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The Secret Diplomatic Correspondence[76]

Karl Marx

London, Friday, March 24, 1854

Although Lord J. Russell's dispatch[a] may, upon the whole, be described as a polite refusal of the Czar's proposition to enter into a previous concert on the eventual partition of Turkey, there occur some very strange passages, to which I call the attention of your readers. Lord John says:

"There is no sufficient cause for intimating to the Sultan that he cannot keep peace at home, or preserve friendly relations with his neighbors."[b]

Now, nowhere in the confidential communications of Sir H. Seymour do we meet an allusion to the Czar having proposed to intimate to the Sultan anything of the sort. We must, therefore, conclude either that Lord Russell, while simulating opposition to such a step, meant to insinuate it himself, or that some of Sir Hamilton's confidential communications are suppressed in the papers laid before the House. The matter looks the more suspicious as, only 16 days later, on Feb. 25, 1853, Lord Clarendon, on his accession to the Foreign Office, gave the following instructions to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe:

"Your Excellency will, with all the frankness and unreserve that may be consistent with prudence and the dignity of the Sultan, explain the reasons which lead Her Majesty's Government to fear that the Ottoman Empire is now in a position of peculiar danger. The accumulated grievances of foreign nations which the Porte is unable or unwilling to redress, the maladministration of its own affairs and the increasing weakness of executive power in Turkey, have caused the allies of the Porte latterly to assume a tone alike novel and alarming and which, if persevered in, may lead to a general revolt of the Christian subjects of the Porte, and prove fatal to the independence and integrity of the Empire, a catastrophe that would be deeply deplored by Her Majesty's Government, but which it is their duty to represent to the Porte as considered probable and impending by some of the Great European Powers." (See the Blue Books on the Rights and Privileges of the Latin and Greek Churches, Vol. 1, pages 81 and 82.)

Was this not "intimating" to the Sultan, on the part of England, in plain words: "that he cannot keep peace at home or preserve friendly relations with his neighbors?" The Czar had told Sir Hamilton in a very off-hand way that he would not allow England to establish herself at Constantinople, but that he, on his part, intended to establish himself there, if not as proprietor, at least as depositary[c]. How does Lord John reply to this impertinent announcement? In the name of Great Britain he renounces "all intention or wish to hold Constantinople." He exacts no similar pledge from the Czar.

"The position of the Emperor of Russia," he says, "as depositary, but not proprietor, of Constantinople, would be exposed to numberless hazards, both from the long-cherished ambition of his own nation and the jealousies of Europe."[d]

The jealousies of Europe, but not the opposition of England! As to England, she would not allow—no—Lord John Russell dares not speak to Russia in the same tone in which Russia speaks to England she would "not be content to see Constantinople permanently in the hands of Russia." She will, then, be content to see it temporarily so. In other words she fully concurs in the Czar's own proposal. She will not allow what he himself renounces, but is prepared to suffer what he intends doing.

Not "content" with installing the Czar as the eventual depositary of Constantinople, Lord John Russell declares in the name of the English Government that "they will enter into no agreement to provide for the contingency of the fall of Turkey without previous communication to Russia"[e]. That is to say, although the Czar told Sir H. Seymour that he had entered into an agreement with Austria before making any previous communication to England, she on her part pledges herself to communicate with Russia previously to entering into an agreement with France.

"Upon the whole," says Lord John, "no course of policy can be adopted more wise, more disinterested, more beneficial to Europe than that which His Imperial Majesty has so long followed."

His Cossack Majesty happens to have followed, without ever swerving from it, the policy inaugurated at his accession to the throne, and which the liberal Lord John declares to have been so disinterested and so beneficial to Europe.

The ostensible and main point of dispute in the present Eastern complication is Russia's claim to a religious protectorate over the Greek Christians in the Ottoman Empire. The Czar, far from disguising his pretensions, told Sir Hamilton plainly that "by treaty he has a right to watch over those several millions," that he "made a moderate and sparing use of his right," and that it was "attended with obligations occasionally very inconvenient." Does Lord John Russell give him to understand that there exists no such treaty, and that the Czar had no such right? That he had no more right to meddle with the Greek subjects of Turkey than England with the Protestant subjects of Russia, or France with the Irishmen of Great Britain? Let him answer for himself.

