Karl Marx in the New-York Tribune 1857

The Oriental Question

Source: New-York Daily Tribune, August 27, 1857;
Transcribed: by Tony Brown.

London, Aug. 11, 1857

The Oriental question, which some fourteen months ago was said to have been settled by a peace at Paris, is now fairly reopened by a diplomatic strike at Constantinople. There the embassies of France, Russia, Prussia and Sardinia have hauled down their flags, and broken off their relations with the Porte. The Embassadors of England arid Austria. backing the resistance of the Divan against the demands of the Four Powers, simultaneously declared they should not shun any responsibility likely to arise out of the conflict.

These events occurred on the 6th of the present month. The story of the drama is the old one, but the dramatis personae have shifted parts, and the plot is made to bear some air of novelty, through the contrivance of a new mise en scène. It is now not Russia, but France, that occupies the vanguard. M. Thouvenel, her Embassador at Constantinople, in a somewhat affected, Menchikoff strain, imperiously. called upon the Porte to annul the Moldavian elections, because Vogorides, the Kaimakam of Moldavia, by. unfair interference, and in violation of the treaty of Paris, had contrived to give the Anti-Unionists a majority of representatives. The Porte demurred to this dictation, but declared itself willing to summon the Kaimakam to Constantinople, there to answer the accusations brought forward against his administration. This proposal M. Thouvenel haughtily rejected, insisting on the inquiry into the electoral operations being handed over to the European Commission of reorgariization installed at Bucharest. Since the majority of that Commission is formed of the Commissioners of France, Russia, Prussia and Sardinia, the very parties working for the union of the Danubian Provinces, and charging Vogorides with the crime of illegal interference, the Porte, pushed on by the Embassadors of Great Britain and Austria, of course declined making its avowed antagonists the judges in their own cause. Then the catastrophe took place.

The real point in question is evidently the same that gave origin to the Russian war, viz., the virtual separation of the Danubian Provinces from Turkey, this time attempted not in the form of a “material guarantee,” but in the form of a union of the Principalities under the sway of a European puppet-prince. Russia, in her calm, circumspect, patient way, never swerves from her settled purpose. Already she has succeeded in arraying, in an affair in which she alone is interested, some of her enemies against the rest, and may thus expect to subdue the one by the other’. As to Bonaparte, he is actuated by various motives. He hopes to find a safety-valve against disaffection at home by complication abroad. He is immensely flattered that Russia deigns to figure in a French mask, and allows him to lead the dance. His empire of fictions must content itself with theatrical triumphs, arid, in the depths of his soul, he may delude himself with the notion of putting, with the aid of Russia, a Bonaparte on the mock throne of a Roumania extemporized by protocols. Since the famous Warsaw Conference of 1850 and the march of an Austrian army to the northern confines of Germany, Prussia pants for some little revenge to be wreaked on Austria, if it be allowed at the same time to keep out of harm’s way. Sardinia rests all her hopes on a conflict with Austria, to be no longer waged by the dangerous alliance with Italian revolutions, but in the rear of the despotic powers of the continent.

Austria is as earnest in counteracting the union of the Danubian Principalities as Russia is in forwarding it. She knows the prime motive of that scheme, which is still more immediately aimed at her own power than that of the Porte. Palmerston at last, the principal stock in trade of whose popularity consists of a spurious Anti-Russianism, must of course feign to share the real terrors of Francis Joseph. He, by all means, must appear to side with Austria and the Porte, and not to give way to Russian pressure unless constrained by France. Such is the position of the respective parties. The Rouman people are but a pretext, a thing quite out of the question. Even the most desperate enthusiasts will scarcely be able to muster a sufficient quantity of credulity to believe in Louis Napoleon’s sincere zeal for the purity of popular elections, or in Russia’s ardent desire to strengthen the Rouman nationality, the destruction of which has never ceased to form an object of her intrigues and her wars since the days of Peter the Great.

A paper started at Brussels by certain self-styled Rouman patriots, and called L’Etoile du Danube, has just published a series of documents relating to the Moldavian elections, the substantial part of which I propose to translate for The Tribune. It consists of letters addressed to Nicholas Vogorides, the Kaimakam of Moldavia, by Stephen Vogorides, his father; by Musurus, his brother-in-law, and the Turkish Embassador at London; by A. Vogorides, his brother, and the Secretary to the Turkish Embassy at London; by M. Fotiades, another brother-in-law of his, and the Chargé d’Affaires of the Moldavian Government at Constantinople; and, lastly, by Baron Prokesch, the Austrian Internuncio at the Sublime Porte. This correspondence was some time since stolen from the Jassy Palace of the Kaimakam, and the Etoile du Danube now boasts of the possession of the original letters. The Etoile du Danube considers burglary quite a respectable road to diplomatic information, and in this view of the case seems backed by the whole of the official European press.


