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Debates in Parliament[10]

Karl Marx

London, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 1854

The military and naval estimates have been laid before Parliament. In the army, the total number of men asked for the current year is 112,977, an increase upon last year of 10,694. The total cost of the land forces for service at home and abroad, for the year ending on the 31st of March, 1855, exclusively of the Australian colonies, and of the charge transferred to the East India Company[11], is £3,923,288. The gross total amount is £4,877,925, which will provide for 5,719 officers, 9,956 non-commissioned officers, 126,925 rank and file. The naval estimates for the year ending March 31, 1855, show a total for the effective service of £5,979,866, an increase upon last year of £1,172,446. The charge for the conveyance of troops and ordnance stands at £225,050, an increase of £72,100. The grand total for the year amounts to £7,487,948. The force will consist of 41,000 seamen, 2,000 boys, 15,500 marines; the total, including 116 men in the picking service, 58,616.[a]

Mr. Layard had given notice that he should call attention to the Eastern question on last Friday evening, and he seized upon the very moment when the Speaker[b] was to leave the Chair, in order that the House might consider the navy estimates[12]. Shortly after 4 o'clock all the galleries were overcrowded, and at 5 o'clock the House was full. Two long hours, to the visible mortification of the members and the public, were killed with indifferent conversation on minor topics. So intensely excited was the curiosity of the honorables themselves that they delayed dinner till 8 o'clock, to assist at the opening of the great debate[c] —a rare occurrence, this, in the parliamentary life of the Commoners.

Mr. Layard, whose speech was continually interrupted by cheers, began by stating that the government had placed them in so extraordinary a position that they were at a loss to know how they really stood. Before they could vote the demanded advances, it was the duty of the government to state what their intentions were. But before asking [the] government what they were about to do, he wished to know what they had already done. He had said last year that if the government had adopted a tone more worthy of this country, they would not have been plunged into war; nor, after a careful perusal of the voluminous Blue Books lately issued[d], had he found cause to change his opinions. Comparing the contents of various dispatches on various sides, he argued that the Ministry had overlooked the most obvious facts, had misunderstood the most unmistakeable tendencies, and trusted to the most evidently fallacious assurances. Declaring that the tragedy of Sinope[e] impeached the honour of England and required ample explanation, he drew evidence from the published documents to show that the Admirals of the united fleets might have prevented the catastrophe, or that the Turks by themselves [might] have averted it, if it had not been for the timorous and vacillating instructions sent out by the British government. He inferred from their recent language that they would still treat on the basis of the status quo ante bellum[f], which presumed step he condemned. He called upon the government to do their duty, in the certainty that the people of England would do theirs.

Sir James Graham, with his notorious effrontery, answered him that they must either put their confidence in Ministers or turn them out. But "meanwhile don't let us potter over Blue Books." They had been deceived by Russia, who was an old and faithful ally of Great Britain, but "dark, malignant suspicions did not easily take root in generous minds." This old fox, Sir Robert Peel's "dirty little boy," the murderer of the Bandieras[13], was quite charming with his "generous mind" and his "slowness to suspect."

Then came Lord Jocelyn and Lord Dudley Stuart, whose speeches filled the papers the next day, but emptied the House on this evening. Mr. Roebuck next commenced by defending the ministers for their conduct in a delicate situation, but ended by declaring that it was now time for the ministry to declare clearly what they intended to do. Lord John Russell, on the plea of answering this question, rose, gave an apologetic recapitulation of the history of the late differences, and when he had convinced himself that this would not do, feigned to be willing to tell them "what they intended to do;" a thing he himself may not have been quite sure of. According to his statement they had entered into some vague sort of alliance with France, not by means of a treaty concluded, but of notes interchanged. England and France were now proposing to Turkey also a sort of treaty, by virtue of which the Porte should not sue for peace without their consent. They had been cruelly overcome by the incredible perfidy of the Czar. He (Russell) despaired of peace being preserved. They were likely to enter on war. He consequently wanted some £3,000,000 more than last year. Secrecy was the condition of success in war and therefore he could not tell them just now what they were to do in that war. As the latter, or theatrical part of his speech was performed with great force and with much moral indignation at the Czar "the butcher," the applause was immense, and the House, in their enthusiasm, were on the point of voting the estimates, when Mr. Disraeli interceded and succeeded in adjourning the discussion to Monday evening.

