Affairs in Holland. Denmark. Conversion of the British Debt. India, Turkey and Russia.

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 24 May 1853


MIA-bannière.gif
Reproduced from the New York Daily Tribune
First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 3790, June 9, 1853;
reprinted in the New York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 839, June 10, 1853
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.101-106), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979

This article is the first of a series written by Marx in 1853 dealing with the British conquest of India, Britain's colonial rule in that country, and its consequences for the peoples of Hindustan. The articles were based on detailed study, especially of the history and socio-economic conditions of India and certain other countries in the East. Marx copied a great deal of informa"tion on the subject from books and various other sources, which can be found in three of his notebooks with excerpts marked XXI, XXII and XXIII, which also contain passages copied from works on European history and political eco"nomy. The material on India and other countries of the East contains passages from parliamentary Blue Books, parliamentary reports, various reference-books on statistics, commerce, railway construction in India, etc., European travellers' notes including those of the French physician and writer François Bernier: Voyages contenant la description des états du Grand Mogol, de l'Indoustan, Paris, 1830, and the Russian traveller A. D. Soltykov: Lettres sur l'Inde, Paris, 1849. Marx paid great attention to the works of English orientalists, among them R. Patton, The Principles of Asiatic Monarchies, London, 1801; M. Wilks, Historical Sketches of the South of India, London, 1810-17; and Th. S. Raffles, The History of Java, London, 1817. Marx obtained a great deal of information from the series of works (by John Dickinson and other authors) published by the Free Traders' India Reform Association, and also from the books: G. Campbell, Modern India; a Sketch of the System of Civil Government, London, 1852, and A Scheme for the Government of India, London, 1853; J. Chapman, The Cotton and Commerce of India, London, 1851, and others. Some of the works Marx used are cited or mentioned in his articles. In the course of his research Marx frequently discussed his ideas on the subject with Engels, who was also studying Oriental history at the time (see Marx's letters to Engels of June 2 and 14, 1853 and Engels' reply of June 6, 1853 to the first letter). The results of their discussions were also used by Marx for his articles. The text of the last section in the article ("Turkey and Russia") was published under this title in The Eastern Question.

London, Tuesday, May 24, 1853

The general elections in Holland, necessitated by the late dissolution of the States-General, are now completed, and the result has been the return of a majority of 12 in favor of the Ultra-Protestant and Royalist ministry. Denmark is by this time inundated with anti-governmental pamphlets, the most prominent of which are the Dissolution of Parliament Explained to the Danish People, by Mr. Grundtvig, and one anonymous entitled The Disputed Question of the Danish Succession; or What Is to Be Done by the Powers of Europe. Both these pamphlets aim at proving that the abolition of the ancient law of succession as demanded by the ministry and stipulated in the London protocol[1], would turn to the ruin of the country, by converting it, in the first instance, into a province of Holstein, and later into a dependency of Russia.

Thus, it appears, the Danish people have at last become aware of what their blind opposition to the demands for independence raised by the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein in 1848 has brought over them. They insisted upon their country's permanent union with Holstein, for which purpose they made war on the German revolution they won in that war, and they have retained Holstein. But, in exchange for that conquest, they are now doomed to lose their own country. The Neue Rheinische Zeitung in '48 and '49 never ceased to warn the Danish democrats of the ultimate consequences of their hostility to the German revolution[2]. It distinctly predicted that Denmark, by contributing to disarm revolution abroad, was tying itself forever to a dynasty which, as the legitimate course of succession had obtained its sanction and validity through their own consent, would surrender their nationality to the "bon plaisir"[3] of the Russian czar. The Danish democracy refused to act upon that advice, and are now receiving the same price for their short-sighted folly as the Bohemian Sclaves did, who, in order to "preserve their nationali"ty against the Germans," rushed to the destruction on the Viennese revolutionists, their only possible liberators from that German despotism which they hated. Is not this a grave lesson which is now being received by these two peoples, who allowed themselves to be arrayed in self-destructive warfare against the cause of the revolution, by the intrigues of the counter-revolution?

