Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, about June 2, 1860
|Written||2 June 1860|
First published: in F. Lassalle. Nachgelassene Briefe und Schriften, Stuttgart -Berlin, 1922.
To Ferdinand Lassalle in Berlin
[London, about 2 June 1860][edit source]
For some three weeks past I've been suffering from a liver complaint, which has prevented me from doing any kind of work, and which I haven’t completely shaken off yet. This state of affairs makes me a very poor letter-writer.
Well, before I reply to your letter, just one or two preliminaries. The Daily Telegraph’s Berlin correspondent is called Abel. Can you provide me with any particulars about this individual?
Schwarck, the Chief Public Prosecutor, has in turn dismissed the criminal action against the National-Zeitung on Appeal on the grounds that no ‘public interest’ would be served thereby. It won’t be long now before the civil action is preferred.
Now for your letter.
I shall not come to Berlin. I did not go to Cologne and all I knew of the sworn evidence given there by Stieber was derived from the reports in the Kölnische Zeitung. It is upon those reports that my critique in the Revelations is based. Hence I could be of no use as a witness in this case. If they want to have me testify about one point or another, I am prepared to make a deposition (as apparently has often been done by other refugees) at the Prussian Embassy in London.
During the early stages of the Eichhoff case Juch, the editor of the Hermann, appealed to me for help in this respect. I gave him the Revelations, recommended that Schneider II be summoned as witness from Cologne, and pointed out the necessity of questioning Hirsch, who was in gaol in Hamburg. The latter interrogation would seem to have been conducted most ineptly. Indeed, it would be absolutely essential to convey Hirsch bodily to Berlin to act as a witness. Only in this event could there be a proper cross-examination that would publicly lay bare the whole disgraceful operation, since Hirsch was fully initiated into these mysteries of Stieber-Goldheim-Greif-Fleury.
Another essential witness would be Cherval (Joseph Crämer), at present in Paris. As he did a bolt from Aachen after forging some bills, Prussia could undoubtedly demand his extradition. But the government will take good care not to do so. Apart from that, he’s a French mouchard and therefore under Bonaparte’s protection.
Most of the other people whom it might be important to examine are in America. Only one is still over here, a certain de L'Aspée from Wiesbaden, who is employed as an interpreter by the English police. I have taken the necessary steps to arrange a meeting [with him] and shall see whether he is willing either to travel to Berlin or to submit to questioning at the Prussian Embassy. In 1853, he sent The Times an article denouncing Stieber. The article was suppressed owing to Bunsen’s intervention and did not appear.
I shall now adduce a few points, which you may, perhaps, be able to put to use. I wrote the Revelations immediately after the Cologne trial was over. However, I subsequently made further investigations into this casus, which is of special interest to me. But first let me say what a capital idea it was of Eichhoff’s to cite the chief fellow culprits, Goldheim and Greif, as witnesses for the defence. As things stand, the only way to get at Stieber et cie. would be for the government to institute an inquiry into the Cologne trial. But it'll take good care not to.
Stieber (see page 10 of my Revelations) is said to have testified on oath in Cologne that ‘his attention had been drawn’ to ‘the conspiracy’s archives’ in the keeping of Oswald Dietz in London by the copy of the papers found on Nothjung which were sent to him in London from police headquarters in Berlin. A mere examination of the Cologne records, which must necessarily contain the papers found on Nothjung, should be enough to refute this perjured evidence.
The actual state of affairs was as follows: Cherval (Joseph Crämer) was the Paris correspondent of the Willich-Schapper League and, as such, corresponded with Oswald Dietz. At the same time, Cherval was an agent of the Prussian ambassador in Paris, Prince Hatzfeldt. Not only did he denounce Dietz, as secretary of his London committee, to Hatzfeldt, he also wrote Dietz letters that were intended for use as evidence later on. Stieber and Greif (as Greif himself told Hirsch in Fleury’s presence) acted on Hatzfeldt’s information. What they found out through Reuter was where Dietz lived, after which Fleury, on Stieber’s orders, burgled Dietz’s lodgings accompanied by Reuter. This, too, is known to Hirsch.
