Works of Karl Marx 1859

Quid Pro Quo

Source: MECW Volume 16, p. 445;
Written: by Marx between the end of July and the middle of August, 1859;
First published: in Das Volk, July 30, August 6, 13 and 20, 1859.

Quid pro Quo, “Confusion of one thing with another” is a series of articles published by Marx in Das Volk at the end of July and the middle of August 1859. The series remained unfinished, as the newspaper ceased publication.

General Clausewitz, in his work on the Austrian-French campaign of 1799, remarks that the reason why Austria was so often defeated was that its battle plans, strategically as well as tactically, were designed not so much for actually winning the victory as for exploiting the anticipated victory. Turning the enemy on both flanks, encirclement, dispersion of one’s own army to the most distant places in order to block off all the places where the enemy, already imagined as defeated, might hide — these and similar measures for exploiting the fanciful victory were in every case the most practical way of ensuring defeat. What was true of Austria’s way of waging war holds good for Prussia’s diplomacy.

Prussia undoubtedly strove to play a big role with low costs of production. Some instinct told it that the moment was favourable for the inflation of mediocrities. The France of the Vienna treaties, the France of Louis Philippe, was rechristened from a kingdom to an empire by simple decree, without a single boundary stone being moved in Europe. In the place of the Italian campaign of 1796 and the expedition to Egypt, the establishment of the swindler Society of December 10 and the sausage parade of Satory sufficed to bring about December 2 as a travesty of the 18th Brumaire.[335] Prussia knew that the illusion of the French peasants about the resurrection of the real Napoleon was not shared in its entirety by the great powers. It was tacitly agreed that the adventurer who had to play Napoleon in France had assumed a dangerous role and therefore could become dangerous for official Europe at any moment. France could only endure the Brummagem’ empire on condition that Europe seemed to believe the farce. The thing was, therefore, to make the part easier for the comedian and ensure there was a vigorous claque in the stalls and the gallery. Whenever France’s internal conditions became untenable — and two years seem to be the maximum period of rotation of the rococo empire on its axis — a foreign adventure had to be permitted to the ex-prisoner of Ham. The travesty of some article of the Napoleonic programme capable of execution beyond the French border then became part of Europe’s agenda. The son of Hortense might wage war, but only under Louis Philippe’s motto: “France is rich enough to pay for its glory”. The old king of Prussia, the man with the brainless head, once said that his Prussia differed from the Prussia of Frederick the Great in that the latter was in abstract opposition to Christianity, while his had overcome the transitional epoch of the insipid Enlightenment and penetrated to a deep inner understanding of revelation. So, the old Napoleon stuck to the superficial rationalistic prejudice that a war was only in France’s favour when the foreign countries had the expenses of the war while France got the proceeds. His melodramatic successor, on the other hand, has penetrated to the depth of the perception that France itself must pay for its military glory, that the maintenance of its old frontiers is a law of nature and that all its wars must be “localised”, i.e., take place within the narrow stage that Europe condescends to allow him to play on for each performance. Consequently, his wars are in fact only periodic blood-lettings for France, which enrich it by adding a new state debt and cost it an old army.

After every such war, however, certain inconveniences arise. France is dejected; but Europe hastens to do everything it can to cajole la belle France out of the blues. It plays the Barnum of the Dutchfish. After the Russian war, was he not clothed in all the theatrical attributes of the arbiter of Europe? Did not Baron von Seebach shuttle back and forth from Dresden to Paris and from Paris to Dresden? [336] Was he not waited on by Orlov, the poisoner, and Brunnow, the forger?[337] Did not the Prince of Montenegro and Jacobus Venedey believe in his plenitude of power?[338] Was he not allowed to put through Russia’s demands in the name of perfidies towards England? The Russian treaty of peace, which Palmerston had sealed with the betrayal at Kars and the negative magnitude of his own General Williams,[339] was it not denounced by The Times as a betrayal of England by Bonaparte? Did he not shine, therefore, in the light of the slyest head in Europe? During the war, had he not occupied all the capitals, if not of the modern, at least of the ancient world,[340] and did not his kind-hearted evacuation of the Dardanelles indicate deeper-lying plans? The old Napoleon seized what was at hand. The apparent resignation of the new-model Napoleon hints at unfathomable Machiavellianism. He only rejected the good because he sought the better. And finally the peace treaty of Paris, was it not crowned by a “notice” of Europe to the anti-Bonapartist newspaper writers of Belgium, the giant state?[341]

In the meantime, the two normal years of the rotation of pseudo-Napoleonic France kept rolling on. The official representatives of Europe felt they had done enough for the man’s image for the time being. He was allowed to sail to China in the wake of the English, and to put Colonel Cuza into the Danubian Principalities at the behest of the Russians.[342] But as soon as the delicate borderline between the hero and the buffoon playing the hero was overstepped even tentatively, Louis Napoleon found himself relegated with mockery to his ordained territory. His intrigue against the United States of North America, his attempt at reviving the slave trade, his melodramatic threats against England, his anti-Russian demonstration over the Suez Canal, which he had to undertake on instructions from Russia to justify Palmerston’s Russian opposition to the project in the eyes of John Bull — all those things collapsed. It was only against little Portugal that he could show his muscle,[343] in order to put his feebleness as against the great powers in proper relief. Belgium itself began to fortify and even Switzerland declaimed William Tell.[344] The official powers of Europe had obviously made the mistake that so often led astronomers astray in earlier times, miscalculating the period of rotation.

