Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung July 1848

Legal Proceedings Against The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 186;
Written: by Marx on July 6, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 37, July 7, 1848.

Cologne, July 6. We have just received the following rejoinder to the article printed in yesterday’s [Neue] Rheinische Zeitung dated “Cologne, July 4” which dealt with the arrest of Dr. Gottschalk and Anneke.

“I declare it to be a falsehood that I answered the complaint of Frau Anneke concerning the arrest of her husband without the presence of a member of the municipal authorities in the following manner:
"'I have given no orders to commit brutalities.'
"Rather, I merely remarked that I should regret it if the police had conducted themselves in an unseemly manner.
"I furthermore declare it to be a falsehood to state that I used the expression:
"’the police were judicially commanded to proceed with the arrest.'
"I merely observed that the arrest was effected by virtue of a warrant to appear in court issued by the Examining Magistrate.
"Under the law, such warrants are discharged by court bailiffs or agents of the armed forces. The presence of an official of the court police is nowhere prescribed.
"The defamations and insults contained in this article, directed against Chief Public Prosecutor Zweiffel and the police who carried out the arrest, will be evaluated in the legal proceedings which will be initiated on this count.

Cologne, July 5, 1848
Hecker, Public Prosecutor”

Our esteemed readers may perceive from the preceding that the Neue Rheinische Zeitung has gained a new contributor of great promise-the Public Prosecutor’s office.

We have erred on a single point of law. During an arrest there is no need for an “official of the court police” but merely for an agent of the public authority. With what careful guarantees the Code assures the safety of the person!

Incidentally, the fact that the police did not produce their warrant remains illegal. It also remains illegal that they, as we are subsequently informed, scrutinised documents even before the appearance of Herr Hecker and his companion. But above all the brutalities, which Herr Hecker regretted, remain illegal. We are amazed to see court proceedings pending not against the police but against the newspaper that has denounced their impropriety.

The insult could only refer to one of the policemen of whom it was said that he “was unsteady” at an early hour for more or less spiritual or spirituous reasons. If the investigation, however, as we do not doubt for one moment, should prove the correctness of the evidence, namely the brutalities committed by the agents of the public authority, then we believe that we shall have only acted in the interests of the gentlemen accused by us by carefully emphasising, with the complete impartiality becoming the press, the only “extenuating circumstance”. And this affable statement of the only extenuating circumstance is transformed into an “insult” by the Public Prosecutor.

And now as to the insult or defamation of Chief Public Prosecutor Zweiffel!

We have simply reported, and as we have ourselves indicated in the report, we have reported rumours, rumours which reached us from a reliable source. The press not only has the right but the duty to keep a close watch on the conduct of the people’s representatives. At the same time we pointed out that Herr Zweiffel’s past parliamentary activity seems to be in line with the anti-popular remarks ascribed to him. Is it really the intention to deprive the press of the right to judge the parliamentary activity of a representative of the people? What then is the purpose of the press?

Or does not the press have the right to detect in the people’s representative Zweiffel too much of the Chief Public Prosecutor and in the Chief Public Prosecutor too much of the people’s representative? Why then in Belgium, France etc. the debate on incompatibilities?

As to the constitutional usage, one should read again how the Constitutionnel, the Siécle and the Presse during the reign of Louis Philippe judged the parliamentary activity of Hébert, Plougoulm etc. at the time when these men occupied the highest positions in the Public Prosecutor’s office and at the same time served as deputies. One should read how the Belgian newspapers, particularly the strictly constitutional ones such as the Observateur, the Politique and the Emancipation barely a year ago judged the parliamentary activity of M. Bavay when he combined in one person the office of deputy and Public Prosecutor-General.

And what was always allowed under the Guizot Ministry and the Rogier Ministry should not be allowed under a monarchy built on the broadest democratic foundation? A right which was not contested by any Administration of the French Restoration becomes a wrong under the Government of Action which recognises the revolution in principle?

Incidentally, the public has been able to convince itself from our special supplement of this morning just how correctly we have judged the course of events. Rodbertus has left the Government and Ladenberg has entered it. The Government of the Left Centre has transformed itself in a few days into a decidedly old-Prussian reactionary Government. The Right has dared a coup d'état,[145] and the Left has withdrawn with the threats.

And is it not palpably dear that the most recent acts in Cologne were part of the great plan of campaign of the Government of Action?

just now we are being informed that the Neue Rheinische Zeitung has been banned from the house of detention. Do the prison rules provide for such a prohibition? Or are the politically accused condemned to the penalty of having to read exclusively the Kölnische Zeitung?