Blue Books. Parliamentary Debates on February 6. Count Orlov's Mission. Operations of the Allied Fleet. The Irish Brigade. Concerning the Convocation of the Labor Parliament

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 7 February 1854


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Reproduced from the New York Daily Tribune
First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 4008, February 21, 1854;
reprinted in the New York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 913, February 24,
and the New York Weekly Tribune, No. 650, February 25, 1854
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.606-612), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
Collection(s): New York Tribune

London, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 1854

The "Rights and Privileges of the Greek and Latin Churches", as the ministerial blue book on the Eastern question has been ingeniously baptized, have been subjected by me to a scrutinizing perusal, and I intend shortly to give your readers a condensed survey of this diplomatic labyrinth[1]. For the present, I content myself with the simple assurance that a more monstrous monument of Governmental infamies and imbecility has, perhaps, never been bequeathed to history. And let us remember, what Mr. Baillie said in the House of Commons[2]on the value of these blue books:

"As for information, they had quite as much on this subject as they required—not, he admitted, official information—but [...] quite as much as they were likely to receive from a blue book that had been carefully prepared, and had concealed all that a Government might desire. [...] He spoke from experience ['hear, hear,' and laughter from the ministerial benches], from a knowledge of how blue books relating to foreign affairs had been prepared for this House."

I know very well that Lord Palmerston, when once accused of having perverted the documents relating to the Afghan war, of having suppressed most important passages in dispatches, and even of having deliberately falsified others[3], made the following ingenious reply:

"Sir, if any such thing had been done, what was to prevent the two adverse Governments, who succeeded us in .power, one of which endured for five years—from proclaiming the fact and producing the real documents?"[4]

But I know equally well that the secret of these blue-book dodges is the very secret of the alternate Whig and Tory succession in government, each party having a greater interest to maintain the capability of its opponent for succession, than by ruining their mutual political "honor" to compromise the government of the ruling classes altogether. This is what the British are pleased to call the operation of their glorious constitution.

Lord Clanricarde had given notice that he would move a discussion of the Eastern question in the House of Lords, yesterday. Consequently, great expectations were entertained, and the House almost crowded. Mr. Urquhart did not hesitate even to designate, in yesterday's Morning Advertiser, Lord Clanricarde as the future leader of the national party[5], remembering that he was the only man who opposed, in 1829, the Russians in crossing the Balkan, but forgetting, no doubt, that the same noble Marquis was, during the momentous epoch of 1839-40, Lord Palmerston's Ambassador at the Court of St. Petersburg, and his chief instrument in bringing about the separate treaty of 1840 and the rupture with France.[6]

The public has been decidedly disappointed by the debates, as the Marquis of Clanricarde, inferring from the reports in the public papers, that "there appeared to be something of the semblance of negotiations still going on at Vienna, was extremely sorry to occasion any discussion which might prevent a peaceful termination to those negotiations"[7]. Accordingly, he gave notice of his intention to bring forward a motion on the same subject this day week. The noble Marquis contented himself with asking Lord Clarendon "whether any answer had yet been received from the Emperor of Russia to the Vienna proposals?" and "what instructions had been given to the British Minister at St. Petersburg?" Lord Clarendon's reply was, "that he had only received this afternoon an official statement of the facts from Vienna." The Emperor of Russia had rejected the Vienna note, and offered, in its stead, a counter project. On the 2d inst. the Conference had been called together, and had rejected on its part the counter project.

"The new proposals put forward by Russia were wholly unacceptable—they could not be transmitted to Constantinople, and, therefore, there was an end of them. He had no reason to think that fresh negotiations on the subject would be renewed. As to the preservation of peace, he held out no such expectation at all."

With regard to the other question put by Lord Clanricarde, he stated that

"on Saturday evening Baron Brunnow called on him at the Foreign Office and placed in his hands a note, in which he announced that the answer he had received from him to the inquiry he was instructed to make by his Government, was not of a kind that permitted him to continue diplomatic relations, and that, therefore, diplomatic relations between Russia and England were suspended. Baron Brunnow had taken leave of him on Saturday evening, but it was then too late to depart from London, and he understood that he was to leave early this morning."

