Letter to Ernst Dronke, July 9, 1851
To Ernst Dronke in Geneva
Manchester, 9 July 1851
You have heard nothing from us for some considerable time — firstly because, since Galeer’s death, we haven’t had any address, and then because, after you had given us Schuster’s address, news reached us that you yourself would soon be coming to England. But, since Lupus has now been in London for almost a month and we have heard nothing from you, we can only suppose that you will be remaining where you are for the time being.
You will have been informed of the happenings in London last autumn [i.e., the split in the Communist League]. What you did not hear from this quarter you will have seen in the documents published since then. So to put you au fait I need only tell you about a few of the things that have happened in the meantime.
As I have been stuck here in Manchester since Nov. ’50 and as Marx speaks little English, our connection with Harney and the Chartists was making little or no headway. This was exploited by Schapper, Willich, L. Blanc, Barthélemy, etc.,— in short, the whole Franco-German caboodle, displeased on the one hand with us and on the other with the Ledru-Mazzini Committee to get Harney involved in a banquet planned for 24 February;— in this they succeeded. During that banquet the following curious things happened:
1. Two of our people who were present, one of them Schramm, were thrown out by the German refugee rabble — the thing took a serious turn and legal proceedings might have ensued had we not been able to settle it well enough to satisfy the injured parties; on the other hand it led — momentarily — to somewhat strained relations with Harney, who showed weakness on that occasion. Jones, however, a fellow quite unlike Harney, is wholly on our side and is at present expounding the Manifesto to the English.
2. Mr Willich, for want of an address from Germany, read out one from Switzerland, beneath which was your signature among others. By what deception or forgery your name found its way onto such a document we here cannot of course know; at all events, you must duly investigate the matter, and let us have the necessary information. The address, by the way, is printed in the compte rendu [account] of the banquet with your name under it, and you can imagine the glee occasioned by the name of someone from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung appearing at its foot.
3. The business of Blanqui’s toast. As a professed Blanquist, Barthélemy transmitted a request to Blanqui for a toast and Blanqui obliged with a splendid attack on the entire prov. government, Blanc and Co. included. Thunderstruck, Barthélemy laid it before the Committee, who resolved to suppress it. Blanqui, however, knew his men, the toast was published in the Paris papers to coincide with the banquet and quite spoiled the dramatic effect. That pious little swindler, L. Blanc, now asserted in The Times, as did the Committee — Willich, Schapper, L. Blanc, Barthélemy, Vidil, etc., — in the Patrie, that they knew nothing whatever about the toast. The Patrie, however, added the comment that, in reply to their inquiries, Blanqui’s brother-in-law, Antoine, had told them he had sent the toast to Mr Barthélemy and was in possession of an acknowledgment from the latter — one of the cosignatories of the statement. Barthélemy thereupon declared that this was so, that he accepted full responsibility, had lied, had received the toast but, in the interests of concord, had suppressed it. Unfortunately, however, the ex-capitaine de dragons Vidil simultaneously declared that he wished to confess everything: the toast had been submitted by Barthélemy to the Committee and suppressed by a resolution of the latter. Can one imagine a more horrid fiasco for the whole band? We translated the toast into German and had 30,000 copies distributed in Germany and England.
During the November mobilisation Willich, transported to the height of ecstasy by bogus letters, wanted to revolutionise the world with the Prussian Landwehr. We have in our hands some exceedingly comical documents and revolutionary plans relating to this. They will be put to use in due course. First and foremost, all ‘quill-pushing elements’ were to be extirpated, root and branch, and the dictatorship of the mobilised Eifel peasants proclaimed. Malheureusement il n'en fut rien [unfortunately, nothing came of it].
Since then the associated great men, amidst mutual assurances of power and immortality, have been fruitlessly attempting to gain a footing somewhere. All in vain. And they have the gratification of knowing that, of all the house searches and arrests that have taken place in Germany, not one has been due to connections with themselves.
We, on the other hand, have the satisfaction of being rid of the entire loud-mouthed, muddle-headed, impotent émigré rabble in London, and of being at long last able to work again undisturbed. The innumerable private iniquities of that gang need not concern us. We have always been superior to the riff-raff and, in any serious movement, have dominated them; but we have, meanwhile, learnt an enormous amount from our experiences since 1848, and have made good use of the lull since 1850 to resume our swotting. If anything should blow up again, the advantage we shall have over them will this time be of quite a different order, and in fields, furthermore, of which they have small inkling. Apart from all that, we have the enormous advantage that, unlike us, they are place-seekers to a man. It is beyond comprehension that there should still be jackasses whose supreme ambition, after the experiences they have been through, is to join some government or other, le lendemain même de la première insurrection victorieuse [on the very morrow of the first victorious revolution] — as they call revolution — only to be spurned or thrown out in disgrace 4 weeks later, as were Blanc and Flocon in 1848! And a Schapper-Gebert-Meyen-Haude-Willich government to boot! Alas, the poor devils will never achieve this satisfaction; they will, alas, revert to being mere appendages and, as such, may continue to sow confusion in the small towns and among the peasantry.
What are you actually doing in Geneva? They say you are a husband and a father, and that you are also on very friendly terms with Moses [Hess] — with an eye to Mrs Moses. Others have it that all this is sheer calumny but — at a distance of 10 degrees of latitude — that would be difficult to judge. Freiligrath, too, is in London and is bringing out a new volume of poetry. Weerth is in Hamburg and, like myself, is writing business letters pending the next set-to. He brought nothing back from his travels in Spain, not even the clap. He is, by the way, coming to London this month. Red [Ferdinand] Wolff has gone through various phases of being an Irishman, a worthy bourgeois, a madman and other interesting states, and has completely abandoned Schnaps in favour of half and half. Père Marx goes daily to the library and is adding amazingly to his knowledge — but also to his family. Finally, as to myself, I drink rum and water, swot and spend my time ‘twixt twist and tedium. So much for the Personal Column.
Since we over here have been compelled by the arrests in Germany to provide in many respects for the re-establishment of contacts, and to resume responsibility for much of the work we had delegated, it is essential that you write and tell us as soon as possible how things are in Switzerland. Reply at once, therefore, and should you want further elucidation, let us know upon what points. Write to me — care of Messrs Ermen & Engels, Manchester — via Calais.
- Note: Early in March 1851, Engels went to London for a few days to improve relations with the Chartists, which deteriorated after Conrad Schramm and Wilhelm Pieper had been manhandled at the ‘banquet of equals’ held on 24 February 1851 to mark the anniversary of the February 1848 revolution. Simultaneously, Marx and Engels took steps to expose Louis Blanc, Willich, Schapper and other organisers of the banquet. By that time, it had transpired that the latter had deliberately kept secret the text of the toast sent by Auguste Blanqui from the Belle-Isle prison, in which he exposed Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin and other members of the Provisional Government of the French Republic as traitors of the revolution. However, the text of the toast was published in La Patrie on 27 February 1851 and other newspapers. Marx and Engels translated it into German and English. The German version with a short preface written by them was sent to Cologne and printed in leaflet form, giving Berne as the place of publication.
During his stay in London, on 5 March, Engels apparently wrote a letter to the editor of The Times refuting a false declaration of Louis Blanc, published in that day’s issue of the paper, that Blanqui’s toast was never received by the organisers of the ‘banquet of the equals’. Engels enclosed the English translation of Blanqui’s toast for publication in The Times. But neither the letter nor the translation was published.