Justification of the Correspondent from the Mosel by Karl Marx
Justification of the Correspondent from the Mosel 
Rheinische Zeitung No. 15, January 15, 1843
From the Mosel, January. Nos. 346 and 348 of the Rheinische Zeitung contain two articles of mine, one of which deals with the distress due to lack of firewood in the Mosel region, and the other the special sympathy of the Mosel population for the royal Cabinet Order of December 24, 1841, and for the resulting greater freedom of the press. The latter article is written in coarse, and, if you like, even rude tones. Anyone who often has to hear directly the ruthless voice of want among the surrounding population easily loses the aesthetic tact by which his thoughts can be expressed in the most elegant and modest images. He may perhaps even consider it his political duty for a time to speak in public in the popular language of distress which in his native land he had no chance of forgetting. If, however, it is a question of proving that he speaks the truth, this can hardly mean proving literally every word, for in that case every summary would be untrue and, in general, it would be impossible to reproduce the meaning of a speech without repeating it word for word. Thus, for example, if it was said: “the cry of distress of the vine-growers was regarded as an insolent shrieking”, then to be fair one could demand only that this expressed an approximately correct equation. That is to say, it should be proved that there is an object which to a certain extent measures up to the summary description “insolent shrieking”, and makes this a not inappropriate description. If such a proof is given, the question is no longer one of truth but only of precision of language, and it would be hard to give more than a problematic judgment on extremely subtle nuances of linguistic expression.
The occasion for the above remarks of mine was provided by two rescripts of Oberpräsident von Schaper in No. 352 of the Rheinische Zeitung, dated “Koblenz, December 15”, in which a number of questions are put to me concerning my two articles mentioned above. The delay in the publication of my reply is due primarily to the content of the questions themselves, since a newspaper correspondent, in transmitting with the utmost conscientiousness the voice of the people as he has heard it, is not at all obliged to be prepared to give an exhaustive and motivated account of the occasions and sources of his report. Apart from the fact that such work would require much time and resources, the newspaper correspondent can only consider himself as a small part of a complicated body, in which he freely chooses his particular function. While one is perhaps more concerned to depict his impression of the distressed state of the people obtained directly from their statements, another, who is a historian, will discuss the history of the situation which has arisen; the man of feeling will describe the distress itself; the economist will examine the means required for its abolition, this itself being one problem which can be treated from different aspects: sometimes more on a local scale, sometimes more in relation to the state as a whole, etc.
Thus, with a lively press movement, the whole truth will be revealed, for if the whole appears at first only as the emergence of a number of different, individual points of view which — sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally — develop side by side, in the end, however, this work of the press will have prepared for one of its participants the material out of which he will create a single whole. Thus, gradually, by means of a division of labour, the press arrives at the whole truth, not by one person doing everything, but by many doing a little.
Another reason for the. delay in my reply is that the editorial board of the Rheinische Zeitung required further particulars after my first report. Similarly, after the second and third reports, it asked for additional data, and also the present concluding report. Finally, the editorial board, on the one hand, demanded that I myself indicate my sources, and, on the other hand, held up the publication of my reports until it had itself, by some other means, received confirmation of my data. [While confirming the above statements, we point out at the same time that the various mutually explanatory letters made it necessary for us to present a combined account.-Editorial Board of the Rheinische Zeitung.]
Further, my reply appears anonymously. In this respect I am guided by the conviction that anonymity is an essential feature of the newspaper press, since it transforms the newspaper from an assemblage of many individual opinions into the organ of one mind. The name of the author would separate one article from another as definitely as the body separates one person from another, and would thus completely suppress the function of being only a complementary part. Finally, anonymity ensures greater impartiality and freedom, not only of the author, but also of the public, since the latter sees not who is speaking, but what he is saying. Free from an empirical view of the author as a person, the public judges him solely by his intellectual personality.
Since I do not mention my own name, in all my detailed reports I shall give the names of officials and communities only when quoting printed documents that are available in bookshops, or when mentioning names will harm no one. The press is obliged to reveal and denounce circumstances, but I am convinced that it should not denounce individuals, unless there is no other way of preventing a public evil or unless publicity already prevails throughout political life so that the German concept of denunciation no longer exists.
In concluding these introductory remarks I think I am entitled to express the hope that the Herr Oberpräsident, after acquainting himself with my whole exposition, will be convinced of the purity of my intentions and will attribute even possible mistakes to an incorrect view of things, and not to an evil disposition. My exposition itself should show whether I have deserved the serious accusation of slander and of intent to excite dissatisfaction and discontent, even in the present case of continued anonymity, accusations which are the more painful coming from a man who is regarded with particularly great respect and affection in the Rhine Province.
To facilitate a survey of my reply, I have set it out under the following headings:
A. The question of wood distribution.
B. The attitude of the Mosel region to the Cabinet Order of December 24, 1841, and to the resulting greater freedom of the press.
C. The cankers of the Mosel region.
D. The vampires of the Mosel region.
E. Proposals for a remedy.
A. The Question of Wood Distribution
In my article “From the Mosel, December 12” in No. 348 of the Rheinische Zeitung, I referred to the following circumstances:
“The community of several thousand souls to which I belong is the owner of most beautiful wooded areas, but I cannot recollect an occasion when members of the community derived direct advantage from their property by sharing in the distribution of wood”.