En passant, the following circumstance may be relevant, with which Mr Hirsch is familiar. Fleury had made exact copies of the letters stolen at Reuter’s and given them to Hirsch to read. Among those letters was one from Hanover written by Stechan in which he mentioned a remittance of 30 talers for the refugees. Stieber (together with his friend Wermuth in Hanover) altered this to 530 talers for the leaders. Stechan, who, so far as I know, is now in Edinburgh, could perhaps swear an affidavit to this effect. Stieber (according to the Koln. Zeit, see p. 11 of the Revelations) further stated on oath that the Dietz archives had arrived in Berlin on 5 August 1851, having been sent to him from London. The fact is that Stieber took those ‘archives’ with him from London to Paris on 20 July 1851. This is a point which the above-mentioned L'Aspée could, if he so wished, corroborate on oath.
Mr Greif testified on oath in Berlin that he did not know Hirsch, or knew him only very slightly. The fact is that Hirsch was introduced to Fleury by Greif at 39 Brewer Street, Golden Square, the private residence of Alberts (then, as now, secretary to the Prussian Embassy in London) at that time, after Greif had first got Hirsch to give him a report on the activities of the revolutionary emigration. From that time on, Greif, Fleury, and Hirsch worked together (under the direction of Greif), and were, in particular, jointly responsible for composing the forged minute-book.
The month of April 1853 found Goldheim and Stieber back in London where they were intent on engineering a link between Kossuth’s mysterious gunpowder plot and the Berlin conspiracy (Ladendorf’s). At that time (i.e. many months after the Cologne trial), Hirsch constantly accompanied them in London and worked together with them.
Considering that the police have acknowledged their Fleury in court, let me provide a character sketch of these Prussian agents in London: The said Fleury is called Krause, and is the son of Krause the cobbler, who was executed in Dresden some 22 to 25 years ago for the murder of Countess Schonberg and her maid. Some time after the Cologne trial, this same Fleury-Krause was convicted of forgery in London and sentenced to two or three years in the hulks. Having now served his sentence, he is once again up to his old activities.
The French plot (complot allemand-français) was engineered under Stieber’s direction by Cherval in company with Greif, Fleury, Beckmann, Sommer and the French spy, Lucien de la Hodde (under the name of Duprez). At Cherval’s instigation, Greif (who, like Stieber, swears he does not know the Franco-Prussian spies Cherval and Gipperich) went to North Germany where he was to find out the abode of a certain tailor named Tietz and obtain possession of the letters Cherval had written him on police instructions. He went to the home of Tietz’s betrothed in Hamburg, saying he had come ‘as a friend’ of Tietz’s and would take into safe keeping any potentially dangerous correspondence. However, the coup misfired.
Greif also corresponded with Maupas, through de la Hodde-Duprez, about the release of Cherval and Gipperich. No sooner had Cherval arrived in London than he was taken on by Greif at a regular salary of £1 10s a week. In particular, Greif sent him to Jersey to prepare a major political conspiracy there. Subsequently, the association between Greif and Cherval came to an end. If Mr Hirsch so wishes, he can affirm all these matters on oath. They are important, not only, because Greif has again perjured himself, but also because they concern the relationship between Cherval and Stieber and the ‘veracity’ of the statements made at Cologne by Stieber in respect of Cherval. At the very time when Stieber swore in Cologne that he knew nothing of the whereabouts, etc, of Cherval (see p. 27 of the Revelations), Cherval was cooperating with Greif, who himself was acting on Stieber’s orders. But the case could be legally proven only, of course, by obtaining depositions front Hirsch (who might perhaps talk in open court) and from Cherval (who cannot be got hold of). Needless to say, Alberts, secretary to the Embassy, won’t speak; nor will de la Hodde, Beckmann, Maupas, etc.
Hirsch and Fleury (the latter had rented a lithographic press at Stanbury’s Printing Works, Fetter Lane, Fleet Street, London, to that end) had been instructed by Greif to produce leaflets, such as ‘To the Rural Proletariat’, ‘To the Children of the People’, etc., which Greif sent to the Prussian government as emanating from the Marx party.
