.

[d] "Two Much Needed Reforms", The Economist, No. 599, February 17, 1855.—Ed.

[e] The Daily News, No. 2731, February 19, 1855.—Ed.

[f] February 21, 1855.—Ed.

[g] From a letter written by parishioners to the St. Marylebone churchwarden, and published in The Times, No. 21982, February 20, 1855.—Ed.

[h] The Times, No. 21981, February 19, 1855.—Ed.

[31] This refers to the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851. A special building of metal and glass, known as the Crystal Palace, was erected for it in Hyde Park. p. 29

[32] A reference to the lawsuit over the inheritance of Eliza Josephine Handcock, the mistress of the Earl of Clanricarde, that took place in the Irish Court of Chancery in January 1855. The action had been brought by John Stratford Handcock, the rightful heir of Josephine's daughter Honoria who died on December 12, 1853. His rights were contested by John de Burgh, son of Josephine and the Earl of Clanricarde. In the course of the proceedings public attention was drawn to the mysterious circumstances attending the death of Josephine's husband, William Handcock, and of their three daughters, none of whom had come of age. Some witnesses hinted that the Earl of Clanricarde was implicated in these events.

Marx draws a parallel between this case and that of Altarice-Rosalba-Fanny, the Duchess of Praslin, who was found murdered in her home in August 1847. Suspicion fell on her husband, the Duke of Praslin, who was arrested and poisoned himself during the investigation.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.29-31), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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