Letter to Karl Marx, April 15, 1870

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 15 April 1870


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First published abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Bd. 4, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Abt. III, Bd. 4, Berlin, 1931

Extract published in Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, 1971;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 43

To Marx in London

Manchester, April 15, 1870[edit source]

Dear Moor,

Enclosed, returned, Borkheim. Good old Wilhelm’ did not expect his bragging about you would be communicated to you ipsissimis verbis.[1] Remains a blockhead all his life.

The papers will be returned to you on Sunday evening. I shall try to see Gumpert tomorrow, but since he has himself been suffering with his nerves for some time because of ‘over-work’ (of what sort?), it’s possible he’ll be away during the holidays. In the meantime, I suggest you try taking strenuous walks—3-4 hours together—for several consecutive days and, WEATHER PERMITTING, walk at least 1-2 hours daily, and then every week such a long walk at least 1-2 times. Now I can no longer work properly until I have walked for an hour or more; it has a wonderful effect and will certainly also get your liver more or less going again. In addition, I quite agree with Kugelmann’s view.

Fränkelche[2] is a real yiddisher lad. He learned ‘la formule’ in Paris, and delivers good wares.[3] It’s delicious that he understands the frais généraux[4] as part of surplus value, including wear and tear of machinery, lubrication, coal (if this is not raw material), ground rent, etc.

BOGS are simply peat bogs or marshes, which occur in 2 main sorts of locality: 1. on the plains, in valleys (old lake beds) or depressions, the exit from which has become blocked; 2. on heights with a flat or mildly-rolling summit, as a result of deforestation, where the moss, grass, heather, etc., become matted, and the water flows off, on average, more slowly than it rains in. A marsh in the plains sometimes even has a big river flowing through it, which, however, does not dry it out (various places on the Shannon, Donaumoss in Bavaria, etc.). Very usually such bogs are also the source reservoirs of rivers (the Bog of Allen, from which there flowed, in its original but now very reduced size, the Boyne, the Barrow, various tributaries of these two, and the Shannon). Chat Moss, between Liverpool and Manchester, which you know, is a real, typical Irish BOG, as Wakefield[5] confirms. It lies at least 30-40 feet above the Mersey and Irwell, which flow around it in a semicircle, so drainage very easy, yet this is only about 7s done, and they’ve been at it since 1800. This is because of the landlords; such an object can naturally only be drained systematically and compulsorily. They have them in Holland too—peat bogs are the same all over Europe. The Irish name those on the plain RED BOG and the mountain [bog] BLACK BOG. Water trickling down can produce on the slopes—even very steep, 30-40 degrees—similar marshy places which, in time, produce peat. On steep slopes it’s naturally only thin; on flatter ones it can get thicker and thicker. The thickest, naturally, is on the flat summits. TOWNLANDS are the lowest administrative divisions in Ireland, which are everywhere based on the old Irish CLAN divisions, and in the north and the west these have mostly been retained unchanged. The counties represent the local dukedoms (Donegal, the realm of THE O’Donnell, who then had others under him, e.g., THE Mac Swine and his people. Tyrone is that of THE O’Neill, Fermanagh that of THE Maguire, etc.). The baronies represent the individual CLANS, and in these the ballybetaghs (as Davies writes it[6]) or, translated into English, TOWNLANDS, the individual village bounds, held jointly by the inhabitants. In Ulster, for example, these have been completely retained in their old boundaries; in other parts more or less. The PARISH, the POOR LAW UNION and other special English divisions, were later inserted between BARONY and TOWNLAND.

Your conclusions from the Parliamentary Reports agree with my results. It should, however, be remembered that after 1846 the process of clearing 40-sh. freeholders was at first interspersed with clearing of labourers the reason being that, up to 1829, in order to produce freeholders, leases had to be made for 21 or 31 years and a life (if not longer), because a person became a freeholder only if he could not be turned out during his lifetime. These leases hardly ever excluded subdividing. These leases were partly still valid in 1846, resp. the consequences, that is, the peasants were still on the estate. The same was the case on the estates which were then in the hands of middlemen (who mostly held leases for 64 years and three lives or even for 99 years) and frequently their leases were revertible only between 1846 and 1860. Thus these processes were more or less interspersed so that the Irish landlord was never or seldom in a situation where he had to decide whether labourers in particular rather than other traditional small tenants should be ejected. Essentially it comes to the same thing in England and in Ireland: the land must be tilled by workers who live in other Poor Law Unions, so that the landlord and his tenant can remain exempted from the poor tax. This is also said by Senior or rather by his brother Edward, Poor Law Commissioner in Ireland: The great instrument which is clearing Ireland is the Poor Law.

Land sold since the Encumbered Estate Court amounts according to my notes to as much as 1/5 of the total, the buyers were indeed largely usurers, speculators, etc., mainly Irish Catholics. Partly also enriched stock-breeders. Yet even now there are only about 8,000-9,000 landowners in Ireland.

What do you say to the way the whole European bourgeoisie has made itself a laughing-stock, by pledging itself to the empire liberal, and lately awarding laurels to Louis Bonaparte for his sincere transition to constitutionalism? And now it comes to light that he means this so sincerely that he explicitly reserves for himself, for the suitable moment, the right to a coup d’état, vulgo a plebiscite. Nobody should be able to say that he had overthrown the constitution for a 2nd time. This is also a commentary on ‘gouvernement direct par le peuple’,[7] which the Swiss are now introducing and the French frankly don’t want. What is a plebiscite called in Swiss—veto or referendum? This question should be put to Wilhelm. Ad vocem Wilhelm—have you seen the marvellous advertisement in No. 27 of Volksstaat: Who borrowed from me ‘Kolb’s Statistik”?[8] W. Liebknecht. Not enough that he is sloppy; he has to advertise the fact too.

Zukunft—very amusing.[9] The jackasses!

Best greetings.

Your

F. E

  1. verbatim
  2. Leo Frankel
  3. See Marx's Letter to Friedrich Engels, April 14, 1870
  4. general costs
  5. E. Wakefield, An Account of Ireland, Statistical and Political.
  6. J. Davies, Historical Tracts
  7. direct government by the people
  8. G. F. Kolb, Handbuch der vergleichenden Statistik der Völkerzustands- und Staatenkunde.
  9. See Letter to Friedrich Engels, April 14, 1870