Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung December 1848

The Trial of Gottschalk and his Comrades

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 188;
Written: by Marx on December 21 and 22, 1848;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung Nos. 175-176, December 22-23, 1848.

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 175, December 22, 1848

Cologne, December 21. This morning the trial of Gottschalk, Anneke and Esser began at the extraordinary assizes here.

The accused were escorted like the lowest criminals in fetters from the new remand prison to the court building, where a not inconsiderable armed force was present.

Our readers are aware that we regard the jury system as at present organised as anything but a guarantee. The register qualification gives a definite class the privilege of choosing the jury from its midst. The method of compiling the lists of jury members gives the Government the monopoly of selecting from the privileged class those individuals who suit it. For the Herr Regierungspräsident draws up a list of a certain number of individuals which he selects from the lists of jury members of the entire administrative area; the judicial representatives of the Government prune this list down to 36, if our memory does not deceive us. Finally, at the time of the actual formation of the jury, the Public Prosecutor’s office has the right to prune for a third time the last list, the outcome of class privilege and a double governmental distillation, and to reduce it to the final requisite dozen.

It would be a real miracle if such a constitution of the jury did not place accused persons who have openly opposed the privileged class and the existing state authority directly in the absolute power of their most ruthless enemies.

But the conscience of the jurymen, we shall be told in reply, their conscience; could one demand a greater guarantee than that? But, mon Dieu, a man’s conscience [Gewissen] depends on his knowledge [Wissen] and his way of life.

The conscience of a republican is different from that of a royalist, that of a property owner is different from that of one who owns no property, that of a thinking person is different from that of one incapable of thought. One who has no vocation for being a juryman other than that of the register qualification has the conscience of the register qualification.

The “conscience” of the privileged is precisely a privileged conscience.

Although, therefore, the jury as at present constituted appears to us to be an institution for asserting the privileges of a few and by no means an institution for safeguarding the rights of all; although, in the present case especially, the Public Prosecutor’s office has made the most extensive use of its powers in order to eradicate from the last list the last dozen names displeasing to it — nevertheless we have not a moment’s doubt of the acquittal of the accused. Our guarantee is the bill of indictment. Reading it, one could believe it an ironically phrased defence document of Gottschalk and his comrades.

Let us summarise this indictment, the only analogy to which is the indictment against Mellinet and Co. (the Risquons-Tout trial in Antwerp[178]).

In Cologne there is a Workers’ Association.[179] Gottschalk was president of it, and Anneke and Esser members of its Executive Committee. The Workers’ Association, the indictment informs us,

“had a special organ, the Arbeiter-Zeitung, edited by Gottschalk, and anyone who did not have the opportunity of attending in person the meetings of the Association could learn from this newspaper the dangerous tendencies of the Association to flatter the proletariat and work for communism and the overthrow of the existing order”.
[here and below the indictment is quoted from M. F. Anneke’s book Der Politische Tendenz-Prouss gegen Gottschalk, Anneke und Esser]

Therefore, one could acquaint oneself with tendencies but not with illegal acts. The proof is: Until the arrest of Gottschalk and the others, the prosecuting magistrates did not bring forward any charge against the Arbeiter-Zeitung, and after Gottschalk’s arrest it was only once condemned — in the monster trial instituted by the prosecuting magistrates here, on the charge of insulting these magistrates.[180]

“But the Arbeiter-Zeitung itself,” the indictment admits, “does not seem to have taken the trouble to conceal anything in its reports on the subject” (the proceedings of the Workers’ Association, of the meetings of its Executive Committee and of its branches).

If, therefore, the Arbeiter-Zeitung could not be prosecuted on account of its “reports” of the proceedings of the Workers’ Association, then this Association itself could not be prosecuted on account of its proceedings.

The only accusation levelled against the Workers’ Association is the same as that against the Arbeiter-Zeitung, viz the objectionable tendency of this Association. Do the March achievements include also trials based on tendency, trials against tendencies that have remained mere tendencies? Up to now our September Laws [181]. I have not yet been promulgated. Gottschalk and his comrades were by no means arrested and accused because of illegal reports of the Arbeiter-Zeitung or illegal proceedings of the Workers’ Association. The indictment makes no secret of this. It was not the previous activity of the Workers’ Association that set the wheels of justice in motion, but — listen to this:

“From June 14 to 17 of this year a Congress was held in Frankfurt of delegates from a multitude of democratic associations that have arisen in Germany. Gottschalk and Anneke were delegates representing the Cologne Workers’ Association. As is known, this Congress expressed itself openly in favour of a democratic republic, and the authorities here expected a repercussion of the movement there, when on Sunday, June 25, once more a general meeting of the Workers’ Association was announced to be held in the Gürzenich Hall.”

