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The English Alliance

Karl Marx

Paris, April 22, 1858

The Anglo-French alliance has taken a new turn since Dr. Bernard's acquittal[a][536] and the public enthusiasm that cheered it. In the first instance, being shrewd enough to understand that the "heart of England" spoke not "in the starched compliments with which the municipality of Dover overwhelmed the frank nature of the Duke of Malakoff", but rather "in the infamous huzzas raised by the people in the Court of Old Bailey," the Univers proclaimed England not only a "den of assassins," but a people of assassins, juries and judges included[b]. The original proposition of the colonels[537] is thus affirmed on a broader basis. At the heels of the Univers, in steps the Constitutionnel with an article appearing at the head of its columns, and signed by M. Renée[c], the son-in-law of Mr. Macquard, who in his turn is the known amanuensis, confidant, and factotum of Bonaparte. If the Univers had taken up the colonels' definition of the English people, while enlarging its meaning, the Constitutionnel repeats their menaces, only that it tries to back the exasperation of the barracks by the alleged indignation of the "towns and rural districts." Affecting that tone of wounded moral sensibility so peculiar to the meretricious literature of the second Empire, it exclaims:

"We will not dwell at any length on such an acquittal, which throws an unheard-of scandal on public morality; for what man of honor in France or England could entertain a doubt of Bernard's guilt? We will only inform those of our neighbors who desire the maintenance of good relations between the two countries, that if, by misfortune, the address pronounced by Bernard's counsel—that address which was allowed to teem with calumny and insult against the Emperor, against the nation which elected him, against the army, and against our institutions—was circulated in the towns, barracks, and rural districts of France" (a curious position this, of the barracks, between the towns and rural districts!) it would be difficult for Government, with the best intention, to stay the consequences of public indignation."

So far so good. On the mere chance whether or not Mr. James's speech[d], advertised by the Constitutionnel itself[e], be or be not circulated in France, it will then depend whether or not France shall rush upon England. But after this quasi-declaration of war, there follows, a day later, a curious and startling winding-up in the Patrie. The French invasion is to be averted, but only by a new turn to be given to the Anglo-French alliance. Bernard's acquittal has revealed the rising power of anarchy in British society. Lord Derby is to save society in England in the same way as Bonaparte has saved it in France. Such. is the upshot of the alliance, and such is its conditio sine qua non[f]. The Earl of Derby, it is added, is a "man of immense talent, and of almost royal alliances," and consequently the man to save society in England![g] The English daily papers cling to the weakness, tergiversation, and infirmity of purpose, betrayed in this alternation of rage, menace and sophism. The Paris correspondent of The Daily News imagines himself to have solved the riddle of these dissolving views exhibited in the Univers, the Constitutionnel, and the Patrie, by dwelling upon the well-known fact that Bonaparte has a double set of advisers—the drunken revelers of the evening, and the sober counselors of the morning. He smells in the articles of the Univers and the Constitutionnel the fumes of Chateau Maryaux and cigars, and in the article of the Patrie the showers of the cold water bath. But the same double set acted during Bonaparte's duel with the French Republic. The one, after January, 1849, threatened, in its little evening journals, with a coup d'état, while the other, in the heavy columns of the Moniteur, gave them the lie direct. Still it was not in the "starched" articles of the Moniteur, but in the drunken "huzzas" of the Pouvoir, that the shadow of coming events was traced. We are, however, far from believing that Bonaparte is possessed of the means of successfully crossing the "broad ditch."[h] The comical lucubrations in that line, which The N. Y. Herald had taken upon itself to publish, are sure to raise a smile on the lips even of mere tyros in military science. But we are decidedly of opinion that Bonaparte, a civilian, it ought never to be forgotten, at the head of a military Government, has, in the Patrie, put the last and the only possible interpretation on the Anglo-French alliance which will satisfy his "colonels." He finds himself in a situation at once the most grotesque and the most dangerous. To impose upon foreign Governments, he must clap on the sword. To soothe the sword-bearers, and prevent them from taking his rhodomontades in real good earnest, he must recur to such impossible fictiones juris as that the Anglo-French alliance means the saving of society in England in the approved Bonapartist fashion. Of course, facts must clash with his doctrines, and the upshot, if his reign is not, as we are inclined to think, cut short by a revolution, will be that his fortune is engulfed, as it has been raised, in mad-brain adventures in some expédition de Boulogne[538] on an enlarged scale. The Emperor will subside into the adventurer, as the adventurer has been converted into the Emperor.

