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A Curious Piece of History[551]

Karl Marx

Manchester (Eng.), May 18, 1858

A very short time after the close of the last Russian war[a] the public was informed that a certain Mohammed Bey, Colonel in the Turkish army, alias M. Bangya, ex-Colonel of the Hungarian army, had left Constantinople for Circassia along with a number of Polish volunteers. On his arrival, he at once became a sort of chief of the staff to Sefer Pasha, the Circassian chief. Those who knew the antecedents of this Hungarian liberator of Circassia could have no doubt that he had gone to that country for one purpose only: to sell it to Russia. The man had been, openly and unmistakably, proved to have been, in London and Paris, a spy in the pay both of the French and the Prussian police[b]. Accordingly, about a month ago, the European papers contained the news that Bangya-Mohammed Bey had actually been detected in treasonable correspondence with the Russian General, Philipson, and that a Court-martial, held upon him, had sentenced him to death. Bangya, however, a short time after, appeared all at once in Constantinople, and, with his usual impudence, declared all these stories about treachery, courts-martial, &c., to be pure inventions of his enemies, and tried to pass himself off as the victim of an intrigue.

We happen to be in possession of the most important documents relating to this curious incident of the Circassian war, and shall now give some extracts from them. These papers were brought to Constantinople by Sub-Lieutenant Franz Stock of the Polish battalion in Circassia, and one of the members of the Court-martial which convicted Bangya. The public may then judge for themselves.[c]

Extracts from the Minutes of the Council of War held
at Aderbi, Circassia, on Mohammed Bey,
alias J. Bangya of Illosfalva

[No. 1]—Sitting of January 9, 1858.—Deposition of Mustapha,
native of the Province of Natkhouatz.

"... When the Colonel, Mohammed Bey, came to Shepsohour, he asked me to forward a letter to the Commander of the Cossack of the Black Sea, General Philipson. On my observing that I could not do so without informing Sefer Pasha, or without his permission, Mohammed Bey informed me that as Envoy and Lieutenant of the Padishah and Military Commandant in Circassia he had the right to exchange letters with the Russians; that Sefer Pasha was acquainted with the subject, and that his object was to mislead the Russians.... When Sefer Pasha and the National Assembly forwarded to me the manifesto of Circassia, addressed to the Czar[d], Mohammed Bey gave me also a letter for Gen. Philipson. I did not find Gen. Philipson at Anapa, and I delivered the letter to the Major commanding at Anapa. The Major promised to forward the manifesto, but would not accept the letter, which was without address or signature. I brought back the letter, but feeling suspicious of the frequent correspondence of Mohammed Bey, and fearing myself to get compromised, I communicated the whole affair to the authorities...."

[No. 2.]—Deposition of Achmet Effendi,
formerly Turkish Secretary to Mohammed Bey.

"... Mohammed Bey was very irate against Tefik Bey (Col. Lapinski) and spoke very ill of him, adding that he would block his path very long. The second night after our arrival at Aderbi ... it was early dawn when I was roused by Mohammed Bey's groom. Mohammed Bey himself told me that a great noise of guns was heard in the direction of Ghelendjeek. He was up and seemed uneasy.... The report that Col. Lapinski had been captured with all his party arrived at Aderbi, I know not how, even before the roar of the guns had ceased. I heard Mohammed Bey talk of it. When later news came that neither the Colonel nor his men had been made prisoners, Mohammed Bey said, very angrily,

"'That probably he had sold his guns to the Russians.'..."

[No. 3.]—Deposition of the Officers and Soldiers
of the Polish Detachment stationed at Aderbi.

"One day before Ghelendjeek was surprised, Mohammed Bey came to the camp and said he had received letters from Constantinople, informing him that it was entirely Col. Lapinski's fault if they got no assistance anywhere.... He caused spirits to be distributed to the soldiers, and made them all sorts of promises if they would abandon their Colonel and follow him.... When afterward the news (of the supposed capture of Lapinski) turned out false, Mohammed Bey came in person to the camp and harangued the detachment to induce them to refuse obedience to the Colonel. But when the Colonel came back, he pretended to know nothing about the matter, and abandoned several individuals who had attached themselves to him, and allowed them to be punished without interfering in their favor. Later, during the absence of the Colonel, Mohammed Bey endeavored to lead the troops into rebellion by the means of several Hungarians. The Hungarians drew up an act of accusation against the Colonel and endeavored to get the men to sign. With the exception of three men, who admit that they were seduced to sign, all the others declared on their oath that their signatures had been forged.... This forgery was the easier since in the detachment only .a few soldiers knew how to write."