The authorities here expected a repercussion of the Frankfurt movement. But what movement had taken place in Frankfurt? The Democratic Congress had expressed itself openly in favour of the objectionable tendency of a democratic republic. A “repercussion”, therefore, of this “tendency” was expected and it was intended to engage in a struggle against this echo.

As is known, the Democratic Congress in Frankfurt and the Central Committee in Berlin, appointed to carry out its decisions, held their sessions without any opposition from the authorities.[182]

The German governments therefore, in spite of the objectionable tendency, had to recognise the lawfulness of the Frankfurt Congress and of the organisation of the democratic party decided upon by the Congress.

But the Cologne authorities “expected nevertheless” a repercussion of the Frankfurt movement. They expected to have an opportunity of catching Gottschalk and his comrades on illegal ground. In order to create this opportunity, on June 25 the police authorities sent “police inspectors Lutter and Hünnemann” to attend the general meeting of the Workers’ Association in the Gürzenich Hall and “specially instructed them to observe what took place there”. At the same general meeting there happened to be present “the bookbinder Johann Maltheser”, who, as the indictment states regretfully, “would be a chief witness, if he were not in the pay of the police authorities”, that is to say, in other words, if he were not a paid police spy. Finally, there was present there, probably out of pure patriotic fanaticism, the “candidate assessor von Groote”, who gives Anneke’s speech at the general meeting “in more detail than anyone else, since he wrote it down during the sitting itself.'

It is clear that the Cologne authorities were expecting a crime to be committed on June 25 by Gottschalk and his comrades. All arrangements were made by the police to confirm the occurrence of this possible crime. And once the authorities “expect”, they do not want to expect in vain.

“The reports” of the police inspectors and other minor assistants officially sent to confirm an expected crime

“gave occasion for the state authorities on July 2 to demand a judicial investigation against Gottschalk and Anneke on account of their inflammatory speeches delivered” (it should say expected)at that public meeting. Their arrest and the seizure of their papers took place on July 3.

“On July 5, after a number of witnesses had been heard and more detailed information had become available, the investigation was extended to the whole previous activity of the leaders of the Workers’ Association and thereby to several members of the latter, especially to the cooper Esser etc. The results of the investigation of the accused relate in part to their speeches in the Workers’ Association, in part to their papers and the printed material spread by them”.

The real result of the investigation — we shall prove it tomorrow from the text of the indictment itself — is that the movement expected on June 25 was confined to a movement of the authorities — this echo of the Frankfurt movement; that Gottschalk and his comrades have had to atone for the deceived expectation of the authorities on June 25 by undergoing six months’ close confinement during examination. Nothing is more dangerous than to deceive the state authority’s expectations of earning a medal for saving the fatherland. No one likes to be disappointed in his expectations, least of all the state authority.

If the whole way in which the crime of June 25 was staged shows us the state authority as the sole creator of this crime drama, the text of the indictment enables us to admire the astute versatility by which it spun out the prologue over six months.

We quote word for word from Der Politische Tendenzprozess gegen Gottschalk und Konsorten, published by M. F. Anneke, Publishing House of the Neue Kölnische Zeitung.

“After the investigation had gone on for about five to six weeks, it was declared closed by the Examining Magistrate Leuthaus, who had replaced Herr Geiger, the latter having been promoted to the post of Police Superintendent. Public Prosecutor Hecker, however, after looking through the dossiers, put forward new demands to which the examining magistrate agreed. After about 14 days, the preliminary investigation was closed for the second time. After Herr Hecker had made a fresh study of the dossiers at his leisure, he once more put forward a number of new demands. The examining magistrate did not want to accept them, nor did the Council Chamber. Herr Hecker appealed to the board of prosecuting magistrates and this instance laid down that some of the demands should be allowed, but others rejected. Among the latter, for example, was the demand that on the basis merely of a list of names of persons from all parts of Germany which was found in Anneke’s portfolio, all these persons, some 30 or 40 in number, should be subjected to judicial investigation.

