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The Four Points

Karl Marx


London, January 9.
The telegram from Vienna[a] concerning the acceptance of the Four Points[414] on the part of Russia produced, on the one hand, a rise in Consols on the London Stock Exchange for one moment [they were] 2½ per cent above Saturday's[b] rate; on the other hand, a veritable panic in the tallow, oil and seed markets, where an early conclusion of peace would be the signal for large-scale bankruptcies. Today the excitement among City men has subsided, and, with a fair amount of agreement, they regard negotiations on the Four Points as a second edition of negotiations on the "Vienna Note"[415]. According to the thoroughly ministerial Morning Chronicle, it was premature to speak of an actual acceptance by Russia of the guarantees demanded[c]. Russia had merely declared herself ready to negotiate on their basis, as interpreted jointly by the three powers. The Times believes that a victory of Western policy may legitimately be celebrated and declares on this occasion:

"We cannot too strongly repudiate the assumption, [...] that this war is to bring about what is called a revision of the map of Europe, by means of conquests or revolutions in which this country, at least, has no sort of interest." [d]

"The Allies," says The Morning Post, "have done enough to be able to withdraw from the theatre of war with honour, if their terms are accepted."[e]

According to The Daily News, by resuming negotiations Russia intends to strengthen Prussia's belief in her moderation, to sow discord between the German powers, and to loosen the relation-ship between the Western powers and Austria. 'The only important aspect of the Four Points was the extra clause, according to which the Dardanelles Agreement of July 13, 1841 was to be revised "in the sense of a limitation of Russian naval power in the Black Sea". It was rumoured in the City that the Ministry was prepared to drop this extra clause. Lastly, The Morning Advertiser declares that the final Russian step had been agreed upon with Austria so as to give the latter an opportunity of getting rid of her obligations towards the Western powers. According to a newly arrived dispatch it has been stipulated that the negotiations must not interrupt war operations.


London, January 12.
The unconditional acceptance of the "Four Points" that is to say of the "Four" Points in the sense of the "three" powers by Russia has turned out to be a hoax[f] of The Morning Post and The Times. We were the more inclined to believe in the hoax, as we know from Pozzo di Borgo's secret dispatches[416] (which, however, had become known following the Warsaw insurrection) that this master of diplomacy has laid down the principle that "in all cases of conflict Russia should induce the great European powers to force her own conditions upon her".

And in the "Four" Points we can see only "four" Russian points. If Russia, for the time being, does not accept them, we shall find the explanation once more with master Pozzo di Borgo. Russia, he declares, ought to make such apparent concessions to the West only from a victorious army camp[417]. This would be necessary to maintain the "prestige" on which her power was based. And so far, Russia, it is true, has got an "army camp", but she has not yet managed to gain the "victory". If Silistria had fallen, the "Four Points" would have been established long ago. According to The Times and The Morning Post[g], the "Four Points" in the sense of the "three powers" had been adopted as basis for negotiations in order to start from them as a minimum. Now it turns out that Prince Gorchakov sees them as a problematical maximum from which to bargain down, or which are in effect intended only to furnish a pretext for another "Vienna Conference". Today, The Morning Post, in a self-important, diplomatically oracular leader[h], confides that the provisional meetings of diplomats at Vienna are merely a preliminary to the actual conference which would not assemble until February I and which would not fail to surprise the world to a greater or lesser degree.

Yesterday the following announcement by the Admiralty was displayed at Lloyd's[i]:

"With reference to the last paragraph of my letter of -the 8th November" (1854), "stating that the French and English Admirals in the Black Sea have received orders from their respective Governments to extend the blockade of the mouths of the Danube to all the ports in the Black Sea, and in the Sea of Azoff, which still remain in the possession of the enemy, I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you, in order that the same may be made known to the mercantile community, that the Governments of England and France have further decided that the blockade in question shall take place on and after the 1st of February" (1855) "and that due notice will be given in the London Gazette of the blockade of the particular ports so soon as the same shall have been effected.

"I am etc.

