Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung September 1848

The Fall of the Government of Action

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 417;
Written: by Engels on September 8, 1848;
First published: in supplement to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 98, September 9, 1848.

Cologne, September 8, 10 p. m. The Government of Action has fallen. After it had “stumbled” several times, it was only able to stay in office by insolence. Finally, the constantly rising pretensions of the Government revealed the secret of its existence to the Assembly.

In yesterday’s session of the Agreement Assembly Stein’s motion [273] was debated. The motion reads:

“It was the urgent duty of the Government to issue without more ado the decree which was approved on August 9 to pacify the country and avoid a break with the Assembly.”

The Government declared that it would not consider any attempt at whitewashing or mediation.

The Left declared that it would walk out if the Assembly were to drop its resolution of August 9.

After a meaningless speech by the Prime Minister [Rudolf von Auerswald], Deputy Unruh introduced the following amendment at yesterday’s session:

“Taking into account that the resolutions of August 9 do not constitute any investigation into attitudes or any constraint of conscience, but that they merely intend to bring about the agreement between the people and the army which is necessary in a constitutional state and that it is their purpose to avoid reactionary endeavours as well as further conflicts between the citizens who belong to the army and those who are civilians”,

the Assembly declares

that the Government does not possess the confidence of the country if it hesitates any further to issue to the army a decree which corresponds to the resolution of August 9.”

This amendment of the Left Centre was opposed by a second one from the Right Centre advanced by Deputy Tamnau.

It reads:

“The National Assembly wishes to make the following declaration: by its resolution of August 9 of this year, the National Assembly intended to bring about a decree to the commanders of the army similar to the one promulgated by the Ministries of Finance and of the Interior to the Regierungspräsidenten on July 15. It does not intend to oblige the officers of the army to set forth their political views or to prescribe to the Minister of War the text of the decree. It regards such a decree, in which the officers of the army are warned against reactionary and republican endeavours, as necessary in the interest of civil peace and for the advancement of the new constitutional state system.”

After the debate had gone on for some time, the “noble” Schreckenstein declared on behalf of the Government that he agreed with the Tamnau amendment. And this after the proud protestation that it would not accept any mediation!

After the debate had continued again for some time and after even Herr Milde had warned the Assembly not to become a revolutionary National Convention (Herr Milde’s fear is entirely superfluous!) a vote is taken with an enormous throng of people pressing towards the meeting hall:

The result of the division:

The Unruh amendment was rejected by 320 votes to 38.
The Tamnau amendment was rejected by 210 votes to 156.
The Stein motion was adopted by 219 votes to 152. The majority against the Ministers:

67 votes.

One of our Berlin correspondents reports:

Today the excitement in the city was great. Thousands of people surrounded the meeting house of the Assembly, so that, when the President read the quite loyal address of the civic militia, Herr Reichensperger moved that the Assembly shift its sessions to another town since Berlin was endangered.

Indescribable rejoicing broke out when news of the Government’s defeat became known to the assembled crowd, and when the deputies of the Left came out, they were accompanied as far as Unter den Linden by incessant “Vivats!” But when Deputy Stein (the mover of today’s vote) was caught sight of, the enthusiasm reached its climax. Several m ‘ en from the people immediately lifted him upon their shoulders and carried him thus in a triumphal procession to his hotel in the Taubenstrasse. Thousands of people joined this procession and to the accompaniment of endless hurrahs the masses rolled across the Opera House Square. Never before has such an expression of joy been seen here. The greater the previous anxiety about success, the more surprising the brilliant victory.

Against the Government voted: the Left, the Left Centre (the Rodbertus-Berg party) and the Centre (Unruh, Duncker, Kosch). The President [Wilhelm Grabow] voted for the Government on all three issues. According to this, a Waldeck-Rodbertus Government will enjoy an absolute majority.

Thus in a few days we shall have the pleasure of seeing the author of the compulsory loan, the Minister of action, “His Excellency” Herr Hansemann, pass through here in order to return to his “bourgeois [bürgerlich, which can mean “civil” or “bourgeois"] past” and to reflect on Duchâtel and Pinto.

Camphausen fell respectably. Herr Hansemann who brought about Camphausen’s fall by his intrigues, Herr Hansemann has met with a very sad end! Poor Hansemann-Pinto!