[No. 4.]—Confession of Bangya before the Court-Martial.[e]

"Tired of so long interrogatory, I present to the Commission this confession, written by my hand and signed by me. I hope that my judges, to whom I spare by so doing a long and difficult task, will be the more disposed to remember that with my fate is tied up also the fate of my innocent family[*] Formerly my name was John Bangya of Illosfalva; my name now is Mohammed Bey; my age is forty; my religion was the Roman Catholic, but in 1853 I embraced Islamism.... My political action ... was dictated by the ancient chief of my country, Louis Kossuth.... Provided with letters of introduction from my political chief, I came to Constantinople on the 22d of December, 1853.... I entered the Turkish arm) with the rank of Colonel. At this time I was frequently receiving from Kossuth letters and instructions concerning the interest of my country. At the same epoch Kossuth addressed to the Ottoman Government a missive, in which he warmly recommends the Turks to beware of the French, English or Austrian alliance, and advised them to link themselves rather with the revolutionary Italians and Hungarians.... My instructions recommended me to get attached in some way or other to the troops destined to act on the Circassian shores.... Arrived in Circassia, I contented myself for a time with studying the state of affairs in the country, and communicating my observations to my political friends.... I tried to attach myself to defer Pasha.... My instructions recommended me to prevent any offensive steps on the part of the Circassians, and to oppose all foreign influence in the country. A very short time previous to my departure from Constantinople Col. Türr, who receives his instructions from the same quarters as myself, and with whom I have been for years in political relation, received orders to join the Greek insurrection. Gen. Stein (Ferhad Pasha), who also belongs to our party, was directed to proceed to Anatolia. As for the plan of getting attached to Sefer Pasha, it succeeded, and very soon I gained his entire confidence. His confidence once acquired, it was easy for me to follow and execute my instructions.... I persuaded Sefer Pasha that after the war Circassia would be restored to the Sultan's rule.... To the Turkish commanders I represented that all offensive measures with their troops would be dangerous, since the Circassians ... would desert them in the hour of danger. The circumstances were favorable for me, and although the Russians had sent their troops to the theater of war, and left unprotected their frontiers, they had not to suffer from any serious incursions of the Circassians. I forwarded regular reports of my secret action to my political chiefs.... At the same time I found on my way men and circumstances just contrary to my plans. I allude to the arrival at Anapa of Mr. Longworth, British Consul. Mr. Longworth's instructions ordered him to induce Sefer Pasha to organize 6,000 Circassians at the expense of Great Britain and to dispatch them to the Crimea.... I received similar orders from the Turkish authorities, but at the same time my secret chiefs sent me the most positive order to do all in my power to annihilate the mission of the Consul.... In a conversation which I had with Mr. Longworth ... I asked for a post in the British army with the rank of Colonel, or for the capital sum of £10,000.... Mr. Longworth thought to gain me by an offer of 50,000 piasters.... My intrigue succeeded. Prince Sefer, so often deceived by vain promises, became suspicious and roundly refused to the Consul what he wanted of his people.... At this time I made an enemy in the person of Prince Ibrahim Karabatir, the son of Sefer Pasha, who had been named to command the 6,000 Circassians....

"The 21st of March, 1856, Sefer Pasha informed me that it had been decided in the General Assembly to send a deputation to the Turkish, French and British Governments to ask these Powers to reincorporate Circassia with Turkey. I induced Sefer Pasha to send me with this deputation.... On my arrival in Constantinople ... I addressed to my political friends and to Kossuth a detailed account of the state of Circassia.... I received in reply instructions ordering me to communicate with Col. Türr and Gen. Stein, and to conduct the affairs in common with them, and to engage in it as many Hungarians as possible. At the same time I entered into communication with Ismail Pasha, Postmaster of the Ottoman Empire, a Circassian by birth, who appeared to me patriotic and able to make sacrifices for his country. I consulted with him on the manner in which it might be possible for us to send into Circassia arms, ammunition, tools for artificers, good officers and artisans. But the real plan of the expedition was arranged between Gen. Stein, Col. Türr and myself. Capt. Franchini, military secretary to the Russian Minister, was present at several of our conferences. The object was to gain over Circassia to Russian interests in a peaceable, slow, but certain manner...[Italics by Marx.—Ed.]. When once Circassia should have submitted to the direction of Gen. Stein and myself, our plan would be:

"I. To choose some native Prince who would bring the whole country under his rule;
"II. To persuade the Circassians that they are not to expect any assistance either from the Sultan or from any other Power;
"III. To demoralize the mountaineers by dint of defeats on the field of battle—defeats studied and prepared beforehand;
"IV. To bring them to recognize the Czar as their nominal sovereign without paying any tribute, but admitting garrisons into the country.... The Hungarians imported into Circassia would be placed about the Prince; the more capable would be intrusted with the important posts.... Capt. Franchini assured me that Russia required nothing more than apparent submission; ... the marks of Imperial favor, money and Russian orders would do the rest....