"W. A. B. Hamilton"[j]

Here, then, it is openly admitted that up to now the allied fleets have blockaded only their own allies on the Danube estuary, but neither Russian ports in the Black Sea nor in the Sea of Azov. Nevertheless the Ministry has repeatedly declared in Parliament—in April, August and October that it had issued the "strictest orders" for the blockade of Russian ports and coasts. As late as December 21, Lord Granville, in the name of the Ministry, announced to the House of Lords that

"Odessa was blockaded by five warships which have been constantly cruising in front of Odessa]; reports have been constantly sent to [Her Majesty's] government ...."[k]

In a letter addressed to a daily paper, a well-known English pamphleteer sums up the consequences of the blockade measures taken, or rather not taken, by the Coalition, as follows:

"(1) The English Government supplies England's enemy with money from England so that enemy may continue the war against her. (2) The Danube is blockaded in order to impoverish the Principalities and to cut off our own corn supplies. (3) Odessa, Taganrog, Kerch, etc., remain unmolested so that they may supply reinforcements, ammunition and provisions to the Russian troops in the Crimea. (4) The mock blockade is ruining our merchants while it enriches Greek, Russian and Austrian merchants."

The Times too takes the occasion of Mr. Hamilton's announcement to launch violent attacks on the Ministry's "blockade diplomacy"[l]. It is characteristic of the Thunderer of Printing House Square that his thunderclaps have always been flung post festum. From March 26, 1854 till today The Times has defended "blockade diplomacy". Today when its rumblings obstruct no ministerial measures but may well gain it popularity, it suddenly turns into a clairvoyant.

The naval minister, or, as he is called here, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir James Graham, is sufficiently well known on the Continent on account of that magnificent achievement in black cabinet which led the Bandiera brothers to the scaffold[418]. It may be a less well known fact that in 1844, when Tsar Nicholas landed on the English coast, Sir James Graham did not dare to shake the proferred Imperial hand, but only to kiss it. (See The Portfolio, second series, 1844.[m])


London, January 15.
As for the meaning of the Four Points:

"Nothing can be done in the way of further diplomacy till the first day of February." (Till February 5 or 6, says the Vienna correspondent of The Times.) "Meantime, the Czar has a clear month to move his forces where he will. [...] A month's time gained by acceptance of the four points may be lengthened to two months, by disputing the subsequent terms step by step, as the Envoy of Russia will probably be instructed to do; while it is far from improbable that strenuous efforts will be made to attract Austria into contentment with terms short of those which would be acceptable to England and France. To divide the three Powers would be the obvious thing to aim at...."[n]

Thus The Morning Post.

More important than the bandying of words in the English press about Russia's secret intentions is its open confession (with the exception, of course, of the ministerial organs) that the basis of negotiations, the Four Points, are not worth negotiating for.

"The World, when the struggle commenced, was artfully made to believe," wrote The Sunday Times, "that the object to be secured by it was the breaking up of the Russian empire, or, at least, the extorting from her of material guarantees for the preservation of the peace of Europe. Towards accomplishing either of these ends nothing has been done, and nothing will be done should peace be concluded upon the basis of what are called the 'Four Points'. If there be any triumph in the matter, it will be a triumph achieved by Russia."[o]

"The Ministry of all the Incapacities," says The Leader, "cannot get beyond the Four Points: it may go down to posterity as the Ministry of the Four Points. No more of this dull comedy of war without a purpose." [...] Peace on the basis of the Four Points could only be concluded because "they fear that in the tumult of war, the peoples may become too important [...] and possibly to prevent Englishmen from regaining those rights which Cromwell won for them. [...] That might be the motive for patching up the conspiracy with Russia, and for restoring to her the permission of renewing her encroachments upon Europe under the cover of a flag of truce."[p]

The Examiner which incontestably commands the first position among middle-class weeklies carries a detailed account of the "basis" of peace negotiations, the essential points of which are summarised below.

