Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung December 1848

Measures Concerning the German Refugees

Source: MEVW Volume 8, p. 136;
Written: by Engels on December 5, 1848;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 165, December 10, 1848.

Berne, December 5. The Federal Council has now taken measures to deal with the German refugees, partly in order to deprive the imperial authority of the pretext for hostile measures, partly to show its impartiality towards Tessin and to carry through in practice also in the northern cantons the triumph of the policy of strict neutrality which was won in the Tessin debate. The policy of Furrer-Munzinger-Ochsenbein is being pursued everywhere. A circular of the Federal Council addressed to the border cantons concerned repeats the basic principles expressed by the Vorort, and again insists on the internment of all refugees who took part in the Struve campaign[139]; and in order to give weight to this demand the President of the Federal Assembly, Dr. Steiger, already left yesterday as representative of the Confederation to visit the northern cantons.

There can be no objection to the measure in itself. Nobody will blame Switzerland for not wanting to get involved in unpleasantness because of a few volunteer insurgents who are thirsting for adventure and heartily bored in their exile. But why then the previous bold talk against Germany, the positive assurance that the Swiss had done their duty, when it is now indirectly admitted that they did not do it, when they are only now seeking to satisfy themselves how far the cantons have obeyed the orders of the Vorort? — It is not to be denied that this decision of the Federal Council, an act of justice towards Tessin, is a complete démenti of the last official act of the Vorort, and though the Note [sent to the Imperial Government on November 4, 1848] received unanimous applause, this beginning of disavowal in the Note will cause little joy.

Nothing has been heard about the closing of the German frontier, except that the whole of Swabia is protesting against it. Whether it will take place or not is again left to God to decide. In any case, the Federal Council has decided for the present not to range any troops opposite the imperial division.

The Federal Military Council has now concluded its current business and has been definitely disbanded. In its place there will be a War Office which Ochsenbein, as head of the Military Department, will organise and direct.

The new Spanish ambassador, Herr Zayas, who arrived here a few days ago with credentials for the Vorort, has now presented these to the Vice-President of the Federal Council, Herr Druey, and thereby made immediate contact with the new authorities.

The press is much incensed over the treatment of the Swiss in Vienna, of which I recently gave you some examples. It insists on the Federal Council demanding satisfaction and compensation from Austria. In particular the behaviour of the Bernese General Wyss arouses general indignation here. This general’s brother is a master builder here in Berne.