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Reshid Pasha's Note
An Italian Newspaper on The Eastern Question[108]

Karl Marx

London, Tuesday, April 18, 1854

The Governments of England and France are said to have at last exchanged copies of an offensive and defensive treaty, comprising Five Articles. The contents are not yet known.

The treaty between Austria and Prussia is not yet concluded, the point of dissension being the occupation of the frontiers touching on Russian Poland, which the Prussian Court partly declines.

On the 6th April a Te Deum was celebrated at Athens in honor of the anniversary of Greek Independence. It was not attended by the Embassadors of the Western Powers. On the same day the Observer of Athens[a] registered sixteen royal ordonnances accepting the resignation of twenty-one generals, colonels, and other officers, all of whom were about to join the insurgents. On the day following the news reached Athens that the insurgents had been fearfully beaten near Arta. The very place where the battle was fought denotes that the insurrection had made not the slightest progress, and that its only victims until now have been the Greek peasants themselves who inhabit the frontier districts of the kingdom of Greece.

You will remember that in 1827 the Embassadors of Russia, England and France demanded that the Sublime Porte should recall every Turk from Greece, whether settled there or not. The Turks refusing to acquiesce, obedience was enforced by the battle of Navarino[109]. A similar order has now been issued against the Greeks, on the part of the Sublime Porte; and as neither the letter of Reshid Pasha to Mr. Metaxas, the Greek Embassador, nor the circular of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to the British Consuls, has yet been published in the London papers, I give you a translation- of each from the Journal de Constantinople of April 5[b]:

"Answer of Reshid Pasha, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
to the note of M. Metaxas

"Constantinople, 3d Redjeb, 1270 (1st April, 1854)

"I have taken cognizance of the note which you addressed to me on March 26, with respect to your resolution to quit this capital. The Government of the Sublime Porte not having obtained from that of Greece due satisfaction in return for its just reclamations, with respect to the actual events, and the Charge d'Affaires[c] of the Sublime Porte being obliged to quit Athens in conformity to his instructions, it is proper, Sir, that you also quit this city. I remit you, accordingly, in compliance with your demand, your passports. As from this day the diplomatic relations as well as the commercial ones are broken off between the two countries, we have come to the decision that the Hellenic Chancelleries established in the different provinces of our empire, as well as all the Greek Consuls, are to return immediately to their country. The merchants and other Hellenic subjects residing in Turkey must likewise withdraw from Constantinople; but in order to protect the interests of Greek commerce, we will grant them a delay of fifteen days. As to those who are established in the provinces, this delay will only be counted from the day of reception of the order for their departure. It is proved by positive statements that it is not in consequence of any neglect, but rather of the tolerance of the Greek Government, that our frontier provinces have been invaded. Although the Imperial Government has unquestionably the right to stop and confiscate all vessels found in our harbors, as pledges of the very considerable expenses incurred by us, my august master thinks it corresponds better with his sense of moderation not to inflict any losses on Greek subjects in a question only regarding the Greek Government. When that government shall have returned to more equitable sentiments, taking into its consideration international rights and the rules of the jus gentium[d], then the occasion will have arrived for examining the question of the expenses caused by this insurrection. All Hellenic ships are, therefore, allowed to return without any hindrance, during the term fixed for them, to their own country. It has been enjoined on the proper authorities to facilitate the departure of those Greek subjects who are poor and destitute, and to use as much indulgence as possible toward the sick and infirm."

(The most Christian and civilized Government of Austria manages these things in a different style witness the expulsion of the Ticinese.)[110]

"I think it expedient to repeat once more that the Hellenic Government alone has enforced upon us this decision, and that all the responsibility consequent upon it must entirely rest with Greece.

"Reshid Pasha"

According to this order 3,000 Greeks embarked at Constantinople on the 5th of April, and we hear that the Pasha of Smyrna has already published the order for the Greeks inhabiting that city[e].

The circular addressed by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to the British Consuls in Turkey and Greece, runs as follows:

"Constantinople, Saturday, April 1, 1854

"Sir: It has come to my knowledge that the Hellenes who have invaded the frontier provinces of Turkey are exciting the Greek subjects of the Sultan to revolt, by declaring that the Governments of France and England are ready to support them in overthrowing the authority of the Sultan. I am also informed that similar maneuvers are employed with a view to persuading people that the French and English Embassadors will give protection to all the Hellenic subjects in Turkey, as soon as the Porte—in consequence of its diplomatic and commercial rupture with Greece—shall notify its intention to expel them from the States of the Sultan. Whereas such suppositions have a tendency to encourage false hopes, to mislead well-disposed men and to aggravate, criminally, the evils inseparable from a state of war, I hasten to give you the assurance that these assertions have no foundation at all. Those who for one moment rely on falsehoods so transparent and so incompatible with common sense and facts, must be very ignorant and credulous indeed. But such is unfortunately the case everywhere, in countries where the means of publicity are only imperfectly developed. You know as well as I do, that England and France are entirely with the Sultan in the noble resistance he opposes to a violent and unjust aggression. It necessarily follows that the two allied Governments cannot view, but with painful feelings of indignation and reprobation, a movement calculated only to benefit Russia, without even having the merit of being spontaneous, and which must ultimately embarrass the Porte and its allies, while it offers no other prospect but the ruin of those who thus expose their lives for so chimerical an illusion. We must pity the innocent families unfortunately implicated in the consequences of a brutal and unprincipled policy; but on our part there can exist no relations with the leaders, nor any dissimulation of the sentiments which the conduct of a senseless party cannot fail to inspire. I have to recommend to you not to neglect any opportunity of making known the contents of this circular to all those who may be disposed to allow themselves to be misled by the false assertions which it denounces.

"Stratford de Redcliffe"

The populations most immediately interested in the issue of the eastern complications are, besides the Germans, the Hungarians and Italians. It is of some consequence, therefore, to know the intentions of the diverse parties of these nations with regard to their relations toward one another. The following article from the Turin Unione, which I translate for this purpose, will show you the views of the constitutional party in Italy[111], which seems to be quite prepared to sacrifice Hungary in order to recover Italian independence. The secret of the duration of the Austrian Empire is no other than this provincial egotism which blinds each people with the illusion that they can conquer their liberty at the sacrifice of their fellow-people's independence.

"The English journals take great pains to give the impending war with Russia a character of liberty and European independence, while, in fact, they have nothing in view but their own commercial interests; in proof of which Lord John Russell recommends us Italians to remain quiet, and gives us to understand that Austria may one day or other become more humane. Thus he recognizes, at least, that at present she has nothing humane at all about her. Nevertheless, philanthropic England is trying to secure her alliance for the 'triumph of the liberty and independence of Europe.' As to the French press, it is not free, and under the dread of receiving warnings for the first time and being suspended for the second one, it cannot but make itself the echo of what is desired by the Government. Besides, the French papers are not accustomed to consider the questions of the day on a grand scale, and undergo too much the impulse of fashion. The German liberal papers write under the pressure of the immense fear which Russia causes them and justly so, if we consider the influence she has already acquired over the two principal powers of Germany. But what do we want? The independence of Italy. As long, however, as there is talk about the territorial integrity of Turkey and European equilibrium as based on the treaty of Vienna[112], it is quite natural that we should continue to enjoy that identical status quo so contradictory to our wishes. What does Russia pretend to? To get rid of the Ottoman Empire and consequently of the equilibrium of the status quo and to revise the map of Europe. This is the very thing which we want. But it will be said that Russia wants to revise it in her own fashion. It is exactly this which may turn to our benefit, because neither France, nor England, nor Germany can tolerate this new aggrandizement of the territory or influence of an Empire that possesses already too much of both, and thus they will be forced to look out for a bulwark against her. This bulwark can be no other State but Austria, toward whom the occidental States are obliged to show generosity and to give her the whole Valley of the Danube, from Orsova to the Black Sea and below the Danube, the Dobrodja and the keys of the Balkans. Austria would then possess:

"1. A vast territory, with a population kindred to her own.
"2. The whole course of a great river, so necessary to the commerce of Germany.
"In such a case Austria would no longer want Italy, as far at least as her defense is concerned, and she would concentrate about six millions of South Slavonians and four millions of Daco-Romanians, in order to associate them with three other millions of the former and about as many of the latter, who are already subject to her dominion.

"Integrity and Independence of Turkey! Two solemn paradoxes. If you understand by independence the liberty enjoyed by a nation to govern itself according to its own principles, and without the right of any foreigner to intermeddle that independence was already much compromised by the treaty of Kainardji[113], and received its death-blow (colpo di grazia) from the recent treaty with the Occidental Powers[114]. Consequently it is no longer the Sultan who governs Turkey, but the European Powers; and from the moment that Mussulmans and Christians, conquerors and conquered, are subjected to an equality before law; from the moment that the rayahs—forming four-fifths of the population—are to have arms in their hands, Turkey no longer exists, but a transformation is set on foot that cannot realize itself without violence and the most serious disorders, and without the two sects who, during four centuries, have been accustomed to detest each other, coming to blows. Then let us hear no more of the independence of Turkey, except as a fable.

