Farsi    Arabic    English   

Count Orlov's Mission.
Russian Finances During the War.[401]

Karl Marx

London, Friday, Feb. 3, 1854

I was able to see the State procession of the Queen[a] to open Parliament, as it passed the Horse Guards. The Turkish Ambassador was received with loud cheers and hurrahs. Prince Albert, whose countenance was deadly pale, was furiously hissed by the crowds on both sides of the streets, while the Queen was sparing of her usual salutes and morbidly smiled at the unwonted manifestations of popular discontent. In a previous letter I have reduced the anti-Albert movement to its true dimensions, proving it to be a mere party trick[b]. The public demonstration is, nevertheless, of a very grave character, as it proves the ostensible loyalty of the British people to be a mere conventional formality, a ceremonious affectation which cannot withstand the slightest shock. Probably it may induce the Crown to dismiss a Ministry, the anti-national policy of which threatens to endanger its own security.

When the recent mission of Count Orloff to the Vienna Cabinet[402] became known The Times informed its credulous readers that Orloff was the very man the Czar used to employ on pacific errands[c]. Now I need not inform you that this same Orloff appeared in the spring of 1833 at Constantinople to squeeze out of the Porte the Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi[403]. What he now asks from the Cabinet at Vienna is the permission to send a Russian corps from Warsaw, by way of Hungary. to the Danubian seat of war. It may be considered as the first result of his presence at Vienna, that Austria now insists upon the Porte's dismissing its present commanders on the Danube—Selim Pasha, Ismail Pasha and Omer Pasha on the plea that they are renegades[404] and revolutionists. Every one acquainted with the past history of Turkey knows that from the beginning of the Osman power all her great generals, admirals, diplomatists and ministers have always been Christian renegades, Serbs, Greeks, Albanians, etc. Why not ask Russia to dismiss the forty or fifty men she has bought from all parts of Europe, and who constitute her whole stock of diplomatic ingenuity, political intelligence and military ability? In the meantime Austria has concentrated 80,000 men on the Turkish frontiers in Transylvania and Hungary, and ordered a Bohemian corps mustering some 30,000 men to join them. The Prussian Government on its part is stated to have declined to comply with the command of the Czar ordering Frederick William IV to send a corps of 100,000 men to occupy Poland in the name and interest of Russia, and thus set the garrisons there at liberty to march to the south for the prosecution of the campaign in the Principalities.

In a previous letter I called your attention to the recent financial expedient resorted to by the Austrian Government of exacting a discount of. 15 per cent. upon their own paper money, when paid for taxes[d]. This ingenious "tax upon the payment of taxes" is now extended to Italy also. The Milan Gazette of the 22d inst. publishes a decree from the Austrian Minister of Finance, announcing that

"in consequence of the fall in the value of paper money it will not be received at the custom-house unless at a discount of 17 per cent."