Now that Mr. Gladstone's scheme for the reduction of the public debt has passed through Parliament, and is undergoing its practical test, his apologists and almost the entire London press seemed highly to approve of that famous scheme have all of them become mute at once. Mr. Gladstone's three alternatives for voluntarily converting the five hundred millions of 3 per cents., turn out so very innocent, that none of them has as yet met with an acceptation worth mentioning. As to the conversion of the South Sea[4] stock, up to the evening of May 19 only £100,000 out of the £10,000,000 had been converted into new stock. It is a general rule that such operations, if not effected in the first weeks, lose every day something of the probability of their being carried out at all. Besides, the rate of interest is just rising in slow but steady progression. It is, therefore, almost an exaggeration to suppose that ten millions of old paper will be converted into new stock within the time fixed for that operation. But even in this case, Mr. Gladstone will have to repay at least eight millions of pounds to those holders of South Sea Funds, who are unwilling to convert them into his new stock. The only fund he has provided for such an eventuality is the public balance at the Bank of England, amounting to about eight or nine millions. As this balance, however, is no excess of income over expenditure, but is only lodged in the Bank, because the public income is paid a few months in advance of the time when it is necessary to expend it, Mr. Gladstone will find himself at a future moment in a very heavy financial embarrassment, which will produce, at the same time, a most serious disturbance in the monetary transactions of the Bank and in the money market in general, the more so as a presumed deficient crop will cause a more or less extensive drain of bullion.

The charter of the East India Company expires in 1854. Lord John Russell has given notice in the House of Commons, that the Government will be enabled to state, through Sir Charles Wood, their views respecting the future Government of India, on the 3d of June. A hint has been thrown out in some ministerial papers, in support of the already credited public rumor, that the Coalition have found the means of reducing even this colossal Indian question to almost Lilliputian dimensions. The Observer prepares the mind of the English people to undergo a new disenchantment.

"Much less," we read in that confidential journal of Aberdeen, "than is generally supposed will remain to be done in the new organization for the Government of our Eastern Empire."[5]

Much less even than is supposed, will have to be done by my lords Russell and Aberdeen.

The leading features of the proposed change appear to consist in two very small items. Firstly, the Board of Directors will be "refreshed" by some additional members, appointed directly by the Crown, and even this new blood will be infused "sparingly at first." The cure of the old directorial system is thus meant to be applied, so that the portion of blood now infused with "great caution" will have ample time to come to a standstill before another second infusion will be proceeded upon. Secondly, the union of Judge and of Exciseman in one and the same person, will be put an end to, and the Judges shall be educated men. Does it not seem, on hearing such propositions, as if one were trans-ported back into that earliest period of the Middle Ages, when the feudal lords began to be replaced as Judges, by lawyers who were required, at any rate, to have a knowledge of reading and writing?

The "Sir Charles Wood" who, as President of the Board of Control, will bring forward this sensible piece of reform, is the same timber who, under the late Whig Administration, displayed such eminent capacities of mind, that the Coalition were at a dreadful loss what to do with him, till they hit upon the idea of making him over to India. Richard the Third offered a kingdom for a horse[6]; the Coalition offers an ass for a kingdom. Indeed, if the present official idiocy of an Oligarchical Government be the expression of what England can do now, the time of England's ruling the world must have passed away.

On former occasions we have seen that the Coalition had invariably some fitting reason for postponing every, even thé smaller measure. Now, with respect to India their postponing propensities are supported by the public opinion of two worlds. The people of England and the people of India simultaneously demand the postponement of all the legislation on Indian affairs, until the voice of the natives shall have been heard, the necessary materials collected, the pending inquiries completed. Petitions have already reached Downing-st., from the three Presidencies[7], deprecating precipitate legislation. The Manchester School have formed an "Indian Society"[8], which they will put immediately into motion, to get up public meetings in the metropolis and throughout the country, for the purpose of opposing any legislation on the subject for this session. Besides, two Parliamentary Committees are now sitting with a view to report respecting the state of affairs in the Indian Government. But this time the Coalition Ministry is inexorable. It will not wait for the publication of any Committee's advice. It wants to legislate instantly and directly for 150 millions of people, and to legislate for 20 years at once. Sir Charles Wood is anxious to establish his claim as the modern Manu. Whence, of a sudden, this precipitate legislative rush of our "cautious" political valetudinarians?

