Karl Marx in New York Daily Tribune, 1853

The War Question— British Population and Trade Returns— Doings of Parliament

First published: in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 3854, August 24, 1853 and in abridged form in German in Die Reform, No. 43, August 27, 1853;
Transcribed: November 16 1996 (director@marx.org);

London, Friday, Aug. 12, 1853

[ The War Question ]

Bonaparte compensates the French Navy for their humiliating position in Besika Bay by a reduction in the price of tobacco to the sailors, as we are informed by to-day’s Moniteur. [Le Moniteur universel, No. 223, August 11 1853 ” Ed.] He won his throne by sausages. [1] Why should he not try to hold it by tobacco? At all events, the Eastern complication will have produced the démonétisation of Louis Bonaparte in the eyes of the French peasants and the army. They have learned that the loss of liberty at home is not made up by a gain of glory abroad. The “Empire of all the glories” has sunk even lower than the “Cabinet of all the talents.”

From the Constantinople journals which have just arrived, we learn that the Sultan’s [Abdul Mejid] manifesto to his subjects appeared on the 1st August, that the Russian Consul at Adrianople has received orders from St. Petersburg to withdraw from Turkey, that the other Russian Consuls expect similar orders, and that the Constantinople papers have been prohibited in the Principalities. The Impartial of Smyrna, of Aug. 1, has the following communication with regard to Persia:

"The Shah of Persia [Nasr-ed-Din], after the correspondence exchanged between the Porte and the Russian Cabinet on the occasion of the pending dispute, had been communicated to him on his request, has officially declared that all the right was on the side of the Porte, and that in case of war, he will fairly stand by her. This news had made a great impression on the Russian Ambassador at Teheran, who is said to prepare for demanding his passports.”

The contents of the proposition made to Russia, and accepted by the Czar [Nicholas I], according to the mysterious Petersburg dispatch, form the subject of conjecture through the whole European Press. The Palmerstonian Morning Post [August 11 1853] avers:

"On the 25th of July M. de Meyendorff transmitted to his Imperial master, not indeed the formal propositions” (accepted at the Vienna Conference), “but an account of what had passed at the conference of the 24th.... We believe we shall not be far wrong when we confidently affirm that the affair is settled in such a manner as to preserve intact the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The mode of settlement will be this: Reshid Pasha will address the Count Nesselrode a note, in which he will inclose the firmans in which are accorded to the Greek Christians, subjects of the Sultan, more privileges than even Russia had asked for them. He will say many civil things to the Czar and assure him of the excellent disposition of the Sultan towards his own subjects, to whom he has accorded such and such rights. This note will be presented by a Turkish Ambassador, and the affair will be at an end.... By the 10th of September the last Russian soldier will have crossed the Pruth!”

On the other hand, private letters from Vienna, alluding to the appearance of Russian gun-boats above the confluence of the Pruth and the Danube, confirm the statement given in my last letter, that the propositions sent to St. Petersburg, do not include at all the withdrawal of the Russian armies from the Principalities, that they emanate from the Austrian Cabinet, to whose intervention the British Ambassador at Vienna, “that true lover of harmony,” had appealed, after the French and English proposals had been rejected by the Czar; and that they afford Russia the desired opportunity for prolonging negotiations in infinitum. [2] According to the semi-official Frankfort Ober-Postamts-Zeitung, Russia has only permitted Austria to enlighten Turkey with regard to her own interests.

[ British Population and Trade Returns ]

The lately published Population Returns prove the slow but steady decrease of the population of Great Britain. In the quarter ending June, 1853,

the number of deaths was107,861
while the number of births was158,718
Net increase of births as far as the
registered districts are concerned
The excess of births over deaths in
the United Kingdom is assumed to be
Excess of emigration over increase of births36,139

The last Return showed an excess of emigration over births of only 30,000.

