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The Morning Post Versus Prussia.—
The Character of The Whigs and Tories[149]

Karl Marx

London, May 14. Palmerston's private organ, The Morning Post, today carries a threatening article against Prussia[a], which includes the following:

"It was in the month of April, 1854, that permission was given, by an Order in Council, to import Russian produce into the United Kingdom in neutral bottoms, and of this permission we find that Prussia availed herself with astonishing rapidity. The following returns" (taken from official tables presented to Parliament) "will show the comparative amount of our imports of tallow, hemp, and flax, from the last-named country, during the years 1853 and 1854; the difference clearly indicating the quantity of Russian produce which has found its way through Memel and Danzig to the British market, notwithstanding our strict blockade of the Russian ports[b] in the Baltic:

Imported from Prussia into the United Kingdom
Flax- and linseed57,848116,267qrs

"These figures sufficiently indicate the value of this new traffic to Prussia [...]. The result is that in spite of our blockade Russia is enabled to sell her produce as freely as in time of peace, while we have to pay some 50 per cent more for it, in the shape of dues and profits to the Prussian trader [...].We admit that our present policy is grossly inconsistent, but the remedy is to be sought not by raising the blockade of the enemy's ports, but by stopping to the utmost of our power the overland traffic through the Prussian dominions."

The anti-aristocratic movement in England can only have one immediate result: to bring the Tories, i.e. the specifically aristocratic party, to the helm. If not, it must necessarily subside at first into a few Whig platitudes, a few administrative mock-reforms not worth mentioning. Layard's announcement of his motion on the "state of the nation"[c] and the reception that announcement received in the House of Commons, produced the City meetings. But close on the heels of the City meetings followed Ellenborough's motion[150] in the House of Lords[d], whereby the Tories appropriate the new reform agitation, and transform it into a ladder to office. Layard himself has altered the words "aristocratic influence" in his motion to "family influence"—a concession to the Tories. Every movement outside the House assumes, inside the House, the form of the squabble between the two factions of the governing class. In the hands of the Whigs the Anti-Corn Law League became a means of bringing down the Tories[151]. In the hands of the Tories, the Administrative Reform Association[152] became a means of bringing down the Whigs. Only one must not forget that in this way one base of the old regime after another was sacrificed alternately by the two factions—and the regime itself remained intact, we may add. We have already stated our view that only the Tories are forced to make major concessions, because only under them does the pressure from without assume a threatening, indeed revolutionising character[e]. The Whigs represent the real oligarchy in England, the domination of a few great families such as the Sutherlands, Bedfords, Carlisles, Devonshires, etc.; the Tories represent the squireocracy[f], they are the Junker party, if you will, although broad demarcation lines must be drawn between the English squire and the North German Junker. The Tories are therefore the receptacles of all the old English prejudices regarding Church and State, protection and anti-Catholicism. The Whigs, the oligarchs, are enlightened, and have never hesitated to discard prejudices standing in the way of their hereditary tenancy of the offices of state. By their friendship the Whigs have constantly prevented the middle classes from moving; by their friendship the Tories have always thrown the masses into the arms of the middle classes, who put them at the disposal of the Whigs... At the present moment there is no longer any difference between Whigs and Tories except that the latter represent the plebs of the aristocracy and the former its haute-volée[g]. The old aristocratic phrase is on the side of the aristocratic plebs; the liberal phrase on the side of the aristocratic haute-volée: In fact, however, since the High Tories (Lord Bolingbroke, etc.) quit the scene the Tory Party has always been ruled by parvenus such as Pitt, Addington, Perceval, Canning, Peel and Disraeli. The homines novi[h] were always to be found in the ranks of the Tories. When Derby (himself a renegade Whig) formed his ministry, it contained, apart from himself, perhaps two other old names. All the others were plain squires plus one man of letters. On the other hand, the Whigs, who never hesitated for a moment to trim their sails and their views to the wind and who apparently forever renewed and metamorphosed themselves, needed no new men. They were able to perpetuate the family names. If one surveys English history since the "glorious" revolution of 1688, one finds that all the laws directed against the mass of the people have been initiated by the Whigs, from the Act for a Seven-Year Parliament to the latest Workhouse[153] and Factory legislation. But the Whig reaction has always taken place in agreement with the middle classes. The Tory reaction has been directed even more against the middle class than against the masses. Hence the Whigs' reputation for liberality.

