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[Garibaldi in Sicily.—]
Affairs in Prussia

Karl Marx

Berlin, May 28, 1860

The prevailing topic of conversation here, as everywhere all over Europe, is, of course, Garibaldi's adventures in Sicily. Now, you are aware that never before has the telegraph been put to such impudent work as in the present instance, both on the part of Naples and Genoa or Turin. Locusts have never poured upon Europe in such multitude as do now the electric canards. It seems, therefore, worth while to state, in a few words, the views here entertained of Sicilian affairs in the most competent military circles. In the first instance, the insurrection, as is generally known, was kept up for a whole month before the arrival of Garibaldi; but, of paramount importance as this fact is, it may be overvalued, as shown by the Paris Constitutionnel. The military forces Naples disposed of in Sicily before Gen. Lanza was sent over with fresh troops could hardly amount to 20,000 men, the far greater part of whom had to be concentrated in the fortresses of Palermo and Messina, so that the flying corps left available for the pursuit of the insurgents might boast of several successful encounters, disperse the enemy on certain points, and harass him in different directions, but must prove altogether insufficient to thoroughly stifle the insurrection. At the present moment, there seem to be about 30,000 Neapolitan troops gathered at Palermo, two-thirds of them holding the fortress, while one-third encamp beyond its precincts. Fifteen thousand Neapolitans are said to hold Messina. Now Garibaldi had, according to the latest news, not, pushed beyond Monreale. It is true that this place is situated on hills which command Palermo from the land side, but to improve the opportunities offered by this position, Garibaldi as yet lacks the principal requisite—siege artillery. The immediate chances of Garibaldi, whose army musters about 12,000 men, will consequently depend upon two main circumstances—the rapid spread of the insurrection throughout the island, and the attitude of the Neapolitan soldiers at Palermo. If the latter waver, and get into quarrels with the foreign mercenaries intermingled with them, Lanza's means of defense may break up in his own hands. If the insurrection develops much vital power, Garibaldi's army will be swelled to more formidable dimensions. If Garibaldi should get into Palermo, he will sweep everything before him save Messina, where the difficult task will again begin. You remember that, in 1848-49, the Neapolitans had lost everything save Messina, serving as a tête-de-pont between Sicily and Naples; but Messina then sufficed to regain the whole island. The fall of Palermo, and the military hold by the patriots of the whole island, except Messina, would, however, this time prove more decisive than in 1848-49, because of the altered political conjunctures. If Garibaldi masters Palermo, he will be officially supported by the "King of Italy." If he fails, his invasion will be disavowed as a private adventure. There is something of ironical pathos in the words addressed to Victor Emmanuel by Garibaldi, who tells the King that he will conquer for him a new province, which he hopes the King will not again bargain away, like Nice, Garibaldi's birthplace.[a]

Among the topics of Prussian politics, the first place in the public mind is naturally occupied by the Prince of Prussia's private letter to the Prince Consort of England[300], of which the Prince de La Tour d'Auvergne, Louis Bonaparte's Embassador at the Court of Berlin, had not only the impudence to present a copy to Herr von Schleinitz, the Prussian Foreign Minister, but went the length of asking explanations on some of its passages reflecting on the character and plans of the great Paris saltimbanque[b]. This incident reminds one of a similar accident that happened shortly before the ratification of the treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi, 1833[301], The Grand Vizier having at that time communicated a copy of the secret treaty, drawn up by Count Orloff, to the British Embassy at Constantinople, was much bewildered when a day later, to his not agreeable surprise, Count Orloff returned him the identical copy, with the spiteful advice, to find better confidants for the future. At Berlin everybody feels sure that the Prince Regent's letter, having been transmitted by post via Ostend, not via Calais, was tampered with at the English Post-Office, where a numerous personnel is notoriously employed in prying into suspected letters—a practice carried to such a degree that at the time of the Coalition-Cabinet, the Earl of Aberdeen confessed that he dared not confide to the post his own letters addressed to his metropolitan friends. Lord Palmerston, having thus got a copy of the Prince Regent's letter, is supposed, out of spite against Prince Albert and in the interest of the Anglo-French-Russian alliance, to have placed a copy of that letter into the hands of the French Embassador[c] at London. At all events the course of the intended and much talked-of Anglo-Prussian alliance runs anything but smooth.

Some months ago, when Lord John Russell one fine morning discovered that England must go in search of new alliances[d], and when that intimation was received with much childish enthusiasm in the official circles of Berlin, out came all at once, in the form of an English Parliamentary paper, a dispatch addressed by Lord Bloomfield[e] to the Foreign Office at Downing street, narrating a private conversation he had held during the last Italian war .with Herr von Schleinitz, and sadly compromising the good faith of Prussian foreign policy. Lord John at the time pleaded guilty of a most strange indiscretion, but the first blow to the new alliance was dealt. The second blow has been given by the miscarriage of the Prince Regent's letter.

You will have seen that in his speech from the throne the Prince[f] speaks very emphatically of the maintenance of treaty rights and the united front Germany is-ready to show against any encroachment upon the independence and integrity of the common fatherland. The unpleasant impression produced upon the Paris stock exchange by the apparent menace has been allayed through the Russian journal Le Nord[g], which, in a tone of ironically condescending bonhommie[h], divests the Prince's speech of all serious meaning, calls to mind similar phrases uttered by him during the Italian war, and, in conclusion, characterizes the whole passage as a mere compliment paid to popular feeling. As to the rest of the Prince's speech, it is, in fact, but a summary of legislative failures. The only important projects debated by the Chambers—the projected laws on marriage, municipal administration, and reform of the land tax, from which the nobility in the greater part of the monarchy still remain exempt, have all proved abortive. The Prince, moreover, complains of his pet measures relating to the army reform not having yet received legislative sanction.