Meanwhile, the two years of the rotation period of the lesser empire’ had elapsed. During the first rotation — 1852 to 1854 — a silent decay had taken place, which could be smelt but not heard.

The Russian war was its safety valve. It was different during the cycle of 1856 to 1858. The pseudo-Bonaparte had been flung back to the moment of the coup d'état by the internal development of France. Orsini’s bombs had flashed lightning. Miss Coutts’ unlucky lover had to abdicate to his generals. France (an unheard-of event) was divided into five general capitanates in the Spanish manner[345] — the operation being conducted under the auspices of tympanites-afflicted Eugénie. The establishment of a regency transferred the power in fact from the imperialist Quasimodo to Pélissier, the Orleanist roaster of Arabian human flesh.[346] But the revived terreur did not produce any scare. The Dutch nephew of the battle of Austerlitz seemed not terrible but grotesque. N'est pas monstre qui veut. Montalembert could play Hampden in Paris, and Proudhon in Brussels proclaimed Louis-Philippism with an acte additionnel. The rebellion at Châlon proved that even the army viewed the restored empire as a pantomime whose finale was approaching.[347]

Louis Bonaparte had once more reached the fateful point at which official Europe had to realise that the danger of revolution could only be averted by travestying a new article of the old Napoleonic programme. The travesty had begun with Napoleon’s end, the Russian campaign. Why not continue it with Napoleon’s beginning, the Italian campaign? Of all the characters in the European drama, Austria was the least grata. Prussia had to avenge the Congress of Warsaw, the battle of Bronzell and the march to the North Sea.[348] Palmerston had for a long time certified his striving for civilisation by hatred of Austria. Russia saw with terror that Austria had announced that its bank would resume payments in specie. When in 1846 Austria’s treasury showed no deficit for the first time in human memory, Russia had given the signal for the Cracow revolution.[349] Finally, Austria was the bête noire of liberal Europe. Therefore, Louis Bonaparte’s second theatrical Attila campaign had to be against Austria, under the usual conditions: no war indemnities, no extension of the French frontiers, “localised” war within the bounds of common sense, i.e., within the territory necessary for a second glorious blood-letting for France.

Under these circumstances, since once again a comedy was being performed, Prussia believed the moment had come for it too to play a major part, with the agreement of its overlords and good assurance. The treaty of Villafranca[350] put it in the pillory as a dupe before all Europe. In view of its great advance in constitutionalism, an advance demonstrable in the geometrical progression of its national debt, it believed it in order to plaster over the wound with a blue book of its own make[351]. We shall listen to its apology in an article.


If the Prussia of the regency speaks as it writes, it is easy to explain its talent, newly proved in the European comedy of errors, not only to misunderstand but also to be misunderstood. In this it has a certain similarity with Falstaff, who not only was witty himself but was also the cause of other people’s wit.

On April 14 Archduke Albrecht arrived in Berlin, where he stayed until April 20. He had a secret to tell the Regen t a and a proposal to make. The secret was the imminent Austrian ultimatum to Victor Emmanuel. The proposal was a war on the Rhine. Archduke Albrecht would operate beyond the Upper Rhine with 260,000 Austrians and the South German Confederate corps, while the Prussian and North German corps, under Prussian command, would form a northern army on the Rhine. Instead of a “Confederation Generalissimo” Francis Joseph and the Prince Regent would make the decisions jointly from a headquarters.

Prussia, with restrained indignation, not only rejected the war plan out of hand but “made the most pressing representations to Archduke Albrecht against the rash procedure of the ultimatum”.

When Prussia brings the donkey-power (large machines are, as we know, rated by horsepower) of its verbose cunning into play, no one can stand up against it, least of all an Austrian. The regent and his four satellites — Schleinitz, Auerswald, Bonin and Herr Dr. Zabel — were “convinced” that they had “convinced” Austria.

“When Archduke Albrecht,” says a semi-official Prussian statement, “left Berlin on April 20, it was believed that the bold plan had been put off for the moment.... But — alas! — a few hours after his departure the telegraph from Vienna announced the dispatch of the ultimatum!”

After the war had broken out, Prussia refused to declare its neutrality. Schleinitz, in a “Dispatch to the Prussian missions at the German courts, dated Berlin, June 24”, reveals to us the secret of this heroic decision.

“Prussia,” he whispers, “has never abandoned its position as interceding power” (another dispatch says mediation power). “Its major effort since war broke out was, on the contrary, directed towards maintaining this position by declining to guarantee its neutrality, keeping clear: of any commitment on any side and thus remaining completely impartial and free for interceding action.”

