The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The Democratic Party

by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

Translated: by the Marx-Engels Institute;
Transcribed: by, 1994;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 294, May 9, 1849.

The House of Hohenzollern

by Karl Marx

Cologne, May 9 — IN THE LAST DAYS of its and the Prussian state's existence, the government of Herr von Hohenzollern seems again to verify fully the old reputation of the Prussian and Hohenzollern name.

Who does not know their character from Heine's poem:

A child with a big pumpkin head,
with long sideburns and gray pigtails,
with spidery-long but strong little arms,
with a gigantic gizzard but short entrails,
A monster ....

Who does not know the breaches of faith, the perfidies, the legacy buntings by which this family of corporals bearing the name of Hohenzollern became great?

We know how the so-called Great Elector (as if an elector could be great!) committed his first treachery against Poland in that he, Poland's ally against Sweden, suddenly went over to the Swedes, the better to plunder Poland in the Peace of Oliva. [At the Peace of Oliva, concluded between Sweden on the one side and Poland, Austria, and Brandenburg on the other, on May 3, 1660, Poland finally relinquished sovereignty over East Prussia. -- ed.]

We know the tasteless figure of Frederick I, the brutal coarseness of Frederick William I.

We know how Frederick II, the founder of patriarchal despotism, the friend of the Enlightenment via flogging, auctioned off his country to the highest-bidding French entrepreneurs. We know how he allied with Russia and Austria to rape Poland, [In 1772 Poland was first partitioned between Prussia, Austria, and Russia. — ed.] an act which even now, after the Revolution of 1848, continues to be an unremoved stain on German history.

We know how Frederick William II helped to complete the rape of Poland, when he squandered the usurped Polish national and church estates on his courtiers.

We know how, in 1792, he formed a coalition with Austria and England to suppress the glorious French Revolution and to invade France; we also know how his "splendid army," covered with insult and shame, was driven out of France.

We know how he then left his allies in the lurch and hastened to make peace with the French Republic. [In 1795 Prussia and France concluded a separate peace at Basel. — ed.]

We know how he, who used to pretend to enthusiasm for the King of France and Navarre, bought cheaply from the French Republic this same King's crown diamonds, and thus profited from the misfortune of his "Beloved Brother."

We know how he, whose whole life has been a real Hohenzollernish mixture of luxury and mysticism, of senile lasciviousness and childish superstition, trampled on freedom of speech in the Bischoffwerder Edicts. [In the edict on religion, of July 9, 1788, and on censorship, of December 19 1788, issued at the suggestion of Frederick William II's favorite, Johann Rudolf von Bischoffwerder, religious and press freedom were restricted. — ed.]

We know how his successor, Frederick William III, the "Just," betrayed his allies to Napoleon, having been tossed Hanover as bait.

We know how he thereupon immediately betrayed Napoleon to these quondam allies when he, in the pay of England and Russia, attacked the French Revolution embodied in the person of Napoleon.

We know what success that attack had: the unheard-of defeat of the "splendid army" at Jena; the sudden outbreak of a moral lice disease throughout the Prussian body politic; a series of betrayals, vilenesses, and cringings on the part of Prussian officials, from whom Napoleon and his generals turned away in disgust.

We know how, in 1813, Frederick William III, by means of fine words and splendid promises, brought the Prussian people to the point that they came to believe in a "war of liberty" against the French, although what was really involved was a suppression of the French Revolution and a restoration of the old order by the grace of God.

We know how the fine promises were forgotten as soon as the Holy Alliance marched into Paris on March 30, 1814.

We know how, by the time of Napoleon's return from Elba, the enthusiasm of the people was already so cooled that the Hohenzollern had to revive their extinguished zeal with the promise of a constitution (Edict of May 22, 1815) four weeks before the battle of Waterloo.

We recall the promises of the German Federal Acts and of the Vienna Curtain Acts: freedom of the press, a constitution, etc. [These Acts were passed by the Congress of Vienna, in June 1815, confirming German federal constitutions. — ed.]

We know how the "Just" Hohenzollern kept his word: the Holy Alliance and congresses for the suppression of nations, Carlsbad Decrees, [the decrees passed by the ministers of the German federal states in August 1819, establishing rigid censorship and surveillance of students and universities. -- ed.] censorship, police despotism, rule by aristocracy, bureaucratic arbitrariness, justice by cabinets, demagogic persecutions, mass condemnations, financial waste — and no constitution.

