Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung March 1849

The Proceedings Against Lassalle

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 474;
Written: by Marx on March 3, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 238, March 6, 1849.

Cologne, March 3. Our readers will remember the deputation which at the beginning of this year appeared before Prosecutor-General Herr Nicolovius to intercede for Lassalle, Cantador and Weyers, who were arrested in Düsseldorf in November.[377] At the time the Prosecutor-General promised that those arrested should be granted every facility consistent with the purpose of detention before trial; he promised to have the inquiry conducted as speedily as possible and gave the solemn assurance that it was not remotely thinkable that the inquiry would be as long drawn out as was the case in the trial of Gottschalk and comrades.

Since then two months have gone by, our readers have in the meantime had occasion to obtain evidence of the “facilities” which Lassalle in particular has enjoyed during this period; they know the civility with which Herr Morret, the prison governor, behaved, how the prisoner on remand was threatened with penitentiary discipline, how an extraordinary court was set up for him whose sentence is still awaited, and which may possibly be confinement in a cell.

The second promise, of the speediest possible conduct of the inquiry, was to be kept as brilliantly as the first.

The inquiry has now been in progress for almost three and a half months; Lassalle was, as we know, arrested on November 22. This lengthy period has not sufficed to bring the accused before the quarterly assizes due to start in Düsseldorf on the 5th inst. Without extraordinary assizes three more months of detention will be required before the case can be brought before a jury, although the examining magistrate had already declared the inquiry closed more than three weeks ago.

After the obvious, undeniable procrastination of which the Rhenish prosecution was guilty in the Gottschalk trial, after the general disapproval which the proceedings evoked at the time, after the specific warning not to fall into the same error again, the Prosecutor-General stated today to a deputation consisting of Herren K. Schapper, K. Marx, F. Engels, M. Rittinghausen, P. Hatzfeldt and H. Bürgers, that the work necessary to prepare the proceedings could not be completed in time for the next quarter session!

Herr Nicolovius maintained, it is true, that this was purely due to the course of the inquiry itself, which had assumed an unexpectedly wide scope, and he could not admit that the trial’s postponement, which had now become necessary, had been caused by the way the inquiry was conducted.

We will not reproach the Prosecutor-General for shielding his officials; this is entirely in keeping with the hierarchical order; but we are not obliged to be so considerate.

We have remarked above that the examining magistrate had already declared the inquiry closed more than three weeks ago. Two days after the accused had gone through the final hearing, Lassalle was suddenly called before the examining magistrate again. A letter was placed before him in which, during the November days, he had called for armed reinforcement for Düsseldorf. He did not deny having written the letter, and following this statement the inquiry was again resumed. The accused are now said to owe it to this additional inquiry that their trial will not come before the next assizes. For that is the revelation which Herr Nicolovius made to the deputation today.

It is clear. If the fatal letter, which entailed new hearings of witnesses, in consequence of which the examining judges’ findings are too late for the preparations necessary for the public hearing to be completed within the next three weeks, if this document had only been received by the public prosecution in office during the inquiry, when the inquiry was nearing completion, or if Public Prosecutor von Ammon I had at once passed it on to the examining magistrate for use during the inquiry, then nobody could be taken to task and the accused could only blame their cruel fate for putting new material in the way of an already voluminous investigation at such a late hour. But this is not the case.

That letter which is said to have caused the whole delay has been in the hands of Herr von Ammon for almost three weeks without his bothering to pass it on to the examining magistrate. So exactly the time which would have sufficed entirely to prepare the proceedings for the next assizes, exactly that time was allowed by the Public Prosecutor to elapse, so as to instigate a new investigation afterwards, when the inquiry was closed. The Public Prosecutor will not deny the accuracy of this fact; he has himself already admitted that the letter had been quietly lying in his cabinet for that length of time.

We therefore ask: was it not obviously the intention of Herr von Ammon to protract the trial in this way? Is he not guilty of deliberately causing an evident intentional delay? We at least cannot find any motive which could entitle the representative of the public prosecution to withhold from the inquiry for weeks on end a document on which he himself places the greatest value. We hear, it is true, that the Public Prosecutor has used the three weeks to make provisional inquiries. But to us it appears irresponsible to wish to make inquiries only when the investigation in progress is alone called upon to provide the necessary information on the facts of the case.

To us it appears that the true motive for this procedure is nothing but fear of the public proceedings of a trial which has already been decided in favour of the accused by the recent trials in Cologne, and secret hopes of an early amnesty, which would, of course, be preferable to acquittal by jury.