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Another Strange Chapter of Modern History[10]

Karl Marx

London, Sept. 7, 1858

Some months ago I sent you a series of documents relating to the attempted betrayal of the Circassians by Mehemed Bey, alias Col. Bangya[a]. A new chapter has since been added to this strange episode of the Circassian war; declarations and counter declarations from the different parties involved giving rise, first, to serious feuds between the Hungarian and Polish emigrations at Constantinople, then to angry debates at the London headquarters of exiled Europe, as to the alleged complicity with Bangya of certain prominent personages. Fully aware of the interest attached by the revolutionary emigration of all shades and all nationalities to publications in the Tribune, I deliberately abstained from returning to the charge before the originals of some letters appearing in Constantinople papers, but the authenticity of which was afterward contested, had been shown to me, and before I had made sure of all the points at issue. However, I should consider it a breach of duty not to counteract the cowardly maneuvers - intended to burke all further inquiry, and to throw a vail of mystery over the whole affair. If there exist a portion of the revolutionary emigration who think fit to conspire with the Russian Cabinet, and to side even with such professional spies as Bangya, let them come forward and have the courage of their opinions.

You will recollect that Bangya's confession, and the other papers attached to it, were brought to Constantinople by Lieut. Stock of the Polish detachment in Circassia, bearer of dispatches from Col. Łapiński, his chief, and a member of the Military Commission which tried Bangya. Lieut. Stock stayed four months in Constantinople, to bear testimony to the truth of Łapiński's charges of treachery against Bangya, in case any judicial proceeding should be resorted to. In his confession, Bangya had identified Kossuth, Gen. Stein, Col. Türr, and the part of the Hungarian emigration, headed by Kossuth, with his own intrigues in Circassia. The Poles, at Constantinople, on receiving communication of the news and papers brought by Lieut. Stock, did not implicitly accept as true the charges made by Bangya against his countrymen, but distrusting their genuineness, resolved to keep the documents in their possession. While waiting for further news from Circassia, they limited themselves to the insertion in the Presse d'Orient of a short notice of the treason and condemnation of Mehemed Bey, alias Bangya. After the appearance of this paragraph they received visits from several Hungarians, amongst others from Col. Türr, who declared it to be an insult to himself, as a Hungarian, and to all the emigration. However, having read the papers which came from Circassia, Türr, after denials of a very unsatisfactory nature as to Bangya's assertions relating to his own complicity, exclaimed that Bangya ought to be hung, and begged that an emissary be sent to Sepher Pasha to press him to confirm and execute the sentence of the Commission. He was then allowed by the Poles to take with him a letter from Bangya exhorting his countrymen to abstain from all intervention in Circassia and from all intrigue against the Poles.

"As for our plans," says Bangya in this letter, "they are forever ruined, and I am at the mercy of Łapiński."[b]

The Poles, not content with communicating the papers after-ward printed in the Tribune, to Türr and other Hungarians, gave another unmistakable proof of their good faith. To ingratiate himself, after his condemnation to death, with his judges, by proving to them that he was ready to make a clean breast of all he knew, Bangya had revealed to Łapiński, the President of the Court Martial, all the history of the preparations of his countrymen against Austria. He told him the nature of their resources, the cities where they were forming arm-depots, and the names of the individuals in charge of them. The Poles at once informed the Hungarians of the danger which menaced them, showed them all the papers they had received on these matters, which have never been published, and to assure them that they would ever be kept secret, proposed that they should be sealed up in their presence with their own seals. These papers are still in existence, with the seals unbroken. Among the individuals who put on these seals are Türr, Tüköry (Selim Agha), Thalmayr (Emin Agha) and other chiefs of the Kalmár emigration at Constantinople who subsequently signed manifestoes[c] in vindication of Bangya.[11]

Shortly after Türr's interview with the Poles, there appeared in the lithographed correspondence of Havas at Paris a telegraphic dispatch to the following effect:

"A letter of Col. Türr, received at Marseilles, gives the lie to the assertions of the Presse d'Orient relating to the treason and condemnation of Col. Mehemed Bey."