The debates were resumed yesterday evening[g] and only concluded at 2 o'clock, a.m.

First rose Mr. Cobden, promising to confine himself strictly to the practical question in hand. He took great pains to prove from the Blue Books, what was denied by nobody, that the French Government had originated "this melancholy dispute," by the mission of Mr. Lavalette respecting the Holy Places and the concessions it wrung from the Porte[14]. The French President, who, at that time, had some expectation of becoming Emperor, might have had some wish to make a little political capital by making these demands upon Turkey on behalf of the Latin Christians. The first movement of Russia, therefore, was traceable to the proceedings of France, in this matter. The non-signature of the Vienna note had been the fault of the allies, not of the Turkish government, because, if it had been threatened with the withdraw-al of the fleet from Besika Bay, the Porte would immediately have signed it. We were going to war because we insisted upon Turkey refusing to do that by a note to Russia which we intended to ask her to do for ourselves, viz: to give us a guarantee for the better treatment of the Christians. The vast majority of the population in the Ottoman Empire was looking with eagerness to the success of that very policy which Russia was now prosecuting (as now exemplified in Moldo-Wallachia). From the Blue Books themselves he could show that the evils and oppressions under which that Christian population lived, could not be tolerated referring principally to dispatches of Lord Clarendon, ostensibly written with the view to make out a case for the Czar. In one of these dispatches Lord Clarendon writes:

"The Porte must decide between the maintenance of an erroneous religious principle, and the loss of the sympathy and support of its allies."[h]

Mr. Cobden was therefore enabled to ask:

"Whether the House did think it possible that a population like the fanatical Mussulman population of Turkey would abandon its religion? And without total abandonment of the law of the Koran, it was absolutely impossible to put the Christians of Turkey upon an equality with the Turks."

We may as well ask Mr. Cobden whether with the existing State Church and laws of England, it is possible to put her working-men upon equality with the Cobdens and the Brights? Mr. Cobden proceeded then with a view to show from the letters of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and the British Consular agents, that there reigns a general dissatisfaction through the Christian population in Turkey threatening to end in a general insurrection. Now, let us again ask Mr. Cobden whether there does not exist a general dissatisfaction with their governments and their ruling classes, among all peoples of Europe, which discontent soon threatens to terminate with a general revolution? If Germany, Italy, France or even Great Britain had been invaded, like Turkey, by a foreign army, hostile to their governments and appealing to their insurrectionary passions, would any of these countries have as long remained quiet as the Christian population of Turkey have done?

In entering upon a war in defence of Turkey, Mr. Cobden concludes, England would be fighting for the domination of the Ottoman population of Turkey and against the interest of the great body of the people of that country. This is merely a religious question between the Russian army on the one side and the Turkish on the other. The British interests were all on the side of Russia. The extent of their trade with Russia was enormous. If the export trade to Russia amounted to only £2,000,000, this was but the transitory result from Russia still labouring under the Protectionist delusion. However their imports from Russia amounted to £13,000,000. With the exception of the United States, there was no one foreign country with which their trade was as important as with Russia. If England was going to war, why were they sending land forces to Turkey, instead of exclusively using their navy? If the time had come for the contest between Cossackism and Republicanism, why were Prussia, Austria, the rest of the German States, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark remaining neutral, while France and England had to fight single-handed? If this were a question of European importance, was it not to be supposed that those who were nearest to the danger would be the first to fight? Mr. Cobden concluded by declaring that "he was opposed to the war with Russia." He thought "the best thing was to fall back upon the Vienna note."

