The Details of The Insurrection at Madrid. The Austro-Prussian Summons. The New Austrian Loan. Wallachia

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 7 July 1854

First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 4136, July 21
and the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 955, July 21, 1854
Reproduced from the New York Daily Tribune
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.282-290), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980

This article is entered in the Notebook as "Freitag. 7. Juli (Spanische Revolution)"; part of the article under the title "Austria" was reproduced by Eleanor Marx in The Eastern Question.

London, Friday, July 7, 1854

The news we receive of the military insurrection at Madrid continues to be of a very contradictory and fragmentary character. All the Madrid telegraphic dispatches are, of course, government statements, and of the same questionable faith as the bulletins published in the Gaceta. A review of the scanty materials at hand is consequently all I can give you.

It will be recollected that O'Donnell was one of the generals banished by the Queen[1] in February; that he refused to obey, secreted himself in Madrid, and from his hiding place kept up secret correspondence with the garrison of Madrid, and particularly with General Dulce, the Inspector-General of the Cavalry. The Government were aware of his sojourn at Madrid, and on the 27th June, at night, General Blaser, the Minister of War, and General Lara, the Captain-General of New Castile, received warnings of an intended outbreak under the leadership of General Dulce. Nothing, however, was done to prevent or stifle the insurrection in its germ. On the 28th, therefore, General Dulce found no difficulty in assembling about 2,000 cavalry under pretext of a review, and marching with them out of the town, accompanied by O'Donnell, with the intention of kidnapping the Queen, then staying at the Escurial. The design failed, however, and the Queen arrived at Madrid on the 29th, attended by Count San Luis, the President of the Council, and held a review, while the insurgents took up quarters in the environs of the capital. They were joined by Colonel Echague and 400 men of the Regiment "Prince," who brought along the regimental cashbag containing 1,000,000 francs. A column composed of seven battalions of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, one detachment of mounted gendarmerie, and two batteries of artillery left Madrid on the evening of the 29th inst., under command of General Lara, in order to meet the rebels quartered at the Venta del Espiritu Santo and the village of Vicálvaro. A battle took place on the 30th between the two armies, of which we have received three accounts the official one addressed by General Lara to the Minister of War, published in the Gaceta; the second published by the Messager de Bayonne, and the third a report from the Madrid correspondent of the Indépendance beige, an eye-witness of the affair. The first named report, which may be found in all the London papers[2], is easily disposed of, General Lara stating at one time that he attacked the insurgents, and at another that they charged him, making prisoners in one place and losing them in another, claiming the victory and returning to Madrid enfin, leaving the insurgents masters of the field, but covering it with the dead of the "enemy," while pretending himself to have only thirty wounded.

The following is the version of the Messager de Bayonne:

"On the 30th June, at 4 A.M., General Quesada left Madrid at the head of two brigades, in order to attack the rebel troops. The affair lasted but a short time, General Quesada being vigorously repulsed. General Blaser, the Minister of War, having assembled the whole garrison of Madrid"

which, by the way, consists of about 7,000 or 8,000 men

"made a sortie, in his turn at 7 o'clock in the evening. A combat immediately commenced, and lasted almost without interruption until evening. The infantry, threatened by the numerous cavalry of the insurgents, formed in squares. Colonel Garrigó, at the head of some escadrons, charged one of these squares so vigorously as to break through it, but was received by the fire of a masked battery of five guns, the grape-shot of which dispersed his escadrons. Colonel Garrigó fell into the hands of the Queen's troops, but General O'Donnell lost not a moment in rallying his squadrons, and threw himself so vehemently on the-infantry that he shook their ranks, delivered Colonel Garrigó, and seized the five pieces of artillery. The Queen's troops having suffered this check, retired to Madrid, where they arrived at 8 o'clock in the evening. One of their generals, Messina, was slightly wounded. There was a great number of dead and wounded on both sides in their murderous engagements."

We come now to the report of the Indépendance, dated Madrid, 1st July, which seems to be the most trustworthy:

"The Venta del Espiritu Santo and Vicálvaro were the theater of a murderous combat, in which the troops of the Queen were repulsed this side the Fonda de la Alegria. Three squares successively formed on different points, were spontaneously dissolved by order of the Minister of War. A fourth was formed beyond the Retiro[3]. Ten squadrons of insurgents commanded by Generals O'Donnell and Dulce in person, attacked it in the center (?) while guerrillas took it in the flank (?)."

