Attack Upon Sevastopol. Clearing of Estates in Scotland

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As a source for this article Marx used the article "Barbarians in Briton" by Ernest Jones published in The People's Paper on May 13, 1854. It is entered in the Notebook as "19. Mai. Freitag. Auszug aus Jones". The first paragraph, which bears signs of interference by the Tribune editors, was presumably either written entirely by Engels or drawn up by Marx on the basis of Engels' views expressed in "A Famous Victory" (this volume, p. 195).

London, Friday, May 19, 1854

The "first attack upon Sevastopol", of which we have a telegraphic announcement in to-day's papers, seems to be about the same glorious exploit as the bombardment of Odessa, where both parties claimed the victory. The attack is described as having been made by means of shells projected from "long-ranging" guns, and directed against the outward fortifications. That you cannot attack the harbor of Sevastopol or the town itself by guns of any range without going up the bay and coming to close quarters with the protecting batteries, and that you cannot take it at all without the assistance of a considerable landing army, is evident from a glance at the map, and is, moreover, conceded by every military authority. The operation, if it has really taken place, is therefore to be considered as a sham exploit, for the edification of the same gobe-mouches[1] whose patriotism is elated by the laurels of Odessa.

The French Government has sent M. Bourrée on an extraordinary mission to Greece. He goes accompanied by a brigade under command of General Forey, and has orders to claim from King Otto immediate payment of the whole interest on the one hundred millions of francs advanced by France to the Greek Government in 1828. In case of refusal, the French are to occupy Athens and divers other points of the kingdom.

Your readers will remember my description of the process of clearing estates in Ireland and Scotland[2], which within the first half of this century swept away so many thousands of human beings from the soil of their fathers. The process still continues, and with a vigor quite worthy of that virtuous, refined, religious, philanthropic aristocracy of this model country. Houses are either fired or knocked to pieces over the heads of the helpless inmates. At Neagaat in Knoydart, the house of Donald Macdonald, a respectable, honest, hard-working man, was attacked last autumn by the landlord's order. His wife was confined to bed unfit to be removed, yet the factor and his ruffians turned out Macdonald's family of six children, all under 15 years of age, and demolished the house with the exception of one small bit of the roof over his wife's bed.

The man was so affected that his brain gave way. He has been declared insane by medical men, and he is now wandering about looking for his children among the ruins of the burnt and broken cottages. His starving children are crying around him, but he knows them not, and he is left roaming at large unaided and uncared for, because his insanity is harmless.

Two married females in an advanced stage of pregnancy had their houses pulled down about their ears. They had to sleep in the open air for many nights, and the consequence was that, amid excruciating sufferings, they had premature births, their reason became affected, and they are wandering about with large families, helpless and hopeless imbeciles, dreadful witnesses against that class of persons called the British aristocracy.

Even children are driven mad by terror and persecution. At Doune, in Knoydart, the cottagers were evicted and took refuge in an old storehouse. The agents of the landlord surrounded that storehouse in the dead of night and set fire to it as the poor outcasts were cowering beneath its shelter. Frantic, they rushed from the flames, and some were driven mad by terror. The Northern Ensign newspaper says:

"That one boy is deranged; that he will require to be placed in confinement; he jumps out of bed crying, 'Fire! fire!' and assures those near him that there are men and children in the burning storehouse. Whenever night approaches, he is terrified at the sight of fire. The awful sight at Doune, when the storehouse was in flames, illuminating the district—when men, women, and children ran about half frantic with fear, gave such a shock to his reason."

Such is the conduct of the aristocracy to the able-bodied poor who make them rich. Listen now to their parochial mercies. I extract the following cases from the work of Mr. Donald Ross, of Glasgow, and from The Northern Ensign:

1. Widow Matherson, aged 96, has only 2s. 6d. per month from the parish of Strath, Skye.

2. Murdo Mackintosh, aged 36 years, is totally disabled, by reason of a cart falling on him fourteen months ago. He has a wife and seven children; the oldest 11 years, the youngest 1 year, and all that the parish of Strath allows him is 5s. per month.

