Letters of Marx and Engels, 1849

Marx To Colonel Engels
In Cologne

Source: MECW Volume 38, p. 192;
Written: 3 March 1849;
First published: in Marx and Engels, Works, First Russian Edition, 1934.

Draft, Cologne, 3 March 1849

To Colonel Engels, Deputy Commandant


The day before yesterday two non-commissioned officers [Dust and Hover] of the 8th Company, 16th Infantry Regiment, came to my rooms to speak to me privately. I had left for Düsseldorf. They were therefore turned away. Yesterday afternoon two of these gentlemen again presented themselves and demanded a private interview.

I had them shown into a room where I Joined them almost immediately. I invited the gentlemen to sit down and asked them what they wanted. They told me they wanted to know the name of the writer of the article (No. 233 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung of 28 February) against Captain von Uttenhoven[253]. I replied to these gentlemen, 1) that the article in question had nothing to do with me since it had appeared below the line and was therefore an advertisement; 2) that they were at liberty to insert a refutation gratis; 3) that they were at liberty to sue the paper. Upon the gentlemen’s remarking that the whole of the 8th Company felt themselves to be insulted by the advertisement, I returned that nothing but the signatures of all the members of the 8th Company would convince me of the accuracy of that statement, which in any case was irrelevant.

The non-commissioned officers thereupon declared that if I failed to name, to ‘deliver up’ the ‘man’, they would ‘no longer be able to restrain their men’, and ‘evil would result’.

I told the gentlemen that little or nothing was to be achieved by trying to threaten or intimidate me. They then withdrew muttering under their breath.

Relaxation of discipline must have gone very far and all sense of law and order must have ceased if’ like a robber band, a Company can send delegates to an individual citizen and attempt with threats to extort this or that confession from him. In particular, I fail to understand the meaning of the sentence: ‘We can no longer restrain our men’.

Are these ‘men’, perhaps, to exercise jurisdiction on their own initiative, do these ‘men’ have other than legal resources at their command?

I must beg you, Sir, to institute an inquiry into this incident and to give me an explanation for this singular presumption. I would be sorry to be obliged to have recourse to publicity.