Lord John Manners considered that the Government were to blame for their supineness and false security. The communications originally made by Lord Clarendon to the governments of Russia, France and Turkey, in which, instead of acting in accordance with France, Lord Clarendon persisted in refusing so to cooperate, and made known to the government of Russia that England would not cooperate with France, had induced the Emperor of Russia to give Prince Menchikoff the orders which led to the whole catastrophe[i]. It was no wonder that when England at last announced her intention to interfere actually at Constantinople, the government of France should entertain some doubt as to the sincerity of Her Majesty's Government. It was not England that advised the Porte to reject Prince Menchikoff's ultimatum, but, on the contrary, the Ministers of the - Sultan[j] acted upon their own responsibility, and without any hope of the assistance of England. After the occupation of the Principalities by the Russians, the prolonged diplomatic negotiations of the British government had been very prejudicial to the interests of Turkey, and very serviceable to those of Russia. Russia had taken possession of the Principalities without a declaration of war, in order to prevent those treaties which were her real instruments of oppression toward Turkey from falling to the ground. Consequently, after Turkey had declared war, it was not wise to insist upon the renewal of these treaties as a basis of negotiation. The main question really in hand now was what were the objects which the Government contemplated in entering upon this tremendous struggle? It was generally announced that the honour and the independence of Turkey were to be maintained; but it was essential that there should be some understanding of a far more specific nature as to what was meant by this announcement.

Mr. Horsman endeavoured to refute the fallacies propounded by Mr. Cobden. The real question was not what Turkey is, but what Russia would become with Turkey absorbed in her dominions—a question whether the Emperor was to be Emperor also of Turkey? With Russia there was but one object recognized the advancement of the political power by war. Her aim was territorial aggrandizement. From the monstrous mendacity of the first step taken in this matter by the Russian Autocrat, down to the atrocious massacre of Sinope, his course had been one of ferocity and fraud, of crimes that would be conspicuous even in the annals of Russia, a country whose history was all crime, and which were rendered still more fearful by that blasphemy which dared to invoke the Christianity whose laws it so flagrantly violated. On the other hand, the conduct of the intended victim had been admirable. Mr. Horsman then took great pains to excuse the oscillating course of the government by the difficulties which they found their position surrounded with. Hence their diplomatic hesitation. If all the Cabinets of Europe, if the most experienced diplomatists had been engaged in opposition to the Autocrat, it would have been impossible to place him in a- position of greater difficulty and embarrassment and from which he could not extricate himself without difficulty and loss, than that in which either by the blunders of our own Ministers or the adroitness of his own, he was now placed. Six months ago the Emperor Nicholas was the chief supporter of the order and legitimacy of Europe; now he stood forward, unmasked as the greatest revolutionist. Foiled in his political intrigues, unsuccessful in the war in Asia, and well thrashed by the Turks on the Danube, the Czar had really shown alacrity in sinking which was quite refreshing. It was now the duty of the government, if hostilities should commence, to take care not to secure peace except upon such terms as would involve ample and certain security against any future repetition of similar aggression. He trusted that one of the conditions for the restoration of peace would be that Russia should indemnify Turkey for the expenses to which she had been put, and that Turkey should receive, as a material guarantee, the restoration of territories of which she had been deprived.

Mr. Drummond believed that we are going to engage in a religious war, and are about to enter into another crusade for the tomb of Godfrey of Bouillon, which is already so broken that it cannot be sat upon. It appears that the author of the mischief from the very beginning has been the Pope[k]. England had not the least interest in the Turkish question, and a war between this country and Russia could not be brought to a successful termination, because they will fight each other for ever and never do each other any harm.

"All that you will gain in the present war will be hard knocks."

Mr. Cobden had some time ago offered to crumple Russia up, and if he would do so now it would save them a world of trouble. In fact, the present dispute was, whether the milliners should come from Paris or from St. Petersburg to dress the idols of the Holy Sepulchre. They had now found out that Turkey was their ancient ally, and quite necessary to the balance of power of Europe. How in the world did it happen that they never found that out before they took the whole kingdom of Greece from her, and before they fought the battle of Navarino[15], which he remembered Lord St. Helens having described as a capital battle, only that they knocked down the wrong men. How came they not to think of this when the Russians passed the Balkans and when they might have given Turkey effectual aid by their fleet? But now, after they had reduced the Ottoman Empire to the last stage of decrepitude, they thought to be able to uphold this tottering power on the pretense of the balance of power. After some sarcastic remarks on the sudden enthusiasm for Bonaparte, Mr. Drummond asked who was to be Minister of War? All of them had seen enough to show them that there was a feeble hand at the helm. He did not believe that the character of any general or of any admiral was safe in the hands of the present Administration. They were capable of sacrificing either to please any faction in the House. If they were determined to go to war, they must strike their blow at the heart of Russia, and not go wasting their shots in the Black Sea. They must begin by proclaiming the reestablishment of the kingdom of Poland. Above all, he wanted to be informed what the government was about.

