Forced Emigration. Kossuth and Mazzini. The Refugee Question. Election Bribery in England. Mr. Cobden

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 4 March 1853


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First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 3722, March 22, 1853;
re-printed in the Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 814, March 25,
the New York Weekly Tribune, No. 602, March 26,
and in The People's Paper, No. 50, April 16, 1853
(in the form of two separate publications with certain omissions)
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 11 (pp.528-534), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979

The text of this article was reprinted, somewhat abridged, on April 16 in The People's Paper as two separate items: as a correspondent's report under the general heading "The American Press and the European Movement", containing the concluding sections of the original text, from "On the Continent heaven is fulminating" to the end, and an article entitled "Forced Emigration". The article was published giving the name of the author, "Dr. Marx", while the correspondent's report was published unsigned but with the editors' note: "From the New York Daily Tribune". In a number of cases the use of italics does not coincide in the two newspapers; passages omitted in The People's Paper are indicated in footnotes in this volume. There are no other textual discrepancies.

London, Friday, March 4, 1853

From the accounts relating to trade and navigation for the years 1851 and 1852, published in Feb. last, we see that the total declared value of exports amounted to £68,531,601 in 1851, and to £71,429,548 in 1852; of the latter amount, £47,209,000 go to the export of cotton, wool, linen and silk manufactures. The quantity of imports for 1852 is below that for the year 1851. The proportion of imports entered for home consumption not having diminished, but rather increased, it follows that England has reexported, instead of the usual quantity of colonial produce, a certain amount of gold and silver[1]. The Colonial Land Emigration Office gives the following return of the emigration from England, Scotland and Ireland to all parts of the world, from Jan. 1, 1847, to June 30, 1852[2]:

YearEnglishScotchIrishTotal
184734,6858,616214,969258,270
184858,86511,505177,719248,089
184973,61317,127208,758299,498
185057,84315,154207,852280,849
185169,55718,646247,763335,966
1852(till June)40,76711,562143,375195,704
Total335,33082,6101,200,4361,618,376

"Nine-tenths", remarks the Office, "of the emigrants from Liverpool are assumed to be Irish. About three-fourths of the emigrants from Scotland are Celts, either from the Highlands, or from Ireland through Glasgow."

Nearly four-fifths of the whole emigration are, accordingly, to be regarded as belonging to the Celtic population of Ireland and of the Highlands and islands of Scotland. The London Economist says of this emigration:

"It is consequent on the breaking down of the system of society founded on small holdings and potato cultivation"; and adds: "The departure of the redundant part of the population of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland is an indispensable preliminary to every kind of improvement.... The revenue of Ireland has not suffered in any degree from the famine of 1846-47, or from the emigration that has since taken place. On the contrary, her net revenue amounted in 1851 to £4,28I,999, being about £184,000 greater than in 1843."

Begin with pauperizing the inhabitants of a country, and when there is no more profit to be ground out of them, when they have grown a burden to the revenue, drive them away, and sum up your Net Revenue! Such is the doctrine laid down by Ricardo, in his celebrated work, The Principle of Political Economy. The annual profits of a capitalist amounting to £2,000, what does it matter to him whether he employs 100 men or 1,000 men? "Is not," says Ricardo, "the real income of a nation similar?" The net real income of a nation, rents and profits, remaining the same, it is no subject of consideration whether it is derived from 10 millions of people or from 12 millions. Sismondi, in his Nouveaux Principes d'Économie Politique, answers that, according to this view of the matter, the English nation would not be interested at all in the disappearance of the whole population, the King[3] (at that time it was no Queen, but a King) remaining alone in the midst of the island, supposing only that automatic machinery enabled him to procure the amount of Net Revenue now produced by a population of 20 millions. Indeed, that grammatical entity "the national wealth" would in this case not be diminished.

