Articles by Frederick Engels in The Rheinische Zeitung

Diary of a Guest Student

Written: between May 2 and 10, 1842;
First published: in the Rheinische Zeitung, May 10 and 24, 1842;
Signed: F. O.;
Source: MECW, Volume 2;
Transcribed: in 2000 for by Andy Blunden.

Rheinische Zeitung No. 130, May 10, 1842

In a city like Berlin a stranger would be committing a real crime against himself and against good taste if he did not inspect all the sights. Yet the most remarkable thing in Berlin, that which distinguishes the Prussian capital above all others, remains all too often unnoticed by him; I am speaking of the University. I do not mean the imposing façade on the Opera Square, or the anatomy and mineralogy museums, but the many lecture-halls with witty and pedantic professors, with students young and old, gay and serious, with freshmen and old-stagers, lecture-halls in which words have been spoken and are still spoken daily that spread beyond the frontiers of Prussia and even beyond the bounds within which German is spoken. Berlin University enjoys the reputation, like no other, of standing in the mainstream of contemporary thought and of having made itself such an arena of intellectual battles. How many other universities, Bonn, Jena, Giessen, Greifswald, and even Leipzig, Breslau and Heidelberg,. have withdrawn from these battles and sunk into that learned apathy which has at all times been the bane of German science! Berlin, on the other hand, numbers representatives of all trends among its academic staff and thus allows a lively polemic which gives the students an easy, clear overall picture of present-day trends. In such circumstances I was tempted to take advantage of the now commonly granted privilege to sit in at lectures, and so I went in one morning, just as the summer term was beginning. Several lecturers had already begun their courses, most were beginning that day. Of all the lectures open to me the most interesting was the start of Marheineke’s course on the introduction of Hegelian philosophy into theology. In general, the first lectures by the local Hegelians this term were of very particular interest because with several of them one could be sure in advance of direct polemics against Schelling’s philosophy of revelation, while others could be expected not to hesitate in saving the honour of Hegel’s offended manes. Marheineke’s course was too evidently directed against Schelling not to attract special attention. The lecture-hall was filled long before his arrival; young men and old, students, officers and goodness knows who else, sat and stood packed closely together. At last he enters; the -talk and hum of voices cease instantly, hats fly off as if by command. A firm, strong figure, the serious, resolute face of a thinker, the high forehead wreathed in hair gone grey in the hard toil of thinking; during the lecture itself a noble demeanour, nothing of the scholar who buries his nose in the notes from which he is reading, no histrionic gesticulation; a youthful, upright posture, the eye fixed firmly on the audience; the delivery itself calm, dignified, slow but always fluent, plain but infinitely rich in striking thoughts which follow close one upon the other, each more penetrating than the preceding one. On the rostrum Marheineke impresses you by his sureness, imperturbable firmness and dignity, and also by the freedom of mind which radiates from his entire personality.

Today, however, he stepped onto the rostrum in a very special mood, impressing his audience far more powerfully even than usually. If for a whole term he had patiently endured Schelling’s unworthy utterances on the dead Hegel and his philosophy, if he had quietly listened to Schelling’s lectures to the end — and for a man like Marheineke that is indeed no trifle — the moment had now come when he could reply. to the attack, when he could lead proud thoughts into the field against proud words. He began with general remarks in which he described in masterly strokes the present attitude of philosophy to theology, referred appreciatively to Schleiermacher, saying that his pupils had been led to philosophy by his thinking which stimulated thinking, and that any who took a different path had themselves to blame for it. Gradually he passed to Hegelian philosophy and soon made a clear allusion to Schelling.

“Hegel,” he said, “desired above all else that in philosophy one should rise above one’s own vanity and not behave as if one had divined something special and here the matter could now rest; in particular he was not the man to come out with grand promises and dazzling words, but was content to let the philosophical deed speak for him. He has never been the miles gloriosus [bragging liar] of philosophy who boasted much about himself. — Now, of course, nobody thinks himself too ignorant or too limited to pass adverse judgment on him and his philosophy; and nobody can fail to make his fortune if he has a thorough refutation of it in his pocket; for how easily he could insinuate himself with it can be seen from those who merely promise a refutation and afterwards do not keep their word.”

At these last words the applause of the audience, of which there had already been single outbursts, broke into stormy acclamation, which, being new at a theological lecture, greatly surprised the lecturer, and in its fresh spontaneity offered a striking contrast to the dry cheers barely produced by subventions at the end of the lectures which Marheineke was attacking. He quietened the applause with a gesture and continued:-

“This desired refutation is nevertheless not yet available, nor will it be, as long as irritation, ill humour, envy and passion generally are employed instead of calm, scientific examination; as long as gnosticism and fantasy are considered sufficient to dethrone philosophical thought. The first condition of this refutation is, of course, to understand the opponent correctly, and here many of Hegel’s enemies are like the dwarf who fought against the giant, or the still better known knight who tilted against windmills.”

