Farsi    Arabic    English   

The New Ministry

Karl Marx

Berlin, Nov. 6, 1858

After considerable vacillation a new Ministry has at last been formed, which may be best characterized as the Princess of Prussia's[a] Ministry. It is more liberally tinged than the Berlin Philistines dared to hope, and as might be expected from a lady's choice, is composed with but slight regard to the congruity of its different elements, so that the principal end aimed at, of securing a momentary popularity, is but secured. In true lady-like style the Princess says a gracious word to everybody; to the Catholics, in installing a Catholic as Prime Minister[b], a thing unheard of in the annals of Prussia; to the fervent Protestants, in surrendering the Ministry of Public Instruction to an Evangelical Pietist[c]; to anti-Russian tendencies, in confiding the War Ministry to a General[d] formerly dismissed from the same post, on the express demand of the Czar Nicholas; to anti-Austrian jealousy, in intrusting with Foreign Affairs a man[e] who had once resigned that place in order not to stoop to the dictation of the Prince of Schwarzenberg; to the bureaucratic mind, in nominating as Minister of the Interior—that Minister being in fact the head of the whole bureaucratic army, police as well as administration (Regierung)—a survivor[f] of the good old times of Frederick William III; to the Liberals, in giving a seat in the Cabinet without office, something like the Presidency of the Council[82] in an English Ministry, to the man[g]who served as Prime Minister in the first Cabinet produced by the revolution of 1848; to the Free-Traders, in introducing Herr von Patow into the Ministry of Finance; and to the Protectionists, in retaining von der Heydt in the Ministry of Commerce; to the nobility, in placing a Prince of the royal house at the head of the Cabinet, and filling all its political posts with nobles; and to the middle-class, in leaving to simple or ennobled middle-class men the matter of fact Ministries of Justice, Commerce, Public Instruction and the Interior; to the enemies of the Camarilla, in forming the great majority of the new Cabinet of personal enemies of Gerlach and Company; and to the Conservatives, anxious lest any thing like Cabinet changes, in the Parliamentary sense of the word, should become the fashion in Prussia, in keeping in pay some Ministers who were the colleagues of Manteuffel, men of his own choosing, and men who countersigned the orders by which the coup d'état was proclaimed in December, 1848.[h]

Thus eclecticism is the distinctive character of the new Cabinet—an eclecticism proceeding from popularity-hunting, tempered by the firm resolution to sacrifice no essentials to that same popularity. I shall but hint at one feature of the new Cabinet, a shade quite indifferent to the cool political observer, but most interesting for the Berlin gossip-monger. There is not one of the newly-appointed ministers whose name does not look like a trump played against the Queen of Prussia, like a personal epigram pointed at her by her spiteful sister-in law. The general impression produced by the nomination of the new Cabinet among the more thinking part of the Berliners, I shall describe in the words of one of my Berlin friends. The official announcement[i] was only made in to-night's Staats-Anzeiger, that is to say at about 6 o'clock in the evening; but long before that time accurate lists of the men appointed were freely circulated among the groups gathered "unter den Linden"[j]. Meeting there the friend alluded to, an average Berlin pot-house politician, I asked him what his thoughts were of the new Cabinet, and what the thoughts were of the "town" generally. Before giving his response, I must tell you what an average Berlin pot-house politician is. It is a man imbued with the notion that Berlin is the first town of the world; that there is to be found no "Geist" (an idea not to be translated, although ghost is etymologically the same word; the French esprit[k] is quite another thing) save at Berlin; and that Weissbier[l], a disgusting beverage for every outside barbarian, is the identical drink quoted in the Iliad under the name of nectar, and in the Edda under the name of meth. Beside these harmless prejudices, your average Berlin luminary is an incorrigible wiseacre, indiscreet, fond of talk, indulging a certain low humor, known in Germany as Berliner Witz[m], which plays more with words than with ideas, a curious compound of a little irony, a little skepticism and much vulgarity—altogether no very high specimen of mankind, nor a very amusing one, but still a typical character. Well, my Berlin friend answered my question by quoting, in the true Berlin tone of mockery, the following strophe from Schiller's "Glocke". I may remark, en passant, that your average Berliner praises nobody but Goethe, yet quotes nobody but Schiller:

" O zarte Sehnsucht, süsses Hoffen!
Der ersten Liebe goldne Zeit!
Das Auge sieht den Himmel offen,
Es schwelgt das Herz in Seligkeit;
O, dass sie ewig grünen bliebe,
Die schöne Zeit der jungen Liebe!"

