Farsi    Arabic    English   

[Events in Syria.—
Session of the British Parliament.—
The State of British Commerce]

Karl Marx

London, July 28, 1860

The Blue Book on the Syrian disturbances[a] having only just been issued, and Lord Stratford de Redcliffe having announced for Tuesday next his interpellation respecting the Syrian affairs[b][316], I delay entering on this momentous subject, and would only warn your readers to not be carried away by the sentimental declamations of the Decembrist press, the feelings of horror at the atrocious outrages of wild tribes, and the natural sympathy felt for the sufferers. But there are a few points which ought steadily to be fixed upon. In the first instance, the Russian Empire, consequent upon the internal collisions that have arisen out of the serf emancipation movement and the dilapidated state of finances, finds itself in a fix out of which the present Government knows not how to get itself safe by a war on a grand scale. War appears to them the only means of shifting off the impending revolution so confidentially predicted in Prince Dolgoroukow's La vérité sur la Russie. Consequently, it is about three months since Prince Gorchakoff tried to reopen the Oriental question by issuing his circular[c] on the grievances of the Christians in Turkey, but his appeal, reechoed only by a solitary voice from the Tuileries, fell flat on the ears of Europe.

Even from that time Russian and French agents were bestirring themselves to bring about a politico-religious row—the former on the Dalmatian, the latter on the Syrian coast—both movements supporting each other, since the troubles in Montenegro and the Herzegovina compelled the Porte to withdraw almost the whole Turkish army stationed in Syria, so as to leave the arena open to the high-pitched antagonism of the barbarous clans of the Lebanon. The Emperor of the French found himself placed in the same necessity as the orthodox Czar[d], of looking out for some fresh and thrilling crusade, to plunge his Empire again into the Lethe of war-hallucinations. The Italian movement, slipping out of his leading-strings, and taking a course contrary to the direction he wanted to impart to it, had, as was delicately hinted in the Constitutionnel[e], become a bore in the opinion of Paris. His attempts at wheedling the Prince Regent of Prussia[f] into a violent "consolidation of Germany," to be paid by a "moral compensation" for France in the shape of the Rhenish Provinces, turned out a signal failure, and even cast some ridicule on the entrepreneur of the emancipation-of-nationalities dodge. The conflict Louis Napoleon found himself involved in with the Pope[317] damaged the prop on which his sway over the peasantry rests—the Catholic clergy of France.

The Imperial exchequer was reduced for some time to, and continues in a state of, exhaustion, which it was vainly tried to cure by throwing out the hint of the expediency of an emprunt de la paix (a peace-loan). This was too much even for Decembrist France. To eke out one loan contracted on the pretext of war by a subsequent loan contracted on the pretext of peace, was a presumption abhorrent even to the Paris stock-jobbers. Some faint voice in the emasculated Paris press dared to insinuate that the blessings of the second Empire were as great as expensive, the nation having bought them by an increase to the amount of fifty per cent of the public debt. The project of a peace loan of 500,000,000f. was consequently dropped, a retreat that only encouraged Mr. Favre to descant in the Corps Législatif on the impending "financial crash," and to tear to pieces the flowery gauze which the Imperial Budgetmonger had thrown over the State chest. The strictures in the Corps Législatif among the "chiens savants" (the learned dogs) of the mock representation, hazarded by Mr. Favre and Mr. Olivier[g], on the characteristic features of the Decembrist régime, as well as the furious onslaught on the intrigues of the "old parties"[318], with which the official, the semi-official, and officious press of Paris teems, coincided in bearing witness to the stern fact, that the rebellious spirit of Gaul is rekindling from its cinders, and that the continuance of the usurper's rule again depends on the enactment of a grand war-spectacle, as it did two years after the coup d'état, and again two years after the conclusion of. the Crimean episode. It is evident that the Autocrat of France and the Autocrat of Russia[h], laboring both under the same urgent necessity of sounding the war-trumpet, act in common concert. While Bonapartist semi-official pamphlets[i] offered to the Prince Regent of Prussia[j] "German Union," backed by a "moral compensation" for France, the Emperor Alexander, as has just been publicly stated, without a denial on the part of the Berlin governmental press, in the publications of the German "National Association"[319], openly proposed to his uncle [Wiliam] the annexation to Prussia of the whole of Northern Germany up to the main, on the condition of a cession to France of the Rhenish Provinces, and of connivance at the progress of Russia on the Danube. It is this fact simultaneously thrown out by both the Autocrats that has brought about the rendezvous at Teplitz between the Emperor of Austria and the Prince Regent[320]. The conspirators of Petersburg and Paris had, however, in case their temptations of Prussia should fail, kept in reserve the thrilling incident of the Syrian massacres, to be followed by a French intervention which, as it would not do to enter through the main gate, would open the back door of a general European war. In respect to England I will only add, that, in 1841, Lord Palmerston furnished the Druses with the arms they kept ever since, and that, in 1846, by a convention with the Czar Nicholas, he abolished, in point of fact, the Turkish sway that curbed the wild tribes of the Lebanon, and stipulated for them a quasi-independence[321] which, in the run of time, and under the proper management of foreign plotters, could only beget a harvest of blood.

