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Affairs Continental and English[224]

Karl Marx

London, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 1853

The German and Belgian papers affirm, on the authority of the telegraphic dispatches from Constantinople, of the 13th inst., that the Porte has acceded to the proposals of the Vienna Conference. The French papers, however, having received dispatches from Constantinople of the same date, state merely that the Divan had shown a willingness to receive those proposals. The definitive answer could hardly reach Vienna before the 20th inst. The pending question, and a very serious one, is, whether the Parte will send its Ambassador to St. Petersburg before or after the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the Principalities.

The last accounts from the Black Sea announce that the north-east winds had begun to disturb the navigation. Several ships anchored at Penderekli and other places on the coast, had been compelled to quit their anchorage to avoid being cast ashore.

You know that after the events in Moldavia and Wallachia, the Sultan[a] had ordered the Hospodars[b] to leave the Principalities for Constantinople, and that the Hospodars refused to comply with their sovereign's demands. The Sultan has now deposed the Hospodar of Wallachia on account of his favorable reception of the Russian troops and the support he gave them. On the 9th inst. this firman was read to the Assembly of Boyards, who resolved to petition the Hospodar not to abandon the Government in the present critical circumstances. The Prince acted accordingly. Mano, the Secretary of State, and Ioanidis, the Director of the Ministry of the Interior, have also been summoned to Constantinople; they, however, refused to go, on the pretext that public order might be disturbed. The French and British Consuls, upon this, suspended immediately all relations with the rebel Government.

Affairs in Serbia are taking a complicated turn. The Paris Constitutionnel of last Friday had the following Constantinople intelligence[c]. Austria, taking advantage of the Sultan's difficulties, had pressed certain demands upon him.

An Austrian Consul-General, having lately made a tour of inspection through Bosnia and Serbia, declared to Alexander, the Prince of Serbia, that Austria was prepared to occupy Serbia with her troops in order to suppress any dangerous movement among the population. The Prince, having refused the offer of the Consul-General, at once dispatched a special messenger to Constantinople with an account of this Austrian overture, and Reshid Pasha referred to Baron de Bruck for explanations. The latter said that the Consul-General had previously communicated with the Prince, alleging the fear Austria was in, lest her subjects, on the borders of Serbia, should become involved in any disturbances arising in that province. The reply of Reshid Pasha was to the effect that any occupation of Serbia by Austrian troops would be considered an act of hostility by the Porte, which would itself be answerable for the tranquility of that province; moreover, the Pasha promised that a special Commissioner should be at once sent to see and report on the state of affairs in Serbia.

The day after, several London papers announced the entrance into Serbia of the Austrian troops, an announcement which, however, has turned out to be unfounded. Yesterday the same papers communicated the outbreak of a counter-revolution in Serbia, yet this news likewise rested on no better foundation than a false translation of the German word, Auflauf[d] the fact being that only a small riot had taken place. To-day the German papers publish news from Constantinople of the 9th inst. According to them, several divans had been held on Serbian affairs. The conduct of Prince Alexander was much approved of, and the decision arrived at that, if Austrian troops should attempt to occupy that province, they should, if necessary, be expelled by force. A division of troops has actually been directed towards the frontiers of Bosnia. Private letters received at Constantinople on the 8th inst., conveyed thither the news of Prince Alexander having, in consequence of his conflict with the Austrian Consul, appealed to the decision of the Consuls of France and England, and absented himself momentarily from Belgrade. It is said that he went to Nissa, there to wait for orders from the Porte.

Mr. D. Urquhart, in a letter[e] addressed to The Morning Advertiser of this day, remarks, with regard to the Serbian complication:

"War with Turkey is not [...] at present contemplated by Russia; for, by the cooperation of Austria, she would lose her 'Greek' allies, but she involves Austria in a preparatory collision, which will bring Serbia into a condition parallel to that of the Principalities. Thus will be introduced a religious warfare between Latins and Greeks.... Russia, by a sudden shifting of decorations, may render her own occupation of the Principalities acceptable to Turkey, as a protection against the Austrian occupation of Serbia, and thus mutually engage Austria and Turkey in projects of dismemberment, and support them therein."

The Hospodar of Moldavia proposes to contract a loan with Russian bankers in order to meet the extraordinary expenses of the occupation.

