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The Peace

Karl Marx

It seems from the intelligence received by the Europa, that the Italian Confederation announced by Napoleon III as one of the bases of his Peace with Francis Joseph, is a thing of most vague and precarious proportions. So far, it is simply a notion to which Austria has consented, but which has still to be submitted to the Italian Governments. It does not appear that even Sardinia, whose King, by the way, was apparently not consulted in the conclusion of the Peace, has agreed to join it, though he must of course do as he is told; while there is a rumor that the Pope, the proposed honorary head of the Federation, has written to Louis Napoleon that he shall seek the protection of the Catholic Powers—rather a doubtful refuge just at this moment, when it is against France that he wants to be protected[a]. As for the lately banished Monarchs of Tuscany, Modena, and Parma, it appears that they are to be restored to their thrones; and, under such circumstances, they will no doubt be ready to join any Confederation that may be dictated to them. But of the King of Naples[b], now the only independent sovereign in Italy, we hear nothing whatever; and it is not impossible that he may refuse outright. Thus, it is yet a question whether there will be any Federation at all, and still more a question what will be its nature, should it succeed in getting itself formed.

An important fact, now first made certain, is that Austria retains all four of the great fortresses[c], the Mincio being made the western boundary of her territories. Thus she still holds the keys of Northern Italy, and can take advantage of any favorable emergency to regain what she has now had to abandon. This fact alone shows how utterly unfounded is Napoleon's pretense that he has virtually accomplished his purpose of driving Austria out of Italy. Indeed, it is not too much to say that if he has beaten Austria in the war, she has decidedly beaten him in concluding the peace. She has resigned simply what had been conquered from her, nothing more. France, at an expense of some hundred millions of dollars and the lives of some fifty thousand of her sons, has gained the control of Sardinia, much glory for her soldiers, and the renown of a very lucky and moderately successful General for her Emperor. For him it is much; for France, which has borne all the expense and suffered all the losses, it is little; and it is not surprising that there should be discontent in Paris.

The reason alleged by Napoleon for thus suddenly concluding the war is that it was assuming proportions incompatible with the interests of France. In other words, it was tending to become a revolutionary war, with an insurrection at Rome, and a rising in Hungary among its features. It is a curious fact that, just before the battle of Solferino, this same Napoleon actually urged Kossuth, who, at his invitation, had come to see him in the camp, to undertake a revolutionary diversion in favor of the Allies. Before that battle, then, he did not dread the dangers that terrified him immediately afterward. That circumstances alter cases is not a novel observation; but it is applicable in the present instance. However, it is needless to multiply evidence to prove that this man is as purely selfish as he is unscrupulous; and that, after having shed the blood of fifty thousand men to gratify his personal ambition, he is ready to forswear and abandon even the hypocrisy of every principle in the name of which he led them to the slaughter.

One of the first results of the present settlement, is the downfall of the Cavour ministry, which has had to quit office in Sardinia. Though one of the cleverest men in Italy, and not at all concerned in making the peace, Count Cavour could not stand before the public indignation and disappointment. It will probably be long before he rises to power again. And it will be long before Louis Napoleon can again delude even the sentimentalists and enthusiasts into regarding him as a champion of Freedom. The Italians will now hate him worse than all other representatives of tyranny and of treachery; and we need not be surprised if the knives of Italian assassins should again seek the life of the man, who, promising and pretending to be the conqueror of Italian independence, has, left Austria seated almost as firmly as ever on the neck of Italy.

Written on July 15, 1859
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5698, July 28, 1859 as a leading article;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1479, July 29, 1859
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] Pius IX's Encyclical Letter of June 18 to the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and Bishops in Communion with the Holy See, The Times, No. 23352, July 7, 1859.—Ed.

[b] Francis II.—Ed.

[c] Peschiera, Mantua, Verona and Legnago.—Ed.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.412-414), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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