"...if such concessions as even the most rigid construction of the Four Points can alone be held to involve, are to be considered equivalents for all the treasure that has been lavished and all the blood' that has been shed by Englishmen in this contest,—then the Emperor of Russia" in starting this war has shown that he is a great statesman.... "She [Russia] is not even to be mulcted of the large sum she annually receives from us for not observing the treaty of Vienna. The mouth of the Danube, which, according to the correspondence recently published, she had laboured most earnestly to close against English commerce, is to be left in her hands. This latter point [...] would simply amount practically to the status quo, for Russia never denied that the provisions relating to the navigation of rivers which are contained in the treaty were applicable to the Danube." The abrogation of the treaties of Kainardji and Adrianople[419] is of little singificance, for it is that these treaties do not justify the claims Russia has made upon Turkey; "and when we consider that Russia is to be one of the five powers which are to exercise a joint protectorate over the Principalities and the Christian subjects of the Sultan ... we believe that the benefits expected from the change will prove altogether illusory, whilst it will be attended with the enormous disadvantage of giving a legal character to the machinations of Russia for the dismemberment of Turkey [...] We shall of course be reminded that the Four Points include stipulations for a revision of the Treaty of 1841 in the interest of the balance of power. The expression is vague and mysterious enough, and we are not at all satisfied, from recent indications, that the change contemplated under it may not be far more menacing to the independence of our ally" (Turkey) "than to the predominance of our enemy.... We should have rejected as utterly incredible any such possibility as we assume to be now under discussion at Vienna, but for that speech of Lord John's, in answer to Mr. Cobden, to the effect that the Government had no wish to deprive Russia of any of her territories."[q]

The last point is indeed crucial since, for instance, even the freedom of navigation on the Danube could only be secured if Russia were to lose the "territory" in the Danube estuaries which she seized, partly through the Treaty of Adrianople, in violation of the Treaty of London of 1827, and partly through a ukase of February 1836, in violation of the Treaty of Adrianople[420]. The point which The Examiner fails to emphasise refers to the Treaty of the Dardanelles of 1841. This treaty differs from the treaty concluded by Lord Palmerston in 1840 421 only insofar as France joined as a contracting party. The contents are identical. Only a few months ago, Lord, Palmerston declared the Treaty of 1840, and thus also the Treaty of the Dardanelles of 1841, to be a victory by Britain over Russia, and himself the originator of that treaty. Why, then, should the cancellation of a treaty which was a victory by Britain over Russia, suddenly become a defeat of Russia by Britain? Or, if at the time, Britain had been deceived by her own Ministers, believing herself to be acting against Russia, while, in fact, she was acting for her, why not now? Disraeli, during the last extraordinary session of Parliament, cried: "No Four Points."[r] From the above extracts it can be seen that he has found an echo in the liberal press. Surprise at Russia's having accepted the Four Points, with or without reservations, is beginning to give way to surprise at Britain's having suggested them.

Written between January 9 and 15, 1855
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, Nos. 20, 23 and 29; January 13, 15 and 18, 1855
Published in English for the first time in MECW
Printed according to the news paper


[a] The telegram from Vienna of January 7, 1855. The Times, No. 21945, January 8, 1855.—Ed.

[b] January 6, 1855.—Ed.

[c] The Morning Chronicle, No. 27469, January 9, 1855, leader.—Ed.

[d] The Times, No. 21946, January 9, 1855, leader.—Ed.

[e] The Morning Post, No. 25279, January 9, 1855, leader.—Ed.

[f] Marx used the English word.—Ed.

[g] The Times, No. 21946, January 9, 1855, leader; The Morning Post, No. 25282, January 12, 1855, leader.—Ed.

[h] Marx used the English word.—Ed.

[i] Lloyd's offices located in the Royal Exchange, London.—Ed.

[j] The Times, No. 21948, January 11, 1855.—Ed.

[k] G. Granville's speech in the House of Lords on December 21, 1854. The Times, No. 21934, December 22, 1854.—Ed.

[l] The Times, No. 21949, January 12, 1855, leader.—Ed.

[m] Presumably reference to the article "The Visit of the Emperor", The Portfolio, London (1844), Vol. III, No. XI I.—Ed.

[n] The Morning Post, No. 25284, January 15, 1855, leader.—Ed.

[o] The Sunday Times, No. 1684, January 14, 1855.—Ed.

[p] "The Coming Peace" and "Russia Winning the Game", The Leader, No. 251, January 13, 1855.—Ed.

[q] "Terms of Peace and Causes of War", The Examiner, No. 2450, January 13, 1855.—Ed.

[r] B. Disraeli's speech in the House of Commons on December 12, 1854. The Times, No. 21923, December 13, 1854.—Ed.

