Letters of Frederick Engels

To Wilhelm Graeber
In Barmen

Bremen, Nov. 20, 1840

Source: MECW Volume 2, p. 513
Written: 20 November 1840
First published: in Die neue Rundschau, 10. Heft, Berlin, 1913

My dear Wilhelm,

It is now at least six months since you wrote to me. What shall I say to such a friend? You don’t write, your brother [Friedrich Graeber] does not write, Wurm does not write, Grel does not write, Heuser does not write, not a line from W. Blank, I am still less aware of anything from Plümacher, sacré tonnerre [Confound it] what am I to say? When I last wrote to you, my roll of tobacco still weighed seven pounds, now there is barely a cubic inch of it left, and still no reply. Instead you lead a gay life in Barmen — wait, you fellows, as if I didn’t know of every glass of beer that you have since drunk whether you drank it in one draught or several.

You in particular should be ashamed to inveigh against my political truths, you political sleepyhead. If you are left to sit quietly in your rural parsonage, for you will hardly expect a higher position, and to go out for a walk every evening with Frau Pastor and eventually with the young little Pastors and nobody fires off a cannon-ball under your nose, you are blissfully happy and don’t trouble yourself about the sinful F. Engels who argues against the established order. Oh you heroes! But you will yet be drawn into politics, the current of the times will come flooding over your idyllic household, and then you will stand like the oxen before the mountain. Activity, life, youthful spirit, that is the real thing!

By now you will already have heard of the grandiose fun stirred up here by our mutual friend [Friedrich Wilhelm] Krummacher. It is now practically over, but it was a bad business. The Panielites formed up in battalions, stormed the militia arsenal and marched through the town with a large tricolour. They sang: “Free is the life we lead” and “Vivat Paniel, long live Paniel, Paniel is a worthy man!” The Krummacherians gathered in the Cathedral precincts, occupied the town hall, where the Senate was just in session, and plundered the armoury. Armed with halberds and spiked clubs they formed a square in the Cathedral precincts, aimed the two cannons which stand near the main guard post (though they had no powder) at Obernstrasse, from which the Panielites were coming, and so awaited the enemy. But when the latter arrived in front of the cannons, they entered the market from the other side, and occupied it. The 600-strong cavalry occupied the Grasmarkt, directly opposite the Krummacherians, and awaited the command to charge. At this point Burgomaster Smidt came out of the town hall. He stopped between the parties, planting his feet firmly on the stone on which Gottfried, a woman guilty of poisoning, was executed and which stands exactly half an inch above the pavement, and, turning to the Krummacherians, said: “You men of Israel!” Then he turned to the Panielites: “Anores ‘Aqhnaioi! [Men of Athens!], Then turning, now to the right, now to the left, he made the following speech: “Since Krummacher is an alien, it is not fitting that a quarrel which he has stirred up should be fought out within our good town. Therefore, I suggest to the honoured parties that they repair to the Burghers’ Common, which offers a most suitable terrain for such scenes.”

This was approved, and the parties marched out by different gates, after Paniel had armed himself with Roland’s stone shield and sword. The supreme command over the Krummacherians, who were 6,239 1/2 men strong, was taken over by Pastor Mallet, who took part in the campaign of 1813; he ordered powder to be bought and a few small cobbles to be taken along to load the cannons. Arriving on the Burghers’ Common, Pastor Mallet gave orders to occupy the churchyard which adjoins it and is surrounded by a wide ditch. He mounted the memorial to Gottfried Menken and ordered the cannons to be driven on to the cemetery mound. But for want of horses it had not been possible to bring out the cannons. In the meantime it was nine o'clock in the evening and pitch dark. The armies bivouacked, Paniel in Schwachhausen, a village, Mallet in the suburb. The headquarters was in the riding school before the Herdentor, which, however, was already occupied by a troupe of exhibition riders; but when Pastor Kohlmann of Horn held an evening service in the school, the riders ran away. This happened on October 17th. In the morning of the 18th, the two armies took the field. Paniel, who had 4,267 1/4 foot and 1,689 1/4 horse, attacked. A column of infantry led by Paniel himself attacked Mallet’s first battle-line, which consisted of the pupils of his catechism class and a few women zealots. When three old women had been speared and six catechumens shot, the battalion scattered and was driven by Paniel into the roadside ditch. On Paniel’s right wing stood Pastor Capelle with three cavalry squadrons formed by young office employees, who outflanked Mallet and attacked him from behind; he occupied the suburb and deprived Mallet of his operational base. Paniel’s left wing, under the command of Pastor Rothe, advanced on the Horn highway and pressed the Young Men’s Union, who did not know how to handle halberds, back on the main body of Mallet’s army. Then we, six of us, heard the shooting in the fencing lesson and rushed out in fencing jackets, gloves, masks and helmets; the gate was locked, an attack on the guard gave us the keys, and so we arrived on the scene of the battle, rapier in hand. Richard Roth of Barmen re-formed the scattered Young Men’s Union, while Höller of Solingen threw himself into a house with the remnants of the catechumens; three others and I unseated a few Panielites from their horses, mounted them and, supported by the Young Men’s Union, threw back the enemy cavalry; Mallet’s main army advanced, our rapiers spread cartes, tierces, terror and death, and in half an hour the rationalists were destroyed. Now Mallet came to thank us, and when we saw for whom we had been fighting, we looked at each other in astonishment.

Se non è vero, i come spero ben trovato. [If it is not true, I trust it is well invented] But now write soon! And urge Wurm to write to me.

Fr. Engels