Marx-Engels Correspondence 1861

Marx To Engels
In Manchester


Source: MECW, Volume 41, p. 305;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.


[London,] 5 July 1861

Dear Engels,

Your letter enclosing 5 most gratefully received.

For the past 3 days I have had a foul inflammation of the eyes which has prevented me from doing any writing or reading. However, I believe it will pass in a couple of days.

Lupus found Alberts extremely obstructive. (I would mention in passing that the latter is Bernstorff’s factotum. Also chief police agent and chief pimp to the more select visitors from Prussia.) However, with his own particular brand of rudeness, he finally browbeat Alberts into entering a long scrawl on his Swiss passport to the effect that Lupus, an exile, was availing himself of the amnesty, etc., to travel to Wiesbaden, etc., for such and such a purpose. Initially, he had been told that, because of his 10 years’ residence abroad — so this is the story they dish out to everyone — he had lost his Prussian citizenship. He should therefore have himself naturalised as an Englishman and travel on an English passport.

Zedlitz, by the by, told Lassalle shortly before his resignation that I had republican or, at least, anti-royalist views, and it was their unvarying principle never to renaturalise anyone of that couleur. They didn’t want to set a praecedens in my case. Winter, Zedlitz’s successor, told Lassalle he could not reverse his predecessor’s decision. Finally Schwerin, who was also being pestered by Lassalle and wanted to be rid of him, said he would refer the matter to the Berlin municipal council — which, however, he won’t do. During the debate in the Chamber on the subject of refugees, Vincke et cie applauded loudly when Schwerin announced that the government would always reserve the right to decide each particular case as it thought fit.

As to the secession business, the matter has been quite wrongly represented in the English papers. Everywhere, with the exception of South Carolina, there was the strongest opposition to secession.

First: border Slave States. A convention of the border States was held in the winter of 1861. Those invited were Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Maryland, Delaware, Tennessee and North Carolina. For this purpose, further Conventions were held in each of the above states so that delegates might be sent to the General Convention.

Delaware refused even to call a convention for this purpose.

Tennessee ditto. Its Democratic Legislature took it out of the Union by coup de main. Admittedly, an election was later held to ratify this invalid Act. This took place under a reign of terrorism. More than 1/3 didn’t vote at all. Of the remainder, 1/3 were against secession, including the whole of East Tennessee, which at this moment is arming to oppose the secessionists.

Kentucky. 100,000 for the Union ticket, only a few thousand for secession.

Maryland declared itself in favour of Union, and has now elected 6 Union men as Members of Congress.

North Carolina and even Arkansas elected Union delegates, the former actually by a large majority. Subsequently terrorised.

Virginia. The people elected a Union Convention (by a majority). Some of these chaps allowed themselves to be bought. When the Southern fever was at its height — fall of Sumter — an Ordinance of Secession was passed secretly by 88 to 55. All other moves — while the Ordinance continued to be kept secret — aimed at the capture of the Federal Navy Yard at Norfolk and the Federal Armory at Harper’s Ferry were carried out secretly. Were betrayed to the Federal Authorities before their execution. An alliance with Jefferson Davis’ Government was concluded in secret, and a huge mass of Confederate troops was suddenly pitched into the territory. Under their protection (truly Bonapartist, this), it now voted for secession. 50,000 Union votes nevertheless, despite the systematic terrorism. As you know, North Western Virginia has now publicly broken with the secessionists.

Second: Gulf States. A popular vote proper was taken only in a few states. In most of them, the conventions, which were chosen to decide the attitude of the southern states to Lincoln’s election (subsequently, at the Montgomery Congress, it was they who formed the delegates), usurped the power not only to decide on secession but also to recognise the Constitution, Jefferson Davis, etc. How this actually came about you will learn from the extracts below, taken from Southern American papers.

Texas, where, after South Carolina, there is the largest Slave Party and terrorism, nevertheless 11,000 votes for Union.