In a former letter I have given an instance of the clearing of estates in the Highlands of Scotland[4]. That emigration continues to be forced upon Ireland by the same process, you may see from the following quotation from The Galway Mercury:

"The people are fast passing away from the land in the West of Ireland. The landlords of Connaught are tacitly combined to weed out all the smaller occupiers, against whom a regular systematic war of extermination is being waged.... The most heart-rending cruelties are daily practiced in this province, of which the public are not at all aware."[5]

But it is not only the pauperized inhabitants of Green Erin and of the Highlands of Scotland that are swept away by agricultural improvements, and by the "breaking down of the antiquated system of society." It is not only the able-bodied agricultural laborers from England, Wales, and Lower Scotland whose passages are paid by the Emigration Commissioners. The wheel of "improvement" is now seizing another class, the most stationary class in England. A startling emigration movement has sprung up among the smaller English farmers, especially those holding heavy clay soils, who, with bad prospects for the coming harvest, and in want of sufficient capital to make the great improvements on their farms which would enable them to pay their old rents, have no other alternative but to cross the sea in search of a new country and of new lands. I am not speaking now of the emigration caused by the gold mania, but only of the compulsory emigration produced by landlordism, concentration of farms, application of machinery to the soil, and introduction of the modern system of agriculture on a great scale.

In the ancient states, in Greece and Rome, compulsory emigration, assuming the shape of the periodical establishment of colonies, formed a regular link in the structure of society. The whole system of those states was founded on certain limits to the numbers of the population, which could not be surpassed without endangering the condition of antique civilization itself. But why was it so? Because the application of science to material production was utterly unknown to them. To remain civilized they were forced to remain few. Otherwise they would have had to submit to the bodily drudgery which transformed the free citizen into a slave. The want of productive power made citizenship dependent on a certain proportion in numbers not to be disturbed. Forced emigration was the only remedy.

It was the same pressure of population on the powers of production that drove the barbarians from the high plains of Asia to invade the Old World. The same cause acted there, although under a different form. To remain barbarians they were forced to remain few. They were pastoral, hunting, war-waging tribes, whose manner of production required a large space for every individual, as is now the case with the Indian tribes in North America. By augmenting in numbers they curtailed each other's field of production. Thus the surplus population was forced to undertake those great adventurous migratory movements which laid the foundation of the peoples of ancient and modern Europe.

But with modern compulsory emigration the case stands quite opposite. Here it is not the want of productive power which creates a surplus population; it is the increase of productive power which demands a diminution of population, and drives away the surplus by famine or emigration. It is not population that presses on productive power; it is productive power that presses on population.

Now I share neither in the opinions of Ricardo, who regards "Net Revenue" as the Moloch to whom entire populations must be sacrificed, without even so much as complaint, nor in the opinion of Sismondi, who, in his hypochondriacal philanthropy, would forcibly retain the superannuated methods of agriculture and proscribe science from industry, as Plato expelled poets from his Republic[6]. Society is undergoing a silent revolution, which must be submitted to, and which takes no more notice of the human existences it breaks down than an earthquake regards the houses it subverts. The classes and the races, too weak to master the new conditions of life, must give way. But can there be anything more puerile, more shortsighted, than the views of those economists who believe in all earnest that this woeful transitory state means nothing but adapting society to the acquisitive propensities of capitalists, both landlords and money lords? In Great Britain the working of that process is most transparent. The application of modern science to production clears the land of its inhabitants, but it concentrates people in manufacturing towns.

"No manufacturing workmen," says The Economist, "have been assisted by the Emigration Commissioners, except a few Spitalfields and Paisley hand-loom weavers, and few or none have emigrated at their own expense."

