Articles by Karl Marx in Die Presse 1862

A Treaty Against the Slave Trade

Source: MECW Volume 19, p. 202;
Written: on May 18, 1862;
First published: in Die Presse, May 22, 1862.

London, May 18

The Treaty on the suppression of the slave trade concluded between the United States and Britain on April 7 of this year in Washington is now communicated in extenso by the American newspapers. The main points of this important document are the following: The right of search is reciprocal, but can be exercised only by such warships on either side as have received special authority for this purpose from one of the contracting powers. From time to time, the contracting powers supply one another with complete statistics concerning the sections of their navies that have been appointed to keep watch on the traffic in Negroes. The right of search can be exercised only against merchantmen within a distance of 200 miles from the African coast and south of 32° north latitude, and within 30 nautical miles of the coast of Cuba. Search, whether of British ships by American cruisers or of American ships by British cruisers, does not take place in that part of the sea which is British or American territory (therefore within three nautical miles of the coast); no more does it take place just outside the ports or settlements of foreign powers.

Mixed courts, composed half of Englishmen, half of Americans, and resident in Sierra Leone, Capetown and New York will pass judgment on the prize vessels. In the event of a ship’s conviction, her crew will be handed over to the jurisdiction of the nation under whose flag the ship sailed, so far as this can be done without great cost. Not only the crew (including the captain, mate, etc.), but also the owners of the vessel will then incur the penalties customary in the country. Compensation to owners of merchantmen that have been acquitted by the mixed courts is to be paid within a year by the power under whose flag the capturing warship sailed. Not only the presence of captive Negroes is regarded as affording legal grounds for the seizure of ships, but also special equipment in the ship for the traffic in Negroes, manacles, chains and other instruments for guarding the Negroes and, lastly, stores of provisions that greatly exceed the requirements of the ship’s company. A ship on which such suspicious articles are found has to furnish proof of her innocence and even in the event of acquittal can claim no compensation.

The commander of a cruiser who oversteps the authority conferred on him by the Treaty, is liable to punishment by his respective government. Should the commander of a cruiser of one of the contracting powers harbour a suspicion that a merchant vessel under escort by one or more warships of the other contracting power is carrying Negroes on board, or was engaged in the African slave trade, or is equipped for this trade, he has then to communicate his suspicion to the commander of the escort and search the suspected ship in his presence; the latter is to be conducted to the place of residence of one of the mixed courts if, according to the Treaty, it comes under the category of suspicious ships. The Negroes found on board convicted ships are placed at the disposal of the government under whose flag the capture was made. They are to be set at liberty at once and remain free under guarantee of the government in whose territory they find themselves. The Treaty can only be terminated after ten years It remains in force for a full year from the date of the notice given by one of the contracting parties.

A mortal blow has been dealt the Negro trade by this Anglo-American Treaty — the result of the American Civil War. The effect of the Treaty will be completed by the Bill recently introduced by Senator Sumner, which repeals the law of 1808 dealing with the traffic in Negroes on the coasts of the United States and punishes the transport of slaves from one port of the United States to another as a crime. This Bill does, to a large extent, paralyse the trade that the states raising Negroes (border slave states') are carrying on with the states consuming Negroes (the slave states proper).

Articles by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in Die Presse

The Situation in the American Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 19, p. 204;
Written: on May 23-25, 1862;
First published: in Die Presse, May 30, 1862.

The capture of New Orleans, as the detailed reports now to hand show, is distinguished as an almost unparalleled act of valour on the part of the fleet. The Unionists’ fleet consisted merely of wooden ships: about six warships, each having from 14 to 25 guns, supported by a numerous flotilla of gunboats and mortar vessels. This fleet had before it two forts which blocked the passage of the Mississippi. Within range of the 100 guns of these forts the river was barred by a strong chain, beyond which there was a mass of torpedoes, fire-floats and other instruments of destruction. These first obstacles had therefore to be overcome in order to pass between the forts. On the other side of the forts, however, was a second formidable line of defence, formed by ironclad gunboats, among them the Manassas, an iron ram, and the Louisiana, a powerful floating battery. After the Unionists had bombarded the two forts, which completely command the river, for six days without any effect, they resolved to brave their fire, force the iron barrier in three divisions, sail up the river and risk battle with the “ironsides”. The hazardous enterprise succeeded. As soon as the flotilla effected a landing before New Orleans, the victory was naturally decided.

Beauregard now had nothing more to defend in Corinth. His position there only made sense so long as it covered Mississippi and Louisiana, and especially, New Orleans. He now finds himself strategically in the position that a lost battle would leave him no other choice than to disband his army into guerillas, for. without a large town, where railways and supplies are concentrated, in the rear of his army, he can no longer hold masses of men together.

McClellan has irrefutably proved that he is a military incompetent who, having been raised by favourable circumstances to a commanding and responsible position, wages war not to defeat the foe, but rather not to be defeated by the foe and thus forfeit his own usurped greatness. He bears himself like the old so-called “manoeuvring generals”, who excused their anxious avoidance of any tactical decision with the plea that, by strategic flanking manoeuvres, they obliged the enemy to give up his positions. The Confederates always escape him, because at the decisive moment he never attacks them. Thus, although their plan of retreat had already been announced ten days before even by the New York papers (for example, the Tribune'), he let them retire unmolested from Manassas to Richmond. He then divided his army and flanked the Confederates strategically by establishing himself with one body of troops near Yorktown. Siege warfare always affords an excuse for wasting time and avoiding battle. As soon as he had concentrated a military force superior to the Confederates, he let them retire from Yorktown to Williamsburg and from there further, without forcing them to give battle. A war has never yet been so wretchedly waged. If the rearguard action at Williamsburg ended in defeat for the Confederate rearguard instead of in a second Bull Run for the Union troops, McClellan was in no way responsible for this result.

