Defense. Finances. Decrease of the Aristocracy Politics

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 8 February 1853


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Reproduced from the New York Daily Tribune
First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 3699, February 23,
and in the Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 809, February 25, 1853
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 11 (pp.502-508), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
Collection(s): New York Tribune

London, Tuesday, February 8, 1853

The Daily Newsstates that the establishment of a defensive coast-militia is under the serious consideration of the Government.The Bank accounts show a further decrease of bullion to the amount of £362,084. There have been shipped, during the last fortnight, about £1,000,000 partly for the continent and partly in coin, for Australia. As the bullion in the Bank of France continues to also decrease, in spite of the large importation of gold from England, there has apparently sprung up a system of private hoarding, which strongly indicates the general distrust in the stability of Napoleonic government.

At present there is manifested a general demand for higher wages, on the part of working-men, especially shipwrights, colliers, factory-operatives and mechanics. This demand is owing to the prevailing prosperity and cannot be considered as a very particular event. A fact which deserves more notice, is a regular strike amongst agricultural laborers, a thing which has never taken place before. The laborers of South Wilts have struck for an advance of 2 shillings, their weekly wages amounting now only to 7s.

According to the quarterly returns of the registrar-general, emigration from Great Britain was going on through the past year, at the rate of 1,000 a-day, the increase of population being somewhat slower. Simultaneously there was a large increase of marriages.

The deaths of Viscount Melbourne and the Earl of Tyrconnel, with that of the Earl of Oxford, make no less than three peerages, that have become extinct within the last fortnight. If there be any class exempt from the Malthusian law of procreation in a geometrical progression, it is that of the hereditary aristocracy. Take, for instance, the peers and baronets of Great Britain. Few, if any, of the Norman nobility exist at this time and not much more of the original baronet families of King James I. The great majority of the House of Lords were created in 1760. The order of baronets commenced in 1611, under James I. There are at present only thirteen surviving out of the number of baronet families then created, and of those created in 1625 there remain but 39. The extraordinary decrease of the Venitian nobility affords another instance of the prevalence of the same law, notwithstanding that all the sons were ennobled by birth. Amelot counted in his time 2,500 nobles at Venice, possessing the right of voting in the council[1]. At the commencement of the 18th century there remained only 1,500, in spite of a later addition of several families. From 1583-1654, the sovereign council of Berne admitted into the hereditary patricia 487 families, of which 399 became extinct within the space of two centuries while in 1783 there survived only 108. To recur to remoter periods of history, Tacitus informs us that the Emperor Claudius created a new stock of patricians, "exhaustis etiam quas dictator Caesar lege Cassia et princeps Augustus lege Saenia sublegere."[2] It is evident from these facts, that nature does not like hereditary aristocracy, and it may safely be asserted but that for a continual infusion of new blood, and an artificial system of propping up, the English House of Lords would ere this have died its natural death. Modern physiology has ascertained the fact, that fertility decreases among the higher animals, inversely with the development of the nervous system, especially with the growing bulk of the brain. But no one will venture to affirm that the extinction of the English aristocracy has anything to do with an exuberance of brain.

It appears that the "millennium" is already considered as broken down by the same parties who predicted and originated it, even before the House of Commons has taken place. The Times, in its number of Feb. 4, says:

"While Manchester has been fulminating her indignation against the Government of Lord Aberdeen, ... Irish Popery and Socialism (?) are bestowing their questionable praises on Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli."

As to the Irish Socialism alluded to in The Times, this term applies, of course, to the Tenant-Right agitation. On a future occasion I intend to show that the theories of all modern English bourgeois economists are in perfect accordance with the principle of Tenant-Right[3]. How little the tenor of The Times article just quoted is shared in by other newspapers, may be seen from the following contained in The Morning Advertiser

"We should despise the Irishmen, could we believe them capable of deserting the principle of Tenant-Right."[4]

The wrath of the Aberdeen organ is explained by the fact of the Millenarian Ministry being completely disappointed. Messrs. Sadleir and Keogh were the acknowledged leaders of the Brigade the one in the Cabinet, the other in the field. Mr. Sadleir directed and managed, while Mr. Keogh made the speeches. It was supposed that the purchase of these two would bring over the whole lot. But the members of the Brigade were sent to parliament pledged to stand in opposition to, and to remain independent of every Government that would not establish perfect religious equality, and realize the principle of Sharman Crawford's bill on the rights of the Irish tenants[5]. The Times, therefore, is indignated at these men being unwilling to break their faith. The immediate cause of the outbreak of this angry feeling was given by a meeting and banquet at Kells, County of Meath. The circular invited those to whom it was addressed, to express their indignation at "the recent desertion from the Irish Parliamentary party," and a resolution was passed in that sense.