On this, the Herr Oberpräsident comments:
“Such procedure, which does not accord with legal provisions, can only be motivated by quite exceptional circumstances”,
and at the same time he demands, in order to verify the facts of the case, that I name the community.
I frankly admit: On the one hand, I believe that a procedure which does not accord with the law, and therefore contradicts it, can hardly be motivated by circumstances, but must always remain illegal; on the other hand, I cannot find that the procedure described by me is illegal.
The instruction (dated: “Koblenz, August 31, 1839") on the management of wooded areas belonging to communities and institutions in the Koblenz and Trier administrative districts, issued on the basis of the law of December 24, 1816, and the royal Cabinet Order of August 18, 1835, and published in the Supplement to No. 62 of the official organ of the royal administration in Koblenz — this instruction states literally the following in § 37:
“In regard to the utilisation of material in the wooded areas, as a rule as much must he sold as is required to cover forest costs (taxes and administrative expenses).
“For the rest, it depends on the decision of the communities themselves whether the material is sold by auction to cover other needs of the community, or whether it is distributed among the members of the community, wholly or in part, gratis or for a definite fee. However, as a rule, firewood and material for making household articles are distributed in natura, but building timber, if it is not used for communal buildings or to assist individual members of the community in cases of damage by fire, etc., is sold by auction”.
This instruction, issued by one of the predecessors of the Herr Oberpräsident of the Rhine Province, seems to me to prove that the distribution of firewood among the members of the community is neither made obligatory by law nor prohibited by it, but is only a question of expediency. Hence in the article in question also, I discussed only the expediency of the procedure. Accordingly, the basis for the Herr Oberpräsident’s demand to know the name of the community disappears, since it is no longer a question of investigating the administration of a particular community, but only of a modification to an instruction. However, I do not object to the editorial board of the Rheinische Zeitung, in the event of a special demand from the Herr Oberpräsident, being empowered to name the community in which, to the best of my recollection, there has been no wood distribution. Such information would not be a denunciation of the local authorities but could only promote the welfare of the community.
Rheinische Zeitung No. 17, January 17, 1843
B. The Attitude of the Mosel Region to the Cabinet Order of December 24, 1841, and to the Resulting Greater Freedom of the PMs
In regard to my article from Bernkastel dated December 10, in No. 346 of the Rheinische Zeitung, where I asserted that the Mosel population, in view of its particularly difficult situation, welcomed with exceptional enthusiasm the greater freedom of the press afforded by the royal Cabinet Order of December 24 last year, the Herr Oberpräsident makes the following comment:
“If this article has any meaning, it can only be that hitherto the Mosel population had been forbidden to discuss publicly and frankly its state of distress, the causes of it and the means to remedy it. I doubt that this is so, for in view of the efforts of the authorities to find a remedy for the admittedly distressed state of the vine-growers, nothing could be more desired by the authorities than a discussion, as public and frank as possible, of the conditions prevailing there”. “I should, therefore, be greatly obliged if the author of the above article would be so good as to point out specially the cases where, even before the appearance of the royal Cabinet Order of December 24 last year, the authorities prevented a frank, public discussion of the distressed state of the inhabitants of the Mosel region”.
The Herr Oberpräsident further remarks:
“In addition, I think that I can in advance certainly describe as untrue the assertion in the above-mentioned article that the cry of distress of the vine-growers was for a long time regarded in higher quarters as an insolent shrieking”.
My reply to these questions will take the following course. I shall try to prove:
1) that, first of all, quite apart from the powers of the press prior to the royal Cabinet Order of December 24, 1841, the need for a free press necessarily arises from the specific character of the state of distress in the Mosel region;
2) that even if there were no special obstacles to a “frank and public discussion” before the appearance of the above-mentioned Cabinet Order, my assertion would he no less true, and the particular sympathy of the Mosel population for the royal Cabinet Order and the resulting greater freedom of the press would remain equally understandable;
3) that in actual fact special circumstances prevented a “frank and public” discussion.
From the whole context it will then be seen how far my assertion: “For a long time the desperate state of the vine-growers was doubted in higher quarters, and their cry of distress was regarded as an insolent shrieking”, is true or untrue.
As regards 1. In investigating a situation concerning the state one is all too easily tempted to overlook the objective nature of the circumstances and to explain everything by the will of the persons concerned. However, there are circumstances which determine the actions of private persons and individual authorities, and which are as independent of them as the method of breathing. If from the outset we adopt this objective standpoint, we shall not assume good or evil will, exclusively on one side or on the other, but we shall see the effect of circumstances where at first glance only individuals seem to be acting. Once it is proved that a phenomenon is made necessary by circumstances, it will no longer be difficult to ascertain the external circumstances in which it must actually be produced and those in which it could not be produced, although the need for it already existed. This can be established with approximately the same certainty with which the chemist determines the external conditions under which substances having affinity are bound to form a compound. Hence we believe that by our proof “that the necessity for a free press follows from the specific character of the state of distress in the Mosel region” we give our exposition a basis that goes far beyond anything personal.