The decrease of population, resulting from emigration, coincides with an unprecedented increase in the powers of production and capital. When we remember Parson Malthus denying emigration any such influence, and imagining he had established, by the most elaborate calculations, that the united navies of the world could never suffice for an emigration of such dimensions as were likely to affect in any way the overstocking of human beings, the whole mystery of modern political economy is unraveled to our eyes. It consists simply in transforming transitory social relations belonging to a determined epoch of history and corresponding with a given state of material production, into eternal, general, never-changing laws, natural laws, as they call them. The thorough transformation of the social relations resulting from the revolutions and evolutions in the process of material production, is viewed by the political economists as a mere Utopia. They see the economical limits of a given epoch, but they do not understand how these limits are limited themselves, and must disappear through the working of history, as they have been created by it.

The accounts relating to Trade and Navigation for the six months ending July 5, 1853, as published by the Board of Trade, show in general a great increase when compared with the exports, imports, and shipping in the corresponding period of the year 1852. [Below the figures are quoted from “Accounts Relating to Trade and Navigation” and other material published in The Economist, No. 519, August 6, 1853. ” Ed.] The import of oxen, bulls, cows, calves, sheep and lambs has considerably increased.

The total import of grains amounted,
in the six months ending July 5th, 1852, to
qrs. 2,604,201
But in the corresponding months of 1853, toqrs. 3,984,374
The total imports of Flour and Meal amounted,
during six months of 1852, to
qrs. 1,931,363
And in the corresponding months, 1853, toqrs. 2,577,340
Total imports of Coffee, 1852lbs. 19,397,185
Total imports of Coffee, 1853lbs. 21,908,954
Total imports of Wine, 1852gals. 2,850,862
Total imports of Wine, 1853gals. 4,581,300
Total imports of Eggs, 1852No. 64,418,591
Total imports of Eggs, 1853No. 67,631,380
Total imports of Potatoes, 1852cwts. 189,410
Total imports of Potatoes, 1853cwts. 713,941
Total imports of Flax, 1852cwts. 410,876
Total imports of Flax, 1853cwts. 627,173
Total imports of Raw Silk, 1852lbs. 2,354,690
Total imports of Raw Silk, 1853lbs. 2,909,733
Total imports of Cotton, 1852cwts. 4,935,317
Total imports of Cotton, 1853cwts. 5,134,680
Total imports of Wool (sheep and lambs), 1852lbs. 26,916,002
Total imports of Wool (sheep and lambs), 1853lbs. 40,189,398
Total imports of Hides (tanned), 1852lbs. 1,075,207
Total imports of Hides (tanned), 1853lbs. 3,604,769

A decrease is found in cocoa, guano, unrefined sugar, tea, &c. As to the exports we find:

Those of Cotton Manufactures in 1852£11,386,491
Those of Cotton Manufactures in 185313,155,679

As to cotton yarn ” and the same remark applies to linen and silk yarn ” we find that the exported quantity has decreased, but that the declared value had considerably risen.

Linen Manufactures, 18522,006,951
Linen Manufactures, 18532,251,260
Silk Manufactures, 1852467,838
Silk Manufactures, 1853806,419
Woolen Manufactures, 18523,894,506
Woolen Manufactures, 18534,941,357
Earthen Ware Manufactures, 1852590,663
Earthen Ware Manufactures, 1853627,218
Glass Manufactures, 1852187,470
Glass Manufactures, 1853236,797
Haberdashery and Millinery, 1852884,324
Haberdashery and Millinery, 18531,806,007
Hardware and Cutlery, 18521,246,639
Hardware and Cutlery, 18531,663,302
Machinery, 1852476,078
Machinery, 1853760,288
Iron Bars, Bolts and Rods, 18521,455,952
Iron Bars, Bolts and Rods, 18532,730,479
Wrought Iron, 1852696,089
Wrought Iron, 18531,187,059
Wire, 185242,979
Wire, 1853106,610

With regard to the imports of manufactures, the greatest increase is found in shoes, boots and gloves, and the greatest decrease in glass manufactures, watches, woollen stuffs, and Indian silk manufactures. With regard to exports, the increase is greatest in linen, silks, woollens and metals. As to the importations of articles of consumption, we find that, with the exception of grains and cattle, the increase in nearly all articles bears witness that the home consumption of the higher and middle classes has advanced in a much larger proportion than that of the working classes. While, for instance, the consumption of wine has doubled, the consumption of cocoa, unrefined sugar, and tea has decidedly retrograded.

