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Austria, Prussia and Germany in the War

Karl Marx

Vienna, May 10, 1859

The impatience and disappointment of the Vienna public at the slow-coach pace at which the war, seemingly commenced in so bold a manner, is dragging on, has induced the Government to put on all the walls of the metropolis the following placard:

"The probability, that all the news published in the Austrian papers in regard to the movements of the Imperial army should become known within some hours to the enemy and enable him to turn them to his profit, imposes upon us the duty of observing the utmost caution in all such communications to the public. The latest news is to this effect, that the Imperial army has taken up a position between the Po and Sesia, which may serve as a basis for offensive movements. It is possessed of all passages over the Sesia, and although the still continuing rise of the Po prevents any decisive movement to the right bank of the river, the ground between Ponte Curone and Voghera remains occupied by important detachments of the army; at the same time the railway bridge near Valenza has been demolished by us."[a]

The Government regards, of course, with some dismay, the movements in the smaller Italian States. The following statement of their military forces has been printed at the War Office:

Tuscany—Four infantry regiments of the line—each regiment consisting of two battalions, each battalion of six companies, 6,833 men; one battalion of riflemen, six companies, 780 men; one battalion of insular riflemen, 780 men; battalions of volunteer jägers, 2,115 men; one battalion of veterans, 320 men; one penal division, 150 men; two squadrons of dragoons, 360 horses; one regiment of artillery, 8 batteries, with six pieces each; one battalion of coast artillery, 2,218 men; one regiment of gensdarmes, 1,800 men. This gives, with the respective staffs, engineers, mariners, etc., 15,769 men.

Parma—Gardes du corps, hallebardiers, guides, 179 men; two battalions of the line, one battalion of jägers, 3,254 men; one company of artillery, 84 men; engineers, 14 men; gensdarmes, four companies, 417 men; with the staffs, commanders, schools, companies of working-men, 4,294 men.

Modena—Four regiments of the line, each one battalion only, 4,880 men; one company of jägers, 120 men; three companies of dragoons, 300 men; one field battery, with six pieces, 150 men; one coast battery, with 12 pieces, 250 men; one working company, 130 men; one company of pioneers, 200 men; beside some veterans, hallebardiers, etc., altogether 7,594 men.

San Marino—The little Republic musters 800 strong.

Rome—Two regiments of Swiss infantry (third regiment now forming), 1,862 men; two Italian regiments, of the same force; two sedentary battalions (a curious sort this of warriors), 1,200 men; one regiment of dragoons, 670 men and horses; one regiment of artillery, with seven batteries and four pieces, 802 men; gensdarmes, 4,323 men, with staffs, engineers, etc., 15,255 men.

Naples and Sicily—4 Swiss regiments, 2 Neapolitan grenadier regiments of the guard, 6 regiments of grenadiers, 13 regiments of infantry, 1 regiment of carabineers, with the dépôt companies, amounting altogether to 57,096 men; 12 battalions of jägers, 14,976, and with the dépôt companies, 16,740; 9 regiments of cavalry, 2 regiments of heavy dragoons, 3 regiments of dragoons, 1 regiment of carabineers, 2 regiments of lancers, 1 regiment of mounted jägers—8,415 men and horses; two regiments of artillery, each consisting of 2 field and 1 siege battalion, or 16 field batteries, with 128 pieces, and 12 siege companies—altogether, train included, 52,000 men. If the hallebardiers, engineers, guides, gardes du corps, &c., are added, we get at an aggregate force of 130,307 men.

The Neapolitan fleet consists of two line-of-battle ships, with 80 and 84 guns; fifty sailing frigates, twelve steam frigates, each with 10 guns; two sailing corvettes, four steam corvettes, two sailing goélettes, eleven smaller steamers, ten mortar-boats and eighteen cannon-boats.