The state of distress in the Mosel region cannot be regarded as a simple state of affairs. At least two aspects of it have to he distinguished: the private aspect and the state aspect, for the state of distress in the Mosel region cannot be considered to lie outside the state administration any more than the Mosel region can he considered to lie outside the state. Only the mutual relation between these two aspects provides the actual state of the Mosel region. In order to show the nature of this mutual relation, we shall report an authentic exchange of opinion, certified by documents, between the respective organs of the two sides.
In the fourth issue of Mitteilungen des Vereins zur Förderung der Weinkultur an der Mosel und Saar zu Trier there is a report of negotiations between the Finance Ministry, the government at Trier and the board of the above-mentioned Society. A document presented by the Society to the Finance Ministry contains, among other things, a calculation of the income from the vineyards. The government at Trier, which also received a copy of this document, asked for an expert opinion on it from the chief of the Trier Cadastre Bureau, tax inspector von Zuccalmaglio, who, as the government itself says in one of its reports, seemed to be specially suitable because he
“took an active part at the time when the registers of incomes from vineyards in the Mosel region were compiled”.
We shall now simply put side by side the most striking passages from the official opinion of Herr von Zuccalmaglio and the reply of the board of the Society for the Promotion of Viticulture.
The official reporter;
In the official report covering the past decade, 1829-38, the calculation of the gross income per morgen [4 morgen = 1 hectare] of vineyards in communities belonging to the third class as regards payment of wine tax is based on:
1) the yield per morgen;
2) the price at which a fuder [1,000 litre] of wine is sold in the autumn.
The calculation, however, is not based on any precisely verified data, for
“without official intervention and control it is impossible for either an individual or a society to collect privately trustworthy information on the quantity of wine obtained by all the individual property owners over a specified period in a large number of communities, because many owners may be directly interested in concealing the truth as far as possible”.
The reply of the board of the Society:
“We are not surprised that the Cadastre Bureau does its utmost to defend the procedure practised by it; nevertheless, it is difficult to understand the argument which follows”, etc.
“The chief of the Cadastre Bureau tries to prove by figures that the registered yields are everywhere correct; he says also that the ten-year period assumed by us cannot prove anything here”, etc., etc. “We shall not argue about figures, for, as he very wisely says in the introduction to his remarks, we lack the requisite official information. Moreover, we do not regard it as necessary, since his entire calculation and argument based on official data can prove nothing against the facts we have presented”. “Even if we admit that the registered yields were quite correct at the time of their compilation, or even that they were too low, it is impossible successfully to contest our statement that they can no longer serve as a @ under the present lamentably changed circumstances”.
The official reporter.
“Hence not a fact appears anywhere justifying the assumption that the registered yields from vineyards, based on assessments in the recent period, are too high; but it would he quite easy to prove that the earlier assessments of vineyards of the rural and urban districts of Trier and of the Saarburg district are too low, both in themselves and compared with other crops”.
The reply of the board of the Society:
“A man crying out for help finds it painful when in reply to his wen-founded complaint he is told that during compilation the registered yields could have been put higher rather than lower”.
“Moreover,” the reply points out, “the Herr Reporter, despite all his efforts to reject our data, could hardly refute or correct anything in our figures of income; therefore he has tried only to quote different results as regards expenditure”.
We want now to indicate some of the most striking differences of opinion between the Herr Reporter and the board of the Society on the question of calculating expenditure.
The official reporter.
“In regard to point 8, it should be particularly noted that the renewal of the usual lateral shoots, or what is called Geitzen is an operation recently introduced by only a few owners of vineyards, but nowhere, neither in the Mosel nor the Saar region, can it be regarded as part of the customary method of cultivations”.
The reply of the board of the Society:
“The removal of lateral shoots and the loosening of soil, according to the chief of the Cadastre Bureau, was only recently introduced by a few owners of vineyards”, etc. That, however, is not the case. “The vine-grower has understood that, to save himself from going under completely, he must not fail to try anything that could in some degree improve the quality of the wine. For the prosperity of the region, this attitude should he carefully encouraged, instead of being repressed”.
“And who would think of putting the cost of potato cultivation at a lower figure because there are some cultivators who leave the potatoes to their fate and God’s goodness?”
The official reporter.
“The cost of the barrel indicated in point 14 cannot at all enter into the valuation here, since, as has already been pointed out, the cost of the barrel is not included in the quoted prices of wine. If then the barrel is sold together with the wine, as is usually the case, the cost of the barrel is added to the price of the wine and thus the value of the barrels is reimbursed”.
The reply of the board of the Society:
“When wine is sold, the barrel is included, and there is not and even could not be the slightest question of its reimbursement. The rare cases when the innkeepers of our town buy wine without the barrel cannot be taken into account when viewing the situation as a whole”. “It is not the same with wine as with other goods, which lie in a warehouse until they are sold and the packing and dispatch of which then take place at the expense of the purchaser. Since, therefore, the purchase of wine tacitly includes that of the barrel, it is clear that the price of the latter must be included in the production costs”.
