Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung December 1848

Ursuline Convent. — Recruiting for the Grape-Shot King. — The “Burghers’ Commune”. — Commission on a General Customs Tariff

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 183;
Written: by Engels on December 9, 1848
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 168, December 14, 1848.

Berne, December 9. The last convent in the Berne canton, that of the Ursulines in Pruntrut in the Jura, is approaching its end. The Government Council [Regierungsrat] has decided to propose to the Great Council the dissolution of this convent in fulfilment of the Diet’s decision banning from Switzerland all orders affiliated to the Jesuits (to which the Ursulines belong).

After Radetzky had again allowed the Neapolitan-Swiss recruits through Lombardy, King Ferdinand likewise immediately suggested that recruiting should again be allowed in Switzerland. Lucerne and the Ur-cantons naturally hastened to permit recruitment; the Berne Government, for whom the enlistment agreements[172] are anyway a thorn in the flesh, luckily found an excuse to continue prohibiting recruitment for the present. It states in particular that according to the enlistment agreement (which is a relic inherited from the revered regime of Herr Neuhaus), the recruits would be obliged to go via Genoa, a route which is still barred to them; and further, the Neapolitan Government would first have to indemnify the Swiss in Naples for the damage by looting etc., done on May 15.[173] The god-fearing [Schweizerischer] Beobachter is of course fearfully shocked by this violation of inviolable Swiss loyalty, which moreover prevents a great number of fine young canton citizens from making a glorious career (!), jeopardises the future of the Berne soldiers in Naples, causes recruiting sergeants present in Berne to starve, and reduces the income of the publicans on whose premises the military bounty would be drunk away. These are the kind of arguments with which the reactionary Swiss press wages its war.

The local conservative patricians have suffered a hard blow. For there is a so-called burghers’ commune within the commune itself. This commune, the core of which is the patriciate, made sure, in spite of all the revolutions, that the former monastery estates and other state and town domains to which it is entitled as the former holder of sovereignty, should not be transferred with sovereignty to the state or the town respectively, but be kept by it in collective ownership. Only a small part of these highly valuable estates, on which the patricians still wax fat today, is to go to the town, but the “burghers” always refused to give it up. Now at last, through the choice of Berne as the federal capital and the consequent heavy city expenses, the burghers’ commune has been forced to surrender its share to the town commune, the so-called residents’ commune,[174] and moreover to pledge a “substantial” contribution to the costs of the federal capital. The patricians declare Zion to be in danger, and they have good reason, for the federal capital threatens their purses very seriously.

The Federal Council has formed under the presidency of the head of the Trade and Customs Department, Herr Näff, a commission which is to prepare the abolition of canton duty and the creation of a Swiss customs tariff, and propose the necessary measures. Switzerland will also get protective tariffs now, which will not, it is true, be high but will completely achieve their purpose owing to the advanced development of most branches of Swiss industry and to the low wages. England, Paris, Mühlhausen and Lyons will suffer most from these measures.