Kossuth and Mazzini. Intrigues of the Prussian Government. Austro-Prussian Commercial Treaty. The Times and the Refugees.

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 18 March 1853


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Reproduced from the New York Daily Tribune
First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 3733, April 4, 1853,
and in the Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 820, April 5, 1853
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 11 (pp.535-541), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
Collection(s): New York Tribune

This article was published in the New York Daily Tribune without a heading.

London, Friday, March 18, 1853

Parliament will adjourn to-day, for the Easter recess, until April 4th.In a former letter I reported, according to a generally accredited rumor, that Libényi's wife had been flogged by the Austrians at Pesth[1]. I have since ascertained that he was never married, and likewise that the story circulated in the English press, saying that he had attempted to revenge his father, who had been ill-treated by the Austrians, is wholly unfounded. He acted exclusively under the influence of political motives, and retained to the last hour a firm and heroic demeanor.

You will, ere this, have received with the English papers the reply of Kossuth to Mazzini's declaration[2]. For my part, I am of opinion that Kossuth has only made a bad case still worse. The contradictions in his first and his last declaration[3] are so palpable that I need not insist on urging them here. Besides, there is a repulsive heterogeneousness in the language of the two documents, the former being written in the Oriental hyperbolics of the Prophet, and the latter in the casuistic pleading-style of a lawyer.

Mazzini's friends affirm now, to a man, that the Milanese insurrection was forced upon him and his associates by circumstances which it was beyond his power to control. But, on one side, it belongs to the very nature of conspiracies to be driven to a premature outbreak, either by treason or by accidents. On the other side, if you cry, during three years, action, action, action—if your entire revolutionary vocabulary be exhausted by the one word "Insurrection," you cannot expect to hold sufficient authority for dictating, at any given moment: there shall be no insurrection. Be this as it may, Austrian brutality has turned the Milanese failure into the real commencement of a national revolution. Hear, for instance, the well-informed organ of Lord Palmerston, The Morning Post, of to-day:

"The people of Naples wait for a movement which is sure to take place in the Austrian Empire. Then the whole of Italy, from the frontiers of Piedmont to Sicily, will be in revolt, and sad disasters will follow. The Italian troops will disband—the so-called Swiss soldiers, recruited from the revolution of 1848, will not save the sovereigns of Italy. An impossible republic awaits Italy. That will assuredly be the next act of the drama which began in 1848. Diplomacy has exhausted all its powers for the princes of Italy."[4]

Aurelio Saffi, who countersigned Mazzini's proclamation, and who made a tour through Italy before the outbreak, avows, in a letter addressed to The Daily News, that "the upper classes were sunk in listless indifference or dispair," and that it was the "people of Milan," the proletarians, who,

"abandoned without direction to their own instincts, preserved their faith in the destiny of their country and, in the face of the despotism of Austrian Proconsuls and the judicial assassinations of military commissions, had unanimously made ready for vengeance."[5]

Now, it is a great progress of the Mazzini party to have at last convinced themselves that, even in the case of national insurrections against foreign despotism, there exists such a thing as class-distinctions, and that it is not the upper classes which must be looked to for a revolutionary movement in modern times. Perhaps they will go a step further and come to the understanding that they have to seriously occupy themselves with the material condition of the Italian country population, if they expect to find an echo to their "Dio e popolo". On a future occasion I intend to dwell on the material circumstances in which by far the greater portion of the rural inhabitants of that country are placed, and which have made them till now, if not reactionary, at least indifferent to the national struggle of Italy.

Two thousand copies of a pamphlet which I published some time ago at Basle, entitled "Revelations on the Trial of the Communists at Cologne" (Enthülungen über den Kölner Kommunisten-Prozess), have been seized at the Baden frontier and burned, on the request of the Prussian Government. According to the new Press Law imposed on the Swiss Bund by the Continental Powers, the publisher, Mr. Schabelitz, his son, and the printer[6] will be persecuted by the Basle Government, which has already confiscated a number of copies still in possession of the publisher. This will be the first trial of this kind in Switzerland, and the affair has become already a matter of controversy between the Radicals and the Conservative party. How anxious the Prussian Government is to conceal its infamies during the Cologne trial from publicity, you may infer from the fact that the Minister of the Exterior[7] has issued orders for the seizure (Fahndebriefe) of the pamphlet wherever it should appear, but does not even dare to call it by its title. In order to mislead the public, he gives as its name "A Theory of Communism", while it contains nothing but revelations of the Prussian state mysteries.

