Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, February 25, 1859

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To Ferdinand Lassalle in Berlin

London, 25 February 1859 9 Grafton Terrace, Maitland Park, Haverstock Hill[edit source]

Dear Lassalle,

Iterum Crispinus.

It is Engels’ intention to publish — anonymously to begin with — a short pamphlet entitled Po and Rhine.

Main content: Military proof, i.e. based on military science, that all the reasons advanced to the effect that Austria must have the Mincio line in order to protect Germany, correspond precisely to the argument that France must have the Rhine frontier in order to protect herself; further that, whereas Austria’s interest in the Mincio line is considerable, that of Germany, as a single power, is nil, and that Italy will always be dominated militarily by Germany so long as the whole of Switzerland isn’t French. The thing is mainly directed against the strategists of the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, but otherwise against Mr Bonaparte — from a national viewpoint, of course.

I am willing to stake all my ‘powers of discernment’ on the fact that the publication of this pamphlet, which will entail hardly any outlay because consisting of only a few sheets, would, at the present time, actually be a speculation (in the eminent sense of the word) for a bookseller.

Since taking part in the Baden campaign, Engels has made military matters his special study. Added to which his writing, as you know, is exceedingly plausible.

However, the publisher must preserve the secret of the writer’s identity until the author himself chooses to disclose it. You may be sure that the most eminent military writers of Prussia will be suspected of being at the bottom of the thing.

Now here we have something the publication of which is intimately related to the times — a question of the day. Hence it must be pushed through quickly. Do you think that Duncker will agree to do it? It would undoubtedly be in his own interests. One can never know in the case of purely scientific stuff whether and to what extent the philistines will buy it. Where questions of the day such as these are concerned, this can be calculated with almost mathematical exactitude.

Should Duncker agree, Engels authorises you to conclude the transaction in his name and on whatever terms you think fit. Should he refuse, might there not be some other possibility? I know a publisher in Hamburg who would take it. But this fellow was always personally hostile to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, as he plainly told our friend Heine, and hence it would vex me sorely were he to obtain so much as a single line from any of us. Besides, he treated our never-to-be-forgotten and irreplaceable friend Weerth in the most outrageous fashion.

Let me have an answer as soon as possible, and please don’t begrudge the considerable time and effort I cost you. I can only plead the general party interest.

K. M.