It is difficult to conceive what this correspondent understands by center! and flank! attacks on a square.

"Twice the insurgents came to close fighting with the artillery but were repulsed by the grape-shot poured upon them. The insurrectionists evidently intended seizing some pieces of artillery placed in each of the corners of the square. Night having approached in the meantime, the governmental forces retired in echelons on the gate of Alcala, where a squadron of the cavalry that had remained faithful was suddenly surprised by a detachment of insurrectionist lancers who had concealed themselves behind the Plaza de Toros. In the midst of the confusion produced by this unexpected attack, the insurrectionists seized four pieces of artillery that had remained behind. The loss was nearly equal on both sides. The insurgent cavalry suffered much from the grape-shot, but their lances have almost exterminated the regiment de la Reina Gobernadora, and the mounted gendarmerie. Latest accounts inform us that the insurrectionists received reenforcements from Toledo and Valladolid. There is even a rumor afloat that General Narvaez is expected today at Vallecas where he is to be received by Generals Dulce, O'Donnell, Ros de Olano and Armero. Trenches have been opened at the gate of Atocha. Crowds of curious are thronging the railway station whence the advance posts of General O'Donnell may be perceived. All the gates of Madrid are, however, rigorously watched....

"Three O'Clock P. M. same Day.—The insurgents occupy the place of Vallecas, three English miles from Madrid, in considerable force. The Government expected today the troops from the provinces, especially the battalion del Rey. If we are to believe the most recent information, this force had joined the insurgents.

"Four P. M.—At this moment almost the whole garrison leaves Madrid, in the direction of Vallecas, in order to meet the insurgents who show the greatest confidence. The shops are closed. The Guard of the Retiro and generally of all Government offices have been armed in haste. I hear at this moment that some companies of the garrison yesterday joined the insurgents. The Madrid garrison is commanded by General Campuzano, who was falsely stated to have gone over to the insurgents, General Vista Hermosa, and Blaser, the Minister of War. Till now no reenforcements have come to the support of the Government; but the 4th Regiment of the line and the 1st Cavalry are said to have left Valladolid and to be marching in all haste upon Madrid. The same is assured with respect to the garrison of Burgos, commanded by General Turon. Lastly, General Rivero has left Saragossa with imposing forces. More bloody encounters are, therefore, to be expected."[4]

Up to the 6th inst. no papers or letters had arrived from Madrid. The Moniteur alone has the following laconic dispatch, dated Madrid, the 4th of July:

"Tranquillity continues to reign at Madrid and in the provinces."[5]

A private dispatch states that the insurgents are at Aranjuez. If the battle anticipated for the 1st inst. by the correspondent of the Indépendance had resulted in a victory of the Government, there would be wanting neither letters, nor papers, nor bulletins. Notwithstanding that the state of siege had been proclaimed at Madrid, the Glamor Público, the Nación, the Diario, the Espana, and the Época had reappeared without previous notice to the Government, whose fiscal informed them of this dismal fact. Among the persons arrested at Madrid are named Messrs. Antonio Guillermo Moreno and José Manuel Collado, bankers. A warrant was issued against Sijora Sevillano, Marquis de Fuentes de Duero, a particular friend of Marshal Narvaez. Messrs. Pidal and Mon are placed under surveillance.

It would be premature to form an opinion on the general character of this insurrection. I may say, however, that it does not seem to proceed from the Progresista party[6], as General San Miguel, their soldier, remains quiet at Madrid. From all the reports it seems, on the contrary, that Narvaez is at the bottom of it, and that Queen Cristina[7], whose influence had of late much decreased through the Queen's favorite Count San Luis, is not entirely a stranger to it.

