English and French War Plans. Greek Insurrection. Spain. China.

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The article "English and French War Plans.—Greek Insurrection.—Spain.— China" was compiled by the editors of the New York Daily Tribune from two articles written by Marx on February 28 and March 3, 1854; the editors took the first six paragraphs, up to the words "The Anglo-French expedition may be set down...", from the article written by Marx on March 3 (the second half of this article was published as a leader, without Marx's signature, under the title "Austrian Bankruptcy"). 'In the Notebook the second part of the article is entered: "Dienstag. 28. Februar. Etwas Militaria. Spain. Dost Mohammed etc., etc., etc.". It is probable that "Militaria" in this article was written by Engels, but there are no direct proofs of this. This article was included in abridged form by Eleanor Marx in The Eastern Question under the title "France and England.—The Greek Rising.—Asia".

London, Friday, March 3, 1854

In my last letter I[1] mentioned that Sir Charles Napier owed his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Baltic fleet to his public expression of mistrust in the French alliance; to his accusing France of having betrayed England in 1840[2], while in fact the English Government at that time conspired with Nicholas against Louis Philippe. I ought to have added that the second Admiral in the Black Sea, Sir Edmund Lyons, during his stay in Greece as English Minister, showed himself the avowed enemy of France, and was removed from that office on the representations of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. Thus in the ministerial appointments the greatest possible care is taken to insure a crop of misintelligence, not only between the French and English commanders, but also between the Admirals and the English Embassador at Constantinople.

These facts are not denied and certainly not refuted by Bonaparte's congratulating himself, in the opening speech he ad-dressed to his own representatives, upon his close alliance with England. The entente cordiale is certainly somewhat older than the restoration of the Imperial etiquette[3]. The most remarkable passage in Bonaparte's speech is neither this reminiscence from Louis Philippe's harangues, nor his denunciation of the Czar's ambitious plans, but rather his proclaiming himself the protector of Germany, and especially of Austria, against the, foe from without and the enemy from within.[4]

The ratifications of the treaty entered into by the Porte with the Western Powers, containing the clause that it was not to conclude peace with Russia without their concurrence[5], had hardly been exchanged at Constantinople on the 5th inst., when negotiations relative to the future position of' the Christians in Turkey were also opened between the representatives of the four Powers and the Porte. The real end aimed at in these negotiations is betrayed in the following passage from Wednesday's Times:

"The condition of several parts of the Turkish Empire which have already obtained by firmans and treaties the complete internal administration of their affairs, while they continue to recognize the sovereignty of the Porte, is a precedent which may be extended without prejudice to either side, and which would perhaps afford the best means of providing for the Provinces in their present state."[6]

In other words the Coalition Cabinet intends securing the integrity of the Turkish Empire in Europe by the transformation of Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Albania, Rumelia and Thessaly into so many Danubian Principalities. The acceptance on the part of the Porte of these conditions must infallibly lead, if the Turkish armies prove victorious, to a civil war among the Turks themselves.

It is now ascertained that the discovery of the conspiracy at Vidin[7] only hastened the Greek explosion, which at Bucharest was considered as an accomplished fact before it had broken out. The Pasha of Scutari is concentrating all his troops with a view to prevent the Montenegrins from joining the insurgent Greeks.

The Anglo-French expedition may be set down, as far as the present intentions of the British Government go, as another piece of humbug. The landing places are fixed for the French at Rodosto, for the British at Enos. This latter town lies on a small peninsula at the entrance of a marshy bay, at the rear of which the extensive marshes of the valley of the Maritza, will no doubt greatly contribute to the salubrity of the camp. It lies outside not only of the Bosphorus, but of the Dardanelles also, and the troops, in order to get to the Black Sea, would have either to reembark and enjoy 250 miles round-about sail against the currents of the Straits, or to march through a roadless country for the distance of 160 miles, a march which no doubt could be completed in a fortnight. The French are at Rodosto, at least on the sea of Marmora, and only a week's march from Constantinople.