The events in Tuscany were, in fact, more or less anticipated by the Austrian Government, and may, to a certain degree, be said to have entered into its calculations; but what fills it with real apprehension is, the cool, vacillating, and anything but friendly attitude assumed by the Prussian Government. The Prussian Government is arming because forced to do so by public clamor, but simultaneously it paralyzes, so to say, its armaments by its diplomatic movements. You know that the present Prussian Ministry, and especially von Schleinitz, the Foreign Minister, belong to what is called in Germany the Gotha party[268], a party which flatters itself with the delusion that the wreck of Austria might enable Prussia to form a new Germany under Hohenzollern auspices. This party listens with affected credulity to Bonapartist diplomacy assuring it that the war is to be "localised" in Italy, and that the formation of a French corps of observation at Nancy under Pélissier's command means nothing beyond a little flattery to that "illustrious warrior"[b]. I may remark en passant, that the same number of the Moniteur which contains this comfortable doctrine, publishes an imperial order for the erection of a statue of Humboldt at Paris[c], a maneuver showing at all events that Bonaparte thinks it no more difficult to buy the Gotha party by statues than to buy the French Zouaves by sausages[269]. This much is sure, that the Austrian Plenipotentiary at the German Diet at Frankfort[d] has proposed a motion calling upon the Confederation to declare whether its own security is not endangered by the participation of Bonaparte in the Italian struggle; but the Diet has till now abstained from answering the question in consequence of Prussian intrigues. Prussia may be right in protesting against being dictated to by a majority of the diminutive German Landesväter, but then it was her duty to take the initiative and herself propose the measures indispensable for the defense of Germany. So far she has followed quite the contrary course. On April 29, she addressed a circular to the different members of the Confederation, which, in a rather imperious way, preaches to them reserve and caution[e]. In answer to this missive the Governments of Southern Germany have, in very impressive language, reminded the Berlin Cabinet of the Roman adage, "Caveant consules ne quid respublica detrimenti capiat."[270]

They have said that in their conviction the moment of serious danger for the security of Germany had already set in, and that the do-nothing time was decidedly gone by. The Prussian Ministry finds within its own dominions allies of very different feather. Beside the Gotha party itself, there is first the Russian party, which preaches neutrality. Then there is the very influential party, represented by the Cologne Gazette[f], of bankers, stock-jobbers and Crédit-Mobilier men, who by their material interests are subjected to the Credit Mobilier at Paris, and consequently to Bonapartism. There is, finally, the pseudo-democratic party, which affects to be so exasperated by Austrian brutality, as to discern liberalism on the part of the hero of December. I may state that some members of the last mentioned party have positively been bought by napoléons d'or, and that the great manager of this trade in consciences resides in Switzerland, being himself not only a German, but an ex-member of the German National Assembly of 1848, and an outrageous Radical[271]. You understand that under these circumstances any anti-neutrality manifestation in Prussia is eagerly watched at this place, and that a short manifesto of Herr Friedrich von Raumer, the Prussian historian of the crusades, which is headed the "Standpoint of Prussia", and openly combats the Gotha party theory, is made the most of[g] From the following extracts you may judge the tenor of the Raumer effusion:

"It has been asserted by a certain party that Prussia ought to preserve the fullest independence, and not allow herself to be carried away by events or by an impatient agitation, which intends forcing German policy into a false direction, and to premature measures. The Government, they say, ought to oppose these tendencies with iron determination; and, one of the great Powers of Germany being absorbed by the Italian war, the other German Powers ought to rally round Prussia as the natural center of Germanic politics.

"We feel unable to subject ourselves to those monitions, without scrutinizing their just value. At first, then, the talk of the fullest independence of Prussia is but an exaggeration. She has, on the contrary, justly looked around, interpellated, uttered wishes, warned, recommended; because, locked up between four powerful States, she cannot, in fact, pretend to full independence, but must have regard to her neighbors' acts, without, however, sacrificing her own true mission. Prussia has entered the rank of the great Powers, not by dint of her bulk, but by the movement of her mind, decision and energy. Lacking these conditions, she, as history has shown, will sink down to lower regions, to be neglected, if not domineered over by other Powers.

"For four months diplomacy tried its utmost against an adversary like Napoleon III; but effecting nothing at all it has proved a complete failure. Is it not natural, is it not praiseworthy, if, taught by bitter experience, and with a full appreciation of what is demanded by honor, duty and the interest of self-conservation, the Germans should begin to grow impatient, and decline any longer to consider fantastic clouds as solid rocks?

"How is it possible to cling unchangeably to the old standpoint, after all the essential circumstances have changed, and the most serious events have overcome us? Since nothing has been effected from the standpoint of mediation, is it not allowable to doubt whether it was just in the beginning, and whether it was not the greatest error to take up the same position between France and Austria which Prussia might occupy between France and Turkey? This pretended impartiality, without any leaning to the German side, has not won the French, but in Germany at large it has diminished confidence and estranged the public mind from Prussia.

