Karl Marx

Renard’s Letter to Oberpräsident Von Schaper [104]

Source: MECW Volume 1, p. 282;
Written: on November 17, 1842;
First published: in the book Rheinische Briefe und Akten zur Geschichte der politischen Bewegung 1830-1850, 1. Bd., Herausgegehen von Hansen, Essen, 1919;
Transcribed: in 2000 for marxists.org by Andy Blunden.

Highly respected Herr Oberpräsident!

Your Excellency!

Through Regierungspräsident Herr von Gerlach in Cologne, on the 12th of this month, Your Excellency has put before me a rescript of the censorship ministry and, in addition, two decrees, and called for my observations on them to be minuted. Considering the importance of the explanations demanded of me, rather than making a statement to be minuted, I have preferred to address myself today to Your Excellency in writing.

1. As regards the rescript of the censorship ministry and in particular the demand that the Rheinische Zeitung should alter its tendency and adopt one agreeable to the government, I am able to interpret this demand only in relation to the form, a moderation of which, insofar as the content allows, can be conceded. judging by the recently issued censorship instruction, and also by His Majesty’s views frequently expressed elsewhere, it seems to us that the tendency of a newspaper which, like the Rheinische, is not a mere unprincipled amalgam of dry reports and fulsome praise, but throws light on state conditions and institutions through conscious’ criticism inspired by a noble purpose, can only he a tendency acceptable to the government. Moreover, until now the responsible editor has never been informed of any disapproval of this tendency. Furthermore, since the Rh. Ztg. is subjected to the strictest censorship, how could its suppression be justified as a first warning?

I can assure Your Excellency that in the future, too, the Rh. Ztg. will continue to the best of its ability to help in paving the path of progress, along which Prussia leads the rest of Germany. For that very reason, however, I must reject the reproach levelled at me in the rescript that the Rh. Ztg. has sought to spread French sympathies and ideas in the Rhineland. The Rh. Ztg. has, on the contrary a made its main task to direct towards Germany the glances which so many people still fastened on France, and to evoke a German instead of a French liberalism, which can surely not be disagreeable to the government of Frederick William IV. In this connection, the Rh. Ztg. has always pointed to Prussia, on whose development that of the rest of Germany depends. Proof of this tendency is provided by the articles on “Prussian hegemony”, aimed polemically against the anti-Prussian b strivings of the Augsburg newspaper. Proof is provided by all the articles on the Prussian Customs Union aimed against the articles of the Hamburg Correspondent and other newspapers, in which the Rh. Ztg. depicted in the greatest detail the accession of Hanover, Mecklenburg and the Hanseatic towns as the only beneficial course. Proof is provided above all by the continual reference to North-German science in contrast to the superficiality not only of French, but also of South-German theories. The Rh. Zeitung was the first Rhenish, and in general the first South-German, newspaper to introduce the North-German spiritc in the Rhine Province and in South Germany, and how could the divided races be more inseparably linked than by spiritual unity, which is the soul of political unity and its only guarantee against all external storms?

As to the alleged irreligious tendency of the :Rh. Ztg., it cannot be unknown to the supreme authorities that in regard to the content of a certain positive creed-and it is a question only of this and not of religion, which we have never attacked and never will attack-the whole of Germany, and especially Prussia, is divided into two camps, both of which include among their champions men occupying high positions in science and the state. In an unresolved controversy, should a newspaper take neither side or only one that has been officially prescribed to it? Moreover, we have never gone outside the terrain proper to a newspaper, but have touched on dogmas such as church doctrines and conditions in general only insofar as other newspapers make religion into constitutional law and transfer it from its own sphere into that of politics. It will even be easy to cover each of our utterances with the similar and stronger utterances of a Prussian king, Frederick the Great, and we consider this authority to be one which Prussian publicists may very well invoke.

The Rheinische Zeitung is therefore entitled to believe that it has pre-eminently carried out the wish for an independent free-minded press which His Majesty formulated in the censorship instruction, and that it has thereby contributed not a little towards the benedictions which at the present time the whole of Germany conveys to His Majesty our King in his ascendant career.

The Rh. Ztg., Your Excellency, was not founded as a commercial speculation or in expectation of any profit. A large number of the most esteemed men of Cologne and the Rhine Province, justly displeased with the pitiful state of the German press, believed that they could not better honour the will of His Majesty the King than by founding the Rh. Ztg. as a monument of the nation, a newspaper which voices the speech of free men in a principled and fearless way and, what is at all events a rare phenomenon, enables the King to hear the true voice of the people. The unprecedentedly rapid growth of this newspaper’s circulation proves how well it has understood the wishes of the people. This was the aim for which those men contributed their capital, and for which they shrank from no sacrifice. Let Your Excellency now decide for yourself whether it is possible or permissible for me, as the spokesman of these men, to declare that the Rheinische Zeitung will alter its tendency, and whether its suppression would be not so much an act of violence against a private individual, but rather an act of violence against the Rhine Province and the German spirit in general.

In order, however, to prove to the government how very ready I am to comply with its wishes, insofar as they are compatible with the function of an independent newspaper, I am willing, as has been the case for some time past, as far as possible to set aside all ecclesiastical or religious subjects, so long as other newspapers or political conditions themselves do not necessitate reference to them a

2. Secondly, as regards Your Excellency’s demand for the immediate dismissal of Dr. Rutenherg, I already told Regierungspräsident von Gerlach on February 14 that Dr. Rutenberg was in no way an editor of the Rheinische keitung, but only did the work of a translator. In response to the threat, conveyed to me through Regierungspräsident von Gerlach, of the immediate suppression of the newspaper if Rutenherg were not at once dismissed, I have yielded to force and have for the time being removed him from any participation in the newspaper. Since, however, I am not aware of any legal provision which would justify this point of the rescript, I request Your Excellency to specify any such provision, and, if necessary, to give a speedy ruling whether the decision reached is to remain in force or not, so that I can claim my legal rights through the appropriate channels.

3. As regards the third point, the submission of an editor for approval, according to the censorship law of October 18, 1819, § [IX], only the supreme censorship authorities are entitled to demand the submission of an editor for approval. I know of no provision which transfers this entitlement to the Oberpräsidents. Therefore I request specification of any such provision or, if necessary, of a censorship ministry decree which orders this. Very willingly, but only in that case, will I submit an editor for approval.