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The Western Powers and Turkey.
Symptoms of Economic Crisis.[245]

Karl Marx

London, Friday, Sept. 23, 1853

The Globe, in its number of Sept. 20, denies the authenticity of the statement of the Journal des Débats with regard to the mission of Mr. Reeve, and The Times of Wednesday reprints the article of The Globe under the head of gobemoucherie, accusing the French press of trading in canards. But did not the leading article of The Times I analyzed in my last letter[a] wholly confirm the statement of the Journal des Débats? Has there appeared any refutation in the Paris Moniteur? Did not, on the same day that The Globe gave the lie to the Débats, the Assemblée nationale reiterate that

"Lord Redcliffe was to notify to the Sultan that, if he refused to withdraw his modification, the English fleet would enter the Dardanelles, and the French fleet would not be slow to follow?"[b]

Did not The Times, on the same day on which it reproduced the denial of The Globe, explicitly declare that

"England and France have no business to interfere between Russia and Turkey, except on the terms proposed by the four allied Powers, and accepted by Russia, whether these terms were agreeable to the haughty spirit of Turkey or not?"

Were we not told by The Morning Post, before the Journal des Débats had arrived at London, that

"on the receipt of the Emperor of Russia's[c] answer to the proposal for the modifications of the Vienna Note, the Conference of the Representatives of the Great Powers had immediately assembled, and on the 4th inst. dispatched a courier to Constantinople with certain communications from the Conference to the Divan, which it was hoped would induce the Porte to accept the Vienna Note!"[d]

Finally, we read in a morning paper of to-day that

"Mr. Reeve is going to Constantinople, that he is the bearer of dispatches from Lord Clarendon to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, and that a connection of the most intimate kind exists between him and the Foreign Office, he having been the channel of communication between Downing-st. and Printing-house Square."

The truth is, that since the last revelations made by the French Press, the Eastern question has again assumed quite a new aspect, and the ignominious resolutions the English Ministry had decided upon are likely to be frustrated by events contrary to all their calculations and expectations.

Austria has seceded from the joint action with her pretended allies; the Vienna Conference has been broken off, at least for a moment. Russia has pulled off the mask she thinks no longer of any avail, and the English Ministry is driven out of its last entrenchments.

"Lord Aberdeen," as the Liverpool Courier[e] justly remarks, "recommended that the Sultan[f] should have recourse to a transparent and contemptible fraud; that the parties to the Vienna Conference should exercise a mental reservation with regard to the note, and that the Sultan should read it in an unnatural sense, i.e., the terms of the note being clear and precise, and the Emperor of Russia having refused point-blank to adopt the Sultan's modifications, the Powers should hold themselves prepared, hereafter, to act as if those modifications had been received."

M. Drouyn de Lhuys suggested to the Vienna Conference an explanatory note conceived in that hypocritical sense, and to be communicated to the Porte, but Count Buol rejected this proposition, declaring that it

"was too friendly to the Porte, that the time was gone by for collective action, and that each power was free to act as it pleased."

Thus the English Ministry has lost the resource of covering itself with the common arbitration of the European Areopagus, that joint-stock company disappearing before one word of the Austrian Minister, as it had been conjured up by him. In the beginning Austria wanted no conference at all till Russia had crossed the Pruth. Russia having advanced to the Danube, Austria does want the conference no more, at least no more on its, primitive conditions. On the other hand Count de Nesselrode has published two circulars, which do not any longer allow backing the original Vienna Note by hidden "good intentions" or interpreting it in any other sense than its literal one.

The modifications proposed by the Porte have reduced the whole question to "a mere question of words"[g], shouted the whole ministerial press.

By no means, says Nesselrode. The Czar puts the same interpretation upon the original text as the Sultan did. The original note is nothing and has never been intended to be anything but a second edition of Menchikoff's note, and we do abide by the text, the whole text, and nothing but the text. The ministerial Globe is of course amazed at the discovery that both the Czar and the Sultan, regard the original note "as implying recognition of those demands which Russia had preferred, which Turkey had refused, and which the four Powers did not" (?) "intend to indorse"[h], and that "Russia insists upon an absolute recognition of the claims which she first advanced." And why should she not? If she was bold enough to advance those claims four months ago, why should she desist now after having won the first campaign?

The same Globe which pretended some days ago the Turkish modifications to be scholastic quibbles, superfluous subtilities, is now obliged to own that "the Russian interpretation shows that they were necessary."

