Fortification of Constantinople. Denmark's Neutrality. Composition of British Parliament. Crop Failure in Europe

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written January 1854

Written on January 26-27, 1854
Reproduced from the New York Daily Tribune
First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 4004, February 16, 1854;
reprinted in the New York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 911, February 17,
and the first half of the article, in the New York Weekly Tribune, No. 650, February 25, 1854
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.593-600), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
Collection(s): New York Tribune

The description of the fortification of Constantinople was apparently written by Engels. In his letter to Engels of January 25, 1854, Marx asked his opinion on the subject. Presumably Marx received a note or a letter from Engels, which is not extant, with the relevant material and included it in his report for the New York Daily Tribune dated January 27, 1854. The rest of the article is probably by Marx. The first two sections of this article were published under the title "Cobden and Russia" in The Eastern Question. Cobden's pamphlet is quoted below from A. Somerville's Cobdenic Policy the International Enemy of England, London, 1854.

London, Friday, Jan. 27, 1854

The fortification of Constantinople would be, as I stated in my last letter[1], the most important step the Turks could take. Constantinople once fortified, with suitable strengthening of the forts on the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, the independence of Turkey, or of any power holding that capital, would require no foreign guarantee. There is no town more easy to be fortified than Constantinople. One single side of the triangle only the one toward the land would require a continuous rampart; the second, toward the Sea of Marmora, and the third, toward the Golden Horn, require no fortifications. .A line of detached forts, at a convenient distance from the enceinte, and continued eastward so as to protect Pera, Galata and the north-eastern bank of the Golden Horn, would both strengthen the enceinte and prevent an enemy from turning it and carrying on works of siege on the hills commanding the town from behind Pera and Galata. Such a fortress would be almost impregnable. Its communications cannot be cut off, unless the Dardanelles or the Bosphorus is forced, and if that were the case the City would be at once lost. But two such narrow passages may easily be fortified so strongly that no hostile fleet can pass through. A Russian army coming from the land side would have to rely upon perilous sea communication with Sebastopol and Odessa, and could hardly hold out for the time required to take the town, while its continuous falling off in numbers would expose it to defeats from the garrison of the town and the reserves arriving from Asia.

The reply of Russia to the declaration of neutrality[2] on the part of Denmark arrived at Copenhagen on the 20th inst. Russia is stated to refuse to consent to the neutrality, calling on Denmark to take one side or the other. Immediately after this notification, the Ambassadors of France, England and Russia[3], are said to have had a conference with the Danish Ministers. Now, I am informed from a very trustworthy source, although I can, of course, not vouch for the correctness of the information, that the protest is but a feint on the part of the Cabinet of St. Petersburg calculated to drive the other powers the faster into a formal acknowledgment of the terms on which the Danish neutrality is proposed. I am assured that recent negotiations were going on between Denmark on the one side, and France and England on the other, according to which, in the case of war, England was to occupy the Sound with her men-of-war, and France the Duchy of Schleswig, with a corps d'armée. To thwart this combination, communicated to Nesselrode by the Minister Oersted, Russia is said to have intimated to the Copenhagen Cabinet to propose the declaration of neutrality. She now feigns to oppose, and which, if adhered to by France and England, will not only break up their original plan, but also, by exempting from the laws of war, goods carried in neutral vessels, will secure the export of Russian merchandise by the Baltic.

The Czar's protest against the purchase, on the part of Prussia, of an Oldenburg port in the North Sea, is a bona fide protest, astonished as the Berlin public is said to have been at this other symptom of the ubiquitous intermeddling of Timur Tamerlane's successor.

The great "Manchester Reform meeting" has "come off, and a great piece of humbug it was," as The Englishman[4] justly remarks. The Aberdeen policy extolled, Turkey insulted, Russia glorified, all interference between foreign states disclaimed these few topics which, as far as foreign policy is concerned, form the regular stock-in-trade of the Manchester School[5]—have again been expatiated on by Messrs. Cobden, Bright and the other "'umble and' omely men," who want to have a "man of peace" at the Horse Guards, and a "lock-out" at the House of Lords to sell the English and to undersell all other nations.