This failure in the calculations of the Ministry with regard to the Brigade could have been anticipated: but a transformation is now going on in the character and position of Irish parties, of the deep bearing of which neither they nor the English press appear yet to be aware. The bishops and the mass of the clergy approve of the course taken by the Catholic members, who have joined the Administration. At Carlow, the clergy afforded their entire support to Mr. Sadleir, who would not have been defeated but for the efforts of the Tenant-Leaguers. In what light this schism is viewed by the true Catholic party, may be seen from an article in the French Univers, the European organ of jesuitism. It says:

"The only reproach which can , with good foundation, be objected to Messrs. Keogh and Sadleir, is, that they suffered themselves to be thrown into connection with two Associations (the Tenant-League and the Religious Equality Association) which have no other object than to make patent the anarchy which consumes Ireland."

In its indignation, the Univers betrays its secret:

"We deeply regret to see the two Associations put themselves in open opposition to the bishops and clergy, in a country where the prelates and dignitaries of the Church have hitherto been the safest guides of popular and national organization."

We may infer that, should the Tenant-Leaguers happen to be in France, the Univers would cause them to be transported to Cayenne. The Repeal[6] agitation was a mere political movement, and therefore, it was possible for the Catholic clergy to make use of it, for extorting concessions from the English Government while the people were nothing but the tools of the priests. The Tenant-Right agitation is a deep-rooted social movement which, in its course, will produce a downright scission between the Church and the Irish Revolutionary party, and thus emancipate the people from that mental thraldom which has frustrated all their exertions, sacrifices, and struggles for centuries past.

I pass now to the "Reunion" of the leading reformers of the County of Lancaster and its representatives, which was held at Manchester on the 3d inst[7]. Mr. George Wilson was in the chair. He spoke only of the iniquitous representation of the commercial and industrial compared with the agricultural districts, upon which he expressed himself in the following terms:

"In the five Counties of Buckingham, Dorset; Wilts, Northampton, and Salop, 63 members were returned by 52,921 voters, while only the same number were returned by Lancashire and Yorkshire, with 89,669 county and 84,612 borough voters, making a total of 174,28 L So that, if they returned members in proportion to voters alone, those five counties could only claim 19; while, if Lancashire took their proportion, it would be entitled to 207. There were twelve large cities or boroughs (taking London as a double borough) returning 24 members, with 192,000 voters, and a population of 3,268,218, and 383,000 inhabited houses. On the other side, 24 members were returned by Andover, Buckingham, Chippenham, Cockermouth, Totnes, Harwich, Honiton, Thetford, Lymington, Marlborough, Great Marlborough and Richmond; but they had only 3,569 voters, 67,434 inhabitants, and 1,373 inhabited houses.... The most timid reformer and most moderate man would hardly object to the disfranchisement of those boroughs which had a population less than 5,000, and to handing over the 20 members to those large constituencies."

Mr. Milner Gibson, M. P., took up the subject of National Education, and the Taxes on Knowledge. With regard to the Reform Bill, the only passage in his speech deserving notice, is his declaration on the point of equal electoral districts:

"It may be, if you please, a great class-question."

Mr. Brotherton, another M. P., said:

"No Reform Bill would be satisfactory, at this time, which did not propose to equalize the distribution of the representation."

But by far the most memorable speech was that of Mr. Bright, M. P., the real man among the "Manchester men." He said:

"The Government is a coalition Government, composed of Whigs and Peelites.... There is no great cause for any throwing up of caps, as if we had in the Government men of new principles and of a new policy, who are about to take a great start, and who would not require to be urged on by all those who are favorable to Reform in every part of the country. [Hear.]"

In reference to Parliamentary Reform he said:

"If Louis Napoleon had started with a Representation like ours, in France; if he had given all the Members to the rural districts, where the Bonaparte family are so popular, and had not allowed Members to be returned from Paris, and Lyons, and Marseilles, all the Press of England would have denounced the sham Representation which he was establishing in that country. [Hear! Bear!] We have one-eighth of the population of England here in Lancashire; we have one-tenth of its rateable property, and we have one-tenth of the whole number of houses.... We begin to know where we are now. [Loud cheers.]... There is another little difficulty, which is the difficulty of the ballot. [Hear! hear!] I read Lord John Russell's speech at his election, and really these London electors were in capital humor or they would not have allowed such an argument to pass without saying something against it. `He was against secrecy everywhere' ; and when I read the paragraph, I said to myself `Very well; if I had been one of your supporters, I should have recommended you to take a reporter from The Times office to the next Cabinet-meeting with you'" [Hear! laughter.] Now we come to Sir James Graham's argument: `He did not think secret voting could be made compulsory.' Why can it not be made compulsory? Open voting is made compulsory, and secret voting could be made compulsory. It is compulsory, at any rate, in the State of Massachusetts, if not in the other States of North America; and Sir James Graham knows perfectly well that there was no force in what he was saying to 2,000 or 3,000 of the people of Carlisle, on a rainy day, when, I suppose, people did not weigh matters under their umbrellas very carefully.

"We must not forget," concluded Mr. Bright, "that everything the country has gained since the Revolution of 1688—and especially everything of late years—has been gained in a manly contest of the industrial and commercial classes against the aristocratic and privileged classes of this country. We must carry on the same conflict; there are great things yet to be done. [Hear! hear! and cheers.]"