"Her Majesty's Government wish to add, that in their view it is essential that the Sultan should be advised to treat his Christian subjects in conformity with the principles of equity and religious freedom: ...The more the Turkish Government adopts the rules of impartial law and equal administration, the less will the Emperor of Russia find it necessary to apply that exceptional protection which His Imperial Majesty has found so burdensome and inconvenient, though no doubt prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty."

Russia's exceptional protectorate over the subjects of the Porte sanctioned by treaty! No doubt about that, says Lord John, and Lord John is an honest man[e], and Lord John speaks in the name of Her Majesty's Government, and Lord John addresses the Autocrat himself. What, then, is England quarrelling about with Russia, and why doubling the Income tax, and troubling the world with war-like preparation? What was Lord John's business when, some weeks ago, he arose in Parliament, with the aspects, and in the tone of a Cassandra, screaming and bouncing and gesticulating bombastic imprecations against the faithlessness and perfidy of the Czar?[f] Had [he] not himself declared to Caesar that Caesar's claims to the exclusive protectorate were "prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty?"

What the coalition had to complain of, was certainly no dissimulation or reserve of the Czar's but, on the contrary, the impudent familiarity with which he dared to unbosom himself before them and make them the vessels of his most secret designs, thus transforming the cabinet of Downing-st. into a private cabinet in the Alexander Newski[g]. A man confides to you his intention to murder your friend. He entreats you to enter with him upon a previous concert about the booty. If the man be Emperor of Russia and you an English Minister, you will not call him to the bar, but thank him in humble terms for the great confidence placed in you, and feel happy "to acknowledge his moderation, frankness and friendly disposition," as Lord John Russell did.

Let us return to St. Petersburg.

On the night of the 20th Feb. only eight days before Prince Menchikoff's arrival at Constantinople the Autocrat came up to Sir Hamilton Seymour at the soirée of the Grand Duchess Hereditary's[h], when the following conversation took place between these two "gentlemen."

The Czar:

"Well, so you have got your answer, and you are to bring it to me to-morrow." Sir Hamilton:

"I am to have that honor, Sire, but Your Majesty is aware that the nature of the reply is very exactly what I had led you to expect."

The Czar:

"So I was sorry to hear; but I think your Government does not well understand my object. I am not so eager about what shall be done when the sick man dies, as I am to determine with England what shall not be done upon that event taking place."

Sir Hamilton:

"But, Sire, allow me to observe that we have no reason to think that the sick man is dying; countries do not die in such a hurry. Turkey will remain for many a year, unless some unforeseen crisis should occur. It is precisely, Sire, for the avoidance of all circumstances likely to produce such a crisis that Her Majesty's Government reckons upon your generous assistance."

The Czar:

"I will tell you that if your Government has been led to believe that Turkey retains any elements of existence, your Government must have received incorrect information. I repeat to you that the sick man is dying, and we can never allow such an event to take us by surprise. We must come to some understanding.... And remember, I do not ask for a treaty or a protocol; a general understanding is all I require—that between gentlemen is sufficient.... So no more for the present; you will come to me to-morrow."[i]

Sir Hamilton "thanked His Majesty very cordially," but having hardly left the Imperial saloon and returned home, suspicion overcomes him, he sits down at his desk, reports to Lord John on the conversation, and sums up his letter with these striking marginal notes:

"It can hardly be otherwise but that the Sovereign who insists with such pertinacity upon the impending fall of a neighboring State, must have settled in his own mind that the hour, if not of its dissolution, at all events, for its dissolution, must be at hand.... This assumption would hardly be ventured upon unless some, perhaps general, but at all events intimate understanding, existed between Russia and Austria.

"Supposing my suspicion to be well founded, the Emperor's object is to engage Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with his own Cabinet, and that of Vienna, in some scheme for the ultimate partition of Turkey, and for the exclusion of France from the arrangement."

