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The Quadruple Convention.
England and The War.[354]

Karl Marx

London, Friday, Dec. 9, 1853

Your readers have followed, step by step, the diplomatic movements of the Coalition Cabinet, and they will not be surprised at any new attempt, on the part of the Palmerstons and the Aberdeens, to back the Czar[a] under the pretext of protecting Turkey and securing the peace of Europe. Even the resurrection of a Vienna Conference[355] or of a London Congress they are fully prepared for. The Metropolitan Stock Exchange was first in-formed by The Morning Chronicle[b], on Friday last, of England having succeeded in inducing Austria and Prussia to support the Western Powers in their attempt at a new mediation between the belligerent parties. Then came The Morning Post with the news of "this attempt" and with the consolatory announcement that

"in this attempt the cooperation of Prussia and Austria has been sought and obtained, and the four Powers have signed a protocol, engaging them, implicitly, to maintain the present territorial distribution of Europe, and inviting the belligerent Powers to come to an amicable adjustment of their differences by means of an European conference. The first step that will be taken, in consequence of this proceeding of the four Powers, will be to ascertain the views of Turkey on the bases upon which she will allow negotiations for an arrangement of the Eastern dispute to be conducted. This clearly ascertained, the four Powers will then invite Russia to state her views in regard to the [...] bases of the proposed arrangement, and then both Powers will be requested to send plenipotentiaries to a conference of the Great Powers, [...] at some time and place to be hereafter determined upon.... The Czar's dignity might be preserved while the interests of Turkey would be fully upheld, in the first place by a treaty between Turkey and Russia of amity and peace and of commerce, stipulating for a due protection of the subjects of either state within the territories of the other, and, in the second place, by a treaty between the Sultan[c] and the five Powers, such a treaty as that of the Dardanelles of 1841, in which the Sultan should undertake to respect the existing constitutions and privileges of the Danubian Principalities and of Servia, and in which he should bind himself as in the treaty [of] Kainardji, but this time to Europe, and not to Russia—specially to protect the Christian religion within his dominions."[d]

At last came the thunderer of Printing House-square, announcing in a first edition[e] that the alliance between the four Powers had been definitively concluded, and that they had laid down conditions which Russia and the Porte would, if necessary, "be forced to accept." Instantly the funds rose; but the satisfaction of the stockjobbers proved short-lived, as the same Times announced in its second edition that the four Powers had indeed drawn up a protocol and presented the draft of a collective note, without having, however, bound themselves to enforce its acceptance. Down went the funds again. At last the "startling news" was reduced to the old story of the resurrection of the dead body of the late Vienna Conference—it would be preposterous to speak of its ghost—and a telegraphic dispatch confirmed the report that

"the Conference of the four Powers at Vienna had on the 6th forwarded to Constantinople another proposal for the arrangement of the pending differences founded on a new project, and that negotiations for peace will continue, even though hostilities should not be suspended."

On the very eve of war the Vienna Conference, that retrospective Pythia, had just proposed to Turkey to accept Prince Menchikoff's ultimatum. After the first defeat Russia had under-gone, England and France took up Reshid Pasha's answer to Prince Menchikoff's ultimatum. What phase of the past transactions they will now have arrived at in their retrograde movement, it is impossible to predict. The Augsburger Zeitung states that the new propositions of the Conference express the desire of the four Powers to "prevent war"[f]. A startling novelty this!

