The New Sardinian Loan. The Impending French and Indian Loans

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 14 August 1860

First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 6035, August 28, 1860
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 17 (pp.453-456), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
Collection(s): New York Tribune

London, Aug. 14, 1860

The new Sardinian loan of £6,000,000 has been closed, and three times the sum required is said to have been subscribed. Thus it appears that the bonds of the new Italian Kingdom are rising in the market at the very time that Austria is struggling in vain with a debt whose magnitude ought to be measured not by the resources of the country, but by the weakness of its Government, and while Russia, mighty Russia, having been driven from the European loan market, was forced to recur again to its own paper-money machinery. Still, even in regard to Sardinia, the new loan reminds us of the ugly fact that in modern times almost the first act in a people's struggle for freedom or independence seems, by some monstrous fatality, to consist in contracting a new servitude. Is every public debt not a mortgage saddled upon the industry of a whole people, and a curtailment of its freedom? Does it not give rise to a new set of invisible tyrants, known under the name of public creditors? However that may be, if the French, in less than a decade, have almost doubled their public debt in order to remain slaves, the Italians must be allowed to incur the same liabilities in order to become freemen.

Piedmont proper, exclusive of the provinces newly added[1], was in 1847 taxed to the amount of £3,813,452, while this year it will have to pay £6,829,000[2]. It has been stated by English papers, The Economist, for instance, that the commerce of Piedmont, consequent upon the liberal changes introduced into its tariff, had also greatly increased, and in illustration of this progress we are treated to the following figures:

In 1854 the imports were only£2,497,160
In 1857 they were19,123,040
In 1854 the exports were£8,595,280
In 1857 they increased to[3] 14,050,040

Now, I beg to remark that this increase is more apparent than real. The leading articles of Sardinian export consist of silk, silk manufactures, twine, spirits, and oil; but it is generally known that during the first three quarters of 1857 the prices of all those articles had assumed a most bloated aspect, and would, consequently, greatly swell the sum total of the Sardinian commercial returns. The official statistics of the Kingdom give, moreover, the values only, not the quantities of the articles exported and imported, so that the figures for the year 1857 may be altogether exceptional. No public accounts for the years 1858-60 having as yet been issued, it remains to be seen whether or not the commercial crisis in 1858 and the Italian war in 1859 have checked the industrial progress of the country. The following tabular statements, showing the official estimates of the revenue and expenditure for the current year (1860) of Sardinia proper, afford evidence that part of the new loan will be employed to cover the deficit, while another part of it is wanted for new preparations for war:

Sardinian Revenue for 1860.
Land-tax, house-tax, stamps, etc2,940,284
Railroads and telegraphs699,400
Fees received at Foreign Office12,400
Fees received at Home Office21,136
Profits on some branches of Public Instruction580
Extraordinary resources301,440
Sardinian Expenditure for 1860.
Finance Department£4,331,676
Public justice243,816
Foreign Affairs70,028
Public Instruction117,744
Ministry of the Interior407,152
Public Works854,080
The New Sardinian Loan455
Military expenditure£2,229,464
Marine expenditure310,360
Extraordinary expenses1,453,268

Comparing the expenditure amounting to £10,017,588 to the revenue of £6,829,828, we find a deficit of £3,187,760. On the other hand the newly acquired provinces are estimated to yield an annual revenue of £3,435,552, and to cost an annual expenditure of £1,855,984, so that they would leave a clear surplus of £1,600,000[4]. According to this calculation, the deficit of the whole kingdom of Sardinia, including the newly acquired provinces, would be reduced to £1,608,282. It is only just that Lombardy and the Duchies should pay part of the expenses Piedmont has incurred in the Italian war; but, in the run of time, it might prove a highly dangerous experiment to charge taxes upon the new provinces, almost twice as large as their cost of administration requires, with a single view to relieving the exchequer of the old provinces.

People conversant with the undercurrents of the Paris money market continue to give out that another French loan is looming in a not remote future. The only thing wanted is a specious opportunity for raising the wind. The emprunt de la paix[5], as you know, has proved a failure. Partant pour la Syrie[6] has till now been rehearsed on too small a scale to justify a fresh appeal to the enthusiasm of the grande nation. It is, therefore, presumed that, should nothing new turn up, and the prices of corn go on increasing, a loan will be raised on the pretext of providing against the possible disasters of dearth. In connection with French finances it may be remarked as a curious fact, that Mr. Jules Favre, who dared to predict in the midst of the Corps Législatif the impending crash of the Imperial Exchequer[7], has been elected Bâtonnier of the Paris Bar. The French advocates, as you are aware, have from the times of the old monarchy saved some tatters of their ancient feudal constitution. They still form a sort of corporate body, called the Barreau, the yearly elected chief of which, viz., the Bâtonnier, represents the order in its relations with the tribunals and the Government, at the same time that he watches over its internal discipline. Under the restoration, and under the following regime of the citizen King[8], the election of the Paris Bâtonnier was always considered a great political act, involving a demonstration for or against the Ministry of the day. Mr. Jules Favre's election must, I believe, be considered the first anti-Bonapartist demonstration ventured upon by the Paris Bar, and consequently deserves to be chronicled among the events of the day.

