Political Economy and the Press:
Karl Marx and Henry Carey at the New York Tribune For many years, Karl Marx earned his living as a correspondent for the widely read New York Daily Tribune. The Weekly Tribune, which was composed of selections from the daily edition, had a circulation of 200,000 (see Marx 1860, p. 265). Marx was naturally proud to be invited to be a part of the Tribune, which he considered to be "the 'leading [verbreitetste] journal' in the United States" (Marx to Engels, 14 June 1853; in Marx and Engels 1975, p. 79). In the duly famous introduction to his Critique of Political Economy, he wrote of his "collaboration . . . with the New York Tribune, the leading Anglo-American newspaper" (Marx 1859, p. 23).
The editor, Charles Dana, considered Marx's contributions to be very important. The biographer of Horace Greeley, owner of the Tribune, offered a description of a typical working day at the Tribune:
Mr. Dana enters with a quick, decided step, goes straight to his desk . . . and is lost in perusal of 'Karl Marx' or 'An American Woman in Paris'. [Parton 1854; cited in Draper 1968, p. 11] On 12 March 1852, Dana wrote, "It may perhaps give you pleasure to know that [your articles] are read with satisfaction by a considerable number of persons, and are widely reproduced" (cited in Blitzer 1966, p. xix). Marx basked in the glow of a leader that Dana attached to one of Marx's articles: "we may properly pay a tribute to the remarkable ability of the correspondent by whom this interesting piece of intelligence is furnished." In a letter to Engels, Marx drew the conclusion, "As you see, I am firmly in the saddle" (Marx to Engels, 26 April 1853; reprinted in CW: 39, pp. 315-16). When the 1857 crisis compelled the Tribune to reduce its staff, Marx was one of the two correspondents who remained on the payroll (Padover 1978, p. 287), although, as we shall see, this honor was rather hollow. Indeed, although Dana later assured Marx in a letter that Marx was "not only one of the most highly valued, but one of the best paid contributors attached to the journal," Dana had no intention of making his sentiments (reprinted in Marx 1860, pp. 323-24). Many years afterwards, as editor of the Sun, Dana requested information from Marx concerning the International. Marx's answer, which arrived only a few months before his death, was printed, along with a short statement from Dana in which he praised Marx as "an extraordinary man." Dana added:
His talents were brilliant and his learning varied and accurate. [Reprinted in Marx and Engels 1978, Vol. 22; Appendix, p. 1095].
Marx's Secret War on Capital Marx was delighted with the opportunity to write for the Tribune. His finances were at low ebb. Besides, the paper actually offered him the chance to teach socialism to the capitalists. That idea was not so far fetched as it might sound today. Between 1852 and 1854, about one-half million Germans landed in New York, including a good number of Marx's comrades-in-arms from the Revolution of 1848 (see Padover 1978, p. 303). Of these, a not insubstantial portion managed to combine personal success with a vague retention of their earlier revolutionary ideals. The Tribune also drew upon the New England transcendental heritage of a sentimental opposition to capitalism. The marriage between Marx and the Tribune seemed to have been made in a socialist heaven.
The Tribune published 487 articles from Marx. He wrote 350 by himself and 12 together with Engels. The other 125 articles he submitted were written by Engels (Ibid., p. 287). Almost one-quarter of his contributions were printed as unsigned editorials (Padover 1980, p. 168), although the paper chose Engels' articles as editorials more frequently than those written by Marx (see Blitzer 1966, p. xxi). At one point, Marx's contributions were used so extensively that he could write to Engels that "for eight weeks past, Marx-Engels have virtually constituted the EDITORIAL STAFF of the Tribune" (Marx to Engels, 14 December 1853; reprinted in CW: 19, p. 404).
A good number of Marx's articles were economic in nature. One source estimates that 50 of the 321 articles that it attributes to Marx concern economic matters (see Padover 1978, p. 308). Thus we could properly describe Marx as one of the most influential financial writers in this hemisphere. Although Marx was not residing in the United States, his base in London may actually have been an advantage. After all, England was still "the metropolis of capital" (Marx to Meyer and Vogt, 9 April 1870; in Marx and Engels 1975, p. 223).