(Oh, tender longings, sweet hopes, golden time of first love! The eye sees heaven open, the heart luxuriates in bliss. Oh, that it could bloom forever, that golden time of young love!)[n]

Returning from the poetical Berlin pot-house politician to the new Prussian Cabinet, and minding the old French adage: "à tout seigneur tout honneur"[o] the Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, the Prime Minister and intimate friend of the Princess of Prussia, claims attention first. He is the father of the Queen of Portugal[p], and firmly declined standing as father-in-law to the second French Empire[83]. Still, he is a near relative of Bonapartes. His mother was a sister of Murat, one of the kings extemporized by Napoleon, and his wife[q] is the second daughter of the dowager Archduchess Stéphanie of Baden, a Beauharnais by birth. Thus, this Prince forms a link of relationship between the Prussian dynasty, the Coburg dynasty, and the Bonaparte dynasty. He has been much slandered by the liberals of Southern Germany, because in the year 1849 he abdicated the sovereignty of his state of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, and according to family treaties sold it to the branch of the Hohenzollerns[84] ruling in Prussia. At the time he made that bargain no German principality was worth a three years' purchase, and, of all men, the Prince could not be expected to oblige the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen demagogues by continuing the existence of a Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen nationality. The hoisting of the Prussian colors in Southern Germany was, besides, a thing which displeased Austria as much as the small demagogues of Baden and Württemberg. After the abdication the Prince entered the military service of Prussia as a General, pitching his tent at Düsseldorf, a town of painting, sculpture and barracks, where a side branch of the Prussian dynasty formerly used to keep a little court[r]. To punish the Düsseldorfers for their participation in the revolution of 1848, which had reached its climax in a mob-demonstration against the King, on his passage through that town, Düsseldorf was deprived of the presence of Prince Frederick's Court, and degraded to the common rank of towns, which must contrive to live without having a court as their customer. Thus the Prince of Hohenzollern's appearance in Düsseldorf was quite an event. Without doing anything remarkable, he shone by his mere presence, like the great man of whom Goethe says that he pays by what he is, instead of by what he does. His popularity spread from Düsseldorf like wild-fire. His being simultaneously a member of the Dynasty and a member of the Catholic Church, did the rest. For the bigoted part of the population of Rhenish Prussia no further qualification is needed. You may be sure that the powerful and well-organized Catholic clergy throughout Rhenish Prussia, Westphalia, Silesia and Posen will strain every nerve in support of a Prussian Ministry, headed by a Roman Catholic, and it is, in fact, desirable that it should be so. Nothing did more harm to the revolution of 1848 than the opposition attitude taken by the Roman clergy. The latter body won immensely by the revolution, viz.: the right of freely communicating with the Pope, of erecting nunneries and cloisters, and not least, of acquiring real property. In reward for these privileges won, the holy men, of course, fiercely turned upon the revolution when defeated. They acted as the most merciless tools of reaction, and it is a good thing that no opportunity should be afforded them for gliding again into the Opposition camp. Of the other Ministers I shall find another occasion of speaking.

Written on November 6, 1858
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5489, November 24, 1858


[a] Augusta Marie Luise Katherina.—Ed.

[b] Prince von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.—Ed.

[c] Von Bethmann-Hollweg.—Ed.

[d] Von Bonin.—Ed.

[e] Baron von Schleinitz.—Ed.

[f] Von Flottwell.—Ed.

[g] Von Auerswald.—Ed.

[h] Friedrich Wilhelm IV, "Verordnung, betreffend die Auflösung der zur Vereinbarung der Verfassung berufenen Versammlung. Vom 5. Dezember 1848".—Ed.

[i] Wilhelm, Prince von Preussen, Regent, "Allerhöchster Erlass vom 6. November 1858 betreffend die Zusammensetzung des neu zu bildenden Ministeriums", Königlich privilegirte Berlinische Zeitung, No. 261, November 7, 1858.—Ed.

[j] Linter den Linden—the main street in Berlin.—Ed.

[k] Mind, wit.—Ed.

[l] Pale ale.—Ed.

[m] Berlin wit.—Ed.

[n] Schiller, "Das Lied von der Glocke".—Ed.

[o] "Honour to whom honour is due."—Ed.

[p] Stephanie.—Ed.

[q] Josephine Friederike Luise.—Ed.

[r] In the eighteenth century Düsseldorf was the capital of the Counts von Berg, side branch of the Sigmaringens.—Ed.

[82] The office of Lord President of the Council (later the Privy Council), introduced in England in the seventeenth century, remained in the British Cabinet as an honorary office, the holder of which had no direct influence on government affairs.

[83] This refers to Louis Napoleon's plans in the latter half of 1852 to marry a representative of a European ruling dynasty. One supposed candidate was a daughter of Karl Anton von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. These plans did not materialise.

[84] Under the treaty of December 7, 1849, the Principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was annexed to Prussia. This was called forth by the 1848 revolutionary events in the principality, as a result of which Prussian forces were brought in.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.96-100), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME1097en.html