This paragraph was reproduced in most of the European prints. At the same time some Hungarians produced letters from Circassia in the office of the Presse d'Orient stating that Mehemed Bey was free, and in continued relations with Sepher Pasha. Bangya was presented to the public as a martyr to the cause of liberty; Col. Łapiński was accused of forgery and other crimes, and the Poles at Constantinople were made to appear his accomplices. Even ridiculous attempts at intimidating the Poles were resorted to. It was only then that the latter gave publicity to Bangya's confession and the papers attached to it in the Tribune[d] and the London Free Press[e]. Meanwhile, Bangya arrived at Constantinople, and presented himself at the office of the Presse d'Orient. The editors of that journal told him that they had published the news concerning him because they had not the least reason to doubt its veracity, but that they were ready to rectify it, if he was able to bring irrefutable proofs of its falsehood. Bangya contented himself with answering that all was false, that he was the victim of an intrigue, and then narrated a mass of details which he was not interrogated upon, as to the events in Circassia. On the question how he, a Turkish officer, the Circassian Commander-in-Chief, could have written a letter evidently destined for the Russian General Philipson, a letter sufficient to prove all the accusations preferred against him, he contrived to slip this dangerous ground by negligently replying that he was preparing an answer to the confession falsely attributed to him. He ended the conversation by promising to answer in the journal the charges brought against him; a proposal accepted on the condition that his letter should contain no individual attacks. A French officer, a French priest and an Armenian publicist were present at this meeting, and declared themselves willing to bear witness before any tribunal. In a second interview, on the 25th of April, Bangya handed over to the editors of the Presse d'Orient his letter, which, contrary to the agreement, vilified Col. Łapiński and Ibrahim Bey, while taking care to suppress the name of Lieut. Stock, who, unfortunately, was still remaining at Constantinople. After some alterations, insisted upon by the editors, had been made in the letter, it appeared in the Presse d'Orient. Its principal points are these:

"I have been the victim of an infamous intrigue on the part of Ibrahim Bey and Mr. Łapiński. It was on the 31st December last, toward evening, that Ibrahim Bey sent for me to his house for a private conversation. I went unarmed. Hardly had I entered the room of Ibrahim Bey, where I found my enemies assembled, than I was arrested, and during the same night conducted toward Aderbi. Being in the power of my enemies, my life and that of my whole family ran the greatest danger; but for the menaces of the Circassians I should have been assassinated. But at last, on the 19th of March, the Circassian chiefs set me at liberty, and it was the turn of Łapiński, Ibrahim Bey and Sepher Pasha himself, to trouble and to ask my pardon for all the evil they had done me. One word from me would have sufficed to make their heads roll in the dust.... As to the seizure of papers which proved treason, or a council of Circassian chiefs and European officers, any condemnation whatever,... all these fine things are the inventions of the correspondent, agent and gossip of Mr. Łapiński.... The pretended historical memoir of which you have the copy under your eyes, is a romance fabricated in part at Constantinople by Mr. —, and revised by Mr. Łapiński. It is an intrigue prepared long since and combined since my departure for Circassia. This paper is destined to compromise an illustrious personage and to draw money from a great power."[f]

Some days after the insertion of this his letter in the Presse d'Orient, Bangya, from reasons best known to himself, with a cool impudence characteristic of the man, declared in the Journal de Constantinople that the editor of the Presse d'Orient had modified his letter in such a way as to disable him from acknowledging its authenticity. Now, I have seen the original letter, I know Bangya's handwriting, and I can bear witness that all the modifications complained of are simply the substitution of initials for names and the addition of some introductory lines in which the editors of the Presse d'Orient are complimented on the exactitude of their information. All Bangya wanted was to throw doubts into the public mind. Unable to utter anything further, he, as if re bene gesta[g], resolved to wrap himself up in the stubborn silence of persecuted virtue. Meanwhile there appeared two documents in the London papers—the one signed by the chiefs of the Hungarian emigration at Constantinople, the other by Col. Türr. In the former, the same men who had put their seals on the papers proving Bangya's guilt profess their belief that "Bangya will be able to justify himself," affect to "consider the affair of Mehemed Bey as an individual matter," and "as one devoid of all international character," while they stigmatize the friends of Col. Łapiński as "demons whose aim it is to sow discord between the two emigrations." Türr, who has, meanwhile, transformed himself into Achmet Kiamil Bey, declares in his letter:

