Declaration of the Prussian Cabinet. Napoleon's Plans. Prussia's Policy

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 17 February 1854


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Reproduced from the newspaper
First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 4022, March 9, 1854 as a leader
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.8-10), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980

This article is entered in the Notebook as "Freitag. 17. Februar. Germany News". Eleanor Marx included it under the title "Count Orloff's Proposals" in The Eastern Question, in which the first paragraph was mistakenly ascribed to the editors of the New York Daily Tribune.

The following information, which, if true, is of the highest importance, and a portion only of which has appeared in the European journals, and that in a partial and disguised form, we have received from a most trustworthy source[1] at London:

I. On the 3d of February the following declaration on the part of the Prussian Cabinet was dispatched to Paris and London:

"1. The explanations of Count Orloff leaving no doubt whatever as to the uselessness of any further attempt at mediation with the St. Petersburg Cabinet, Prussia hereby withdraws her mediation, the opportunity for which can no longer be said to exist.

"2. Count Orloff's proposals of a formal and binding treaty of neutrality have met with an absolute refusal, communicated to him in a note, Prussia being decided upon observing even without the concurrence of Austria, the most strict neutrality on her part, which she is determined to enforce by suitable armaments, as soon as the proper moment shall have arrived.

"3. Whether Prussia shall propose, in common with Austria, a general arming of the German Confederation[2], will depend on the conduct of the maritime powers toward Germany."

II. Louis Napoleon has sent a confidential agent (Mr. Brenier) to Turin, with the following message for the King of Piedmont[3] and Mr. Cavour: At a given time insurrectionary movements are to break out in Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, and Modena. Sardinia must then occupy those countries, from which the now reigning princes are to be expelled. Napoleon is to guarantee to the King the incorporation with Sardinia of the three former principalities, and perhaps of Modena, also, in compensation for which territories the County of Savoy is to be ceded to France[4]. This arrangement England may be said to have as good as agreed to, although reluctantly and with very bad grace. Mr. Brenier then proceeded further on his tour through Italy till he reached Naples, where his arrival evoked the "most painful sensation." His mission is that of preparing an Italian insurrection, as Napoleon is seriously convinced that he is the man, not only to set Italy on fire, but also to draw the exact line which the flame shall be forbidden to cross. He proposes to concentrate the following armies:

1- 100,000 men on the frontier of Savoy.
2- 60,000 men at Metz.
3- 80,000 men at Strassburg.

III. Prussia does not object to the assembling of a French army of 100,000 men on the frontier of Savoy, but she considers the concentration of an army at Metz, and of another at Strassburg, to be a direct menace against herself. She already fancies Baden, Hesse, Württemberg, etc., in full insurrection and some 100,000 peasants marching from the south of Germany on her own frontiers. She has, therefore, protested against these two measures, and it is this eventuality which is alluded to in section 3 of the Prussian declaration. At all events, Prussia will put her army on a war footing by, and perhaps before, the end of March. She intends calling out a force of 200,000 to 300,000 men, according to circumstances. But if Napoleon insists on concentrating the two armies at Metz and Strassburg, the Prussian Government has already resolved to augment its force to 500,000 men. In the Berlin Cabinet, where the King[5], with the great majority of his Ministers, had chosen to side with Russia, and Manteuffel alone, backed by the Prince of Prussia[6], carried the declaration of neutrality (Manteuffel originally proposed a formal alliance with England), fear and confusion are asserted to reign supreme. There exists already a formal resolution of the Cabinet (Cabinets-Beschluss) according to which, under certain circumstances, all the more notorious democrats of the monarchy, and, above all, of Rhenish Prussia, are to be arrested on the same night, and to be transported to the eastern fortresses, in order to prevent them from favoring the subversive plans of Napoleon, (die Umsturzpläne Napoleon's!!) or from getting up popular movements generally. This measure, it is proposed, shall be executed instantly in the case of Italian disorders breaking out, or if Napoleon concentrates the two armies at Metz and Strassburg. This resolution, we are assured, has been taken unanimously, although all the eventualities are not provided for under which the Cabinet might think fit to put it into execution.

  1. The reference is to Ferdinand Lassalle's letter to Marx dated February 10, 1854. It is published in Ferdinand Lassalle, Nachgelassene Briefe und Schriften. Herausgegeben von Gustav Mayer. 3. Band. Der Briefwechsel zwischen Lassalle und Marx, Stuttgart-Berlin, 1922, S. 66-70.
  2. The German Confederation—a union of German states formed by the Vienna Congress on June 8, 1815. It initially included 34 absolutist feudal states and 4 free cities. The Confederation sanctioned the political and economic dismemberment of Germany and hindered the country's development. The Vienna Congress of the European monarchs and their Ministers (September 1814-June 1815) established the boundaries and status of the European states after the victory over Napoleonic France, sanctioned the reshaping of the political map of Europe and the restoration of the "legitimate" dynasties, overthrown as a result of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.
  3. Victor Emmanuel II.—Ed.
  4. The Kingdom of Sardinia, which existed from 1720 to 1861 and played a considerable role in the unification of Italy, consisted of Piedmont, Sardinia, Savoy, Nice and Liguria (including Genoa).
  5. Frederick William IV.—Ed.
  6. Future King of Prussia, William I.—Ed.