This dispatch arrived at London on the 6th of March, when Lord Russell was already supplanted in the Foreign office by Lord Clarendon.[j] The impression produced on the mind of this whining lover of Turkey by the Embassador's anxious warnings is quite surprising. Being fully aware of the Czar's treacherous design to partition Turkey to the exclusion of France, he tells Count Walewski, the French Embassador at London, that "they," in contradistinction to France, "were disposed to place reliance in the Emperor of Russia"—that "a policy of suspicion was neither wise nor safe" and that "although he hoped the Governments of England and France would -always act together, when their policy and their interests were identical, yet he must frankly say that the recent proceedings of the French Government were not the best calculated to secure that desirable result." (See Blue Books, Vol. 1, pp. 93 and 98.)[k]

Be it also remarked, en passant, that at the same time when the Czar indoctrinated the British Embassador at St. Petersburg, The Times was repeating at London, day after day, that the state of Turkey was desperate, that the Ottoman Empire was crumbling to pieces and that there remained nothing of it except the phantom of "a Turk's head dressed up in a turban." [l]

The morning after the interview at the Imperial soirée Sir G. H. Seymour, according to the invitation received, waits upon the Czar and a "dialogue lasting one hour and twelve minutes" takes place between them, on which he reports again in his dispatch to Lord J. Russell, dated Feb. 22, 1853.

The Emperor began by desiring Sir Hamilton to read to him aloud Lord John's secret and confidential dispatch of the 9th of February. The declarations contained in this dispatch he declared, of course, to be very satisfactory; he "could only desire that they should be a little amplified." He repeated that a Turkish catastrophe was constantly impending, and

"that it might be brought about at any moment, either by an external war, or by a feud between the old Turkish party and that of the 'new superficial French reforms,' or again, by a rising of the Christians, already known to be very impatient of shaking off the Mussulman yoke.

He does not allow the opportunity to slip without bringing forth his worn-out bravado, that "if he had not stopped the victorious progress of Gen. Diebich, in 1829, the Sultan's authority would have been at an end" while it is a notorious fact, that of the 200,000 men he had then marched into Turkey 50,000 only returned to their homes, and the rest of Diebich's army would have been annihilated on the plains of Adrianople but for the combined treason of Turkish Pashas and foreign Embassadors.

He insists on his not requiring a system altogether arranged between England and Russia, as to the previous disposal of the provinces ruled by the Sultan, and still less a formal agreement to be concluded between the two Cabinets, but only some general understanding or exchange of opinions, each party confidentially stating what it did not wish,

"what would be contrary to English interests, what would be contrary to Russian interests, in order that, the case occurring, they might avoid acting in opposition to each other."[m]

By such a negative understanding the Czar would obtain all he cares for: 1st, the breaking up of the Ottoman Empire settled between England and Russia as a fait accompli, although in a negative and conditional form, while it would rest with him so to embroil matters as to be able to declare to England, with some show of reason, that the contingency foreseen had arrived. Secondly, a secret plan of action between England and Russia, however vague and negative, brought about behind the back and to the exclusion of France, and thus necessarily setting England and France by the ears. Thirdly, England being restrained by her negative pledges as to what she would not do, he would have liberty to elaborate very tranquilly his own plan of positive action. Besides, it is evident that two parties agreeing as to what they will not allow each other to do, in a given case, are only settling in an evasive way what they will. This negative sort of understanding gives only the greater facilities to the more cunning of the two parties.

"Perhaps your Majesty," perplexed Sir Hamilton muttered, "would be good enough to explain your own ideas upon this negative policy." The Czar, after some show of coy resistance, feigns to yield under the gentle pressure and made the following highly remarkable declaration:

"I will not tolerate the permanent occupation of Constantinople by the Russians; having said this, I will say that it never shall be held by the English, or French, or any other great nation. Again, I never will permit an attempt at the reconstruction of a Byzantine Empire, or such an extension of Greece as would render her a powerful State; still less will I permit the breaking up of Turkey into little republics, asylums for the Kossuths and Mazzinis and other revolutionists of Europe; rather than submit to any of these arrangements I would go to war, and as long as I have a man and a musket left would carry it on."

No Byzantine Empire, no powerful extension of Greece, no confederation of little republics nothing of the sort. What, then, does he want? There was no need for the British Ambassador to guess. The Emperor himself, in the course of the dialogue, bursts upon his interlocutor with the following proposition:

"The Principalities are in fact an independent state under my protection: this might so continue. Servia might receive the same form of government. So again with Bulgaria: there seems to be no reason why this province should not form an independent state. As to Egypt, I quite understand the importance to England of that territory. I can then only say, that if, in the event of a distribution of the Ottoman succession upon the fall of the Empire, you should take possession of Egypt, I shall have no objections to offer. I would say the same thing of Candia: that island might suit you, and I do not know why it should not become an English possession."

