Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung May 1849

A Prussian Kick for the Frankfurt Assembly

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 377;
Written: by Engels on May 1, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 287, May 2, 1849.

Cologne, May 1. Another new item in the history of the Prussian counter-revolution. The King gives the Frankfurt Assembly a determined kick and contemptuously casts in its face the proffered gold-tinsel crown of an imaginary empire.[293]

If at the right time the Frankfurt Assembly had acted with energy, it could now order the arrest of this Hohenzollern, who is filled with insolence, and commit him to the Assize Court for “insult to the National Assembly” (Law of September 1848, published also in Prussia[294]). As yet there exists no “imperial” law that declares the individual sovereigns exempt also from responsibility in regard to the “empire”; and the imperial irresponsibility has been rejected by the Hohenzollern.

The new Prussian “imperial” Note of April 28 softens the “imperial” kick by a few kind observations about the so-called German imperial Constitution. This innocent botch-work is depicted in the Note as a supreme example of all that is bad and as an extreme product of revolution and secret republicanism “exceeding all bounds”.

St. Paul’s Church as a robbers’ cave of carbonari! [295] Welcker and Gagern as secret republicans, “Möros with a dagger under his cloak"! Bassermann, the man who sees spectres, himself turned into one of the “Bassermannic characters"[296]. That, of course, is flattering for the worthy Frankfurt deputies after all the scorn with which they have been treated by the people, after all the curses heaped on them by the defeated barricade fighters of Frankfurt and Vienna, and there are people of all shades of opinion, right down to Herr Vogt, who are capable of really believing such nonsense.

The Prussian Note is the last threat to the Frankfurt Assembly even before it is actually dispersed. Once more the stubborn Hohenzollern proffers his hand for a “reconciliation”. And, in point of fact, after the Assembly has gone so far it could truly make one little step further and become completely a tool of Prussia.

Meanwhile, however, a section of the people, and especially the peasantry and the lower middle class of the small south German states, cling to the Assembly and to the so-called imperial Constitution. The army is favourably disposed towards the imperial Constitution. The people regard every step, however small, towards the unification of Germany as a step towards abolition of the petty sovereigns and liberation from the oppressive burden of taxation. The hatred of Prussia, too, plays a part here. The Swabians even made a revolution in support of the so-called imperial Constitution[297]; it was, of course, a storm in a teacup, but all the same it was something.

Hence, if the worthy Frankfurt deputies possessed the slightest degree of courage, it would not be possible to disperse the Frankfurt Assembly without the use of force. They now have a last opportunity of atoning at least for a small part of the grievous sins they have committed. If simultaneously with the victories of the Hungarians, the break-up of Austria, and the fury of the people in Prussia at the Hohenzollern-Radowitz-Manteuffel betrayals, Frankfurt and South Germany were to rise up openly in defence of the imperial Constitution, they could form a temporary centre for a new revolutionary uprising based on Hungary.

But then the worthy deputies would not have to shrink from proclaiming civil war either and, in the extreme case, if it comes to making a decision, they would have to prefer a united and indivisible German republic to a restoration of the German Federal Diet.[298]

But anyone who supposes the Frankfurters capable of that is greatly mistaken. These gentlemen will make a little noise, offer a little resistance, enough to satisfy at least to some extent the requirements of decency, and then they will agree to everything that the stubborn Hohenzollern dictates to them. Here and there, perhaps, the people will erect barricades and — will be betrayed as on September 18.[299]

That would be the end of the famous imperial bombastic dramatical performance, if it depended on the Frankfurt gentlemen.

But perhaps the Hungarian hussars, the Polish Uhlans, and the Viennese proletarians will have a word to say, and then matters can nevertheless take a different turn.