Insipid, as all this diplomatic gossip may appear at a moment, when the status quo has been supplanted by a status belli, we must not forget that the hidden intentions of the British Cabinet transpire through these fantastical projects of conferences and congresses; that the ministerial papers throw out their feelers to ascertain how far the Ministry may venture to go; and that the unfounded rumors of to-day more than once have foreshadowed the events of to-morrow. So much is sure, that if not accepted by Austria, the quadruple alliance has been proposed by England with a view to enforce upon Turkey the resolutions to be agreed upon by the four Powers. If no alliance has been concluded, a "protocol" has at least been signed by the four Powers, establishing the principles upon which to conduct the transactions. It is no less sure that the Vienna Conference, which prevented Turkey from moving till the Russian army had occupied the Principalities and reached the frontiers of Bulgaria, has again resumed its work and already dispatched a new note to the Sultan. That the step from a Vienna Conference to a European Congress, at London, is by no means a great one, was proved in 1839 at the epoch of Mehemet Ali's insurrection. The Congress pursuing its work of "pacification," while Russia pursued her war against Turkey, would be but a repetition of the London Congress of 1827-29, resulting in the destruction of the Turkish fleet, at Navarino, and the loss of Turkish independence, by the treaty of Adrianople. The bases upon which the British Cabinet have proposed, and the other Powers agreed to conduct negotiations, are clearly indicated by the ministerial papers. Maintenance of the "present territorial distribution of Europe." It would be a great mistake to consider this proposition as a simple return to the provisions of the peace of Vienna. The extinction of the Kingdom of Poland, the possession of the mouths of the Danube by Russia, the incorporation of Cracow, the transformation of Hungary into an Austrian province all these "territorial arrangements" have never been sanctioned by arty European Congress. A sanction, then, of the present "territorial distribution of Europe" would be, instead of a simple admission of Turkey to the treaty of Vienna, as is pretended, rather a sanction of all the violations of that treaty by Russia and Austria, since 1830. "A treaty of amity, and peace, and commerce between Russia and Turkey" such are the identical terms in the preamble of the treaties of Kainardji, Adrianople and Unkiar-Skelessi. "A treaty as that of the Dardanelles of 1841," says the Palmerstonian paper[g]. Exactly so. A treaty like that which excluded Europe from the Dardanelles and transformed the Euxine into a Russian lake. But, says The Times, why should .we not stipulate for the free entrance of the Dardanelles for men-of-war, and the free navigation of the Danube. But read the letter addressed by Lord Palmerston in September, 1839, to Mr. Bulwer[356], the then Envoy at Paris, and we shall find that similar hopes were held out at that epoch.

"The Sultan, bound to respect the existing constitutions of the Principalities and Servia." But these existing constitutions distribute the sovereignty over the provinces between the Czar and the Sultan, and they have, till now, never been acknowledged by any European Congress. The new Congress then, would add to the de facto protectorate of Russia over Turkish provinces, the sanction of Europe. The Sultan would then be bound not to the Czar, but to Europe, to protect "the Christian religion within his dominions." That is to say, the right of interference between the Sultan and his Christian subjects by foreign powers, would become a paragraph of European international law, and, in case of any new conflicts occurring, Europe would be bound by treaty to back the pretentions of Russia, who, as a party to the treaty, would have a right to interpret in her sense the protection to be asked for by the Christians in the Sultan's dominions. The new treaty, then, as projected by the Coalition Cabinet, and as explained by its own organs, is the most comprehensive plan of European surrender to Russia ever conceived, and a wholesale sanction of all the changes brought about by the counter-revolutions since 1830. There is, therefore, no occasion for throwing up caps and being astonished at the change of the policy of Austria, a change, as The Morning Post feigns to believe, "effected suddenly within the last ten days." As to Bonaparte, whatever his ulterior designs may be, for the moment the Parvenu Emperor is content enough to climb up into the heaven of the old legitimate powers, with Turkey as his ladder.

The views of the Coalition Cabinet are clearly expressed by The Guardian, the ministerial weekly paper:

"To treat Russia as a beaten enemy and fancy we have her by the throat because Russian troops have been foiled at the trenches of Oltenitza and some forts captured on the Black Sea, is simply ridiculous; these petty losses would in themselves but exasperate her pride and indispose her to treat till she could do so on better terms. But sovereigns, like other men, are governed by mixed motives. The Czar is a proud and passionate, but he is also a prudent man. He is engaged in a quarrel in which he may lose and cannot gain. His policy is that of his predecessors, who have throughout gained more by threatening than by waging war, and whose steady and undeviating system of encroachment had in it a vein of elastic pliability, which enabled them to avoid great disasters and even to turn minor reverses to profitable account. The preliminary resolution of the four Powers, that no change shall be made or permitted in the territorial arrangements of Europe, appears to be based on this rational view of his position and policy. It will disappoint those who see in imagination the feet of England on his neck, or who suffer themselves to be misled by the chimerical nonsense of the Protectionist papers. But the business in hand is not the humiliation of Russia but the pacification of Europe" (in a Russian sense of course), "the establishment, as far as possible, of that durable peace for which the French Soldier-Envoy[h] pledges his master's honor to the Sultan. And the coming treaty, we may be sure, [...] will not be a mere restoration of the status quo, but will attempt at least to settle on some permanent footing the relations of Turkey with Europe and of the Turkish Government with its Christian subjects, attempt—for, settle it so durably as we may, any arrangement which leaves a Turkish Empire in' Europe will always be provisional at bottom. Such a provisional arrangement, however, is the thing now practicable and needful."[i]

