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The New Ministry

Karl Marx

Berlin, Nov. 9, 1858

"The whirligig of time brings in his revenges."[a] Herr von Auerswald, the Vice-President of the new Cabinet, was, as I stated in a former letter[b], the nominal chief of the first regular Ministry of the revolutionary epoch. Then his appointment was considered a symptom of reaction, just as now, after a lapse of ten years, it is considered a symptom of progress. He was the successor of Camphausen, the corn merchant, whom the revolutionary tempest had thrown from his counting-house at Cologne to Berlin on the steps of the Prussian throne. Auerswald's Ministry lasted from the end of June to the 7th September, 1848. Quite apart from what he might do or leave undone, his mere name on the title-page of a Cabinet had a significant meaning in the month of June, 1848. Camphausen, his predecessor, was a native of Rhenish Prussia; Auerswald, a native of the province of East Prussia—the former a private merchant, the latter a public functionary; the former a bourgeois, the latter a noble; the former wealthy, the latter poor. Thus, it was evident that already at the end of June, 1848, one month only after the days of March, the oscillatory movement of the Prussian revolution had turned from the west to the east—from the neighborhood of France to the neighborhood of Russia; from simple mortals to Mandarins; from the middle class to the nobility; from the purse to the rank. Save this significance of his name, it cannot be said that Auerswald realized any great significance during the three months his Cabinet lasted. If you ask a Prussian as to the character of Auerswald's former Cabinet, he is likely to put his forefinger to his pate, rub it seriously, in true Hudibras[85] way, and at last, as if awaking from a trance, exclaim: "Ah, you mean Hansemann's Cabinet." Hansemann, indeed, the Minister of Finances who had passed from Camphausen's Cabinet to Auerswald's Cabinet, was the soul of the latter. So, to characterize the Premiership of Auerswald, we must speak of Hansemann.

The latter, an Aachen merchant, had resumed his political creed in his apostrophe, afterward become celebrated, addressed to Prussian royalty on the United Diet in 1847: "In monetary matters, there is an end of fine feeling." (In Geldsachen hört die Gemüthlichkeit auf.)[c] This sentence, if it be allowed parva componere magnis[d], was, under the then circumstances, an equiva lent of Sieyès's famous words: "Le tiers-état c'est tout"[e]. Under Frederick William III, at a time when nobody, save the licensed followers of Prussian Universities, dared write on politics, Hansemann published a book comparing Prussia to France[f], strongly leaning to the latter power, but so cleverly moderate that it was impossible even for the Prussian censure to put down his insulting parallelism. At a time when a joint-stock company was still a rara avis[g] in Germany, he had the ambition of becoming a German Hudson, and proved a perfect adept in that sort of jobbery which now flourishes in all civilized countries, and has been converted into a system, even, by the Crédit Mobilier[86]. At a time when bankruptcy was still considered by old-fashioned Germany a stain on the fair reputation of a man, Hansemann contrived to prove that an alternation of bankruptcies is almost as productive in the trading line, as an alternation of crops is in agriculture. The administration of this man, to which Auerswald lent his name, proceeded from the erroneous notion that the few weeks of revolution had sufficiently shaken the old State pillars, that dynasty and aristocracy and bureaucracy had been sufficiently humbled, that the political ascendency of the middle class was conquered forever, and that there remained nothing to do but roll back the ever-surging waves of the revolution.

So successful proved the Ministry in this work of breaking the breakers, that itself was broken three months after its installation, that they, the liberal sycophants, were most unceremoniously kicked out by the courtiers standing behind them, who had used them as mere cat's-paws. Auerswald and Hansemann cut the sorry figures of impostors imposed upon[h]. Auerswald shared, besides, the by no means enviable position of being responsible for the Prussian foreign policy, since he had united in his person the Premiership and the Portefeuille of Foreign Affairs. Now, if the internal policy of the Ministry was dictated, at least, by the apparent interests of the middle class, which had taken fright at the progress of revolution, the foreign policy was exclusively directed by the Camarilla, and Auerswald a mere tool in their hands. In June 1850 he was appointed President of the province of Rhenish Prussia, to be shortly after removed from that post by Herr von Westphalen, who cleared the Prussian bureaucracy of liberals as coolly as a Scotch nobleman clears his estates of men. As a member of the Lower House (Abgeordneten Haus), Auerswald limited himself to opposition in such a diluted form as to be perceptible to the eyes of the political homeopathist only. Auerswald is one of the aristocratic representatives of the liberalism of the province of Eastern Prussia. The elements of which this liberalism consists are remembrances of the wars against Napoleon, and the hopes then embraced by the more intellectual patriots; some general ideas which Königsberg, as the center of Kant's philosophy, considers a local property almost; the unity of interests between the noble who grows the corn, and the inhabitants of the sea towns which export it; free-trade doctrinairism in various shapes, since the province of Prussia is no manufacturing country, but for the greater part depends on the sale to England of its agricultural produce.

