From Parliament (March 21, 1855)

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 21 March 1855


MIA-bannière.gif
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 141, March 24, 1855
Marked with the sign x
Printed according to the news-paper
Published in English for the first time in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.104-108), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
Collection(s): Neue Oder-Zeitung

London, March 21. At yesterday's sitting of the House of Lords, Lord Lyndhurst, the old colleague of Liverpool and Castlereagh, brought in his long-expected motion "on the position of Prussia with reference to the Vienna Conference". Two circumstances, he said, had lately imparted new interest to this question: The message of the dying Emperor of Russia[1] to the Prussian Court, and the manifesto of Alexander II, in which he promises to consummate the policies of Peter, Catherine, Alexander, and his father. How Russia herself regarded Prussian policies can be seen from the following excerpt from a secret despatch which Pozzo di Borgo sent to Nesselrode shortly before the outbreak of the war of 1828-29. It reads in part:

"Suppose then that Russia should undertake alone to put in execution those coersive means against Turkey, there is every reason to believe that Prussia would not in any manner oppose Russia. But, on the contrary, her attitude at once unfettered and friendly, would operate as a powerful check on other States and bring them to submit to results suited to the dignity and interests of Russia. It will be necessary to let the Cabinet of Berlin, to a certain extent, into our confidence, and to convince it that the part we assign to Prussia will contribute to increase the happy intimacy between the two Sovereigns and the two Courts."[2]

Was it possible, Lord Lyndhurst exclaimed, to anticipate in a more prophetic spirit the line which the Prussian Court has taken in the past six or twelve months? It was true that Prussia had joined in signing the protocols of December 5, January 13 and April 9[3]. The purpose of these protocols had been to bring about the evacuation of the Danubian principalities and to obtain guarantees for the protection of the Sultan's independence and the integrity of Turkey. Had the Prussian Court acted in this spirit? On the occasion of the loan of 30 million taler for military operations Baron Manteuffel had declared that in these protocols Prussia had expressed her view on Russia's policy, namely that a great injustice had been committed; but she did not consider herself obliged to go further and take an active part. Was this the language of a great nation? And was Prussia not expressly committed to the protection of Turkey by the Agreements of 1840 and 1841[4]? Baron Manteuffel had added that Germany's independence and German interests were not involved in the dispute and Prussia was therefore not obliged to make any sacrifices[5]. Baron Manteuffel himself had, however, stated the opposite in another document[6]. Besides, once the Tsar seized Constantinople, it would be superfluous to talk any more of German independence and German interests. They would then succumb to an overwhelming power. After Lord Lyndhurst had alluded to the dismissal of War Minister Bonin, to the recall of Ambassador Bunsen from London and to the rejection of an address of the Prussian Chambers in reply to a speech from the throne[7], he came to the "second act of this political drama". After a considerable time had elapsed Austria had deemed it proper to demand of Russia that she evacuate the Danubian principalities. This demand was drafted and sent to Berlin for signature. Counter-proposals were sent from Berlin to Vienna, which were completely inadequate but caused delay in as much as they had to be communicated to the Allies for examination. In the meantime Russia had evacuated the principalities, but retained one part under occupation for military reasons, declaring that she wished to keep entirely on the defensive. Prussia had thereupon withdrawn from the confederation, because Russia had satisfied all reasonable claims. From this moment on Prussia had made every effort to thwart Austria's plans. For this purpose she had, to a great extent with success, made proposals to the Federal Diet and to the individual German states. At the same time Russia had publicly thanked two German states for their refusal to join the Allies. He (Lyndhurst) was now coming to the third and last act of the drama. The Allies had arranged for a conference to be held on August 8 in Vienna to decide what should be demanded of Russia as a basis for any provisional negotiations. Prussia had been informed of the meeting in the usual manner and repeatedly. Prussia had not expressly refused to attend, but in fact did not appear at the conference. In consequence of her absence the Allies, instead of drafting a Protocol, had signed a Note laying down the four points[8] as a basis for future negotiations. The four points had then been submitted to Russia for her acceptance, but she had refused to accept them. Prussia for her part published and circulated a document in which she raised objections to the four points. She also continued to hinder, both at the Federal Diet and at the individual German courts, the adhesion of the small German states to the Allies. After the conclusion of the Agreement of December 2[9] Prussia was informed that room had been left for her accession. She refused to accede but declared that she was ready to conclude similar agreements with France and England separately. From the moment that these latter accepted this proposal, Prussia had in various negotiations and divers proposals demanded innumerable modifications, which France and England would certainly have to reject. When he (Lyndhurst) was speaking of Prussia, he was referring to the official Prussia. He knew that the vast majority of the Prussian nation was anti-Russian. It was incomprehensible that Prussia, after refusing to accede to the Agreement of December 2, could demand to be invited to the Vienna negotiations. He hoped the Allied Powers would not admit a Prussian envoy on any pretext: for if they did, Russia would have two votes at the Vienna Congress instead of one. Prussian diplomacy had not changed since Frederick the Great. He recalled 1794, the time just before and after the battle of Austerlitz, etc.