Mr. Cobden's speech was a mere repetition, and a disingenuous one too, of the speech he made at the closing of Parliament. The only luxury of novelty he indulged in consisted of two arguments—the one directed against France, the other against America. It looks rather suspicious that the same man who took so prominent a part in bringing about the alliance with France at the time when the exploits of the Decembrists had aroused a cry of indignation in England, is now busied in undoing his own work by sneering at that alliance, and denouncing it as "inconsiderate" and "untimely."

As to America, M. Cobden declares that it is from the growth of its manufactures and commerce, and not from the warlike policy of Russia, that England may fear to see endangered the grandeur of her commercial' and national prosperity. How does this tally with his professional free trade cant, according to which the commercial prosperity of one people depends on the growth of the commerce and industry of all other peoples, the notion of any dangerous rivalry between two industrial peoples being disclaimed as a fallacy of protectionist "quacks"? How does this tally with

"England's, by the magic of her machinery, having united forever two remote hemispheres in the bonds of peace, by placing Europe and America in absolute and inextricable dependence on each other"?

It is not the first time that Mr. Cobden, in order to divert from Russia the suspicions and the animosity of the English people, is anxious to turn them against the United States of America. In 1836, the seizure of an English vessel on the Circassian coast by a Russian man-of-war, and the fiscal regulations of the St. Peters-burg Cabinet with regard to the navigation of the Danube, together with the revelations published in The Portfolio, having evoked the wrath of the English people, and, above all, the commercial classes, against Russia, Mr. Cobden, at that epoch yet "an infant in literary life and unlearned in public speaking," published a small anonymous pamphlet, entitled Russia: A Cure for Russophobia. By a Manchester Manufacturer. In this pamphlet it is argued that "in less than twenty years this [namely, the fear of the growth of American prosperity, and not of Russian aggrandizement] will be the sentiment of the people of England generally; and the same convictions will be forced upon the Government of the country." In the same pamphlet he professed that,

"in examining the various grounds upon which those who discuss the subject take up their hostile attitude towards the Russian nation, we have discovered, with infinite surprise and a deep conviction of the truth, that a century of aristocratic Government in England has impregnated all classes with the haughty and arrogant spirit of their rulers" (against meek Russia); that "if the Government of St. Petersburg were transferred to the shores of the Bosphorus, a splendid and substantial European city would, in less than twenty years, spring up in the place of those huts which now constitute the capital of Turkey; [...] noble buildings would arise, learned societies flourish, and the arts prosper. [...] If Russia's Government should attain to that actual power, she would cease the wars of the sword and begin the battle with the wilderness, by constructing railroads, building bridges, [...] by fostering the accumulation of capital, the growth of cities, and the increase of civilization and freedom.... The slavery which pollutes Constantinople [...] would instantly disappear, and commerce [...] and laws protecting life and property"—(as now exemplified in Moldo-Wallachia)—"take its place."

As a proof of Russia's civilization and consequently her right to appropriate Turkey, Mr. Cobden told his astonished readers that the Russian merchant possessed of 10,000-15,000 roubles, not only engages in foreign commerce, but is "exempt from corporal punishment, and qualified to drive about in a carriage and pair." Are we then to be astonished at the Russian Emperor's recently expressed conviction that "England, with a Bourgeois Parliament, could not carry on a war with glory"?[6] So deeply imbued was Mr. Cobden in 1836 with the "wickedness of the public writers and speakers," who ventured to find fault with the Autocrat of all the Russias, that he wound up his pamphlet with the question:

"And who and what are those writers and speakers? How long shall political quacks be permitted without fear of punishment, [...] to inflame the minds and disorder the understandings of a whole nation?"

Those "public writers and speakers," we presume, who possess 10,000 to 15,000 roubles and are able to drive about in a carriage and pair, to be exempted at least from "corporal punishment." Till now, Mr. Cobden's Philo-Russian mania had been considered, by some, as one of the multifarious crotchets he uses to trade in, by others as the necessary offspring of his peace doctrine. Of late, however, the public has been informed by one[7] who justly describes himself as the "literary horse, or ass if you like," of the late Anti-Corn Law League[8], that when Mr. Cobden wrote his first pamphlet, "he had been to Russia on a commercial errand of his own in 1834-35, and was successful," that his "heart and calico were both in Russia in 1836," and that his anger at the "English writers, speakers, authors and reviewers," originated from their criticising his new customer, Nicholas of Russia.