After the sudden ‘disappearance’ of the witness Haupt of Hamburg in the course of the communist trial at Cologne, Hinckeldey sent a courier to the Prussian Embassy in London with the request that someone be found to take over Haupt’s role, and to ‘swear’ Haupt’s denunciations before the Assizes. The Police Presidium, he said, would give a reward of a thousand talers. In his letter, Hinckeldey wrote that the very existence of the political police depended upon the outcome of this trial. Hirsch, having first consulted Fleury (out of the ‘noblest’ motives, as he himself subsequently said), declared himself willing. Everything was well in train when Fleury returned with tidings of the Prussian Embassy’s refusal. A further communication from Hinckeldey read:
‘The State Prosecutor hopes that thanks to the happy constitution of the jury it will be possible to get a verdict of guilty even without extraordinary measures, and he’ (Hinck.) ‘therefore asks you not to trouble yourselves further.'
For the same reason, the order previously sent to Beckmann, the Prussian spy in Paris, bidding him come to Cologne and corroborate Stieber’s statements regarding the complot allemand-français was countermanded.
But now we come to the most curious part of the story, which is also perfectly known to Mr Hirsch and is typical of Stieber no less than of Goldheim.
Fleury had learned that I intended to have the actual handwriting of the alleged signatories of the minutes (W. Liebknecht, Rings, and Ulmer) officially authenticated in London. He knew that a refugee called Becker lived in the same house as Willich. He therefore wrote the following letter in Becker’s name:
‘To the Royal Presidium in Berlin;
dated from London
‘It is the intention of Marx and his friends here to discredit the signatures on the League Minutes by having handwriting specimens legally authenticated. These specimens are to be produced in the Court of Assizes as the really authentic ones. ‘Everyone familiar with English laws knows that on this point they can be manipulated and that a person who vouches for the authenticity of a thing does not actually give any true guarantee.
‘The person who gives you this information does not recoil from giving you his name in a matter like this where the truth is at stake. Becker 4 Litchfield Street.’
Stieber had declared before the Assizes at Cologne that he had had the minute-book for a fortnight (before producing it in court), and had duly deliberated before putting it to use; he further declared that it had reached him through a courier, Greif. Mr Goldheim, on the other hand, in a letter to the Prussian Embassy in London, said:
‘The minute-book was produced so late only in order to avoid scrutiny as to its authenticity.
The letter signed ‘Becker’ was addressed to the Police Presidium in Berlin. Had it really emanated from Becker, therefore, it must have gone to Berlin. Instead, the letter went to Goldheim, the police official, at the Frankfurter Hof in Cologne, and a cover to that letter to the Police Presidium in Berlin containing a note: ‘Herr Stieber in Cologne will give a complete explanation as to its use.’ Thus, Stieber knew to what end the letter had been forged. Moreover, Fleury had written expressly to Goldheim on the subject.
Thus, between Fleury, Goldheim, Stieber and Prussian Police Presidium there was tacit collusion over the forgery.
(Stieber did not make use of the letter, having already been compelled to drop the minute-book since, independently of the authentications provided by me, Schneider II had not only discovered other signatures of Liebknecht’s and Rings’ in Cologne, but had also concluded from a much earlier letter of mine that the forger was Hirsch. Stieber got wind of the fact that Schneider had compared Liebknecht’s, etc., signatures at the Record Office, and that other counsel had done the same. It was then that, at the following session, he came out with the imaginary H. Liebknecht (see pp. 38-40 of Revelations).)
Stieber knew the minute-book to be a fake. Why otherwise should he fear authentication of the genuine signatures?
On 29 October, Goldheim arrived in London. Stieber had sent him there to confer on the spot with Fleury and Greif and devise some coup that might save the minute-book. He had to return empty-handed, having told Fleury that, rather than compromise the chiefs of police, Stieber was resolved, if needs be, to expose him, Fleury.
