Marx-Engels Correspondence 1856

Marx To Engels
In Manchester

Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 85;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in: Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1929.

[London,] 2 December 1856
9 Grafton Terrace, Maitland Park, Haverstock Hill

Dear Frederic,

My wife is still dosing herself continually and hence the house is always in such a disarray that it is difficult for me to settle down and write.

As regards the Mieroslawski, a providential ‘apportionment’ would appear to have taken place, most of the excerpts intended for you (there were about two sheets) having been torn out of the middle of the manuscript, probably for spills. However, you haven’t lost much. I afterwards read Lelewel’s Considérations — not to be confused with his popular history. He, together with Maciejowski (?) (I cite the name from memory), provides most of the material upon which Mieroslawski exercises his mind. By the by, in my recent studies of Polish history, what led me décidément to plump for Poland was the historical fact that the intensity and the viability of all revolutions since 1789 may be gauged with fair accuracy by their attitude towards Poland. Poland is their ‘external’ thermometer. This is demonstrable en détail from French history. It is conspicuous in our brief German revolutionary period, likewise in the Hungarian. Of all the revolutionary governments, including that of Napoleon I, the Comité du salut public is an exception only in as much as it refused to intervene, not out of weakness, but out of ‘mistrust’. In 1794 it sent for the employé of the Polish insurgents and asked this citoyen the following questions:

‘How is it that your Kosciusko, a popular dictator, tolerates the existence alongside himself of a king of whom, moreover, he cannot but know that he was put on the throne by Russia? How is it that your dictator does not dare effect the levée en masse of the peasants for fear of the aristocrats, who do not wish to be deprived of any of their “hands"? How is it that the revolutionary complexion of his proclamations pales in proportion to the distance his march removes him from Cracow? How is it that he immediately punished with the gallows the popular insurgents in Warsaw, whereas the aristocratic “traîtres de la patrie” are allowed to remain at large, or are given refuge in the lengthy formalities of a trial? Answer!’

Whereat the Polish ‘citoyen’ could only remain silent.

Que dites-vous de Neuchâtel et Valangin? This case has led me to try and remedy my highly inadequate knowledge of Prussian history. Indeed and indeed, never has the history of the world produced anything so sordid. How the nominal kings of France came to be real kings is also one long recital of petty struggle, betrayal and intrigue, but it is the history of the birth of a nation. Austrian history — the founding of a dynasty by a vassal of the German Empire — acquires interest from the circumstance that the vassal defrauds himself in his capacity as Emperor, from involvement in the East, Bohemia, Italy, Hungary, etc., and finally, too, from the circumstance that dynasty assumes such dimensions as to arouse fears in Europe of its becoming a universal monarchy. Nothing of all this in Prussia. She failed to subdue so much as one powerful Slav nation, and took 500 years to acquire Pomerania, and then only by ‘barter’. Come to that, the Margraviate of Brandenburg — as it was when taken over by the Hohenzollerns — hasn’t been able to boast a single conquest with the exception of Silesia. Perhaps it is because this was her one and only conquest that Frederick II’s sobriquet is ‘the One and Only’. Petty theft, bribery, outright purchase, succession intrigue, and such like shabby dealings is all that Prussian history really boils down to. What is interesting in feudal history elsewhere — the struggle of the monarch against his vassals, double-dealing with the towns, etc. — is all of it here dwarfed to a caricature because the towns are boringly small-minded, the feudal lords boorishly insignificant and the monarch himself a nonentity. During the Reformation, as during the French Revolution, she oscillated between perfidy, neutrality, separate peace treaties and snatching at scraps tossed to her by Russia in the course of partitions organised by the latter — vide Sweden, Poland, Saxony. Withal, a dramatis personae of rulers with only 3 masks — the Pietist, the non-commissioned officer, the clown — succeeding one another as surely as night follows day, the only irregularity consisting not in the introduction of fresh characters but in the varying order of their appearance.

What has kept the State on its legs nonetheless is mediocrityaurea mediocritas — meticulous book-keeping, an avoidance of extremes, the preciseness of the drill book, a kind of homespun vulgarity and ‘ecclesial institutionalism’. C'est déigoûtant!

How is trade in Manchester just now? Can you let me have some particulars about the state of business in the manufacturing districts?

I haven’t yet informed you that papa Heise passed through on his way from Utrecht. Has now rejoined Imandt. He has filled out and looks better than ever.

Götz, too, suddenly turned up here again. Disappeared with equal suddenness. Freiligrath very satisfied with his business and with himself. Valdenaire — the ‘agreer’ — manqué — is over here on a visit from Trier. For what purpose, more in my next.

Finally, I have a ticklish matter to put to you. At the end of December. I have some fairly substantial sums to pay out. Could you possibly let me have something before then? My wife’s money has largely gone on setting up house and making up for very substantial losses in income.

When are you coming down here? What is Lupus doing?

K. M.