There is perhaps no country, except Turkey, so little known to, and so falsely judged by Europe as Spain. The numberless local pronunciamentos and military rebellions have accustomed Europe to view it on a level with Imperial Rome at the era of the pretorians. This is quite as superficial an error as was committed in the case of Turkey, by those who fancied the life of the nation extinct because its official history for the last century consisted only of palace-revolutions and Janissary émeutes[8]. The secret of this fallacy lies in the simple fact that historians, instead of viewing the resources and strength of these peoples in their provincial and local organization, have drawn at the source of their Court almanacs. The movements of what we are used to call the State, have so little affected the Spanish people that they were quite content to leave that restricted domain to the alternative passions and petty intrigues of Court minions, soldiers, adventurers, and a few so-called statesmen, and they have had little cause to repent themselves of their indifference. The character of modern Spanish history deserving to receive a very different appreciation than it has until now experienced, I will take an opportunity to treat this subject in one of my next letters[9]. This much I may yet remark in this place, that little surprise ought to be felt if a general movement should now arise in the Peninsula from a mere military rebellion, since the late financial decrees of the Government[10] have converted the tax-gatherer into a most efficient revolutionary propagandist.

Austria holds at this moment the balance of war. If she has not yet marched her troops into Wallachia, it is only because she awaited the reply of the Emperor of Russia. The electric telegraph reports that Gorchakoff has now arrived at Vienna, the bearer of a disagreeable answer[11]. For the first time the Austro-Prussian summons, dispatched on June 3d, has been published in the Kölnische Zeitung. The principal passages in the Austrian summons are the following:

"The Emperor of Russia weighing in his wisdom all these considerations, will appreciate the value which the Emperor of Austria must attach to a discontinuance of the advance of the Russian army in the Transdanubian countries, and to the obtaining from him positive indications as to the epoch, it is to be hoped not very distant, when the occupation of the Principalities shall come to an end. The Emperor Nicholas, we are far from doubting it, desires peace; he will therefore consider the means of bringing to an end a state of things tending every day more to become a source of internal trouble to Austria and Germany. We are sure that he will not drive the Emperor Francis Joseph to the necessity of considering for himself the means of saving his interests, so much compromised by the present situation, by prolonging indefinitely this occupation, or by attaching such conditions to the evacuation which it would be impossible for us to obtain."

The Prussian note[12] destined to support the Austrian "summons" terminates as follows:

"The King hopes that the Emperor will consent to place the question at dispute on a ground offering a practical issue, in order to facilitate a satisfactory solution, by abridging and circumscribing the general action of both parties. Our august master hopes, therefore, that the present step will meet, on the part of the Emperor of Russia, with a reception similar in spirit to that which inspired it, and that the answer which we and the Cabinet of Vienna expect, with an interest corresponding to its importance, will be of a character to allow the King to withdraw from the painful necessities which would be imposed upon him by his duty and by his engagements."

Hess, the generalissimo of the Oriental army, will establish his headquarters at Czeraswitz. The Soldatenfreund[13] of Vienna gives the following biography of Gen. Hess:

"Feldzeugmeister[14] von Hess was born at Vienna in 1788; in 1805 he entered the regiment Gyulay as ensign, was lieutenant of the staff at the end of 1815, and appointed lieutenant-colonel and military commissary at Turin in 1822. Colonel since 1829, he became in 1831 quartermaster of the mobile corps of Upper Italy. I n 1842 he obtained the rank of lieutenant-marshal, and was chief of the staff of Radetzky's army in 1848. To him must be ascribed the plan of the march upon Mantua, Curtatone and Vicenza in 1848, and that of the short campaign of 1849, terminating with the battle of Novara."[15]

With regard to the avowed intentions of Austria in the occupation of Wallachia, I will quote from Austrian journals.

The Oberpostamts-Zeitung[16] of Frankfort, organ of the Austrian embassy at the Bundestag remarks:

"By its geographical position, Austria is obliged to work in the most effective manner at the reestablishment of peace, by actually separating, through the occupation of the Principalities, the belligerent parties, and interposing between them at the most important place. If the Russians retire behind the Pruth, the Turks and their allies cannot then cross the Danube. If we take further into account that both parties have gained one experience and lost one illusion—the Russians having lost the delusion of their military predominance and the maritime powers that of the omnipotence of their fleets—it is clear that the actual situation renders the resumption of peace negotiations almost inevitable."

The Lloyd[17] in its turn, observes:

"The disputed Territory, viz. the Principalities, would be left to the protection of a neutral power. A Turkish army could not take up a position on the banks of the Pruth. An armed mediator would stand between the forces of the western powers and those of Russia, and would prevent a collision in the Danubian Principalities. Thus there would be, in point of fact, an armistice on the most important theater of war. If, indeed, the possibility of peace still exists, this measure might promote it. There can be no doubt entertained either at St. Petersburg or elsewhere, but that the determination of Austria to occupy the Principalities has been adopted with a view to peace, and that at the same time it is the last step which can be taken for the prevention of a general war."