We know how in 1820 the nation was assured of no increase in taxes and no rise in the national debt, and how the Hohenzollern kept his word: expansion of the Maritime Commerce Association into a secret state credit bank.

We know how the Hohenzollern replied to the appeal of the French people in the July Revolution: massing troops on the frontier, keeping down his own people, suppressing the movement in the smaller German states, and finally enslaving these states under the knout of the Holy Alliance.

We know how this same Hohenzollern violated neutrality in the Russo-Polish War, letting the Russians pass through his territory and thereby get at the back of the Poles, putting the Prussian arsenals and magazines at the disposal of the Russians, offering a secure haven in Prussia to every defeated Russian army corps. [On January 31, I831, Czar Nicholas I began a war against Poland, which ended on September 7, 1831, with the Russian occupation of Warsaw. — ed.]

We know that the whole effort of the Hohenzollern Underlord, in accord with the objectives of the Holy Alliance, was directed at strengthening the aristocracy, the bureaucracy, and the military in their rule, and suppressing with brutal force all freedom of expression and all influence of the "limited intelligence of the subjects" on the government, not only in Prussia but also in the rest of Germany.

We know that there has rarely been a period when such laudable intentions have been carried out in a more brutal way than in the period of Frederick William III, especially between 1815 and 1840. Nowhere have so many people ever been condemned and sentenced, nowhere have the fortresses ever been so full of political prisoners, as under the "just" ruler. And having achieved this, one comes to realize what innocent blockheads these demagogues were.

Shall we revert also to the Hohenzollern who, according to the Monk of Lehnin, [in the so-called Vaticiniun Lehninense (Lehnin Prophecy), a monk named Hermann, living in Lehnin, a cloister near Potsdam, prophesied in the year 1300 the decline of the House of Hohenzollern in the eleventh generation. — ed.] "would be the last of his race"? Shall we speak of the rebirth of Christian-Germanic grandeur and the resurrection of pallid financial distress, of the Order of the Swan, [In 1843 Frederick William IV vainly tried to restore the knightly Order of the Swan, established in 1443 — ed.] of the Chief Censorship Court, of the United Diet, [The first United Diet sat from April 11 to June 26, 1847; it was dissolved after it would not vote a loan demanded by the King. The second United Diet, meeting on April 7, 1848, was dissolved on April 10, 1848, after it voted a loan of 25,000,000 taler. — ed.] of the General Synod, of the "piece of paper," [in a speech at the opening of the Diet, on April 11, 1847, Frederick William IV refereed to a constitution as a "piece of paper." — ed.] of the vain efforts to borrow money, and all the rest of the achievements of the glorious epoch of 1840-48? Shall we prove from Hegel that it takes a comedian to see the end of the Hohenzollern line?

It will not be necessary. The above-mentioned data fully suffices to characterize the Hohenzollern-Prussian name. It is true that the luster of this name was dimmed for a moment, but since the Pleiades of Manteuffel & Co. have surrounded the crown, the ancient grandeur has returned again. Once more, Prussia is, as of yore, a vice-kingdom under the Russian suzerainty; once more the Hohenzollern is the underlord of the Autocrat of all the Russians and the overlord of all the little boyars of Saxony, Bavaria, Hesse-Homburg, Waldeck, etc.; once more the limited understanding of the subjects is restored to its old right of obeying orders. "My splendid army," so long as the Pravoslavny [Orthodox] Czar does not use it himself, is to restore, in Saxony, Baden, Hesse, and the Palatinate, the kind of order that has prevailed in Warsaw for eighteen years, and to glue together, in its own country and in Austria, the cracked crown with the blood of the subjects. The word spoken in anxiety and in the distress of the heart concerns us as little as our forefathers resting with God; and as soon as we are finished at home we will move, with martial music and flying flags, against France, conquer the country which grows champagne, and destroy the great Babel, the mother of all sins!

These are the plans of our exalted rulers; this is the haven to which the noble Hohenzollern is steering us. Hence the piled-up edicts and strokes of violence; hence the repeated kicks at the cowardly Frankfurt Assembly; hence the states of siege, the arrests and the persecutions; hence the invasion of Dresden and South Germany by Prussian soldiery.

But there is still one power, which of course gets little attention from the gentlemen in Sans Souci, but which nevertheless will speak with the voice of thunder. The PEOPLE — the people who, in Paris as well as on the Rhine, in Silesia as well as in Austria, with teeth gnashing in anger, are awaiting the moment of revolt, and who knows how soon all the Hohenzollerns and all underlords and overlords will get what they deserve.