"The head of the government,"[l] said Mr. Drummond, "prides himself on his powers of concealment, and stated in another place that he should like to see any one extract information from him which he was not inclined to afford. That statement reminded him of a story which he heard once in Scotland—a Highlandman had gone to India, and on his return to England brought home a parrot as a present to his wife, which talked remarkably well. A neighbor, not wishing to be outdone, went to Edinburgh and brought his wife+ home a large owl. On its being remarked to him that the owl could never be taught to speak: 'Very true,' he replied; 'but consider the power o' thocht he has in him.'"

Mr. Butt stated that this was the first time since the revolution that a Ministry had come down to the House and asked for a war supply without stating distinctly and fully the grounds for such a proposition. In the legal sense of the word, they were not yet at war, and the House had a right to know, on voting these supplies, what was delaying the declaration of war against Russia? In what an equivocal position was their fleet at the Black Sea put! Admiral Dundas had orders to send back Russian vessels to a Russian port, and if, in the execution of these orders, he destroyed a Russian ship, while being at peace with Russia, were Ministers prepared to justify such a state of things? He hoped it would be explained whether assistance was to be given upon those humiliating terms that Turkey was to place herself in the hands of England and France in making peace with Russia? If that was to be the policy of England, then Parliament was now called upon to vote an additional force, not for the independence of Turkey, but for her subjugation. Mr. Butt betrayed some doubt whether Ministers were not merely making a parade of those military preparations for the purpose of arriving at a dishonourable peace.

Mr. S. Herbert, the Minister of War, made the most vulgar and silly speech that could possibly be expected even from a Coalition[16] Minister at such a momentous crisis. The government was placed between two fires, and they could not find any means of ascertaining what opinion the House itself really entertained upon the question. The honourable gentlemen opposite had the advantage of coming to facts; they were criticising the past; but the Government had no facts to deal with—they had only to speculate as to the future. They were inclined to embark in this war not so much for the purpose of defending Turkey as of opposing Russia. This was all the information the House could get from poor Mr. Herbert, "as to the future." But no; he told them something very new.

"Mr. Cobden is," according to Mr. Herbert, "the representative of the feeling of the largest class of the people of this country."

This assertion being denied in all parts of the House, Mr. Herbert proceeds to state:

"If not the largest class, the honorable member was a representative, at any rate, of a great portion of the working classes of this country."

Poor Mr. Herbert. It was quite refreshing to see Mr. Disraeli rise after him, and thus to have the babbler supplanted by a real debater.

Mr. Disraeli, alluding to the theatrical declamations with which Lord John Russell had terminated his speech on Friday evening, commenced with this statement:

"I have always been of opinion that any nation, and this one in particular, would be much more prepared and much more willing to bear the burdens which a state of warfare must induce and occasion, if they really knew for what they were going to war; than if they should be hurried into a contest by inflammatory appeals to the passions, and be carried' away by an excitement which at the first moment might be convenient to a Minister, but which in a few months after would be followed by the inevitable reaction of ignorance, or perhaps ignorance and disaster combined."