But what are the troops to do in this inexplicable position? Why, they are either to march upon Adrianople, there to cover the capital, or in the worst case, to unite at the neck of the Thracian Chersonesus, to defend the Dardanelles. So says The Times, "by authority," and even quotes Marshal Marmont's strategic observations in support of the wisdom of the plan.[8]

One hundred thousand French and English troops to defend a capital which is not menaced, which cannot possibly be menaced for the next twelvemonth! Why, they might as well have stopped at home.

This plan, if it is to be carried out, is decidedly the worst that can be devised. It is based upon the very worst sort of defensive warfare, viz: that which seeks strength in absolute inactivity: Supposing the expedition was to be of a mainly defensive character, it is evident that this object would be best obtained by enabling the Turks, based upon such a reserve, to pass into the offensive, or else, by taking up a position in which a casual and partial offensive, where opportunities offer, could be taken. But at Enos and Rodosto the French and British troops are entirely useless.

The worst of it is that an army of 100,000 men, with plenty of steam transports, and supported by a fleet of twenty sail of the line, is in itself a force competent to take the most decided offensive action in any part of the Black Sea. Such a force must either take the Crimea and Sevastopol, Odessa and Kherson, close the Sea of Azov, destroy the Russian forts on the Caucasian coasts, and bring the Russian fleet safe into the Bosphorus, or it has no idea of its strength and its duty as an active army. It is affirmed on the part of the Ministerial partisans that, when the 100,000 men are once concentrated in Turkey, such operations may be undertaken, and that the landing of the first divisions at Enos and Rodosto is merely contrived to deceive the enemy. But even in this case it is an unnecessary loss of time and expense not to land the troops at once on some point on the Black Sea. The enemy cannot be misled. As soon as the Emperor Nicholas hears of this pompously announced expedition of 100,000 men, he is bound to send every soldier he can spare to Sevastopol, Kaffa, Perekop and Yenicale. You cannot first frighten your enemy by enormous armaments, and then try to make him believe that they are not intended to do any harm. The trick would be too shallow; and if it is expected to mislead the Russians by such paltry pretexts, British diplomacy has made another egregious blunder.

I, therefore, believe that those who have planned the expedition intend betraying the Sultan[9] directly, and, on the plea of frightening Russia as much as possible, will take good care to do her by all means the least possible harm.

England and France occupying Constantinople and part of Rumelia; Austria occupying Servia, and perhaps Bosnia and Montenegro, and Russia being allowed to reenforce herself in Moldo-Wallachia, this looks like an eventual partition of Turkey in Europe rather than anything else. Turkey is placed in worse circumstances than in 1772, when the King of Prussia[10], in order to induce the Empress Catherine to retire from the Danubian Principalities, the occupation of which threatened to lead to a European conflict, proposed the first partition of Poland, which was to defray the expenses of the Russo-Turkish war. Be it remembered that, at that time, the Porte originally rushed into the war with Catherine with the view of defending Poland from Prussian aggression, and that, at the end, Poland was sacrificed at the shrine of the "independence and integrity" of the Ottoman Empire.

The treacherous policy of procrastination pursued by the Coalition Cabinet has given the Muscovite emissaries the opportunity for planning and maturing the Greek insurrection, so anxiously expected by Lord Clarendon. The insurrection had commenced on the 28th January and according to the last dispatches from Vienna assumed more threatening dimensions on the 13th inst. The districts of Acarnania and Aetolia, and circles of Ilussa and Delonia are said to be in a state of revolt. An insurrection is stated to have broken out at Egrippo, the capital of Euböa, equal in gravity to that in Albania. The fact of the towns of Arta and Yannina being quitted by the Turks and occupied by the Greeks is of smaller importance, as the domineering citadels remain in the hand of Ottoman troops and as we know, from the numerous wars carried on between the Christians and the Turks in Albania, the final possession of these towns depended always on the possession of the citadels. The Gulfs of Contessa and Salonica and the coasts of Albania will be declared in a state of siege. I stated in my last letter[11] that one of the results of the Greek insurrection the most to be apprehended on the part of the Porte, would be the opportunity it afforded the Western Powers for interfering between the Sultan and his subjects, instead of fighting the Russians, and thus driving the Greek Christians into alliance with the Czar. How eager these Powers are to grasp at this opportunity may be inferred from the fact of the same post bringing the news of the Porte having accepted the convention proposed by England and France, and of the French and English Embassadors having sent two steamers to the assistance of the Turks, while the British minister at Athens[12] had informed the Cabinet of King Otto that England would interfere in the insurged districts. The immediate result of the insurrection, from a military point of view, is clearly described by the Vienna correspondent[13] of to-day's Times, as follows:

"During the last few days a certain discouragement has been observable in headquarters at Vidin, the reenforcements which had been announced having received counter-orders, and being on their way to the south-western districts of Turkey. The news of the insurrection of the Christians in Epirus had produced an alarming effect on the Arnauts and Albanians on the Danube, who loudly demanded permission to return home. The Generals of Brigade, Hussein Bey and Soliman Pasha, had lost all their influence over their wild troops, and it was feared that if an attempt was made to detain them by force there would be an open mutiny; while if they were permitted to return, they would ravage the Christian districts on their way home. If the hostile movement of the Christian population in the West should assume more formidable dimensions, the west wing of the Turkish army would be obliged to make a retrograde movement, which would more than counterbalance the check which the Russians had received by the entry of the allied fleets into the Black Sea."[14]

These are some of the first results of that policy of procrastination so rhetorically praised by Graham, Russell, Clarendon and Palmerston in vindication of the ministerial management of Eastern affairs. As they were informed, late on last Friday night[15], that the Czar, without having waited for the recall of Sir Hamilton Seymour, from England, had ordered him off, in the most abrupt and unceremonious manner, they held two Cabinet Councils, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday afternoon the result of their consultations being to allow the Czar once more a delay of three or four weeks, which delay is to be granted under the form of a summons,

"calling upon the Czar to give within six days from the receipt of that communication a solemn pledge and engagement that he will cause his troops to evacuate the Principalities of the Danube on or before the 30th of April."[16]

But mark that this summons is not followed with the menace of a declaration of war in case of a refusal on the part of the Czar. It may be said, and it is said, by The Times, that, notwithstanding this new delay granted, war preparations are actively pursued; but you will observe that on the one hand all decisive action of the Porte on the Danube is prevented by the prospect held out of the Western Powers being resolved upon directly participating in the war and every day of delay in that quarter puts the Turks in a worse position, as it allows the Russians to reenforce themselves in the front, and the Greek rebels to grow more dangerous in the rear of the Danubian army; while, on the other hand, the embarkation of troops for Enos and Rodosto may embarrass the Sultan but will certainly not stop the Russians.

It has been settled that the British expeditionary force shall consist of about 30,000 and the French of about 80,000 men. Should it happen to appear, in the course of events, that Austria, while apparently joining the Western Powers, only proposed to mask her understanding with Russia, Bonaparte would have much to regret this most injudicious dispersion of his troops.

There is another insurrection which may be considered as a diversion made in favor of Russia the insurrection in Spain. Any movement in Spain is sure to produce dissension between France and England. In 1823, the French intervention in Spain was, as we know from Chateaubriand's Congress of Verona[17], instigated by Russia. That the Anglo-French intervention in 1834[18], which finally broke up the entente cordiale between the two states, proceeded from the same source, we may infer from Palmerston having been its author. The "Spanish marriages"[19] prepared the way for the downfall of the Orleans dynasty. At the present moment, a dethronement of the "innocent" Isabella would allow a son of Louis Philippe, the Duke of Montpensier, to bring forward his claims on the throne of Spain; while, on the other hand, Bonaparte would be reminded of one of his uncles[20] having once resided at Madrid. The Orleans would be supported by the Coburgs, and resisted by the Bonapartes. A Spanish insurrection, then, which is far from meaning a popular revolution, must prove a most powerful agency in dissolving so superficial a combination as what is termed the Anglo-French alliance.