M. de Kisseleff, we are informed by telegraph, left Paris yesterday and is gone to Brussels. The official or Government journals state that all the Embassy at London would be broken up, and every Russian leave England. But I happen to know, from an excellent source, that, on the contrary, the number of Russians in England will only be diminished by the person of the Ambassador, and that the whole personnel remains at London under the superintendence of M. de Berg, First Secretary of the Embassy. As to the position of the British Ambassador at the Court of St. Petersburg, Lord Clarendon declared that

"as it was half past 6 o'clock on Saturday when Baron Brunnow called upon him, and as it was necessary [...] to have previous communication with the French Government, it was not possible at the moment to send instructions to the British Minister at St. Petersburg, but they had already held communication with the French Ambassador on the subject, and instructions would be sent to Sir G. Seymour and Gen. de Castelbajac tomorrow, which would place them on exactly the same footing as the Russian Ambassador here, and diplomatic relations between the two countries and Russia would be suspended."

Lord John Russell repeated in the House of Commons the declaration of Lord Clarendon in the Upper House, and Lord Palmerston announced that

"he would bring forward a measure to consolidate the militia laws, in which it . was his intention that a militia force should be organized for Scotland and Ireland, the period of enrollment depending upon the votes of the House."

The English army is to be augmented immediately by 11,000 men; 1,500 coast guards are also to be embarked forthwith, intended to form a stock for the crews of the newly commissioned ships. A royal proclamation has been issued forbidding the exportation of any vessels of war, military stores and ammunition to Russia. Embargo has been laid by the naval authorities visiting the private dockyards on the Thames on two vessels in course of construction for Russian account. A contract, on behalf of the British Government, for coal sufficient for steamers of the aggregate amount of 11,000 horse-power, has been concluded at Copenhagen. Admiral Sir Charles Napier is to have command of the Baltic fleet about to be formed.

The official Wiener Zeitung announces that

"the Government has received notice that Russia has expressly declared to the four Powers that she regards herself as released from the promise made at Olmütz to remain on the defensive in the Principalities."

Concerning the object of the mission of Count Orloff at Vienna a number of conflicting rumors are afloat; the most credible of which appears to be contained in the Berlin correspondence of to-day's Times.

"Russia." says this correspondent, "invites Austria and Prussia to enter with her into a treaty of neutrality for all contingencies; suggests to them to make the declaration of their neutrality the common expression of the neutrality of the German Bund; undertakes to come to the assistance of the Bund should any of its members be attacked; and binds herself, in the case of any territorial changes having to be arranged at the end of the war, to conclude no peace without having due consideration for the interests of the German Powers in such territorial changes. In this proposal for a treaty of neutrality distinct reference is made to the principles and provisions of the Holy Alliance of 1815."

As to the decision probably come to by Austria and Prussia, I can only repeat the convictions already recorded by me on this question[8]. Austria will endeavor by every means to maintain her position of neutrality as long as she will be permitted to do so, and will declare for Russia when the proper time has arrived. Prussia, on the other hand, is likely again to miss the proper time for abandoning her neutrality and will end by calling upon herself the fate of another Jena.[9]

We learn from Constantinople that the combined fleet have returned to their anchorage at Beikoz, notwithstanding the following order, sent out to them, on behalf of the Ambassadors, by the Samson:

"The Ambassadors are surprised at the sudden resolution of the Admirals, more particularly at the present moment, when a Turkish steam-flotilla is on the point of starting with ammunition and other stores for the army of Anatolia. The orders of the French and British Governments [...] were formal and precise [they were indeed, but not the original orders with which the Admirals were dispatched, but only those just received], respecting the protection to be afforded by the combined fleets to the Ottoman flag and territory, and the attention of both Admirals is again called to the stringent nature of these instructions which had been duly notified to them. The Admirals, it would appear, consider that the measures entrusted to their execution may be equally well effected, whether the force under their command be stationed at Beikoz or Sinope. [In this case, it would appear to others, that the same instructions might have been carried out, E y the fleets quietly remaining at Malta and Toulon.] This is a matter which must entirely depend upon their [...] judgment, and on them the responsibility will rest."

The Russian fleet is known to be at Kaffa, near the Strait of Yenikale[10], whence the distance to Batum is only one-third of the distance between Batum and Beikoz. Will the Admirals be able to prevent a Sinope at Batum, "whether they be stationed at Beikoz or elsewhere?"

You will remember that the Czar's first proclamation accused the Sultan of enlisting under his banner the revolutionary dregs of all Europe. Now, while Lord Stratford de Redcliffe declares to Lord Dudley Stuart that he could not assist him in organizing any of those dregs as a voluntary legion, the Czar has himself been the first to establish a revolutionary corps, the so-called Greco-Slavonian Legion, with the direct intention of provoking the Sultan's subjects to revolt. The corps is being organized in Wallachia and numbers already, according to Russian statements, above 3,000 men, not to be paid in bons à perpétuité[11], as the Wallachians themselves, colonels being promised 5 ducats per day; majors 3 ducats; captains 2; subaltern officers 1, and soldiers 2. zwanzigers, the arms to be supplied by Russia.