“After the investigation had been successfully spun out so far, and could not reasonably be still further extended, the Council Chamber on September 28 ordered the dossiers to be handed over to the board of prosecuting magistrates. The latter confirmed the indictment on October 10, and on October 28 the Prosecutor-General signed the bill of indictment.

It was therefore luckily too late for this trial to come before the regular quarterly assizes, which had begun on October 9.

“After November 27 an extraordinary session of the assizes was fixed. It was intended that if possible this session also should be missed. The dossiers of the preliminary examination were sent to the Ministry of justice with the request that the trial should be referred to another court of assizes. However, the Ministry of justice found no sufficient grounds for this and towards the end of November the accused Gottschalk, Anneke and Esser were finally referred to the extraordinary assizes here on December 21.”

During this long prologue, the first examining magistrate, Geiger, was promoted to acting Police Superintendent, and Public Prosecutor Hecker to Chief Public Prosecutor. Since Herr Hecker in this last capacity was moved from Cologne to Elberfeld shortly before the beginning of the extraordinary assizes, he will not appear before the jury at the same time as the accused.

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 176, December 23, 1848

Cologne, December 22. On what day did the Gürzenich general meeting, which was convened to confirm an “expected” crime, take place? It was on June 25. This was the day of the definitive defeat of the June insurgents in Paris. On what day did the state authorities begin proceedings against Gottschalk and his comrades? It was on July 2, i.e. at the moment when the Prussian bourgeoisie and the Government allied with it at that time, carried away by their thirst for revenge, believed that the time had come to finish off their political opponents. On July 3, Gottschalk and his associates were arrested. On July 4, the present counter-revolutionary Ministry in the person of Ladenberg joined the Hansemann Ministry. On the same day, the Right wing in the Berlin Agreement Assembly ventured on a coup d'état by unceremoniously rejecting in the same sitting, after part of the Left wing had disperse,[183] a decision regarding Poland which had been adopted by a majority.

These facts are eloquent. We could prove by the testimony of witnesses that on July 3 a “certain” person declared: “The arrest of Gottschalk and his associates has made a favourable impression on the public.” it suffices, however, to point to the issues of the Kölnische, the Deutsche, and the Karlsruher Zeitung of the dates mentioned to convince oneself that during those days it was not the echo” of the imaginary “Frankfurt movement”, but rather the “echo” of “Cavaignac’s movement” which resounded a thousandfold in Germany and, among other places, also in Cologne.

Our readers will recall: On June 25 the Cologne authorities “expected” a repercussion of the “Frankfurt movement” on the occasion of the general meeting of the Workers’ Association in the Gürzenich Hall. They will recall further that the starting point for the judicial investigation against Gottschalk and his comrades was not any actual crime committed by Gottschalk etc. prior to June 25, but solely the expectation of the authorities that on June 25 at last some palpable crime would be committed.

The expectation in regard to June 25 was disappointed and suddenly June 25, 1848, is transformed into the year 1848. The accused are made responsible for the movement of the year 1848. Gottschalk, Anneke and Esser are charged with

“having in the course of the year 1848” (note the elasticity of this expression) made a conspiracy in Cologne with the aim of changing and overthrowing the Government concerned and of fomenting a civil war by misleading the citizens into taking up arms against one another, or at any rate” (take note!), “or at any rate by speeches at public meetings, by printed material and posters, having incited to attempts at assassination and suchlike aims”.

That is to say, therefore, they are charged with having made a conspiracy, “or at any rate” with not having “made” any conspiracy. But then at any rate “to attempts at assassination and suchlike aims”. That is to say, to attempts at assassination or something of the sort! How magnificent the juridical style is!

So it is stated in the board of prosecuting magistrates’ decision for committal to trial.

In the conclusion of the indictment itself, mention of conspiracy is dropped and “in accordance with it” Gottschalk, Anneke and Esser are charged with

“having in the course of the year 1848, by speeches at public meetings as well as by printed material, directly incited their fellow citizens to alteration of the Constitution by force, to armed rebellion against the royal power and to the arming of one part of the citizens against another, without, however, these incitements having been successful — a crime envisaged in Article 102, in combination with Articles 87 and 91 of the Penal Code”.

