Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung December 1848

Sitting of the National Council. — The Council of States. — Protest of the Pope. — Imperial Grain Embargo. — The Valaisan Great Council

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 108;
Written: by Engels on November 26, 1848;
First published: in supplement to Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 157, December 1, 1848.

Berne, November 26. At yesterday’s sitting the National Council dispatched both items on the agenda (Emil Frei’s motion on the law of responsibility and Ochsenbein’s on the federal university) by referring them to the Federal Council. During the discussion on the university some strange remarks were made. Lusser from Uri saw in the project the ruin of his canton’s finances. Hungerbühler from Berne similarly resisted the idea of a university with all his might: he said it was a luxury expenditure and that there were already enough people whose heads had been turned through too much learning. The Alcibiades of the Swiss Athens, Herr Escher from Zurich, also thought it necessary to wait first for the financial means. Alcibiades had good reason to press for an ordinary agenda; he was well aware that the Berne deputies intended to grab the seat of the Federal Government for themselves and let Lucerne be satisfied with the Federal Court and Zurich with the “Federal Higher School”. But the ambition of the Athenians of Switzerland goes beyond that, and all but two of them voted, although to no avail, for an ordinary agenda.

In the Council of States the law on the seat of the Federal Government was approved in the draft proposed by the National Council and only one addendum was made, by Rüttimann, concerning the security of the federal authorities. Thus, it has now been decided that the seat of the Federal Government be chosen separately in each Council, and not by ballot, but according to the usual voting procedure. We shall see what comes of this.

A few days ago the canton of Neuchâtel witnessed scenes of great confusion. News arrived that all the State Councillors except one (Herr Steck) had tendered their resignations. All the members of the Republic’s National Council and Council of States immediately went home in great consternation. From what we have heard, the dispute resulted from a violent attack on the part of Herr Steck and was settled by a commission of the Great Council appointed specially for the purpose. At the sitting the day before yesterday the State Councillors withdrew their resignations amidst loud cries of vive la république from the Great Council.

The Pope [Pius IX] has protested against the decisions of the five cantons of the Freiburg diocese, which are relieving Bishop Marilley of his episcopal duties and taking steps to set up a provisional administration of the bishopric.[123] If these measures are not revoked, he is threatening to issue “other decrees to which his conscience commits him towards the Catholic world”. The Schweizerischer Beobachter, the local reactionary newspaper, consoled itself two nights ago with the hope that since a republic had now been proclaimed in Rome (the worthy paper was made to believe this), the papacy was finished with [124] and the Catholic world had regained its freedom, which meant that the confused situation in Freiburg would also be resolved!

There are conflicting reports from the German frontier as to whether or not a grain embargo has been introduced. It is known for sure that so far it has at the most been introduced at Lake Constance; for on the 24th, the day before yesterday, as many Swabian corn growers as ever before came to the market in Zurich.

The Valaisan Great Council has taken the decision to levy the taxes necessary to pay the Sonderbund war reparations not, as elsewhere, on the enormously rich monasteries, but on the municipalities. The proportion that Valais has to pay amounts to 1,600,000 Swiss francs. So, instead of the monks who were the original instigators of the insurrection, it is the poor people of the canton who will have to pay this tax. In the meantime, the reverend fathers are carting away more and more of their property to Piedmont, just as the patres of the Great St. Bernhard have already done. These priestlings, famous in school books and sentimental stories for their dogs and for their alleged selfless devotion to travellers dying in the snow, are in reality tremendously rich and live extremely comfortably. They have taken all their riches, their cattle, their money and their effects to Aosta, where they are also now staying and partaking copiously of Piedmontese wine. When Radetzky marched into Milan [on August 6, 1848] these philanthropists celebrated the happy event with banqueting and cannon-fire, for which they were brought before the Piedmontese courts. This ecclesia pressa [persecuted church] left nothing behind in their wintry monastery but a little bread and bacon, with which a few servants entertain travellers. However, the Suisse doubts whether the above decision was actually taken, even though it was printed in the Journal du Valais.