A treaty of alliance is said to have been concluded between Russia, Khiva, Bokhara and Cabul.[21]

As to Dost Mohammed, the Ameer of Cabul, it would be quite natural that after having proposed in 1838 to England to place forever a feud of blood between himself and Russia, if the English Government required it, by causing the agent dispatched to him by the Czar to be killed, and being renewed in 1839 on the part of England by the Afghan expedition, by his expulsion from the throne and by the most cruel and unscrupulous devastation of his country[22] that Dost Mohammed should now endeavor to avenge himself upon his faithless ally. However, as the population of Khiva, Bokhara and Cabul, belong to the orthodox Mussulman faith of the Sunni, while the Persians adhere to the schismatic tenets of the Schii, it is not to be supposed that they will ally themselves with Russia, being the ally of the Persians, whom they detest and hate, against England, the ostensible ally of the Padishah[23], whom they regard as the supreme commander of the faithful.

There is some probability of Russia having an ally in Thibet and the Tartar[24] Emperor of China[25], if the latter be forced to retire into Manchuria and to resign the sceptre of China proper. The Chinese rebels, as you know, have undertaken a regular crusade against Buddhism, destroying its temples and slaying its Banzes[26]. But the religion of the Tartars is Buddhism and Thibet, the seat of the great Lama, and recognizing the suzeraineté of China, is the sanctuary of the Buddhist faith. Tae-ping-wang[27], if he succeed in driving the Mandshu dynasty out of China, will, therefore, have to enter a religious war with the Buddhist powers of Tartary. Now, as on both sides of the Himalayas Buddhism is confessed and as England cannot but support the new Chinese dynasty, the Czar is sure to side with the Tartar tribes, put them in motion against England and awake religious revolts in Nepal itself. By the last Oriental mails we are informed that

"the Emperor of China, in anticipation of the loss of Pekin, had directed the governors of the various provinces to send the Imperial revenue to Getol, their old family seat and present summer residence in Manchuria, about 80 miles north-east of the Great Wall."[28]

The great religious war between the Chinese and the Tartars, which will spread over the Indian frontiers, may consequently be regarded as near at hand.

  1. Here Marx has in mind his article written on February 28 (see introductory note), but the paragraph he mentions about Charles Napier was probably arbitrarily omitted by the editors of the Tribune.
  2. In 1839 war broke out between Turkey and Egypt, aggravating the Eastern problem and the conflict between the Great Powers. The Western states were afraid that Russia would intervene separately in the Turko-Egyptian war and sent a collective note to the Sultan suggesting their collaboration. However, the struggle between Britain and France for spheres of influence in the Middle East, in Egypt in particular, led to the signing of the London Convention of July 15, 1840 on measures of military aid to the Sultan by Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia without France. The last-named, relying on Mehemet Ali, was soon compelled to yield and leave Egypt to its fate. On July 13, 1841 the London Convention on the Black Sea Straits was signed by Russia, Britain, France, Austria and Prussia, on the one hand, and Turkey, on the other. The convention laid down that in peacetime the Bosphorus and Dardanelles would be closed to warships of all powers. Marx called this convention the treaty of the Dardanelles.
  3. The reference is to the restoration of the Empire in France on December 2, 1852.—Ed.
  4. Marx used Bonaparte's opening speech at a joint sitting of the Corps Legislatif and the Senate on March 2, 1854 as published in Le Moniteur universel, March 3, 1854.