Thus he proves that "in the event of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, it might be less difficult to arrive at a satisfactory territorial arrangement than was commonly believed." He declares frankly what he wants— the partition of Turkey and he gives the clearest possible outlines of that partition; clear as well from what he reveals as from what his silence conceals. Egypt and Candia for England. The Principalities, Servia and Bulgaria to exist as vassal states of Russia. Turkish Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina he intentionally abstains from mentioning, to be incorporated with Austria. Greece to be extended in a "not powerful way" say lower Thessaly and part of Albania. Constantinople to be temporarily occupied by the Czar, and then to become the capital of a state comprising Macedonia, Thracia, and what remains of Turkey in Europe. But who is to be the definitive possessor of that little empire, perhaps to be aggrandized by some portions of Anatolia? He keeps close upon that point, but it is no secret that he has some one in reserve for that post, viz: his younger son[n], who longs for an empire of his own. And France is she to receive nothing at all? Perhaps so. But no: she is to be put off with who will believe it? with Tunis. "One of her objects," he tells Sir Hamilton, "is the possession of Tunis," and perhaps, in the event of a partition of the Ottoman Empire, he might be so magnanimous as to indulge her appetite for Tunis.

The Czar speaks throughout in an affected tone of the most haughty disdain of France. "It looks very much," he says, "as if the French Government were endeavoring to embroil us all in the East." As for himself, he cares not a straw about it:

"For his own part, he cared very little what line the French might think proper to take in Eastern affairs, and that little more than a month ago he had apprised the Sultan that if his assistance was required for resisting the menaces of the French, it was entirely at the service of the Sultan!

"In a word, the Emperor went on to observe, 'As I before told you, all I want is a good understanding with England, and this not as to what shall, but as to what shall not be done; this point arrived at, the English Government and I, I and the English Government, having entire confidence in one another's views, I care nothing about the rest.

"But Your Majesty has forgotten Austria!" exclaims Sir Hamilton.

"Oh!" replied the Emperor, greatly to his surprise, "but you must understand that when I speak of Russia, I speak of Austria as well; what suits the one suits the other, our interests as regards Turkey are perfectly identical."

When he says Russia, he says Austria. As to Montenegro, he states explicitly "that he approved the attitude taken by the Austrian Cabinet."

Having treated in a former conversation the Sultan as the "Grand Turk"[o] of the Vaudeville, he designs him now, after the fashion of Paul de Kock, as "Ce monsieur." And how forbearing did he not behave toward ce monsieur? He has only dispatched a Menchikoff to Constantinople. "If he chose, he certainly could send an army there there is nothing to stop them," as he proved afterward at Oltenitza and Chetatea, and by his own army's glorious retirement from Kalafat.

His Cossack Majesty dismissed Sir Hamilton with the words: "Well, induce your Government to write again on these subjects to write more fully, and to do so without hesitation."

On the 7th of March, shortly after this curious dialogue, or, rather, monologue, the British Embassador is summoned to appear before Count Nesselrode, who places in his hands "a very confidential memorandum[p] which His Imperial Majesty had caused to be drawn up, and which was intended as an answer to, or a comment upon, the communication" of Lord John Russell[q]. Count Nesselrode invites him to read the paper, which, in fact, „was intended for his use." Sir Hamilton, accordingly, peruses the document, and he who had not found a single word of protest against the Muscovite's[r] elaborate insults against France, all of a sudden trembles at discovering that "the impression under which it has been framed is an incorrect one; that impression being evidently that, in the disputes carried on between Russia and France, Her Majesty's Government had leant partially to the latter power."[s] The very next morning he hastily sends a billet doux to Count Nesselrode, asserting that,

"far from having inclined, as has been stated, to France in the course of the late critical transactions, it has been the desire of the Queen's advisers, to the full extent permitted (!) to a Government compelled (!!) to observe a neutral attitude, that ample satisfaction shall be given to the demands which His Imperial Majesty's Government were justified in making."[t]