Herr von Schleinitz, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, had once before, in 1849, been appointed Foreign Minister, and, during the short time of his administration, coalesced with the Gotha party[87], who, if successful, would divide Germany into two parts—a Northern one, incorporated with Prussia, and a Southern one, incorporated with Austria. In fact, the absorption of Germany by the two great antagonist monarchies is the avowed purpose of the Gothaers. If successful in the formation of two Germanies, a deadly conflict would arise, a new thirty-years' war would be at hand, and the duel between the two antagonistic Germanies would at last be stopped by Russia pocketing the one and France pocketing the other.

Herr von Bonin, the War Minister, I have already alluded to in my former letter[i]. Here I shall only add that, during his commandership in the Schleswig-Holstein war[88], he shone less by pursuit of the Danes than of the Democratic volunteers fighting under the German banner. That war, as is generally known, was one of the bloody farces of modern diplomacy. Herr von Patow, the Minister of Finance, was a member of the Camphausen Cabinet. In the Lower House, he was, a few years ago, denounced by the Krautjunkers[j], as a Revolutionist. Some personal insult was added, resulting in his duel with Graf Pfeil, which made him for some time the pet of the Berlin public. Patow might be enrolled as a member of the Financial Reform Association of Liverpool[89].

Of Count Pückler, the Minister of Agriculture, nothing is to be said but that he is the nephew of the blasé author of the "Memoirs of the Dead."[k] Bethmann-Hollweg was formerly curator of the University of Bonn, these curators being, in fact, the great inquisitors the Prussian Government pesters the official centers of science with. Under Frederick William III they hunted demagogues[90]—under Frederick William IV heretics. Bethmann was employed in the latter business. He belonged, in fact, before the revolution, to the King's camarilla, and separated only from them when they went "too far."

Simons, the Minister of Justice, and von der Heydt, the Minister of Commerce, are the only members of the Manteuffel cabinet that have outlived their chief. Both are natives of Rhenish Prussia, but of the Protestant part of it, lying on the right bank of the Rhine. Since it was intended to have some natives of Rhenish Prussia in the Cabinet, but to exclude, at the same time, the Rhenish Liberals, the two men were kept in. Simons may claim the merit of having degraded the law-tribunals to a lower depth than they had ever sunk to at the worst times of the Prussian monarchy. Von der Heydt, a rich merchant of Elberfeld, had in 1847 said of the King: "That fellow has belied us so often that we cannot trust him any longer." (Dieser Mensch hat uns so oft belogen, dass wir ihm nicht länger trauen können.) In December, 1848, he entered the coup d'état Ministry. At present he is the only Prussian Minister suspected of turning his official position to private account. The rumor is very generally spread that he used to make state secrets subservient to the commercial jobs of the Elberfeld firm of Heydt & Co.

Written on November 9, 1858
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5492, November 27, 1858


[a] Shakespeare, Twelfth Night; or What You Will, Act V, Scene 1.—Ed.

[b] See this volume, pp. 96-97.—Ed.

[c] David Hansemann's speech in the first United Diet on June 8, 1847.—Ed.

[d] To compare small things to great (Virgil, Georgics, IV, 176).—Ed.

[e] Paraphrase of Qu'est-ce que le tiers-état?—C est tout (What is the Third Estate?—Everything) from Abbé Sieyès' book Qu'est-ce que le tiers-état?, published in 1789.—Ed.

[f] D. Hansemann, Preussen und Frankreich, Leipzig, 1833.—Ed.

[g] A rare thing, rarity (Juvenal, Satires, VI, 165).—Ed.

[h] G. E. Lessing, Nathan der Weise, Act III, Scene 7.—Ed.

[i] See this volume, p. 96.—Ed.

[j] Cabbage junkers.—Ed.

[k] H. Pückler-Muskau, Briefe eines Verstorbenen, Stuttgart, 1831.—Ed.

[85] Hudibras—the title character of a satirical poem by the English poet Samuel Butler written in 1663-78. Hudibras was distinguished by his inclination to absurd reasoning and disputes and his ability to prove the most absurd propositions by means of syllogisms. The poem was directed against the hypocrisy and bigotry of the English bourgeoisie.

[86] The Crédit Mobilier is short for the Société générale du Crédit Mobilier—a French joint-stock bank founded in 1852 by the Péreire brothers. The bank was closely connected with the Government of Napoleon III and, protected by it, engaged in speculation. It went bankrupt in 1867 and was liquidated in 1871.

[87] On June 26, 1849 the liberal deputies of the Frankfurt National Assembly, who had walked out after the Prussian King's refusal to accept the Imperial Crown, met in Gotha for a three-day conference which resulted in the formation of the so-called Gotha party. This party expressed the interests of the pro-Prussian German bourgeoisie and supported the policy of the Prussian ruling circles aimed at uniting Germany under the hegemony of Hohenzollern Prussia (see present edition, Vol. 11, p. 22).

[88] This refers to the war waged by Prussia against Denmark in 1848-50: Being defeated, Prussia was forced to conclude a treaty with Denmark (1850) under which Schleswig and Holstein remained within the Kingdom of Denmark.

[89] The Financial Reform Association was founded in April 1848 in Liverpool. It advocated economical government, just taxation and perfect freedom of trade.

[90] Demagogues in Germany were participants in the opposition movement of intellectuals. The name became current after the Karlsbad Conference of Ministers of the German states in August 1819, which adopted a special decision against the intrigues of "demagogues".

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.101-105), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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