"And the territorial integrity! Was it then not France and England which, in agreement with Russia, wrested from Turkey the Greek Kingdom, viz: the Peloponnesus, Attica, Boeotia, Phocis, Acarnania, Aetolia, the Island of Negropont, etc., with a million of inhabitants? Was it not they? Is it not the French who took Algiers? Was it not France, England and Russia who gave to Egypt a half-independence? Was it not the Englishman who, fifteen years a o seized upon Aden, on the Red Sea? Is it not also the Englishmen who covet Egypt?[115] And Austria that covets Bosnia and Servia? Why then speak of preserving a state of things against which all conspire, and which is unable to continue by its own force?

"We conclude, therefore, that Russia, while intending the overthrow of Turkey, is intending a good thing; that also the western Powers are justly inspired, if they intend to oppose the encroachments of Russia, but if the latter powers want to gain their object, they must dispense with the diplomatic hypocrisy in which they have enveloped themselves, and must be resolved to undo Turkey and revise the map of Europe. That is the point they must come to."[f]

Written on April 18, 1854
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4068, May 2
and in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 932, May 2, 1854
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] L'Observateur d'Athènes. The report is given as reprinted in L'Indépendance beige, No. 108, April 18, 1854.—Ed.

[b] These documents are given according to L'Indépendance beige, No. 108, April 18, 1854.—Ed.

[c] Nesset Bey.—Ed.

[d] International law.—Ed.

[e] Report from the Constantinople correspondent of April 3. The Times, No. 21718, April 18, 1854.—Ed.

[f] L'Unione, No. 138, April 12, 1854.—Ed.

[108] This article is entered in the Notebook as "Dienstag. 18. April. Note Reschid Pasches. Italienische Zeitung benutzt". The article was included in abridged form by Eleanor Marx in The Eastern Question under the title "Turkey and Greece.— Italy".

[109] 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.

[110] At the beginning of 1853 the Austrian Government expelled from Lombardy over 5,000 natives of the Ticino Canton (Switzerland) on the ground that the uprising in Milan in February 1853 had been prepared by Italian revolutionary emigrants residing in Ticino. Only in March 1855, after long diplomatic negotiations, did the Austrian Government permit the expelled Ticinese to return.

[111] Here Marx has in mind the Liberal Party (the so-called moderatti) headed by Cavour; this party voiced the interests of liberal-monarchist big bourgeoisie and bourgeoisified nobility who strove to unite Italy from above, under the aegis of the Savoy dynasty; fearing the mass revolutionary movement, they based their tactics on use of the favourable international situation and assistance from other states. In 1853-54 this party tried to bring Piedmont into the Crimean war on the side of Britain and France, hoping in this way to secure the support of these powers for the unification of Italy. Piedmont entered the war in 1855.

[112] The reference is to a system of treaties concluded by the participants in the Vienna Congress of the European monarchs and their Ministers (September 1814-June 1815). It established the boundaries and status of the European states after the victory over Napoleonic France, sanctioned the reshaping of the political map of Europe and the restoration of the "legitimate" dynasties, overthrown as a result of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.

[113] 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.

[114] This refers to the treaty of March 12, 1854 (see Note 79↓).

[115] On the formation of the Kingdom of Greece see Note 66↓.

The conquest of Algeria, which in the eighteenth century was already a military feudal state independent of the Ottoman Empire, began in 1830. It met fierce armed resistance on the part of the Algerian population. By 1842 most of Algeria was conquered, but the Algerian people continued their struggle for independence.

A half-independence of Egypt—the so-called Egyptian crises 1831-33 and 1839-41) —conflicts between Mehemet Ali of Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, with the European powers actively interfering. They ended with the introduction of a new statute for Egypt which remained dependent on the Turkish Sultan.

Aden was seized by England in 1839 and turned into a military naval base.

The Englishmen who covet Egypt—the reference is to the concession which the English obtained for the construction of the railway line from Alexandria to Suez and Cairo and to the plans for building the Suez canal (opened for navigation in 1869).

[79] On March 12, 1854 a treaty was concluded in Constantinople between France, Britain and Turkey. The Allies pledged to help Turkey with their naval and land forces, and Turkey pledged not to enter into peace negotiations with Russia and to conclude no peace without the consent of Britain and France.

[66] In the spring of 1821 a national liberation movement started in Greece which ended after a long struggle in Greece winning independence. As a result of Russia's victory in the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-29, Turkey recognised Greece as an independent state. Forced by public pressure to give military aid to Greece, the ruling circles of the European powers imposed, however, a monarchist form of government on the country after its liberation. The final status of the Kingdom of Greece and its territory were determined by the protocols of March 22, 1829, February 3, 1830 and May 7, 1832 of the London Conference (1827-32). Greece included Morea, the Cyclades and the southern part of Greek mainland, between the mouths of the Spercheios and the Aspropotamo rivers.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.154-158), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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