Letter to Friedrich Engels, August 20, 1862

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 20 August 1862


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 41, p. 410;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.
Keywords : Letter, Law, Italy, Capital

To Engels in Manchester

London, 20 August [1862][edit source]

Dear Engels,

I've had a whole series of mishaps over the bill.

First Borkheim, who means very well but also enjoys bragging and chooses just the wrong moment to prevaricate post festum, promised to discount the bill (out of his own pocket). He did so, knowing that Lassalle’s acceptance wasn’t to be had for some little while. Then, without a word to me, he sent it through Bruckner (Brothers) to Berlin so as to get it discounted by the said Bruckners. Perhaps — he pretends to have forgotten how it all began — he took fright in the meantime.

Secondly: Baron Artful [Lassalle], with whom I discussed the transaction on the eve of his departure when he declared himself ‘prepared to do anything’, writes today from Wildbad whither I had sent him an advice:

‘If I am to accept, I shall have to have a bond from Engels himself in which he undertakes to put me in possession of the covering amount a week before due date. Not, of course, (!) that I doubt you wrote at his behest, but simply because, if I have to accept a bill which I cannot meet myself I must, if unforeseen circumstances are to be precluded and the worst comes to the worst, at least possess a personal written undertaking from the man who can and is to send me this remittance.

I thereupon wrote the baron, who is now in Zurich (has left Wildbad) and ‘may’ be going on to Italy in a few days’ time, a very ironical letter, telling him that I would forthwith request you to send the bond to me. This I now do.

Yesterday Borkheim read me his letter to you. I'd be very glad if you would write to him privately saying he should do everything possible to obtain the money for me, since I am (and this is true) in dire need, while Lassalle’s return will be delayed by his adventures abroad.

(By the by, I wrote and told Izzy that, on receipt of your bond, he should write to ‘Meyer’ Brothers in Berlin, who have the bill, saying he will accept it on his return — if, that is, he’s not going to be long enough in any one place for the bill to be sent on for his acceptance.)

Say what you will, dear boy, it really is embarrassing to have to bother you as I do with my misères! If only I knew how to start some sort of business! All theory, dear friend, is grey, and only business green. Unfortunately, I have come to realise this too late.

With the £20 advanced by Borkheim, I first of all paid the rates, then the shoemaker who was proposing to sue me, etc. I used £5 to send my family to Ramsgate yesterday, since little Jenny could not remain here any longer. I cannot thank you enough for having made this possible. She’s the most perfect and gifted child in the world. But here she had to suffer twice over. Firstly from physical causes. And then she was afflicted by our pecuniary trouble. How glad I was today that my wife and children were away and were thus spared the sight of Izzy’s letter!

Can’t you come down for a few days? In my critique I have demolished so much of the old stuff that there are a number of points I should like to consult you about before I proceed. Discussing these matters in writing is tedious both for you and for me.

One point about which you, as a practical man, must have the answer, is this. Let us assume that a firm’s machinery at the outset = £12,000. It wears out on an average in 12 years. If then £1,000 is added to the value of the goods every year, the cost of the machinery will have been paid off in 12 years. Thus far, A. Smith and all his successors. But, in fact, this is only an average calculation. Much the same applies to machinery having a life of 12 years as, say, to a horse with a life — or useful life — of 10 years. Although it would have to be replaced with a new horse after 10 years, it would in practice be wrong to say that 1/10 of it died every year. Rather, in a letter to Factory Inspectors, Mr Nasmyth observes that machinery (at least some types of machinery) runs better in the second year than in the first, at all events, in the course of those 12 years does not 1/12 of the machinery have to be replaced in natura each year? Now, what becomes of this fund, which yearly replaces 1/12 of the machinery? Is it not, in fact, an accumulation fund to extend reproduction aside from any conversion of revenue into capital? Does not the existence of this fund partly account for the very different rate at which capital accumulates in nations with advanced capitalist production and hence a great deal of capital fixe, and those where this is not the case?

Piles or no piles, you might at least let me have a brief answer to this.

As for the Rüstow-Lassalle plan your comments would be of value to me because of Bucher.

Salut.

Your
K. M.