Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung November 1848

Report of the Frankfurt Committee on Austrian Affairs

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 88;
Written: on November 27, 1848;
First published: in Neue Rheinischer Zeitung No. 154, November 28, 1848.

Cologne, November 27. Some forty years ago there were people who described Germany in Its Deepest Humiliation.[105] It is as well that they have already been gathered ad patres [to their fathers]. They could not now write such a book; they would not know what title to give it, and if they chose the old one they would contradict themselves.

Because for Germany there is always, as the English poet says, “beneath the lowest deep a lower still”. [Milton, Paradise Lost]

We believed that the conclusion of the Danish armistice [106] signified the utmost depths of shame. It seemed to us that after the activity of the imperial envoy Raumer in Paris, of Heckscher in Italy, and of the Commissioner Stedtmann in Schleswig-Holstein, and after the two Notes to Switzerland, the humiliation of Germany could not go farther. The actions of the two imperial commissioners in regard to Austrian affairs prove that we were mistaken. How incredibly far the German imperial commissioners go in their disregard for the honour of Germany, what stupid incapacity, cowardice or treachery can be inherent in the men of the old liberalism, is abundantly evident from the recently issued “Report of the Committee for Austrian Affairs etc.,” [107] and especially from the 20 documents it contains.

On October 13, Herren Welcker and Mosle travelled from Frankfurt on the orders of the Central Authority “to mediate in Vienna affairs”. Persons not conversant with the new central diplomacy expected news of their arrival in Vienna within a few days. It was not known at the time that imperial commissioners have their own itineraries. The Imperial Regent’s’ [Archduke John of Austria] Eisele and Beisele [108] took the most direct route to Vienna — via Munich. With the well-known travel map from the Jobsiade [109] in their hands, they arrived there in the evening of October 15. Until noon of October 17 they studied the Vienna events in cosy company with the Bavarian Ministers and the Austrian chargé d'affaires. In their first letter to Herr Schmerling they gave an account of their preliminary studies. In Munich the pair had a moment of illumination. They passionately desired the arrival of a “third colleague”, if possible a Prussian, “because we would then be better able to cope with our great mission”. The Herr “colleague” did not appear. The hope of a trinity was wrecked; the poor couple had to go out into the world alone. What then will become of the “great mission"? The great mission travels in the pockets of Herren Welcker and Mosle to Passau. Before crossing the Austrian Rubicon, the “great mission” sends out a proclamation in advance. It was frightful over there on the other side! [Schiller]

Here, too,” Welcker writes to Schmerling, “on the Austrian frontier the population is by no means free from revolutionary and terrorist symptoms.” Indeed, “only by the intervention of a military occupation of the bridge was even the national guard of Krems rendered incapable of depriving their Emperor of it and therefore to some extent of making him a prisoner”.

What reader would be so hard-hearted as not to appreciate fully these feelings of the fine soul of a political encyclopaedia [Staatslexikonseele]! c After the two gentlemen had gathered strength in Passau from midday on the 18th to early on the 20th, they betook themselves to Linz.

They had left Frankfurt on’ October 13; in the evening of the 20th they were already in Linz. Is not this tremendous speed proof enough of the importance of their “great mission"? Were they perhaps spurred on by special instructions to this enormous haste? It suffices to say that after seven full days the gentlemen arrived in Linz. This town, which with its “big factory population already influenced by emissaries from Vienna” had aroused anxious forebodings in Herr Welcker during his stay in Passau, showed absolutely no signs of the gallows which he and his Herr colleague had probably envisaged in their imagination. On the contrary:

“The entire national guard with its officers and musicians ... received us in ceremonial formation with the German flag flying, and together with the surrounding people welcomed us with repeated cheers.”

Therefore Linz — the revolutionary Sodom — turns out to be a well-disposed town, having sufficient bonhomie to welcome our excellent imperial commissioners with due ceremony. All the more dreadful does Vienna appear in the Welcker-Mosle reports to Herr Schmerling as the most godless Gomorrah, as a bottomless pit of anarchy etc.

On the 21st the gentlemen embarked on a steamship and went to Krems. On the way they reported to Frankfurt that they had been met with a guard of honour in Linz, that the main guard had paraded before them under arms, and other equally important matters. At the same time they prepared three letters: to Windischgrätz, to Minister Krauss, and to the Presidium of the Imperial Diet.

Should anyone still not be completely satisfied with the more than eight days activity of our imperial commissioners, let him now accompany them during the night of October 21-22 to the headquarters of Windischgrätz in Stammersdorf. Here the Central Authority in the shape of its commissioners appears before us in all its glory.

“Windischgrätz,” say Welcker-Mosle, “rejected every attempt at influence on our part with a certain harshness.

In other words, they were received with kicks and had to make themselves scarce. “Indeed, he would not even see our credentials,” Welcker complains to his Minister Schmerling. And to fill the cup of bitterness to overflowing: Windischgrätz did not offer a drop of wine to the personifications of the Central Authority confronting him, not even a tot of brandy.

Our commissioners therefore once more seated themselves in their carriage, sadly humming the words “O du Deutschland etc.[Ernst Moritz Arndt] and continued their journey to — Vienna? Heaven forbid! To Olmütz, “to the imperial residence”. And they did well to do so. Otherwise the whole imperial joke would have lost its point, the last act would be missing from the mediation farce. If they were treated like stupid schoolboys by Windischgrätz, they found in Olmütz

a much more obliging reception on the part of the Emperor and the imperial family” (cf. p. 11 of the report, letter No. 6).

