Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung January 1849

The Prussian Warrant for the Arrest of Kossuth

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 269;
Written: by Engels on January 21, 1849;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 207, January 28, 1849.

Cologne, January 21. We have just received the following edifying document published in the Oppelner Kreisblatt:

Warrant of Arrest. According to a statement of the royal imperial Austrian governmental commission in Cracow, measures have been taken in Hungary to enable Kossuth under a false name to reach Hamburg via Breslau. It is supposed that he will take the route through Myslowitz, Gleiwitz and Kosel.

“On the basis of instructions from the Herr Oberpräsident of the province of Silesia, I order all police authorities, local courts and gendarmerie to keep a sharp look-out for Kossuth, whose description is given below, and in the event of his appearance on their territory to arrest him and to deliver him to me safely for further steps.”

(Here follows, as already stated, Kossuth’s description.) This edifying document is signed:

“Oppeln, January 17, 1849
Royal Landrat Hoffmann

What have our readers to say to that? The Manteuffels of Upper Silesia by the grace of God would be quite pleased to arrest the great agitator Kossuth if he were defeated and succeeded in crossing the frontier, and to deliver him to his executioners for the speediest pardon with gunpowder and shot. If Kossuth is in actual fact handed over, this will be the most foul betrayal, the most infamous violation of international law that history has ever known.

Under the old legislation of the German Confederation,[256] of course, Prussia was obliged to hand over to German Austria, on the demand of the latter, political refugees charged with actions carried out on the territory of the German Confederation. The revolution overthrew the old legislation of the German Confederation, and even under the Pfuel Government refugees from Vienna were safe in Berlin.

But Prussia has no such obligations in relation to Hungary. Hungary is an independent state and if Prussia hands over Hungarian refugees who can be charged only with actions carried out on Hungarian territory, it commits the same disgraceful and infamous deed as if it handed over Russian or Polish refugees to Russia.

Even under the Bodelschwingh regime the authorities did not dare to hand over to Austria the refugees from Galicia and Cracow who had crossed the border into Prussia.[257] But, on the other hand, of course, at that time we were under an absolute monarchy, and today we are a constitutional state!

Moreover, if Kossuth crosses into Prussian territory he will not be a political refugee but a belligerent party that has crossed into neutral territory.

German Austria, an independent union of states, is waging war against Hungary, an independent state; the reason for it is no concern of Prussia’s. Even in 1831 the authorities did not dare to hand over to Russia the Poles who had crossed the border into Prussia[258]; but at that time, too, we were under an absolute monarchy, and today we are a constitutional state!

We draw the attention of public opinion to the benevolent intentions of the Prussian Government in regard to Kossuth. We are convinced that this will suffice to arouse such a storm of sympathy for the greatest man of the year 1848, and such a storm of indignation against the Government, that even a Manteuffel will not dare to oppose it.

But, of course, for the time being Kossuth still rules in Debreczin, with the enthusiastic support of the entire Magyar people; his valiant hussars still gallop over the Hungarian plains,[259] Windischgrätz still stands in perplexity facing the swamps of the Theiss, and your warrants of arrest are ridiculous rather than frightening!