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The Treaty Between Austria and Prussia.—
Parliamentary Debates of May 29[156]

Karl Marx

London, Tuesday, May 30, 1854

The Times is highly indignant that the British general has issued an order prohibiting its "own correspondents" to accompany the British army[a]. If the war were a bona fide[b] war, it would be absurd to object to this measure, since the dispatches of the Duke of Wellington repeatedly complain of the information about his intended movements and dispositions which Napoleon was able to transmit to his peninsular generals through the columns of the English newspapers[c]. As it is, the object of the order can only be to keep the English public in the dark about the treacherous designs of their expeditionary troops, and receives a suitable complement in the order just enforced upon the Sultan by the heroes of the 2d of December[157] to forbid, by a decree read in all mosques, any political conversation to the Turks. But why should the Turks be better off in this respect than the English public itself?

In yesterday's sitting of the House of Commons[d] Mr. Blackett asked Lord J. Russell whether, by the last Vienna protocol[158], Great Britain had given any recognition or sanction to the first article of the treaty of 20th April, 1854, between Austria and Prussia, whereby the contracting powers

"reciprocally guarantee to each other the possession of their German and non-German territories, so that any attack made upon the territory of the one, no matter whence it may come, shall be regarded as a hostile attack on the territory of the other."[159]

Lord John Russell answered that

"the protocol does not contain any special recognition or sanction of that first article of the treaty between Austria and Prussia."

Special, or not special, we read in the French Moniteur of yesterday that

"the last protocol of Vienna connects the Anglo-French Convention for the present war with the Austro-Prussian treaty for the eventual war,"[e]

i.e. connects the actual Anglo-French war against Russia with the eventual Austro-Prussian war for Russia, and is at all instances a guarantee given by the western powers to Prussia and Austria for their undisturbed possession of Posen, of Galicia, of Hungary, and of Italy. Lord John Russell further avows that this protocol

"has a tendency to confirm and maintain the principles which are constituted by the Vienna protocols-namely, the integrity of the Turkish Empire, and the evacuation of the Principalities by the Russian forces."

In fact, it is a fresh engagement to maintain the status quo ante bellum. The western powers cannot pretend to have gained any advantage over Russia by this protocol; for, the Austro-Prussian treaty expressly stipulates:

"An offensive and defensive action on the part of the two contracting powers would be occasioned, firstly, by the incorporation of the Principalities; and in the second place, by an attack on, or a passage of, the Balkans by the Russians."

These two conditions have manifestly been dictated by Russia herself. From the very first, she declared that it was not her intention to incorporate, but to keep the Principalities as a "material guaranty" for the satisfaction of her demands. To cross the Balkans in the face of some 89,000 French troops[f], is an idea which never entered into the Russian plan of campaign, the only object of which is to secure some of the fortresses on the right bank of the Danube as têtes-de-pont[g] for her army, and as constant facilities for an inroad into Bulgaria. Be it remarked, en passant, that The Times, in noticing this new protocol, is content at the best to hope that Austria may have been gained over to the western powers, Prussia being "notoriously" now governed by "Russian agents;"[h] while The Morning Chronicle even despairs of any sincere adhesion of Austria. The great Napoleon would have forced Austria and Prussia into open alliance with Russia; the little one permits Russia to impose upon him an alliance with the German Powers which removes his army to the greatest possible distance from its basis of operations.

On the interpellation of Mr. Milnes, Lord John Russell declared that

"a force, consisting of about 6,000 men, had been sent from France with instructions to occupy the Piraeus. An English regiment of infantry which had left this country about a week ago should likewise be posted in occupation of the Piraeus."

The cause of this measure was the conspiracy of the Greek Government with Russia. The troops were to occupy Athens only in certain contingencies. We read in the French papers of to-day that

"King Otto has accepted the ultimatum, and promised the return of the Maurocordatos Ministry, in case the occupation were suspended. If not, he was decided to transfer his Government to the interior, and there to concentrate his troops."