The resolution unanimously agreed to was:

"That this meeting requests the Liberal Members connected with the County of Lancaster to consider themselves a committee for the purpose of aiding in any proceedings with reference to Parliamentary Reform, with a view to secure such additional representation for this County, as its population, industry, wealth and intelligence require."

The Manchester School have repeated at this meeting their battle cry: the industrial Bourgeoisie against the Aristocracy; but, on the other hand, they have also betrayed the secret of their policy, viz.: the exclusion of the people from the representation of the country, and the strict maintenance of their particular class-interest. All that was said with regard to the ballot, national education, taxes on knowledge, &c., is nothing but rhetorical flourishes; the only serious object being the equalization of Electoral Districts at least the only one upon which a resolution was passed and a pledge taken by the members. Why this? With equal electoral districts the town interest would become the commander of the country interest the bourgeoisie would become master of the House of Commons. If it were given to the Manchester men to obtain equal electoral districts, without a necessity of making serious concessions to the Chartists, the latter would find instead of two enemies, mutually trying to outbid each other in their appeals to them, one compact army of foes, who would concentrate all their forces to resist the people's demands. There would be, for a while, the unrestricted rule of capital, not only industrially but also politically.

A bad omen for the coalition Ministry may be found in the eulogiums bestowed at Kells and at Manchester on the fallen Administration. Mr. Lucas, M. P., said at Kells:

"There were no greater enemies to Tenant Right than the Marquis of Lansdowne, Lord Palmerston, Sidney Herbert, &c. ... Had they not had the Whig Ministry and the Grahamites nibbling at the Tenant question? They had on the other hand the Tory officials; and he would leave it to the conscience of any man, who read the propositions that emanated from the various parties, to say whether the treatment of the subject on the side of the Derby Government was not a thousand times more honest than that of the Whigs."

At the Manchester Reunion, Milner Gibson said:

"Although the Budget of the late Ministry, as a whole, was bad, still there were good indications of future policy in that budget.—[Hear! hear!] At least the late Chancellor of the Exchequer[8] has broken the ice. I mean with regard to the Tea Duties. I have heard from good authority that it was the intention of the late Government to repeal the Advertisement Duty."

Mr. Bright went still further in his eulogium:

"The late Government did a bold thing with regard to the Income Tax. For the country gentlemen of England, themselves the owners of a vast portion of the fixed landed property of the country, for them to come forward and support a proposition which made a distinction in the rate charged on fixed property, and that on income derived from trade and other precarious sources, was a step that we ought not to lose sight of, and that we, in this district, are bound to applaud. But there was another point to which Mr. Disraeli referred, and for which I must say I feel grateful to him. In the speech introducing his budget, and in the speech in which he contended for three hours with that mass of power opposed to him, on the night of his final defeat, he referred to the tax on successions, which is what we understand by the legacy and probate duties, and he admitted that it required to be adjusted. [Loud cheers.]"

  1. Amelot de la Houssaye, Histoire du gouvernement de Venise.—Ed.
  2. "For even those had died out who had been added by the dictator Caesar under the law of Cassius and by the princeps Augustus under the law of Saenius", Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales, XI, 25.—Ed.
  3. Marx soon carried out his intention by writing the article "The Indian Question. The Irish Tenant Right" in June 1853.
  4. Quoted from the leading article in The Morning Advertiser, February 5, 1853.—Ed.
  5. This Bill of the Irish radical Sharman Crawford, providing for compensation of tenants for land improvements when the lease was terminated, was first introduced in the House of Commons in 1835 and was rejected in 1836. Reintroduced in 1847, 1852 and 1856, it was each time rejected.

    The Irish Brigade —the Irish faction in the British Parliament in the 1830s-1850s. Until 1847 it was led by Daniel O'Connell, who adopted in the main the tactics of parliamentary manoeuvre to secure concessions for the big Irish bourgeoisie from the British Government. Early in the 1850s, a number of deputies belonging to this faction entered into an alliance with the radical Irish Tenant-Right League and formed in the House of Commons an Independent Opposition. However, the leaders of the Irish Brigade soon came to terms with the 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.
  6. The reference is to the Repealers, supporters of the repeal of the Anglo-Irish Union of January 1, 1801, which abolished the autonomy of the Irish Parliament and made Ireland still more dependent on England. In the 1820s, the demand for the repeal of the Union became the most popular slogan of the Irish national liberation movement. In 1840 a Repeal Association was founded whose leader, Daniel O'Connell, stood for a compromise with the English ruling circles and practically reduced the programme of the movement to the demand for autonomy and other political concessions. In January 1847 its radical elements broke away from the Association and formed an Irish Confederation; representatives of the latter's Left revolutionary wing stood at the head of the national liberation movement and in 1848 were subjected to severe repression. Later the Repeal Association finally ceased to exist.
  7. Speeches at a meeting of Parliamentary Reform supporters at Manchester on February 3, 1853 are quoted from the account of the meeting published in The Times, No. 21344, February 5, 1853, under the title "Social Soirée of Reformers at Manchester".—Ed.
  8. Disraeli.—Ed.