Articles by Karl Marx in Die Presse 1861

News From America

Written: December, 1861;
Source: Marx/Engels Collected Works, Volume 19;
Publisher: Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964;
First Published: Die Presse No. 346, December 17, 1861;
Online Version: 1999;
Transcribed: S. Ryan;
HTML Markup: Tim Delaney.

London, Dec. 13, 1861

The news of the Harvey Birch's fate and the presence of the cruiser Nashville in Southampton harbour reached New York on November 29, but does not seem to have caused the sensational effect on which certain circles here counted just as much as others, the anti-war groups, feared it. On this occasion the force of one shock wave was broken by that of another. For New York was just in the throes of an election campaign, since voting for a new mayor was to take place on December 3. Mr. Russell, the envoy of The Times in Washington, who ruins his Celtic talent by affected Englishness, pretends supercilious surprise at this pre-election commotion. Mr. Russell of course plays up to the illusions of the London cockney, who imagines that the election of a New York mayor is just as much a display of antiquated tomfoolery as is the election of a Lord Mayor in London. It is well known that the Lord Mayor of London is not concerned at all with the greater part of London. He is nominally the regent of the City, a mythological phenomenon which attempts to prove that it really exists by producing good turtle soup at banquets and bad judgments in cases of infringement of police regulations. Only in the fancy of Parisian writers of vaudevilles and of news items for the press does the Lord Mayor of London still remain an important political personage. The Mayor of New York on the other hand is a real power. At the beginning of the secession movement, the notorious Fernando Wood, the previous Mayor, was about to declare New York an independent city republic, of course in agreement with Jefferson Davis. His plan was thwarted by the energy of the Republican Party of the Empire City.

Charles Sumner from Massachusetts, a member of the Senate -- where he was attacked by a cane-wielding Senator from the South at the time of the Kansas affair -- made a brilliant speech on the origin and hidden motives of the slave-owners' rebellion at a well-attended meeting in the Cooper Institute of New York on November 27. After his address the meeting passed the following resolution:

The doctrine of the emancipation of the slaves of rebels advanced by General Fremont, as well as pronouncements subsequently made by General Burnside, Senator Wilson, George Bancroft (the famous historian), Colonel Cochrane and Simon Cameron, which point to the anticipated eradication of slavery as the cause of the rebellion, express a moral, political and military necessity. This meeting considers that public opinion in the North is now definitely prepared to support any practical plan for the eradication of slavery -- this national misfortune -- that might be proposed, and it regards such a result as the only consistent conclusion of this fight between civilisation and barbarism.

The New-York Tribune makes the following remark about Sumner's speech:

"The allusion of Mr. Sumner to the coming discussions of Congress on this subject" (slavery), "will kindle a hope that that body will understand where Southern weakness and Northern strength really lie, and will seize the instrumentality by which the rebellion is to be brought to a speedy and final extirpation."

A personal letter from Mexico contains inter alia the following passage:

"The British ambassador plays the part of an enthusiastic friend of President Juárez's Administration.... People well versed in Spanish intrigues assert that General Marquez has been instructed by Spain to rally the scattered forces, both the Mexican and the Spanish elements, of the Church party. This party is then supposed to use an opportunity, which is expected to present itself soon, to beg Her Catholic Majesty to provide a king for the throne of Mexico. An uncle of the Queen is said to have been chosen for this office. Since the man is old he would in the natural course of events soon quit the scene, and as any clause designating a successor was to be avoided, Mexico would revert to Spain. Thus the same policy would carry the day in Mexico as in Haiti."