In the mean time, while the Patrie has spoken the last word Bonaparte can utter as to the meaning of the Anglo-French alliance, it is worth the while to direct attention to the manner in which this alliance is now spoken of among the governing classes of England. In this respect an article of The London Economist, entitled "The French Alliance, its character, its value and its price,"[i] claims peculiar notice. It is written with studied pedantry, such asfits the position of an ex-Secretary of the Treasury under Palmerston's Administration, and an expounder of the economical views of English capitalists. Mr. Wilson sets out with the thesis that "the thing gained may not be exactly the thing bargained for." "Scarcely," he says, "any estimate of the value of a real alliance between France and England can be too high;" but then there exist different sorts of alliances, real ones and artificial ones, genuine alliances and alliances of a hot-house growth, "natural" ones and "governmental" ones, "governmental" alliances and "personal" alliances. In the first place, The Economist gives full swing to his "imagination;" and it may be remarked with respect to The Economist, what has been said with respect to lawyers, that the more prosaic the man the more tricks imagination is able to play with him. He can scarcely trust his

"imagination to dwell on the influence which a real alliance between the two great peoples which stand at the head of modern civilization would exercise on the destinies of Europe and the fortune and felicity of all other lands."

Still he is forced to admit that, although he hopes and believes the two nations to be "ripening" for a genuine alliance, they "are not ripe for it yet." If, then, England and France are not yet ripe for a genuine, national alliance, the question will naturally arise, of what sort is the present Anglo-French alliance?

"Our alliance of late," confesses the ex-member of the Palmerston Administration and the oracle of English capitalists, "has been to a great extent, we admit, unavoidably with the Government rather than with the nation—with the Emperor rather than the Empire—with Louis Bonaparte rather than with France; and further, in the value we have set upon the alliance and the price we have paid for it, we have somewhat lost sight of this material and weighty fact."

Bonaparte, of course, is the chosen of the French nation, and all that bosh, but, unfortunately,

"he represents only the numerical and not the intellectual majority of the French people. By mischance, it so happens that the classes which stand aloof from him comprise precisely those parties whose opinions on nearly all the great questions of civilization, are analogous to our own."

Having thus in most cautious and civil language, and in circumlocutory sentences which we will not discomfort the reader with, laid down the axiom that the present so-called Anglo-French alliance is rather governmental than national, The Economist goes the length of confessing that it is more personal even than purely governmental.

"Louis Napoleon," he says, "has hinted more plainly than became the head of a great nation that he was our especial friend in France—that he, rather than his people, desired and sustained the English alliance; and it may be that we have acquiesced in this view of the matter more readily and fully than was perfectly prudent and sincere."[j]

Take it all in all, the Anglo-French alliance is a spurious, adulterated article—an alliance with Louis Bonaparte, but not an alliance with France. The question, therefore, naturally arises, whether that spurious article was worth the price paid for it? Here The Economist beats his own bosom and cries, in the name of the English governing classes, Pater, peccavi![k] In the first place, England is a constitutional country, while Bonaparte is an autocrat.

"We owed to ourselves that our frank and loyal courtesy toward the de facto sovereign of France should be allowed to ripen and to warm into cordial and affectionate admiration only as far and as fast as his policy turned out such as we could honestly and righteously approve."

Instead of applying thus a sliding scale to their Bonapartism, the English people, a constitutional people,

"have lavished on an Emperor who had destroyed the constitutional liberties of his subjects, attentions such as were never before bestowed on a constitutional king who had granted and respected them. And when he was angry and irritated, we have stooped to soothe him by language of fulsome adulation which sounded marvelous from English lips. Our proceedings and our language have alienated all those sections of the French people in whose eyes Louis Napoleon is either a usurper or a military despot. It has especially irritated and disgusted the Parliamentary party in France, whether Republican or Orleanist."

The Economist discovers at last that this prostration before a lucky usurper was far from prudent.

"It is impossible," he says, "to believe that the existing regime in France can-be the permanent one under which that energetic and restless nation will consent to live.... Is it wise, therefore, so to ally ourselves with a passing phase of government in France as to excite the enmity of its future and more permanent development?"