3. Widow Samuel Campbell, aged 77, residing at Broadford, Skye, in a wretched house, had 1s. 6d. a month from the parish of Strath. She complained that it was inadequate, and the parochial authorities, after much grudging, increased it to 2s. per month.

4. Widow M'Kinnon, aged 72, parish of Strath, Skye, has 2s. 6d. per month.

5. Donald M'Dugald, aged 102 years, resides at Knoydart. His wife is aged 77 years, and both are very frail. They only receive 3s. 4d. each in the month from the parish of Glenelg.

6. Mary McDonald, a widow, aged 93 years, and confined to bed. Her husband was in the army, and there he lost an arm. He died 20 years ago. She has 4s. 4d. in the month from the parish of Glenelg.

7. Alexander M'Isaak, aged 53 years, totally disabled, has a wife aged 40 years; has a blind son aged 18 years; and four children under 14 years of age. The parish of Glenelg allows this wretched family only 6s. 6d. per month between them, just about 1s. each per month.

8. Angus M'Kinnon, aged 72, has a rupture; wife aged 66 years. They have 2s. 1d. each per month.

9. Mary M'Isaak, aged 80 years, frail and stone-blind, has 3s. 3d. a month from the parish of Glenelg. When she asked more, the Inspector said: "You should be ashamed to ask more when others have less;" and refused to listen to her.

10. Janet M'Donald, or M'Gillivray, aged 77 years, and totally disabled, has only 3s. 3d. per month.

11. Catherine Gillies, aged 78 years, and totally disabled, has only 3s. 3d. from the parish of Glenelg.

12. Mary Gillies, or Grant, aged 82 years, and for the last eight years confined to bed, gets twenty-eight pounds of meal and 8d. in the month from the parish of Ardnamurchan. The Inspector of poor did not visit her for the last two years; and she gets no medical aid, no clothing, no nutrition.

13. John M'Eachan, aged 86 years, and bed-ridden, resides at Auchachraig, parish of Ardnamurchan, has just one pound of meal a day, and 8d. of money in the month from said parish. He has no clothing nor anything else.

14. Ewen M'Callum, aged 93 years, and has sore eyes, I found begging on the banks of the Crinan Canal, parish [of] Knapdale, Argyllshire. He has just 4s. 8d. in the month; nothing whatever in the way of clothing, medical aid, fuel or lodgings. He is now a moving collection of rags, and a most wretched-looking pauper.

15. Kate Macarthur, aged 74, and bed-ridden, lives alone at Dunardy, parish of Knapdale. She has 4s. 8d. per month from the parish, but nothing else. No doctor visits her.

16. Janet Kerr, or M'Callum; a widow, aged 78 years, in bad health; has 6s. a month from the parish of Glassary. She has no house, and has no aid but the money allowance.

17. Archibald M'Laurin, aged 73, parish of Appin, totally disabled; wife also disabled; have 3s. 4d. each per month in the name of parish relief—no fuel, clothing or lodging. They live in a wretched hovel, unfit for human beings.

18. Widow Margaret M'Leod, aged 81 years; lives at Coigach, parish of Lochbroom; has 3s. a month.

19. Widow John Makenzie, 81 years, resides at Ullapool, parish of Lochbroom. She is stone-blind and in very bad health, and has just 2s. a month.

20. Widow Catherine M'Donald, aged 87 years, Island of Luing, parish of Kilbrandon; stone-blind and confined to bed, is allowed 7s. a month in name of aliment; out of which she has to pay a nurse! Her house fell to the ground, and yet the parish refused to provide a lodging for her, and she is lying in an open out-house on the earthen floor. The Inspector declines doing anything for her.