In consequence of this begging letter, Sir Hamilton has, of course, another "very amicable and satisfactory conversation with the Chancellor," who comforts the British Ambassador with the assurance that he had misunderstood one passage of the Emperor's memorandum which did not intend reproaching England with any partiality for France. "All," said Count Nesselrode, "what was desired here was that, while appealing to the Emperor's magnanimity and feelings of justice, the British Government should employ some efforts toward opening the eyes of the French Minister." There is nothing wanted "here" but England's creeping and cringing before the Kalmuk, and assuming a tone of dictatory severity against the Frenchman. To convince the Chancellor of the conscientious manner in which the British Government had executed the latter part of their service, Sir Hamilton reads him an extract from one of Lord John Russell's dispatches[u], "as a specimen of the language held by an English Minister against the French Government." Count Nesselrode finds his boldest expectations surpassed. He only "regretted that he had not long ago been put in possession of evidence so conclusive."[v]

The Russian memorandum in answer to Lord John's dispatch is described by Sir Hamilton, as "one of the most remarkable papers which have been issued, not from the Russian, 'Chancellery', but from the Emperor's secret Cabinet."[w] So it is. But it is superfluous to dwell on it, as it merely resumes the views of the Czar as developed in his "dialogue." It impresses upon the British Government that "the result, whatever it might be, of these communications, should remain a secret between the two Sovereigns." The Czar's system, it observes, has, "as admitted by the English Cabinet itself, been always one of forbearance" against the Porte. France had adopted another line of conduct, thus compelling Russia and Austria to act in their turn by intimidation. In the whole memorandum Russia and Austria are identified. One of the causes which might lead to the immediate downfall of Turkey is expressly stated to be the Question of the Holy Shrines, and "the religious sentiments of the orthodox Greeks offended by the concessions made to the Latins." At the close of the memorandum "no less precious" than the assurances contained in Russell's dispatch are declared to be "the proofs of friendship and personal confidence on the part of Her Majesty the Queen, which Sir Hamilton Seymour had been directed on this occasion to impart to the Emperor." These " proofs" of Queen Victoria's allegiance to the Czar have been wisely withheld from the British public, but may perhaps, one of these days, appear in the Journal de St.-Pétersbourg.

In commenting upon his dialogue with the Emperor and on the Muscovite memorandum, Sir Hamilton again draws the attention of his Cabinet to the position of Austria:

"Assuming, as a certain and now acknowledged fact, the existence of an understanding or compact between the two Emperors as to Turkish affairs, it becomes of the deepest importance to know the extent of the engagements entered into between them. As to the manner in which it has been concluded, I conjecture that little doubt is to be entertained.

"Its basis was, no doubt, laid at some of the meetings between the Sovereigns which took place in the autumn; and the scheme has probably been worked out since under the management of Baron Meyendorf, the Russian Envoy at the Austrian Court, who has been passing the winter at St. Petersburg, and is still here."[x]

Does the British Government on receiving these revelations, call Austria to account? No, it finds fault with France only. After the Russian invasion of the Principalities, it appoints Austria as mediator, chooses Vienna, of all other towns, for the seat of the conference, hands over to Count Buol the direction of the negotiations, and to this very moment continues to stultify France into the belief that Austria is likely to be a sincere ally in a war against the Muscovite for the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire, although it knew for longer than a twelvemonth that Austria had agreed to the dismemberment of that Empire.

On March 19, Sir Hamilton's report on his dialogue with the Czar arrived at London. Lord Clarendon now fills the place of Lord John, and continues to improve upon his predecessor. Four days after the receipt of that startling communication, in which the Czar no longer deigns to dissimulate, but frankly reveals his conspiracy against Turkey and France, the noble Earl sends to Sir Hamilton the following dispatch:

"Her Majesty's Government regret that the alarm and irritation which prevail at Paris should have induced the French Government to order their fleet to sail for the waters of Greece; but the position in which the French Government stands, in many respects is different from that of Her Majesty's Government. They have not, to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government, [received] assurances from the Emperor as to the policy he was determined to follow toward Turkey." (See Blue Books, Vol. 1, page 95.)[y]

If the Czar had communicated to France also that "the sick man was dying," and a complete plan for sharing his succession, France, of course, would have felt neither alarm nor hesitation as to the fate of Turkey, the real objects of Prince Menchikoff's mission, and the Emperor of Russia's immovable determination to maintain the integrity and independence of the Empire, which he averred contained "no elements of existence."

