front page of Two Political Trials pamphlet

Two Political Trials February 1849

Two Political Trials

The First Trial of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung

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The trial of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was begun on February 7, 1849. Karl Marx, editor-in-chief, Frederick Engels, co-editor, and Hermann Korff, responsible publisher, were tried by the Cologne jury court. They were accused of insulting Chief Public Prosecutor Zweiffel and calumniating the police officers who arrested Gottschalk and Anneke, in the article “Arrests” published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 35, July 5, 1848.

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung accounts of this trial and of that of the Rhenish District Committee of Democrats, which was held the next day, were published as a separate pamphlet in the spring of 1849.

Though the legal proceedings were instituted on July 6, the trial was only fixed for December 20 and then postponed. Marx’s and Engels’ defence counsel was Karl Schneider II and Korff’s was Hagen. The jury acquitted the defendants.

Marx’s and Engels’ speeches were published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung as part of a detailed account of the whole trial, which also included the speeches of the Public Prosecutor (not word-for-word but abridged, with references to the publications in the Kölnische Zeitung), of all the accused and defence counsels. The account was apparently edited by Marx and Engels, and the texts of their speeches can be considered as their own, as emerges in particular from a comparison of Marx’s speech with the preparatory material for it. The emphasis in the quotations from the articles of the Code pénal is the author’s.

Marx’s speech was included in the general account of the trial published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung Nos. 226 and 231-33 at the end of February 1849; the account also contained the incriminated appeal of November 18, the report of the speech of Public Prosecutor Bölling, and speeches of the other defendants.

Speech by Karl Marx, February 7, 1849
Speech by Frederick Engels, February 7, 1849

The Trial of the Rhenish District Committee of Democrats

The trial of the Rhenish District Committee of Democrats took place on February 8, 1849. Karl Marx, Karl Schapper and the lawyer Schneider II were summoned to the Cologne jury court, accused of incitement to revolt in connection with the Committee’s appeal of November 18, 1848, on the refusal to pay taxes. They were acquitted.

One of the responses to the trial in the revolutionary press was Marx’s article published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung on February 10.

Appeal, to refuse taxes, November 18 1848
Speech by Karl Marx, February 8, 1849

Reports on Verdict in Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The Tax-Refusal Trial
Political Trial

None of these speeches were reprinted in Marx’s lifetime. They were published in an abridged form shortly before Engels’ death in the German Social-Democratic Party papers — the Berlin Socialdemokrat No. 37, September 12, 1895, and the Sächsische Volksblatt No. 111, September 19, 1895 — under the title “Zwei verschollene Vertheidigungsreden von Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels”.

In 1885 Marx’s speech at the trial of the Rhenish District Committee of Democrats was published as a pamphlet, Karl Marx von den Kölner Geschwornen Prozess gegen den Ausschuss der Rheinischen Demokraten wegen Aufrufs zum bewaffneten Widerstand, Hottingen, Zürich, with a preface by Engels, in the “Social-Democratic Library” series, and reprinted with the other pamphlets of the series in 1887. It was also put out in 1895 in Berlin.

Marx’s speech in abridged form or extracts from it were published in Social-Democratic periodicals of the time (Der Socialdemokrat Nos. 24 and 26, June 11 and 23, 1885; the Polish journal Walka klas No. 517, I-III, 1886) and as a supplement to the Russian edition of The Poverty of Philosophy issued in Geneva.

An English translation of Marx’s speech was first published in the collection: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Articles from the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung”. 1848-49, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972.