In other words: Austria and France, the contending parties, will exhaust one another in the war “localised” for the time being in Italy, while England as a neutral (!) stays far in the background. the neutrals have paralysed themselves, and the fighters’ hands are tied because they have to use their fists. Between the ones and the others Prussia floats “completely impartial and free”, a Euripidean deus ex machina. The middleman has always come off better than the extremes. Christ got further than Jehovah, St. Peter further than Christ, the priest further than the saints, and Prussia, the armed mediator, will get further than the rivals and the neutrals. Contingencies must arise in which Russia and England will give the signal to put an end to the comedy. Then they will slip their secret instructions into Prussia’s pocket from behind, while it wears its Brennus[352] mask in front. France will not know whether Prussia is mediating on behalf of Austria; Austria will not know whether Prussia is mediating for France; neither will know whether Prussia is not mediating against both of them for Russia and England. Prussia will have the right to — ask the confidence of “all sides” and arouse mistrust on every side. Its lack of commitment will corn ‘ mit everybody. If Prussia were to declare itself neutral, then nothing would prevent Bavaria and other members of the Confederation from taking sides with Austria. But as armed mediator, with the neutral great powers to protect it on its flanks and in the rear, with the misty image of its always menacing “German” great exploit in prospect, it might well hope, while moving in strides as mysterious as they were long-measured to save Austria, by trickery eventually to gain hegemony in Germany at a discount. As the mouthpiece of England and Russia it could impose itself on the German Confederation, and as pacifier of the German Confederation insinuate itself into the good graces of England and Russia.

Not only a German great power but a European great power and also a “mediation power” and tyrant of the Confederation into the bargain! We shall see in the course of events how Schleinitz gets more and more entangled in this sequence of ideas, as cunning as it is noble. The fifth wheel of the European wagon of state up to now, the great power “by courtesy”, the character “on sufferance” a in the European drama[353] — this same Prussian is now entrusted with the grandiose position of the quos ego! And that not because he draws his sword but only shoulders his musket, without shedding anything more than the tears of the regent and the ink of his satellites. It was not really Prussia’s fault that the glory even of “Mittler” of Goethe’s Wahlverwandtschaften remained incomprehensible.

Prussia realised that in the first act the advisable course was to pinprick Austria, avoid the slightest suspicion on the part of Louis Bonaparte and above all to recommend itself to Russia and England by good behaviour.

“It was not easy,” as Schleinitz admits in the above-mentioned dispatch, “to achieve this goal, so important for our own interests, given the agitation that prevailed in many German states. In addition, we need hardly mention that the direction of our policy in this diverged from that of a large number of German governments and that Austria in particular was not in agreement with it.”

Despite all these difficulties Prussia successfully played the part of the gendarme of the German Confederation. It developed its mediating action from the end of April to the end of May, forcing its fellow Confederation members to remain inactive.

“Our efforts,” Schleinitz says euphemistically, “were directed above all towards preventing premature involvement of the Confederation in the war.”

At the same time the Berlin Cabinet opened the sluices of the liberal press, which assured the citizen, in black and white, that if Bonaparte was going into Italy, it was only for the purpose of freeing Germany from Austria and establishing German unity under the hero who certainly belongs to the nation, since he has already once been declared “national property”.[354]

What made Prussia’s operation a little difficult was that it had the mission “in its own good time” not only to mediate but to mediate “under arms”. While it was to suppress the cries for war, it had at the same time to call to arms. While it was issuing the arms, it had to warn against using them:

Don’t play with the firearm,
It feels pain just like you.

“But if we,” says Schleinitz, “simultaneously took all the steps for ensuring the security of Germany, which lies between the two warring great powers, and if, likewise, the Confederate agencies, with our cooperation, unremittingly took precautionary defence measures, then the new duty arose for us to see that these precautionary measures did not change suddenly into means of attack and thereby seriously compromise the Confederation’s position and our own”

At the same time, the “mediation power” obviously could not always proceed unilaterally in the same direction. Moreover, dangerous symptoms appeared.

“There were,” Schleinitz says, “to our great distress, indications of prospective special arrangements in the direction deviating from our policy, and here the seriousness of the situation could not but arouse the fear that this might increasingly strengthen the tendency towards a dissolution of the Confederation relationships.”

In order to guard against these “inconveniences” and begin the second act of the “mediation”, General Willisen went on a mission to Vienna. Its results are given in Schleinitz’s dispatch, dated Berlin, June 14, addressed to Werther, the Prussian ambassador in Vienna.’ So long as Schleinitz is only writing to the members of the German Confederation he uses the well-known Prussian government counsellor style in ordinary. If he is writing to foreign great powers, this is fortunately in a language he does not know. But his dispatches to Austria! Yard-long tapeworm sentences, steeped in the green sentimental soap of Gothaism, powdered with the dry bureaucratic sand of the Uckermark[355] and half drowned in streams of the perfidious Berlin treacle.