On the same 23d of March, the Earl of Clarendon sends another dispatch to Sir Hamilton Seymour, one not "cooked" for the Blue Books, but the secret answer to the secret communication from St. Petersburg[z]. Sir Hamilton had closed his report of the dialogue with the very judicious suggestion:

"I might venture to suggest that some expression might be used in the dispatch to be addressed to me, which might have the effect of putting an end to the further consideration, or, at all events, discussion of points which it is highly desirable should not be regarded as offering subject for debate."[za]

The Earl of Clarendon, who feels himself the true man to handle hot coals, acts in strict compliance with the Czar's invitation, and in direct contravention to his own Ambassador's warning. He commences his dispatch by declaring that "Her Majesty's Government gladly complies with the Emperor's wish that the subject should be further and frankly discussed." The Emperor is "entitled" to "the most cordial declaration of opinion" on their part, because of the "generous confidence" placed in them that they will help him dismembering Turkey, betraying France, and, in the contingency of the overthrow of the Ottoman rule, suppressing all possible efforts on the part of the Christian populations to form free and independent States.

"Her Majesty's Government," continues the freeborn Briton, "are fully aware that, in the event of any understanding with reference to future contingencies being expedient, or indeed possible, the word of His Imperial Majesty would be preferable to any Convention that could be framed."

At all events, his word must be as good as any Convention that could be framed with him, the law advisers of the British Crown having long ago declared all treaties with Russia at an end, through violations on her part.

"Her Majesty's Government persevere in the belief, that Turkey still preserves the elements of existence."

To prove the sincerity of that belief, the Earl gently adds:

"If the opinion of the Emperor, that the days of the Turkish 'Empire were numbered, became notorious its downfall must occur even sooner than His Imperial Majesty now appears to expect."

The Kalmuk, then, has only to divulge his opinion that the sick man is dying, and the man is dead. An enviable sort of vitality this! There is wanted no blast of the trumpets of Jericho. One breath from the Emperor's august mouth, and the Ottoman Empire falls to pieces.

"Her Majesty's Government entirely share the opinion of the Emperor, that the occupation of Constantinople by either of the great Powers would be incompatible with the present balance of power and the maintenance of peace in Europe, and must at once be regarded as impossible; that there are no elements for the reconstruction of a Byzantine Empire; that the systematic misgovernment of Greece offers no encouragement to extend its territorial dominion; and that, as there are no materials for provincial or communal government, anarchy would be the result of leaving the provinces of Turkey to themselves, or permitting them to form separate republics."

Observe that the British Minister, prostrate at the feet of his Tartar master and servilely reechoing his words, is not ashamed even to repeat the monstrous lie that in Turkey there are "no elements for provincial or communal government," while it is precisely the great development of communal and provincial life that has enabled Turkey to withstand till now the heaviest shocks both from without and from within. By indorsing all the Czar's premises the British Ministry justifies all the conclusions he intends to draw there from.

In the contingency of a dissolution of the Turkish Empire, says the gallant Earl, "the only mode by which a pacific solution could be attempted would be that of a European Congress." But he is afraid of the consequences of such a Congress not because of Russian trickery, which cheated England at the Congress of Vienna to such a degree that Napoleon at St. Helena exclaimed: "Had he been victorious at Waterloo, he could not have imposed more humiliating conditions upon England"[zb] but from fear of France.

"The treaties of 1815 must then be open to revision, when France might be prepared to risk the chances of a European war to get rid of the obligations which she considers injurious to her national honor, and which, having been imposed by victorious enemies, are a constant source of irritation to her."

Her Majesty's Government "desire to uphold the Turkish Empire" not as a bulwark against Russia, and because its downfall would force England to fight out with Russia her diametrically opposed interests in the East. Oh, no, says the Earl: "The interests of Russia and England in the East are completely identical."

They desire to uphold the Turkish Empire not from any Eastern consideration at all, but "from their conviction that no great question can be agitated in the East without becoming a source of discord in the West." An Eastern question, therefore, will not bring about a war of the Western Powers against Russia, but a war of the Western Powers among themselves— a war of England against France. And the same Minister who wrote, and his colleagues who sanctioned these lines, would stultify us into the belief that they are about to carry on a serious war with France against Russia, and this "on a question agitated in the East," and although "the interests of England and Russia in the East are completely identical!"