The Economist knows very well that they could not emigrate at their own expense, and that the industrial middle class would not assist them in emigrating. Now, to what does this lead? The rural population, the most stationary and conservative element of modern society, disappears, while the industrial proletariat, by the very working of modern production, finds itself gathered in mighty centers, around the great productive forces, whose history of creation has hitherto been the martyrology of the laborers. Who will prevent them from going a step further and appropriating these forces, to which they have been appropriated before? Where will be the power of resisting them? Nowhere! Then, it will be of no use to appeal to the "rights of property." The modern changes in the art of production have, according to the bourgeois economists themselves, broken down the antiquated system of society and its modes of appropriation. They have expropriated the Scotch clansman, the Irish cottier and tenant, the English yeoman, the hand-loom weaver, numberless handicrafts, whole generations of factory children and women; they will expropriate, in due time, the landlord and the cotton lord.

On the Continent heaven is fulminating, but in England the earth itself is trembling. England is the country where the real revulsion of modern society begins[7].

In my letter of the 1st inst. I told you that Mazzini would remonstrate publicly with Kossuth[8]. On the 2d inst. there appeared actually in The Morning Advertiser, Morning Post and Daily News a letter from Mazzini. As Mazzini himself has now broken the ice, I may as well state that Kossuth disowned his own document under the pressure of his Paris friends[9]. In the past career of Kossuth we find many such symptoms of vacillating weakness, inextricable contradictions and duplicity. He possesses all the attractive virtues, but also all the feminine faults of the "artiste" character. He is a great artist "en paroles". I recommend Mr. Szemere's lately published biographies of Louis Batthyány, Arthur Görgey and Louis Kossuth to those who, unwilling to bow to popular superstition, are anxious to form a matter-of-fact judgment[10].

As to Lombardy, you may be sure that, if Mazzini has failed to draw the Italian middle classes into the movement, Radetzky will not fail therein. At this moment he is preparing to confiscate the property of all emigrants, even those who emigrated with Austrian permission, and have been naturalized in other countries, unless they prove they are unconnected with the late rising. The Austrian papers calculate the amount of confiscable property at £12,000,000.

Upon a question put by Lord Dudley Stuart, Lord Palmerston stated in the session of the House of Commons of March 1:

"That no application for the expulsion of the political refugees had been made by the Continental Powers, or that, if made, it would meet with a firm and decided refusal. The British Government had never undertaken to provide for the internal security of other countries."

That such an application, however, was intended to be made, you may see from the stockjobbing Moniteur and the journal des Débats, which, in one of its last numbers[11], supposes England already bowing to the joint demands of Austria, Russia, Prussia and France. That journal adds:

"If the Swiss Confederation should refuse to allow Austria to exercise a surveillance over the Cantons on her frontiers she will probably violate the Swiss territory and occupy the Canton of Tessin; in which case France, to preserve a political equilibrium would force her armies into the Swiss Cantons on her frontiers."

In substance, the Journal des Débats gives, with regard to Switzerland, that simple solution of the question jocosely proposed by Prince Henry of Prussia to the Empress Catherine in 1770, with regard to Poland[12]. In the meantime the venerable body called the German Diet[13] is gravely discussing on "the application about to be made to England," and expends as much breath on this solemn matter as would suffice to swell the sails of the whole German fleet.

In the session of the House of Commons of the 1st inst., there occurred a very characteristic incident. The representatives of Bridgenorth and Blackburn having been declared unduly elected on the ground of bribery, Sir J. Shelley moved that the evidence taken before their respective Committees should be laid upon the table of the House, and that the writs for reelection be suspended until the 4th of April. The Right Hon. Baronet Sir J. Trollope remarked with regard to this: "That 14 Committees had already been appointed to try boroughs' for corrupt practices, and that about 50 more remained to be appointed," and he spoke of the difficulty in finding members enough in the House to constitute tribunals to judge the disputed elections, and at the same time to form Committees for the ordinary business of the House. Sifting a little deeper into its own foundation, a breaking down of the House must ensue, and the parliamentary machinery come to a deadlock.