Thus it had been with the war of 1828-29, when they took part on the side of Russia and not on that of Turkey. The present perplexed position and the recent prostrate condition of Turkey were entirely to be ascribed to the events of that war, in which England and France were united against Turkey. At that time there was not a member of the House who really had any idea why they went to war, or what was the object they intended to accomplish, when they leveled a blow at the power of Turkey. Therefore they must clearly comprehend the cause and the object of the present war. This knowledge was only to be obtained from the Blue Books. What had been the origin of the present state of affairs they must learn from the words written in these very dispatches lying on the table. The policy there developed was preparing that future which, according to Ministers, alone was to absorb their attention. He protested, therefore, against the doctrine of Sir James Graham. Mr. Herbert had just protested against the reading of isolated pages from those dispatches. He however could not promise to read these Blue Books through to the House; yet if they admitted the validity of the right honourable gentleman's objection, this would seem to be the only course open to him. It was the received opinion of all that were well acquainted with the Eastern question, and his own opinion, that Russia had no intention whatever of forcibly conquering the Ottoman Empire; but that, by adroit policy and by improved means, she intended to obtain and to exercise such an influence over the Christian population of the Turkish Empire, that she would obtain all that authority which would have been the result of her possessing, perhaps, the seat of the Sultan's empire. At the outset of these negotiations Count Nesselrode himself, in his dispatches dated January, 1853, and June, 1853, distinctly and explicitly described the policy of Russia[m]. Ascendancy to be obtained over the Turkish Empire by exercising a peculiar influence over 12,000,000, who compose the large majority of the Sultan's subjects. By the Russian dispatches addressed to the British Government, not merely is that policy defined, but the British Government is no less candidly informed of the mode by which it is to be accomplished not by conquest, but by maintaining treaties that exist, and by extending the spirit of those treaties. Thus, from the very beginning of this important controversy, the base of the diplomatic campaign was found in a treaty the treaty of Kainardji[17]. By that treaty the Christian subjects of the Porte are placed under the especial protection of the Sultan; and Russia, in interpreting that treaty, states that the Christian subjects of the Sultan are placed specially under the protection of the Czar. Under the same treaty representations may be made by Russia in favor of her new church—a building in the street called Bey Oglu the Russian interpretation of that article of the treaty is, that Russia has the power of interfering in favor of every church of the Greek denomination, and, of course, in favor of all the communities of that faith in the Sultan's dominions, who happen to be the large majority of his subjects. This was the avowed Russian interpretation of the treaty of Kainardji. On the other hand they might see, from a dispatch of the 8th of January, 1853, from Sir Hamilton Seymour, that Count Nesselrode informed Sir Hamilton, who informed Lord Clarendon,

"that it was necessary that the diplomacy of Russia should be supported by a demonstration of force."[n]

According to this same dispatch, Count Nesselrode's belief that this question would be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, rested upon the

"exertions which were to be made by Her Majesty's Ministers at Paris and Constantinople."

Russia, then, at once declared that the demonstration of force was only a demonstration; but that the object was to be peaceably attained by the exertions of the English Ministers at Paris and Constantinople.[o]

"Now, Sir," continued Mr. Disraeli, "I want to know, with that object expressed, with those -means detailed, and with that diplomacy to deal with, how the Ministers encountered such a combination?"

It was unnecessary to touch on the question of the Holy Places. That was, in fact, soon settled at Constantinople. Even Count Nesselrode, at a very early period of these negotiations, expressed his surprise and satisfaction, and stated his acknowledgment of the conciliatory spirit of France. But ail that time the forces of Russia were accumulating on the Turkish frontiers, and all that time Count Nesselrode was telling Lord Clarendon that his Government would ask an equivalent for the privileges which the Greek Church had lost at Jerusalem, but in the settlement of which his Government had not been disturbed. Even the mission of Prince Menchikoff was mentioned at that time, as proved by various dispatches from Sir Hamilton Seymour. Lord John Russell had told them the other night that the conduct of Count Nesselrode was fraudulent. On the other hand Lord John Russell confessed himself that Count Nesselrode kept saying that his Imperial master would ask an equivalent for the Greek Church; but on the other he complained that Count Nesselrode never told them what he wanted.

"Wicked Count Nesselrode! (Laughter.) Fraudulent duplicity of Russian statesmen! (Laughter.) Why could the noble Lord not find the information he wanted? Why is Sir Hamilton Seymour at St. Petersburg, if he is not to ask for the information that is desired?"