"Hardly had I heard of the arrival of Mehemed Bey at Constantinople, when I went to see him, accompanied by Capt. Kabat (a Pole), and categorically inquired of him if the confessions contained in the memorandum which has been published in the newspapers were true. He replied that he had treacherously been arrested, and had been taken before a commission consisting of Poles, but that, after two sittings of this commission, M. Łapiński, the commander of eighty-two Poles in Circassia, had come to see him in his confinement, and had told him that all his confessions before the commission would be of no use; that to serve his (Łapiński's) plans it would be necessary for him (Mehemed Bey) to write with his own hand a memorandum, already written and arranged by Łapiński. He (Mehemed Bey) refused to write the first memorandum submitted to him, and which was the one the journals had published. Łapiński then modified it, and prepared a second, which he (Mehemed Bey) wrote and signed, under a threat to be shot, and thus to be disabled to defend himself against the accusations with which Łapiński was sure to stain his memory after his death. The original of this document has hitherto never been produced.

"After this declaration of Mehemed Bey, I am not in a position to know which of the two is the scoundrel."[h]

Now it will be seen at once that Türr asserts Bangya to have only signed his confession when compelled and menaced by Łapiński, while at the same time Bangya himself declares that his confession was fabricated at Constantinople, and even before his departure for Circassia.

All these maneuvers were at last put an end to by the arrival of letters of Sepher Pasha, and of a great number of Circassians. A deputation of the latter called on the editor of the Presse d'Orient, affirmed all the published details of Bangya's treachery, and declared themselves ready to bear testimony, by an oath on the Koran, to the truth of their assertions, before Bangya himself and any number of witnesses. Neither did Bangya dare to present himself before this tribunal of honor, nor did Türr, Tüköry, Kalmar, Veress and his other supporters, compel him to come forward and prove his innocence.

Still, during the Russian war, Mr. Thouvenel, the French Embassador, had written to Paris for information concerning Bangya, and learned that he was a spy at the service of whoever would pay him. Mr. Thouvenel applied for his removal from Anapa, but Bangya defended himself by testimonials from Kossuth. To the appeal to the fraternity of nations in the Hungarian manifesto, to which we have referred, the Poles were justified in answering as follows:

"You talk to us of the fraternity of nations; we have taught you that fraternity in the defiles of the Carpathians, on all the roads of Transylvania, in the plains of the Theiss and of the Danube. The Hungarian people will not have forgotten it, as forgot it those constitutionalists who, in 1848, voted millions of florins and thousands of men against Italy—as forgot it those republicans who, in 1849, were begging a king from Russia—as forgot it those chiefs of the State who, in the midst of a war for independence and liberty, were crying out to expel from the Hungarian territory all the Wallachian people—as forgot it those market-place orators in their peregrinations through America. Did he[i] at least tell the Americans—who paid him as they pay a Lola Montez or a Jenny Lind—did he tell them that he, the orator, was the first to leave his dying country, and that the last who abandoned that blood-stained land, just about to be covered with sorrows, was an old general, a hero and a Pole, Bem?"[j]

To complete our relation we add the following letter of Col. Łapiński:

Col. Łapiński to ... Pasha—.[Extract]

Aderbi, Circassia,—.

Sir: It is now nearly two years since I arrived here, yielding to your request and trusting to your word. I need not remind your Excellency how the latter has been kept. I have remained without arms, without clothes, without money, and even without a sufficiency of food.