The last and most curious article in this line occurs in the Spenersche Zeitung[18] published at Berlin:

"It is confirmed that the embassadors of the four great powers will hold a new conference at Vienna, firstly with a view to take cognizance of the convention of Austria with the Porte, and to declare it to be in conformance with the anterior protocols of the conference; and secondly to come to a mutual understanding as to the manner in which the principles established by the Vienna Protocol of 9th April may be so modified as to serve for the positive basis of the future preliminaries, not of war, but of peace."[19]

In the meantime Austria has profited by these contingencies to project a new loan, of which the following are the terms of its official announcement:

"1. The amount of the loan is provisionally fixed at from 350 to 500 millions of florins. If the subscriptions reach this sum, the payments are to be effected during three, four, or five years, according to the amount of the subscription.
"2. The rate of emission is fixed at 95 in bank paper.
"3. The interest to be at 5 per cent., paid in real coin.
"4. The subscription is no forced one, the Imperial Government being about to appeal, through the constituted authorities of all provinces, to the patriotism of the subjects of the State.
"5. The loan will be employed to pay the State debt to the Bank, to the amount of 80 millions, with a view of thus restoring the value of the Bank paper. The surplus"

it is very ingenious to call four-fifths of the whole a surplus

"will be employed as resource for the budgets of coming years.[20]

The Lloyd, of course, assures that this grand financial operation now contemplated (and almost for the first time!) must and will do away with the existing depreciation of the Austrian currency. Your readers will not have forgotten that it was this pretext which introduced almost every Austrian loan in this century[21]. There are some points, however, in this grand operation which they might not hit upon, as they are carefully omitted from the above announcement. On this score The Globe of last evening remarks:

"This loan will be national, i.e. every tax-payer will be called upon to subscribe in proportion of the amount of taxes he pays. For the present some moral compulsion will be employed to precede positive compulsion. In point of fact, therefore, the measure amounts to the raising of an additional sum of taxes at once, with the promise that this particular sum shall be repaid."

It is curious what resemblance this grand operation bears in point of its pretexts as well as in point of execution, with the late Spanish decrees that now prelude to a revolution.

In my last letter I called your attention to the rights and position of the Wallachian people[22], in opposition to the diplomatic quarrels pretending to originate in their violation. A report has just appeared in the Paris Siècle, of M. Barbu Bibesco, prefect of Mehedintzi, in Little Wallachia, addressed to the Foreign Minister of the Porte[23], in which at length we hear a voice raised for the people of the Principalities treated with such shameful indifference by the "defenders of civilization." It commences with stating that

"the Russians, to avenge themselves of the passive resistance of a completely disarmed people, abandoned themselves to the most abominable acts of cruelty and dilapidation on their retreat from Little Wallachia. They have carried away the cash in the public chests, the seals and the archives of the Administration, and the sacred vessels of the churches. When retiring they slaughtered the cattle which the numberless requisitions had spared; and these cattle they took not away, but left to rot, merely to make the people feel their cruelty and hatred."

M. Bibesco remarks with respect to the then rumored entrance of the Austrians into Wallachia, that

"even a benevolent foreign army is always burdensome for the country it occupies.

He says that Wallachia does not want the Austrians; that it is able to furnish a contingent of 50,000 men, drilled in arms and disciplined. In each of the seventeen departments of Wallachia there are at this moment 3,000 gendarmerie, wood-keepers, game-keepers and ancient soldiers, who require only arms and to hear the drums beat, when they would burst upon the Russians. He concludes in the following words:

"It is arms we want; if there be not enough in your arsenals, the many factories in France, England and Belgium do not want them, and we are ready to pay for t hem. Arms! and again arms, Excellency, and before three months there will not remain one single Russian in the Principalities, and the Sublime Porte will find a force of 100,000 Roumans as eager as the Osmanlis to pursue and punish their common and implacable enemy."