If Count Nesselrode never told him what he wanted, it was because the noble Lord never dared to ask. At this stage of the proceedings it was the duty of the Ministers to put categorical questions to the Cabinet of St. Petersburg. If they could not define what they wanted, then it was time to declare that the friendly offices of the British Government at Paris and Constantinople were to cease. When Lord John Russell had relinquished the seals of office, and was followed by Lord Clarendon, there was a different character in the diplomatic proceedings a bias in favour of Russia. When Lord Clarendon was made Minister of Foreign Affairs he had to draw up instructions for Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, the Queen's Embassador, repairing to the seat of action. Now what were these instructions? At the moment of her utmost need and her utmost exigency, Turkey is lectured about internal reform and commercial reform. It is intimated to her that the conduct of the Porte- must be distinguished by the utmost moderation and prudence, viz: that it must comply with the demands of Russia. Meanwhile the government continued not to demand an explicit explanation of what was meant on the part of Russia. Prince Menchikoff arrived at Constantinople. After having received most agitating missives from Col. Rose, and warning dispatches from Sir Hamilton Seymour, Lord Clarendon in a letter to Lord Cowley, the British Embassador at Paris, denounced Colonel Rose's order in calling up the British fleet, regretted the order given to the French Admiral[p] to sail to the Greek waters, favoring France with contemptuous dogma,

"that a policy of suspicion is neither wise nor safe,"

and declared he placed full reliance on the Emperor of Russia's solemn assurances that he would uphold the Turkish Empire[q]. Then Lord Clarendon writes to his Embassador at Constantinople[r], that he feels quite sure that the objects of Prince Menchikoff's mission,

"whatever they may be, do not expose to danger the authority of the Sultan, or the integrity of his dominions."

Aye! Lord Clarendon went out of his way to accuse their solitary ally in Europe, and stated that their only grounds for now apprehending embarrassment in the East, was the position for some time occupied by France with respect to the Holy Places. Accordingly Count Nesselrode complimented Lord Aberdeen upon the beau rôle[s] (translated in the Blue Book "important role")[t] that he had played, by having left France "isolée." On the 1st of April, Colonel Rose informed this country of the secret convention which Russia demanded from Turkey[18]. Only ten days after Lord Stratford arrived at Constantinople and confirmed everything that Colonel Rose had stated. After all this, on the 16th of May, Lord Clarendon writes to Sir H. Seymour,

"that the explanations offered by the Emperor of Russia," explanations not contained in the Blue Books, "had enabled them to disregard, instead of sharing, in the apprehensions which the proceedings of Prince Menchikoff, coupled with the military preparations in the south of Russia, had not unnaturally produced throughout Europe."

After this Count Nesselrode felt free to announce t to Lord Clarendon, on the 20th of June, that they had occupied .the Principalities. In that document Count Nesselrode states

"that the Emperor will occupy the Provinces as a deposit until satisfaction; that in acting as he has done, he has remained faithful to his declarations to the English Government; that in communicating with the Cabinet of London as to the military preparations coincident with the opening of negotiations, he did not conceal from it that the time might yet come when he should be obliged to have recourse to them, complimenting the English Government on the friendly intentions it had shown; contrasting its conduct with that of France, and laying all the blame of Prince Menchikoff's subsequent failures on Lord Stratford."[19]

After all this, on the 4th of July, Lord Clarendon writes a circular, in which he still hopes in the justice and moderation of the Emperor, referring to the Emperor's repeated declaration that he would respect the integrity of the Turkish Empire. On the 18th of July he writes to Lord Stratford, that

"France and England, if they set to work in earnest, might certainly cripple Russia, but Turkey meanwhile might be retrievably ruined,' and peaceful negotiations are the only course to pursue."[20]