The want of provisions is so great in the fortresses of Bulgaria that the strictest economy has to be observed, and the garrisons are suffering severely.

The Journal de Constantinople reports from Aleppo:

"A discovery has recently been made of a gang of evil-disposed Turks about to rise, as in 1850, against the Christian population of that town. But thanks to the extreme vigilance of the Governor Pasha[f], and of Ali Asmi Pasha, the Commander-in-Chief of the troops at Aleppo, their attempts have been suppressed and public order has been preserved. On this occasion Demetrius, the Patriarch of the Greek Catholic creed, and Basilius, the Patriarch of the Armenian creed, have addressed in the name of their respective communities a collective letter of gratitude to Reshid Pasha, for the protection afforded to the Christians by the Sultan's Government."

The German St. Petersburg Gazette has the following in a leader on Oriental affairs:

"What the friends of peace could only hope for at the commencement of July, has become a certainty in the latter days. The work of mediation between Russia and Turkey is now definitively placed in the hands of Austria. At Vienna there will be devised a solution of the Eastern question, which in these latter tunes has kept in suspense all the action between the Black Sea and the Ocean, and which alone has prevented European Diplomacy from taking its habitual holidays."

Observe the studious affectation with which, in lieu of the four Powers, Austria alone is constituted mediator, and which places the suspense of nations, in the true Russian style, only on a scale with the interrupted holidays of diplomacy.

The Berlin National Zeitung publishes[g] a letter from Georgia, dated 15th July, stating that Russia intends a new campaign against the people of the Caucasus at the end of the present month, and that a fleet in the Sea of Azov is fitted out in order to support the operations of the land army.

The session of 1853 was brought to a close on Saturday last Parliament being prorogued until October 27. A very indifferent and meager speech, purporting to be the Queen's[h] message, was read by commission. In answer to Mr. Milnes Lord Palmerston assured Parliament that it could safely disband, as far as the evacuation of the Principalities was concerned, giving, however, no pledge of any kind but "his confidence in the honor and the character of the Russian Emperor," which would move him to withdraw his troops voluntarily from the Principalities[i]. The Coalition Cabinet thus revenged itself for his speech against Mr. Cobden[j], by forcing him to record solemnly his "confidence in the character and the honor" of the Czar. The same Palmerston received on the same day a deputation from the aristocratic fraction of the Polish Emigration at Paris and its collateral branch at London[225], presenting his lordship with an address and medallions in gold, silver and bronze of Prince Adam Czartoryski, in testimony of their gratitude to his lordship for allowing the sequestration of Cracow in 1846, and for otherwise exhibiting sympathy with the cause of Poland. The inevitable Lord Dudley Stuart, the patron of the London branch of the Paris society, was of course the master of ceremonies. Lord Palmerston assured these simple-minded men "of his deep interest in the history of Poland, which was a very painful history.[k]" The noble lord omitted not to remind them that he spoke not as a member of the Cabinet, but received them only as a private amateur.