The official reporter.
“If the figures of yields given in the supplement are corrected to correspond to the official data on them, but the calculation of costs is accepted as correct even in all parts, and only the land and wine taxes and the cost of the barrels (or expenditures given in points 13, 14 and 17) are omitted from these costs, the result is as follows:
Gross income 53 talers 21 silver groschen 6 pfennigs
Costs — not including 13, 14 and 17 39 5 0
Net income 14 talers 16 silver groschen 6 pfennigs
The reply of the board of the Society:
“The calculation as such is correct, but the result is incorrect. We based our calculation not on supposed figures, but on figures which express the actual amounts involved, and we found that if from 53 talers of actual expenditure 48 talers representing the actual and only income are subtracted, there remains a loss of 5 talers”.
The official reporter.
“If, nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the state of distress in the Mosel region has considerably worsened compared with the period before the inauguration of the Customs Union, and that in part even a real impoverishment is to be feared, the reason for it should be sought exclusively in the former too high yields”.
“Owing to the previously existing quasi-monopoly of the wine trade in the Mosel region and the rapid succession of good wine years in 1819, 1822, 1825, 1826, 1827 and 1828, an unprecedented luxury developed there. Ale large sums of money in the hands of the vine-grower induced him to buy vineyards at enormous prices and to plant new vineyards at excessive cost in places that were no longer suitable for viticulture. Everyone wanted to become an owner, and debts were incurred which previously could easily be covered by the income from a good year, but which now, with the present unfavourable economic situation, are bound to ruin completely the vine-grower who has fallen into the hands of usurers”.
“One consequence of this will be that viticulture will be confined to the better holdings and will again, as formerly, come more into the hands of the rich landowners, a purpose to which it is most suited owing to the large initial expenditure involved. The rich landowners, too, can more easily withstand unfavourable years and even at such times have adequate means to improve cultivation and to obtain a product which can stand up to competition with that from the now opened countries of the Customs Union. Of course, during the first years this cannot take place without great hardships for the poorer class of vine-growers, most of whom, however, had become owners of vineyards in the previous favourable period. However, it should always be borne in mind that the earlier state of affairs was an unnatural one for which the immanent are now paying. The state ... will be able to confine itself to making the’ transition as easy as possible for the present population by appropriate measures”.
The reply of the board of the Society:
“Truly, one who only fears possible poverty in the Mosel region has not yet seen that poverty which, in its most ghastly form, is already deep-rooted and daily spreading among the morally healthy, tirelessly industrious population of this region. Let no one say, as the chief of the Cadastre Bureau does, that it is the impoverished vine-growers’ own fault. No, all of them have been struck down to a greater or lesser degree: the prudent and the imprudent, the industrious and the negligent, the well-to-do and the indigent; and if things have now gone so far that even the well-to-do, the industrious and the thrifty vine-growers are compelled to say that they can no longer provide themselves with food, then the cause is evidently not to be sought in them.
“It is true that in the favourable years the vine-growers bought new plots at prices higher than usual and that they incurred debts, calculating that their incomes, as they saw them, would suffice gradually to pay them off. But it is incomprehensible how this, which is proof of the enterprising and industrious spirit of these people, can be called luxury, and how it can be said that the present position of the vine-growers has arisen because the earlier state of affairs was an unnatural one, for which the imprudent are now paying.
“The chief of the Cadastre Bureau asserts that people who, according to him, were previously not even property owners (!!), tempted by the unusually good years, increased excessively the total of vineyards, and that the only remedy now lies in reducing the number of vineyards.
“But how insignificant is the number of vineyards which can be adapted for growing fruit or vegetables, compared with the majority which, apart from grapes, can produce only hedges and bushes! And can it he that this highly respectable population, which is crowded into such a relatively small area because of viticulture, and is so courageously struggling against misfortune, does not even deserve an attempt to alleviate its distress so that it can hold out until more favourable circumstances enable it to rise again and become for the state what it was before, namely, a source of income the equal of which is not to be found on any area of equal size apart from the towns”.
The official reporter.
“It is, of course, quite understandable that the richer landowners, too, take advantage of this distress of the poorer vine-growers in order to obtain for themselves all possible alleviations and advantages by a vivid description of the former happy state of affairs in contrast to the present less favourable, but nevertheless still profitable, position”.
Rheinische Zeitung No. 18, January 18, 1843
The reply of the board of the Society:
“We owe it to our honour and our inner conviction to protest against the accusation that we take advantage of the distress of the poorer vine-growers in order to obtain for ourselves all possible advantages and alleviations by means of vivid descriptions.
“No, we assert — and that, we hope, will suffice for our justification — that we were far from having any selfish intention, and that all our efforts were directed towards making the state aware, by a frank and truthful description of the conditions of the poor vine-growers, of a situation the further development of which is bound to he dangerous for the state itself! Anyone who knows the transformation which the present pitiful position of the vine-growers has already increasingly brought about in their domestic life and industrial activity, and even as regards morality, cannot but shudder at the future when he thinks of a continuance or even increase of such distress”.
