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The English Press on The Late Tsar

Karl Marx

[Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 109, March 6, 1855]

London, March 3. Today's entire daily and weekly press carries, of course, leading articles on the death of the Emperor of Russia[a] —but all, without exception, commonplace and dull. The Times has at least attempted to inflate its style to the heights of Timur Tamburlaine[b] by exaggerated grandiloquence. We shall single out only two passages, both of them compliments for Lord Palmerston. The strain which had hastened the Emperor's death had been exacerbated by the appointment as Prime Minister of Palmerston, the "worst enemy of the Czar". Between 1830 and 1840 (the first decade of Palmerston's foreign policy), the Tsar had abandoned his policy of encroachment and world domination. The former assertion is as much worth as the latter.

The Morning Advertiser, on the other hand, distinguishes itself by the discovery that Michael is the Emperor's eldest son and thus the legitimate heir to the throne[c]. The Morning Post, Palmerston's private Moniteur, in its funeral oration, reveals to the English public that

"The Conference at Vienna will, of course, be delayed for a short time, and will be renewed under new auspices;" and that "this very afternoon [...] Lord Clarendon will have an interview with the Emperor Napoleon, at Boulogne, in which [...] the ideas of the two Governments, with reference to this sudden and momentous event, will be interchanged and discussed".[d]

The Daily News does not believe in the peaceful consequences of this "sudden event" for the Western powers could not withdraw before the fall of Sevastopol and Russia could not withdraw after it.[e]

[Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 116, March 10, 1855][f]

London, March 6. The death of Emperor Nicholas has been the occasion for strange claims in the press here. Dr. Granville is surpassed by Mr. James Lee, who has made no medical observations.[67]

In today's Morning Advertiser he writes: "On the 6th of February I sent a letter [...] to you, in which I said, that the Emperor of Russia would be a corpse at the expiration of three weeks, dating the time from my letter."

In a postscript, the editor of The Morning Advertiser states that his paper had in fact received Lee's letter, but consigned it to the wastepaper basket as the figment of a sick brain. Lee goes even further. He offers to prophesy to the Advertiser the early demise of another potentate, on the one condition that his communication be published. Lee's predictions seem to be cheaper than the books of the Sibyl.

Similarly, the Emperor's death has led Urquhart who, as Highland Scot, possesses the gift of second sight, to make several Pythian utterances[68], of which the following is the most characteristic and also the most intelligible:

"There was blood between him [Nicholas] and the Poles, who could not be left behind to be watched, and whose five hundred thousand warriors were required. And it was well understood that the restoration of the white double-headed eagle—the symbol of that reunion of the Slavonic races announced in the Cathedral of Moscow by his predecessor, Alexander, was not to take place in his day."[g]

Urquhart thinks that now the moment has come when Russia will be absorbed by Slavdom, as the Muscovite empire had earlier been absorbed by Russia.

Written on March 3 and 6, 1855
Printed according to the newspaper
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, Nos. 109 and 116, March 6 and 10, 1855
Published in English for the first time in MECW.
Marked with the sign x


[a] Nicholas I.—Ed.

[b] This refers to the items "Scarcely had the intelligence..." and "The Emperor of Russia is dead...." in The Times, No. 21992, March 3, 1855.—Ed.

[c] No event of greater importance...", The Morning Advertiser, No. 19875, March 3, 1855. Actually, the eldest son of Nicholas I was Alexander.—Ed.

[d] "Nicholas Paulovitch, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias...", The Morning Post, No. 25325, March 3, 1855.—Ed.

[e] "The Death of the Czar. (Communicated)", The Daily News, No. 2742, March 3, 1855.—Ed.

[f] The second instalment was published without a heading.—Ed.

[g] D. Urquhart, "On the Death of the Emperor Nicholas. To the Editor of The Morning Advertiser", The Morning Advertiser, No. 19877, March 6, 1855. Instead of "reunion of Slavonic races" "reunion of Slavonic faces" is printed in Urquhart's article.—Ed.

[67] On March 5, 1855, The Times published a letter by the English doctor Augustus Bozzi Granville (later reprinted by other London newspapers) in which he maintained that he had predicted the imminent death of the Tsar in a conversation with Palmerston as early as July 6, 1853. The letter was reported in the Neue Oder-Zeitung on March 9, 1855.

[68] The Pythia—a priestess and prophetess of Apollo at Delphi.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.67-68), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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