Lord Clarendon: He would confine himself to filling in a few gaps in respect of the' communications which had taken place between England and Prussia. After the Russian Government had rejected the conditions of the Allies a conference of the respective plenipotentiaries had been called, which, however, could not be held since the representative of the Prussian Government would not attend. It was true that later the Prussian Ambassador in London[10] had informed him [Clarendon] that his Government would give the requested permission to its plenipotentiary in Vienna[11]. He (Clarendon) had declared, however: "It was too late." The correspondence between Prussia and Austria had helped Russia. Before the signing of the Agreement of December 2 Prussia had already been invited to accede, but in vain. Prussia had demanded to be admitted unconditionally to the new conference because it was a continuation of the earlier conference, which had not yet been concluded and from which she had by no means withdrawn. With respect to the latter, the British Government referred to the fact that at an earlier occasion no conference could be held because Prussia would not attend, although repeatedly asked. Moreover, the new conference was not at all a continuation of the old one, for, when in October and November Austria requested France and England to resume it, she received the reply that the time for protocols and conferences had passed, but that if Austria would enter into a military commitment with them, they would see whether peace was realisable. This had led to the Agreement of December 2. Later, they had been prepared to enter into special treaties with Prussia.

"But, to admit Prussia to claim all the privileges without incurring any of the risks—to admit her unconditionally to a conference that might end in peace, but which might lead to war on a more extended sphere—without her telling us what were her intentions or her policy—without entering into any engagement with us, either immediate or prospective—without knowing whether she entered on the conference as a neutral, as a foe, or as a friend—was utterly impossible."

The special missions sent later by Prussia had been received with equal friendliness in London and Paris, but so far had not led to anything. He did not, however, regard the negotiations as broken off. Only three days ago new proposals had been made. Unfortunately, the Vienna conferences had opened, however, while Prussia remained excluded by her own action. A great power like Prussia should not restrict itself to the narrow German confines. They had repeatedly remonstrated against this attitude. The constant reply was that Prussia's policy was peace. In fact her policy was neither "European nor German nor Russian", more likely to thwart Austria than to keep Russia in check. In spite of all this Prussia could not long remain in isolation when important European interests were at stake. She could not side with Russia in opposition to national feeling in Prussia and Germany. She knew well that on Russia's side against Austria she would become dependent on the former. She did not want to take Austria's side. On the contrary, she had taken an unfriendly attitude to Austria.

"I say, therefore, that Prussia is in an insular and in a false position [...]. This may be satisfactory to her enemies, but it is deeply regretted by her allies, and by the noble-minded and patriotic of her own population."

He declared finally that every effort would be made to win Prussia's co-operation.

In the Lower House Lord William Graham asked the Prime Minister

"whether the Austrian Ambassador[12] had called upon Lord Clarendon for any explanation of the words [...] used by Sir Robert Peel, when he was re-elected that no settlement of the Eastern question would be satisfactory unless Hungary and Poland were restored?"[13]

Lord Palmerston, instead of giving some reply to this question, began by congratulating himself on Sir Robert Peel's having accepted a post in his administration. Concerning Hungary, Austria had long known that England would regard its separation from the imperial state as a great calamity for Europe, since the imperial state as a totality in the centre of Europe was an essential element in the balance of powers. Concerning Poland (considerable laughter was here caused by a little pause in Palmerston's reply and the peculiar manner in which he resumed his speech) it was his opinion that the Kingdom of Poland, as now constituted and as now possessed, was a constant threat to Germany. Nevertheless, stipulations concerning a re-organisation of Poland formed no part of the points now being negotiated in Vienna. England and France had, however, reserved the right, according to circumstances and the events of war, to add to the four points, on the basis of which the negotiations were now being conducted, further stipulations which appeared to them essential for the future security of Europe.

  1. Nicholas I.—Ed.
  2. The despatch was quoted by Lyndhurst in the House of Lords on March 20, 1855. The speeches by Lyndhurst and Clarendon quoted in this article were reported in The Times, No. 22007, March 21, 1855.—Ed.
  3. A reference to the protocols signed by Britain, France, Austria and Prussia at the Vienna Conferences.

    The protocol of December 5, 1853 proposed that Turkey enter into peace talks with Russia through the mediation of the four Powers (*).

    The protocol of January 13, 1854 urged Russia to settle its military conflict with Turkey and informed the Russian government of the Porte's readiness for peace talks.

