Articles by Frederick Engels for The Northern Star

News from Prussia

Source: MECW Volume 3, p. 530;
Written: in mid-June 1844;
First published: in The Northern Star No. 346, June 29, 1844, with an editorial note: “From our own Correspondent”

The people have achieved a great triumph; they have by their steady and protracted opposition forced the King [Frederick William IV] to abandon his pet measure, the proposed new law of divorce. [237] The present law in this respect is very liberal, and, of course, never pleased. the Christian King. Ever since his accession to the throne, he was big with an amended law, by which a divorce was to be granted in very few cases only. The holiness of the marriage bond was to be enforced as strictly as possible, and another door to be opened to the parsons to meddle with the family affairs of other people. The spirit of the nation, however, arose against such a law; the press opposed it, and when a democratic paper [Rheinische Zeitung] succeeded in getting and publishing an authentic abstract of the proposed law, a general outcry was raised against it from one end of the country to the other. [238] Nevertheless, the King persisted in his intention. The bill was laid before the Privy Council, in order to be prepared for the provincial Parliaments [239] the advice of which is necessary, according to the Prussian constitution. Whether there was already a strong opposition in the Privy Council, or whether the King saw that this measure would never pass the provincial Parliaments, ;nay be difficult to decide; it is enough, that an ordinance dated the 11th instant has been directed to the Council, withdrawing the bill, abandoning entirely its principle, and declaring that the King will be satisfied with the alteration of a few formalities of the present law. This most important triumph of the opposition must strengthen permanently the popular party, and will be received with cheers in every hamlet of the realm. It will show the people that they are strong, and that if united, they may defeat any measure they do not like; nay that by merely using their strength, they may frighten the government into any thing they please. In the manufacturing district of Silesia very serious riots have occurred; the workpeople of the neighbourhood, depending almost entirely upon the linen-manufacture and suffering great distress, not being able to stand the competition against the English machine-made article, have for some time been in a condition similar to that of the English hand-loom weavers. Oppressed by competition, machinery, and greedy manufacturers, they at last arose in Peterswalden (Silesia), demolished the house of a manufacturer, and were only dispersed by the appearance of the military. In Langenbielau, outrages of a similar nature were committed; the military were repelled by the people, and could only restore the peace after having received reinforcements and fired on the rioters, of whom several were killed. In other districts tumultuous assemblages took place, and even in the capital of the province (Breslau), the peace was disturbed. Thus it is evident that the consequences of the factory system, of the progress of machinery, &c., for the working classes are quite the same on the continent as they are in England: oppression and toil for the many, riches and wealth for the few; insecurity of fortune, discontent, and riot exist among the hills of Silesia, as well as in the crowded cities of Lancashire and Yorkshire. [240]