Out of 260 reports on the wheat crops throughout the United Kingdom, only 25 speak of the crop as fine and abundant, 30 as an average one, and above 200 reports declare it to be bad and deficient. Oats, barley and beans are expected to turn out less unfavorable, as the wet has benefited them, but the potatoes are blighted in all parts of the country. Messrs. J. [and] C. Sturge & Co. remark, in their last circular on the wheat crop:

"The wheat crop on the aggregate will probably be the least productive of any since 1816, and unless the harvest of 1854 is very early, we may require an importation of all kinds of grain and breadstuffs greater even than that of 1847 ” probably not less than 15,000,000 quarters ” but our present prices are sufficient to induce imports to this extent, unless France should compete with us in the producing markets.”

As to a very early crop in 1854, there seems to be no great prospect of that, inasmuch as experience has shown that bad harvests generally follow in succession just as the good ones; and the succession of good harvests since 1848 has already been unusually long. That England will obtain a sufficient supply of corn from foreign countries is, perhaps, pretty sure; but that the exportation of her manufactures will, as Free Traders expect, keep pace with the importations of grains, cannot be presumed. The probable excess of importation over exportation will, besides, be accompanied by a falling off in the home consumption of manufactures. Even now the bullion reserve in the Bank of England is decreasing week after week, and has sunk to £17,759,107.

[ Doings of Parliament ]

The House of Lords in its sitting of Friday last rejected the Combination of Workmen Bill, which had passed through the Commons. This bill was but a new interpretation of the old Combination Act of 1825, [3] and intended, by removing its cumbrous and equivocal terminology, to place the workingmen on a more equal footing with their employers, as far as the legality of combination is concerned. The sentimental lords who please themselves in treating the workingmen as their humble clients, feel exasperated whenever that rabble asks for rights instead of sympathies. The so-called Radical papers have, of course, eagerly seized on this opportunity to denounce the Lords to the proletarians as their “hereditary foes.” I am far from denying it. But let us now look at these Radicals, the “natural friends” of the workingmen. I told you in a former letter that the Manchester master-spinners and manufacturers were getting up an association for resisting the demands of their “hands.” This association calls itself “an association for the purpose of aiding the trade in regulating the excitement among the operatives in the Manchester district.” It purports to have been formed for the following purposes:

"1. The establishment of wages for various operations connected with spinning and weaving, similar to those paid in the other districts of the cotton trade.

"2. The mutual protection of its members in the payment of such wages against the resistance offered to them on the part of the operatives employed by them respectively.

"3. The securing to the operatives themselves the advantage of a uniformity of adequate wages, to be paid to them throughout town and neighborhood.”

In order to effect these purposes they have resolved to set up a whole organization, by forming local associations of master-spinners and manufacturers, with a central committee.

"They will resist all demands made by associated bodies of mill-hands, as any concession to them would be injurious to employers, operatives, and the trade generally.”

They will not allow the machinery set up by and for themselves to be counterbalanced by a similar machinery set up by their men. They intend fortifying the monopoly of capital by the monopoly of combination. They will dictate terms as an associated body. But the laborers shall only dispute them in their individual capacity. They will attack in ranged battle, but they will not be resisted, except in single fight. This is "fair competition," as understood by the Manchester Radicals and model Free Traders.

In its sitting of Aug. 9, the House of Lords had to decide on the fate of three Ireland Bills, carried through the Commons after ten months’ deliberation, viz.: the Landlord and Tenant Bill, removing the laws concerning mortgages, which form at present an insuperable bar to the effective sale of the smaller estates not falling under the Encumbered Estates Act [4]; the Leasing Powers Bill, amending and consolidating more than sixty acts of Parliament which prohibit leases to be entered into for 21 years regulating the tenant’s compensation for improvements in all instances where contracts exist, and preventing the system of sub-letting; lastly, the Tenant’s Improvement Compensation Bill, providing compensation for improvements effected by the tenant in the absence of any contract with the landlord, and containing a clause for the retrospective operation of this provision. The House of Lords could, of course, not object to parliamentary interference between landlord and tenant, as it has laden the statute book from the time of Edward IV to the present day, with acts of legislation of landlord and tenant, and as its very existence is founded on laws meddling with landed property, as for instance the Law of Entail. This time, the noble lords sitting as Judges on their own. cause, allowed themselves to run into a passion quite surprising in that hospital of invalids.