Though the Government has proved unable, even with the present Chamber of Representatives—whose large majority consists of Ministerialists—to carry its proposed army reform, it has at last got an extra vote of nine millions and a half of dollars, to be laid out in military expenditures; while simultaneously, as I am informed by letters from the provinces, the intended changes in the army organization are quietly but practically introduced, so as to leave to the Chambers, when reassembling, no other alternative than that of sanctioning what will then have become a fait accompli. The gist of the intended army reform is pointed out in the Baltische Monatsschrift, a Russian-German monthly, published at Riga, and printed under the sanction of the Russian Governor-General of Livonia, Esthonia, and Courland.

"The Prussian army reform," says that paper, "which was introduced immediately after the peace of Villafranca, can hardly serve any other purpose than that of emancipating the Government from the direct appeal to the whole people—[an appeal] which, with the old military system, became unavoidable, whenever the Government thought it necessary to support its policy by warlike demonstrations. Under the present political combinations of Europe, a State like Prussia, still striving for its full acknowledgment as one of the great Powers, can neither suspend its whole pacific life on every occasion that seems to necessitate the employment of its military forces, nor can it in every case guarantee to the nation when once called to arms the ensuing of actual war. There lies hidden in the Landwehr system a certain democratical antagonism against the monarchic principle. The mobilizations of 1850 and 1859, following each other within a relatively short interval, and leading both times to no warlike action, but only to demobilization, seem to have impaired with the great part of the Prussian people the authority of the State, even in foreign affairs. From the very circumstances accompanying both mobilizations, the conclusion seemed to have been drawn by the popular mind that the Government was bound to obtain the consent of public opinion in every instance of a general armament. Even the official declarations made by Prussia in regard to the attitude she observed during the Italian conflict contain the confession of the mobilization of the Landwehr having encountered unexpected difficulties."[i]

Hence the Russian-German paper concludes that Prussia ought to get rid of the Landwehr system, in its present form, but, at the same time, intimates with an ironical sneer that "such an alteration of one of the most popular institutions, just at a moment when Prussia affects to stand on liberalism," is a very delicate operation. I may here remark that this Baltische Monatsschrift, published under Czarist auspices at Riga, forms to some degree the counterpart of the Strassburger Correspondent, published under Bonapartist auspices at Strassburg. Both skirmish on the German frontiers, the one from the east, the other from the west. The writers of the one may be considered as literary Cossacks, the writers of the other as literary Zouaves[j]. Both affect great tenderness for Germany, and abound in wise counsels to the land whose vernacular they still condescend to use. Both try to prepare the fatherland for great changes impending, and both smell of the entente cordiale just now linking the Caesarism of Paris to the Czarism of Petersburg; but here the likeness ends. The Strassburg paper, although perfumed with that peculiar scent of false melodramatic dignity characteristic of the Bohemian literature of the Second French Empire, is still written in the homely style that belongs to Southern Germany. It affects common sense, and certainly does not pretend to any literary distinction. The Riga monthly, on the contrary, struts with a didactic stateliness and a metaphysical profoundness savoring of the traditions of the Königsberg University. After all, I consider the ebullitions of patriotic rage with which the German press assails both the Monatsschrift and the Correspondent, but mainly the latter, as silly exhibitions of childish incompetency.

Written on May 28, 1860
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5972, June 14, 1860


[a] Giuseppe Garibaldi's address to Victor Emmanuel, Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 143, May 22, 1860.—Ed.

[b] Quack.—Ed.

[c] Jean Gilbert Persigny.—Ed.

[d] John Russell's speech in the House of Commons on March 26, 1860, The Times, No. 23578, March 27, 1860.—Ed.

[e] For Lord Bloomfield's dispatch to Lord John Russell see "Nouvelles de l'Angleterre. Berlin, 14 janvier, 1860", L'Indépendance belge, No. 73, March 13, 1860.—Ed.

[f] The Prince of Prussia's speech from the throne at the closing of the Prussian Diet on May 23, 1860, Königlich privilegirte Berlinische Zeitung, No. 120, May 24, 1860.—Ed.

[g] "Resumé politique", Le Nord, No. 148, May 27, 1860.—Ed.

[h] Good nature.—Ed.

[i] The Baltische Monatsschrift, 1859, Bd. I, Heft I, S. 47-48.—Ed.

[j] See Marx's letter to Engels of April 24, 6, present edition, Vol. 41.—Ed.

[300] In the letter which William, Prince Regent of Prussia, sent to Albert, Prince Consort of England in February 1860, he expressed his readiness to accept Britain's proposal concerning the alliance between Britain, Austria and Prussia, into which he hoped to draw Russia as well. This proposal was called forth by the increasingly aggressive tendencies of the government of Napoleon III with regard to the German lands on the left bank of the Rhine and by France's annexation of Savoy and Nice.

[301] In the spring of 1833 Russian troops were landed at 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 for 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 Dardanelles. This circumstance greatly aggravated the relations between Russia and the West-European countries and, during a new Turko-Egyptian crisis (1839-41), the tsarist government had to comply with their demand that in peacetime the straits should be closed to the warships of all foreign states without exception.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 17 (pp.381-385), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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