The first dispatch of Nesselrode is not yet made public, but The Morning Post assures us that it declares "the Vienna Note to be neither more nor less than the equivalent of Prince Menchikoff's note," and the evening Globe adds, that according to it,

"The Emperor regarded [...] the Vienna Note as securing for him that recognition on Turkey, and that hold upon her Government, which the Porte, with the support of the four Powers, had refused, and which it was the object of the mediation to prevent. [...] That the Emperor [...] never ceased to reserve to himself the right of dealing directly with Turkey alone, setting aside the mediators whom he affected to acknowledge."

At no time did he affect to acknowledge them as mediators. He permitted three of them to march in the rear of Austria, while he allowed Austria herself to come an humble supplicant to him.

As to the second dispatch, dated St. Petersburg, 7th, published by the Berlin Zeit on the 18th inst., and addressed to Baron Meyendorff at Vienna, Nesselrode is perfectly right in stating that the original note was described to him as an "ultimatum" by the Austrian Envoy, which Russia obliged herself to give her consent to upon the express condition of its being accepted by the Porte without any alteration whatever. "Will any one refuse to hear this testimony to the loyauté of the Emperor?"[i] It is true that he has committed a little act of "piracy" on the Principalities; that he has overrun them, seized them, taxed them, governed them, plundered them, appropriated them, eaten them up, notwithstanding the proclamations of Gorchakoff; but never mind. Did he not, on the other hand, "on the receipt of a first draft of a note, notify his accession to it by telegraph, without waiting to learn if it had been approved in London or in Paris?" Could he be expected to do more than to notify by telegraph, that a note, dictated by a Russian Minister at Vienna, would not be rejected by a Russian Minister at St. Petersburg? Could he do more for Paris and London than not even to wait for their approval? But he did more, indeed. The draft, whose acceptance he condescended to notify by telegraph, was "altered" at Paris and London, and "did he retract his consent, or raise the smallest difficulty?" It is true, that according to his own statement, the note in its "final form" is "neither snore nor less than an equivalent of Prince Menchikoff's note;" but an equivalent note remains, at all instances, "different" from the original one; and had he "not stipulated the acceptance of the Menchikoff note without any alteration?" Might he not, "on this ground alone, have refused to take it into consideration?" He did not do so. "Could a more conciliatory spirit be shown?" The ultimatum of the Vienna Conference is no business of his; it is their own property. "It is their affair to consider the delays which will result" from the Sultan not yielding. He, for his part, does not care about staying some months longer in the Principalities, where his troops are clothed and fed for nothing.

Odessa does not suffer from the mouth of the Danube being blocked, and, if the occupation of the Principalities contributes to raise the price of wheat at Mark-lane[j], the profane Imperials will find the quicker their way back to the Holy Russia. It is, therefore, for Austria and the Powers to

"declare to the Porte, frankly and firmly, that they, after having in vain opened up to it the only road that could lead to an immediate restoration of its relations with us, henceforth leave the task for itself alone."

They did enough for the Sultan by having opened the road to the Danube to the Czar and closed the road to the Black Sea to the Allied Squadron. Nesselrode's "august master" denounces then, "the warlike inspiration which seems at present to influence the Sultan and the majority of his Ministers." He, on his part, would certainly prefer the Sultan taking it coolly, opposing peace tracts to gunboats, and compliments to Cossacks. "He has exhausted the measure of concessions, without the Porte having yet made a single one. His Majesty can go no further." Certainly not, he can go no further, without crossing th Danube. Nesselrode compresses his whole argument into a masterly dilemma not to be escaped from. Either the alterations proposed by the Porte mean nothing, or they mean something. If they mean nothing, why should the Porte insist upon them? If they mean something, "it is very simple that we refuse to accede to them."

"The evacuation of the Principalities," said Lord Clarendon, "is a sine qua non, preliminary to any settlement[k]." Quite the contrary, answers Nesselrode. "The settlement," i.e., the arrival of the Turkish Ambassador bearing the Austrian note without alterations "is a sine qua non preliminary to the evacuation of the Principalities."

In one word, the magnanimous Czar is ready to part with the Vienna Conference humbug, as it is no longer wanted for terminating his first campaign; but he will hold the closer the Principalities, as they are -the indispensable condition for commencing the second one.