Why? If that was a good argument then; it is a good argument now. Either the Government were influenced by a degree of confidence which assumed a morbid character of credulity, or they were influenced by connivance. The cause of the war had been the conduct of the negotiations during the last seven months upon the part of her Majesty's Government. If they had been influenced by credulity, Russia, by her perfidious conduct, may have precipitated a struggle which, perhaps, will be inevitable, and a struggle which might secure the independence of Europe, the safety of England, and the safety of civilization. If their conduct had been suggested by connivance, a timorous war, a vacillating war, a war with no results, or rather with the exact results which were originally intended. On the 25th of April Lord Clarendon had made the false statement in the House of Lords that the Menchikoff mission was to arrange disputes with respect to the Holy Places, although he knew the contrary to be true. Mr. Disraeli next briefly traced the history of the Vienna note to show the utter imbecility of the Ministry or their connivance with the Court of St. Petersburg. He came then to the third period, the period of the interval that took place between the failure of the Vienna note and the battle of Sinope. At that time Mr. Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, spoke in a public assembly in the most depreciating tone with respect to Turkey. And so did the semi-official papers. What changed the aspect and fortunes of Turkey, and gave a new tone to the Cabinet, was the energies of the Turks themselves. But no sooner was the battle of Oltenitza[21] fought than the policy of credulity, or the policy of connivance, was at its dirty work again. However, the slaughter of Sinope operated again in the favor of the Turks. The fleets were ordered to enter the Black Sea. But what did they do? Return to the Bosphorus! As to the future, Lord John Russell had been very vague in the description of the conditions of their alliance with France. Mr. Disraeli disclaimed confounding the maintenance of the balance of power with the maintenance of the present territorial distribution of Europe. The future of Italy mainly depended upon the appreciation of that truth.

After Mr. Disraeli's splendid speech, of which I have, of course, only given the outlines, Lord Palmerston rose and made a complete failure. He repeated part of the speech he had made at the close of the last session[u], defended in a very inconclusive manner the ministerial policy, and was anxiously cautious not to drop one word of new information.

On the motion of Sir J. Graham certain votes for the Navy estimates were then agreed to without discussion.

After all, the most curious feature of these agitated debates is, that the House completely failed in wresting from the Ministers either a formal declaration of war with Russia, or a description of the objects for which they are to plunge into war. The House and the public know no more than they knew already. They have got no new information at all.

Written on February 21, 1854 Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4022, March 9;
Reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 917, March 10, 1854
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] Marx took these figures from the leading articles in The Times, Nos. 21668 and 21669, February 18 and 20, 1854.—Ed.

[b] Charles Shaw-Lefevre.—Ed.

[c] The debates in the House of Commons on February 17 and 20, 1854 are reported according to The Times, Nos. 21668 and 21670, February 18 and 21, 1854.—Ed.

[d] The reference is to Correspondence Respecting the Rights and Privileges of the Latin and Greek Churches in Turkey, the first issues of which appeared at the beginning of 1854.—Ed.

[e] This refers to the naval battle of Sinope (Black Sea) on November 30 (18), 1853 between Russian and Turkish squadrons during the Crimean War. The Turks were defeated.—Ed.

[f] The state before the war.—Ed.

[g] February 20, 1854.—Ed.

[h] The Earl of Clarendon to Stratford de Redcliffe, June 24, 1853, The Times, No. 21670, February 21, 1854.—Ed.

[i] On Menshikov's mission see Marx's article "Affairs in Holland.—Denmark.—Conversion of the British Debt.—India, Turkey and Russia" (present edition, Vol. 12).—Ed.

[j] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[k] Pius IX.—Ed.

[l] Lord Aberdeen.—Ed.

[m] The reference is to the dispatches of Count Nesselrode to the Russian envoy in England Baron Brunnow dated January 14 and June 1, 1853; they were communicated to the British Foreign Secretaries: Russell on January 24, and Clarendon, his successor, on June 8, 1853. The text of the dispatches was published in Correspondence..., Part I, pp. 61-65 and 238-45.—Ed.

[n] Here and below Marx quotes from Sir Hamilton Seymour's dispatch of January 8, 1853 according to Disraeli's speech published in The Times, No. 21670, February 21, 1854 which greatly differs from the text in Correspondence..., Part I, p. 57.—Ed.

[o] Lord Cowley and Stratford de Redcliffe.—Ed.

[p] Hamelin.—Ed.

[q] The Earl of Clarendon to Lord Cowley. March 22, 1853.—Ed.

[r] This is obviously a mistake; the reference is to the letter of Lord Clarendon to the British Ambassador at St. Petersburg, Sir Hamilton Seymour, dated March 23, 1853.—Ed.

