The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Patow's Commutation Memorandum
[Prussia's Feudal Reforms]

by Karl Marx

Translated: by the Marx-Engels Institute;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 25, June 25, 1848;
Transcribed: by, 1994.

Cologne, June 24 -- IN THE constituent session of the twentieth of this month, that fateful session in which Camphausen's sun set and the ministerial crisis set in, Herr Patow submitted a memorandum on the main principles that were to regulate the elimination of feudalism on the land.

When one reads this memorandum, one cannot understand how a peasant war has not broken out long ago in the Old Prussian provinces. What a confused mass of performances, tributes, and deliverings; what a jumble of medieval names, one crazy one after another! Loan suzerainty, decease, capitation, Elector's metes, blood tithe, patronage money, Walpurgis rent, bees' rent, wax lease, meadow right, tithes. Laudemiums, [in Roman law, 2 percent of the price paid the owner for his consent to sell -- ed.] additional rentals -- all this has remained until now in the "best-administered state in the world," and would have continued unto eternity if the French had not made their revolution in February!

Yes, most of these exactions, and especially the most oppressive among them, would have continued unto eternity if Herr Patow had had his way. It was precisely Herr Patow who was assigned this department, to spare the bumpkin-Junkers in the Marches, in Pomerania, in Silesia as much as possible, and to cheat the peasants of the fruits of the Revolution as much as possible!

The Berlin Revolution made all these feudal relations forever impossible. The peasants, naturally, immediately did away with them in practice. There was nothing left for the government to do but to put in legal form the actually existing abolition of all feudal burdens by the will of the people.

But before the nobility decided on its Fourth of August, its castles were in flames. [On the night of August 4, 1789, the French National Assembly, under growing peasant pressure, formally abolished a whole series of feudal burdens on the peasantry, which the latter had already done away with in reality. -- Ed.] The government, here represented by an aristocrat, declared for the aristocracy. It put a memorandum before the Assembly demanding that it betray the peasant revolution, which had broken out all over Germany in March, to the aristocracy. The government is responsible for the consequences that the application of Patow's principles would have on the land.

For Herr Patow wants the peasants to pay compensation for all the feudal exactions abolished, even the Laudemiums. The only exactions to be abolished without compensation are those that flow from serfdom, from the old tax system and the patrimonial jurisdiction, or those that are worthless to the feudal lord (how generous! ); that is, in general the exactions that are the least part of the whole feudal burden.

On the other hand, all feudal commutations arrived at by agreement or judicial decision are final. That is: the peasants who settled their exactions under the reactionary and pro-aristocratic laws enacted since 1 8 1 6 and particularly since 1840, and have been swindled of their property by bribed officials in favor of feudal lords, receive no compensation.

Rent banks are to be established, to throw sand into the eyes of the peasants.

If Herr Patow had his way, the feudal exactions would be eliminated under his law as little as they were under the old law of 1807.

The correct title for Herr Patow's essay is: Memorandum on the Maintenance of Feudal Exactions Forever by Means of Their Commutation.

The government is provoking a peasant war. Perhaps Russia will not "shy away" from a "momentary loss of Silesia."