The first half of the long protracted session of 1853 was filled up with the death-struggle of the Derby Ministry, with the formation and final victory of the Coalition Cabinet, and with the Easter recess of Parliament. As to the real session, its most remarkable features were the dissolution of all the old political parties, the corruption of the members of Parliament, and the petrifaction of the privileged constituencies revealing the curious working of the Government, embracing all the shades of opinion, and all the talents of the official world, proclaiming postponement the solution of all questions, shifting all difficulties by half-and-half measures, feeding upon promises, declaring "performance as a kind of will or testament which argues a great weakness in his judgment that makes it," retracting, modifying, unsettling its own legislative acts as quickly as it brought them in, living upon the inheritance of predecessors whom it had fiercely denounced, leaving the initiative of its own measures to the house which it presumed to lead, and reaping failure as the inevitable fate of the few acts, the uncontroverted authorship of which it holds. Thus parliamentary reform, national education reform, and law reform (a few trifles apart) have been postponed. The Transportation bill, the Navigation bill, etc., were inherited from the Derby Cabinet. The Canada Clergy Reserves[226] bill was dreadfully mutilated by the Government a few days after having introduced it. As to the budget, the Succession act was proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer only after he had voted against it. The Advertisement act was undergone by him only when his opposition to it had twice been voted down. The new regulation of the licensing system was finally abandoned, after it had suffered various transformations. Introduced by Mr. Gladstone with pretensions to a great scheme, a thing worth the budget as a whole, it came out of the House as a miserable patch-work, as a mere conglomerate of fortuitous, incoherent and contradictory little items. The only great feature of the India bill, the non-renewal of the Company's charter, was introduced by the Ministry after they had announced its renewal for 20 years more. The two acts truly and exclusively belonging to the Ministry of all the talents: the Cab act and the Conversion of the Public Debt, had scarcely passed the threshold of the House, when they were publicly hissed as failures. The foreign policy of the "strongest Government England ever saw," is owned by its own partisans to have been the nec plus ultra of helpless, vacillating weakness. The Chesham Place Treaty, however, contracted between the Peelite bureaucrats, the Whig oligarchs and the sham-Radicals[227], has been linked the more strongly by the threatening aspect of things abroad and by the even more imminent symptoms of popular discontent at home manifested through the unprecedented intensity and generality of strikes, and the renewal of the Chartist agitation. In judging the external policy of the ruling classes and of the Cabinet, we must not lose sight of a war with Russia training behind it a general revolutionary conflagration of the Continent, and at this time likely to meet with a fatal echo from the masses of Great Britain.

As to the House of Lords, its doings admit of a very short résumé. It has exhibited its bigotry by the rejection of the Jewish Emancipation bill[228], its hostility to the working classes by burking the Workingmen's Combination bill, its interested hatred of the Irish people by shelving the Irish Land bills, and its stupid predilection for Indian abuses by re-establishing the Salt monopoly. It has acted throughout in secret understanding with the Government that whatever progressive measures might by chance pass the Commons, should be canceled by the enlightened Lords.

Among the papers laid on the table of Parliament before its prorogation, there is a voluminous correspondence carried on between the British and Russian Governments with regard to the obstructions to navigation in the Sulina mouth of the Danube. The correspondence begins on Feb. 9, 1849, and concludes in July, 1853, having concluded nothing whatever. Things have now arrived at such a point that even the Austrian Government is forced to announce that the mouth of the Danube has become impassable for navigation, and that its own mails to Constantinople will be henceforth forwarded by Trieste. The whole difficulty is the fruit of British connivance at Muscovite encroachments. In 1836 the English Government acquiesced in the usurpation of the mouth of the Danube by Russia, after having instructed a commercial firm to resist the interference of the officers of the Russian Government.

The so-called peace concluded with Burma, announced with a proclamation of the Governor-General of India[l], dated June 30, 1853, and upon which the Queen is made to congratulate Parliament, is nothing but a simple truce. The King of Ava[m], starved into submission, expressed his desire for the cessation of war, set the British prisoners at liberty, asked for the raising of the river blockade, and forbade his troops to attack the territories of Mecadeay and Toungu, where the British Government had placed garrisons in the same manner as the Turkish Government has forbidden its troops to attack the Russians stationed in the Principalities. But he does not recognize the claims of England to Pegu or to any other portion of the Burmese Empire. All that England has got by this struggle is a dangerous and controverted frontier instead of a secure and acknowledged one. She has been driven out of the ethnographical, geographical and political circumscription of her Indian dominions, and the Celestial Empire itself no longer forms any natural barrier to her conquering force. She has lost her point of gravitation in Asia and pushed into the indefinite. She is no longer mistress of her own movements, there being no stopping but where the land falls into the sea. England seems thus to be destined to open the remotest Orient to Western intercourse, but not to enjoy nor to hold it.

The great colliers' strikes in South Wales not only continue, but out of them have arisen new strikes among the men employed at the iron mines. A general strike among the British sailors is anticipated for the moment when the Merchant Shipping bill will come into operation, the foreigners being, as they say, admitted only for the purpose of lowering their wages. The importance of the present strikes, to which I have repeatedly called the attention of your readers, begins now to be understood even by the London middle-class press. Thus, the Weekly Times of last Saturday remarks:

"The relations between employer and employed have been violently disturbed. Labor throughout the length and breadth of the land has bearded capital, and it may safely be asserted that the quarrel thus evoked has only just commenced. The working classes have been putting forth strong feelers to try their position. [...] The agitation at present is limited to a series of independent skirmishes, but there are indications that the period is not very distant when this desultory warfare will be turned into a systematic and universal combination against capital ...."[n]

Written on August 23,1853
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3864, September 5, 1853;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 864, September 6, 1853
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[b] G. Ghica (Moldavia) and B. Stirbei (Wallachia).—Ed.