[414] The reference is to demands presented by the Western powers to Russia in a Note of August 8, 1854 as preliminary conditions for peace negotiations. Russia was to give up her protectorate of Moldavia, Wallachia and Serbia, which was to be replaced by a European guarantee; to allow free passage of ships on the Danube; to consent to the revision of the 1841 London Convention on the Straits (see Note 28↓) and to give up protection of Christian subjects in Turkey. At first the tsarist government rejected these Four Points but in November 1854 it was compelled to accept them as the basis of future peace negotiations.

[415] In 1853 and 1854 the Ambassadors of Britain, France and Prussia and the Austrian Foreign Minister Buol held a number of conferences in Vienna. The first, in July 1853, to which the Russian Ambassador was also invited but which he refused to attend, was officially aimed at mediation between Russia and Turkey in view of the worsening relations between them. The words "first Vienna Note" refer to the draft agreement between Russia and Turkey drawn up by Buol and concluded at the end of July 1853. It obliged the Sultan to abide by the Kuchuk-Kainardji (1774) (see Note 17↓) and the Adrianople (1829) (see Note 176↓) treaties on the rights and privileges of the Orthodox Church in the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish Sultan Abdul Mejid agreed to sign the Note but demanded a number of changes and reservations, which the Russian Government found unacceptable.

[416] During the 1830-31 insurrection Polish revolutionaries captured in Warsaw the archives of Grand Duke Constantine which contained secret diplomatic documents of the Tsarist Government. The reference here is presumably to a dispatch sent by Pozzo di Borgo on October 16 (4), 1825 and published in Recueil de documents relatifs à la Russie pour la plupart secrets et inédits utiles à consulter dans la crise actuelle, Paris, 1854.

[417] This presumably refers to Dispatch from Prince Lieven and Count Matusczewicz, addressed to Count Nesselrode, dated London, 1st (13th) June, 1829 written on the occasion of the treaty of Adrianople (see Note 176↓): "It is in the midst of our camp that peace must be signed, and it is when it shall have been concluded that Europe must know its conditions. Remonstrances will then be too late, and it will then patiently suffer what it can no longer prevent" (Portfolio, Diplomatic Review (New Series), London, 1843, Vol. I, No. 1, p. 24).

[418] In 1844, on the order of Sir James Graham, the British Home Secretary, the letters of the Bandiera brothers to Mazzini containing the plan of their expedition to Calabria were opened. The participants in the expedition were arrested, and the Bandieras executed.

[419] See notes 17↓ and 176↓.

[420] Under Article V of the London Convention signed by Britain, France and Russia on July 6, 1827 in connection with the Greek war of liberation against the Turkish yoke, the contracting parties agreed not to seek expansion of their territories, exclusive influence or advantage in trade unless the same was granted to the other two parties.

Under the treaty of Adrianople of 1829 (see Note 176↓) Russia got islands in the Danube estuary, and free navigation on the Danube was guaranteed.

On March 2 (February 19), 1836 by a Tsarist government decree a quarantine post was set up at the Sulina mouth of the Danube which actually performed customs functions.

[17] The treaty of Kuchuk-Kainardji was concluded between Russia and Turkey on July 21, 1774. Russia got territories on the northern shore of the Black Sea between the South Bug and the Dnieper with the fortress of Kinburn, and also Azov, Kerch and Yenikale and secured recognition of the Crimea's independence. Russian merchantmen were granted the right of free passage through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. The treaty obliged the Sultan to grant a number of privileges to the Orthodox Church; Article 14 in particular provided for the building of an Orthodox Church in Constantinople.

[176] The peace treaty of Adrianople was concluded by Turkey and Russia in September 1829, at the end of the war of 1828-29. Under it Russia obtained the islands in the mouth of the Danube and a considerable part of the eastern coast of the Black Sea south of the Kuban estuary. Turkey was obliged to recognise the autonomy of the Danubian Principalities, Moldavia and Wallachia and grant them the right to elect hospodars (rulers) independently. Russia was to guarantee this autonomy, which was tantamount to establishing a Russian protectorate over the Principalities. The Turkish Government also pledged to guarantee the autonomy of Greece and Serbia.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.579-584), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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