    The term Entente cordiale was used in the nineteenth century to denote the rapprochement between France and Britain after the July revolution of 1830, which was formalised by the Quadruple Alliance in April 1834 (see Note 18↓).
  5. The reference is to Clause 2 of the treaty signed in Constantinople later, on March 12, and ratified on May 8, 1854 by Britain and France, on the one hand, and the Ottoman Empire, on the other. Marx's main source of information on this question were periodical publications.
  6. The Times, No. 21677, March 1, 1854, leader.—Ed.
  7. In January 1854 it was announced in Constantinople that the police had discovered a conspiracy of the Greeks, and a Greek priest named Athanasius had been arrested in Vidin. According to the Western press, the conspiracy was headed by Baron Oelsner, ex-adjutant of General Lüders, and its aim was to incite the Greeks and Slays living in Turkey to revolt.
  8. The Times, No. 21673, February 24, 1854, leader.—Ed.
  9. Abdul Mejid.—Ed.
  10. Frederick II.—Ed.
  11. See Parliamentary Debates of February 22. Pozzo di Borgo's Dispatch. The Policy of the Western Powers.—Ed.
  12. Thomas Wyse.—Ed.
  13. T. O'M. Bird.—Ed.
  14. Report from the Vienna correspondent of February 22. The Times, No. 21676, February 28, 1854.—Ed.
  15. February 24, 1854.—Ed.
  16. The Times, No. 21676, February 28, 1854, leader.—Ed.
  17. Chateaubriand, Congrès de Vérone. Guerre d'Espagne. Négociations. Colonies espagnoles.—Ed.
  18. The reference is to the Quadruple Alliance concluded in April 1834 between Britain, France, Spain and Portugal (see Note 4↑). Even at the time the treaty was concluded conflicts of interests appeared between Britain and France which later aggravated relations between the two countries. This treaty was formally directed against the absolutist "Northern powers" (Russia, Prussia and Austria), but in actual fact allowed Britain to strengthen her position in Spain and Portugal, under the pretext of rendering military assistance to both governments in their struggle against the pretenders to the throne, Don Carlos in Spain and Dom Miguel in Portugal. The Carlists—a reactionary clerico-absolutist group in Spain consisting of adherents of the pretender to the Spanish throne Don Carlos, the brother of Ferdinand VII. Relying on the military and the Catholic clergy, and also making use of the support of the backward peasants in some regions of Spain, the Carlists launched in 1833 a civil war which in fact turned into a struggle between the feudal-Catholic and liberal-bourgeois elements and led to the third bourgeois revolution (1834-43). On August 31, 1839 an agreement was signed in Vergara between the Carlist General Maroto and Espartero, the commander of the royal army, ending the civil war in Spain. The Carlist forces were disbanded and Don Carlos emigrated to France on September 14, 1839. General Cabrera's attempt to continue the struggle ended in the utter defeat of the Carlists in July 1840.
  19. The reference is to the marriage of Queen Isabella II of Spain to Don Francisco de Asis in 1846 (contrary to the wishes of the British ruling circles), and that of Infanta Maria Luisa Fernanda to the Duke of Montpensier, son of King Louis Philippe of France. If Isabella had no direct heirs, the Duke of Montpensier would have become one of the first pretenders to the Spanish throne. This victory of French diplomacy caused great dissatisfaction in Britain.
  20. Joseph Bonaparte.—Ed.
  21. "India and China", The Times, No. 21676, February 28, 1854.—Ed.
  22. Here Marx refers to events of the first Anglo-Afghan war of 1838-42 in which the English army was defeated.
  23. Here Abdul Mejid.—Ed.
  24. Here Marx uses the term "Tartar", which in nineteenth-century West-European literature denoted Mongols, Manchurians and other Turkic tribes in Eastern Asia.—Ed.
  25. Hsien Fêng.—Ed.
  26. In 1850 popular disturbances occurred in a number of southern provinces of China and developed into a big peasant war. The rebels established a state of their own over a considerable part of China's territory. Its leaders put forward a utopian programme of transforming the Chinese feudal social system into a militarised patriarchal one based on the egalitarian principle in production and consumption. The movement, which was also anti-colonial, was weakened by inner dissensions and the rise of a local aristocracy among the Taipings. The rebellion was suppressed in 1864, mainly due to intervention by Britain, the USA and France.
  27. Hung Hsiu-ch'üan.—Ed.
  28. "India and China", The Times, No. 21676, February 28, 1854.—Ed.