[c] The reference is to the report in Le Constitutionnel, No. 231, August 19, 1853.—Ed.

[d] Unlawful assembly, riot, tumult.—Ed.

[e] "The Kaiser and the Czar".—Ed.

[f] Osman Pasha.—Ed.

[g] National-Zeitung, No. 384, August 19, 1853.—Ed.

[h] Victoria.—Ed.

[i] Quoted according to The Times, No. 21513, August 22, 1853.—Ed.

[j] See this volume, pp. 275-76.—Ed.

[k] Quoted from "Lord Palmerston and the Poles" published in The Times, No. 21513, August 22, 1853.—Ed.

[l] J. Dalhousie.—Ed.

[m] Mindon.—Ed.

[n] Quoted from "The Parliamentary Doings of '53" in the Weekly Times, No. 345, August 21, 1853.—Ed.

[224] The first section of this article was published under the same title in The Eastern Question.

[225] The aristocratic wing of the Polish emigration centred around Prince Adam Czartoryski who resided in the Hôtel Lambert in Paris. Polish aristocratic émigrés also lived in Britain and other countries. Polish patriots organised a national liberation uprising in the Cracow Republic which, by a decision of the Vienna Congress, was controlled jointly by Austria, Russia and Prussia—the countries who had taken part in the partitions of Poland at the end of the eighteenth century. On February 22, 1846 the insurgents managed to take power, formed a National Government of the Polish Republic and issued a manifesto on the abolition of feudal obligations. The Cracow uprising was suppressed in early March 1846, and in November 1846 Austria, Prussia and Russia signed a treaty on the annexation of the free city of Cracow to the Austrian Empire. Palmerston, who became Foreign Secretary in July 1846, rejected the French proposal for a collective protest against this action and in a letter of November 23, 1846 notified the Vienna Cabinet that Britain would not defend the Cracow Republic, while hypocritically calling on Austria, Prussia and Russia to renounce their intentions with regard to Cracow.

[226] A reference to Russell's motion for the "removal of some disabilities of Her Majesty's Jewish subjects", introduced in the House of Commons on February 24, 1853. The motion aimed at granting the Jews the right to be elected to the House of Commons. It passed through the Commons but was turned down by the House of Lords. Marx gave an appraisal of this bill in his article "Parliamentary Debates.—The Clergy Against Socialism.—Starvation" (see present edition, Vol. 11).

The Canada Clergy Reserves (1791-1840) consisted of a seventh of the revenue from the sale of lands in Canada and were used chiefly for subsidising the Established and the Presbyterian Churches. In 1853 the British Parliament passed a law authorising the legislative bodies in Canada to distribute the funds independently and grant subsidies to other churches also according to the proportion of the population professing this or that religion. When Peel's Bill, introduced on February 15, 1853, was passing through the House of Commons, the members, on Russell's initiative, voted against the clause on the withdrawal of subsidies to various churches in Canada, which were granted in years when their share of the revenue from the sale of lands was below a fixed sum.

[227] A reference to an agreement reached between the Peelites, the Whigs and the so-called Mayfair Radicals (see Note 64 ↓) who met at the private residence of Lord John Russell in Chesham Place, London, in the spring of 1852. The agreement provided for joint opposition to Derby's Tory Cabinet and also the formation of a Coalition Ministry in case of its resignation. It remained in force until December 1852 when the Aberdeen Coalition Ministry was formed. The key posts in the new Ministry were held by the Whig and Peelite leaders, while the representatives of the Mayfair Radicals were given a number of administrative appointments.

[64] The Mayfair-men, or Mayfair Radicals—the name given to a group of aristocratic politicians (Molesworth, Bernal Osborne and others), who flirted with democratic circles. Mayfair is an upper-class residential district in London bordering Hyde Park.

[228] See Note 226 ↑.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.277-283), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
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