It has to be admitted, first of all, that the government could not come to a decision but must have vacillated between the view of its reporter and the opposing view of the vine-growers. Bearing in mind, further, that the report of Herr von Zuccalmaglio is dated December 12, 1839, and the answer of the Society is dated July 15, 1840, it follows that up to this time the view of the reporter must have been, if not the sole, at any rate the prevailing view of the government collegium. In 1839, at least, it was still counterposed to the Society’s memorandum as the government’s judgment and therefore, as it were, a résumé of the governmental view, for if a government is consistent its latest opinion can surely be regarded as the sum total of its earlier views and experience. In the report, however, not only is the state of distress not recognised as general but there is no intention of remedying even the admitted state of distress, for it is stated: “The state will be able to confine itself solely to making the transition as easy as possible for the present population by appropriate measures”. Under these circumstances, transition must be taken to mean gradual ruin [Untergang]. The ruin of the poorer vine-growers is regarded as a kind of natural phenomenon, to which one must be resigned in advance, seeking only to mitigate the inevitable. “Of course,” it is stated, “this cannot take place without great hardships”. The Society, therefore, also raises the question whether the vine-growers of the Mosel do not even deserve “an attempt” to save them. If the government had held a decisively opposed view, it would have modified the report at the outset, since the report makes a definite statement on such an important question as the task and decision of the state in this matter. Hence it is evident that the distressed state of the vine-growers could be admitted without there being any effort to remedy it.
We cite now yet another example of the kind of information given to the authorities about conditions in the Mosel region. In 1838, a highly placed administrative official travelled through the Mosel region. At a conference in Piesport with two district presidents, he asked one of them what the vine-growers’ situation was like as regards property and received the reply:
...The vine vine-growers live too luxuriously and if only for that reason things cannot be going badly with them”.
Yet luxury had already become a story of former days. We only incidentally point out here that this view, which coincides with the official report, has by no means been generally abandoned. We recall the statement from Koblenz published in Supplement I of the Frankfürter journal No. 349 (1842), which speaks of the alleged state of distress of the Mosel vine-growers.
The above-quoted official view is reflected, too, in the attitude of higher quarters, which throws doubt on the “desperate” state of the vine-growers and on the general nature of the distress, hence also on its general causes. The reports of the Society quoted above contain, inter alia, the following replies of the Finance Ministry to various petitions:
“Although, as the market prices for wine show, the owners of Mosel and Saar vineyards included in the first and second classes as regards taxation have no cause for dissatisfaction nevertheless it is not denied that vine-growers whose products are of inferior quality are not in an equally favourable position”.
In a reply to a petition for remission of taxation for 1838, it is stated:
“In reply to your representation sent here on October 10 of last year, we have to inform you that the petition for a general remission of the entire wine tax for 1838 cannot be entertained, since you do not belong to the class which is most in need of consideration and whose state of distress, etc., is explicable by quite other causes than taxation”.
Since we wish to construct our exposition solely on factual material, endeavouring, as far as we can, to present only facts in a general form, we shall first of all make clear the general ideas underlying the dialogue between the Trier Society for the Promotion of Viticulture and the government’s reporter.
The government has to appoint an official to give an expert opinion on the memorandum presented to it. It naturally appoints an official who has the greatest possible knowledge of the subject, preferably therefore an official who himself took part in regulating the situation in the Mosel region. This official is not averse to finding in the complaints contained in the document in question attacks on his official understanding and his official activity. He is aware of his conscientious performance of his duty and of the detailed official information at his disposal; he is suddenly faced with an opposing view, and what could be more natural than that he should take sides against the petitioner, and that the intentions of the latter, which could of course always be bound up with private interests, should seem to him suspicious, and that therefore he should suspect them. Instead of using the data in the memorandum, he tries to refute them. In addition, the obviously poor vine-grower has neither the time nor the education to describe his condition; hence the poor vine-grower is unable to speak, whereas the vine cultivator who is able to speak is not obviously poor, and therefore his complaints seem unfounded. But if even the educated vine-grower is rebuked for not having the official understanding, how could the uneducated vine-grower hold his own against this official understanding
For their part, private persons who have observed the real poverty of others in the full extent of its development, who see it gradually coming closer even to themselves, and who, moreover, are aware that the private interest they defend is equally a state interest, and is defended by them as a state interest, these private persons are not only bound to feel that their own honour has been impugned, but consider also that reality itself has been distorted under the influence of a one-sided and arbitrarily established point of view. Hence they oppose the overweening presumption of officialdom; they point out the contradiction between the real nature of the world and that ascribed to it in government offices, contrasting the practical proofs to the official proofs. And, finally, they cannot avoid suspecting that behind total misconception of their account of the actual state of affairs, which is based on well-founded convictions and clear facts, there is a selfish intention, namely, the intention to assert official judgment in opposition to the intelligence of the citizens. Consequently, they conclude also that the expert official who comes into contact with their conditions of life will not give an unprejudiced description of them, precisely because these conditions are partly the result of his activities, whereas the unprejudiced official, who could give a sufficiently impartial judgment, is not an expert. When, however, the official accuses private persons of elevating their private affairs to the level of a state interest, private persons accuse the official of degrading the state interest to the level of a private affair of his own, from which all others are excluded as being mere laymen. In this way even the most patent reality appears illusory compared with the reality depicted in the dossiers, which is official and therefore of a state character, and compared with the intelligence based on this official reality. Hence to the official only the sphere of activity of the authorities is the state, whereas the world outside this sphere of activity is merely an object of state activity, completely lacking the state frame of mind and state understanding. Finally, in the event of a notoriously bad situation, the official puts the main blame on private persons who, he alleges, are themselves responsible for their plight, while he refuses to allow any attack on the excellence of administrative principles or institutions, which are themselves official creations and no part of which he is willing to relinquish. The private person, on the other hand, conscious of his industriousness, his thrift, his hard struggle against nature and social conditions, demands that the official who is supposed to be the sole creative force of the state should put an end to his distress and, since that official claims he can put everything right, that he should prove ‘ his ability to remedy the bad situation by his activity, or at least recognise that institutions which were suitable at a certain time have become unsuitable under completely changed circumstances.