But the ruffianism ends not here. A slaughter has been perpetrated at Strathcarron. Excited to frenzy by the cruelty of the evictions and the further ones that were expected, a number of women gathered in the streets on hearing that a number of sheriff's officers were coming to clear out the tenantry. The latter, however, were Excisemen, and not sheriff's officers; but on hearing that their real character was mistaken, these men instead of correcting the mistake, enjoyed it gave themselves out for sheriff's officers, and said they came to turn the people out and were determined to do so. On the group of women becoming excited, the officers presented a loaded pistol at them. What followed we extract from the letter of Mr. Donald Ross, who went over from Glasgow to Strathcarron, and spent two days in the district, collecting information and examining the wounded. His letter is dated Royal Hotel, Tain, April 15, 1854, and states as follows:

"My information goes to show a shameful course of conduct on the part of the sheriff. He did not warn the people of the intention on his part to let the police loose on them. He read no Riot Act[3]. He did not give them time to disperse; but, on the contrary, the moment he approached with his force, stick in hand, cried out: 'Clear the way,' and in the next breath said: 'Knock them down,' and immediately a scene ensued which baffles description. The policemen laid their heavy batons on the heads of the unfortunate females and leveled them to the ground, jumped and trampled upon them after they were down, and kicked them in every part of their bodies with savage brutality. The field was soon covered with blood. The cries of the women and of the boys and girls, lying weltering in their blood, was rending the very heavens. Some of the females, pursued by the policemen, jumped into the deep and rapid-rolling Carron, trusting to its mercies more than, to that of the policeman or the sheriff. There were females who had parcels of their hair torn out by the batons of the policemen, and one girl had a piece of the flesh, about seven inches long by one and a quarter broad, and more than a quarter of an inch thick, torn off her shoulder by a violent blow with a baton. A young girl, who was only a mere spectator, was run after by three policemen. They struck her on the forehead, cut open her skull, and after she fell down they kicked her. The doctor abstracted from the wound a portion of the cap sunk into it by the baton of the savage police. The marks of their hobnails are still visible in her back shoulders. There are still in Strathcarron thirteen females in a state of great distress, owing to the brutal beating they received at the hands of the police. Three of these are so ill that their medical attendant has no hopes whatever of their recovery. It is my own firm conviction, from the appearance of these females and the dangerous nature of their wounds, coupled with medical reports which I have procured, that not one-half of these injured persons will recover; and all of them, should they linger on for a time, will bear about on their persons sad proofs of the horrid brutality to which they had been subjected. Among the number seriously wounded is a woman advanced in pregnancy. She was not among the crowd who met the sheriff, but at a considerable distance, just looking on; but she was violently struck and kicked by the policemen, and she is in a very dangerous condition."

We may further add that the women who were assailed numbered only eighteen. The name of the sheriff is Taylor.

Such is a picture of the British aristocracy in the year 1854.

The authorities and Government have come to an arrangement that the prosecution against Cowell, Grimshaw and the other Preston leaders shall be withdrawn, if the investigation against the magistrates and cotton lords of Preston is withdrawn also. The latter was accordingly done, pursuant to this arrangement.

Mr. Duncombe's postponement for a fortnight of his motion for a Committee of Inquiry into the conduct of the Preston magistrates is said to be in pursuance of the above arrangement.[4]

  1. Simpletons.—Ed.
  2. Marx, "Elections. Financial Clouds. The Duchess of Sutherland and Slavery", "The Indian Question. Irish Tenant Right".—Ed.
  3. The Riot Act—an act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing of the rioters. If an unlawful assembly of twelve or more persons was ordered by a magistrate to disperse and did not do so within one hour, the magistrate could give the order to open fire. It was introduced in Parliament in 1714 and passed in 1715.
  4. Preston strike : This refers to an event during one of the biggest strikes of English workers at the time. In August 1853 the weavers and spinners at the cotton mills in Preston and its environs went on strike demanding a 10 per cent wage increase. They were supported by workers of other trades. The Associated Masters responded with a lock-out in September 1853. About 25,000 out of the 30,000 Preston workers were out of work, but assistance by workers of other towns allowed the Preston workers to hold out for more than 36 weeks. The lock-out ended in February 1854, but the strike continued. To frustrate it the Associated Masters brought in workers from Ireland and from English workhouses. On the course and importance of the strike see MECW, Vol. 12, and the article The English Middle Class.
    Marx took the material on the attempt to close the case against the abuses on the part of the Preston magistrates from "Abandonment of the Preston Prosecution", published in The People's Paper on May 13, 1854.