As to the Russian Exchequer, I had on a previous occasion, at the beginning of what is called the Eastern complication, to warn your readers against the industriously circulated statement of the "hidden" treasures slumbering in the vaults of the Bank of St. Petersburg, and the ridiculous exaggeration of the vast monetary power that Russia can wield at a given moment[e]. My views are fully confirmed by what has happened since. Not only has the Czar been forced to withdraw his metallic deposits from the banks of England and France, but, moreover, to .commit an act of fraudulent confiscation. Prince Paskiewich has informed the Warsaw mortgage or discount Bank that its capital will be taken as a forced loan, although the statutes of that bank forbid its advancing money upon any security but landed property. We are also informed that the Russian Government intends issuing a sum of 60,000,000 roubles in inconvertible paper, to defray the expenses of the war. This contrivance is no new one on the part of the Petersburg Cabinet. At the close of 1768, Catherine II, in order to meet the expenses of the war with Turkey, founded a bank of assignats, ostensibly instituted on the principle of issuing convertible notes payable to the bearer. But by a well-managed oversight, she forgot to tell the public in what sort of money these notes were to be payable, and some months later the payments were only made in copper coin. By another untoward "accident" it happened that these copper coins were overvalued by 50 per cent. when compared with the uncoined metal, and only circulated at their nominal value in consequence of their great scarcity and the want of small money for retail purposes. The convertibility of the notes was, therefore, a mere trick. In the first instance Catherine limited the whole issue to 40,000,000 roubles, in 25 rouble notes, the rouble representing a silver coin varying from 38 to 40d. British money, according to the rate of exchange, being equivalent to somewhat above 100 copper copeks. At the death of Catherine, in 1796, the mass of this paper money had risen to 157,000,000, nearly four times its original amount. The exchange in London had come down from 41d. in 1787 to 31d. in 1796. During the two subsequent governments, a rapid increase of issues having taken place, in 1810 the paper circulation reached 577,000,000, and the paper rouble was only worth 252/5 copeks, i.e., one-quarter of its value in 1788; and exchange in London, in the autumn of 1810, sunk to 11½d. the rouble, instead of representing 38-40d. In 1817 the amount of notes in circulation was 836,000,000, according to the statement of Count Gurieff. As the custom-house duties and other taxes were calculated in silver roubles, the Government now declared these assignats to be receivable in the proportion of 4 to 1, thus avowing a depreciation of 75 per cent. During the progress of the depreciation, the prices of commodities rose proportionably, subject to very great fluctuations, which commenced troubling the Cabinet itself, and forced it to contract foreign loans in order to withdraw from circulation a portion of the notes. On the 1st of January, 1821, their amount was announced to have been reduced to 640,000,000. The subsequent wars with Turkey, Persia, Poland, Khiva, etc., again swelled the mass of the bank assignats, lowered the exchanges anew, and subjected all commodities to extensive and irregular oscillations of prices. It was not till the 1st July, 1839, that, the rate of exchange being ameliorated in consequence of an enormous export of grain to England, the Czar issued a manifesto, according to which, from the 1st of July, 1840, the huge mass of bank assignats was to be converted into bank notes payable on demand in silver roubles at the full amount of 38d. The Czar Alexander had declared the assignats to be receivable, on the part of the tax-gatherer, at the proportion of 4 to 1; but the Czar Nicholas is said to have restored them, by his conversion, to their full original value again. There was, however, a curious little clause annexed, ordering that for every one of such new notes three and a half of the old ones should be delivered up. The old note was not declared to be depreciated to 28 per cent. of its original amount, but 3½ of the old notes were declared to be equivalent to a full new note. Hence we may infer, on the one hand, that the Russian Cabinet is as conscientious and punctilious in financial as in diplomatic distinctions; and on the other, that the mere danger of an approaching war suffices to throw it back into all the monetary difficulties which Nicholas has tried for about twenty years to emerge from.

One of the European Governments after the other comes forward appealing to the pockets of its beloved subjects. Even the King of sober-minded Holland[f] demands of the States General 600,000 rix-dollars for works of fortification and defense, adding "that circumstances may determine him to mobilize a portion of the army and to send out his fleets."

If it were possible to meet real wants and to fill the general vacuum of money chests by any ingenious art of book-keeping, the contriver of the French budget[g], as published some days ago in the Moniteur, would have done the thing; but there is not the smallest shopkeeper at Paris unaware of the fact that, by the most skilful grouping of figures, one cannot get out of the books of his creditor, and that the hero of the 2d of December[h], deeming the public pocket to be inexhaustible, has recklessly run into the nation's debt.

There can be imagined nothing more naïf than the announcement of the Danish Ministry at the sitting of the Folketing, on the 17th inst., that the Government intended postponing to a more expedient season the proposition to change the fundamental institutions of Denmark, and introduce their much cherished Whole State Constitution (Gesammtstaatsverfassung).[405]

Written on February 3, 1854 Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4007, February 20, 1854;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 912, February 21, 1854
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] Victoria.—Ed.

[b] See this volume, pp. 589-92.—Ed.

[c] The Times, No. 21650, January 28, 1854.—Ed.

[d] See this volume, pp. 586-87.—Ed.

[e] See this volume, p. 117.—Ed.

[f] William III.—Ed.

[g] Bineau, "Rapport à l'Empereur", Le Moniteur universel, No. 27, January 27, 1854.—Ed.

[h] Napoleon III.—Ed.

[401] An abridged version of this article was published under the title "War Finance" in The Eastern Question.

