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Switzerland and Austria.
The Turkish Question.[93]

Karl Marx

London, Friday, May 27, 1853

The presence of M. Mazzini in England is now, at last, confirmed by a quasi-official announcement in a London paper connected with him.

The trial of the Messrs. Hale, on account of the "gunpowder-plot"[a], will not be brought before the present assizes, but will take place in August next, the Coalition Government being anxious to let time and oblivion interpose between its "discoveries" and the judicial discussion of their value.

Count Karnicky, the Austrian Chargé d'Affaires at Berne, received orders from his Government, on the 21st inst., to quit his post immediately, and return to Vienna, after notifying the President of the Helvetic Confederation[b] of the rupture of diplomatic relations between Austria and Switzerland. The Bund, of the 23d, states, however, that the Austrian Envoy had already previously received permission to take a discretionary congé when he should think proper. The ultimatum of Count Karnicky is declared by the same journal to be the answer of Austria to the note of the Bundesrath[c], of May 4. That the ultimatum contained something beside a mere answer, may be inferred from the fact, that the Bundesrath has just called upon the Fribourg Government to account for their "extreme" measures recently taken against the defeated rebels. The English journals publish the following dispatch from Berne, dated May 23:

"In consequence of the notification made by the Austrian Chargé d'Affaires to the President of the Helvetic Confederation of the rupture of diplomatic relations between Austria and Switzerland, the Federal Council has decided on putting an immediate end to the functions of the Swiss Envoy at Vienna."

The substance of this dispatch is, however, refuted by the following article in La Suisse, dated May 23:

"We are about in the same situation as Piedmont[94]. The negotiations between the two countries are interrupted.... The Austrian Legation remains at Berne for the disposal of the ordinary current of business. The Bund says that the recall of the Swiss Chargé d'Affaires at Vienna was desirable, since he drily managed there his own affairs on pretext of transacting those of the nation, for he was merely engaged in the silk trade. Mr. Steiger is but a diplomatist of the second-hand order, and we happen to know that he understands a great deal more about silk-worms than about his official business. There was, then, no necessity for recalling such a diplomatist, since he had never been commissioned, but was already at Vienna on his own account."[d]

Let nobody imagine, therefore, that the Swiss are recalling to their memory the celebrated motto with which Loustallot adorned, in 1789, his Révolutions de Paris:

Les grands ne sont pas grands,
Que parce que nous sommes à genoux.
—Levons nous!

The mystery of the Swiss courage is sufficiently explained by the presence of the Duke of Genoa[f] at Paris, and that of the King of Belgium[g] in Vienna and perhaps no less by an article in the French Moniteur of May 25th.

"No other nation must ever interpose between France and Switzerland; all other considerations must subside before this fundamental condition."

The hopes of the Prussian King[h] for the recovery of Neuchâtel, thus obtain no great encouragement. A rumor prevails, even of the formation of a French corps d'observation on the frontiers of Switzerland. Louis Napoleon, of course, would be but too glad of having an opportunity to revenge himself on the Emperors of Russia and Austria, and the Kings of Prussia and Belgium, for the contempt and ridicule with which they have loaded him during the latter months.[95]

The intelligence I transmitted to you in my last[i], of the rejection of the Russian ultimatum and of the formation of an anti-Russian Ministry at Constantinople has since been fully confirmed. The most recent dispatches are from Constantinople, of May 17.

"On assuming office, Reshid Pasha requested from Prince Menchikoff a delay of six days. Menchikoff refused, declaring diplomatic relations broken off, and adding that he would remain at Constantinople three days more, to make the necessary preparations for his departure, and he exhorted the Porte to reflection and to profit by the short time he should be detained."

Under date of Constantinople, May 19, we further learn:

"On the 17th, a meeting of the Divan was held, at the issue of which it was definitively resolved that the convention, as proposed by Prince Menchikoff, could not he accepted. Nevertheless, on this being notified to Prince Menchikoff, he did not quit Constantinople. On the contrary, he has opened new communications with Reshid Pasha. The day of the departure of the Russian Embassy is no longer fixed."

Contradictorily to the latter dispatch, the French Government evening organ, La Patrie, positively announces that the Govern-ment has received intelligence that Prince Menchikoff has taken his departure for Odessa, and that the occurrence had occasioned but little sensation at Constantinople. The Pays agrees with this statement, but is contradicted by the Presse[j].Girardin adds, however, that if the news was correct, it might easily be accounted for.

"If Prince Menchikoff really departed from Bujukdere[96] for Odessa, the fact is that, having failed in his mission (manqué son effet), no alternative was left to him but to withdraw, from station to station."

Some papers assert that the fleet of Admiral Delasusse has passed the Dardanelles, and is now at anchor in the Golden Horn, but this assertion is contradicted by The Morning Post. The Triester Zeitung assures its readers that, before giving an answer to Prince Menchikoff, the Porte had asked Lord Redcliffe and M. De la Cour whether it could eventually count upon their support. To this The Times gives its solemn contradiction.

