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Karl Marx

The history of the house of Savoy may be divided into three epochs—the first, in which it rises and aggrandises itself by taking up an equivocal position between Guelphs and Ghibellines[2], between the Italian republics and the German empire; the second, in which it thrives upon shifting sides in the wars between France and Austria[3]; and the last, in which it endeavoured to improve the world-wide strife between revolution and counter-revolution as it had done with the antagonism of races and dynasties[a] In the three epochs equivocation is the constant axis on which its policy revolves, and results diminutive in dimension and ambiguous in character, appear as the natural offspring of that policy. At the end of the first epoch, simultaneously with the formation of the grand monarchies in Europe, we behold the house of Savoy form a small monarchy. At the end of the second epoch the Vienna Congress condescended to surrender to it the republic of Genoa, while Austria swallowed Venice and Lombardy[4], and the Holy Alliance[5] put its extinguisher upon all second-rate powers of whatever denomination. During the third epoch, lastly[b], Piedmont is allowed to appear at the Conferences of Paris, drawing up a memorandum against Austria and Naples[6], giving sage advice to the Pope[c], clapped upon the shoulders by an Orloff, cheered on in its constitutional aspirations by the coup d'état[7], and goaded in its dreams of Italian supremacy by the same Palmerston who so successfully betrayed it in 1848 and 1849.[8]

It is a rather preposterous idea on the part of the Sardinian spokesmen that constitutionalism, the agony of which they may at this moment witness in Great Britain, and[d] with the bankruptcy of which the revolutions of 1848-49 made the European continent ring—it proving equally powerless against the bayonets of the crowns, and the barricades of the people—that this same constitutionalism is now about not only to celebrate its restitutio in integrum[e] on the Piedmontese stage, but even to become a conquering power. Such an idea could but originate with the great men of a little state. For any impartial observer it is an unquestionable fact that with the great monarchy in France Piedmont must remain a small one; that with an imperial despotism in France, Piedmont exists at the best but on sufferance, and that with a real republic in France, the Piedmont monarchy will disappear and melt into an Italian republic. The very conditions on which the existence of the Sardinian monarchy depends debar it from attaining its ambitious ends. It can but play the part of an Italian liberator in an epoch of revolution suspended in Europe, and of counter-revolution ruling supreme in France. Under such conditions it may imagine to take upon itself the leadership of Italy, as the only Italian state with progressive tendencies, with native rulers, and with a national army. But these very conditions place it between the pressure of imperial France on the one, and imperial Austria on the other hand. In case of serious friction between these neighbouring empires, it must become the satellite of one and the battlefield of both. In case of an entente cordiale between them, it must be content with an asthmatical existence, with a mere respite of life. To throw itself on the revolutionary party in Italy would be simple suicide, the events of 1848-49 having dispelled the last delusions as to its revolutionary mission. The hopes of the house of Savoy thus are bound up with the status quo in Europe, and the status quo in Europe shutting it out from extension in the Appenine Peninsula assigns it the modest part of an Italian Belgium.

In their attempt to resume at the Paris Congress the game of 1847, the Piedmontese plenipotentiaries could, therefore, exhibit but a rather lamentable spectacle. Each move they drew on the diplomatic chessboard cried check to themselves. While violently protesting against the Austrian occupation of central Italy, they were obliged to touch but tenderly on the occupation of Rome by France[9]; and while grumbling against the theocracy of the Pontiff[f], to stoop before the sanctimonious grimaces of the first-born son of the church[g]. To Clarendon, who had shown such tender mercies to Ireland in 1848[10], they had to appeal for giving the King of Naples[h] lessons of humanity, and to the gaoler of Cayenne, Lambessa, and Belle Isle[11], for opening the prisons of Milan, Naples, and Rome. Establishing themselves the champions of liberty in Italy, they bowed servilely to Walewski's onslaught on the liberty of the press in Belgium, and gave it as their deliberate opinion that

"it is difficult for good relations to continue between two nations when, in one of them, journals with exaggerated doctrines, and waging war on the neighbouring governments, exist."

Bottomed on this their own foolish adhesion to Buonapartist doctrines, Austria at once turned round upon them with the imperious demand of stopping and punishing the war waged against her by the Piedmontese press.