Meanwhile the armaments of France seem no longer to be intended to remain on paper. As you know, the reserves of 1851 have been called out and in the last few days immense military stores have been sent from Arras to Metz and Strasbourg. General Pélissier has left .for Algiers with orders to select the different corps which are to form the expedition to Constantinople, for which Sir J. Burgoyne and Colonel Ardant have gone to prepare quarters.

The rumored passage of Omer Pasha at the head of a large .army, though if attempted it could hardly be executed at a more opportune moment, since the Russians are known to be concentrated at Krajova, between Bucharest and Kalafat, yet needs confirmation.

To return to the doings of the British Parliament, there is, of course, not much to be mentioned, with the exception of the proposition of a bill for throwing open the coast-trade to foreign vessels, a proposition which has not met with a single protest. Protestation must be decidedly dead, since it shows no capacity to make the slightest stand against the universal invasion of the modern principle of commerce: to buy in the cheapest market whatever you require. How far the cheapest crew is qualified to protect life and property, the late catastrophe of the Tayleur has shown[12]

Mr. I. Butt, in yesterday's sitting of the Commons, gave notice

"that to-morrow he should move that there should be read by the Clerk, at the table of the House, an article published in The Times of to-day, and the previous statements of The Dublin Freeman's Journal, imputing to the" (Irish) "members of the House a trafficking in places for money. He should also move for a Select Committee to inquire into the allegations of such trafficking as contained in these publications."

Why Mr. Butt is indignant only at the trafficking for money will be understood by those who remember that the legality of any other mode of trafficking was settled during last session. Since 1830 Downing-st.[13] has been placed at the mercy of the Irish Brigade[14]. It is the Irish members who have created and kept in place the Ministers to their mind. In 1834 they drove from the Cabinet Sir J. Graham and Lord Stanley. In 1835 they compelled William IV to dismiss the Peel Ministry and to restore the Melbourne Administration. From the general election of 1837 down to that of 1841, while there was a British majority in the Lower House opposed to that Administration, the votes of the Irish Brigade were strong enough to turn the scale and keep it in office. It was the Irish Brigade again who installed the Coalition Cabinet. With all this power of Cabinet-making, the Brigade have never prevented any infamies against their own country nor any injustice to the English people. The period of their greatest power was at the time of O'Connell, from 1834-1841. To what account was it turned? The Irish agitation was never anything but a cry for the Whigs against the Tories, in order to extort places from the Whigs. Nobody who knows anything about the so-called Litchfield-house contract[15], will differ from this opinion that contract by which O'Connell was to vote for, but licensed to spout against, the Whigs on condition that he should nominate his own Magistrates in Ireland. It is time for the Irish Brigade to put off their patriotic airs. It is time for the Irish people to put off their dumb hatred of the English and call their own representatives to an account for their wrongs.

The "Society of Arts"[16] and tricks have lately ventured on an escamotage of the Labor Parliament by a countermove intended to "settle" the still enduring struggle between the capitalists and workingmen of England. The meeting was presided over by a noble Lord, and delegates from both parties had been invited to discuss their grievances after the fashion of the Luxembourg conferences of M. Louis Blanc[17]. The humbug was protested against by Mr. Ernest Jones, in the name of the working classes, and old Robert Owen told these enlightened gentlemen that no arbitration, nor device, nor art of any kind, could ever fill the gulf dividing the two great fundamental classes of this or any country. It is superfluous to add that the meeting dissolved under an ample cover of ridicule. The Chartists of London and the Provincial Delegates held a public meeting on the following day, when the proposal of the Labor Parliament was unanimously approved, and the 11th March named for its opening at Manchester.