The ultimate object, then, the powers aim at, is to help the Czar "to turn minor reverses to profitable account," and "to leave no Turkish Empire in Europe." The provisional arrangement will, of course, prepare that ultimate consummation as far as "the thing is now practicable."

Some circumstances, however, have singularly confounded the calculations of the Coalition politicians. There is intelligence of new victories gained by Turkey on the shores of the Black Sea and on the frontiers of Georgia. There is, on the other hand, a peremptory assertion representing the whole army in Poland as under orders for the Pruth, while we are informed from the frontiers of Poland that "in the night from the 23d and 24th ult., the brinka, or levy of men for the army, took place, and in places, where formerly one or two men were taken, eight or ten have now been drawn." This, at least, proves little confidence on the part of the Czar in the pacifying genius of the four Powers. The official declaration on the part of Austria, "that no alliance had been concluded between the four Courts," proves on her part that, willing as she is to enforce conditions upon Turkey, she dares not assume even the appearance of coercing the Czar to submit to conditions projected in his own interest. Lastly, the Sultan's reply to the French Ambassador that "at present an amicable arrangement is quite unacceptable without the complete abandonment by Russia of the pretensions which she has raised and without the immediate evacuation of the Principalities," has struck the Congress-mongers like a thunderbolt, and the organ of the crafty and experienced Palmerston now frankly tells the other fellows of the brotherhood the following piece of truth:

"To the immediate evacuation of the Principalities and the total abandonment of all her claims, [...] Russia cannot submit without a loss of [...] dignity and influence which it is foolish to suppose a power of her magnitude will endure without a desperate struggle. For this present attempt at negotiation we are sorry, therefore, that we can only prognosticate failure."[j]

Defeated Russia can accept no negotiations at all. The business in hand is, therefore, to turn the balance of war. But how to effect this, but by enabling Russia to gain time? The only thing she wants is procrastination, time to levy new troops, to distribute them throughout the empire to concentrate them, and to stop the war with Turkey till she has done with the mountaineers of Caucasus. In this way the chances of Russia may improve, and the attempt at negotiation "may be successful when Russia proves victorious instead of defeated." Accordingly, as stated by the Vienna Ost-Deutsche Post, and the ministerial Morning Chronicle, England has urged on Turkey the propriety of consenting to a three months' armistice[k]. Lord Redcliffe had a five hours' interview with the Sultan, for the purpose of obtaining from His Highness that consent to the suggested armistice which his Ministers had refused, and the result was, that an extraordinary council of Ministers was convened to take the matter into consideration. The Porte definitively refused to accede to the proposed armistice, and could not accede to it without openly betraying the Ottoman people.

"In the present state of feeling," remarks the to-day's Times, "it will not be easy to bring the pretentions of the Porte within the bounds of moderation."

The Porte is immoderate enough to understand that it is perfectly irreconcilable with the dignity of the Czar to be defeated, and that it must therefore grant him a three months' armistice in order to frustrate its own success, and to help him to become again victorious and "magnanimous." All hope of bringing about the three months' armistice has not yet been parted with.

"Possibly," says The Times, "an armistice recommended by the four Powers may fare better."

The good-natured Morning Advertiser is

"unwilling to assume that these representations are correct, because "a more direct attempt to betray the Ottoman cause into the hands of the Czar, or one better adapted to answer that purpose, could not have been devised by the most ingenious mind."[l]

The confidence of the radical Morning Advertiser in "the honor and the good faith" of Palmerston, and its ignorance of the history of England's diplomatic past, seem equally incommensurable. This paper being the property of the Licensed Victuallers' Association, I suspect, that those very victuallers themselves write from time to time the editorial articles.