In yesterday's sitting of the House of Commons, before a House hardly large enough to make up a quorum, Sir Charles Wood, that true pattern of the genuine Whig place-hunter, carried a resolution[9] empowering him to contract a new loan of Three Millions Sterling on behalf of the Indian Treasury. According to his statement, the Indian deficit was in 1858-59 (the financial year always beginning with and ending in April) £14,187,000, in 1859-60 £9,981,000, and is estimated for 1860-61 at £7,400,000. Part of that deficit he promised to cover from the yield of Mr. Wilson's newly-introduced taxes—a very questionable prospect, after all—while the other part was to be provided for by the new loan of three millions. The public debt, which in 1856-57, the year before the Rebellion, amounted to £59,442,000, had now increased to £97,851,000. At a still more rapid rate the interest on the debt had grown. From £2,525,000 in, 1856-57 it had risen to £4,461,000 in 1859-60. Although the revenue had been forcibly expanded by the imposition of new taxes, still it could not keep pace with the expenditure which, even according to Mr. Charles Wood's own statement, was increasing in every direction, save that of Public Works. To make up for an outlay of three millions on fortified barracks, there has been put during the present, and will be put during the following year, "almost a perfect stop to public works and public buildings of a civic character." This "perfect stop" Sir Charles seemed to consider one of the beauties of the system. Instead of 40,000, as in 1856-57, there are now kept 80,000 European soldiers in India; and, instead of a native army of hardly 200,000, one of above 300,000 men.

  1. A reference to Lombardy, which France ceded to Piedmont under the Villafranca Peace Treaty (*), as well as to Romagna and the duchies of Parma, Modena and Tuscany, which were incorporated into Piedmont following the plebiscite of March 1860.
    (*) On July 8, 1859 the emperors of France and Austria held a separate meeting—without the King of Piedmont, France's ally in the war against Austria (**)—in Villafranca, at which they reached an agreement on an armistice. The meeting was held on the initiative of Napoleon III, who feared that the protracted war might give a fresh impulse to the revolutionary and national liberation movement in Italy and other European states. On July 11 France and Austria signed a preliminary peace treaty under which Austria was to cede to France its rights to Lombardy and France was to transfer this territory to Piedmont. Venetia was to remain under Austrian supremacy (despite the terms of the Plombières agreement (****)) and the princes of the Central Italian states were to be restored to their thrones. A confederation of Italian states was to be formed under the honorary chairmanship of the Pope.
    The Villafranca agreements formed the basis of the peace treaty France, Austria and Piedmont concluded in Zurich on November 10, 1859 (see Marx's articles "What Has Italy Gained?", "The Peace" and "The Treaty of Villafranca" and Engels' letter to Marx of July 14, 1859).
    (**) This refers to the war between the Kingdom of Sardinia (Piedmont) and France, on the one hand, and Austria, on the other (April 29 to July 8, 1859). It was launched by Napoleon III, who, under the banner of the "liberation of Italy", strove for aggrandizement and sought to strengthen the Bonapartist regime in France with the help of a successful military campaign. The Piedmont ruling circles hoped that French support would enable them to unite Italy, without the participation of the masses, under the aegis of the Savoy dynasty ruling in Piedmont. The war caused an upsurge of the national liberation movement in Italy. The Austrian army suffered a series of defeats. However, Napoleon III, frightened by the scale of the national liberation movement in Italy, abruptly ceased hostilities. On July 11, the French and Austrian emperors concluded a separate preliminary peace in Villafranca.
    In this passage Marx alludes to his differences with Ferdinand Lassalle on the ways of unifying Italy and Germany. In his pamphlet Der italienische Krieg und die Aufgabe Preussens. Eine Stimme aus der Demokratie (The Italian War and the Task of Prussia. The Voice of a Democrat) published in Berlin in 1859, Lassalle advocated the dynastic unification of Germany under the aegis of Prussia (see the preface to this volume, pp. XVII-XVIII).
    (****) On July 21, 1858, at Plombières, Napoleon III and Prime Minister Cavour of the Kingdom of Sardinia (Piedmont) reached a secret agreement envisaging Franco-Sardinian military co-operation against Austria, the abolition of Austrian rule in Lombardy and Venetia and their union with Piedmont, the establishment of a North Italian state to be ruled by the Savoy dynasty, and the cession by Piedmont of Savoy and Nice to France. The agreement was formalised by a Franco-Sardinian treaty concluded in Turin in January 1859. During the Plombières meeting the question of a Franco-Sardinian war against Austria was decided. It started in April 1859.
    In the autumn of 1858, Palmerston, then head of the Whig opposition to the Derby-Disraeli Tory Cabinet, was invited by Napoleon III to Compiègne to clarify his position on the impending Franco-Austrian war. At the meeting Palmerston did not object to the Austrians being driven out of Italy, but in his speech at the opening of Parliament on February 3, 1859 he condemned France's action.
  2. Marx took all the data from The Economist, No. 885, August 11, 1860, pp. 867-68.—Ed.
  3. The New York Daily Tribune has 19,050,040 instead of 14,050,040.—Ed.
  4. This figure is cited by The Economist, p. 867. The exact figure is £1,579,568. Hence the figure £1,608,282 in the next sentence.—Ed.
  5. The peace loan—a loan whose purpose was to increase military contingents. The question was debated in the Corps Législatif (see Le Moniteur universel, No. 117, April 27, 1859).—Ed.
  6. Partant pour la Syrie (Departing for Syria)—the opening words of a song sung at the festivities arranged by Napoleon III at the time of the Second Empire. Marx is alluding to the Syrian expedition.
  7. Jules Favre's speech in the Corps Législatif on July 13, 1860, Le Moniteur universel, No. 195, July 15, 1860.—Ed.
  8. Louis Philippe.—Ed.
  9. Sir Charles Wood's resolution of August 13, 1860, The Times, No. 23698, August 14, 1860.—Ed.