They want to renew the old Indian Charter for a period of 20 years. They avail themselves of the eternal pretext of Reform. Why? The English oligarchy have a presentiment of the approach"ing end of their days of glory, and they have a very justifiable desire to conclude such a treaty with English legislation, that even in the case of England's escaping soon from their weak and rapacious hands, they shall still retain for themselves and their associates the privilege of plundering India for the space of 20 years.

On Saturday last dispatches were received by telegraph from Brussels and Paris, with news from Constantinople to May 13. Immediately after their arrival a Cabinet-Council was held at the Foreign-Office, which sat 3 hours and a half. On the same day orders were sent by Telegraph to the Admiralty at Portsmouth, directing the departure of two steam-frigates, the London 90, and Sanspareil 71, from Spithead for the Mediterranean. The Highflyer steam-frigate 21, and Oden steam-frigate 16, are also under orders for sea.

What were the contents of these dispatches which threw ministers into so sudden an activity, and interrupted the quiet dulness of England?

You know that the question of the Holy Shrines had been settled to the satisfaction of Russia[9], and according to the assurances of the Russian Embassy at Paris and London, Russia asked for no other satisfaction than a priority share in those holy places. The objects of Russian diplomacy were merely of such a chivalric character, as were those of Frederick Barbarossa and Richard Coeur de Lion. This, at least, we were told by The Times.

"But," says the Journal des Débats, "on the 5th of May the Russian steam-frigate Bessarabia arrived from Odessa, having on board a Russian Colonel with dispatches for Prince Menchikoff, and on Saturday, 7th inst., the Prince handed to the Ministers of the Porte the draught of a convention or special treaty, in which the new demands and pretentions were set forth. This is the document called the ultimatum, since it was accompanied by a very brief note, fixing Tuesday, 10th May, as the last day on which the refusal or the acceptance of the Divan could be received. The note terminated in nearly the following words: 'If the Sublime Porte should think proper to respond by refusal, the Emperor would be compelled to see in that act the complete want of respect for his person, and for Russia, and would receive intelligence of it with profound regret.'"[10]

The principal object of this treaty was to secure to the Emperor of Russia the Protectorate of all Greek Christians subject to the Porte. By the treaty of Kutshuk-Kainardji, concluded at the close of the 18th century, a Greek chapel was allowed to be erected at Constantinople, and the privilege was granted to the Russian Embassy of interfering in instances of collision of the priests of that chapel with the Turks. This privilege was confirmed again in the treaty of Adrianople[11]. What Prince Menchikoff now demands, is the conversion of that exceptional privilege into the general Protectorate of the whole Greek Church in Turkey, i.e., of the vast majority of the population of Turkey in Europe. Besides, he asks that the patriarchs of Constantinople, Antiochia, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, as well as the metropolitan archbishops, shall be immovable, unless proved guilty of high-treason (against the Russians), and then only upon the consent of the Czar, in other words, he demands the resignation of the Sultan's[12] sovereignty into the hands of Russia.

This was the news brought by the telegraph on Saturday: firstly, that Prince Menchikoff had granted a further delay until 14th inst., for the answer to his ultimatum; that then a change in the Turkish Ministry ensued, Reshid Pasha, the antagonist of Russia, being appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Fuad Effendi reinstated in his office; lastly, that the Russian ultimatum had been rejected.