Written on May 14, 1855
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 227, May 18, 1855
Marked with the sign x
Printed according to the news-paper
Published in English in full for the first time in MECW.


[a] The Morning Post, No. 25386, May 14, 1855.—Ed.

[b] Morning Post has: "the enemy's ports".—Ed.

[c] A. H. Layard's speech in the House of Commons on April 27, 1855. The Times, No. 22040, April 28, 1855.—Ed.

[d] E. L. Ellenborough's speech in the House of Lords on May 14, 1855. The Times, No. 22054, May 15, 1855.—Ed.

[e] See this volume, pp. 50-51.—Ed.

[f] Marx uses the English word.—Ed.

[g] Upper crust.—Ed.

[h] New men.—Ed.

[149] The second half of this article beginning with the words "The anti-aristocratic movement" was first published in English under the heading "The Character of the Whigs and Tories" in Karl Marx, Surveys From Exile, Political Writings, Vol. 2, Harmondsworth, 1973.

[150] On May 14, 1855, Ellenborough moved in the House of Lords that a message be sent to the Queen informing her that the House was dissatisfied with the conduct of the Crimean War and that the success of the campaign could only be ensured by appointing deserving people to government posts. The proposal was discussed and rejected on the same day.

[151] The Anti-Corn Law League was founded by the Manchester factory owners Cobden and Bright in 1838. By demanding complete freedom of trade, the League fought for the abolition of the Corn Laws (see Note 14↓). In this way it sought to weaken the economic and political position of the landed aristocracy and lower the cost of living thus making possible a lowering of the workers' wages. The repeal of the Corn Laws under Peel's Tory government led to a split in the ranks of the Tories and facilitated the coming to power of the Whigs (1846). Having achieved its end, the League ceased to exist.

[152] The Association for Administrative Reform was set up in London in May 1855 on the initiative of liberal circles in the City. Taking advantage of the outcry caused in the country by press reports and the findings of the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry on the plight of the British army in the Crimea, the Association hoped by means of mass rallies to bring pressure to bear on Parliament and win broader access for members of the commercial and finance bourgeoisie to government posts, monopolised by the aristocracy. In their campaign the Association's leaders sought to obtain the support of the Chartists. However, at rallies organised by the Association and at their own rallies the Chartists refused to back the moderate bourgeois demands for administrative reform and instead urged a Parliamentary reform based on the People's Charter (see Note 46↓). The administrative reform campaign was a failure, and the Association soon ceased to exist. In his subsequent reports Marx frequently touched on the Association's activities and relations with the Chartists.

[153] The Act for a Seven-Year Parliament (the Septennial Act), passed by Parliament in the interests of the Whig oligarchy in 1716, extended the term of Parliament from three to seven years.

By the latest Workhouse and Factory legislation the 1834 Poor Law is meant (see Note 56↓).

[14] The Corn Laws, the first of which were passed as early as the fifteenth century, imposed high import duties on agricultural products in order to maintain high prices for these products on the domestic market. The Corn Laws served the interests of the big landowners. The struggle between the industrial bourgeoisie and the landed aristocracy over the Corn Laws ended in their repeal in June 1846.

[46] The People's Charter, which contained the demands of the Chartists, was published in the form of a Parliamentary Bill on May 8, 1838. It contained six points: universal suffrage (for men of 21 and over), annual parliaments, vote by ballot, equal electoral districts, abolition of the property qualification of MPs and payment of MPs. Petitions urging the adoption of the People's Charter were turned down by Parliament in 1839, 1842 and 1848.

[56] The 1834 Poor Law (an Act for the amendment and better administration of the laws relating to the poor in England and Wales) permitted only one form of aid to needy able-bodied persons—their enrolment in prison-type workhouses where they were engaged in monotonous and exhausting unproductive labour. The people nicknamed them Bastilles for the Poor. The law aimed at making the poor accept hard working conditions in industry, thus increasing the supply of cheap labour.

Repeal of the Corn Laws—see Note 14↑.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.186-188), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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