If we analyse a part of the Berlin blue book, which is now three weeks old, in greater detail, this is not because of an antiquarian whim or interest in Brandenburg history. Rather, these are documents that are now being trumpeted abroad by German liberals and democrats as proofs of Prussia’s future imperial calling.

Schleinitz’s last dispatch to General Willisen arrived in Vienna on May 27. Werther’s dispatches to Schleinitz concerning Willisen’s reception by the imperial Cabinet are dated May 29 and 31. They were left unanswered for half a month. In order to gloss over all the contradictions between the original “mission” and its subsequent “interpretation”, both Schleinitz’s dispatches to Willisen and Werther’s dispatches to Schleinitz are suppressed in the Prussian blue book, as are all the negotiations between the Prince Regent and Boustrapa.[356] Rechberg, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, could not in any way produce the original text, since Willisen and Werther were not to give him copies of the Prussian dispatches but only read them to him. One can imagine the position of a Minister who may not read a sentence construction like the following but has to hear it:

“Guided by the desire,” says Schleinitz, “to have full clarity prevail in so important a matter, I had been careful in my letter directed to General von Willisen to indicate our position very definitely, both in relation to what we intended to do from our side under certain circumstances and in relation to the assumptions that must necessarily underlie the action we had in view.”

Before Schleinitz set about making an official interpretation of the Willisen mission to Vienna, he had, with characteristic prudence, let events pass him by. The Austrian army had lost the battle of Magenta, evacuated all the Lombard fortresses and was in full retreat behind the Chiese. Gorchakov’s circular dispatch to the small German states, in which he peremptorily orders strict neutrality under menace of the knout, had found its way into the press. Derby, suspected of secret sympathy with Austria, resigned and was replaced by Palmerston. Finally, on June 14, the date of Schleinitz’s dispatch to Werther, the Preussischer Staats-Anzeiger published an order for the mobilisation of six Prussian army corps. Willisen’s mission to Vienna, followed by this mobilisation! All Germany was full of Prussia’s heroic prudence and prudent heroism.

We come at last to Schleinitz’s dispatch to the Prussian ambassador in Vienna. “Magnanimous words” had fallen from the regent’s lips. Willisen had moreover oracularly uttered “the most honourable intentions”, “the most unselfish plans” and “the most trustful trust”, and Count Rechberg had “expressed his agreement with the standpoint we have taken”,’ but in the end that same Rechberg, a Vienna Socrates, wanted to bring the debate down from the heaven of phrases to solid earth. He attached “particular value” to “seeing the Prussian intentions formulated”. And so Prussia, through Schleinitz’s pen, prepares to bring the “intention” of the Willisen “mission” to “precision”. Accordingly, he “sums up in what follows the intentions we made known to them in the exchange of thoughts that took place in Vienna”, which summing up we recapitulate in brief here. The point of Willisen’s mission was this: To say that Prussia had “fixed intentions, on an explicit assumption”. Schleinitz- would have done better to say that Prussia had flexible intentions on a fixed assumption. The assumption was that Austria would leave the initiative in the German Confederation to Prussia, renounce separate treaties with German courts, in a word, temporarily abandon the hegemony in Germany to Prussia; the intention was to ensure Austria’s “territorial possessions in Italy based on the treaties of 1815” and “work for peace on that basis”. The relations of Austria to the other Italian states and “the relations among the latter” were regarded by Prussia as “an open question”. Were Austria’s “Italian possessions to be seriously threatened”, Prussia would ,,attempt an armed mediation” and

“according to the success thereof in reaching the goal indicated above, act in such a way thereafter as its duties as a European power and the lofty calling of the German nation require”.

“It is,” says the disinterested Schleinitz, “in our own interest not to be too late with our intervention. But the choice of the moment, both for the mediation and for the further action of Prussia resulting therefrom, must be reserved to the free judgment of the royal court.”

Schleinitz asserts, first, that this “exchange of thoughts” mediated by Willisen was designated as an “exchange of opinions” by Rechherg; secondly, that the intentions and assumptions of Prussia “had to have the approval of the imperial court”, and thirdly, that Rechberg, an enemy of pure thought, as it appears, wanted the “exchange of thoughts” transformed into an “exchange of notes”, “the agreement of the two cabinets authenticated in writing”, in a word, wanted to see the Prussian “assumption” and the Prussian “intention” “stated” in black and white. At this point Schleinitz’s ‘noble consciousness’ revolts. What is Rechberg’s unreasonable suggestion aimed at? Actually, the transformation of our “most secret political thoughts, revealed in confidence, into binding assurances”. Schleinitz engages in real secret political exercises in thought, and Rechberg tries to tie down the unapproachable idea in profane notes! Quelle horreur for a Berlin thinker! What is more, such an exchange of notes would amount to a “guarantee” of the Austrian-Italian possessions. As if Prussia wanted to guarantee anything! What is more, the exchange of thoughts, wantonly transformed into an exchange of notes, could “immediately and logically be regarded by the French and Russian side as an engagement formel and as entry into the war”. As if Prussia would ever think of entering into a war or compromising itself on any side, and especially the French and Russian! Finally, though, and this is the main point, such an exchange of notes would “obviously make the contemplated attempt at mediation impossible”. But Austria must realise that the question is not its Italian possessions, nor the 1815 treaties, nor French usurpation, nor Russian world domination, nor any kind of profane interests, but that the European complications were only introduced in order to improvise Prussia’s new lofty “position” as “mediation power”. Shakespeare’s poor devil, who wakes up as a lord after having gone to sleep as a tinker, does not speak more movingly than Schleinitz, once he is overcome by the fixed idea of Prussia’s calling to be the “armed mediation power” of Europe. He is stung and disturbed, as if by a tarantula, by the “uneasy conviction that he ought to act up to his newborn sublimity of character”.