In his recent pamphlet[14], as well as in his harangues, at the Manchester Peace Congress[15], and at various educational meetings, Mr. Cobden has amused himself with censuring the press. The whole press has retaliated upon him; but the most heavy blow strikes him from the hands of the "Englishman"[16], whose letters on Louis Napoleon elicited such a sensation at the time of the coup d'état[330], and who has since turned round upon the silken barons and cotton lords. He concludes a letter, addressed to Mr. Cobden, with the following epigrammatic characterization of the West-Riding oracle:

"Elated and unbalanced by one single triumph, he would compass a popular autocracy. The prophet of a clique, restlessly agitating, greedy of notoriety, chafed of opposition, crotchety, illogical, utopian, stubborn of purpose, arrogant of bearing, a quarrelsome peace preacher, and acrimonious proselyte of universal brotherhood, with liberty upon his lips, but despotism in his dogmas, he is exasperated with a press that will neither be bullied nor bamboozled—would geld its influence, intelligence, and independence, and would sink a profession of accomplished gentlemen to a gang of penny-a-liners, with himself for the only Leader."[17]

  1. This paragraph is omitted in The People's Paper.—Ed.
  2. The returns are quoted from the article "Effects of Emigration on Production and Consumption" published in The Economist, No. 494, February 12, 1853 (the comments quoted below are from this article).—Ed.
  3. The reference is to King George III.—Ed.
  4. See Elections. Financial Clouds. The Duchess of Sutherland and Slavery —Ed.
  5. "State of the Country", The Galway Mercury, February 5, 1853. This quotation and the paragraph di ctly preceding it are omitted in The People's Paper.—Ed.
  6. Plato, Politeia. X.—Ed.
  7. The paragraph that follows is omitted in The People's Paper.—Ed.
  8. The article mentioned by Marx was not published in the New York Daily Tribune and the manuscript is not extant.
  9. See The Italian Insurrection British Politics.—Ed.
  10. B. Szemere, Graf Ludwig Batthyány, Arthur Görgei, Ludwig Kossuth. Politische Characterskizzen aus dem Ungarischen Freiheitskriege.—Ed.
  11. Of March 1, 1853.—Ed.
  12. This refers to the plan to partition Poland proposed by Henry of Prussia when he visited St. Petersburg in 1770. Striving to preserve its influence over the whole of Poland, the tsarist government at first opposed this plan but the rapprochement between Prussia and Austria prompted Catherine II in 1772 to conclude a convention with them sharing part of the Polish territory between the three powers (first partition of Poland).
  13. The German Confederation (der Deutsche Bund)—an ephemeral confederation of German states founded in 1815 by decision of the Congress of Vienna.

    The Federal Diet (Bundestag)—the central body of the German Confederation, which consisted of representatives of the German states and held its sessions in Frankfurt am Main. Having no actual power, it nevertheless served as an instrument of monarchist feudal reaction. After the March 1848 revolution in Germany, Right-wing circles tried to revive the Diet, but in the summer of 1848 it had to cede its functions to the Imperial Regent elected by the Frankfurt National Assembly and to the Imperial Government which the Assembly set up. The Diet's powers were restored in March 1851. The formation in 1866 of the North-German Confederation under Prussia's hegemony put an end to the German Confederation and the Diet.
  14. Richard Cobden, 1793 and 1853, in Three Letters.—Ed.
  15. This is a reference to the international Peace Congress convened by the Peace Society (*) at the end of January 1853 in Manchester. Free Traders were especially active at it. The Peace Congress adopted a number of resolutions of no practical importance, against anti-French military propaganda in England and against the growth of armaments.

    (*) The Peace Society—a pacifist organisation founded by the Quakers in London in 1816. The society was actively supported by the Free Traders, who thought that in conditions of peace free trade would enable England to make full use of her industrial superiority and thus gain economic and political supremacy.
  16. Alfred Bate Richards.—Ed.
  17. Quoted from Richards' letter to Cobden published in The Morning Advertiser on February 24, 1853.—Ed.