The Czar's Views.
London, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 1854
The attempts of the Russian army to cross the Danube simultaneously on the whole line of operations at Matchin, Giurgevo and Kalafat are to be considered as reconnoitering maneuvers rather than as serious attacks, which can hardly be ventured upon with the present forces (Gen. Gorchakoff has to dispose of.
Last Saturday's Press the Disraeli paper published a note of a conversation very recently held at Gatchina between the Czar and a "distinguished" Englishman. Almost the whole of the daily London press has reprinted this note, which, besides the known and worn-out commonplaces of Russian diplomacy, contains some interesting statements.
The Czar "distinctly stated that the ultimatum of Menchikoff had not been disapproved of in London, but that the English Ministry, having been informed that it would probably be accepted by the Porte, had recognized it as a satisfactory settlement."
This would only prove that poor John Russell was falsely informed by Baron de Brunnow as to the "probable" intentions of the Sublime Porte, and that the Porte's refusing to yield to the Menchikoff ultimatum at once, was by no means the fault of the Coalition Cabinet. The Czar goes on informing "the individual of' distinction" that
"when the news of the victory of Sinope arrived, (General Castelbajac" (the French Ambassador) "addressed him a letter beginning something in this way: 'As a Christian and as a soldier, permit me [...] to congratulate your Imperial Majesty on the glorious victory obtained by your Majesty's fleet.'"
Let me remark that Gen. Castelbajac, an old Legitimist and a relative of La Rochejaquelein's, gained his generalship, not by services in the camp, but by less dangerous service in the ante-chambers of the Court, and the ardent confession of exalted royalist principles. Bonaparte appointed him as Ambassador to the Court of St. Petersburg, with a view to give the Czar a proof of deference to his personal wishes, although he was fully aware that Castelbajac was to conspire with the Czar for the restoration of the Bourbons rather than further the interests of his nominal master. This Castelbajac, then, is the very man to have congratulated the Czar "as a soldier and a Christian" on the resultless butchery of Sinope.
"He did not believe," the Czar is stated to have said, "that England, with a Bourgeois Parliament, could carry on a war with glory."
There is no doubt that the Czar knows his Cobdens and his Brights, and estimates at its just value the mean and abject spirit of the European middle classes. Finally, the Czar is quite right in stating that, on the one hand, he had not been prepared for war fully convinced as he was that he should obtain all he cared for by the simple act of bullying and that, on the other hand, if war were brought about, it would be the "war of incapacities," making it inevitable by their anxious efforts to prevent it, and plunging into it finally in order to cover their blunders and save their places.
"Public opinion is half-inclined to sacrifice Prince Albert at the shrine of rumor. A whisper, which was first insinuated for party uses, has grown into a roar, and a constructive hint has swelled into a positive and monstrous fiction. That those who seek the presence of the Queen[a] should find Prince Albert with her Majesty, is a fact which rather won the sympathy and esteem of the English public; but then it was said that he attended meetings of the Queen with her Ministers; next, that Ministers were made aware of his presence—that, however reluctant to proceed with business before a third party, they found it necessary to do so—that it even became necessary to defend their opinions before the Prince—that the Prince, in fact, interfered with their counsel to their Sovereign—that he not only influenced the Royal mind, but possessing the power of free communication with foreign Courts, he constituted an unlicensed channel for information between the confidential council of the Queen and the Cabinets of foreign potentates, perhaps of the enemies of England—that in short, Prince Albert was a traitor to his Queen, that he had been impeached for high treason, and finally, that on a charge of high treason he had been arrested and committed to the Tower. This was the story not only told in all parts of England a day or two back, but by some believed."