    The protocol of April 9, 1854 demanded from Russia the immediate evacuation of its troops from the Danubian Principalities and a guarantee of the continued existence of the Ottoman Empire.
    (*) On December 5, 1853, the British, French and Prussian representatives at the Vienna Conference and the Austrian Foreign Minister Buol signed a protocol under which Notes were sent to Turkey and Russia offering Western mediation in settling the Russo-Turkish dispute. The following terms were stipulated as a basis for negotiations: evacuation by Russia of Moldavia and Wallachia, renewal of the former Russo-Turkish treaties, a guarantee of the rights of Christians by all European powers, and reform of Turkey's administrative system.
  4. This refers to the London conventions of 1840 (*) and 1841. The latter was signed, on July 13, 1841, by Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia and Turkey, and also by France which, faced with the prospect of an anti-French coalition, was forced to withdraw its support for the Egyptian ruler Mehemet Ali, who had attacked the Sultan, and join the Powers in backing the latter. The convention also stipulated that the Bosphorus and Dardanelles were to be closed to the warships of all Powers in peacetime.
    (*) The Afghanistan campaigns—during the first Anglo-Afghan war (1838-42) in which Britain strove to establish colonial rule in Afghanistan, British troops invaded Afghan territory twice (in 1838 and 1842). Both invasions failed to achieve their purpose.
    At the insistence of the British government, Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia signed a convention in London on July 15, 1840, on military assistance to Turkey in its war against Egypt (1839-41). In the autumn of 1840 British and Austrian warships bombarded Beirut, Saint-Jean-d'Acre and other for-tresses on the Syrian coast, which had been captured by Mehemet Ali, the ruler of Egypt, between 1831 and 1833. Eventually Mehemet Ali was forced to relinquish his possessions outside Egypt and submit to the supreme authority of the Sultan.
  5. This refers to Manteuffel's speech in the Credit Committee of the First Chamber (m April 22, 1854.—Ed.
  6. In his speech in the First Chamber on April 25, 1854, Manteuffel said: "Si vis pacem, para bellum..." (If you desire to maintain peace, be prepared for war).—Ed.
  7. Frederick William IV's speech of November 30, 1854.—Ed.
  8. The Four Points—demands made by the Western Powers on Russia as preliminary conditions for peace talks in their Note of August 8, 1854. Russia was required to renounce her protectorate over Moldavia, Wallachia and Serbia, which was to be replaced by an all-European guarantee; to grant freedom of navigation on the Danube; to agree to a revision of the London Convention of 1841 on the closure of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles to the warships of all nations in peacetime, and to renounce its protection of Christians in Turkey. The Tsarist government at first rejected the Four Points but in November 1854 was forced to accept them as the basis for future peace talks. The Four Points were discussed at the Vienna conferences of Ambassadors (*) but the attempts of the Western Powers to link the question of the Straits with demands for 'a reduction of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea caused the Russian Ambassador in Vienna, A. M. Gorchakov, to walk out of the talks.
    (*) A reference to the talks between the British, French and Russian Ambassadors and Austrian Foreign Minister Buol sponsored by Emperor Francis Joseph, which opened in December 1854. Their official purpose was to work out a basis for peace negotiations between the belligerents in the Crimean War. They were a sequel to an earlier round of talks between diplomats of the Western Powers, the Prussian Ambassador and the Austrian Minister (the Russian Ambassador refused to participate) held in Vienna in 1853-54 by way of mediation in the Russo-Turkish conflict. The second round failed to resolve the differences between the belligerents in the Crimean War. In mid-March 1855 representatives of Austria, Britain, France, Turkey and Russia met at a higher level at the Vienna Conference (Britain was represented by Special Envoy Lord John Russell, France by Foreign Minister Drouyn de Lhuys). That conference also produced no results (**).
    (**) The Vienna Conference was to work out the terms for peace between the participants in the Crimean War. It was attended by Russia, Britain, France, Austria and Turkey and lasted, with intervals, from March 15 to June 4, 1855. The negotiations centred on the Four Points (see Note 43↑). While agreeing, with certain reservations, to Points 1, 2 and 4, Russia emphatically rejected Point 3 which, as interpreted by the Western Powers, called for a reduction of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea. Britain and France insisted on its acceptance and turned down Austria's compromise proposal that Russia and Turkey should be allowed to agree between themselves on the size of their naval forces in the Black Sea. The Conference ended without adopting any decisions.
  9. The treaty of alliance between Britain, France and Austria signed in Vienna on December 2, 1854. The signatories undertook not to enter into any agreements with Russia without preliminary consent between themselves and not to allow the occupation of the Danubian Principalities by Russian troops. Negotiations with Russia were to be based on the Four Points. By means of this treaty Britain and France sought to draw Austria into the war against Russia. Austria, for its part, hoped to use the alliance to strengthen its influence in the Balkans and subjugate the Danubian Principalities.
  10. A. Bernstorff.—Ed.
  11. H. F. Arnim-Heinrichsdorf-Werbelow.—Ed.
  12. F. de Paula Colloredo-Wallsee.—Ed.
  13. Graham's question in the House of Commons on March 20, 1855, and Palmerston's reply were reported in The Times, No. 22007, March 21, 1855.—Ed.