After a march of about twelve miles (English) in a twenty-four hours’ downpour and through veritable seas of mud, 8,000 Union troops under General Heintzelman (of German descent, but born in Pennsylvania) arrived in the vicinity of Williamsburg and met with only weak enemy pickets. As soon, however, as the enemy had assured himself of their numerically inferior strength, he dispatched from his picked troops at Williamsburg reinforcements that gradually increased the number of his men to 25,000. By nine o'clock in the morning, battle was being waged in earnest; at half past twelve General Heintzelman discovered that the engagement was going in favour of the foe. He sent messenger after messenger to General Kearny, who was eight miles to his rear, but could only push forward slowly since the road had been completely “dissolved” by the rain. For a whole hour Heintzelman remained without reinforcements and the 7th and 8th Jersey regiments, which had expended their stock of powder, began to run for the woods on either side of the road. Heintzelman now made Colonel Menill with a squadron of Pennsylvanian cavalry take up positions on both edges of the forest, under the threat of firing on the fugitives. This brought the latter once more to a standstill.

Order was further restored by the example of a Massachusetts regiment, which had likewise expended its powder, but now fixed bayonets to its muskets and calmly awaited the enemy. At length, Kearny’s vanguard under Brigadier Berry (from the State of Maine) came in sight. Heintzelman’s army welcomed its rescuers with a wild “Hurrah”; he ordered the regimental band to strike up Yankee Doodle and Berry’s fresh forces to form a line almost half a mile in length in front of his exhausted troops. After preliminary musket fire, Berry’s brigade made a bayonet charge at the double and drove the enemy off the battlefield to his earthworks, the largest of which after repeated attacks and counter-attacks remained in the possession of the Union troops. Thus, the equilibrium of the battle was restored. Berry’s arrival had saved the Unionists. The arrival of the brigades of Jameson and Birney at four o'clock decided the victory. At nine o'clock in the evening the retreat of the Confederates from Williamsburg began; on the following day they continued it — in the direction of Richmond — hotly pursued by Heintzelman’s cavalry. On the morning after the battle, between six and seven o'clock, Heintzelman ordered Williamsburg to be occupied by General Jameson. The rearguard of the fleeing enemy had evacuated the town from the opposite end only half an hour before. Heintzelman’s battle was an infantry battle in the true sense of the word. Artillery hardly came into action. Musket fire and bayonet attack were decisive. If the Congress at Washington wanted to pass a vote of thanks, it should have been to General Heintzelman, who saved the Yankees from a second Bull Run, and not to McClellan, who in his wonted fashion avoided “the tactical decision” and let the numerically weaker adversary escape for the third time.

The Confederate army in Virginia has better chances than Beauregard’s army, first because it is facing a McClellan instead of a Halleck, and then because the many rivers on its line of retreat flow crosswise from the mountains to the sea. However, to avoid breaking up into bands without a battle, its generals will sooner or later be forced to accept a decisive battle, just as the Russians were obliged to fight at Srnolensk and Borodino against the will of the generals, who judged the situation correctly. Lamentable as McClellan’s manner of conducting the war has been, the constant withdrawals, accompanied by abandonment of artillery, munitions and other military stores, and simultaneously the small unsuccessful rearguard engagements, have at any rate badly demoralised the Confederates, as will become manifest on the day of a decisive battle. To sum up:

Should Beauregard or Jefferson Davis lose a decisive battle, their armies will then break up into bands. Should one of them win a decisive battle, which is most unlikely, at best the disbanding of their armies will be deferred. They are not in a position to draw the least lasting benefit. even from a victory. They cannot advance 20 English miles without coming to a standstill and again awaiting the renewed offensive of the enemy.

It still remains to examine the chances of a guerilla war. But precisely in respect of the present war of the slaveholders it is most amazing how slight or rather how wholly lacking is the participation of the population in it. In 1813, the communications of the French were continually cut and harassed by Colomb, Lutzow, Chernyshev and twenty other leaders of partisans and Cossacks. In 1812, the population in Russia vanished completely from the French line of march; in 1814, the French peasants armed themselves and slew the patrols and stragglers of the Allies.

But here nothing happens at all. People resign themselves to the fate of the big battles and console themselves with “Victrix causa diis placuit, sed victa Catoni”. The tall talk of war even with knives is going up in smoke. There can be hardly any doubt, it is true, that the white trash, as the planters themselves call the “poor whites”, will attempt guerilla warfare and brigandage. Such an attempt, however, will very quickly transform the propertied planters into Unionists. They will even call the Yankee troops to their aid. The alleged burnings of cotton, etc., on the Mississippi rest exclusively on the testimony of two Kentuckians who are said to have come to Louisville — certainly not on the Mississippi. The conflagration in New Orleans was easily organised. The fanaticism of the New Orleans merchants is explained by the fact that they were obliged to take a quantity of Confederate treasury bonds for hard cash. The conflagration at New Orleans will be repeated in other towns; assuredly, also, there will be a lot more burning; but theatrical coups like this can only bring the dissension between the planters and the “white trash” to a head and therewith — finis secessiae!