Fragment of a Letter of M. C. Musurus, the Ottoman Embassador at London, to the Kaimakam Vogorides

London, April 23, 1857

“I tell you confidentially that Lord Clarendon approves your reply to the Consuls of France and Russia concerning the press. He has found it honorable, just and legal. I have recommended to his Excellency the wisdom of your conduct in the actual circumstances. I write to the Porte, and endeavor to secure your success in the brilliant career you show yourself so worthy of. You will save this fine country from the danger into which traitors unworthy the name of Moldavians try to drag it. Stimulated by material interests and rewards, they push their perversity to the point of contributing to transform Moldavia, their fatherland, into a simple appendage to Wallachia, and to wipe it out from the map of self-governing peoples. On the pretext of founding some fabulous Roumania, they want to reduce Moldavia and the Moldavians to the state of Ireland and the Irish, little caring for the maledictions of generations present and to come. You fulfill the duty of an honest and virtuous patriot in detesting such rubbish, which is not ashamed of calling itself the National party. The Unionist party may call itself the National party in Wallachia, where it aims at the aggrandizement of the fatherland; but from the same reason it cannot be designated in Moldavia but by the name of the anti-national party. There the only national party is that which resists the union... The English Government is hostile to the union. Do not doubt that. I tell you confidentially that instructions in this sense have been recently sent to the English Commissioner at Bucharest (who is my friend), and your Excellency will shortly see the results of these instructions. The answer you have given to the Consuls of France and Russia in regard to the Press was a proper one... It was your duty, as the chief of a self-governing Principality, to beat back the scandalous and illegal intervention of foreigners in internal affairs. Yours is not the fault, if those two Consuls have placed themselves in a false position, from which their Governments can but enable them to withdraw by recalling them... I fear not less the Porte, constrained by foreign intervention, be placed in the unpleasant situation to involuntarily withhold from you, in its correspondence with you, all the satisfaction it derives from and all the praise it bestows upon your moderate and prudent conduct. The Kaimakam of Moldavia, you must certainly submit to the supreme Government; but, at the same time, the chief of that independent Principality, and a Moldavian Boyar, too, you have to fulfill your duty toward your country, and, if need be, to represent to the Porte that the first of the privileges ab antiquo of the Principalities is the existence of Moldavia as a distinct, self-governing Principality.”

A. Vogorides, Secretary to the Turkish Embassy at London, to the Kaimakam Vogorides

I hasten to inform you that your brother-in-law has just seen Lord Palmerston. He has brought important news as to the disposition of his Lordship against the union of the Principalities. Lord Palmerston is a thorough adversary of the union; he considers it as subversive of the rights of our sovereign, and consequently analogous instructions will be sent to Sir Henry Bulwer, the Commissioner of Great Britain in the Principalities. Thus, as I wrote you before, it is necessary for you to strain every nerve for preventing the Moldavians from expressing any wishes in favor of the union and for showing you worthy of the benevolence of the Porte, or the support of England and Austria. The three Powers being decided upon obstructing the union, you need not care about what the French intend or threaten to do, whose journals treat you like a Greek.”

The Same to the Same

London April 15, 1857

“I am advising you to blindly follow in everything the Austrian Consul, even if he behaved still more fastidiously, and in spite of all his faults. You must consider that that man acts only according to the instructions of his Government. Austria agrees with the ideas of the Sublime Porte and Great Britain, and it is for this reason that, when Austria is content, Turkey and England will be so. I repeat, therefore, that you must comply with the counsels and wishes of the Austrian Consul, and without the least objection, employ all the persons he may propose to you, without informing you whether the persons recommended be perverse or ill-famed. It suffices that these men be sincerely against the union. That suffices: for, if the union should be proclaimed by the Moldavian Divan, Austria would accuse you of being responsible, because of having resisted the advice of her Consul, so active in the opposition to the union. As to England, she will never allow the union to he realized, even if all the Divans pronounced for it. Nevertheless, it is desirable that you prevent the Moldavian Divan from pronouncing for the union, because then the difficulties of the three Powers will be less with respect to France and Russia, and thus they will owe you their gratitude... You were quite right in not granting the liberty of the press which Moldavian madcaps, friends of Russia under a French mask, would misuse for bringing about a popular move in favor of the union... Do prevent maneuvers of that sort. I feel sure that, if the Etoile du Danube and the like bad publications were published in France, the Government would not fail to immediately dispatch their authors to Cayenne. France, which longs for liberty-clubs and political reunions in Moldo-Wallachia, should commence by admitting them at home, instead of inflicting banishment and warnings upon all journalists who dare speak a little freely. Charité bien ordonnée, as the French proverb says, commence par soi-même. The Paris Treaty does not speak of the union of the Principalities; it simply says that the Divans shall pronounce themselves on the internal reorganization of the country; but the madcaps who make the union their watchword, altogether forgetting the clause of the treaty, instead of pondering over internal reforms, are exclusively bent on a new international organization, meditate independence under foreign princes... England, quite agreed with Austria, is completely, opposed to the union and will, in concert with the Sublime Porte, never allow it to be carried out. If the French Consul tells you the contrary, do not believe him, because he lies.”