They were invited to a meal and, as they write further to Herr Schmerling, “we had the pleasure of the most gracious reception”. It is not at all the German lackey character that is expressed here, but the most sincere thankfulness which finds its appropriate expression in the song: “After so much suffering etc.” [From Rossini’s Tancredi]

After all the dining and wining the famous “great mission” still remains to be fulfilled. Our two commissioners address themselves in writing to Minister Baron von Wessenberg.

“Your Excellency” (begins the letter of October 25), “we humbly request you to be so good as to fix a time at which it will be convenient for you to receive our thanks for the benevolent reception which has been accorded our mission and ourselves by His Royal Imperial Majesty and Your Excellency, and to inform us of your views and decisions in respect’ I the following points concerning the fulfilment of our mission.”

The “following points” say in a great many words that the commissioners wish to be allowed to go to Vienna for the purpose of mediation.

The whole letter, as also the second one to Wessenberg, is drafted in such a complicated last-century government office style, and is so full of excessive politeness and servility that it really does one good to be able to read Wessenberg’s replies immediately after it. Compared with the Austrian Minister, the two commissioners give the impression in this correspondence of being two loutish peasants confronting a highly cultured nobleman, before whom they bow and scrape in a comical fashion and try to make use of really select expressions.

Wessenberg replied to the above-mentioned letter as follows:

“Your Excellencies, I must apologise for being so late in replying to your letter of today.... As regards your well-meant intention to make one more attempt in Vienna to settle the dissension there, it seems to me necessary first of all to acquaint you with the state of affairs there at the present time. It is not a question of negotiating with a party, but solely of suppressing an insurrection etc.” (cf. p. 16 of the report).

Together with this reply, he returned them their credentials.

They repeated their request on October 27.

“We must regard it as our urgent duty,” they say, “once more most humbly to request Your Excellency and through you the Imperial Government to send us as quickly as possible to Vienna under safe escort with lenient and conciliatory instructions and conditions, so that in this terrible crisis we can make use of the assuaging and personal influence embodied in us and our mission.”

We have seen how this “assuaging and personal influence” operated in the fourteen days after they left the gates of Frankfurt.

It exerted such a powerful effect on Wessenberg that in his reply he gave no answer to their request. He gave them some items of news from Vienna, half untrue at that, and remarked ironically:

“Furthermore, that revolts like that of the proletarian, in Vienna cannot easily be suppressed without the use of means of coercion has been confirmed recently by the events in Frankfurt!” [110]

It was impossible for Herren Welcker and Mosle to withstand such arguments; hence they desisted from further attempts and waited with their “assuaging and personal influence” for the events that would come about.

On October 28 they again reported to Schmerling about their “great mission”. In response to an offer by Wessenberg they handed their message to a courier whom the former was sending to Frankfurt. The courier departed, but not the message, which only arrived in Frankfurt on November 6. If they had not dined at the imperial table, if the imperial family, and especially Archduke Karl, had not spoken to them in such a friendly way the commissioners must have gone out of their minds at such bad luck.

There now followed two days of silence. The “assuaging influence” was resting on the Sabbath after so much labour.

Then, on October 30, Wessenberg gave them official news of the surrender of Vienna. Their decision was taken. True, on October 28 they still expressed the opinion (p. 14 of the report),

“It seems that he” (Windischgrätz), “like the influential persons here” (in Olmütz), “is all too greatly dominated by the idea not only of subjugating Vienna but of inflicting a revengeful punishment for previous wrong-doing.”

However, since then Wessenberg has assured them — and how should an imperial commissioner dare to doubt it — that

“the Austrian Government, in making use of this victory, will be guided by principles suitable for ensuring the sympathy of its subjects”.

“We can therefore assume,” exclaim Welcker-Mosle in a tone of imperial pathos, “that nevertheless our proposals have had some influence.” Therefore, nevertheless? 0 certainly! For eight days you have most magnificently amused Wessenberg, Archduke Karl, Sophia & Co. You were an aid to the royal imperial digestion, Welcher-Mosle!

“After that assurance of the Minister, we regard our task as having been accomplished and we shall tomorrow” (October 31) “begin our return journey via Prague.”

Such is the conclusion of the last message of Herren Welcker-Mosle.

And, in fact, you are right; your “great mission” of conciliation and mediation was fulfilled. Why should you now go to Vienna? Were not those apostles of humanity, Windischgrätz and Jellachich, masters of the city? Have not the red-coats [111] and the royal imperial troops by means of plunder, arson, murder and rape preached the gospel of peace and constitutional liberty in a way comprehensible to all?

How effective your “assuaging influence” has been, how splendidly you have carried out your task is evident from the death-rattles of the murdered, the desperate cries of the ravished, it is testified by the thousands in the prisons, it is taught us by the blood-stained shade of Robert Blum.

Your task was to supplement the trilogy staged by Windischgrätz, Jellachich and Wessenberg by helping to perform a farce in Olmütz. That task has been worthily carried out; with great virtuosity you have played to the end the role of the “bamboozled uncle”, if not something worse.