As the House of Commons is to reassemble in a few days, it seems proper to give, in a condensed form, the statistics of British representation:

of the actual
The relations of Peers possess103}17,0
Irish Peers6
The country gentlemen26641,3
Men of letters and science203,0
The army and navy304,6
The commercial and moneyed interest10917,1
The lawyers10717,0
The workingmen's interestNone
Total seats occupied641

The Irish Peers in the House of Commons[9] are: Viscount Palmerston, for Tiverton; Viscount Barrington, for Berkshire; Earl Annesley, for Grimsby; Viscount Monck, for Portsmouth; Viscount Galway, for Retford; and Lord Hotham, for East York-shire. The men of literature and science are: Benjamin Disraeli, for Buckinghamshire; Thomas Macaulay, the historian, for Edinburgh; MacGregor, the commercial statist, for Glasgow; William Stirling, author of Annals of the Artists of Spain, etc., for Perthshire; W. Gladstone, author of The State in its Relations with the Church, and other works, for Oxford University; Dr. Austen H. Layard, author of Nineveh and Its Remains, etc., for Aylesbury; James Wilson, the editor of The Economist, for Westbury; Sir William Molesworth, the Editor of Hobbes' works, etc., for Southwark; Sir E. L. Bulwer-Lytton, poet, dramatist, novelist, for Hertfordshire; William Johnson Fox, Anti-Corn-Law-League writer, for Oldham; W. A. Mackinnon, author of a (very pitiful) History of Civilization, etc., for Rye; R. Monckton Milnes, author of Memorials of Travel, etc., and Benjamin Oliveira, author of a Tour in the East, both for Pontefract; Edward Miall, author of several theological and political works, for Rochdale; William Mure, author of a History of Grecian Literature, for Renfrewshire, Scotland; W. P. Urquhart, author of The Life of Francesco Sforza, for Westmeath County, Ireland; Robert Stephenson, the celebrated railway engineer, for Whitby; William Michell, physician, for Bodmin; John Brady, surgeon, for Leitrim. Whether Lord John Russell may be safely classed under the head of literary gentlemen I dare not decide.

There are, at least, 100 seats, the representatives of which are nominally elected by the constituencies, but really appointed by Dukes, Earls, Marquises, ladies and other persons, who turn their local influence to political account. The Marquis of Westminster, for instance, disposes of two seats for Chester, a town mustering 2,524 electors; the Duke of Norfolk of one seat for Arundel; the Duke of Sutherland of two seats for Newcastle-under-Lyne; the Marquis of Lansdowne of one seat for Calne; the Earl Fitzwilliam of two seats for Malton; the Duke of Richmond of two seats for Chichester; Miss Pierse of one seat for Northallerton, &c.

The disproportion on one side of the electoral body, and on the other of the representatives, when compared with the entire population, may be shown by some few instances:

In Berkshire the entire population amounts to 170,065, and the number of electors to 7,980. It chooses nine representatives for the House, while Leicestershire, with an entire population of 230,308, and a constituency of 13,081 disposes of six seats only; Lincolnshire, with a population of 407,222, and 24,782 electors, disposes of thirteen seats in the House, while Middlesex, with an entire population of 1,886,576, and a constituency of 113,490 elects only fourteen members. Lancashire, with a population of 2,031,236, has a constituency of only 81,786 electors, and disposes of but twenty-six seats in the House, while Buckinghamshire, with an entire population of 163,723, and with 8,125 electors, is represented by eleven members. Sussex, with an entire population of 336,844, and with 18,054 electors, elects eighteen members, while Staffordshire, with a population of 608,716, and with 29,607 electors elects only seventeen.

The relation of the Electoral body to the population is:

In England one County Elector represents 20.7 persons of the County population.
In Wales one County Elector represents 20.0 persons of the County population.
In Scotland one County Elector represents 34.4 persons of the County population.
In England one Borough Elector represents 18.0 persons of the borough population.
In Wales one Borough Elector represents 24.4 persons of the borough population.
In Scotland one Borough Elector represents 23.3 persons of the borough population.

The data for Ireland are not so complete as for England and Scotland; but the following may be taken as a fair approximation for the same period, 1851-52.