The “trust” with which Schleinitz whispers into Rechberg’s car the fixed idea of Prussia’s calling as mediation power makes him, as he says, “hope to find in the imperial court a trust corresponding to ours”. Rechberg, for his part, wants a copy of this curious note of Schleinitz. To document the Prussian trust Werther explains that he is, “according to his instructions”, empowered to read the note orally but by no means to hand over the corpus delicti. Rechberg then requests that Werther accompany him to Francis Joseph in Verona, so that the latter “might at least orally obtain full and exact knowledge of Prussia’s views”. Prussian trust is averse to this unreasonable suggestion too, and Rechberg remarks, with ironical resignation, that if he in “his answer may not have been able to follow all the arguments of the Berlin dispatch completely and correctly”, this would be due to the fact that he knew Schleinitz’s constructions only by hearsay.

Rechberg’s answer, directed to Koller, the Austrian ambassador in Berlin, is dated Verona, June. 22. It suggests doubts as to the consonance of Willisen’s mission at the end of May with the Berlin interpretation of that mission in mid-June.

“After my previous conferences with him” (Werther) “and General von Willisen,” Rechherg says, “I had not believed that the Berlin Cabinet would still persist in aloofness to us to such an extent as even to avoid any written documentation of its intentions.”

Even less had Willisen’s mission prepared Rechberg for Prussia’s lofty calling as the armed mediation power of Europe. The real point at issue, says Rechberg, is “Europe’s independence as against the supremacy of France”. The events themselves had disclosed the hollowness and triviality of the “pretexts”

“under which our opponents sought to gloss over their real intentions up to the moment of maturity”. “In addition, Prussia had obligations as a member of the German Confederation with which the maintenance of the position of mediator could become incompatible at any moment.”

Finally, Austria’s hope had been to see Prussia “as a participant” on its side and it had therefore from the outset denied its calling as “mediator”. Hence, if Austria had, since the beginning of the Italian complications, declared itself against Prussia’s “attempts to occupy the position of mediator”, obviously it could still less ever approve of an “armed mediation by Prussia”.

“An armed mediation,” Rechberg says, “includes, by the very meaning of the term, a case of war on both sides. Such a case fortunately does not exist between Prussia and Austria, so that we cannot conceive of the possibility of armed mediation by Prussia for the relation between these two powers. It would seem that the name, like the thing itself, must remain forever alien to this relation.”

As we see, Rechberg contradicts Schleinitz’s dispatch and its interpretation of the Willisen mission. He finds Prussia’s tone altered since the end of May; he bluntly denies that Austria ever had recognised the lofty calling of Prussia as armed mediation power. Schleinitz owes an explanation of this misunderstanding No. 2 (the first occurred between Archduke Albrecht and the Prince Regent) by publishing his dispatches to Willisen and those of Werther to himself.

By the way, Rechberg replies as an Austrian, and why should the Austrian change his spots vis-a-vis the Prussian? Why should not Prussia “guarantee” Austria’s possessions in Italy? Does not such a guarantee, Rechberg asks, correspond to the spirit of the Vienna treaties?

“In the period after the Congress of Vienna, and indeed down to our days, could France have hoped to find only a single opponent if it tried to contravene an important part of the European order set up by treaty? France could not think of infringing the relations of possession by a localised war.”

Moreover, an “exchange of notes” is not a “treaty guarantee”. Austria only “wanted to have official notice” of Prussia’s good intentions. In the meantime, to please Schleinitz, it would keep his quite secret political thoughts quite secret. As regards peace, Rechberg remarks, Prussia could make as many proposals to France for peace as it liked,

“provided that these proposals leave intact the territorial status of 1815 and the sovereign rights of Austria and the other princes of Italy”.

In other words, Austria, in its “confidential communications to Prussia” as mediation power, was not inclined to go beyond meaningless commonplaces. But once Prussia

“came in as an active ally, there could be no question of drawing up peace conditions except by mutual understandings”.

Finally, Rechberg puts his finger on the Prussian scars. Austria had agreed to the “intention” of the Prussian initiative in the Diet on the “assumption” of the conversion of the Prussian exchange of thoughts into an exchange of notes. The conclusion falls with the premise. Even Schleinitz, with his curious comprehension, should “comprehend” that, since Berlin “has in no respect assumed binding obligations”, since it has itself pushed “the moment of its decisions to be taken in the form of armed mediation” back into the azure “future and reserved its freedom of option”, Vienna for its part “must keep its freedom in the domain of relationships of the German Confederation undiminished”.