At the same moment that they feign to oppose the international policy of the peoples to the international policy of the countries[i], they congratulate themselves upon the treaty again, knitting together those ties of friendship which for centuries have existed between the house of Savoy and the family of Romanoff. Encouraged to display their eloquence before the Plenipotentiaries of Old Europe, they must suffer to be snubbed by Austria as a second-rate power, not with the power to discuss first-rate questions. While they enjoy the immense satisfaction of drawing up a memorandum, Austria is allowed to draw up an army the whole length of the Sardinian frontier, from the Po to the summit of the Apennines, to occupy Parma, to fortify Piacenza, not-withstanding the treaty of Vienna, and on the shore of the Adriatic to deploy her forces from Ferrara and Bologna as far as Ancona. Seven days after these complaints had been promulgated before the Congress, on the 15th of April, a special treaty was signed between France and England on the one, and Austria on the other side, proving to evidence the damage the memorandum had inflicted on Austria.

Such was the position at the Paris Congress of the worthy representatives of that Victor Emmanuel who, after his abdication, and the loss of the battle of Novara 12 went before the eyes of an exasperated army to embrace Radetzky, Carlo Albert's spiteful foe. If Piedmont is not blind on purpose, it must now see that it is duped by the peace as it was duped by the war. Bonaparte may use it to trouble waters in Italy, with a view to fish crowns in the mud.[13] Russia may clap the shoulder of little Sardinia, with the intention of alarming Austria in the South, in order to weaken her in the North. Palmerston may, for purposes best known to himself, rehearse the comedy of 1847, without giving himself so much as the pains of playing the old song to a new tune. For all that Piedmont serves only as the catspaw of foreign powers. As to the speeches in the British Parliament Mr. Brofferio has told the Sardinian Chamber of Deputies, of which he is a member, that "they had never been Delphian oracles, but always Trophonian ones." He is only mistaken in taking echoes for oracles.[14]

The Piedmontese intermezzo considered in itself, is void of any interest but that of seeing the house of Savoy baffled again in its hereditary policy of shifts and its renewed attempts at making the Italian question the prop of its own dynastical intrigues. But there is another more important point of view, intentionally overlooked by the English and French press, but especially[j] hinted at by the Sardinian plenipotentiaries in their notorious memorandum![k] The hostile attitude of Austria, justified by the course pursued at Paris on the part of the Sardinian plenipotentiaries, "obliges Sardinia to remain armed, and to adopt measures[l]. extremely hazardous[m] to her finances, already dilapidated by the events of 1848 and 1849, and by the war in which she has taken part." But this is not all.

"The popular agitation," says the Sardinian memorandum, "has appeared to subside of late. The Italians, seeing one of their national princes allied with the great Western powers ... conceived a hope that peace would not be made before some solace had been applied to their woes. This hope rendered them calm and resigned; but when they shall learn the negative results of the Congress of Paris—when they shall know that Austria notwithstanding the good office and benevolent intervention of France and England, has opposed even discussion ... then there can be no doubt that the irritation which has been lulled for the moment will reawaken more fiercely than ever. The Italians, convinced that they have nothing more to hope from diplomacy,—will throw themselves back with Southern vehemence into the ranks of the subversive and revolutionary party[n], and Italy will become in turn a focus[o] of conspiracies and disorders, which may indeed be suppressed by redoubled severity, but which the most trifling European commotion will cause to break out again with the utmost violence. The awakening of revolutionary passions in all countries which surround Piedmont, by causes of a nature to excite popular sympathy, exposes the Sardinian Government to dangers of excessive gravity."

This is to the point. During the war, the wealthy middle-class of Lombardy had, so to say, expended their breath in the vain hope of winning at its conclusion by their action of diplomacy, and under the auspices of the House of Savoy, national emancipation or[p] civil liberty without a necessity of wading through the red sea of revolution, and without making to the peasantry and the proletarians those concessions which, after the experience of 1848-49, they knew to have become inseparable from any popular movement. However, their Epicurean hopes have now vanished. The only tangible results of the war, at least the only ones to be caught by an Italian eye, are material and political advantages possessed[q] by Austria—a new consolidation of that odious power secured by the co-operation of a so-called independent Italian state. The constitution also of Piedmont had again the game in their hands; they have again lost it; and stand again convicted of wanting the vocation[r] so loudly claimed of heading Italy. They will be called to account by their own army. The middle-classes are again found to throw themselves upon the bias of the people[s], and to identify national emancipation with social regeneration. The Piedmontese nightmare is thrown off, the diplomatic spell is broken—and the volcanic heart of revolutionary Italy begins again to pant.

Written on about May 16, 1856
Reproduced from The People's Paper
First published in The People's Paper, No. 211, May 17, 1856, signed K. M.,
and also in the. New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4717, May 31, 1856, unsigned.