"Such a bill,” exclaimed the Earl of Claoricarde, “as the Tenants’ Compensation Bill, such a total violation and disregard of all contracts, was never before, he believed, submitted to Parliament, nor had he ever heard of any government having ventured to propose such a measure as was carried out in the retrospective clauses of the bill.”

The Lords went as far as to threaten the Crown with the withdrawal of their feudal allegiance, [5] and to hold out the prospect of a landlord rebellion in Ireland.

"The question,” remarked the same nobleman, “touched nearly [...] the whole question of the loyalty and confidence of the landed proprietors in Ireland in the Government of this country.[...] If they saw landed property in Ireland treated in such a way, he would like to know what was to secure their attachment to the Crown and their obedience to its supremacy?

Gently, my lord, gently! What was to secure their obedience to the supremacy of the Crown? One magistrate and two constables. A landlord rebellion in Great Britain! Has there ever been uttered a more monstrous anachronism? But for a long time the poor Lords have only lived upon anachronisms. They naturally encourage themselves to resist the House of Commons and public opinion.

"Let not their lordships,” said old Lord St. Leonards, “for the sake of preventing what was called a collision with the other House, or for the sake of popularity, or on account of a pressure from without, pass imperfect measures like these.” “I do not belong to any party,” exclaimed the Earl of Roden, “but I am highly interested in the welfare of Ireland.”

That is to say, his lordship supposes Ireland to be highly interested in the welfare of the Earl of Roden. “This is no party question, but a Lords’ question.” was the unanimous shout of the House; and so it was. But between both parties, Whig Lords and Tory Lords, Coalition Lords and Opposition Lords, there has existed from the beginning a secret understanding to throw the bills out, and the whole impassioned discussion was a mere farce, performed for the benefit of the newspaper reporters.

This will be evident when we remember that the bills which formed the subject of so hot a controversy were originated, not by the Coalition Cabinet, but by Mr. Napier, the Irish Attorney-General under the Derby Ministry, and that the Tories at the last elections in Ireland appealed to the testimony of these bills introduced by them. The only substantial change made by the House of Commons in the measures introduced by the Tory Government was the excluding of the growing crops from being distrained upon. “The bills are not the same,” exclaimed the Earl of Malmesbury, asking the Duke of Newcastle whether he did not believe him. “Certainly not,” replied the Duke. “But whose assertion would you then believe?” “That of Mr. Napier,” answered the Duke. “Now,” said the Earl, “here is a letter of Mr. Napier, stating that the bills are not the same.” “There,” said the Duke, “is another letter of Mr. Napier, stating that they are. ”

If the Tories had remained in, the Coalition Lords would have opposed the Ireland Bills. The Coalition being in, on the Tories fell the task of opposing their own measures. The Coalition having inherited these bills from the Tories and having introduced the Irish party into their own cabinet, could, of course, not oppose the bills in the House of Commons; but they were sure of their being burked in the House of Lords. The Duke of Newcastle made a faint resistance, but Lord Aberdeen declared himself contented with the bills passing formally through a second reading, and being really thrown out for the session. This accordingly was done. Lord Derby the chief of the late Ministry, and Lord Lansdowne, the nominal President of the present Ministry, yet at the same time one of the largest proprietors of land in Ireland, managed, wisely, to be absent from indisposition.

On the same day the House of Commons carried the Hackney Carriages Duties Bill through the third reading, renewing the official price-regulations of the 14th century, and accepting the clause proposed by Mr. F. Scully, which subjects cab proprietors’ strikes to legal penalties. We have not now to settle the question of state interference with private concerns. We have only to state that this passed in a free-trade House. But, they say, that in the cab trade there exists monopoly and not free competition. This is a curious sort of logic. First they subject a particular trade to a duty, called license, and to special police regulations, and then they affirm that, in virtue of these very burdens imposed upon it, the trade loses its free-trade character and becomes transformed into a state monopoly.

