Marx-Engels Correspondence 1851

Friedrich Engels to Karl Marx in London, 17 July 1851

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975). Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

... At last the newspaper subscriptions are again in order here and I have at last seen our old document [1] in the Kölnische Zeitung. By the way the Augsburger Zeitung [2] reports in an article entitled ‘Dresden’ by an author who seems to be usually well informed that Nothjung [3] as a result of unfair practices during the judicial examination finally knuckled under and made very comprehensive confessions. I consider it at any rate quite possible that adroit investigators were able to corner him quickly and get him all tangled up in the craziest contradictions. A Prussian official is said to have gone there to squeeze still more out of him. The King of Hanover [4] is said to have refused to institute prosecutions in his domains, at least in the crude manner practised in Prussia, Hamburg, etc. Miquel’s [5] letter seems to corroborate this. As you know Martens [6] has been arrested in Hamburg. Nothing, by the way, could show up better the stupidity of the Prussians than the domiciliary search of the house of ‘Karl on the Rhine’, who was also suspected of belonging to the Communist League and in whose possession only letters from Raveaux [7] were found!

The old document can harm those under arrest only by the one passage about ‘excesses'; all other passages are levelled at the democrats and would aggravate the prisoners’ position only if they had to face a halfway democratic jury. But judging by appearances they will be brought before an exquisite special or confederate jury if they are brought before a jury at all. And even these things were to a large extent already used in the Burgers document [8] that was seized at the very beginning. On the other hand it is in every other respect of enormous advantage that the thing has been published and has gone the round of the papers. The isolated groups of budding Communists, which have kept silent and are not known at all but which, in line with past experience, must have established themselves in all parts of Germany, will find it to be an excellent prop; and it can be seen even from the article in the Augsburger Zeitung that the thing has affected it in quite a different way from the first discoveries. Its summary of the contents shows that it understood that ‘piece of insanity’ only too well – in fact it could not be misunderstood.

Besides, the feudal reaction advances so recklessly and blindly that the whole scare campaign does not create the slightest impression on the bourgeoisie. It is just too funny for anything to watch the Kölnische Zeitung now preach daily that ‘the Red Sea must be crossed’ and admit all the mistakes of the Constitutionalists of 1848. And indeed, if a Kleist-Retzow is appointed Oberpräsident of Coblenz and that shameless Kreuzzeitung [9] is becoming more and more abusive with its flat jokes and doggerel rhymes, what is the educated and sedate constitutional opposition to do? What a pity that we don’t have the Kreuzzeitung here. I manage to see various excerpts from it. The utterly vulgar, gutter-snipe, disgustingly stupid Prussian manner in which that puny sheet is now assailing the decent, well-to-do and respectable constitutional bigwigs is beyond all imagination. If fellows like Beckerath [10] and his associates could still be credited with one ounce of self-respect and capacity for resistance they would prefer the ill-treatment and abuse of a Père Duchesne [11] in the manner of a Rhenish dock labourer and the whole red terror to the treatment they have daily to endure now at the hands of the Junkers and the Kreuzzeitung...

But it serves those dogs right, who decried the best articles in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung as ‘vulgar abuse’, that the difference is now drummed into their cringing backs. They will long for the – in contrast to this – extremely Attic derision of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung...


1. Engels refers to the First ‘Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League’, which was written by Marx and Engels in March 1850. It was confiscated by the Prussian police and published in the bourgeois press in connection with the arrest of Central Committee members of the Communist League and the preparation of the Communist trial at Cologne – Progress Publishers.

2. Reference is to the Allgemeine Zeitung (General Newspaper) – German conservative daily paper founded in 1798; published in Augsburg from 1810 to 1882 – Progress Publishers.

3. Peter Nothjung (1823-1866) – German tailor, member of Cologne workers’ union and of Communist League, a defendant at Cologne Communist Trial (1852), sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

4. Ernest Augustus (1771-1851) – King of Hanover (1837-1851) – Progress Publishers.

5. Johannes Miquel (1828-1901) – German politician, member of Communist League in 1840s, subsequently National Liberal, Prussian Minister of Finance (1890-1901) – Progress Publishers.

6. Joachim Friedrich Martens (1804-1877) – German joiner, member of League of the Just, a leader of Workers Educational Society and of Communist League community in Hamburg – Progress Publishers.

7. Franz Raveaux (1810-1851) – German politician, petty-bourgeois democrat, in 1848-49 deputy to Frankfurt National Assembly from Cologne, belonged to its Left Centre, member of Baden provisional government, emigrated from Germany after defeat of Baden-Palatinate insurrection – Progress Publishers.

8. This refers to the Address of the Central Committee in Cologne to the Communist League dated 1 December 1850 ('Die Zentralbehörde an den Bund’), which was drawn up by supporters of Marx and Engels, mainly by Bürgers. The document, which fell into the hands of the police during the arrest of members of the Communist League, was in June 1851 published in the Dresdner Journal und Anzeiger (Dresden Journal and Advertiser) and the Kölnische Zeitung (Cologne Newspaper). Heinrich Bürgers (1820-1878) – German radical publicist, after 1850 member of Central Committee of Communist League, at Cologne Communist Trial (1852), sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, in 1860s and 1870s Progressist – Progress Publishers.

9. Kreuzzeitung (Cross Newspaper) – a name given to the Neue Preußische Zeitung (New Prussian Newspaper) because the sign of the cross was used in its heading. The paper which had appeared in Berlin since June 1848, was the organ of the counter-revolutionary court camarilla and the Prussian Junkers – Progress Publishers.

10. Hermann Beckerath (1801-1870) – German banker, one of the leaders of Rhine bourgeoisie, member of Frankfurt National Assembly, belonged to Right Centre, Minister of Finance in imperial government (August-September 1848) – Progress Publishers.

11. Le Père Duchesne – a newspaper published by Hébert in Paris from 1790 to 1794; it expressed the sentiments of the urban semi-proletarian masses during the French bourgeois revolution – Progress Publishers.