While England is thus occupied at Constantinople and Vienna, the outpost of Russia, let us see how on the other hand, the Russians manage affairs in England.

I have already, in a previous letter, informed your readers that at this very epoch, when the Coalition feigns to threaten Russia in the Black Sea, Russian men-of-war, the two frigates Aurora and Navarino[357], are fitting out in the Queen's dockyards at Portsmouth. On Saturday last[m] we were informed by The Morning Herald and The Daily News, that six sailors had escaped from the Russian frigate Aurora, and nearly reached Guildford, when they were overtaken by an officer of the Russian frigate Aurora and an English inspector of police, brought back to Portsmouth, placed on board the Victorious—an English ship occupied by the crew of the Aurora, while out-fitting—subjected to cruel, corporeal punishment and placed in irons. When this became known in London, some gentlemen obtained, through the instrumentality of Mr. Charles Ronalds, solicitor, a writ of habeas corpus, directed to Rear-Admiral Martin, some other English officers of the navy, and to the Russian captain, commander of the frigate Aurora, ordering them to bring the six sailors before the Lord Chief Justice of England. The English dockyard authorities declined to obey the writ, the English captain appealing to the Vice-Admiral and the Vice-Admiral to the Admiral, and the Admiral feeling himself obliged to communicate with the Lord of the Admiralty, the famous Sir James Graham, who, ten years before, in the case of the Bandieras, placed the British Post Office at the service of Metternich[358]. As to the Russian captain, although the Queen's[n] writ was served on him on board the English ship the Victorious, and though he was fully informed of its nature by an interpreter, he threw it contemptuously from the vessel, and when thrust through a port-hole, it was thrown out again. "If," said the Russian captain, "it came from Her Majesty in reality, it would be sent to his Ambassador or Consul." The Consul being absent, the Vice-Consul refused to interfere. On Dec. 6, fresh' writs were served on the naval authorities at Portsmouth, commanding them in the Queen's name to produce not only the six men in question before the Lord Chief Justice, but the Russian captain also. Instead of the writ being complied with, the Admiralty used every effort to tow the ship out of the harbor and to get her to sea, and the other day, the Aurora, Capt. Isylmetieff, was seen, by daylight, sailing for the Pacific, defying the writ of the habeas corpus. In the meantime, as we are informed, by yesterday's Daily News,

"the Russian corvette, Navarino, is still in dock, undergoing a thorough re-caulking and repair. A number of dockyard men are engaged on her."

Now mark in what manner this "startling" case has been dealt with by the Ministerial Press.

The Morning Chronicle, the Peelite organ, chose to remain silent, its own Graham being the most compromised man in the whole affair. The . Palmerstonian Morning Post was the first to break silence, as its Lord could not let escape such an occasion of proving his mastership in making pleasant apparently difficult cases. The whole case, it stated, was greatly exaggerated and overrated. The six deserters, it stated on the authority of the Russian captain, who ordered them to be cruelly flogged and hulked,

"these seamen say that they did not desert from their own inclination, but were inveigled away by persons who introduced themselves to them in the streets,"[o]

these seamen having also contrived against their inclination and against the orders of the Russian captain to get ashore at Portsmouth,

"made them intoxicated and then took them away in a carriage, up the country," and then deserted the deserters, "giving them directions how to get to London, with the address of some persons, to whom to go to there."

The absurd story is invented by the Palmerstonian organ with a view to induce the public to believe, that the "deserters gave themselves up to the Police," a lie too gross to be reechoed by The Times itself. The whole affair, insinuates The Post, with a great show of moral indignation, was got up by some Polish refugees, who, probably, intended wounding the feelings of Lord Palmerston, its magnanimous master.

Another ministerial organ, The Globe[p], states that

"the plea that a foreigner is only bound to recognize processes coming to him from the Minister of his own country is manifestly untenable; otherwise, any foreigners in a British seaport could break our law and could be brought under no responsibility, except by the intervention of an Ambassador."