I now give you a literal translation from the Paris Siècle, containing some curious details with respect to the negotiations from May 5 to 12th at Constantinople an exposure of the ridiculous behaviour of Prince Menchikoff, who, in the whole of this transaction, has combined in a most disgusting style, Northern barbarity with Byzantine duplicity, and has succeeded in making Russia the laughing-stock of Europe. This "Grec du Bas-Empire"[k] presumed to conquer the sovereignty over a whole empire by mere theatrical performances. For Russia there remains no step from the sublime to the ridicule —a ridicule which can only be wiped out by blood. But these days of stockjobbing moneyocracy are not the days of chivalrous tournaments. The article in the Siècle[l] runs thus:—

"On Thursday, the 5th of May, the day of departure of the French steam-packet, the Sublime Porte communicated copies of the firman resolving the question of the Holy Places to M. De la Cour and Prince Menchikoff. The day passed away without any declamation, without any démarche on the part of Prince Menchikoff, and all the ambassadors, thinking that question to be settled, profited by the departure of the French steamer, for the announcement of the happy turn of affairs to their respective governments. Prince Menchikoff, however, who had just accepted the firman respecting the Holy Places, dispatched, as soon as midnight had arrived, a common cavas, i.e. a gens'-d'arme, to the Minister of Foreign Affairs[m], with an ultimatum in which he demanded a sened (treaty) containing the solution of the Holy Shrines' question and the future guaranty of the privileges and immunities of the Greek Church, i.e. the most extensive protectorate of that Church for the benefit of Russia, such as would establish two distinct Emperors in Turkey—the Sultan for the Mussulmans, and the Czar for the Christians. For answering this ultimatum, the Prince allowed only four days to the Porte, requiring, besides, an immediate acknowledgment of the receipt of his ultimatum by a government officer. The Minister of Foreign Affairs returned him a kind of receipt by his aga, an inferior officer of the gendarmery. The Prince dispatched a steamer for Odessa in the course of the same night. On Friday, 6th, the Sultan[n], having been informed of the presentation of the ultimatum by such an unusual proceeding, called together the Divan, and gave official notice to Lord Redcliffe and M. De la Cour of what had happened. Those two ambassadors immediately concerted measures for a common policy, advising the Porte to reject the ultimatum with the greatest moderation in language and terms. M. De la Cour, besides, is said to have most formally declared that France should oppose every Convention infringing the rights secured to her by the treaty of 1740, respecting t he Holy Places. Prince Menchikoff, in the meantime, had retired to Bujukdere (like Achilles to his tent). Mr. Canning, on the 9th, there requested an interview with the Prince with a view of engaging him to a more moderate conduct. Refused. On the 10th the Ministers of War[o] and of Foreign Affairs, were at the Grand Vizir's[p], who had invited Prince Menchikoff to join him there for the purpose of attempting to arrive at a reasonable arrangement. Refused. Nevertheless, Prince Menchikoff had intimated to the Porte that he was inclined to grant a further delay of three days. Then, however, the Sultan and his Ministers replied, that their resolutions were taken and that time would not modify them. This negative answer of the Porte was sent toward midnight on the 10th, to Bujukdere, where the whole of the Russian Embassy was collected, and where demonstrations for an approaching departure had been made for several days past. The Turkish Ministry, informed of this circumstance, was just about to yield, when the Sultan dismissed it and formed a new Administration."

I conclude my report on Turkish affairs by an excerpt from the Constitutionnel, showing the conduct of the Greek clergy during all these transactions.

"The Greek clergy, so deeply interested in this question, had pronounced in favor of the status quo, i.e., in favor of the Porte. They are protesting en masse against the protectorate threatened to be imposed on them by the Emperor of Russia[q]. Generally speaking, the Greeks desire the support of Russia, but only on condition of not being subject to her direct domination. It is repulsive to their minds to think that the Oriental Church, which is the mother of the Russian Church, should ever become subordinate to the latter, a thing which of necessity would happen, if the designs of the Petersburg Cabinet should be accepted."[r]

Written on May 27, 1853
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3791, June 10, 1853;
re-printed in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 840, June 14, 1853
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] See this volume, pp. 82-84.—Ed.

[b] Wilhelm Naeff.—Ed.

[c] Federal Council.—Ed.

[d] La Suisse, No. 120, May 24, 1853.—Ed.

[e] The great are only great
       Because we are kneeling.
       Let us rise!—Ed.

[f] Ferdinando Alberto Amedeo.—Ed.

[g] Leopold I.—Ed.

[h] Frederick William IV.—Ed.

[i] See this volume, pp. 105-06.—Ed.

[j] The reference is to Charles Schiller's report published in La Patrie, No. 146, May 26, 1853 and confirmed by the article of J. Augier in Le Pays, No. 146, May 26, 1853, and by E. de Girardin's article in La Presse, May 27, 1853, quoted below.—Ed.

[k] A Byzantine of the Eastern Roman Empire.—Ed.

[l] Below is quoted H. Lamarche's article "Affaires d'Orient.—Rejet de l'UItimatum Russe", Le Siècle, May 26, 1853.—Ed.

[m] Rifaat Pasha.—Ed.

[n] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[o] Mehemed Mutergim Pasha.—Ed.

[p] Mehemet Ali Pasha.—Ed.

[q] Nicholas I.—Ed.

[r] Quoted from the editorial by L. Boniface in Le Constitutionnel, No. 146, May 26, 1853.—Ed.

[93] A section of this article was published under the title "The Ultimatum and After" in The Eastern Question.

[94] In 1853 Austria broke off diplomatic relations with Piedmont (Sardinia) after the Piedmontese authorities had granted asylum to a number of refugees from Lombardy (which was under Habsburg rule), who had participated in the national liberation movement of 1848-49 in Italy and the Milan insurrection of February 6, 1853.

[95] In addressing Louis Bonaparte, who was proclaimed Emperor of the French in December 1852, Nicholas I, by agreement with the Austrian and Prussian courts, used the expression "Your Majesty and dear friend", instead of the usual "Your Majesty and dear brother", and called him "Emperor Louis Napoleon" and not "Emperor Napoleon III". The Austrian and Prussian courts, however, used the accepted form of address for him, but in referring to the need to observe the Vienna Congress decisions, they also hinted at the illegality of his rule since the Congress had prohibited the Bonaparte dynasty from occupying the French throne.

[96] Bujukdere—a holiday resort on the shore of the Bosporus, near Constantinople, where the Russian embassy in Turkey had its summer residence.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.107-111), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
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