That this alternative will not remain altogether a gratuitous offer, follows from a further declaration by Lord J. Russell:

"If the King of Greece disapproves of the attempts of his people to violate the duties of a neutral Power, he will find protection in the forces which have been sent, and the means of compelling his people to observe those duties. If, on the other hand, the protestations which we have received from the Greek Government should turn out not to be sincere, those forces might prove useful in another way."

Consequently, the Greek Government may do as it pleases, Greece will be occupied.

The Times mentions with a certain moroseness that

"French troops form at this moment the larger portion of the garrisons of Rome, Athens and Constantinople—the three great capitals of the ancient world."[i]

Old Napoleon was in the habit of occupying the capitals of the new world. Napoleon the Little, content with the theatrical show of greatness, disperses his armies over insignificant countries, and locks up the better portion of his troops in so many culs de sac.[j]

The withdrawal of the Bribery Prevention bill in last night's House gave occasion to a highly amusing tournament between Little Johnny, Disraeli, and Bright. Mr. Disraeli remarked that

"The Government had introduced, during the session, seven important bills. Out of the seven, they had been defeated on three; three had been withdrawn, and on the seventh, they had suffered considerable, though partial, defeats. They had been defeated, on a bill for the entire change of the law of settlement[160] —on a bill for public education for Scotland—and on a bill for the total reconstruction of parliamentary oaths. They had withdrawn the present Bribery Prevention bill; they had withdrawn a most important measure for the complete change of the civil service, and they had withdrawn a measure for Parliamentary reform. The Oxford University Reform bill would come out of the House in a very mutilated state."

If they had not had a fair prospect of carrying these measures they ought not to have been introduced.... They were told that the Government had no principles, but "all the talents," and one might have expected that, as every minister had made a sacrifice of his private opinions, some public advantage should at least have accrued from such heroism.

Lord John's answer was not rendered less weak by his great indignation. He exalts the merits of the bills defeated as well as of the bills withdrawn. At all events, he adds, the House was not for Mr. Disraeli and his friends. The latter had accused the Government of credulity or connivance in the conduct of their foreign policy, but he had never dared to take the opinion of the House on that point. He had pretended an unwillingness to disturb the Government in their arrangements for the war; nevertheless, he had brought forward a motion to deprive them of the means of carrying on the war. That motion had been defeated by a majority of more than 100 votes. With regard to the Jews[161], whose emancipation he pretended to advocate, he gave or withheld his support to that measure according to the conveniences of the hour.

This answer drew upon the poor leader of the Commons a fresh onslaught of his antagonist, much fiercer than the first.

"The noble Lord," said Mr. Disraeli, "seems to think that I am surprised that he has not quitted, office; on the contrary, I should have been immensely surprised if he had. [Loud laughter.] Many more defeats, if possible more humiliating, and, if possible, more complete, must occur before the noble Lord will feel the necessity of taking such a step as that. [Cheers.] I know the noble Lord too well; I have sat opposite to him too long; I have seen him too often in the same position. Many a time have I seen him experience the most signal defeats, and I have seen him adhere to office with a patriotism and a pertinacity which cannot be too much admired. [Cheers and laughter.] With regard to the war, they had announced to Parliament that they would lay on the table all the papers on the subject, while in fact they kept back the most important part, and the country would have remained in total ignorance of what was going on, except for the revelations in the St. Petersburg Gazette[k]. After these revelations he had to modify his opinion only so far as to dispense with any hypothesis, and to positively declare that the Government can only have been guilty of connivance or credulity. He was quite convinced that before long that would be the general opinion of the country."

Mr. Disraeli then proceeded to defend the Government of Lord Derby, and to show that Lord John's opposition to it had been "factious." Lord John had made great sacrifices:

"He parted from the colleagues of his life, who had been faithful to him, to take into his bosom the ancient foes who had passed their lives in depreciating his abilities and decrying his career. He gave up the confidence—I may say he almost broke up the being of that historic party, the confidence of which to a man like the noble Lord ought not to have been less precious than the favor of his Sovereign. [Cheers.] And for what did he do it? Because he was devoted to great principles and was resolved to carry great measures. But now that every one of his measures had foundered, he still remained in office. As to his conduct upon the Jewish question, Mr. Disraeli gave to the statement of the noble Lord a most unequivocal and most unqualified denial.