[s] Honourable role.—Ed.

[t] Count Nesselrode's dispatch to Brunnow dated April 7, 1853; its content was communicated to Lord Clarendon on April 15, 1853.—Ed.

[u] Lord Palmerston's speech in the House of Commons on August 20, 1853. The Times, No. 21513, August 22, 1853.—Ed.

[10] The article "Debates in Parliament" is dated February 21, 1854, which coincides with the date of its dispatch from London to New York entered in the Notebook. Eleanor Marx included this article in an abridged form in The Eastern Question.

[11] The British East India Company was founded at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It enjoyed a monopoly of trade with the East Indies and played a decisive part in the establishment of the British colonial empire.

[12] In accordance with the procedure adopted in the British Parliament, when certain important questions are to be discussed the House of Commons declares itself a Committee of the whole House, which is tantamount to a closed sitting. The Chairman of the Committee at such sittings is one of a list of chairmen, and is specially appointed by the Speaker for the given sitting; when discussing important questions covering state expenditures the House of Commons assembles as the Committee of Ways and Means.

[13] In 1844, on the order of Sir James Graham, the British Home Secretary, the letters of the Bandiera brothers to Mazzini containing the plan of their expedition to Calabria were opened. The participants in the expedition were arrested, and the Bandieras executed.

[14] In May 1851 the French Ambassador Lavalette arrived in Constantinople and delivered to the Sultan the demands of the French President Louis Napoleon that all the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church in Jerusalem be observed. By his firman (edict) of February 9, 1852 the Sultan recognised France's rights to protect the Catholic Church as defined in a number of previous Franco-Turkish treaties.

[15] The battle of Navarino took place on October 20, 1827 between the Turko-Egyptian fleet and the British, French and Russian squadrons, under the English Vice-Admiral Edward Codrington, which were sent to the Greek waters by the European powers for the purpose of armed mediation in the war between Turkey and the Greek insurgents. The battle began when the Turkish command refused to stop the massacre of the Greek population; it ended in the defeat of the Turko-Egyptian fleet and hastened the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-29, in which Russia was victorious.

[16] The reference is to John Aberdeen's Coalition Ministry of 1852-55 (the Cabinet of All the Talents), which consisted of Whigs, Peelites and representatives of a faction of Irish Members.

[17] The treaty of Kuchuk-Kainardji was concluded between Russia and Turkey on July 21, 1774. Russia got territories on the northern shore of the Black Sea between the South Bug and the Dnieper with the fortress of Kinburn, and also Azov, Kerch and Yenikale and secured recognition of the Crimea's independence. Russian merchantmen were granted the right of free passage through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. The treaty obliged the Sultan to grant a number of privileges to the Orthodox Church; Article 14 in particular provided for the building of an Orthodox Church in Constantinople.

[18] The reference is to the documents sent by Colonel Rose to London and published in Correspondence respecting the Rights and Privileges of the Latin and Greek Churches in Turkey. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty, London, 1854, Part I, pp. 112-15.

[19] Disraeli's speech contained several inaccuracies, viz.: Count Nesselrode's dispatch to Brunnow was dated June 1 (May 20) and not June 20, 1853, its contents were communicated to Lord Clarendon on June 8; the quotation only partly coincides with the dispatch, and the end of it was apparently taken by Disraeli from Clarendon's letter to the English Ambassador to Vienna, the Earl of Westmorland, of July 4, 1853 (see Correspondence..., Part I, pp. 321-22).

[20] The reference is to Lord Clarendon's letters to the Earl of Westmorland of July 4 and to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe of July 28 (The Times mistakenly gives July 18), 1853. This quotation, from Disraeli's speech, which The Times of February 21, 1854 gave as an extract from Lord Clarendon's letter to Stratford de Redcliffe, was Disraeli's own conclusion (Correspondence..., Part I, pp. 320-21, 399-400).

[21] This refers to the battle between the Russian and Turkish troops at Oltenitza on the left bank of the Danube on November 4, 1853 (see present edition, Vol. 12, pp. 516-22).

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.11-25), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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