Articles by Frederick Engels for The Northern Star

The Situation in Prussia

Source: MECW Volume 3, p. 515;
Written: late in April 1844;
First published: in The Northern Star No. 338, May 4, 1844, with an editorial note: “From our own Correspondent”

When Frederick William IV ascended the throne there was not a more popular monarch in all Europe. Now, there is none more unpopular; not one, not even Nicholas of Russia, who is at least worshipped by the dumb beastly stupidity of his degraded serfs. The Prussian King, who calls himself emphatically “the Christian King”, and has made his court a most ludicrous assemblage of whining saints and piety-feigning courtiers has done everything in his power to open the eyes of the nation, and not in vain. He commenced with a show of liberality, then passed over to feudality; and ended in establishing the government of the police-spy. The press is laid down by a rigorous censorship, and by prosecutions in courts of law, before judges, paid by the king, and removable by the king, who conduct trials without juries, and with closed doors. Oppression is very rife. The students at Berlin commenced holding meetings and discussing political subjects; these meetings were stopped by the police, the speakers arrested, prosecuted, and several of them expelled the University. Dr. Nauwerck, lecturer at the University, who lectured on modern politics, and hesitated not to proclaim his Republican opinions, had his lectures visited by the minister’s spies, and at last stopped by the illegal interference of the minister, about a month ago. The University protested against such an obstruction, and some of their members published the protest; for this heinous crime they are now under prosecution. At some public demonstrations of the students, which happened in February, cheers were given for Professor Hoffman, who had been dismissed for his having published some satirical poetry. The consequence of this was, that again half-a-dozen students were expelled, and by this disabled to take any Government office, or to exercise the medical profession. At Dusseldorf, on the Rhine, the annual public masquerade during the Carnival was stopped by the police, on account of some political allusions, and the poor Dusseldorfians were even hindered from going to Cologne, and partaking in the procession there. These are only a few of the oppressive measures by which the Government has shown its mind; and they have had a miraculous effect on the development of public opinion. They have awakened the nation from a state of political lethargy, and thrown them into such an excitement that even the oldest and most loyal supporters of the “Christian King” begin to entertain fears for the stability of the present order of things. Dissatisfaction is increasing everywhere, and has become almost universal in the Rhenish provinces, in Eastern Prussia, Posen, Berlin, and all the large towns. The people are resolved to have a free press and constitution to begin with. But there is so much combustible matter heaped up in all Germany, and the shades of opinion are so various, that it is impossible to predict where the movement, if once fairly commenced, may stop. However, it will be in the direction towards democracy; thus much is evident.