The brave Earl goes further. Why does he fear a war with France which he declares must be the "necessary result" of the dissolution and dismemberment of the Turkish Empire? A war with France considered in itself would be a very pleasant thing. But there is this delicate circumstance connected with it,

— "that every great question in the West will assume a revolutionary character, and embrace a revision of the entire social system, for which the Continental Governments are certainly in no state of preparation.

"The Emperor is fully cognisant of the materials that are in constant fermentation beneath the surface of society, and their readiness to burst forth even in times of peace; and His Imperial Majesty will probably therefore not dissent from the opinion that the first cannon shot may be the signal for a state of things more disastrous even than those calamities which war inevitably brings in its train."

Hence, exclaims the sincere peacemonger, "hence the anxiety of Her Majesty's Government to avert the catastrophe." If there lurked no war with France behind the partition of Turkey, and no revolution behind the war with France, Her Majesty's Government would be as ready to swallow the Grand Turk as his Cossack Majesty.

According to the instructions received from the Russian Chancellery, through the means of Sir H. Seymour, the gallant Clarendon winds up his dispatch with "appealing to the Emperor's magnanimity and feelings of justice."

In a second dispatch of our Earl, dated April 5, 1853, Sir Hamilton is directed to instruct the Russian Chancellor that

— "Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe was directed to return to his post, and a special character was given to his mission by an autograph letter from Her Majesty, under the impression that the Porte would be better disposed to listen to moderate councils, when offered by one of Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe's high position and great knowledge and experience of Turkish affairs..., to advise the Porte to treat the Christian subjects with the utmost leniency."

The same Clarendon who gave his particular instructions had written in his secret dispatch dated 23d March, 1853:

"The treatment of Christians is not harsh, and the toleration exhibited by the Porte toward this portion of its subjects might serve as an example to some Governments who look with contempt upon Turkey as a barbarous Power."

In this secret dispatch it is avowed that Lord Stratford was sent to Constantinople as the most able and willing tool for intimidating the Sultan. In the Ministerial papers, at the time, his errand was represented as a strong demonstration against the Czar, that nobleman having long since played the part of Russia's personal antagonist.

The series of secret documents laid before the House concludes with the Russian memorandum wherein Nicholas congratulates himself on perceiving that his views and those of the English Cabinet entirely coincide on the subject of the political combinations which it would be chiefly necessary to avoid in the extreme case of the contingency occurring in the East.

The memorandum is dated the 15th April, 1853. It asserts "that the best means of upholding the duration of the Turkish Government is not to harass it by overwhelming demands supported in a manner humiliating to its independence and its dignity." This was exactly the time of action of the Menchikoff comedy, who, on the 19th of April, sent in his impudent "verbal note," and used "language fortunately very rare in diplomacy" as declared by the Earl of Clarendon in the House of Lords[zc]. The more firmly was his lordship convinced of the Czar's determination to gently manage the sick man. His conviction grows yet stronger when the Principalities are invaded by the Cossack.

The Coalition Cabinet have discovered but one hole to slip through from these branding documents. The ostensible object of Prince Menchikoff's mission, they say, was the question of the Holy Shrines, while the communications about the partition of Turkey only related to an uncertain and distant epoch. But the Czar had plainly told them in his first memorandum[zd] that the question of Turkey's downfall was "by no means an idle and imaginary question, a contingency too remote;" that the English Ministry were wrong "in perceiving in the two questions of Montenegro and the Holy Shrines mere disputes which would not differ in their bearing from difficulties which form the ordinary business of diplomacy," and that the question of the Holy Shrines might "take a most serious turn," and lead to the "catastrophe." They had admitted themselves, not only that he was wronged in the affair of the Holy Shrines, but that he had "a right, sanctioned by treaty, to the exceptional protection" of eleven millions of the Sultan's subjects. When therefore, they failed in pressing the Porte into the acceptance of the Menchikoff demands, the Czar acted according to the spirit of the memorandum of 1844[ze], to their own agreement with him, and to his verbal declaration to Sir G. Hamilton Seymour, that "he would not be trifled with," when he prepared to put ce monsieur to death. There is no question as to whether he is in the right against them; the only question is, whether they be not, even at this moment, "all right" with him. So much must be clear to whoever closely peruses those documents, that, if this scandalous Ministry remain in office, the English people may be driven, by the mere influence of external complications, into a terrible revolution, sweeping away, at once, Throne, Parliament and the governing classes, who have lost the faculty and the will to maintain England's position in the world.