If it be true, as we are informed to-day by telegraphic dispatch, that the Conference has resumed business, the Powers will repeat to Nicholas the song Alexander was received with by the Paris mob:

Vive Alexandre,
Vive le roi des rois,
Sans rien prétendre
Il nous donne des lois

The Czar himself, however, holds no longer his former control over the Eastern complication. The Sultan has been forced to conjure up the old fanatic spirit, to cause a new invasion of Europe by the rude warlike tribes of Asia, not to be soothed down with diplomatic notes and conventional lies, and there seems transpiring, even through the insolent note of the Muscovite, something like an apprehension at the "warlike spirit" domineering over Stambul. The manifesto, addressed by the Sultan to the Mussulmans, declines any other concession to Russia, and a deputation of the Ulemas[246] is said to have called upon the Sultan to abdicate or to declare war without further delay. The division in the Divan is extreme, and the pacific influence of Reshid Pasha and Mustafa Pasha is giving way to that of Mehemet Ali, the Seraskier.[m]

The infatuation of the so-called radical London press is quite incredible. After having told us some days ago, that "the laws of England have to be exercised in their penal rigor[n] upon the persons of four traitors"[o] (Aberdeen, Clarendon, Palmerston and Russell), The Morning Advertiser, of yesterday, concludes one of its leaders as follows:

"Lord Aberdeen must, therefore, make way for a successor. Need we say who that successor must be? There is but one man to whom the country points at this important junction, as fit to be entrusted with the helm of affairs. That man is Lord Palmerston."

The Morning Advertiser being unable to read events and facts, should at least be able to read the articles of Mr. Urquhart, published day after day in its own columns.

On Tuesday evening a meeting of the inhabitants of Sheffield was called, by requisition to the Mayor, "to take into consideration the present unsettled and unsatisfactory state of the Eastern question and the propriety of memorializing government on the subject." A similar meeting is to be held at Stafford and many other attempts are afloat at getting up public demonstrations against Russia and the ministry of "all the talents." But, generally, public attention is absorbed by the rate of discount, corn prices, strikes and commercial apprehensions, and more yet by the cholera ravaging Newcastle and being met with explanatory notes by the London Board of Health. An order in council has been issued, putting in force the provisions of the Epidemic Disease Act for the next six months throughout the Islands; and hasty preparations for the due reception of the scourge are making in London and other great towns. If I shared the opinions of Mr. Urquhart, I should say, that the Czar had dispatched the Cholera morbus to England with the "secret mission" to break down the last remnant of what is called the Anglo-Saxon spirit.

A wonderful change has come over the manufacturing districts during the last four weeks. In July and the beginning of August there was nothing to be seen but bright prosperity, only slightly overshadowed by the distant cloud of the "Eastern Question," and more so, perhaps, by the fear that a shortness of hands would prevent our cotton-lords to explore to the dregs that immense mine of profitable business which they saw before them. The Eastern dispute seemed settled, the crop might certainly turn out a little short, but there was free trade to keep prices down with the never-failing supplies of America, of the Black Sea and the Baltic. Day after day the demand for manufactured goods went on increasing. California ,and Australia poured forth their golden treasures into the lap of British industry. The Times, forgetting Malthus and all its own former rhapsodies about overpopulation, seriously discussed the question whether the shortness of the supply of working-hands, and consequent rise of wages, would not, by raising the cost of production of British manufactures in a proportionate manner, put a stop to this flourishing trade, unless the Continent sent a colony of workmen. The working classes were, as their employers said, only too well off, so much so, that their demands knew no bounds, and their "impudence" was daily becoming more intolerable. But that was in itself a proof of the immense, unheard-of prosperity which the country was enjoying; and what could be the cause of this prosperity but Free Trade? And what was worth more than all this, was the certitude that the enormous trade done was sound, that there were no stocks, no wild speculation. Thus the manufacturers, one and all, were wont to express themselves, and they acted upon these views; they built factories by the hundred, they ordered steam-engines of thousands of horse-power, thousands of power-looms, hundreds of thousands of spindles. Never was engineering and machine-making a more profitable trade than in 1853. Establishments broken down in the whole of their internal organization by the great strike of 1851[247], now regained their position, and even improved it; and I could name more than one first-rate and celebrated machine-making firm who, but for this unprecedented business, would have succumbed under the consequence of the blow inflicted by the mechanics during the great turn-out.