  1. See Russian Diplomacy.The Blue Book on the Eastern Question.Montenegro. —Ed.
  2. On January 31, 1854.—Ed.
  3. A reference to the reports submitted to Parliament on the negotiations between Alexander Burnes, the British representative in Kabul, and the Emir of Afghanistan, Dost Mohammed. As a result of the negotiations the British Government, at Palmerston's insistence, declared war on Afghanistan in 1838. The reports were submitted to Parliament in 1839 but, as subsequently transpired, the most important papers were not produced, which made it possible to claim that Dost Mohammed was the initiator of the Anglo-Afghan conflict. Palmerston's opponents raised this question in the House of Commons in 1848.
  4. Quoted from Palmerston's speech in the House of Commons on March 1, 1848.—Ed.
  5. D. Urquhart, "How Our Negotiations with Russia Will Conduct Us into a War with France", Letter III, The Morning Advertiser, No. 19540, February 6, 1854.—Ed.
  6. The aggravation of the Eastern question in the early 1840s was caused by the Turko-Egyptian war of 1839-41. In 1839 the Turkish army invaded Syria, which had been conquered in 1831-33 by the Egyptian ruler Mehemet Ali, but it was defeated. Fearing Russian intervention, the Western powers decided to send a joint Note to the Turkish Sultan offering their assistance. However, as a result of the struggle between Britain and France over spheres of influence in the Near East, the London Convention on military assistance to the Sultan was signed on July 15, 1840 by Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia, without France. The latter was counting on Mehemet Ali, but was soon compelled to abandon him to his fate. After the military intervention of Britain and Austria. Mehemet Ali was forced to renounce all his possessions outside Egypt and submit to the supreme power of the Turkish Sultan.
  7. Marx quotes from Clanricarde's speech, as well as from those of other members of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons, according to The Times, No. 21658, February 7, 1854.—Ed.
  8. See The European War (February 1854).—Ed.
  9. In the battle of Jena on October 14, 1806 the Prussian troops were defeated by Napoleon's army. This resulted in Prussia's capitulation.
  10. The Kerch Strait.—Ed.
  11. Obligation for all eternity.—Ed.
  12. The British ship Tayleur bound for Melbourne was wrecked and sank near the island of Lambey not far from Dublin. Investigations revealed that the ship's crew consisted of untrained, inexperienced sailors.
  13. 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).
  14. The Irish Brigade—the Irish faction in the British Parliament from the 1830s to the 1850s. It was led by Daniel O'Connell until 1847. As neither the Tories nor the Whigs had a decisive majority the Irish Brigade, alongside the Free Traders, could tip the balance in Parliament and. in some cases decide the fate of the government.

    In the early 1850s, a number of M.P.s belonging to this faction entered into an alliance with the radical Irish Tenant-Right League and formed the so-called Independent Opposition in the House of Commons. However, the leaders of the Irish Brigade soon concluded an agreement with British ruling circles and refused to support the League's demands, which led to the demoralisation and final dissolution of the Independent Opposition in 1859.
  15. The Litchfield-house contract (or compact) was concluded between the Whig leaders and Daniel O'Connell, leader of the Liberal wing of the Irish national liberation movement, who headed the Irish faction in Parliament. The negotiations were conducted at Lord Litchfield's house in London. Under the contract the Irish Liberal leaders were promised some posts in the government. In his turn, O'Connell pledged to stop the mass campaign for the repeal of the Union and to support the Whigs in Parliament.
  16. The "Society of Arts" and tricks—an ironical name given by Marx to the cultural and philanthropic Society of Arts founded in 1754; in the 1850s its President was Prince Albert. The Society tried to prevent the development of the mass strike movement in Britain and the convocation of the Labour Parliament (see below a↓), and sought to play the part of arbitrator between workers and employers. At its meeting in January 1854 Ernest Jones tried to propose a resolution recognising the workers' right to strike and condemning lockouts, but the meeting would not let him speak. His comrades-in-arms walked out in protest. Robert Owen also spoke against the view, supported by a majority at the meeting, that the labour question could be solved by philanthropic measures and arbitration.

    a) In connection with an upsurge in the strike movement in 1853 a group of Chartists headed by Ernest Jones proposed the setting up of a broad workers' organisation "The Mass Movement" which was to unite trade unionists and unorganised workers with the primary aim of co-ordinating strikes in various parts of the country. The organisation was to be headed by a regularly convened Labour Parliament consisting of delegates elected at meetings of unorganised workers and at trade union meetings. The Labour Parliament assembled in Manchester on March 6, 1854 and was in session until March 18. It discussed and adopted the programme of the Mass Movement and set up an Executive of five members. Marx, who was elected an honorary delegate to the Parliament, sent it a letter in which he formulated the task of creating an independent political party of the proletariat. Marx saw the convocation of the Labour Parliament as an attempt to lead the labour movement out of narrow trade unionism and to unite the economic and political struggle. Most of the trade union leaders, however, did not support the idea of creating a single mass workers' organisation. The abatement of the strike movement by the summer of 1854 also affected the campaign. The Labour Parliament was never convened after March 1854.
  17. A reference to the Labour Commission that met at the Luxembourg Palace under the chairmanship of Louis Blanc. It was set up on February 28, 1848 by the Provisional Government under pressure from the workers who demanded a Ministry of Labour. The Commission, in which both workers and employers were represented, acted as mediator in labour conflicts, often taking the side of the employers. The revolutionary action of the masses on May 15, 1848 put an end to the Luxembourg Commission, which the government disbanded on May 16, 1848.