The same standpoint of superior official knowledge and the same antithesis between the administration and the object administered are repeated within the world of officialdom itself. We see that the Cadastre Bureau, in its judgment on the Mosel region, is mainly concerned with asserting the infallibility of the Cadastre, and just as the Finance Ministry maintains that the evil is due to “quite other” causes than “taxation”, so the administration will find that the basis of the distress lies not at all in itself, but outside itself. Not intentionally, but necessarily, the individual official who is in closest contact with the vine-grower sees the state of things as better or other than it actually is. He thinks that the question whether things are all right in his region amounts to the question whether he administers the region correctly. Whether the administrative principles and institutions are good or not is a question that lies outside his sphere, for that can only be judged in higher quarters where a wider and deeper knowledge of the official nature of things, i.e., of their connection with the state as a whole, prevails. He may be most honestly convinced that he himself administers well. Hence either he will find the situation not so entirely desperate or, if he does find it to be so, he will look for the reason outside the administration, partly in nature, which is independent of man, partly in private life, which is independent of the administration, and partly in accidental circumstances, which depend on no one.
The higher administrative bodies are bound to have more confidence in their officials than in the persons administered, who cannot be presumed to possess the same official understanding. An administrative body, moreover, has its traditions. Thus, as regards the Mosel region too, it has its once and for all established principles, it has its official picture of the region in the Cadastre, it has official data on revenue and expenditure, it has everywhere, alongside the actual reality, a bureaucratic reality, which retains its authority however much the times may change. In addition, the two circumstances, namely, the law of the official hierarchy and the principle that there are two categories of citizens — the active, knowledgeable citizens in the administration, and the passive, uninformed citizens who are the object of administration — these two circumstances are mutually complementary. In accordance with the principle that the state possesses conscious and active existence in the administration, every government will regard the condition of a region — insofar as the state aspect of the matter is concerned — as the result of the work of its predecessor. According to the law of hierarchy, this predecessor will in most cases already occupy a higher position, often the one immediately above. Finally, every government is actuated, on the one hand, by the consciousness that the state has laws which it must enforce in the face of all private interests, and, on the other hand, as an individual administrative authority, its duty is not to make institutions or laws, but to apply them. Hence it can try to reform not the administration itself, but only the object administered. It cannot adapt its laws to the Mosel region, it can only try to promote the welfare of the Mosel region within the limits of its firmly established rules of administration. The more zealously and sincerely, therefore, a government endeavours — within the limits of the already established administrative principles and institutions by which it is itself governed — to remove a glaring state of distress that embraces perhaps a whole region, and the more stubbornly the evil resists the measures taken against it and increases despite the good administration, so much the more profound, sincere and decisive will be the conviction that this is an incurable state of distress, which the administration, i.e., the state, can do nothing to alter, and which requires rather a change on the part of those administered.
Whereas, however, the lower administrative authorities trust the official understanding of those above them that the administrative principles are good, and are themselves ready to answer for their dutiful implementation in each separate case, the higher administrative authorities are fully convinced of the correctness of the general principles and trust the bodies subordinate to them to make the correct official judgment in each case, of which, moreover, they have official proofs.
In this way it is possible for a government with the best intentions to arrive at the principle expressed by the government’s reporter in Trier in regard to the Mosel region: “The state will be able to confine itself solely to making the transition as easy as possible for the present population by appropriate measures”.
If we look now at some of the methods which have transpired and which the government has used to alleviate the distress in the Mosel region, we shall find our argument confirmed at least by the history of the administration which is accessible to all; on the secret history, of course, we cannot pass judgment. We include among these measures: remission of taxes in bad wine years, the advice to go over to some other cultivation, such as sericulture, and, finally, the proposal to limit parcellation of landed property. The first of these measures, obviously, can only alleviate, not remedy. It is a temporary measure, by which the state makes an exception to its rule, and an exception which does not cost it much. Moreover, it is not the constant state of distress which is alleviated, it is likewise an exceptional manifestation of it, not the chronic sickness to which people have become accustomed, but an acute form of it which comes as a surprise.