The Transportation Bill has also passed through Committee. Except a small number of convicts who will continue to be transported to Western Australia, the penalty of transportation is abolished by this bill. After a certain period of preliminary imprisonment the offenders will receive tickets of leave in Great Britain, liable to be revoked, and then they will be employed on the public works at wages to be determined by Government. The philanthropic object of the latter clause is the erection of an artificial surplus in the labor market, by drawing forced convict-labor into competition with free labor; the same philanthropists forbidding the workhouse paupers all sort of productive labor from fear of creating competition with private capital.

The London Press a weekly journal, inspired by Mr. Disraeli, and certainly the best informed paper as far as ministerial mysteries are concerned, made, on Saturday last, and accordingly before the arrival of the Petersburg dispatch, the following curious statement:

"We are informed, that in their private and confidential circles, the ministers declare that there is not only now no danger of war, but that the peril, if it ever existed, has long been averted. It seems that the proposition formally forwarded to St. Petersburg, [...] had been previously approved by the Emperor; and while the British Government assume in public countenance a tone which is exercising a deleterious influence on the trade of the country, in private they treat the panic as a hoax, scoff off any idea of war having ever been seriously contemplated by any power, and speak of the misunderstanding in question ‘as a thing that has been settled these three weeks. What does all this mean, what is the mystery of all this conduct? ... The propositions now at St. Petersburg, and which were approved by the Emperor before they were transmitted to St. Petersburg, involve a complete concession by Turkey to Russia of all those demands, a resistance to which brought about the present war between these two countries. Those demands were resisted by the Porte under the counsel and at the special instigation of England and France. By the advice and special instigation of England and France those demands, according to this project, are now to be complied with. [...] There is some change of form, [...] but there is nothing material in that change. [...] The Emperor of Russia, in virtually establishing the Protectorate over the great bulk of the population of European Turkey, is to declare, that in so doing he has no wish to impugn the sovereign rights of the Sultan. Magnanimous admission!”

Royalty in Great Britain is supposed to be only a nominal power, an assumption which accounts for the peace all parties keep with it. If you were to ask a Radical why his party abstained from attacking the prerogatives of the Crown, he would answer you: It is a mere State decoration which we don’t care about. He would tell you that Queen Victoria has only once dared to have a will of her own, at the time of the famous bed chambermaid’s catastrophe, when she insisted upon retaining her female Whig entourage, but was forced to yield to Sir Robert Peel, and dismiss it. Various circumstances, however, connected with the Oriental question ” the inexplicable policy of the Ministry, the denunciations of foreign journals, and the successive arrival of Russian princes and princesses, at a moment when England was supposed to be on the eve of a war with the Autocrat ” have accredited the rumor that there existed, during the whole epoch of the Eastern crisis, a Court conspiracy with Russia, sustaining the good old Aberdeen in office, paralyzing the showy alliance with France, and counteracting the official resistance to Russian encroachments. The Portuguese counter-revolution is hinted at, which was enforced by an English fleet, for the sole interest of the Coburg family. [6] It is iterated that Lord Palmerston, too, had been dismissed from the Foreign Office in consequence of Court intrigues. The notorious friendship between the Queen and the Duchess of Orleans is alluded to. It is remembered that the Royal Consort is a Coburg, that the Queen’s uncle is another Coburg, highly interested as King of Belgium and as the son-in-law of Louis Philippe, in the fall of Bonaparte, and officially received into the circle of the Holy Alliance, by the marriage of his vend with an Austrian Archduchess. Lastly, the reception which the Russian guests meet with, is contrasted with the imprisonment and chicanery English travelers lately met with in Russia.

The Paris Siècle some weeks ago denounced the English Court. A German paper dwelt on the Coburg-Orleans conspiracy, which, for the sake of family interests, had, through the medium of King Leopold and Prince Albert, enforced upon the English Ministry a line of policy dangerous to the Western nations, and fostering the secret intentions of Russia. The Brussels Nation had a long report of a Cabinet Council held at London, in which the Queen had formally declared that Bonaparte, by his pretensions to the Holy Shrines, had been the only cause of the present complications, that the Emperor of Russia wished less to humiliate Turkey than his French rival, and that she would never give her Royal assent to any war against Russia for the interest of a Bonaparte.