The Globe arrives therefore at the moderate conclusion that the reply of the Russian captain to the clerk who served on him the writ of habeas corpus "is not perfectly satisfactory." But in human matters it would be idle to aspire to anything like perfection.

"If the Russian captain had hanged them" (viz., the six recaptured sailors) "all at the yard-arm of his frigate the next morning, he would have been altogether [...] beyond the control of the English law," exclaims The Times.[q]

And why this? Because in the treaty of navigation concluded between Russia and Great Britain in 1840 (under the direction of Lord Palmerston) there is a provision to this effect:

"The Consuls, Vice-Consuls, and commercial agents [...] of the [...] high contracting parties, residing in the dominions of the other, shall receive from the local authorities such assistance as can by law be given them, for the recovery of deserters from the ships of war or merchant vessels of their respective countries."

But, good Times, the question is exactly what assistance the English authorities were warranted by law to give the Russian captain. As to the Russian authorities themselves, "sending their vessels to England to be repaired at this crisis in political affairs," it appears to The Times, "to be an act of great indelicacy and bad taste," and it thinks, "the position, in which the officers of these vessels have been placed here, is that of spies." But, it says, "the British Government could no more forcibly express its contempt for such politics" than by admitting the Russian spies into the Queen's own dockyards "even at some public inconvenience," by placing at their disposal British men-of-war, employing the dockyard men, paid out of the pockets of the British people, in their service and firing parting salutes to them, when they run away after having insulted the laws of England.

Written on December 9, 1853
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3960, December 26, 1853;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 896, December 27, 1853
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] Nicholas I.—Ed.

[b] Of December 2, 1853.—Ed.

[c] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[d] Quoted, with slight digressions, from The Morning Post, December 6, 1853.—Ed.

[e] Of December 6, 1853.—Ed.

[f] Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 337, December 3, 1853.—Ed.

[g] The Morning Post.—Ed.

[h] A. Baraguay d'Hilliers.—Ed.

[i] The Guardian, No. 418, December 7, 1853.—Ed.

[j] The Morning Post, December 8, 1853.—Ed.

[k] The Morning Chronicle, December 7, 1853.—Ed.

[l] The Morning Advertiser, December 8, 1853.—Ed.

[m] I.e., on December 3.—Ed.

[n] Victoria.—Ed.

[o] Here and below Marx quotes from "The Russians at Portsmouth.—Singular Affair", The Morning Post, December 6, 1853.—Ed.

[p] Of December 7, 1853.—Ed.

[q] The Times, No. 21605, December 7, 1853.—Ed.

[354] This article was published in The Eastern Question.

[355] On July 24, 1853 a conference of the representative of Austria and the ambassadors of Britain, France and Prussia on mediation between Russia and Turkey was opened in Vienna. It drafted a conciliatory Note (the so-called Vienna Note) which laid down that Turkey observe the Kuchuk Kainarji and Adrianople treaties and respect the rights and privileges of the Greek Orthodox Church. The conference ruled that the Note be sent first to the Tsar and, in the event of his approval, to the Sultan.

Nicholas I approved the Note, but Abdul Mejid made his agreement to sign it conditional on the insertion of a number of amendments and reservations, which the Tsarist Government thought unacceptable.

[356] In Marx's notebook of excerpts for 1853 there is a passage from Palmerston's letter to Bulwer dated September 10, 1839. As a source Marx used the Correspondence Relative to the Affairs of the Levant, London, 1841.

[357] In the known and published articles by Marx written for the New-York Daily Tribune during this period this fact is not mentioned. It is possible that this material was left out by the editors.

[358] In 1844 the British Home Secretary, Sir James Graham, to please the Austrian Government, ordered the Post Office to allow the police to open the correspondence of Italian revolutionary immigrants.

Marx is referring to the Bandiera brothers, members of a conspiratorial organisation, who landed in June 1844 on the Calabrian coast at the head of a small detachment of Italian patriots, with the intention of sparking off an insurrection against the Bourbons of Naples and Austrian rule. The members of the expedition were betrayed by one of their number, however, and taken prisoner. The Bandiera brothers were shot.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.527-535), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
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