[402] On the instructions of Nicholas I, A. F. Orlov negotiated with Emperor Francis Joseph in Vienna in late January and early February 1854. The Russian Government sought to secure Austria's benevolent neutrality in the war, in return for a guarantee of the inviolability of Austrian possessions. It also advanced a plan for a joint Russo-Austrian protectorate over states which would be formed in the Balkans if Turkey disintegrated. Orlov's mission was unsuccessful, however, owing to disagreements between Russia and Austria on the Eastern question.

[403] As Ambassador Extraordinary to Constantinople and commander-in-chief of the Russian troops sent to assist the Turkish Sultan Mahmud II to defeat Mehemet Ali of Egypt, Orlov played a major part in the conclusion of the Unkiar-Skelessi Treaty between Russia and Turkey in 1833 (see Note 152 ↓).

[152] In the spring of 1833 Russian troops were landed in Unkiar-Skelessi, near the Bosporus, to render assistance to the Turkish Sultan against the army of the insurgent Egyptian ruler Mehemet Ali. In May 1833 the Porte, with the mediation of Britain and France, signed a peace treaty with Mehemet Ali, ceding him Syria and Palestine. However, Russian diplomats took advantage of the strained situation and the presence of Russian troops in Turkey and prevailed upon the Porte to sign, on July 8, 1833, the Unkiar-Skelessi Treaty on a defensive alliance with Russia. On the insistence of Russia a secret clause was included in the treaty prohibiting all foreign warships, except those of Russia, to pass through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. This clause remained in force until the new Egyptian crisis of 1839-41 (see Note 6 ↓). In negotiating with Britain and other powers on joint operations against Mehemet Ali, Nicholas I had to comply with their demand that in peacetime the Straits be closed to warships of all foreign states without exception.

[6] The aggravation of the Eastern question in the early 1840s was caused by the Turko-Egyptian war of 1839-41. In 1839 the Turkish army invaded Syria, which had been conquered in 1831-33 by the Egyptian ruler Mehemet Ali, but it was defeated. Fearing Russian intervention, the Western powers decided to send a joint Note to the Turkish Sultan offering their assistance. However, as a result of the struggle between Britain and France over spheres of influence in the Near East, the London Convention on military assistance to the Sultan was signed on July 15, 1840 by Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia, without France. The latter was counting on Mehemet Ali, but was soon compelled to abandon him to his fate. After the military intervention of Britain and Austria. Mehemet Ali was forced to renounce all his possessions outside Egypt and submit to the supreme power of the Turkish Sultan.

[404] Renegades was the name given in the Middle Ages to Christians in Moslem Spain who embraced Islam. Among Christians in Europe the word was afterwards applied generally to Christians in the Eastern countries who became Mohammedans.

[405] A reference to the new Danish Constitution drafted in 1853 (see Note 187 ↓). It restricted the autonomy of Denmark proper, Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg and made them more dependent on the Danish Crown. This Constitution, which came into force on October 2, 1855, met with strong opposition and was replaced in 1863 with a more liberal one.

[187] A reference to amendments to the Danish Constitution of June 5, 1849 to give more powers to the Crown, drafted in 1853. The new Constitution was promulgated on October 2, 1855.

Lex Regia—the law of Danish succession promulgated on November 14, 1665 by King Frederick III of Denmark extended to women the right of succeeding to the throne. Under the London Protocol of May 8, 1852 (see Note 58 ↓) and the new law of succession of July 31, 1853 this right was abolished. Thus, Duke Christian of Glücksburg was proclaimed successor to King Frederick VII as the latter had no heir. The new law indirectly confirmed the right of members of the Russian imperial dynasty to succeed to the Danish throne.

[58] A reference to the London Protocol of May 8, 1852 on the integrity of the Danish monarchy, signed by the representatives of Austria, Denmark, England, France, Prussia, Russia and Sweden. It was based on the Protocol adopted by the above-mentioned countries (except Prussia) at the London Conference on August 2, 1850, which supported the indivisibility of the lands belonging to the Danish Crown, including the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein. The 1852 Protocol mentioned the Russian Emperor (as a descendant of Duke Charles Peter Ulrich of Holstein-Gottorp who reigned in Russia as Peter III) among the lawful claimants to the Danish throne who had waived their rights in favour of Duke Christian of Glücksburg who was proclaimed successor to King Frederick VII.

This provided an opportunity for the Russian Tsar to claim the Danish Crown in the event of the Glücksburg dynasty dying out.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.601-605), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME0794en.html