In challenging, by the St. Petersburg Gazette[zf], the Coalition to produce the secret proofs of their own infamy Nicholas proved true to his known dictum:

"Je hais ceux qui me résistent; je méprise ceux qui me servent."[zg]

Written on March 24, 1854
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4050, April 11;
Reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 927, April 14
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 657, April 15, 1854
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] See this volume, pp. 80-82.—Ed.

[b] Ibid., p. 81.—Ed.

[c] See this volume, pp. 78-79.—Ed.

[d] Ibid., p. 81.—Ed.

[e] Ibid., p. 82.—Ed.

[e] Apparently an allusion to Antony's words

"But Brutus says, he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man"

from Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2.—Ed.

[f] Lord John Russell's speech in the House of Commons on February 17, 1854 - The Times, No. 21668, February 1854.—Ed.

[g] Nevsky Prospekt.—Ed.

[h] Maria Alexandrovna.—Ed.

[i] Sir G. H. Seymour to Lord John Russell. February 21, 1853.—Ed.

[j] See this volume, p. 84.—Ed.

[k] The Earl of Clarendon to Lord Cowley. March 22 and 29, 1853.—Ed.

[l] The Times, No. 21383, March 23, 1853, leader.—Ed.

[m] Quotation from the confidential memorandum of the Russian Cabinet to the British Government dated February 21 (March 4), 1853 which was communicated by Count Nesselrode to Sir Seymour on March 7, and sent by the latter to London on March 9, 1853 (see this volume, pp. 92-93).—Ed.

[n] Mikhail Nikolayevich—Ed.

[o] See this volume, p. 79.—Ed.

[p] Of February 21 (March 4), 1853.—Ed.

[q] See this volume, pp. 80-82.—Ed.

[r] Nicholas I.—Ed.

[s] Sir G. H. Seymour to the Earl of Clarendon. March 9, 1853.—Ed.

[t] Sir G. H. Seymour to Count Nesselrode. February 24 (March 8), 1853.—Ed.

[u] Lord John Russell to Lord Cowley. January 28, 1853.—Ed.

[v] Sir G. H. Seymour to the Earl of Clarendon. March 10, 1853.—Ed.

[w] Sir G. H. Seymour to the Earl of Clarendon. March 9, 1853.—Ed.

[x] Sir G. H. Seymour to the Earl of Clarendon. March 9, 1853.- Ed.

[y] The Earl of Clarendon to Sir G. H. Seymour. March 23, 1853.- Ed.

[z] The Earl of Clarendon to Sir G. H. Seymour. March 23, 1853.—Ed.

[za] Sir G. H. Seymour to Lord John Russell. February 22, 1853.—Ed.

[zb] The quotation from the book: Las Cases, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, T. VI, p. 186, is freely rendered.—Ed.

[zc] The Earl of Clarendon's speech in the House of Lords on August 12, 1853. The Times, No. 21506, August 13, 1853.—Ed.

[zd] See this volume, p. 92.—Ed.

[ze] See this volume, p. 73.—Ed.

[zf] Journal de St.-Pétersbourg.—Ed.

[zg] "I hate those who resist me, I despise those who serve me."—Ed.

[76] This article is the continuation of the previous one (see Note 68↓) and is entered in the Notebook as "24. März. Blue Books. Secret Correspondence. 2. Teil." The article was reprinted abridged in The Eastern Question.

[68] This article, dated March 21, 1854, is entered in the Notebook under the same date. It was reprinted by Eleanor Marx in The Eastern Question. In this and the next article "The Secret Diplomatic Correspondence". Marx analyses the secret correspondence (and other documents) of the British Ambassador to St. Petersburg, Hamilton Seymour, and the British Foreign Secretary concerning the negotiations between Seymour and Nicholas I on the Turkish question at the beginning of 1853, according to Correspondence... (Parts V and VI).

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.84-99), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME1878en.html