Prussia’s attempt surreptitiously to usurp from Austria the supremacy in Germany and to get.full powers for the sublime role of European mediation power, had thus decisively miscarried, whereas the mobilisation of the six Prussian army corps had taken place. Prussia owed Europe an explanation. And so, in a “circular dispatch dated June 19 to the Prussian embassies to the European powers”, Schleinitz states:

“By means of its mobilisation Prussia has taken a position more in keeping with the present situation, without abandoning the principles of moderation.... Prussia’s policy has remained the same as it has pursued from the beginning of the complication of the Italian question. But now Prussia has also brought its means for contributing to a solution to the level of the situation.”

And not to leave any doubt either as to the policy or the means, the dispatch ends by saying that it “is Prussia’s intention to forestall divisions of Germany”. The regency felt that it had to weaken even this pitiful declaration by “very confidential” communications to France. just before the war broke out, G., a painter of battle scenes,’ and a mutual friend of Boustrapa and the regent, had been entrusted with a mission from the former to Berlin. He brought back the friendliest of reassurances. At the time of the mobilisation, however, official and semi-official protestations had found their way to Paris, bearing this message:

“It is hoped that France will not interpret Prussia’s military measures in a bad light. We have no illusions; we know how impolitic a war against France would be, what dangerous consequences it would have. But we hope the Emperor will realise the difficult position we are in. The Prince Regent’s government is being pushed and shoved from all sides. We are confronted with mistrustful sensibilities and are compelled to spare them.”


“We shall mobilise but it should not be believed that this is an offensive measure against France. In his capacity as quasi-head of the German Confederation the Regent has the duty not only to protect the Confederation’s interests but also to adopt a position within it that would allow him to prevent precipitate actions and impose his policy of moderation on the other German states. We trust that the Emperor will understand this fully and do all he can to ease our task.”

The Prussian fiddling took the comic course of suggesting to the French government:

“It is hoped that the government newspapers will not praise Prussia too much at the expense of Bavaria, Saxony, etc. That could only compromise Prussia.”

Hence Walewski had a perfect right to say in his circular dispatch of June 20:

“The new military measures taken in Prussia cause us no concern .... The Prussian government states that it has no other intention, in mobilising a parf of its army, than to protect Germany’s security and put itself in a position to exert a just influence on further arrangements for agreement with the other two great powers.”

Prussia’s lofty calling as armed mediation power had become such a byword among the great powers that Walewski could make the poor witticism that Prussia was mobilising not against France but against “the other two great powers”, which otherwise might deprive it of its “just” influence on the “arrangements for agreement”.

Thus ended the second act of the Prussian mediation.


The first act of the Prussian mediation, from the end of April to the end of May, sentenced Germany to la mort sans phrase.’ In the second act, from the end of May to June 24, the hamstringing of the “great fatherland” was adorned by the empty words of the Willisen mission and the arabesque of the Prussian mobilisation. An afterpiece of this second act was played at the smaller German courts, who got to listen to a note from Schleinitz. Schleinitz, like Stieber, likes “mixed” oral procedure. We cite here only two passages from his above-mentioned note, dated Berlin, June 24, “to the Prussian missions at the German courts”. Why did Prussia deny the Austrian wish to transform the “exchange of thoughts” into an “exchange of notes"?

“The fulfilment of this wish,” Schleinitz whispers to the German courts, “would be equivalent to a guarantee of Lombardy. Assuming such an obligation in the face of indefinite eventualities was something that Prussia could not do.”

Thus, from the point of view of Berlin the loss of Lombardy was neither “a serious menace to the Austrian possessions in Italy” nor “the definite eventuality” the Prussian sword was waiting for to spring from its scabbard.

“In addition,” Schleinitz continues, “any commitment of a formal nature that could affect our position as mediation power would have to be avoided.”

It was not the purpose of Prussian mediation, therefore, to alter the “indefinite eventualities” in the interest of Austria; rather, it was the vocation of all possible eventualities to leave “the position of Prussia as mediation power” unaltered. While Prussia categorically demands that Austria give up the initiative in the German Confederation, it gives Austria the hypothetical equivalent of Prussian good will, guaranteed by Prussian good intentions. Onion soup with raisin sauce, as the Berlin errand-boy says.