I quote the above passage from The Spectator, in order to show your readers how public rumor has been induced by the Palmerstonian press to make a poor stupid young man the scapegoat of the responsible Ministers. Prince Albert is a German Prince, connected with most of the absolute and despotic Governments of the Continent. Raised to the rank of Prince-Consort in Great Britain, he has devoted his time partly to fattening pigs, to inventing ridiculous hats for the army, to planning model lodging houses of a peculiarly transparent and uncomfortable kind, to the Hyde Park Exhibition, and to amateur soldiery. He has been considered amiable and harmless, in point of intellect below the general average of human beings, a prolific father and an obsequious husband. Of late, however, he has been deliberately magnified into the most influential man and the most dangerous character of the United Kingdom, said to dispose of the whole State machinery at the secret dictation of Russia. Now there can exist but little doubt that the Prince exercises a direct influence in Court affairs, and, of course, in the interest of despotism. The Prince cannot but act a Prince's part, and who was ever silly enough to suppose he would not? But I need not inform your readers of the utter impotency to which British Royalty 'itself has been reduced by the British oligarchy, so that, for instance, King William IV, a decided foe to Russia, was forced by his Foreign Minister[b] —a member of the Whig oligarchy to act as a foe to Turkey. How preposterous, then, to suppose Prince Albert to be able to carry one single point in defiance of the Ministry, except so far as little Court affairs, a dirty riband, or a tinsel star, are concerned! Use is made of his absolutist penchants to blind the people's eyes as to the plots and treacheries of the responsible Ministers. If the outcry and attack means anything it means an attack on royalist institutions. If there were no Queen there would be no Prince if there were no throne there would be no Court influences. Princes would lose their power if thrones were not there to back them, and for them to lean upon. But, now mark! the papers which go the farthest in their "fearful boldness," which cry the loudest and try to make a sort of political capital out of Prince Albert, are the most eager in their assertions of loyalty to the throne and in fulsome adulation of the Queen. As to the Tory papers this proposition is self-evident. As to the radical Morning Advertiser, it is the same journal which hailed Bonaparte's coup d'état, and recently attacked an Irish paper for having dared to find fault with the Queen, on the occasion of her presence at Dublin, which reproaches the French Revolutionists with professing Republicanism, and continues to designate Lord Palmerston as the savior of England. The whole is a Palmerstonian trick. Palmerston, by the revelations of his Russianism and his opposition to the new Reform Bill, has become unpopular. The latter act has taken the liberal gilding off his musty gingerbread. Nevertheless, he wants popularity in order to become Premier, or at least Foreign Minister. What an admirable opportunity to stamp himself a Liberal again and to play the part of Brutus, persecuted by secret Court influences. Attack a Prince-Consort-how taking for the people. He'll be the most popular statesman of the age. What an admirable opportunity of casting obloquy on his present colleagues, of stigmatizing them as the tools of Prince Albert, and of convincing the Court that Palmerston must be accepted on his own terms. The Tories, of course, join in the cry, for church and crown are little to them compared with pounds and acres, and these the cotton-lords are winning from them fast. And if the Tories, in the name of "constitution" and "liberty" talk daggers against a Prince, what enlightened Liberal would not throw himself worshipping at their feet!
At the annual meeting of the Manchester Commercial Association the President, Mr. Aspinall Turner, declared with regard to the strikes and lock-outs and the general agitation of the workingmen, which he justly described as "the civil war going on between masters and operatives in Lancashire" that, "as Manchester had put down royal tyranny and aristocratic tyranny, so it would also deal with the tyranny of Democracy:"[c]
"Here we have," exclaims The Press, "an involuntary avowal of the policy of the Manchester school. The crown is in England supreme—then diminish the royal power. The aristocracy stands before us—sweep it from our path. Workingmen agitate—crush them to the earth."
Written on January 24, 1854
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4000, February 11, 1854;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 910, February 14, 1854
Signed: Karl Marx
"'The Manchester School' and the Strikes", The Press, Vol. I, No. 38, January 21, 1854.—Ed.
In his description of the campaign against Albert, the Prince Consort, Marx used material published in the Chartist People's Paper on January 21, 1854.
This article, excluding the last paragraph, was published under the same title in The Eastern Question.
Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12
(pp.589-592), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979