"The 22d of September, 1856, Ismail Pasha recommended me to engage for Circassia several hundred Poles who were barracked in Scutari, and who had formed part of the legion under Zamoyski.... This proposal did not agree with our plans, but it was difficult to reject it.... I had formerly known M. Lapinski, who had served with distinction in Hungary.... He was living at Scutari.... We agreed with Gen. Stein that the best plan would be to engage Col. Lapinski, who had absolute confidence in me.... On Sept. 24 I notified in writing to Col. Lapinski that he was called upon by the Circassian patriots to form a Polish corps in Circassia. The Colonel, in reply, demanded arms and equipments for 700 Poles.... We afterward consulted together—Gen. Stein, Türr, Franchini and myself[f]—and it was decided that Türr should proceed to England to purchase tools and machines for making cartridges, but that he would delay sending any arms. We wanted to be sure of the Poles before we gave them any arms.... The serious remonstrances of Col. Lapinski ... obliged me to hurry the departure, although I had not the means of taking with me the Hungarian officers I had engaged.... In the month of January, 1857, I received letters and instructions from Kossuth and from my other political friends. My plan was approved.... A short time before my departure an apparent coolness was simulated between me and Gen. Stein. I still wanted to delay my departure to render possible that of a few Hungarians with me, but Capt. Franchini declared that there was not a day to be lost[f], because the expedition had become the talk of all Constantinople, and if the Russian Embassy did not interfere it might be accused of complicity[f]. On the 15th of February Col. Lapinski embarked on board the English steamer Kangaroo. I embarked also.... On my arrival at Dob (Kabardinsk of the Russians) I addressed letters to Sefer Pasha, to the Naïb[g] and to the other chiefs of the tribes; and in those letters 1 announced myself as sent by his Imperial Majesty the Sultan to command the military forces of Circassia.... The conduct of Col. Lapinski was not very reassuring for me.... A few weeks after the arrival of the Polish detachment at Shepsohour (Fort Tenginsk of the Russians), the residence of Sefer Pasha, Mr. Römer arrived at Dob with the brig laden with arms and ammunition which we had left in the Bosphorus.... The irruption of the Russians by Attakum, in the month of May, brought together thousands of Circassian warriors from all parts of the country. For the first time the Circassians saw artillery of their own attacking with advantage the Russian artillery. This engagement, of little consequence in itself, gave importance to the Polish detachment and to me.... I took advantage of this disposition of the people to act my part; I presented myself in public as the Envoy of the Sultan[h]; I exacted obedience.... I afterward learned that Col. Lapinski was working with all his might to upset my plans.... I endeavored to gain partisans among the officers and men of his detachment, and the situation of the corps being precarious, I attributed this to the fault of their commander.... The capture by a Russian vessel of a few sandals, in the ports of Sudjak and Ghelendjeek, gave me an occasion to remove the Colonel to a distance from the seat of war, near Attakum, and to isolate him completely.... A few days later I received from Col. Lapinski a letter, by which he announced that there were no troops at Ghelendjeek, and that his position was not tenable.... I went myself to Ghelendjeek, and on the spot Col. Lapinski represented to me the danger of his position and the imminence of an- attack from the Russians. Nine days afterward his prediction was realized....

"The agitation which I kept up among the officers and soldiers at Aderbi, during and after the catastrophe at Ghelendjeek, was simply the consequence of the resolution which I had taken to sow discord between the detachment and Col. Lapinski.... Through emissaries I was circulating among the Circassians reports that he had sold the guns to the Russians.... I allowed myself to be taken in by the simulated sincerity of the Colonel, who was observing me with greater vigilance than ever....

"In conformity with my instructions I was to form relations with the Russian General[i]. ... My anonymous letter, which is actually in the hands of the Commission, was to be the introduction to a regular correspondence, but by the stupidity of the Russian commander it has fallen into your hands....

"All of a sudden Col. Lapinski threw off the mask, and abruptly declared to me at Sefer Pasha's that he did not recognize me either as his superior or as military commandant in Circassia, broke off all intercourse with me, ... addressed also a general order in this sense to the Polish detachment. I tried to depose him by another order of the day addressed to the soldiers, hut my efforts were vain....