Alabama. No popular vote either on secession or on the new Constitution, etc. The convention elected here passed the Ordinance of Secession by 61 votes to 39. The 39 were from the Northern Counties, peopled almost exclusively by whites, but they represented more free men than the 61; for, in accordance with the United States Constitution, each slave-holder also votes for 3/5 of his slaves.

Louisiana. More Union votes than secession votes were cast at the election for delegates to the convention. But the delegates defected.

The interests of the mountain districts, the west of Carolina, the east of Tennessee, the north of Alabama and Georgia, are very different from those of the southern swamps.

The 2nd Decembrist nature of all this manoeuvring for secession (which is also why the fellows were compelled to provoke a war so that with the cry ‘The North against the South’ they could keep the movement going), which will be apparent to you from the following excerpts, is also evident from the fact that the traitors in Buchanan’s administration who were at the head of the movement — War Secretary Floyd, Navy Secretary Toucey, Treasury Secretary Cobb, Secretary of the Interior Thompson — together with the leading senators of the South, were deeply involved in the dilapidations running to many millions which, in the course of December 1860, had been referred by Congress (House of Representatives) to a Committee of Enquiry. For some of these fellows, it was, at least, a question of escaping the penitentiary. Hence they are the most willing tools of the 300,000-strong slaveholders oligarchy. It goes without saying that the concentration, status, and resources of the latter enable it to put down any opposition for the time being. Among one section of the ‘poor whites’, they found the mob that served them in place of Zouaves.

Georgia. ‘The Griffin Union’:

It is mere mockery for the same men who made the Constitution in Montgomery to come back to Georgia and ratify it under the name of a state convention.'

The Macon journal:

The State Conventions ... called for another purpose ... assume that they are the people, and under such an assumption of power can appoint delegates to a General Convention without consulting the people. All the acts of the Congress of their Confederacy are passed in secret session with closed doors, and what is done is kept from the people.’

The Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel (largest Georgia paper):

The whole movement for secession, and the formation of a new Government, so far at least as Georgia is concerned’ (and Georgia is the most populous of the slave states), ‘proceed on only a quasi consent of the people, and was pushed through, under circumstances of great excitement and frenzy-by a fictitious majority. With all the appliances brought to bear, etc., the election of the 4th of January showed a falling off of nearly 3,000, and an absolute majority of elected deputies of 79. But, upon assembling, by wheedling, coaxing, buying, and all the arts of deception, the convention showed a majority of 31’ (against Union). ‘... the Georgia Convention and the Confederate Congress have gone forward in their work, as none can deny, without authority from the people.”

Alabama. ‘The Mobile Advertiser’:

The Convention has adopted the permanent Constitution in behalf of the State of Alabama... The great fact stands forth that the delegates were not chosen for any such purpose.’

The North Alabamian:

The Convention made haste to usurp the prerogative, and ratify the Constitution... It is a remarkable fact that the substantial, physical force of the country, the hard-fisted, hand-working men, expected to do all the fighting when the country calls, were from the beginning opposed to the Ordinance of Secession.’

Mississippi. Similar complaints about usurpation in the Jackson Mississippian and Vicksburg Whig.

Louisiana. ‘New Orleans True Delta’:

Here secession succeeded only by suppressing the election returns... The government has been changed into despotism.'

At the State Convention of Louisiana (New Orleans) on 21 March 1861, old Roselius (one of the leading politicians in the United States), said:

‘The Montgomery instrument ... did not inaugurate a government of the people, but an odious and unmitigated oligarchy. The people had not been permitted to act in the matter.’

In LouisvIlle, Kentucky, Senator Guthrie (pro-slavery man, Treasury Secretary under Pierce) said on 16 March 1861 that the whole movement was a ‘plot’ and ‘usurpation’. Inter alia:

‘In Alabama a majority of the popular vote was cast against going out, but a small majority of the delegates were for secession, they, took Alabama out, and refused the people to have any voice in the matter. The vote of Louisiana, too, was against secession, but the delegates suppressed it,’ etc.

Your
K. M.