It would have been impossible for Russia to make more extensive demands upon Turkey, after a series of signal victories. This is the best proof of the obstinacy with which she clings to her inveterate notion, that every interregnum of the counter-revolution in Europe constitutes a right for her to exact concessions from the Ottoman Empire. And, indeed, since the first French- revolution, Continental retrogression has ever been identi"cal with Russian progress in the East. But Russia is mistaken in confounding the present state of Europe with. its condition after the congresses of Laybach and Verona[13], or even after the peace of Tilsit[14]. Russia herself is more afraid of the revolution that must follow any general war on the Continent, than the Sultan is afraid of the aggression of the Czar[15]. If the other powers hold firm, Russia is sure to retire in a very decent manner. Yet, be this as it may, her late maneuvers have, at all events, imparted a mighty impetus to the elements engaged in disorganizing Turkey from within. The only question is this; Does Russia act on her own free impulse, or is she but the unconscious and reluctant slave of the modern fatum, Revolution? I believe the latter alternative.

  1. 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.
  2. Marx is referring to a series of articles published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in 1848-49 in connection with the Danish-German war over Schleswig and Holstein.

    By a decision of the Vienna Congress (1815), the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein remained in the possession of the Danish monarchy (the personal union of Schleswig, Holstein and Denmark had existed since 1499), even though the majority of the population in Holstein and in Southern Schleswig were Germans. Under the impact of the March 1848 revolution in Prussia, the national movement among the German population of the duchies grew, and became radical and democratic, forming part of the struggle for the unification of Germany. Volunteers from all over the country rushed to the aid of the local population when it took up arms against Danish rule. Prussia and other states of the German Confederation also sent federal troops to the duchies. However, the Prussian ruling circles, which had declared war against Denmark, fearing a popular upsurge and an intensification of the revolution, sought an agreement with the Danish monarchy at the expense of the common interests of the German states. An armistice between Prussia and Denmark was concluded on August 26, 1848, at Malmö. On March 2, 1849, Prussia resumed hostilities, but under pressure from England and Russia, who supported Denmark, was forced to conclude a peace treaty (July 2, 1850), temporarily relinquishing its claims to Schleswig and Holstein and abandoning them to continue fighting alone. The Schleswig-Holstein troops were defeated and ceased to offer resistance.

    The position of the proletarian wing of German democracy on the Schleswig-Holstein issue was set forth in a number of articles by Engels published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, in particular "The War Comedy", "The Armistice with Denmark", "The Armistice 'Negotiations' ", "The Danish Armistice", "The Danish-Prussian Armistice", "European War Inevitable", and "From the Theatre of War.—The German Navy". Marx refers to several publications on this question in his Notebook XXII for 1853.
  3. Caprice.-Ed.
  4. The South Sea Company was founded in England about 1712 officially for trade with South America and the Pacific islands, but its real purpose was speculation in state bonds. The government granted several privileges and monopoly rights to the Company, including the right to issue state securities. The Company's large-scale speculation brought it to bankruptcy in 1720 and greatly increased Britain's national debt.
  5. The Observer, May 22, 1853.—Ed.
  6. Shakespeare, King Richard III, Act V, Scene 4.—Ed.
  7. Downing Street—a side-turning off Whitehall, where the main government buildings in London are situated; it contains the residences of the Prime Minister (at No. 10) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (at No. 11).