Moreover, the English alliance was more necessary to Bonaparte than his alliance to England. In 1852, he was an adventurer—a successful one, but still an adventurer.

"He was not recognized in Europe; it was questionable whether he would be recognized. But England promptly and unhesitatingly accepted him; acknowledged his title deeds at once; admitted him to the circle of royal exclusiveness, and gave him thus currency among the courts of Europe." "Nay, more, by the exchange of visits and cordial- coalitions, our Court allowed acquaintanceship to ripen into intimacy.... Those enterprising moneyed and commercial classes, by whom it was especially important to him to he supported, saw at once how vast was the strength he gained by the closeness and cordiality of the alliance with England."

That alliance was necessary for him, and he "would have bought it at almost any price." Did the English Government prove their commercial acumen and wonted sharpness in fixing that price? They asked no price at all; they insisted upon - no condition whatever; but, like Oriental satraps, crawled in the dust while handing to him the gift of the alliance. No infamy on his part was colossal enough to make them halt for one moment in their race "of thriftless generosity," as The Economist calls it—of reckless flunkeyism, as we should call it.

"It would be hard to prove," confesses the English sinner, "that of all his various measures for discountenancing Protestantism, for repressing thought, for destroying municipal action, for reducing Senates and Chambers to a mockery, we have manifested our dissatisfaction with a single one by even so much as a passing coolness or a casual frown." "Whatever he has done, whomsoever he has proscribed, how many journals he has seized or repressed, whatever the flimsy pretexts on which he has dismissed honorable and eminent professors from their posts—our language has still been the same; he has still been this great man, this wise and sagacious statesman, this eminent and firm ruler."

Not only have the English thus fostered, supported and promoted his abominable domestic policy, but, as The Economist avows, allowed him to hamper, modify, emasculate and degrade their foreign policy.

"To continue longer in such a false position," concludes The Economist, "may redound neither to our honor nor to our profit, nor to the benefit of the commonwealth of nations."

Compare this declaration with that of the Patrie, and there can remain no doubt that the Anglo-French alliance is gone, and with it the only international prop of the second Empire.

Written on April 22, 1858
First published unsigned in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5319, May 8, 1858


[a] "Trial and acquittal of Simon Bernard...", The Times, No. 22971, April 19, 1858.—Ed.

[b] The Times, No. 22973, April 21, 1858, "France".—Ed.

[c] Am. Renee, "L'acquittement de Bernard a cause...", Le Constitutionnel, No. 111, April 21, 1858.—Ed.

[d] E. James' speech at the court hearing of S. Bernard's case on April 16, 1858, The Times, No. 22970, April 17, 1858.—Ed.

[e] "Affaire Simon Bernard.—Complicité dans l'attentat du 14 janvier", Le Constitutionnel, No. 108, April 18, 1858.—Ed.

[f] Indispensable condition.—Ed.

[g] The Times, No. 22975, April 23, 1858, "France".—Ed.

[h] The Channel.—Ed.

[i] Here and below The Economist, No. 763, April 10, 1858.—Ed.

[j] Here and below The Economist, No. 764, April 17, 1858.—Ed.

[k] "Father, I have sinned", Luke 15:18.—Ed.

[536] The French surgeon Simon Bernard, residing in England, was accused of being an accomplice of Felice Orsini in the attempt on the life of Napoleon III (making bombs, etc.) and tried in London between April 12 and 17, 1858. By decision of the Central Criminal Court, Bernard was acquitted on April 17.

[537] Le Moniteur universel published French colonels' addresses to Napoleon III on the occasion of his surviving after the attempt on his life on January 14, 1858 (see Note 464↓). These addresses abounded in threats against England.

[538] Marx is referring here to Louis Bonaparte who attempted a coup d'état on August 6, 1840. Profiting by a certain revival of pro-Bonapartist sentiments in France, he landed with a handful of conspirators at Boulogne and tried to raise a mutiny among the local garrison. His attempt failed. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but escaped to England in 1846.

[464] On January 14, 1858 the Italian revolutionary Felice Orsini made an attempt on the life of Napoleon III, thus hoping to provoke revolutionary actions in Europe and intense struggle for the national unification of Italy. His attempt failed, and Orsini was executed on March 13, 1858.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15 (pp.515-520), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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