Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung August 1848

The Hansemann Government and the Old-Prussian Criminal Bill

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 317;
Written: on August 3, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 65, August 4, 1848.

Cologne, August 3. We have already often said that the Hansemann Government extols the Bodelschwingh Ministry in every possible way. After the recognition of the revolution follows the recognition of the old-Prussian state of affairs. That’s the way of the world.

That Herr Hansemann, however, would achieve such virtuosity that he even praises those deeds of such gentlemen as Bodelschwingh, Savigny and consorts which he used to combat with the greatest vehemence in his days as Rhenish deputy to the Provincial Diet, that is a triumph with which the Potsdam camarilla had certainly not counted. And yet! Please read the following article of the latest Preussische Staats-Anzeiger:

Berlin, August 1. The most recent issue of the journal of the Ministry of Justice reported in its “unofficial part” statistical observations about the death penalty as well as a survey of death sentences passed and confirmed between the years 1826 and 1843 (inclusive) with the exception of sentences passed in the so-called demagogical investigations. This work was undertaken with the utilisation of documents of the Ministry of Justice and, because of the importance of the issue, should claim the special attention of the reader in this respect. According to the survey, in the aforementioned period of time:

1. In the Rhine Province 189 death sentences were passed, 6 confirmed
2. In the other provinces 237 death sentences were passed, 94 confirmed

altogether 426 death sentences were passed, 100 confirmed,

of which, however, four were not carried out because of flight or death of the criminals.

If the Bill on the new Penal Code of 1847 had been in force during that period there would have been:

1. In the. Rhine Province only 53 death sentences passed, 5 confirmed

2. In the other provinces only 134 death sentences passed, 76 confirmed

altogether 187 death sentences passed, 81 confirmed,

provided that the same principles were applied to the confirmation as heretofore. Thus, the death penalty would not have been imposed on 237 criminals who were sentenced to death under the existing laws. Nor would the death penalty have been carried out on 19 executed criminals.

According to the survey, there were annually on the average:

1. In the Rhine Province 10 9/18 death sentences passed and 6/18 confirmed

2. In the other provinces 13 death sentences passed and 5 4/18 confirmed

If, however, the Bill had been in force at the time, there would have been annually on the average:

1 . In the Rhine Province only 2 17/18 death sentences passed and 5/18 confirmed

2. In the other provinces only 7 7/18 death sentences passed and 4 4/18 confirmed

And now admire the mildness, the excellence and the glory of the Royal Prussian Criminal Bill of 1847! Perhaps as much as one entire death sentence less would have been carried out in the Rhine Province in 18 years! What advantages!

But the innumerable defendants who would have been deprived of a jury and sentenced and jailed by royal justices, the disgraceful corporal punishments which here on the Rhine would have been carried out with old-Prussian rods, here, where we freed ourselves of the rod forty years ago; the dirty proceedings consequent upon the crimes against morals, unknown to the Code, which would have been conjured up again by the depraved haemorrhoidal imagination of the knights of the Prussian Law; the most inexorable confusion of juridical concepts, and finally the innumerable political trials consequent upon the despotic and insidious regulations of that contemptible patchwork, in a word, the Prussianising of the entire Rhine Province; do the Rhenish renegades in Berlin really believe that we would forget all this on the account of one fallen head?

It is clear: Herr Hansemann, through his agent in the judicial branch, Herr Mirker, wants to carry through that which was beyond Bodelschwingh. He really wants now to bring into force the thoroughly hated old-Prussian criminal Bill.

At the same time we learn that the jury system will only be introduced in Berlin, and even there only on an experimental basis.

Thus: not the introduction of Rhenish law to the old-Prussians but the introduction of old-Prussian law to the Rhinelanders is the great result, the tremendous “achievement” of the March revolution! Rien que ša. [nothing but that]