All this, I trust, is not to be attributed to any ill-will on the part of your Excellency, but to other causes, and especially to your unfortunate connection with men who bear no interest to your country. During one year one of the most subtle of the Russian spies was forced upon me. With God's help I baffled his intrigues, showed him I knew him, and now I have him in my power. I entreat of your Excellency to break off all intercourse with the Hungarians; avoid especially Stein and Türr—they are Russian spies. The other Hungarians serve the Russians, partly unknowingly. Do not let yourself be deceived by any projects of manufactories, mines, and extensive commerce. Every half-penny thus laid out would be thrown into the street, and that is just whither tend all the efforts of M. Türr, who only wishes your money to be spent in such a way that it may do no good to your country and no harm to the Russians. What we require here is: a gunpowder manufactory, a machine for striking money, a little printing press, a mill for grinding flour, and arms, which are not only bad here, but twice as dear as at Constantinople; even the bad saddles of the country cost twice as much as the French military saddles. As to mines it is altogether childish to think of them. Here every half-penny must be spent for the defense of the country, and not employed in speculations. Employ all your means in training troops; then not only will you be contributing to the welfare of your country, but you will obtain personal influence for yourself. Do not waste your means in trying to gain a party. The state of the country appears tranquil at present, but it is in reality fatal. Sepher Pasha and Naib[k] are not yet reconciled, and that because the Russian spies prevent it. Do not regret the money you will spend in training troops here. It is the only money well spent. Do not think of cannons. Having been brought up in the artillery, I surely know their value. What I foretold before my departure, has happened. At first the Russians were surprised at the sound of them, now they laugh at them. Where I put two they put twenty; and if I have no regular troops to defend mine, the Russians will take them, as the Circassians do not know how to defend them, and we ourselves may be taken prisoners.

One last word. My men and myself are ready, Pasha, to devote ourselves to the defense of your country, and in eight months from hence I shall increase my detachment to 600 chasseurs, 260 horsemen, 260 artillery, if you send me what is necessary to equip and arm them.

If within two months I receive nothing, I shall embark and return to Turkey, and all the blame will rest upon you—not upon me or the Poles. I neither intend making use of nor deceiving the Circassians. If I cannot properly serve their cause and my own, I leave them.

I have sent Stock to Constantinople. It would be better for you to give him all you can, and send him back immediately. May God keep you under his protection. Put off nothing till the morrow, I beseech you. Lose not a moment; for dearly will you yourself pay for the time that is lost.


Written on September 7, 1858
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5436, September 23, 1858


[a] See the article "A Curious Piece of History" (present edition, Vol. 15).—Ed.

[b] Quoted from The Free Press, No. 20, August 25, 1858.—Ed.

[c] See the article "A Curious Piece of History" (present edition, Vol. 15).—Ed.

[d] "Recent Treachery in Circassia", The Free Press, No. 16, May 12, 1858.—Ed.

[e] "Charge of Hungarian Treachery", The Free Press, No. 3, June 3, 1858.—Ed.

[f] Bangya's letter, published in La Presse d'Orient on April 28, 1858, is quoted from The Free Press, No. 18, June 30, 1858.—Ed.

[g] Everything was all right.—Ed.

[h] "Charge of Hungarian Treachery", The Free Press, No. 18, June 5, 1858.—Ed.

[i] The reference is to Lajos Kossuth.—Ed.

[j] The Free Press, No. 20, August 25, 1858.—Ed.

[k] Mohammed-Amin.—Ed.

[l] The Free Press, No. 20, August 25, 1858.—Ed.

[10] This article is entered in the Notebook for 1858 as "7 Tuesday. Bangya".

[11] The reference is to the manifesto published in The Star on June 28, 1858 and signed by Majors Kalmár and Tüköry, and Veress, in which the Hungarian emigration at first doubted Bangya's guilt and then virtually dissociated themselves from him, considering this affair as Bangya's personal business, and called for unity and brotherhood between the Hungarians and Poles.

The manifesto was reprinted in The Free Press on June 30, 1858, and Marx presumably used this publication for his article.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.21-27), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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