The fact is that the bright sunshine of prosperity is for the moment hidden by gloomy clouds. No doubt the altered aspect of the Eastern dispute has contributed a good deal; but that affects the home American and Colonial trade very little. The raising of the rate of discount is less a cause than a symptom of "something being rotten in the state of Denmark[p]." The shortness of the crop and increase in the price of provisions are no doubt causes which have counteracted and will counteract still more the demand for manufactured goods from those markets which are exposed to the operation of these causes, and among these the home market, the mainstay of British industry, stands in the first rank. But the rise in the price of provisions is at this moment, in most districts of England and Scotland, very nearly or altogether compensated by the rise of wages, so that the purchasing power of the consumer can hardly be said to have been already lessened much. Then the rise in wages has raised the cost of production in those branches of industry in which manual labor prevails; but the price of nearly all manufactured goods was, up to August, pushed a good deal ahead of the cost of production by the large demand. All these causes have cooperated to deaden business; but, after all, they are not sufficient to account for the general anxiety that pervades the commercial classes of the manufacturing districts.

The fact is, that the spell of the Free Trade delusions is vanishing away, and the bold industrial adventurers begin to have a glimmering that economical revulsions, commercial crises and recurrence of over-production are yet not quite so impossible in a Free Trade country as 'they dreamt. And over-production there has been, there is, there must be, for even those bugbears of The Manchester Guardian, the "Stocks", are there; aye, and increasing too. The demand for goods is decidedly falling off, while the supply increases every day. The largest and most numerous of the new industrial constructions are only now gradually coming into operation. The shortness of hands, the strikes of the building trades, the impossibility of supplying the enormous quantities of machinery on order, have caused many an unforeseen delay and postponed, for a time, the eruption of those symptoms of industrial plethora which otherwise would have shown themselves sooner. Thus the largest mill in the world, Mr. T. Salt's, near Bradford, was only to be opened this week, and it will take some time yet, ere the whole of the productive power employed there can be brought fully to bear on the market. Thus plenty of the larger new concerns in Lancashire will not be fit for work before winter, while it will be spring, and perhaps later, before the market will feel the full effect of this new and stupendous accession of productive power. According to the last news from Melbourne and Sydney, import markets were becoming much duller, and many shipments will now be indefinitely postponed. As to over-speculation, we shall hear of that by and by, when accounts come to be closed. Speculation has been distributed over such a variety of articles that it shows less this time than before, although there is plenty of it.

Written on September 23, 1853
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3892
and the New-York Semi-weekly Tribune, No. 873, October 7, 1853
Signed: Karl Marx

A page from Marx's notebook with notes on the mailing of
articles to the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] See this volume, pp. 310-12.—Ed.

[b] Quoted from Am. Pellier's article in L'Assemblée nationale, No. 263, September 20, 1853.—Ed.

[c] Nicholas I.—Ed.

[d] The Morning Post, No. 24881, September 19, 1853.—Ed.

[e] Of September 21, 1853.—Ed.

[f] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[g] The Times, No. 21538, September 20, 1853. See also this volume, p. 310.—Ed.

[h] Here and below the quotations are from the leader in The Globe, September 22, 1853.—Ed.

[i] Nesselrode's dispatch is quoted from and presented according to The Times, No. 21540, September 22, 1853.—Ed.

[j] The Corn Exchange.—Ed.

[k] Quoted from Clarendon's House of Lords speech on August 8, 1853 in The Times. No. 21502, August 9, 1853.—Ed.

[l] Long live Alexander,
     King of Kings.
     He grants us laws
     And asks for nothing in return.

[m] War Minister.—Ed.

[n] The Morning Advertiser has "vigour".—Ed.

[o] Quoted from Urquhart's article in The Morning Advertiser, September 20, 1853. Marx quotes this statement more fully in his article of September 20, 1853 (see this volume, pp. 312-13).—Ed.

[p] Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene 4.—Ed.

[245] In response to Marx's request Engels sent him material on the economic situation in Lancashire and other industrial regions of England which Marx used in this and the following article. Marx wrote about it in his letter to Engels of September 28, 1853 (see present edition, Vol. 39).

The first section of this article was published under the title "The English Ministry Outwitted.—Panic" in The Eastern Question.

[246] The ulema (ulama)—a body of the theologians and legalists of Islam; it provided teachers for the mosques and schools, supervised law and the courts and had a great influence on the political life of the Turkish Empire.

[247] A reference to a strike of engineering workers that started in late December 1851 and involved several towns in South-East and Central England. The strike was organised by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers with the aim of abolishing overtime and improving working conditions. The employers responded with a lockout. After three months' struggle the workers lost and were compelled to resume work on former terms. The employers suffered considerable material losses, however, as a result of the strike and lockout.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.318-328), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
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