Marx-Engels Correspondence 1856

Engels To Marx
In London

Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 5;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in: Marx and Engels, Works, 1929.

Manchester, 7 February 1856

Dear Marx,

You will be most annoyed with me for not having written for so long. But until I've coped with a number of jobs at the office which will keep me busy for the next fortnight or so, I shall hardly be in a position to turn my mind to anything else. On top of that my old man keeps pestering me frightfully over purchases of yarn, etc., on his behalf, and I have to send him a confidential report at least twice a week.

Enclosed Pan-Slavism No. II, in which want of substance is at least partially offset by verbosity. With No. III I shall at last get in medias res [really into the thing].

You should now read the Guardian’s Paris correspondent regularly; very odd things are happening there. Over the past few days the correspondent of the Examiner & Times has provided even fuller and better particulars. I have just tried to buy the latest issues for you but they had all been sold out. Perhaps I can get them from Belfield.

Bonaparte is very fast on the decline. That Drouyn de Lhuys is missing from the official list of senators for this year you will have seen, but not, I imagine, that recently, apropos a sensational act of opposition, he left his card on an Orleanist (Rémusat, if I'm not mistaken) with a bold line drawn through the title: vice-président du Sénat. Recently, the infantry were called out against the students escorting Monsieur Nisard home. At the cry: Vive la ligne! the troops ordered arms and had to be speedily withdrawn lest fraternisation should become a fait accompli. The recent conspiracy in the south-west, on account of which 5,000 arrests (according to a Bonapartist statement) were made, had wide ramifications in the army; the NCO school at La Flèche was completely disbanded. Almost all the students were implicated and had to be returned to their regiments; in fact, it is said to have been very difficult to find reliable regiments to which they could be posted. When Bonaparte was at the Odéon recently with his spouse, the university students who filled the pit sang the Sire de Franc Boissy throughout the evening, carefully intoning some of the more embarrassing bits. In Paris the workers are singing a little ditty, having the refrain:

He is leaving, he is leaving,
The little mustard-vendor.
He is leaving for his country
With all his belongings

In order that there should be no doubt about the identity of the petit marchand de moutarde, the police have banned the song. All these impudent manifestations of appositional and positively anti-Bonapartist impulses, and Mr. Bonaparte’s corresponding feebleness are proof that a great change is under way. The measures adopted during the coup d'état will no longer do, and the courage to apply them is no longer there. You will have seen that even The Times, on two successive days, first described Napoleon personally as a mere stopgap so far as France was concerned — because not one single man was to be found in which the nation could place its confidence and esteem — and then characterised his entire general staff of ministers, etc., as swindlers and scoundrels. In today’s Guardian there is another nice story about that rascal Fiorentino, Bonapartist court feuilletonist and Knight of the Legion of Honour. Mr Espinasse, too, had to decamp from Paris; he has been involved in scandals, concerning which I shall probably hear more in a day or two. Something is also afoot with de Morny; the fellow has more or less fallen out with his worthy brother and is once more intriguing on his own account.

This Bonaparte, for whom in the past everything, however stupid, craven and infamous, turned out so well, will now discover that henceforward everything will go badly for him. This he is already discovering in the war and peace question; everyone blamed him for the war, no one thanks him for the peaceful turn of events. Incidentally, the matter of the peace is far from being settled. The preliminaries to the preliminaries contain, au fond, nothing but the Bessarabian clause, and that is offset by a total disregard for Kars. All the rest consists of nothing but bogus concessions. Moreover Bonaparte no longer cares a rap about the conditions upon which he makes peace. For him it is now his bread and butter that is at stake, as once with old Dolleschall, and I'm convinced that the Russians know this better than he does himself. Never before have the French been so wholly indifferent to their gloire; since 1848 the fellows have been concerned with other things than the traditional gloire and parliamentary swindling.

So it seems as though we have safely weathered the Aliens Bill — au train que les chases vont en France, there will soon be no further need to worry one’s head about the aspirations of Palmerston and Co. The Bonapartist house of cards will most likely collapse this summer just as did Louis Philippe’s in the year of scandal 1847, and exactly when the gust of wind comes that completely demolishes the walls is a matter of mere chance. I now lead a very sober life, but on that day I shall get drunk in Manchester, probably for the last time.

Don’t be long in telling me something more about old Bruno [Bauer]; the fellow’s new romantic turn is too amusing. Kindest regards to your wife and children.

F. E.