In the third act of the mediation Prussia finally appears as a European great power, and Schleinitz prepares a dispatch in two copies, one addressed to Count Bernstorff in London, the other to Baron Bismarck in Petersburg, one to be read to Lord John Russell, the other to be read to Prince Gorchakov. Half the dispatch consists of obeisances and excuses. Prussia has mobilised a part of its armed forces, and Schleinitz is inexhaustible in his motivation of this bold deed. In the general circular letter to the European great powers, dated June 19, it was the security, of the territory of the German Confederation, the role as armed mediation power, and particularly “forestalling divisions of Germany”.’ In the letter to the members of the German Confederation, “this measure” was to “tie down the military armed d forces of France and alleviate Austria’s position considerably”. In the dispatch to England and Russia it is “the arming of the neighbours”, the “supervision of events”, the “approach of the war to the German frontier”, dignity, interests, calling and so forth. But “on the other hand” and “nonetheless” and “I repeat, Herr Graf, Herr Baron”, Prussia is arming in all good faith. It is “certainly not its intention to add new complications”. It strives for “no other goal than it strove for a short time ago in agreement with England and Russia”. Nous nentendons pas malice,[we mean no harm] Schleinitz cries out.

“What we desire” is “peace”, and “we appeal in full confidence to the cabinets of London and Petersburg, so as to find out, together with them, the means of putting a stop to the bloodshed.”

In order to show itself worthy of the confidence of England and Russia, Prussia swears to two Russian-English theses: the first is that Austria brought on the war by the ultimatums; the second, that the fight is over liberal-administrative reforms and the dissolution of the Austrian protectorate over neighbouring Italian states. Adjustment of the rights of the Austrian imperial house with a national liberal “work of reorganisation”, that is what Prussia is aiming at. Finally, Prussia believes, as Schleinitz says, Louis Bonaparte’s self-denying declarations.

And these platitudinous insipidities are all that Prussia, “with full confidence and candid openness”, stutters out in embarrassment to the neutral great powers concerning its “mediation plans”. Schleinitz, “the sober, modest youth”, is afraid of “prejudicing the question to a certain extent if he should make his ideas more precise”. Only the fixed idea finally pops up: Prussia believes itself “called to be an armed mediation power”. May England and Russia recognise this vocation! May they

“express their views about a solution of the present complications and the way in which it could be made acceptable to the warring parties”.

May they, in particular, furnish Prussia with instructions that permit it, under high sovereign licence, so to speak avec garantie du gouvernement, to take over the role of mediating lion! Prussia, thus, wants to play the European lion, but in the capacity of Snug the joiner.

Lion: Then know, that I, one Snug, the joiner, am
A lion-fell, nor else no lion’s dam:
For if I should as lion come in strife
Into this place, ‘twere pity on my life.
Theseus: A very gentle beast, and of a good conscience.
Lysander: This lion is a very fox for his valour.
Theseus: True; and a goose for his discretion.

Schleinitz’s dispatch is dated June 24, the day of the battle of Solferino. Both copies of the dispatch were still lying on Schleinitz’s desk when the news of the Austrian defeat arrived in Berlin. At the same time a dispatch of Lord John Russell came in the mail, “in which Mr. Brougham’s little man” of old, the “tom-tit of English liberalism”, the herald of the Irish “coercion-bills”,[357] initiated Prussia into Palmerston’s Italian ideas. Mag deburg is not on the Mincio nor Biickeburg on the Adige, any more than Harwich is on the Ganges or Salford on the Sutlej. But Louis Bonaparte has declared that he does not covet Magdeburg and Bückeburg. Then why irritate the Gallic cock by Teutonic crudeness? Jack Russell even discovers that when the “victory” has been “decided” on the battlefield., “the combatants will probably be very willing to put an end to the exhausting struggle”. Supported by this ingenious discovery, chiding Germany’s desire for war, praising Prussia’s “moderate and enlightened conduct”, Russell warns Schleinitz to imitate England “quite as exactly” “as conditions in Germany will permit”!! Finally “Jack of all trades, recalls Prussia’s “lofty calling to mediation” and, with his customary little sweet-and-sour smirk, the little man leaves his pupil in constitutionalism with the consoling words:

“A time may perhaps come very soon when the voice of friendly and conciliatory powers can be successfully heard, and ideas of peace no longer remain without effect!” (Russell’s dispatch to Lord Bloomfield in Berlin, dated London, June 22.)

Footnotes from MECW

335 The expedition to Egypt — the reference is to the landing of the French army, commanded by General Bonaparte, in Egypt in the summer of 1798 and to this army’s subsequent campaigns to subdue Egypt and Syria. Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt ended in failure in 1801.

The Society of December 10 — a secret Bonapartist organisation founded in 1849 and consisting mainly of declassed elements. For a detailed account of this society see Marx’s work The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

On the parade in Satory see Note 148.

The 18th Brumaire (November 9, 1799)-the day of the coup d'état which led to the establishment of Napoleon Bonaparte’s military dictatorship.

336 The reference is to the secret peace negotiations between France and Russia in 1855 which were conducted through Baron Seebach. Saxony’s envoy in Paris and son-in-law of Russia’s Foreign Minister, Count Nesseirode.

337 At the Paris Congress of 1856, Count Orlov, head of the Russian delegation, and Brunnow, a member of the delegation, played on Anglo-French contradictions; the congress saw the beginning of rapprochement between France and Russia.