This is the main content of Marheineke’s first lecture as far as it may be of interest to the wider public. Marheineke has once more shown how courageous and calm he always is on the field of battle when it is a matter of defending the freedom of science. By virtue of his character and acumen he stands out far more as Hegel’s successor than Gabler, to whom this title is usually given. The grand, free vision with which Hegel surveyed the entire realm of thought and grasped the phenomena of life is also Marheineke’s inheritance. Who will condemn him if he is not prepared to sacrifice his long-held conviction, his hard-won achievement, to a development which has only come about in the last five years? Marheineke has advanced with the times long enough to be entitled to a scientific summing-up. It is a great quality in him that he feels at home even in the most outlying areas of philosophy and makes its cause his own, as he has done every day from Leo’s Hegelingen to Bruno Bauer’s dismissal. [134]

Incidentally Marheineke intends to have these lectures printed when they are completed. [135]


Rheinische Zeitung No. 144, May 24, 1842

A few students were sitting scattered in a spacious lecture-hall waiting for the lecturer. The notice on the door said that Professor von Henning was at this hour to begin a public lecture on the Prussian financial system. Attracted by the subject, put on the order of the day by Bülow-Cummerow, and the name of the lecturer, one of Hegel’s older pupils, I was surprised that it did not appear to arouse more interest. Henning entered, a slim man in his “prime”, with thin fair hair, and began to present his subject in rapidly flowing, perhaps rather too detailed discourse.

“Prussia,” he said, “stands out among all other states by having a financial system based entirely on the modem science of political economy, and having had the hitherto unique courage to apply in practice the ‘theoretical results of Adam Smith and his followers. England, for instance, where the modern theories originated, is still up to the eyes in the old system of monopoly and prohibition, France almost more so, and neither Huskisson in the former country nor Duchâtel in the latter has been able to overcome private interests by his more reasonable views, to say nothing of Austria and Russia; whereas Prussia has firmly recognised the principle of free trade and free industry and has abolished an monopolies and prohibitive customs duties. This aspect of our political system, therefore, places us high above states which in another respect, the development of political freedom, are far ahead of us. If our government’s achievement in respect of finance has been so extraordinary, it must also be admitted, on the other hand, that peculiarly favourable conditions existed for such a reform. The disaster of 1806 [defeat at Jena] cleared the ground on which the new edifice could be erected; the government’s hands were not tied by a representative system, enabling the particular interests to assert themselves. But unfortunately there are still old gentlemen whose narrow-mindedness and peevishness make them carp at what is new and accuse it of being an unhistorical, unpractical, forcibly imposed construction evolved from abstract theory; as if history had stopped in 1806 and it were wrong for practice to conform with theory, with science; as if the essence of history were stagnation or movement in a circle, and not progress, as if there could really he practice devoid of all theory.”

I May be permitted to look more closely at these last points, with which public opinion in Germany, and particularly in Prussia, will surely declare itself in accord; it is high time to oppose resolutely the eternal talk of a certain’ party about “historical, organic, natural development”, about the “natural state”, etc., and publicly expose these dazzling visions. If there are states which must indeed take the past into consideration and are obliged to advance more slowly, this does not apply to Prussia. Prussia cannot advance quickly enough, cannot develop rapidly enough. Our past lies buried under the ruins of pre-Jena Prussia, it has been swept away by the flood of the Napoleonic invasion. What fetters us? We no longer have to drag on our feet those medieval balls and chains which hamper the progress of so many states; the dirt of past centuries no longer sticks to our soles. How then can anyone talk about historical development here without meaning a return to the ancien régime? A retreat which would be the most shameful there ever was, the most cowardly denial of the most glorious years of Prussian history, treason — conscious or unconscious — against the Fatherland, since it would necessitate another catastrophe like that of 1806. No, it is clear as daylight that Prussia’s salvation lies solely in theory, in science, in development through the intellect. Or to see it from another angle, Prussia is no “natural” state, but one which has come into being through politics, through purposeful action, through the intellect. From the French side the attempt has recently been made to represent this as our state’s greatest weakness; on the contrary, this circumstance is our main strength, provided that it is rightly used. Prussia, if it so wants, can raise itself as high above the “natural” states as the conscious intellect stands above unconscious nature. Since provincial differences in Prussia are so great, the system must grow purely from thought in order that no province shall be wronged; a gradual fusion of the different provinces will then take place of itself, the separate peculiarities all dissolving in the higher unity of a free state consciousness, whereas otherwise several centuries would not suffice to bring about the internal legislative and national unity of Prussia, and the first violent blow would be bound to have such consequences for the internal cohesion of our state against which no man could offer reliable guarantees. The road which other states have to take is determined in advance by a definite national character; we are free from this compulsion; we can make of ourselves what we will; dismissing all other considerations, Prussia can follow solely the inspiration of reason; it can, as no other state, learn from the experience of its neighbours; it can stand — which no other country can — as the model state for Europe, at the height of its time, and represent in its institutions the complete state consciousness of its century.

This is our vocation, this is what Prussia has been created for. Should we barter away this future for the sake of a few hollow phrases from a dead trend? Shall we not listen to history itself, which entrusts us with this vocation of bringing the flower of all theory to life? Prussia’s basis, I say it once more, is not the ruins of past centuries, but the eternally young spirit which becomes conscious in science and creates for itself its own freedom in the state. And if we were to give up the spirit and its freedom, we should be denying ourselves, we should be betraying our most sacred possession, we should be murdering our own living strength and should not be worthy any longer to stand in the ranks of the European states. Then history would pronounce its terrible death sentence on us: “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” [Daniel 5:27]