Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung June 1848
Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 101;
Written: on June 20, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 21, June 21, 1848.
Cologne, June 20. Herr Stupp from Cologne has proposed an amendment to the law concerning the immunity of deputies which was not discussed in the Agreement Assembly but which might not be uninteresting to his fellow citizens from Cologne. We do not want to deprive them of the undivided enjoyment of this legislative work of art.
The Amendment of Deputy Stupp
Paragraph 1. “No member of the Assembly may be called to account in any manner whatsoever either for his votes or for the words and opinions that he expresses in his capacity as deputy."
Amendment: “Delete the word ‘words’ in the third line."
Reason: “It suffices that a deputy may freely express his opinion. The expression ‘words’ may also comprise slander which entitles the insulted person to sue for libel in a civil action. To protect the deputies from such suits seems to be contrary to the respect and honour of the Assembly.”
It suffices that the deputy expresses no opinion at all but simply drums and votes, Why then not also delete “opinions” since opinions must be expressed in “words”, may even be expressed in “slanderous” words, and since also slanderous opinions may be “subsumed” under the expression “opinions"?
Paragraph 2. “For the duration of the Assembly none of its members may be called to account or arrested for an act liable to punishment without the permission of the Assembly except when that member is caught in the act or within 24 hours thereafter. A similar permission is necessary for an arrest on account of debts."
Amendment.. “Delete the final sentence: ‘A similar permission is necessary for an arrest on account of debts.'"
Reason: “We are dealing here with an infringement of the civil rights of citizens and the ratification of such an infringement seems to me to be questionable. Though it might be greatly in the interest of the Assembly to keep some deputy in its midst, I still find respect for civil rights more important.
"We must, however, bear in mind especially that we are promulgating this law not for the future, i.e. not for the members of a future Chamber, but for us. Let us assume that there are members among us who have to fear arrest on account of debts; it would certainly make a bad impression on our voters if we were to protect ourselves against the legitimate prosecution of our creditors by a law which we have passed ourselves.”
Rather the other way around! It makes a bad impression upon Herr Stupp that the voters have sent members “among us” who could be arrested on account of debts. How lucky were Mirabeau and Fox not to have had to live under the legislation of Stupp. One single difficulty disconcerts Herr Stupp for a moment, it is “the interest of the Assembly to keep some deputy in its midst”. The interest of the people — but who wants to speak of that? It is only a question of the interests of a “closed society” which wants to keep someone in its midst while the creditors would like to see him outside in gaol. Collision of two important interests! Herr Stupp could have given a more convincing version of his amendment: individuals who are embarrassed by debts may only be elected representatives of the people with the permission of their respective creditors. They may be recalled at any time by their creditors. In the final analysis, both Assembly and Government are subject to the supreme decision of the creditors of the state.
Second amendment to Paragraph 2:
“While the Assembly is in session none of its members may be prosecuted or arrested by the authorities without the permission of the Assembly for a punishable act unless he is caught in the act."
Reason: “The word ‘Assembly’ in the first line is taken to mean a corporation, and with regard to this the expression ‘duration of the Assembly’ seems unsuitable. I am proposing the substitution of ‘while the Assembly is in session’.
"It also seems more fitting to replace ‘an act liable to punishment’ with a punishable act’.
"I am of the opinion that we must not exclude civil proceedings on account of punishable acts because we would thereby allow an infringement of civil law. Hence the addition ‘by the authorities’.
"If the addition’ or within the next 24 hours etc.’ remains, the judge may arrest any deputy within 24 hours after any transgression.”
The Bill assures the immunity of the deputies for the duration of the Assembly, the amendment of Herr Stupp only for “the duration of the sessions”, i.e. for 6, or at most 12 hours per day. And what an ingenious justification! One can speak of the duration of a session but can one speak of the duration of a corporation?
Herr Stupp does not want the authorities to prosecute or arrest the deputies without the Assembly’s permission. He thus takes the liberty to infringe criminal law. But as regards civil proceedings! On no account should there be an encroachment upon civil law! Long live civil law! What the state has no right to do, the private person may carry out! Civil proceedings above everything! Civil proceedings are Herr Stupp’s fixed idea. Civil law is Moses and the prophets! Swear by civil law, particularly civil proceedings! People, show respect for the Holy of Holies!
There are no infringements of civil law upon public law but there are “questionable” encroachments of public law upon civil law. Why bother with a Constitution since we possess the Code civil as well as civil courts and lawyers?
Paragraph 3. “Any criminal procedure against a member of the Assembly and any arrest is suspended for the duration of the session if the Assembly demands it.”
Motion to change Paragraph 3 in the following manner:
“Any criminal procedure against a member of the Assembly and any arrest arising out of it — unless the arrest has been made by virtue of a judicial verdict — shall be cancelled at once if the Assembly so decides."
Reason: “It is surely not the intention to release deputies from gaol who have already been sentenced to imprisonment by a judicial verdict.
"If the amendment is passed, it will apply also to those who are in gaol on account of debts.”
Could the Assembly have the treasonable intention to weaken the “force of a judicial verdict” or even to take into its midst a man who is “in gaol” on account of debts? Herr Stupp is trembling at this assault upon civil proceedings and the force of judicial verdicts. Any question of the sovereignty of the people has now been disposed of. Herr Stupp has proclaimed the sovereignty of civil proceedings and civil law. How cruel to snatch such a man away from civil law practice and to throw him into the inferior sphere of the legislative power! The sovereign people has committed this “questionable” infringement of “civil law”. Herr Stupp, on the other hand, starts civil proceedings against the sovereignty of the people and public law.
Emperor Nicholas, however, may calmly turn back. Upon the first crossing of the Prussian frontier he will be met by Deputy Stupp who will hold in one hand “civil proceedings” and in the other hand a “judicial verdict”. For, he will declare with appropriate solemnity: War, what is war? A questionable infringement of civil law! A questionable infringement of civil law!