Mohammed Bey."

[No. 5.]—Letter of John Bangya to General Philipson.

"Would it not be in the interest of Russia to pacify Circassia? It might be possible to conquer the plains of Circassia momentarily by dint of enormous sacrifices, but the mountains and natural fastnesses will never be conquered. The Russian guns have lost their influence. The Circassian artillery will reply to the Russian with satisfactory results. The Circassians are not what they were five years ago; supported by a small regular force, they fight as well as the Russian troops, and for their religion and their country they will fight to the last man. Would it not be better to allow the Circassians a sort of mock liberty? to place Circassia under a national prince, and take this prince under the protection of the Russian Czar? In a word, to make of Circassia another Georgia, or something of the kind? Once Circassia intimately allied to Russia, the roads of Anatolia and of India are open to the Russians. Sapienti sat[j]. It might be possible to open negotiations on this basis. Reflect and answer."

[No. 6.]—Sentence, January 20, 1858.

"After the reading of the confession of Col. Mohammed Bey, read at the sittings of the 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 11th of January; after having heard the depositions of the witnesses at the sitting of the 9th of January, the Court-Martial declares, at the sitting of this day, Mohammed Bey, by his confession and by the depositions of the witnesses, convicted of treachery to the country, and secret correspondence with the enemy; declares him infamous, deprived of his rank in this country, and condemns him to death—unanimously.

"Signed:Jacob Beckert, soldier; Philipp Terteltaub, bombardier; Mathias Bedneizek, sergeant; Otto Linovski, gunner; Franz Stock, sub-lieutenant; Anton Krysciewicz, sub-lieutenant; Michael Marecki, lieutenant; Leon Zawadski, gunner; Stanislas Tanckowski, lance-corporal; John Hamaniski, sergeant; Alexander Michicki, sergeant-major; Casimir Wystocki, sub-lieutenant; Josef Aranoski, lieutenant; Peter Stankiewicz, captain; Theophil Lapinski, colonel."

To the above documents we have merely to add that Sefer Pasha was loth to have the sentence of death executed upon a man who held the rank of Colonel in the Sultan's army, and that he consequently had him escorted to Trebizond. The Hungarians in Constantinople declared Mohammed Bey's treachery to be a pure calumny, but the Polish officers at once protested against this assertion and threatened an eventual publication of the documents relating to this affair. We now publish them, in extract, as they form by far the most interesting contribution to the history of the Circassian war.

With regard to the conduct of the Russian Embassy during this affair, we may add the following facts: It was generally known in Constantinople that the Kangaroo was chartered to take troops and stores to Circassia. The Russian Embassy, however, did not drop one word with respect to that expedition to the Porte: but the very day the Kangaroo got clear of the Bosphorus, the Russian Embassador[k] addressed a protest to the Porte, and caused an inquiry to be made to discover the promoters of the expedition. They strained every nerve to implicate Count Zamoyski, who was at Constantinople at the time; but they signally failed in this. Then, on the ostensible demand of Russia, Gen. Stein and Ismail Pasha were sent into exile for having been mixed up with the affair. After a banishment of some months, on the occasion of a festal day in the Russian Imperial family, at the request again of the Russian Embassy, Gen. Stein and Ismail Pasha were allowed to return to Constantinople.

Critical remarks on the documents were written on May 18, 1858
First published unsigned in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5352, June 16, 1858;
Reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1363, June 18, 1858
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[*] By this he alludes to the Bangya family No. 3. He has one wife living in Hungary and another in Paris, beside the Islamic family he has in Constantinople.
[This footnote is missing in The Free Press. It is not established whether it belongs to Marx or the NYDT editors.—Ed.

[a] The Crimean war of 1853-56.—Ed.

[b] See this volume, pp. 236-37.—Ed.

[c] Here and below Marx used the material from The Free Press, No. 16, May 12, 1858, pp. 121-25.—Ed.

[d] Alexander II.—Ed.

[e] Marx also used "Extract from the Minutes of the Council of War, held at Aderbi" and especially "Confession of Bangya" in his Herr Vogt (see present edition, Vol. 17).—Ed.

[f] Italics by Marx.—Ed.

[g] Mohammed-Amin.—Ed.

[h] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[i] G. I. Philipson.—Ed.

[j] Enough for the wise. Terence, Phormio, III, 3, 8.—Ed.

[k] A. P. Butenev.—Ed.

[551] Marx informed Engels about the response to his article among the Hungarian émigrés in the USA in his letter of July 2, 1858 (see present edition, Vol. 40, p. 324).

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15 (pp.539-545), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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