Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 1850

To the Editor of The Spectator

Source: MECW, Volume 10, p.381;
Written: June 14, 1850.
First published: Letter, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Works, Moscow, 1934, Article, in The Spectator, June 14 1850.


We take the liberty of requesting you to insert the enclosed letter in your next. We have every reason to believe, that there exists, on the part of the government, an inclination to enforce the Alien Bill and to have it then renewed by Parliament. We are, it seems, to be the first victims. We think that the honour of the English nation is somewhat interested in preventing the execution of such a plan; we think, too, we cannot do better but appeal frankly from the British Government to public opinion. And, therefore, hope you will not refuse to our letter the publicity which your widely-circulated paper is sure to give it.

In case you should wish any further information, we shall be glad to give it, if you will only be kind enough to let us know when and where we can meet you.

We are, Sir, yours most respectfully.

Prussian Spies in London

64 Dean Street, Soho Square,
14th June, 1850


For some time past, we, the undersigned German refugees residing in this country, have had occasion to admire the attention paid to us by the British Government. We were accustomed to meet, from time to time, some obscure servant of the Prussian Ambassador, not being “registered as such according to law”; we were accustomed to the ferocious spouting and to the rabid proposals of such agents provocateurs, and we knew how to treat them. What we admire is, not the attention the Prussian Embassy pay us — we are proud to have merited it; it is the entente cordiale which seems to be established, as far as we are concerned, between Prussian spies and English informers.

Really, Sir, we should have never thought that there existed in this country so many police-spies as we have had the good fortune of making the acquaintance of in the short space of a week. Not only that the doors of the houses where we live are closely watched by individuals of a more than doubtful look, who take down their notes very coolly every time any one enters the house or leaves it; we cannot make a single step without being followed by them wherever we go. We cannot get into an omnibus or enter a coffee-house without being-favoured with the company of at least one of these unknown friends. We do not know whether the gentlemen engaged in this grateful occupation are so “on her Majesty’s service”; but we know this, that the majority of them look anything but clean and respectable.

Now, of what use can be, to any one, the scanty information thus scratched together at our doors by a lot of miserable spies, male prostitutes of the lowest order, who mostly seem to be drawn from the class of common informers, and paid by the job? Will this, no doubt exceedingly trustworthy information, be of such value as to entitle any one to sacrifice, for its sake, the old-established boast of Englishmen, that in their country there is no chance of introducing that spy system from which not one country of the Continent is free?

Besides, we always have been, and are now, ready to give any information respecting ourselves the Government may desire, as far as this will be in our power.

We know, however, very well what is at the bottom of all this. The Prussian Government have taken occasion of the late attempt on the life of Frederick William IV to open another campaign against their political enemies in Prussia and out of Prussia. And because a notorious madman has fired a shot at the King of Prussia, the English Government are to be entrapped into enforcing the Alien Bill against us; although we are at a loss to conceive in what respect our presence in London can possibly come into collision with “the preservation of the peace and tranquillity of these realms”.

Some eight years ago, when we, in Prussia, attacked the existing system of government, the official functionaries and press replied, why, if these gentlemen do not like the Prussian system, they are perfectly at liberty to leave the country. We left the country, and we knew the reason why. But after leaving it, we found Prussia everywhere; in France, in Belgium, in Switzerland, we felt the influence of the Prussian Ambassador. If, through his influence, we are to be made to leave this last refuge left to us in Europe, why, then Prussia will think herself the ruling power of the world.

England has hitherto been the only obstacle in the way of the Holy Alliance, now reconstructing under the protection of Russia; and the Holy Alliance, of which Prussia forms part and parcel, aim at nothing more than at entrapping anti-Russian England into a home policy of a more or less Russian cast. What, indeed, would Europe think of the late diplomatic notes and Parliamentary assertions of the British Government, if commented by an enforcement of the Alien Bill called forth by nothing but the revengeful instances of foreign reactionary governments?

The Prussian Government declare the shot fired at their King to be the result of widespread revolutionary conspiracies, the centre of which is to be sought in London. In accordance with this, they firstly destroy the liberty of the press at home, and secondly demand the English Government to remove from this country the pretended chiefs of the pretended conspiracy.

Considering the personal character and qualities of the present King of Prussia, and those of his brother, the heir to the throne, which party has a greater interest in the speedy succession of the latter — the Revolutionary party or the ultra-Royalists?

Allow us to state, that a fortnight before the attempt was made at Berlin, persons whom we have every reason to consider as agents either of the Prussian Government or the ultra-Royalists, presented themselves to us, and almost directly engaged us to enter into conspiracies for organising regicide in Berlin and elsewhere. We need not add, that these persons found no chance of making their dupes of us.

Allow us to state, that, after the attempt, other persons of a similar character have tried to force themselves upon us, and spoken in a similar manner.

Allow us to state, that Sefeloge, the sergeant who shot at the King, was not a Revolutionist, but an ultra-Royalist. He belonged to section No. 2 of the ultra-Royalist society, the Treubund. He is registered under number 133 on the list of members. He has been for a time supported with money by this society: his papers were deposited at the house of an ultra-Royalist Major employed at the War Office.

If ever this affair should come to be tried in open court, which we doubt, the public will see clear enough whether there have been any instigators to the attempt, and who they have been.

The ultra-Royalist Neue Preussische Zeitung was the first to denounce the refugees in London as the real authors of the attempt.’ It even named one of the undersigned, whom already before it had stated to have been in Berlin during a fortnight, while, as scores of witnesses can prove, he never for a moment left London. We wrote to M. Bunsen, the Prussian Ambassador, requesting him to furnish us with the numbers in question of that paper. The attention paid to us by that gentleman did not go so far as to cause him to comply with what we had expected from the courtoisie of the Chevalier.

We believe, Sir, that under these circumstances, we cannot do better than bring the whole case before the public. We believe that Englishmen are interested in anything by which the old-established reputation of England, as the safest asylum for refugees of all parties and of all countries, may he more or less affected.

We are, Sir, your most obedient servants,

Charles Marx, Fred. Engels, Editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung of Cologne
Aug. Willich, Colonel in the Insurrectionary Army in Baden

64 Dean Street, Soho Square,
June 14, 1850