You are aware that the present Parliamentary session stands unrivalled by a startling succession of Government failures. Apart from Mr. Gladstone's abortion of protective duties, not one single important measure has been carried. But while the Government were withdrawing bill after bill, they had contrived to smuggle through the second reading a little resolution[k], consisting of one single little clause, which, if carried, would have brought about the greatest constitutional change witnessed in England ever since 1689[322]. That resolution simply proposed the abolition of the local English army in India, its absorption into the British army, and consequently the transfer of its supreme command from the Governor-General at Calcutta to the London Horse Guards, alias the Duke of Cambridge. Quite apart from the other serious consequences such a change must be fraught with, it would put part of the army out of the control of Parliament, and, on the grandest scale, add to the Royal patronage. It seems that some members of the Indian Council, who unanimously objected to the Government project, but, by virtue of the Indian Act of 1858[323], can occupy no seats in the House of Commons, whispered their protests into the ears of some M.P.s, and so it came that when the Government already considered their dodge to be safe, a sudden Parliamentary émeute[l], led by Mr. Horsman[m], broke through their intrigue in the very nick of time. It is a truly ludicrous spectacle, this perplexity of a Cabinet unexpectedly found out, and the bewilderment of a House of Commons fretting at the snares laid to its own profound ignorance.

The declared value of the exports for last month shows the progress of the downward movement of British commerce. I have singled out in a previous letter[n] [that], compared with the exports of June, 1859, there is a falling off of nearly a million and a half sterling for June, 1860.

The returns for the month of June in the last three years are as follows[o]:


For the half year ending with the 30th June, the declared value of the exports is less by a million than in the same six months of last year:


The falling off of the last month is distributed over the cotton, cotton yarn, linen, hardware, and cutlery, iron and worsted trade. Even in the exports of manufactured woolen goods, the trade in which has hitherto shown a steadily increasing prosperity, this month excepted, "woolen and worsted yarn" shows a decline. The export of cotton goods for the six months to British India has declined from £6,094,430, in the first half of 1859, to £4,738,440 in the first half of 1860, or by [about] £1,360,000 worth of goods.[p]

With regard to the imports the most striking feature is the huge bulk of the cotton arrivals. In June, 1860, 2,102,048 cwts. have been received, as against 1,655,306 cwts. in the June of last year, and 1,339,108 cwts. in June, 1858[q]. The increase for the six months is no less than three millions of hundredweights; so that the half year receipts are greater by more than 60 per cent. The cotton imported in the month of May, 1860, is worth more by £1,800,000 than the import in 1859. No less than six millions and a half sterling have been spent in raw cotton in the first five months of 1860, beyond what was so spent in the same period of the previous year.

If the rapid decrease in the export of cotton goods and yarns be compared with the still more decided increase in the cotton imports, it will be understood that some cotton crisis is approaching, the more so since the new arrivals of the raw material fall upon unusually replete cotton stores.

Written on July 28, 1860
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 6021, August 11, 1860


[a] Papers, 1858-1860, respecting past or apprehended Disturbances in Syria, in four parts, London, 1860.—Ed.

[b] Lord Stratford de Redcliffe's interpellation of August 3, 1860, The Times, No. 23690, August 4, 1860.—Ed.

[c] Gorchakov's circular of May 20, 1860 to Russian Embassies in foreign countries, Russky Invalid, No. 111, May 26, 1860, pp. 447-48.—Ed.

[d] Alexander II.—Ed.

[e] See Ernest Dréolle's article "Paris, 10 juillet", Le Constitutionnel, No. 193, July; 11, 1860.—Ed.

[f] William.—Ed.

[g] Émile Olivier's speech in the Corps Législatif on June 26, 1860, Le Moniteur universel, No. 180, June 28, 1860.—Ed.

[h] Napoleon III and Alexander II.—Ed.

[i] Marx is referring to the following pamphlets published by Dentu in Paris in 1859 and 1860: La vraie question, France-Italie-Autriche; Napoléon III et to question roumaine; La foi des traités, les puissances signataires et l'empereur Napoléon III; Edmond About, La Presse en 1860 (concerning the last-named pamphlet, see this volume, pp. 391-96 and 400-01.).—Ed.

