Marx-Engels Correspondence 1870

Engels to Marx
In London


Written: September 4, 1870;
Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence, International Publishers (1968);
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers (1975);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan, 1999;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

September 4, 1870

“Was schert mich Weib, was schert mich Kind,
Ich trage höhres Verlangen;
Lass sie betteln gehn, wenn sie hungrig sind-
Mein Kaiser, mein Kaiser gefangen!”

[What care I for wife or child,
I have higher yearnings;
if they are hungry let them go and beg –
My Emperor, my Emperor is a captive!]

World history is surely the greatest of poets, it has even succeeded in parodying Heine. My Emperor, my Emperor a captive! And of the “stinking Prussians,” what is more. And poor William stands by and assures everybody for the hundredth time that he is really quite innocent of the whole business and that it is a pure act of God. William appears just like the schoolboy: “Who created the world?” “Please teacher, I did – but indeed I will never do it again.”

And then the miserable Jules Favre comes along with the proposal that Palikao, Trochu and a few Arcadians shall form the government. There never was such a lousy crew. But all the same it is to be expected now that when this becomes known in Paris something or other will happen. I cannot believe that this douche of news, which must surely be known to-day or to-morrow, will produce no effect. Perhaps a government of the Left, which after some show of resistance will conclude peace.

The war is at an end. There is no more army in France. As soon as Bazaine has capitulated, which will no doubt happen this week, half the German army will move in front of Paris and the other half across the Loire to sweep the country of all armed detachments....

The Alsace swindle – apart from its purely Teutonic features – is mainly of a strategical nature and aims at getting the line of the Vosges and German Lorraine as border-country. (Language frontier: If you draw a straight line from Donon or Schirmeck in the Vosges to one hour east of Longwy, where the Belgian – Luxemberg and French frontiers meet, it is almost exactly the language frontier; and from Donon down the Vosges to the Swiss frontier.) Northwards from Donon the Vosges are not so high and steep as in the South. Only the asses of the Staatsanzeiger and Brass and Co. could suppose that France will be “throttled” by the snipping off of this narrow strip with its one and a quarter million or so inhabitants. The screams of the philistines for “guarantees” are altogether absurd, but they tell because they suit the rubbish of the Court people.... In Saarbrücken the French did as much damage as they could. Of course the bombardment only lasted a few hours and not as in Strasbourg day and night for weeks. ...

Herewith I return Cacadou’s[1] letter with thanks. Very interesting.

... The defence of Paris, if nothing extraordinary happens in the course of it, will be an entertaining episode. These perpetual little panics of the French – which all arise from fear of the moment when they will really have to learn the truth – give one a much better idea of the Reign of Terror. We think of this as the reign of people who inspire terror; on the contrary, it is the reign of people who are themselves terrified. Terror consists mostly of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves. I am convinced that the blame for the Reign of Terror in 1793 lies almost exclusively with the over-nervous bourgeois, demeaning himself as a patriot, the small petty bourgeois beside themselves with fright and the mob of riff-raff who know how to profit from the terror. These are just the classes in the present minor terror too.

... Best regards to all of you from all of us, including Jollymeyer [2] and Moore. [3]



1. A jocular nickname of Laura Lafargue – Progress Publishers.

2. A jocular nickname of Karl Schorlemmer (1834-1892), a prominent German chemist, adherent of dialectical materialism, professor at Manchester, member of German Social-Democratic Party, friend of Marx and Engels – Progress Publishers.

3. Samuel Moore (1830-1912) – English lawyer, member of First International, helped translate Capital into English, friend of Marx and Engels – Progress Publishers.