338 In 1856-60 Napoleon III, in an effort to consolidate his influence in the Balkans, supported Danilo I, Prince of Montenegro, in his opposition to Turkey’s encroachments on Montenegro. Accordingly, Danilo I sought personal friendship with Napoleon Ill and the latter became the godfather of the Montenegro heir.

In 1851-52 Jakob Venedey published a number of articles on Louis Bonaparte and his coup d'état in the Hanover Zeitung für Norddeutschland.

339 The Turkish fortress of Kars, fortified by the British, was surrendered to the Russians in November 1855. Despite the fact that British officers headed by General Williams directed the defence of the fortress, the conduct of the British Government towards the Kars defenders was rather ambiguous, for secretly it was interested in weakening “allied” Turkey. For details oil this see Marx’s article “The Fall of Kars” (present edition, Vol. 14). Upon Williams’ return from Russian captivity in 1856, the British Government arranged a pompous reception and gave him awards and honorary titles.

340 The reference is to Athens and Constantinople where French troops were stationed during the Crimean war.

341 At one of the last sittings of the Paris Congress of 1856 the French Foreign Minister Walewski demanded that the Belgian newspapers should stop attacking Napoleon III. He was supported by representatives of other states.

342 An allusion to France’s participation in the second Opium war (1856-60) against China.

On the election of Colonel Alexandru Cuza hospodar of Moldavia and Wallachia see Note 212.

343 See Note 219.

344 An allusion to Switzerland’s discontent with Napoleon III’s interference in the internal affairs of the country. In early 1858 Napoleon Ill demanded that the Swiss Government extradite political refugees accused of taking part in Orsini’s plot.

345 By the decree of January 27, 1858, the territory of the Second Empire was divided, in the Spanish manner, into five military districts headed by marshals.

346 The decree on the regency and the establishment of the Privy Council was issued on February 1, 1858, soon after Orsini’s attempt on Napoleon 111. Pélissier was a member of the Council, which was to become the Regency Council if the Emperor’s minor son acceded to the throne.

Marx refers to Pélissier’s barbarous actions in 1845, during the suppression of an uprising in Algeria, when he ordered a thousand Arab insurgents who had hidden in mountain caves to be suffocated by smoke front fires.

347 At the end of 1858 the French journalist Montalembert was pot on trial for writing an article condemning the regime of the Second Empire. Montalembert was pardoned by Napoleon Ill but rejected the pardon and demanded his acquittal. Marx draws a parallel between this trial and that of John Hampden, a prominent figure in the English seventeenth-century revolution, who refused to pay “ship money” — a tax not authorised by the House of Commons — and was put on trial in 1637. The Hampden trial increased the opposition to absolutism in England.

Acte additionnel — constitutional regulations introduced by Napoleon I in France in 1815 upon his return from the island of Elbe. Drawing a parallel between the Bonaparte and Orleans dynasties, in his pamphlet De la justice dans la révolution et dans l'église, Proudhon gave preference to the principles of government proclaimed by the Orleanists but with reservations concerning the necessity of certain democratic reforms. Marx ironically compares these reservations with the Acte additionnel.

On the rebellion at Châlon see Note 39.

348 On the negotiations in Warsaw between Prussia and Austria, and on the battle of Bronzell see Note 198.

By the “march to the North Sea” Marx means the entry of the Austrian troops in Holstein in the winter of 1851. See Note 228.

349 See Note 215.

350 See Note 315.

351 The “blue books of its own make” is what Marx, by analogy with the English Blue Books, calls the diplomatic documents of the Austro-Italo-French war of 1859, published in July 1859 in a number of German newspapers. Many of them were, for example, published in the Neue Prussische Zeitung, Nos. 170, 171 and 174, July 24, 26 and 29, 1859. A more complete collection was published in the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, Nos. 210 (supplement), 211 and 212 (supplement), July 29, 30 and 31, 1859.

352 The Gauls who invaded Rome in 390 B.C. are said to have agreed, after a prolonged siege of the Capitol, to leave the city in return for a big ransom. But when the gold was being weighed, the Gauls’ leader Brennus cried “Vac victis!” (Woe to the defeated!) and threw his heavy sword on the scales, thus violating the agreement.

353 By courtesy — see Note 222.

On sufferance — in English law, the condition of one who continues to hold property without express leave from the owner.

354 After the flight of the Prince of Prussia to England during the March 1848 revolution his palace in Berlin was declared “national property”.

355 Gothaisms is what Marx calls the pompous declarations of the Gotha party.

Uckermark — a northern part of the Brandenburg Province (Prussia), the mainstay of the reactionary Prussian Junkers.

356 Boustrapa — nickname of Louis Bonaparte, composed of the first syllables of the names of the places where he and his supporters staged Bonapartist puts(.hes: Boulogne (August 1840), Strasbourg (October 1846) and Paris (the coup d'état of December 2, 185 1).

357 Coercion bills — exceptional laws adopted by the British Parliament to suppress the revolutionary movement in Ireland. Marx is referring, in particular, to the 1833 law (see Note 105) and the 1848 law: An Act for the Better Prevention of Crime and Outrage in Certain Parts of Ireland.