These rumors have been delicately alluded to by The Morning Advertiser, and have found a loud echo in the public, and a cautious one in the weekly press.

"Without desiring,” says The Leader, “to put constructions too wide, let us simply observe facts. The Princess Olga has come to England with her husband, and her sister, the Duchess of Leuchtenberg, the Emperor’s most diplomatic daughter. She has been received by Baron Brunnow, and [...] she is at once welcomed at Court, and surrounded by the representatives of good society in England, Lord Aberdeen being among that [...] number.”

Even The Examiner, the first of the first-rate London weekly papers, announces the arrival of these guests under the laconic rubric "More Russians." In one of its leaders we find the remark,

"No earthly reason now exists why the Peace Society should not reappear before the world, in the most approved form, under the patronage of His Royal Highness, Prince Albert.”

A more direct allusion is not allowable in a journal of the standing of The Examiner. It concludes the article from which I quote by contrasting the English Monarchy with the Transatlantic Republic:

"If the Americans should be ambitious to seize the place we once held in Europe, that is no affair of ours. Let them reap the present honor and ultimate advantage of enforcing the law of nations, and of being reverenced as the protectors of the feeble against the [...] strong. England is content, provided only Consols be at par, and her own coasts [...] secure against any immediate attack of a foreign army.”

On a vote of £5,820, to defray the charge of works, repairs, furniture, etc., at the residence of the British Ambassador at Paris, for the year ending 31st March, 1854, being proposed, Mr. Wise asked what had become of the £1,100 a year, voted for the last thirty years, in order to keep in repair the residence of the British Ambassador at Paris. Sir William Molesworth was compelled to own that the public money had been misapplied, and that, according to the architect Albano, sent by Government to Paris, the residence of the British Ambassador was in a most dilapidated state. The verandah around the house had fallen in; the walls were in a state of decay; the house had not been painted for several years; the staircases were unsafe; the cesspools were exhaling a most offensive effluvium; the rooms were full of vermin, which were running over the tables, and maggots were in every place on the furniture and on the curtains, while the carpets were stained by the dirt of dogs and cats.

Lord Palmerston’s Smoke Nuisance Suppression Bill has passed a second reading. This measure once carried, the metropolis will assume a new aspect, and there will remain no dirty houses in London, except the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Signed: Karl Marx


BACKGROUND: The first section of the article was published under the title “To Withdraw or Not to Withdraw” in The Eastern Question.

[1] An ironical allusion by Marx to the methods used by Louis Bonaparte and his entourage in preparing the coup d’état of December 2 1851, when they were trying to win the support of officers and soldiers. During the receptions and after the military parades organized by Louis Bonaparte, then President of the Republic, officers and men were usually treated to sausage-meat, cold fowl, champagne, etc.

[2] Marx is summing up his comments on the attempts of the Western powers at mediation in the Turkish conflict at the conference of diplomats in Vienna in the last decade of July 1853 and on its conciliatory Note. However, it is highly probable that this refers to an article mailed to the New-York Daily Tribune between August 5 and 12 1853, which was either lost on the way to New York or was not published due to reasons unknown.

[3] In 1824, under mass pressure, the British Parliament lifted the ban on the trade unions. In 1825, however, it passed a Bill on workers’ combinations, which, while confirming the raising of the ban on trade unions, greatly restricted their activity. In particular, any agitation for workers to join unions and take part in strikes was regarded as compulsion and violence and punished as a crime.

[4] The Encumbered Estates Act was adopted by the Irish Parliament in 1849 and was later supplemented by the Acts of 1852-53 and others. The Act provided for the sale of mortgaged estates by auction if their owners were proved to be insolvent. It resulted in the lands of ruined landlords passing into the hands of usurers, middlemen and rich tenants.

[5] By a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, the members of the House of Lords are obliged to swear a solemn oath (the oath of allegiance) to the Crown. At the same time, the medieval Magna Carta Libertatum (1215) gave English feudal lords the right to revolt against the throne in cases of infringement of their feudal privileges.

[6] A reference to Britain’s support of the Portuguese branch of the Coburg dynasty during the popular uprising of 1846-47. The uprising was brutally suppressed.