The only "progress" made in official Germany since the year 1848, is the conclusion[8] of the Austro-Prussian Commercial Treaty —et encore! That Treaty is surrounded with so many clausulae, retrenched behind so many exceptions, and reserves so many chief questions to the future adjustment of yet unborn commissions, while the actual diminution in the tariffs is so small, that it amounts to a mere aspiration towards a real Commercial Union of Germany, and is, practically speaking, utterly insignificant. The most striking feature of the Treaty is the victory Austria has again won over Prussia. This perfidious, this base, this cowardly, this vacillating sham-power, has bowed again before its more brutal, but more straightforward rival. Not only has Austria forced a treaty on Prussia which the latter was most unwilling to accept, but Prussia has been compelled to renew the old Zoll-Verein[9] with the old tariff, or to promise not to change, for twelve years, anything in her Commercial policy without the unanimous consent of the minor Zoll-Verein States i.e. without the permission of Austria (the South-German

States being not only politically, but also commercially, the vassals of Austria, or the antagonists of Prussia). Since the restoration of "Divine Power," Prussia has marched from degradation to degradation. Her king[10], "a wise man in his times," appears to think that his people may derive a comforting compensation in the infernal despotism they are subject to from the debasement their Government has to suffer abroad.

The refugee question is not settled yet. The semi-official Oesterreichische Correspondenz contradicts the statement, that Austria had addressed at this moment a fresh note to the English Government, because "recent events having shown that Lord Palmerston has recovered his influence, the Imperial Government could not expose its dignity to a certain check." I have written you before on Palmerston's declaration in the House of Commons. From the English papers you know the philo-Austrian declaration of Aberdeen in the House of Lords[11], that the English Government would make itself the spy and Attorney-General of Austria. Palmerston's journal[12] now remarks on the observation of his colleague:

"Even on the modified concession which Lord Aberdeen appears inclined to make, we cannot say that we look with much confidence to success.... No one will dare to propose to a British Government to attempt its conversion into an engine of foreign policy and a political man-trap."

You see what good understanding there is in the councils of the Methusalem ministry between "antiquated imbecility and liberal energy." In the whole London press there was a unanimous cry of indignation against Aberdeen and the House of Lords, with one base exception, that of The Times newspaper.

The Times, you will remember, commenced by denouncing the refugees and inviting the Foreign Powers to ask for their expulsion. Then, having ascertained that a renewal of the Alien Bill[13] would be refused with scorn to the Ministry in the House of Commons, it at once overflowed with rhetorically framed descriptions of the sacrifice it was ready to make oh dear! —for the preservation of the right of asylum. Finally, after the amiable conversation between my Lords of the Upper House it revenged itself on its own highsounding civism, with the following angry explosion in its leading article of March 5th:

"It is believed in many parts of the Continent that we delight in this country in a menagerie of refugees—ferocious characters of all nations, and fit for all crimes.... Do these foreign writers who denounce the presence of their own outlawed countrymen in England suppose that the existence of a refugee in this country is an enviable fate? Let them be undeceived. This wretched class of beings live, for the most part, in squalid poverty, eating the salt of the stranger, when they can get it, sunk, as it were, beneath the turbid waves of this vast metropolis... Their punishment is exile in its harshest form".

As to the last point, The Times is right; England is a delightful country to live out of.

In the "heaven of Mars" Dante meets with his ancestor, Cacciaguida de Elisei, who predicts to him his approaching exile from Florence in these words:

Happy Dante, another "being of that wretched class called political refugees," whom his enemies could not threaten with the misery of a Times-leader! Happier "Times", that escaped a "reserved seat" in his "Inferno!"

If the refugees eat the salt of the stranger, as The Times says, getting it at strange prices, too, which it forgot to say, is The Times itself not feeding on the strangers' flesh and blood? How many leaders and how many pounds have its anonymous Pythias not made out of French revolutions, German insurrections, Italian outbreaks and Hungarian wars, of French "fusillades," of Austrian gallows, of confiscated heads and beheaded property? Unhappy Times, if there were no "ferocious characters" on the Continent, if it were to grow older day by day on the coarse food of Smithfield Market, London chimney smoke, dirt, ferocious cabmen, the six bridges of the Thames, intermural interments, pestilential churchyards, filthy drink-water, railway accidents, crippled pint and quart bottles, and other interesting topics, which form its regular stock-in-trade, in the intervals of continental dullness. The Times is unchanged since the epoch when it called upon the British Government to murder Napoleon I.

"Is it considered," it said, in its number of July 27, 1815, "what effect the knowledge of his being in existence must necessarily have on the disaffected in every part of Europe? They will think, and think with truth, that the Allied Sovereigns are afraid to touch the life of a man who has so many adherents and admirers."

It is still the same paper which preached the crusade against the United States of America:

"No peace should be made with America, until that mischievous example of successful democratic rebellion has been done away."

In The Times editorial office there are no "ferocious" continental characters. Quite the contrary. There is, for example, a poor little man, a Prussian, named Otto von Wenckstern, once editor of a little German newspaper, afterward sunk in Switzerland, in squalid poverty, appealing to the pockets of Freiligrath and other refugees, and lastly finding himself at the same time in the service of the Prussian Ambassador in London—the far-famed Bunsen—and an integral member of the Printing-House-square[14] oracle. There are more such conciliatory continental characters in The Times Office, forming the connecting link between the Continental Police and the leading journal of England.