And why did the authorities in the course of the year 1848 not intervene before July 2?

Incidentally, for the gentlemen to be able to speak of an “alteration of the Constitution by force”, they would in the first place have had to furnish proof that a Constitution existed. The Crown has proved the contrary by sending to the devil the Agreement Assembly. If the agreers had been more powerful than the Crown, they would perhaps have conducted the proof in the reverse direction.

As regards the incitement “to armed rebellion against the royal power and to the arming of one part of the citizens against another”, the indictment tries to prove it:

1. by speeches of the accused in the course of the year 1848;

2. by unprinted;

3. by printed documents.

Ad. 1. The speeches provide the indictment with the following corpus delicti:

At the sitting of May 29, Esser finds that a “republic” is the “remedy for the suffering of the workers”. An incitement to armed rebellion against the royal power! Gottschalk declares that “the reactionaries will bring about the republic”. Some workers complain that they do not have enough “to keep body and soul together”. Gottschalk replies to them: “You should learn to unite, to distinguish your friends from your disguised enemies, to make yourselves capable of looking after your own affairs.”

An obvious incitement to armed rebellion against the royal power and to the arming of one part of the citizens against another!

The indictment sums up its proofs in the following words:

“The witnesses who have been examined concerning these earlier meetings, both members and non-members, on the whole speak only in praise of Gottschalk and Anneke, especially the informer. He is said to have always warned against excesses, and to have tried to calm rather than incite the masses. In doing so he indeed indicated the republic as the final goal of his efforts, which, however, was to be achieved not by a street riot but only by the majority of the people being won over to the view that there was no salvation except in a republic. As is clearly seen, by thus setting out to undermine gradually the foundations of the existing order, he was understandably often hard put to it to restrain the impatience of the vulgar crowd.

It is precisely because the accused calmed the masses instead of inciting them that they showed clearly their nefarious tendency gradually to undermine the foundations of the existing order, that is, in a legal way to make a use, objectionable to the authorities, of freedom of the press and the right of association. And that is what the indictment calls: “Incitement to armed rebellion against the royal power and to the arming of one part of the citizens against another'!!!

Finally comes the general meeting of June 25, which was “expected” by the authorities. In regard to it, the indictment says: “detailed testimonies are available”. And what results from these detailed testimonies? — That Gottschalk made a report on the Frankfurt events; that the union of the three democratic associations in Cologne was discussed,[184] and that Gottschalk delivered a “concluding speech”, which especially attracted the attention of Maltheser and the candidate assessor von Groote, and ended with the “point": “To go on waiting requires more courage than to strike at random. One must wait until the reaction takes a step which results in pressure for the proclamation of a republic.” Obvious incitement to armed rebellion against the royal power and to the arming of one part of the citizens against another!!!

As far as Anneke is concerned, according to the indictment

there is nothing more against him than that, in the debate on the union of the three associations” (the three democratic associations of Cologne), “he spoke very vigorously for this union, addressing the meeting also as republican citizens”.

A speech in favour of the “union” of the three democratic associations of Cologne is obviously “incitement to the arming of one part of the citizens against another"!

And the mode of address as “republican citizens"! Herren Maltheser and von Groote might have felt themselves insulted by this mode of address. But does not General von Drigalski address himself and the citizens of Düsseldorf as “communist citizens"?

Looking at this net product of the “expected” general meeting of June 25, one can understand that the state authority had to take refuge in the course of the year 1848, and that is what it did by acquiring information about the movement in this year through the seizure of letters and printed documents; for example, it confiscated three issues of the Arbeiter-Zeitung which could be bought for four pfennigs a copy in any street.

From the letters, however, it became convinced of the “political fanaticism” prevailing in Germany in the year 1848. A letter of Professor Karl Henkel from Marburg to Gottschalk seemed to it particularly “fanatical”. To punish him it denounced this letter to the Hesse Government and had the satisfaction that a judicial investigation would be instituted against him.

But the final result derived from the letters and printed documents is that in 1848 fanaticism of all kinds was at work in people’s minds and on paper, and in general events took place which resembled as closely as one egg does another “armed rebellion against the royal power and the arming of one part of the citizens against another”.

Gottschalk and his comrades, however, were busily occupied with all this, whereas the state authority only became aware of the “repercussion” of this astonishing movement through confiscating the printed documents and letters of the accused![185]