[a] The end of the sentence from the words "as it had done ..." is omitted in the New-York Daily Tribune.—Ed.

[b] This word is omitted in the New-York Daily Tribune.—Ed.

[c] Pius IX.—Ed.

[d] Part of this sentence from the words "the agony" up to "Britain, and" is omitted in the New-York Daily Tribune.—Ed.

[e] Full rehabilitation.—Ed.

[f] Pius IX.—Ed.

[g] Napoleon III.—Ed.

[h] Ferdinand II.—Ed.

[i] The New-York Daily Tribune has "dynasties" instead of "countries".—Ed.

[j] The New-York Daily Tribune has "anxiously".—Ed.

[k] Marx has in mind C. Cavour's "Note adressée au comte Walewski a lord Clarendon, le 16 avril 1856", which he quotes below.—Ed.

[l] The New-York Daily Tribune has "defensive measures".—Ed.

[m] The NYDT has "burdensome".—Ed.

[n] The text beginning with the words "the Italians" is italicised in the New-York Daily Tribune.—Ed.

[o] The New-York Daily Tribune has "burning center".—Ed.

[p] The NYDT has "and".—Ed.

[q] The NYDT has "pocketed".—Ed.

[r] The NYDT has "as failing in the office" instead of "of wanting the vocation".—Ed.

[s] The NYDT has "mass".—Ed.

[1] Besides The People's Paper, Marx also sent this article to the New-York Daily Tribune, which published it without title and signature. In the Tribune certain passages were omitted.

The People's Paper was founded in May 1852 as a weekly of the revolutionary Chartists. Marx contributed to it and helped Ernest Jones, its chief editor, with the editing and organisational matters, especially in its early years. Between October 1852 and December 1856, besides publishing the articles Marx wrote specially for it, the paper reprinted the most important articles by him and Engels from the New-York Daily Tribune. At the beginning of 1856, Marx's contributions to The People's Paper became especially frequent. However, towards the end of that year Marx and Engels temporarily broke off relations with Jones and stopped contributing to his weekly because of Jones' increasing association with bourgeois radicals. The paper ceased publication in September 1858.

The New-York Daily Tribune was founded in 1841 and was published until 1924. Prior to the mid-1850s it was a left-wing paper and then it became the organ of the Republican Party. Among its contributors were prominent American writers and journalists. Charles Dana, who was strongly influenced by the ideas of utopian socialism, was one of its editors from the late 1840s. Marx contributed to the newspaper from August 1851 to March 1862. His contacts with the newspaper ceased entirely during the US Civil War.

[2] Guelphs and Ghibellines—political parties in Italy formed in the twelfth century in the period of strife between the popes and the German emperors. The Ghibellines included mostly feudal lords who supported the emperors and violently opposed the papal party of the Guelphs, which represented the upper trade and artisan strata of Italian towns. The parties existed till the fifteenth century.

[3] Marx is referring to the wars of the Spanish (1701-14) (see Note 236↓) and the Austrian (1740-48) Succession. As a result of the first war, under the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) Savoy obtained Sicily, Montferrato and part of the duchy of Milan. The Duke of Savoy became King of Sicily. In 1720 Savoy, Piedmont and Sardinia, which had been ceded to Savoy in compensation for Sicily seized by Spain in 1718, formed the Kingdom of Sardinia ruled by the kings of the Savoy dynasty. The War of the Austrian Succession ended with the Peace Treaty of Aachen (1748) under which the Kingdom of Sardinia received from Austria part of the Principality of Pavia and some other Austrian possessions in Italy.

[4] In conformity with a secret article of a treaty concluded between France and Austria on May 30, 1814 the Republic of Genoa was placed under the aegis of the Savoy dynasty.

This treaty also determined the future of Venice and Lombardy, officially fixed in Article 93 of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna on June 9, 1815.

[5] The Holy Alliance—an association of European monarchs founded in September 1815 on the initiative of the Russian Tsar Alexander I and the Austrian Chancellor Metternich to suppress revolutionary movements and preserve feudal monarchies in the European countries.

[6] There was vague information about the Sardinian memorandum in the press (see The Times, No. 22330, April 1, 1856). Presumably this refers to the Note by Count Cavour, the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Piedmont, of March 27, 1856, which he sent to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Count Walewski and the British Foreign Secretary Lord Clarendon. The Note concerned the situation in the Papal States, occupied by Austrian and French troops, and in the Kingdom of Naples.