"I repeat that without Germany Prussia cannot be a great Power in the long run. The proposal and advice to abandon Austria to her fate and to look to Prussia only, mean the ruin of Germany. In true Medean manner, Germany, which at last feels itself an indivisible unity, is to be cut to pieces and thrown into the witches' caldron, fully convinced that the cooks of diplomacy will take care to recompose and renovate her! We do not know anything more stupid, more unpatriotic, more dangerous, than the doctrine, openly preached and secretly smuggled in, of an Austrian Germany and a Prussian Germany; it is this damnable doctrine of a line of demarcation crossing and dismembering our fatherland which prevailed in 1805, and which produced 1806.[272]

"The interests of all Germany are at the same time Prussian interests, and in despite of all shortcomings, errors and misfortunes, Austria for centuries past, has always been the protector of Germany against Slays, Turks and Frenchmen. In a few weeks the Italian war must take a decided turn. Will Germany be prepared in a few weeks should Napoleon, stimulating France by the prospect of the natural frontiers of the left side of the Rhine, ask Prussia's consent to those frontiers, by virtue of the treaty of Basel?[273]

"What we have lacked till now is not caution but foresight. Events have overrun all expectants and made them forget the stern old proverb: 'Time lost everything lost.'"

Not to miss the post, I reserve for another opportunity some communications on the commercial panic and the popular movements of this gay and naïve city.

Written on May 10, 1859
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5647, May 27, 1859;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1462, May 31, 1859
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] From a government communication on the observance of military secrets, published in the Wiener Zeitung on May 9, 1859. See the Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 133, May 13, 1859.—Ed.

[b] Le Moniteur universel, No. 127, May 7, 1859.—Ed.

[c] Napoleon III's order of May 9, 1859 was published in Le Moniteur universel, No. 130, May 10, 1859.—Ed.

[d] Johann Bernhard Rechberg.—Ed.

[e] Prussia's circular letter to the states of the German Confederation of April 29, 1859, Neue Preussische Zeitung, No. 108, May 10, 1859.—Ed.

[f] Kölnische Zeitung.—Ed.

[g] F. Raumer's article "Der Standpunkt Preussens" was published in the Berlinische Nachrichten von Staats- und gelehrten Sachen on May 8, 1859, and was included with his other articles in the collection Zur Politik des Tages.—Ed.

[268] On June 26, 1849 the liberal deputies of the Frankfurt National Assembly, who had walked out after the Prussian King's refusal to accept the Imperial Crown, met in Gotha for a three-day conference which resulted in the formation of the so-called Gotha party. This party expressed the interests of the pro-Prussian German bourgeoisie and supported the policy of the Prussian ruling circles aimed at uniting Germany under the hegemony of Hohenzollern Prussia (see present edition, Vol. 11, p. 22).

[269] An allusion to the treating of soldiers to sausages during the military review in Satory (see Note 148↓).

[270] These words ("Let the consuls beware lest the Republic suffer harm") used to be addressed by the Roman Senate to the consuls in time of danger for the state; the meaning was that they were empowered to appoint a dictator.

[271] The reference is to Karl Vogt (for details about him see Marx's work Herr Vogt, present edition, Vol. 17).

[272] Marx is referring to Prussia's defeat at Jena and Auerstädt in 1806 (see also Note 102↓).

[273] The peace of Basle was concluded on April 5, 1795 separately between France and Prussia, the latter being a member of the first anti-French coalition. The treaty was the consequence of the French victories as well as of the differences between the members of the coalition, in particular between Prussia and Austria.

At the battle of Jena on October 14, 1806 the Prussians were routed by Napoleon I and this led to the capitulation of Prussia.

The battle of Austerlitz on December 2 (November 20), 1805 between the Russian and Austrian forces (the third coalition) and the French ended in a victory for Napoleon I.

At the battle of Wagram on July 5-6, 1809 Napoleon I won a decisive victory over the Austrians.

[148] On October 10, 1850 Louis Bonaparte, then President of the French Republic, held a general review of troops on the plain of Satory (near Versailles). During this review Bonaparte, who was preparing a coup d'état, treated the soldiers and officers to sausages in order to win their support.

[102] This refers to the battle of Jena on October 14, 1806, in which the Prussian troops were defeated by Napoleon's army. This resulted in Prussia's capitulation.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.310-314), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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