The poor Prefect of Mehedintzi does not understand that it is precisely for preventing them to have arms, and along with the Osmanlis to pursue and punish the Russians that Austria subjects the Wallachians to her occupation.

Sir Charles Napier, say the cockney papers, is trying to make the Czar's admirals come out from Kronstadt, and leave the protection of the granite-walls behind which they "tremble" before the Anglo-French fleet. But why don't the English sailors come out from their wooden walls and fight the Russians on their element, the land? Be it observed, that in spite of the English bravadoes, the Russians came out from Sevastopol, and "damaged" the Fury.

Baraguay d'Hilliers has been appointed commander of a division of troops to be embarked for the Baltic, the departure of which is fixed for the 14th inst.; England is to furnish the transports for 6,000 men. An equal number of troops with one field battery will be embarked on board the French ships. If we add to these numbers that of the marine-soldiers commanded by Col. Fieron, the effective of the whole Baltic division will amount to from 13,000 to 14,000 men, while at the same time the embarkation of troops for the Black Sea from Marseilles has not yet ceased; the process of disarming France having apparently not yet reached the desired point of "safety".

  1. Isabella II.—Ed.
  2. Marx used General Lara's account according to The Times, No. 21787, July 7, 1854.—Ed.
  3. This refers to the old royal palace Buen Retiro built in the seventeenth century for Philip IV. It was turned into artillery barracks in the nineteenth century. The palace was situated in the Retiro Park, in which there were some other government buildings, palaces, an art gallery, observatory, etc.
  4. L'Indépendance beige, No. 187, July 6, 1854.—Ed.
  5. Le Moniteur universel, No. 187, July 6, 1854.—Ed.
  6. The liberal-bourgeois Progresista party was formed in the 1830s. The Progresistas found support among the urban middle and petty bourgeoisie, intellectuals and some officers. Their principal demand was restriction of the power of the monarchy. This refers to a military coup (pronunciamento) in Madrid on June 28, 1854. Since the spring of 1854 the Spanish people's dissatisfaction with their great economic hardships and with their reactionary government had been growing stronger; it intensified especially after the dissolution of the Cortes which tried to oppose the government decree that taxes must be paid six months in advance. The leaders of the pronunciamento, generals O'Donnell and Dulce, who pursued personal aims in the overthrow of the Sartorius dictatorship in Spain, were compelled to promise certain bourgeois tax reforms. They also promised to do away with the camarilla, to convene the Cortes, form a national militia and introduce other changes. Participation of the popular masses in the struggle led to the bourgeois revolution of 1854-56, which in 1854 again brought to power the Progresista Party headed by Espartero. Frightened by the activity of the broad masses, however, the bourgeoisie sided with the counter-revolution, and in 1856 extreme reactionaries returned to power.
  7. Maria Cristina.—Ed.
  8. Mutinies.—Ed.
  9. See Revolutionary Spain.—Ed.
  10. The reference is to the Spanish government decree of May 19, 1854 on payment of land and industrial taxes six months in advance.
  11. Telegraphic report from Vienna of July 6, 1854. The Times, No. 21787, July 7, 1854. The text of the Austro-Prussian summons is cited from L'Indépendance beige, No. 188, July 7, 1854.—Ed.
  12. This refers to the Dispatch of Baron von Manteuffel to Baron von Werther, June 12, 1854.—Ed.
  13. Oesterreichischer Soldatenfreund.—Ed.
  14. Master of Ordnance.—Ed.
  15. Marx cites Hess' biography from Oesterreichischer Soldatenfreund as it was reprinted in the Journal des Débats, July 6, 1854.—Ed.
  16. Frankfurter Postzeitung.—Ed.
  17. Der Lloyd is quoted according to L'Indépendance beige, No. 187, July 6, 1854.—Ed.
  18. Berlinische Nachrichten von Stoats- und gelehrten Sachen.—Ed.
  19. The quotation from the Berlinische Nachrichten von Stoats- und gelehrten Sachen is given according to the journal des Débats, July 7, 1854.—Ed.
  20. "Die österreichische Nationalanleihe." Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 183, July 2, 1854. Supplement.—Ed.
  21. See Austrian Bankruptcy (1854)—Ed.
  22. See The Insurrection at Madrid. The Austro-Turkish Treaty. Moldavia and Wallachia —Ed.
  23. Reshid Pasha.—Ed.