The liberty of the Press in England is exemplified by the following case: At the Bow-st. Police Office, in London, Mr. E. Truelove, of the Strand, appeared on an information laid at the instance of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, under 6th and 7th William IV, cap. 76[15], for having sold a newspaper, called The Potteries Free Press, and printed on paper not duly stamped. Four numbers of this paper had been published at Stoke-upon-Trent, the nominal proprietor being Collet Dobson Collet, Secretary of the Society for the Abolition of Taxes on Knowledge, who have issued it in "Conformity with the practice of the Stamp-Office, which permits records of current events, and comments thereon, to be published without a stamp in The Athenaeum, Builder, Punch, Racing Times, etc."; and with the avowed intention of inviting a Government prosecution, in order that a Jury might determine what description of news is to be entitled to exemption from the penny stamp. Mr. Henry, the magistrate, has reserved his decision. Much, however, will not depend on the decision, for the paper in question is not issued in defiance of the Stamp Law, but merely to avail itself of a still doubtful quibble in the law.

The English papers of to-day have a telegraphic dispatch from Constantinople, of March 6th, according to which, Fuad Effendi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has been replaced by Rifaat Pasha. This concession has been extorted from the Porte by the Extraordinary Russian Envoy, Prince Menchikoff. The affair of the Holy Places[16] is not settled yet between Russia, France, and the Porte, as L. Napoleon, highly irritated at the intrigues of Russia and Austria for the prevention of his coronation by the Pope[17], intends indemnifying himself at the expense of the Turk. In my next letter, I shall treat of this eternally-recurring Eastern question, the pons asini[18] of European Diplomacy[19].

  1. The facts which Marx refers to were probably cited in his report of March 1, 1853, which he mentions in his article "Forced Emigration. Kossuth and Mazzini. Refugee Question. Election Bribery in England. Mr. Cobden.". This report was not published in the New York Daily Tribune and the manuscript is not extant.
  2. The reference is to Mazzini's letter to a number of English newspapers published on March 2, 1853 (see The Italian Insurrection British Politics). Kossuth's reply to this letter was given in his letter to Captain Mayne Reid (date unknown), excerpts from which were published in The Leader, No. 154, March 5, 1853.—Ed.
  3. The reference is to Kossuth's proclamation of February 1853 "In the Name of the Hungarian Nation.—To the Soldiers Quartered in Italy", published in The Times, No. 21348, February 10, 1853 (see The Italian Insurrection British Politics), and to his letter to Captain Mayne Reid mentioned above.—Ed.
  4. "Political Excitement in Sicily", The Morning Post, March 18, 1853.—Ed.
  5. The reference is to Saffi's letter to Italia e Popolo which was reprinted in The Daily News on March 9, 1853.—Ed.
  6. Jakob Schabelitz and Chr. Krüsi.—Ed.
  7. Otto von Manteuffel.—Ed.
  8. On February 19, 1853.—Ed.
  9. The Protective Tariff of 1818 (Schutzzolltarif) abolished internal duties throughout the territory of Prussia and created the conditions for the formation of the Customs Union (Zollverein).

    The Zollverein, a union of German states, which established a common customs frontier, was set up in 1834 under the aegis of Prussia. Brought into being by the need to create an all-German market, the Customs Union subsequently embraced all the German states except Austria and a few of the smaller states.
  10. Frederick William IV.—Ed.
  11. On March 4, 1853.—Ed.
  12. The Morning Post (the quotation that follows is from its leading article of March 10, 1853).—Ed.
  13. The Alien Bill, enacted by the British Parliament in 1793, was renewed in 1802, 1803, 1816, 1818 and, finally, in 1848 in connection with revolutionary events on the Continent and the Chartist demonstration on April 10. Enacted for one year, this law authorised the deportation of aliens from England at any time by decision of the government. In 1850 public opinion prevented the renewal of this Bill despite Conservative efforts, which were repeated also in the following years.
  14. The address of The Times.—Ed.
  15. "An Act to reduce the Duties on Newspapers, and to amend the Laws relating to the Duties on Newspapers and Advertisments", 1836.—Ed.
  16. The long-standing quarrel between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Church over rights to the Christian Holy Places in Palestine was resumed in 1850 on Louis Bonaparte's initiative, with a view to strengthening France's positions in the Middle East. It grew into a serious diplomatic conflict which served as a pretext for the Crimean War.
  17. Pius IX.—Ed.
  18. Stumbling-block; literally: asses' bridge (5th proposition of the 1st book of Euclid which the beginners found very difficult to understand).—Ed.
  19. By this time Marx and Engels had prepared an article, "British Politics.—Disraeli.—Emigrants.—Mazzini in London.—Turkey", which was published on April 7, 1853 in the New York Daily Tribune and was the first of their articles on the Eastern Question in this newspaper.