The London Press. Policy of Napoleon on the Turkish Question

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 25 March 1853

Reproduced from the New York Daily Tribune
First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 3739, April II, 1853;
re-printed in the Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 822, April 12, 1853
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.18-21), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979

London, March 25th, 1853

Until this morning no further authentic news has been received from Turkey. The Paris Correspondent of The Morning Herald, of to-day, asserts that he has been informed by responsible authority that the Russians have entered Bucharest. In the Courrier de Marseille of the 20th inst. we read:

"We are in a position to convey to the knowledge of our readers the substance of the note which has already been presented to the Sublime Porte by M. d'Ozeroff immediately after the departure of Count Leiningen, and before the brutal 'sortie' of the Prince Menchikoff in the midst of the Divan. The following are the principal points referred to in this diplomatic note. The Count de Nesselrode complained in the most lively terms that the Porte, in spite of its formal promise not to attack the Montenegrins, had carried on a sanguinary war against that people, which had given the greatest dissatisfaction to the Cabinet of St. Petersburg. In order, now, to secure a sufficient protection to the Montenegrins, and for their preservation from new disasters, Russia would invite the Porte to recognize the independence of Montenegro. The note contained also a protest against the blockade of the Albanian Coast, and in conclusion it pressed the demand upon the Sultan[1] to dismiss those ministers whose doings had always occasioned misunderstandings between the two governments. On the receipt of this note Turkey is said to have shown a disposition to yield, although with regret, to that one point relating to the dismission of ministers, particularly of Fuad Effendi, the Sultan's brother-in-law, who has actually been replaced by Rifaat Pasha, a partisan of Russia. The Porte, however, refused to acknowledge the independence of Montenegro. It was then that Prince Menchikoff, without previously paying the usual compliments to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, presented himself in the Divan, to the neglect of all diplomatic forms, and intimated in a bullying manner to that body to subscribe to his demands. In consequence of this demand the Porte invoked the protection of England and France."

In ancient Greece, an orator who was paid to remain silent, was said to have an ox on his tongue. The ox, be it remarked, was a silver coin imported from Egypt[2]. With regard to The Times, we may say that, during the whole period of the revived Eastern Question, it had also an ox on its tongue, if not for remaining silent, at least for speaking. At first, this ingenious paper defended the Austrian intervention in Montenegro, on the plea of Christianity. But afterwards, when Russia interfered, it dropped this argument, stating that the whole question was a quarrel between the Greek and Roman Churches, utterly indifferent to the "subjects" of the Established Church of England. Then, it dwelt on the importance of the Turkish commerce for Great Britain, inferring from that very importance, that Great Britain could but gain by exchanging Turkish Free-Trade for Russian prohibition and Austrian protection. It next labored to prove that England was dependent for her food upon Russia, and must therefore bow in silence to the geographical ideas of the Czar[3]. A gracious compliment this to the commercial system exalted by The Times, and a very pleasant argumentation, that to mitigate England's dependence on Russia, the Black Sea had to become a Russian lake, and the Danube a Russian river. Then, driven from these untenable positions, it fell back on the general statement that the Turkish Empire was hopelessly falling to pieces, —a conclusive proof this, in the opinion of The Times, that Russia presently must become the executor and heir of that Empire. Anon, The Times wanted to subject the inhabitants of Turkey to the "pure sway" and civilizing influence of Russia and Austria, remembering the old story that wisdom comes from the East, and forgetting its recent statement that "the state maintained by Austria in the provinces and kingdoms of her own Empire, was one of arbitrary authority and of executive, tyranny, regulated by no laws at all." In conclusion, and this is the strongest bit of impudence, The Times congratulates itself on the "brilliancy" of its Eastern leaders![4]

The whole London Press, Morning Press and Evening Press, Daily Press and Weekly Press rose as one man against the "leading journal." The Morning Post mocks at the intelligence of its brethren of The Times, whom it accuses of spreading deliberately false and absurd news. The Morning Herald calls it "our Hebraeo-Austro-Russian contemporary," The Daily News more shortly the "Brun now organ"[5]. Its twin-brother, The Morning Chronicle heaves at it the following blow:

"The journalists who have proposed to surrender the Turkish Empire to Russia, on the score of the commercial eminence of a dozen large [Anglo-]Greek firms, are quite right in claiming for themselves the monopoly of brilliancy!"[6]

The Morning Advertiser says:

"The Times is right in stating that it is isolated in its advocacy of Russian interests... It is printed in the English language. But that is the only thing English about it. It is, where Russia is concerned, Russian all over."[7]

There is no doubt that the Russian bear will not draw in his paws, unless he be assured of a momentary "entente cordiale" between England and France[8]. Now mark the following wonderful coincidence. On the very day when The Times was trying to persuade my lords Aberdeen and Clarendon, that the Turkish affair was a mere squabble between France and Russia, the "roi des drôles"[9] as Guizot used to call him, M. Granier de Cassagnac, happened to discover in the Constitutionnel, that it was all nothing but a quarrel between Lord Palmerston and the Czar[10]. Truly, when we read these papers, we understand the Greek orators with Macedonian oxen on their tongues, at the times when Demosthenes fulminated his Philippics.

As for the British aristocracy represented by the Coalition Ministry, they would, if need be, sacrifice the national English interests to their particular class interests, and permit the consolidation of a juvenile despotism in the East in the hopes of finding a support for their valetudinarian oligarchy in the West. As to Louis Napoleon he is hesitating. All his predilections are on the side of the Autocrat, whose system of governing he has introduced into France, and all his antipathies are against England, whose parliamentary system he has destroyed there. Besides, if he permits the Czar's plundering in the East, the Czar will perhaps permit him to plunder in the West. On the other hand he is as quite sure of the feelings of the Holy Alliance with regard to the "parvenu Khan." Accordingly he observes an ambiguous policy, striving to dupe the great powers of Europe as he duped the parliamentary parties of the French National Assembly. While fraternizing ostentatiously with the English ambassador for Turkey, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, he simultaneously cajoles the Russian Princess de Lieven with the most flattering promises, and sends to the court of the Sultan M. De la Cour, a warm advocate of an Austro-French alliance, in contradistinction to an Anglo-French one. He orders the Toulon fleet to sail to the Grecian waters, and then announces the day afterward, in the Moniteur, that this had been done without any previous communication with England. While he orders one of his organs, the Pays, to treat the Eastern Question as most important to France, he allows the statement of his other organ, the Constitutionnel, that Russian, Austrian and English interests are at stake in this question, but that France has only a very remote interest in it, and is therefore in a wholly independent position. Which will outbid the other, Russia or England? that is the question with him.

  1. Abdul Mejid.—Ed.
  2. A reference to a coin with an imprint of the Egyptian sacred bull Apis; such coins with imprints of animals were used in Greece until the fifth century BC
  3. Nicholas I.—Ed.
  4. See the leader in The Times, No. 21383, March 23, 1853.—Ed.
  5. The Morning Post, No. 24726, March 22, 1853; The Morning Herald, No. 22115, March 25, 1853, and The Daily News, No. 2133, March 23, 1853.—Ed.
  6. The Morning Chronicle, No. 26910, March 24, 1853.—Ed.
  7. The Morning Advertiser, March 24, 1853.—Ed.
  8. A reference to the cordial agreement (entente cordiale) between France and England in the early period of the July monarchy (1830-35). The agreement proved ineffectual, however, and was soon followed by increased friction between the two powers.
  9. King of the buffoons.—Ed.
  10. A. Granier de Cassagnac, "Des Affaires d'Orient", Le Constitutionnel, No. 83, March 24, 1853.—Ed.