    The Presidencies-Bengal, Bombay and Madras, the three divisions of the East India Company's territory which were originally governed by the Presidents of the Company's three factories. The Regulating Act of 1773 raised the Governor of Bengal to the rank of Governor-General of all Britain's possessions in India. He was called Governor-General of Bengal until 1833 and then Governor-General of India.
  8. A reference to the India Reform Association, founded by the Free Trader John Dickinson in March 1853.
  9. The long-standing dispute between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church over rights to the Christian Holy Places in Palestine was resumed in 1850 on Louis Bonaparte's initiative. It soon developed into a serious diplomatic conflict between Russia, which upheld the privileges of the Greek Orthodox clergy, and France, which supported the Roman Catholics. Both sides made use of this conflict in their struggle for hegemony in the Middle East. The vacillating Turkish Government at first yielded to the French demand but on May 4, 1853, during Menshikov's visit to Turkey, it agreed to guarantee special rights and privileges to the Greek Orthodox Church (a special order to this effect was issued by the Sultan a month later). At the same time the Sultan, supported by the British and French ambassadors, rejected Nicholas I's demand that he should be recognised as the protector of the Orthodox population in the Ottoman Empire.
  10. Quoted from an editorial by X. Raymond in the Journal des Débats, May 23, 1853. The editorial gave the wrong date of handing the note to the Ministers. It was handed on May 5, 1853 (see Mazzini. Switzerland and Austria. The Turkish Question.).—Ed.
  11. The Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji, signed between Russia and Turkey on July 21, 1774, put an end to the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-74, in which Turkey was defeated. By that treaty Russia obtained the section of the Black Sea coast between the Southern Bug and the Dnieper, with the fortress of Kinburn, and also Azov, Kerch and Jenikale, and secured independent status for the Crimea facilitating its incorporation into Russia. Russian merchant ships were granted the right of free passage through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. The Sultan was to grant a number of privileges to the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey, in particular Article 14 of the treaty provided for the construction of an Orthodox church in Constantinople. For the Treaty of Adrianople see Note 35 ↓.

    [35] The Treaty of Adrianople—a peace treaty signed between Turkey and Russia in September 1829 to end the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-29. By the treaty Russia obtained the Danube Delta with its islands and a considerable portion of the eastern Black Sea coast south of the Kuban estuary. Turkey was to recognise the autonomy of Moldavia and Wallachia, granting them the right to elect their Hospodars independently; their autonomy was to be guaranteed by Russia. The Turkish Government also pledged to recognise Greece as an independent state, whose only obligation to Turkey was to pay an annual tribute to the Sultan, and to observe the previous treaties with regard to Serbian autonomy, issuing a special order in official recognition of it.

    Marx's notebook with excerpts for 1853 contains, on page 18, a passage in French from the Adrianople treaty. The text of the treaty was published in many collections of documents, in works by various authors quoted by Marx, and in periodicals.
  12. Abdul Mejid.—Ed.
  13. At the Congress of the Holy Alliance (an alliance of European monarchs founded on September 26, 1815 on the initiative of the Russian Emperor Alexander I and the Austrian Chancellor Metternich), which began in Troppau in October 1820 and ended in Laibach in May 1821, the principle of intervention in the internal affairs of other states was officially proclaimed. Accordingly, the Laibach Congress decided to send Austrian troops to Italy to crush the revolutionary and national liberation movement there. French intervention in Spain with similar aims was decided on at the Congress of Verona in 1822.
  14. The treaties of Tilsit—peace treaties signed on July 7 and 9, 1807 by Napoleonic France and the members of the fourth anti-French coalition, Russia and Prussia, which were defeated in the campaigns of 1806 and 1807. I n an attempt to split the defeated powers, Napoleon made no territorial claims on Russia and even succeeded in transferring part of the Prussian monarchy's eastern lands to Russia. He established an alliance with Alexander I when the two emperors met in Erfurt in the autumn of 1808. The treaties imposed harsh terms on Prussia, which lost nearly half its territory to the German states dependent on France, was made to pay indemnities, and had its army reduced. However, Russia, like Prussia, had to break the alliance with Britain and join Napoleon's Continental System, which was to its disadvantage. Napoleon formed the vassal Duchy of Warsaw on Polish territory seized by Prussia during the partitions of Poland at the end of the eighteenth century, and planned to use the duchy as a springboard in the event of war with Russia.

    In Tilsit Alexander I pledged, with France acting as a mediator, to start peace negotiations with Turkey with which Russia had been at war since 1806. In August 180 7 Russia and Turkey signed an armistice, but a peace treaty was not concluded and military operations were resumed in 1809. The war ended with the defeat of Turkey in 1812.

    Increasingly strained relations between France and Russia led to Napoleon's campaign against Russia in 1812.
  15. Nicholas I.-Ed.