In regard to the other two measures, the administration goes outside the scope of its own activities. The positive activity which it undertakes here consists partly in instructing the Mosel inhabitants how they themselves can come to their own aid, and partly in proposing a limitation or even denial of a right they previously possessed. Here, therefore, we find confirmed the train of thought we described above. The administration, which considers that the distressed state of the Mosel region is incurable and due to circumstances lying outside the scope of its principles and its activity, advises the Mosel inhabitants so to arrange their life that it is adapted to the present administrative institutions and that they are able to exist in a tolerable fashion within them. The vine-grower himself is deeply pained by such proposals, even if they only reach him by rumour. He would be thankful if the government carried out experiments at its own expense, but he feels that the advice that he should undertake experiments on himself means that the government is refusing to help him by its own activity. He wants help, not advice. However much he trusts the knowledge possessed by the administration in its own sphere, and however confidently he turns to it in such matters, he credits himself just as much with the necessary understanding in his own sphere. But limitation of the parcellation of landed property contradicts his inherited sense of right; he regards it as a proposal to add legal poverty to his physical poverty, for he regards every violation of equality before the law as the distress of right. He feels, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, that the administration exists for the sake of the country and not the country for the sake of the administration, but that this relationship becomes reversed when the country has to transform its customs, its rights, its kind of work and its property ownership to suit the administration. The Mosel inhabitant, therefore, demands that, if he carries out the work which nature and custom have ordained for him, the state should create conditions for him in which he can grow, prosper, and live. Hence such negative devices come to nought when they encounter the reality not only of the existing conditions, but also of civic consciousness.
Rheinische Zeitung No. 19, January 19, 1843
What then is the relation of the administration to the distress in the Mosel region? The distressed state of the Mosel region is at the same time a distressed state of the administration. The constant state of distress of part of the country (and a state of distress, which, beginning almost unnoticed more than a decade ago, at first gradually and then irresistibly develops to a climax and assumes ever more threatening dimensions, can well be called constant) signifies a contradiction between reality and administrative principles, just as, on the other hand, not only the nation, but also the government regards the well-being of a region as a factual confirmation of good administration. The administration, however, owing to its bureaucratic nature, is capable of perceiving the reasons for the distress not in the sphere administered, but only in the sphere of nature and the private citizen which lies outside the sphere administered. The administrative authorities, even with the best intentions, the most zealous humanity and the most powerful intellect, can find no solution for a conflict that is more than momentary or transient, the constant conflict between reality and the principles of administration, for it is not their official task, nor would it be possible, despite the best intentions, to make a breach in an essential relation or, if you like, fate. [Verhängnis] This essential relation is the bureaucratic one, both within the administrative body itself and in its relations with the administered body.
On the other hand, the private vine-grower can no more deny that his judgment may be affected, intentionally or unintentionally, by private interest, and therefore the correctness of his judgment cannot be assumed absolutely. Moreover, he will realise that there are in the state a multitude of private interests which suffer, and the general principles of administration cannot be abandoned or modified for their sake. Furthermore, if it is asserted that there is distress of a general character and that the general well-being is endangered in such a manner and to such an extent that private misfortune becomes a misfortune for the state and its removal a duty which the state owes to itself, the rulers regard this assertion of the ruled in relation to them as inappropriate; for the rulers consider they are in the best position to judge how far the welfare of the state is endangered and that they must he presumed to have a deeper insight into the relation between the whole and the parts than the parts themselves have. Furthermore, individuals, even a large number of them, cannot claim that their voice is the voice of the people; on the contrary, their description of the situation always retains the character of a private complaint. Finally, even if the conviction held by the complaining private persons were the conviction of the entire Mosel region, the latter, as an individual administrative unit, as an individual part of the country, would be, in relation to its own province as also in relation to the state, in the position of a private person whose convictions and desires should be judged only by their relation to the general conviction and the general desire.
In order to solve this difficulty, therefore, the rulers and the ruled alike are in need of a third element, which would be political without being official, hence not based on bureaucratic premises, an element which would be of a civil nature without being bound up with private interests and their pressing need. This supplementary element with the head of a citizen of the state and the heart of a citizen is the free press. In the realm of the press, rulers and ruled alike have an opportunity of criticising their principles and demands, and no longer in a relation of subordination, but on terms of equality as citizens of the state; no longer as individuals, but as intellectual forces, as exponents of reason. The “free press”, being the product of public opinion, is also the creator of public opinion. It alone can make a particular interest a general one, it alone can make the distressed state of the Mosel region an object of general attention and general sympathy on the part of the Fatherland, it alone can mitigate the distress by dividing the feeling of it among all.
The attitude of the press to the people’s conditions of life is based on reason, but it is equally based on feeling. Hence it does not speak only in the clever language of judgment that soars above circumstances, but the passionate language of circumstances themselves, a language which cannot and should not be demanded of official reports. The free press, finally, brings the people’s need in its real shape, not refracted through any bureaucratic medium, to the steps of the throne, to a power before which the difference between rulers and ruled vanishes and there remain only equally near and equally far removed citizens of the state.