At first, Marx worried that his intended conquest might not succeed. He fretted:
Greeley reported in the Tribune the speech Heinzen made there, and went on to praise the man. So storm clouds are threatening me from that quarter. . . . If we send him [Dana] short articles, he will think he is being fleeced and will cast me out of the temple, since he now has such a plentiful supply from Heinzen, Ruge and B. Bauer. What is even more unfortunate, I see from today's Times that the Daily Tribune is protectionist. So its all very ominous. [Marx to Engels, 5 August 1852; in Marx and Engels 1982, p. 146] Engels reassured him:
As for being thrown out of the Tribune, you need have no worries. We are too firmly ensconced there. Furthermore, to the Yankees, this European politicizing is mere dilettantism in which he who writes best and with the greatest espirit comes out on top. [Engels to Marx, 6 August 1852; in Marx and Engels 1982, p. 147] Moreover, Engels counselled Marx that all the American Whigs were protectionists (Ibid.). The leading protectionist Whig was Henry Carey, who according to one report was "virtual editor of the New York Tribune in this doctrinal department [i.e. the tariff and political economy] for which it was then so distinguished." (Smith 1951, p. 36; citing Elder, p. 22).
Indeed, Marx's early articles caught the attention of the Tribune readership. John Bright, the famous British free trader, told the Parliament:
He had seen articles perhaps better written with more style, but never any that had a better tone. . . . [After singling out Marx's work], [h]e ventured to say that there was not at this moment a better paper than that. [Marx 1853c, p. 176; citing The Times, 28 June 1853] In addition, Marx proudly informed Engels:
Mr Tribune has given special prominence to a note about my 2nd article on Gladstone's Budget, drawing the attention of readers to my "masterly exposition" and going on to say that nowhere have they seen 'a more able criticism' and 'do not expect to see one'. [Marx to Engels, 2 June 1853; in Marx and Engels 1982, p. 331] Even here, Marx was not altogether pleased:
Well, this is all right. But in the following article it proceeds to make an ass of me by printing under my name a heading of mine which is quite trifling and intentionally so. [Ibid.] Henry Carey was among those who took notice of Marx's work. He sent Marx a copy of his book, Harmony of Interests (Marx to Engels, 30 April 1852; in Marx and Engels 1973: 28, p. 68). Later, he mailed Marx his Slavery at Home and Abroad, in which Marx was repeatedly cited as "a recent English writer" and "a correspondent of the New York Tribune" (See Marx to Engels, 14 June 1853; in Marx and Engels 1975, p. 78).
Unlike Marx, who specifically hoped to undermine the support for Carey's ideas, Carey gave no public evidence of having any particular interest in opposing Marx's work. In fact, he even expressed respect for Marx's contributions to the Tribune. Nonetheless, Carey probably did direct his considerable powers against Marx, especially regarding the Tribune's policy toward Russia.
Marx never associated his problems with the Tribune with Carey. He blamed another Russian authorities. Indeed, Frederick Olmsted informed Marx that a Polish immigrant, Count Adam Gurowski, had won considerable influence over Dana. Marx wrote to Engels that Gurowski, whom Olmstead accused of receiving regular allowances from the Russian embassy, was the sole cause of their difficulties at the Tribune (Marx to Engels, 30 October 1856; in CW 40, p. 81; and Marx to Engels 16 February 1857; in CW 40, p. 101). By the beginning of the next year, Marx concluded:
The Tribune, in exceedingly poor and insipid LEADERS, is moreover adopting a view almost diametrically opposed to all that I write. RUSSIAN INFLUENCE is unmistakable. [Marx to Engels, 20 January 1857, in CW 40, p. 94] As a partial consolation for their troubles with the paper, Marx noted, "So we can boast of having, or rather having had, our articles directly inspected and censured by the Russian embassy" (Ibid., p. 81)
In short, Carey claimed to have won his victory just when Marx's influence with the Tribune seemed to be at its peak. On 14 December 1853, Marx wrote his letter to Engels in which he gloated about the last eight weeks during which he and Engels were virtual editors.
Michael Perelman Economics Department California State University michael at ecst.csuchico.edu Chico, CA 95929 530-898-5321 fax 530-898-5901