In fact, he left no other resource to Lord John Russell but to plead his "misfortune," and to represent the continuance of the coalition as an indispensable evil.

Mr. Bright thought that

"The noble Lord came out of the discussion with some scars. The elements of the Government were such, that, from the day of its formation, it was not very likely that it could act for the benefit of the country. He recollected an ingenious gentleman in the House, and a great friend of the noble Lord and of the Government, saying that the Cabinet would get on admirably if they could only avoid politics. That appeared to be about the course that the Government had pursued. Upon every other matter except free trade the Government appeared altogether unable to advise, to lead, or to control the House. It was quite clear that the noble Lord who was by courtesy called the Leader of the House did not lead the House, and that the House did not follow the noble Lord, and that their measures were kicked overboard in a very unceremonious manner. You have got us into a war, and you must get us out of it. We will not undertake the responsibility. This was the condition that they were now driven to by the Government. While they were undermining and destroying the constitution of Turkey, they were also doing something to undermine and destroy the Parliamentary system of this country."

It may be asked of what use this system is? Domestic questions must not be agitated because the country is at war. Because the country is .at war, war must not be discussed. Then why remains Parliament? Old Cobbett has revealed the secret. As a safety-valve for the effervescing passions of the country.

Written on May 30, 1854
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4103, June 12;
reprinted In the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 944, June 13, 1854
signed: Karl Marx


[a] The Times, No. 21753, May 29, 1854, leader.—Ed.

[b] In good faith.—Ed.

[c] The Duke of Wellington to the Earl of Liverpool, November 21, 1809 in: Wellington, the Duke of, Selections from the Dispatches and General Orders of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington.—Ed.

[d] Parliamentary debates of May 29 are reported according to The Times, No. 21754, May 30, 1854.—Ed.

[e] Report from Vienna, Le Moniteur universel, No. 149, May 29, 1854.—Ed.

[f] Presumably a mistake—should be 29,000 (see this volume, p. 223).—Ed.

[g] Bridgeheads.—Ed.

[h] The Times, No. 21753, May 29, 1854, leader.—Ed.

[i] The Times, No. 21754, May 30, 1854, leader.—Ed.

[j] Blind alleys.—Ed.

[k] journal de Saint-Pétersbourg.—Ed.

[156] The mailing of this article to New York was registered in the Notebook in Marx's own hand as "30. Mai. Dienstag. Russische Seemacht in Baltic. Disraeli und Russell. Quadrprotokoll".

[157] An allusion to the participants in the Bonapartist coup d'état in France on December 2, 1851.

[158] The reference is to the protocol of the current Vienna conference (see notes 3 and 106↓) signed on May 23, 1854.

[159] Here Marx cites the treaty of April 20, 1854 between Austria and Prussia according to Blackett's speech, which does not coincide with the authentic text of the treaty analysed by Marx in his article "The Greek Insurrection.—The Polish Emigration.—The Austro-Prussian Treaty.—Russian Documents" (this volume, p. 168).

[160] Under the legislation in force in England from 1662 paupers who changed their place of residence or applied to a parish for alms could be returned to their former place of residence by court decision. On February 10, 1854 a Settlement and Removal Bill was introduced in the House of Commons envisaging prohibition of forced settlement of paupers in England and Wales. It was rejected by Parliament.

[161] The reference is to Russell's motion for "the removal of some disabilities of Her Majesty's Jewish subjects" made in the House of Commons in February 1853 with a view to admitting Jews to the Commons. Russell's Bill was adopted in the House' of Commons, but was not passed by the House of Lords. Marx describes this Bill in the article "Parliamentary Debates.—The Clergy Against Socialism.—Starvation" (present edition, Vol. 11).

[3] 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.

[106] The reference is to one of the stages in the work of the Vienna conferences. The conferences dealt with in this article ended with the signing of a protocol between England, France, Austria and Prussia on April 9, 1854. It demanded that Russia immediately evacuate the Danubian Principalities and guaranteed the preservation of the Ottoman Empire.

[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.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.215-219), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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