The Italian question was discussed at a session of the Congress of Paris on April 8, 1856. Cavour used the text of the Note as the basis of .his speech in which he came out against the Austrian domination in Italy and tried to persuade the audience to resolve the Italian question in favour of the Sardinian monarchy.

The domestic policy of King Ferdinand II of Naples was subjected to harsh criticism by Cavour and other speakers in the course of the discussion on April 8. On April 16, 1856, at the closing session of the Congress, the Piedmontese plenipotentiaries handed another memorandum on the same issue to Britain and France which Marx cites in this Article.

The discussion of the Italian question did not lead to any decisions. However, it promoted the supremacy of the Kingdom of Sardinia in the Italian national liberation movement.

[7] On December 2, 1851 Louis Bonaparte accomplished a coup d'état by dissolving the Legislative Assembly.

[8] During the 1848-49 revolution, the Whig government, of which Lord Palmerston was. Foreign Secretary, supported only in word the liberal movement in Italy which strove for moderate reforms and constitutional changes. In fact, however, Britain did not help Piedmont in its struggle against Austrian rule in Northern Italy either in 1848 or in 1849.

[9] Marx is referring to the dispatch of an expeditionary corps to Italy in April 1849 under the pretext of defending the Roman Republic. Initiated by the President of the French Republic, Louis Bonaparte, this invasion of the Roman Republic aimed at restoring the Pope's temporal power (see K. Marx, The Class Struggles in France. 1848-1850, present edition, Vol. 10, pp. 91-94).

[10] The reference is to the brutal suppression of the Irish uprising in the summer of 1848 by Clarendon, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland (1847-52), which broke out as a result of the famine caused by the potato crop failure in 1845-47.

[11] Marx means Louis Napoleon whose advent to power resulted in mass arrests of republicans and participants in the 1848-49 revolution.

Cayenne—a reference to French Guiana, where political prisoners were sent for penal servitude.

Lambessa (Lambèse)—a French penal colony founded on the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Lambessa in North Africa; from 1851 to 1860 it was a place of exile for political prisoners.

Belle Isle—an island in the Bay of Biscay, where political prisoners were detained in 1849-57, among others, workers who took part in the Paris uprising in June 1848 were imprisoned there.

[12] It was Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, who abdicated after the defeat of the Piedmontese army at Novara on March 23, 1849, during the Austro-Italian war of 1848-49. His son Victor Emmanuel II, the new king, concluded an armistice with the Austrians on March 26, and on August 6 a peace treaty was signed-restoring Austrian rule in Northern Italy and the Austrian protectorate over a number of states of Central Italy.

[13] Marx is apparently referring to Napoleon III's plans to marry his cousin Prince Napoleon nicknamed Plon-Plon to Clotilde, the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia. The wedding took place in 1859.

[14] 'The Delphic oracle—Apollo's oracle at Delphi reputed for its prophecies about political and religious events which enabled Delphi to conduct and support certain conservative tendencies in politics. The knowledge of the situation in different Greek states influenced the prophecies of the oracle's medium, the Pythia.

The Trophonian oracle was in a cave at a temple near the town of Lebadea, Boeotia. Its prophecies were of a more private nature and concerned the human destinies in the main, and so it was much less important than the Delphic oracle.

Marx thought that M. P.'s speeches lacked originality and merely reflected" Palmerston's policy.

[236] The Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 was one of the peace treaties concluded between France and Spain, on the one hand, and the countries of the anti-French coalition (England, Holland, Portugal, Prussia and the Austrian Habsburgs) on the other, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession, begun in 1701 (see notes 51 and 71). Under the terms of the 1713 treaty, the Spanish throne was retained by Philip V, Louis XIV's grandson; the King of France, however, was to give up his plans to unite the French and Spanish monarchies and renounce his claims and those of his Bourbon heirs to the Spanish crown. Several French and Spanish colonies in the West Indies and North America, as well as Gibraltar, were ceded to England.

In 1716 England and France signed a secret treaty in Hanover, under which England became a guarantor country: in case Louis XV died childless, the French crown remained with the Orleans dynasty. For England the treaty was signed by Stanhope, George I's Foreign Secretary of State, and for France by Cardinal Dubois. This treaty served as a basis for the Triple Alliance between Et gland, France, and Holland, concluded in 1717; in 1718 Austria joined it (in this way, the Quadruple Alliance was formed). Marx speaks about these events below in the text.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15 (pp.3-7), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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