As a last recourse, Fleury now brought Hirsch a specimen of handwriting for him to use to copy out a statement, sign the latter with Liebknecht’s name, and then attest it before the Lord Mayor while falsely declaring himself (Hirsch) to be Liebknecht. On handing Hirsch the said specimen to be copied, Fleury told him that the handwriting was that of the person who had written the minute-book, and that Goldheim had brought it (the specimen) back from Cologne with him.
(Hence it follows that the minute-book produced in Cologne was not the same as had been written by Hirsch and Fleury. Stieber himself had had it copied. The chief difference between it and the one fabricated by Fleury and H Hirsch — a few insignificant alterations apart — lay in the fact that, whereas the minutes provided by Fleury had been unsigned, signatures had been appended to those submitted by Stieber.)
Hirsch copied out the statement in handwriting as similar as possible to that of the specimen. (This last was still in his possession when he left London.) The statement was to the effect that the undersigned, i.e. Liebknecht, declared the authentication of his signature obtained by Marx and Co. to be false, and this, his signature, to be the only genuine one. While en route to the Lord Mayor, Hirsch declared that he would not take an oath before him, whereupon Fleury said he would do so himself. First he called in at the Prussian consulate (where, of course, he was well known) and got the Prussian consul to endorse his handwriting (as that of Liebknecht). There, together with Hirsch, he betook himself to the Lord Mayor for the purpose of attestation. The Lord Mayor, however, asked for guarantees, which Fleury was unable to provide, and thus no oath was taken. (One day later — but trop tard — Fleury obtained credentials from a lawyer.)
All this dirty business came to light in an affidavit Hirsch swore before Jardine, the Bow Street magistrate. The affidavit was sent to Gobel, the president of the Appellate Court, and two copies went off simultaneously to Schneider II and the lawyer Esser.
Whether Hirsch can be conveyed bodily from Hamburg to Berlin to testify in open session and confront Stieber-Goldheim-Greif, I cannot say. The present regime being what it is, there can be no question of getting hold of Cherval, — now, what is more, an avowed ‘civiliser’ and ‘liberator’.
In the case of my own testimony, I could not, of course, without being guilty of all manner of indiscretions, in any way show how one fact or another had come to my knowledge. Moreover, such evidence would not constitute proof.
The trial would be altogether straightforward were the government de bonne foi. As things are, it is most difficult to conduct.
Now I come to Fischel.
My relations with David Urquhart and his followers (I won’t say party because, apart from the sect which holds him to be a prophet in all disciplines, Urquhart can, in his own proper domain of foreign policy, boast supporters among all English parties, from the Tories to the Chartists) have been amicable since the appearance, in 1853, of my first anti-Palmerston pamphlet. Ever since, there has been a constant interchange, they providing me with information, I making unpaid contributions to their Free Press (e.g. my Revelations of the diplomatic history of the 18th century, or again, the Progress of Russia in Central Asia, etc.), and placing at their disposal my personal knowledge of Russian agents such as Bangya, etc. Now, Fischel is the Urquhartites’ recognised and, as it were, official agent in Berlin and my knowledge of his activities there is confined to what I have heard about the Portfolio. This was how I came into contact with Fischel (it was only by chance that I ran into him at a London newspaper office, on which occasion I asked him to convey my regards to you). He has carried out various commissions for myself and Engels in Berlin. We have never exchanged so much as a word, either verbally or in writing, on the subject of internal policy, nor for that matter have I done so with Urquhart since the time when I told him once and for all that I was a revolutionist, and he retorted no less frankly that all revolutionists were agents or dupes of the Petersburg cabinet.
In the letters we have exchanged with Fischel he has always observed the utmost discretion and confined himself solely to the one field of foreign policy in which we are in accord with the Urquhartites.
You will have read Urquhart’s writings, and hence it would be otiose for me (aside from the strain already involved in writing so long a letter in my present state of health) to embark on an analysis of this highly complex figure here. He is, I grant you, subjectively reactionary (romantic) (though not, indeed, in the sense of any real reactionary party but, as it were, metaphysically so); this in no way precludes the movement in foreign policy, of which he is the head, from being objectively revolutionary.
