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Dissatisfaction with Austria

Karl Marx

London, May 9. The Morning Chronicle, Advertiser, The Daily News, etc., all end their philippics against the assassin Pianori[147] with more or less timid criticisms of the issue of the Moniteur[a], which published the indictment of Pianori at the same time as the decree ordering to pay the Napoleonic legacy of 10,000 francs to the former French N.C.O. Cantillon, now on the shelf in Brussels, as the reward for his attempted assassination of Wellington. Especially amusing are the twists and turns of the Chronicle, a paper that is serious by profession. Napoleon III, it says, must be ignorant of this strange, and at the present moment so tactless tribute to Napoleon I. The name "Cantillon" must have strayed into the morally spotless columns of the Moniteur by a lapsus pennae[b]. Or some officious junior civil servant must have endowed Cantillon with the 10,000 francs off his own bat, etc[c]. The worthy Chronicle seems to imagine that the French bureaucracy is formed on the English pattern, where it is indeed possible, as we have seen from the last hearing of the parliamentary Committee of Inquiry, for a junior civil servant of the Board of Ordnance[d] to place an order for a certain type of rocket, involving thousands of pounds, of his own accord and without informing his superiors or, as Palmerston has told the House of Commons, for diplomatic documents to be withheld from Parliament for weeks because the "person" in the Foreign Office entrusted with the translation of the said documents happens to be suffering from a cold or from rheumatism.

For the last few days the London press has been trying to edge away from its admiration for Austria and prepare its readership for. an abrupt transition into an opposite key. As usual it is left to "our own correspondents"[e] to break the ice. Thus The Morning Chronicle carries the following report from Berlin:

"No positive act of deception or formal breach of promise can be laid to the charge of the Prussian Cabinet [...].

"If Western Cabinets have been deceived, it has been their own fault, or those whose business it is to open their eyes. But can the same be said of Austria? Has her conduct been as undisguised [...] as that of Prussia? The latter has (lone all the mischief in her power to the West openly and undisguisedly. She defies and laughs at us without mask or restraint. The former has dallied with England and France during twenty months; laughed at us [...] in her sleeve; held out hopes officially as well as privately; lured us on from concession to concession[f]; given assurances of the most formal character; and, as long since predicted by those who were not blinded by overweening confidence, is now on the eve, it appears, of leaving us in the lurch if we do not assent to conditions of peace, [...] upon terms the most advantageous to Russia, and utterly [...] detrimental to France and England [...]. So, in fact, Austria after having served as a shield to Russia on the Pruth, and enabled Gorchakoff to detach nearly the whole of his force from Bessarabia to the Crimea, is to step forward and insist on a peace, which shall 'leave things as they are' [...]. If this be all we have to expect from Austrian friendship, then the sooner the mask is thrown aside the better."[g]

On the other hand, The Times carries this report from Vienna[h]:

"...Baron Hess, the Commander-in-Chief of the 3rd and 4th armies, has recently drawn up and presented to his Imperial master[i] a memorial, in which it is demonstrated that it would not, under present circumstances, be advisable for Austria to declare war against Russia. A cry will probably be raised against me for thus publicly touching on such a delicate matter, but in my opinion it is a service rendered to the British and French nations to tell them that they must depend on their own resources, and that Austria is not likely to come to their assistance. If she could have persuaded Prussia and the Bund to cover her left flank with an army of 100,000 men, she would probably, in spite of numerous impediments [...] long since have pledged herself to assume the offensive against Russia. It is not positively known what arguments Baron Hess employed in his memorial, but the Austro-Russians, who [...] are always best informed on such matters, say that it contained matter something like the following: The Western Powers, having proved to demonstration that they require all their own resources and those of Turkey in order to make head against the Russians in the Crimea, it would be highly imprudent for Austria, unless she can induce her federal allies to support her, to engage in a war with Russia. It is acknowledged [...] that the latter has an army of 250,000 men, including the Guard and Grenadier Corps, in Poland; and, as it is posted within the rayon of seven of the strongest fortresses in the empire, no force that was not at least twice as large could hope to obtain any advantage over it. It is also said that mention is made of the disordered state of the finances, of the inability of France to place a hundred thousand men at Austria's disposal, of the helplessness displayed by the British Government, and of the little reliance that can be placed on Prussia. Since Sunday last another argument has been added to the foregoing, [...] on the mutability of things in general, [...] the uncertainty of the life of man, and [...] the dilemma Austria would be in should anything happen to Louis Napoleon while she was engaged in a war with Russia."

Written on May 9, 1855
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 219, May 12, 1855
Marked with the sign x
Printed according to the news-paper
Published in English for the first time in MECW.


[a] Le Moniteur universel, No. 126, May 6, 1855.—Ed.

[b] Slip of the pen.—Ed.

[c] "The trial of the assassin...", The Morning Chronicle, No. 27571, May 9, 1855.—Ed.

[d] Marx uses the English term.—Ed.

[e] Marx uses the English words "our own correspondents".—Ed.

[f] The Neue Oder-Zeitung has "from commission to commission". Presumably a misprint.—Ed.

[g] "Banks of the Spree, May 6", The Morning Chronicle, No. 27571, May 9, 1855.—Ed.

[h] From its own correspondent Bird T. O'M. The report was dated May 4 and published in The Times, No. 22049, May 9, 1855.—Ed.

[i] Francis Joseph I.—Ed.

[147] On April 28, 1855, Giovanni Pianori, an Italian revolutionary and associate of Garibaldi, shot at Napoleon III when the French Emperor was riding on horseback in the Champs Elysées. The abortive attempt was provoked, among other things, by the part Louis Bonaparte played in 1849, when still President, in sending an expeditionary corps against the Roman Republic and crushing the Italian revolution. Pianori was executed in May 1855.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.177-179), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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