[j] William.—Ed.

[k] Moved in the House of Commons on June 12, 1860, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 159, 1860, p. 395.—Ed.

[l] Riot.—Ed.

[m] Edward Horsman's speech in the House of Commons on July 26, 1860, The Times, No. 23683, July 27, 1860.—Ed.

[n] See this volume, pp. 406-09.—Ed.

[o] For these and the following data see the article "The Board of Trade Returns", The Economist, No. 883, July 28, 1860.—Ed.

[p] op. cit.—Ed.

[q] op. cit.—Ed.

[316] In 1859 Northern Lebanon was the scene of an anti-feudal rebellion started by the Maronite peasants (see Note 250↓); disturbances spread to the centre of Lebanon and in the spring of 1860 fierce clashes took place between Druses and Maronites. This was largely due to British and French policy. Britain gave support to the Druse feudalists, whereas the Maronite feudal lords and the clergy were backed by France. British and French emissaries incited enmity between rival Druse and Maronite feudal groups and fanned religious strife between Moslems and Christians. The Turkish authorities also played a provocative part. Napoleon III used the massacre of May-June 1860 as a pretext for sending an expeditionary corps to Lebanon. The agreement between Britain, Austria, Russia, France, Prussia and Turkey provided for setting up an international commission and specified the term during which the French troops were to stay in Lebanon. Under pressure from Britain and Austria, the French forces were withdrawn from that country in 1861.

[317] The conflict was caused by La Guéronnière's pamphlet Le Pape et le Congrès, which appeared in France at the close of December 1859 and was inspired by Napoleon III. The clericals saw in. it an attempt on the part of the emperor to restrict the secular power. of Pius IX. The higher Catholic clergy of France started a campaign against Napoleon III after Pius IX strongly denounced the pamphlet in an Encyclical early in 1860.

[318] A reference to the monarchist parties of Legitimists and Orleanists that formed in the early half of the nineteenth century. The Legitimist Party stood for thé big landowners and the restoration of the Bourbons. The Orleanist Party, that ruled during the July monarchy, represented the interests of big financial and industrial capital and supported the restoration of the Orleans, that is, the younger branch of the Bourbons.

[319] The Patriots was a republican society of German refugees in London in the 1850s and 60s. Its members included Blind, Freiligrath and Hollinger.

The National Association (Deutscher National Verein) was a party of the German liberal bourgeoisie which advocated the unification of Germany (without Austria) in a strong centralised state under the aegis of the Prussian monarchy. Its inaugural congress was held in Frankfurt in September 1859.

The open letter of the Patriots to the National Association was published in a number of German newspapers in November 1859. It contained a vaguely formulated plan for the dynastic unification of Germany under Prussia's aegis.

[320] Francis Joseph of Austria, and William, Prince Regent of Prussia, met on July 26, 1860 in Teplitz (Teplice). The Austrian emperor sought Prussia's support in case of a war with France and Sardinia.

[321] In the early 1840s, under pressure from France and Britain, Turkey had to reorganise the administration of Lebanon, which was divided into two sectors. The northern sector, with a Maronite population, was administered by a governor from among the Maronite feudal lords connected with France, while the southern sector, populated by Maronites and Druse Moslems, was ruled by a governor from among the Druse feudal lords connected with Britain. While remaining within the framework of the Turkish Empire, Lebanon received a certain degree of autonomy in the sphere of judiciary, finance, etc. Seeking to increase their political influence in Lebanon and win the Lebanese market, the European powers fanned religious strife between Maronites and Druses.

[322] A reference to the revolution of 1688-89, after which constitutional monarchy was consolidated in England on the basis of a compromise between the landed aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. The 1689 Bill of Rights and other acts limited the rights of the king still further and extended the rights of Parliament.

[323] Under the Act for the Better Government of India, adopted by the British Parliament on August 2, 1858, India passed under the control of the British crown and the East India Company was liquidated. The Act also provided for the formation of the Indian Council as an advisory body of the Board of Control for India. The Governor-General of India became known as the Viceroy, though he remained virtually functionary of the Secretary of State for India in London.

[250] Maronites-members of the Maronite Christian Church, chiefly in Lebanon. The reference here is to the clashes between Maronite peasants and townspeople, on the one hand, and their feudal lords belonging to the Druse Moslem sect, on the other. Externally a religious conflict between Christians and Moslems, it was essentially a class conflict.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 17 (pp.429-433), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME1210en.html