Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung February 1849

The Tax Refusal Trial

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 340;
Written: by Marx on February 9, 1849;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 218, February 10, 1849.

Cologne, February 9. If the verdict of the jury the day before yesterday in the case against our newspaper was of great importance for the press, the acquittal yesterday of Marx, Schneider and Schapper is decisive for all tax-refusal cases brought for trial in the Rhenish courts. The fact itself was quite simple and admitted of no doubt. The incriminated document states:

“The Rhenish District Committee of Democrats calls upon all democratic associations in the Rhine Province to have the following measures decided upon and carried out:

“1. Since the Prussian National Assembly itself has ruled that taxes are not to be paid, their forcible collection must be resisted everywhere and in every way.

“2. In order to repulse the enemy a people’s militia must be organised everywhere....

“3. The authorities are to be asked everywhere to state publicly whether they recognise the decisions of the National Assembly and intend to carry them out. In case of refusal committees of public safety are to be set up.... Municipal councils opposed to the Legislative Assembly should be elected afresh by a universal vote.”

This document is intelligible enough. Quite apart from the question whether the decision on the refusal to pay taxes is legally valid or not the document obviously presented an example of incitement to revolt and to civil war. The accused also did not conceal that the word “enemy” (see Paragraph 2) should be understood as the internal enemy, the armed might of the Government. Nevertheless the state authorities, despairing of a conviction under this article of the Code, have selected a milder indictment: the call for rebellion and resistance to the agents of state power (Article 209 et seq.).

Hence the case turned only on the political question: whether the accused were authorised by the decision of the National Assembly on the refusal to pay taxes to call in this way for resistance to the state power, to organise an armed force against that of the state, and to have government authorities removed and appointed at their discretion.

After a very brief consultation, the jury answered this question in the affirmative.

After this verdict, most likely Lassalle and Cantador will soon also be set free. There is no reason to expect that the Cologne board of indicting magistrates will be of a different opinion from that of the jury in the case of Marx, Schneider and Schapper.

Incidentally, tomorrow we shall return in particular to the question of Lassalle.[290] There seems to be a benevolent intention to drag out his case beyond the next assizes (in March) and thus to impose on him three more months of detention under examination. It is to be hoped, however, that the verdict of the Cologne jury will frustrate such philanthropic plans. Tomorrow we shall give some pleasant details as to how Lassalle is being treated in Düsseldorf prison.