One Elector in an Irish County represents 36 persons of the County population.
One Elector in an Irish borough represents 23 persons of the borough population.

The general deficiency of the European Grain markets may be stated as follows: the deficiency of grain in France in place of being ten millions of hectolitres, as stated by the Moniteur, to calm the alarm[10], greatly exceeds twenty millions, that is, more than eight million quarters of English measure; and the deficiency of potatoes is not less than one-fourth of the average of the last five years, while the deficiency in wine, oil and chestnuts is yet greater. The deficiency in the produce of corn in Belgium and Holland is about four millions of hectolitres; that of the Rhine Provinces, Prussia and Switzerland, at a moderate estimate, is taken to exceed ten million hectolitres. The estimated deficiency in Italy is known to be very great, but there is greater difficulty in arriving at even a proximate result. The lowest estimate, however, gives ten millions of hectolitres of grain, or a deficiency throughout the great grain-producing districts of Western Europe of not less than forty-four millions of hectolitres (seventeen million quarters). The deficiency in England is known to exceed five million quarters of grain, and calculations worthy of grave consideration give that amount as the deficiency in wheat alone. Thus there is a fatal deficiency in the last harvest in Western Europe alone of no less than twenty-two million quarters, without taking into account the great inferiority and shortcoming of other cereals, and the general prevalence of the potato-rot —a deficiency which, if valued in wheat, must be equal to at least five million quarters, or a grand total of twenty-seven million quarters of grain.

As to the supplies that may be expected from foreign markets, it is asserted by very competent commercial authority:

"In Poland the crops have been very short; in Russia, deficient, as seen by the high prices asked for grain at the Baltic ports before our deficiencies were known. And though in the Danubian provinces the harvest has not failed, yet the stocks there, as well as at Odessa, are greatly lessened by the immense exportations to the Mediterranean and to France. As to America, it is unable to supply two million of quarters. All the ships of the world are inadequate to the supply of a quantity near, or even approaching a moiety of the deficiency, which at present is known to all England to exist."

  1. See The Fighting in the East. Finances of Austria and France. Fortification of Constantinople. —Ed.
  2. A reference to the declaration by Sweden and Denmark (December 1853) that if hostilities commenced in the Baltic Sea they would remain neutral.
  3. A. Dotézac, A. Buchanan and Baron Ungern-Sternberg.—Ed.
  4. A. Richards.—Ed.
  5. The Manchester School—a trend in economic thinking which reflected the interests of the industrial bourgeoisie. Its supporters, known as Free Traders, advocated removal of protective tariffs and non-intervention by the government in economic life. The centre of the Free Traders' agitation was Manchester, where the movement was headed by two textile manufacturers, Richard Cobden and John Bright, who founded the Anti-Corn Law League in 1838. In the 1840s and 1850s the Free Traders were a separate political group, which later formed the Left wing of the Liberal Party.
  6. The Press, No. 38, January 21, 1854 (see The Czar's Views. Prince Albert.).—Ed.
  7. A. Somerville.—Ed.
  8. The Anti-Corn Law League was founded in 1838 by the Manchester factory owners Richard Cobden and John Bright. The League demanded unrestricted free trade and fought for abolition of the Corn Laws, which placed high tariffs on imported agricultural produce. In this way, the League sought to weaken the economic and political position of the landed aristocracy, as well as to cut workers' wages.

    The struggle between the industrial bourgeoisie and the landed aristocracy over the Corn Laws culminated in their repeal in 1846. In 1815 a law was passed prohibiting grain imports when grain prices in England fell below 80 shillings per quarter. In 1822 the law was modified slightly and in 1828 a sliding scale was introduced—a system of raising or lowering tariffs in proportion to the fall or rise of grain prices on the home market. The Corn Laws were introduced by Tory cabinets in the interests of the big landowners. The industrial bourgeoisie who opposed the Corn Laws under the slogan of free trade secured their repeal in 1846.
  9. According to a tradition that grew up after the Act of Union, twenty-six Irish peers out of approximately a hundred (the title of peer was conferred on many members of the British aristocracy possessing large landed estates in Ireland) were elected to the House of Lords; the rest could stand for election to the House of Commons.
  10. "Paris, le 16 novembre", Le Moniteur universel, No. 321, November 17, 1853.—Ed.