The fact that some of his German followers such as Bucher, Fischel, etc. (I don’t know the latter’s Moskowitertum, but I know what’s in it without reading it), have chosen to adopt some of his ‘Anglo-Saxon’ fads — which, by the by, are not without a kind of perverse critical sense —, is to me a matter of complete indifference, just as in a war against Russia, say, it would be a matter of indifference to you whether, in firing on the Russians, the motives of your neighbour in the firing-line were black, red and gold or revolutionary. Urquhart is a power, of which Russia is afraid. He is the only official personage in England who has the courage and honesty to affront public opinion. He’s the only one of them who is incorruptible (whether by money or ambition). Finally, and strange to say, I have so far encountered none but honest men among his followers, and hence feel bound to regard Fischel as such until I have proof of the contrary.
As for F.’s relations with the Duke of Gotha, I have very good reason to believe that they are not venal. Seeing that this Gotha chap belongs to the English dynasty, which Urquhart is using against Palmerston and ministerial usurpation generally (‘Why doesn’t anyone ever shoot at cabinet ministers?’ Humboldt asks, presaging such usurpation), what could suit him better than to promote anti-Russian and anti-Palmerston sentiment in Germany in his (Gotha’s) name? This is why Fischel’s pamphlet, Despoten und Revolutionare, was translated into English as The Duke of Coburg’s Pamphlet, and was thought important enough by Palmerston to warrant a personal reply in the form of a pamphlet (anonymous), which has greatly compromised him. For Palmerston had hitherto made the unfortunate House of Coburg the scapegoat for his Russophilia, and the pamphlet compelled him to abandon this false pretext.
It is very possible, indeed probable, that Fischel’s anti-Palmerstonian is of little significance in Berlin. On the other hand so far as England (and thus par ricochet Germany) is concerned, it is important in that this controversy is being skilfully, exploited by the Urquhartites and magnified into the German view of Palmerston, for the furtherance of the English controversy.
Hence, in the war that we, together with the Urquhartites, are conducting against Russia, Palmerston and Bonaparte, and in which people of all parties and classes in every capital of Europe as far as Constantinople are playing their part, Fischel, too, is a component. On the other hand, I have never exchanged so much as a syllable with Bucher, because to do so would have been pointless. Were he living in Berlin instead of London, it would be quite a different matter.
Should we enter into a revolutionary phase in Germany, this will, of course, put an end to diplomacy — of a kind, by the by, that entails not the least concession on either side nor even a shadow of pretence. And even then this English connection will be useful to us.
Come to that, it goes without saying that, in foreign policy, there’s little to be gained by using such catchwords as ‘reactionary’ and ‘revolutionary’. In Germany now there is no such thing as a revolutionary party, and to me the most loathsome form of reaction is Royal Prussian court democracy as practised, say, by the National-Zeitung and also, to some extent (their acclaim of that scoundrel Vincke, the Regent, etc.) by the Volks-Zeitung.
At all events, the Urquhartites have the advantage of being ‘educated’ in foreign policy, so that the ignorant members obtain their inspiration from the educated ones; the advantage, too, of pursuing a definite goal, the fight against Russia, and being engaged in a life and death struggle with that mainstay of Russian diplomacy, Downing Street at London. Let them imagine, if they wish, that this struggle will result in the establishment of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ conditions. It is up to us revolutionaries to go on using them so long as we have need of them. This does not prevent us from actually knocking them on the head wherever they threaten to frustrate our internal policy. The Urquhartites have never reproached me for also writing under my own name in the Chartist newspaper that was their bugbear until its demise — Ernest Jones’s People’s Paper. E. Jones laughed at Urquhart’s oddities, ridiculed them in his paper and yet, in that same paper, acknowledged his outstanding worth in the matter of foreign policy.
Finally, despite his fanatical hatred of the French Revolution and everything ‘universal’, Urquhart’s romanticism is exceedingly liberal. The freedom of the individual, if in a very topsy-turvy way, is to him the be-all and end-all. It is true that, in order to achieve it, he dresses up the ‘individual’ in all manner of ancient garb.