If, therefore, a freer press became essential owing to the specific state of distress of the Mosel region, if it there became an urgent, because actual, need, it is obvious that no exceptional obstacles to the press were required to create such a need, but that, on the contrary an exceptional freedom of the press was required to .satisfy the existing need.
As regards 2 The press which deals with the affairs of the Mosel region is in any case only a part of the Prussian political press. Hence, in order to ascertain its state before the promulgation of the frequently cited Cabinet Order, it will be necessary to take a quick glance at the state of the whole Prussian press before 1841. Let us listen to a man whose loyal frame of mind is generally recognised:
“General ideas and matters,” says David Hansemann in his book Preussen und Frankreich, second edition, Leipzig, 1834, p. 272, “develop quietly and tranquilly in Prussia, and do so the more unnoticed because the censorship does not permit any thorough discussion in Prussian newspapers of political and even economic questions concerning the state, however decent and moderate their formulation. A thorough discussion can only mean one in which arguments and counter-arguments can be put forward. Hardly any economic question can he discussed thoroughly unless its connections, with internal and external policy are also examined, for there are few questions, perhaps none at all in the case of economic questions, in which such connections do not exist. Whether this exercise of the censorship is expedient, whether the censorship could be exercised in any other way in the present state of the government in Prussia, is not the question here, suffice it that such is the case”.
It should be recalled, further, that §1 of the censorship decree of December 19, 1788, already stated:
“It is certainly not the intention of the censorship to hinder a decent, earnest and modest investigation of the truth or otherwise impose any unnecessary and burdensome constraint on writers”.
In Article II of the censorship decree of October 18, 1819, it is stated again:
“The censorship will not prevent serious and modest investigation of truth nor impose undue constraint on writers”.
Compare with this the introductory words of the censorship instruction of December 24, 1841 130:
“In order already now to free the press from improper restrictions, which are against the intentions of the All-Highest, His Majesty the King, by a supreme order issued to the royal state ministry [... ] has been pleased to disapprove expressly of any undue constraint on the activity of writers and [...] empowered us to direct the censors anew to due observance of Article II of the censorship decree of October 18, 1819”.
Finally, let us recall the following statement:
“The censor can very well permit a frank discussion also of internal affairs. — The undeniable difficulty of determining the correct limits in this ‘matter should not deter the censor from endeavouring to comply with the true intention of the law, nor mislead him into the kind of anxiety which has already only too often given rise to misinterpretations of the government’s intention”.
In view of all these official declarations, it is clear that the question why censorship obstacles have occurred despite the wish of the authorities that conditions in the Mosel region should be discussed as frankly and publicly as possible, becomes instead the more general question: why, in spite of the “intention of the law”, the “government’s intention,” and, finally, the “intentions of the All Highest”, should the press in 1841 admittedly still have to be freed “from improper restrictions”, and the censorship in 1841 have to be reminded of Article II of the 1819 decree? As regards the Mosel region in particular, the former question should not ask what special obstacles to the press have occurred, but what special measures in favour of the press should be taken by way of exception to ensure that this partial discussion of internal conditions is as frank and public as possible.
The clearest indication of the inner content and character of political literature and the daily press prior to the above-mentioned Cabinet Order is contained in the following statement of the censorship instruction:
“In this way it may be hoped that both political literature and the daily press will realise their function better, adopt a more dignified tone, and in future will scorn to speculate on the curiosity of their readers through communication of baseless reports taken from foreign newspapers, etc., etc. ... It is to be expected that thereby greater sympathy for the interests of the Fatherland will be aroused and thus national feeling enhanced”.
From this it seems to follow that, although no special measures prevented a frank and public discussion of conditions in the Mosel region, nevertheless the general state of the Prussian press itself was bound to be an insurmountable obstacle both to frankness and to publicity. If we sum up the above-quoted passages from the censorship instruction, they tell us that: the censorship was excessively anxious and an external barrier to a free press, that hand in hand. with this went the internal narrowness of the press, which had lost courage and even abandoned the effort to rise above the horizon of novelty, and that, finally, in the nation itself sympathy for the interests of the Fatherland and national feeling had been lost, that is to say, precisely the elements which are not only the creative forces of a frank and public press, but also the conditions within which a frank and public press can operate and win popular recognition, recognition which is the breath of life of the press, and without which it hopelessly pines away.
Hence, although measures taken by the authorities can create an unfree press, it is beyond the power of the authorities, when the general state of the press is unfree, to ensure that special questions are discussed as frankly and publicly as possible. Under such conditions, even frank statements which might happen to he made on particular subjects in the columns of the newspaper would fail to evoke any general sympathy, and would therefore be unable to achieve any real publicity.
In addition, as Hansemann rightly remarks, there is perhaps not a single question of the state economy in which connections with internal and external policy do not exist. Hence the possibility of a frank and public discussion of conditions in the Mosel region presupposes the possibility of frank and public discussion of the whole of “internal and external policy”. Individual administrative authorities were so powerless to ensure this possibility that only the direct and decisive expression of the will of the King himself could play a determining and lasting role here.
If public discussion was not frank, frank discussion was not public. Frank discussion was limited to obscure provincial sheets, whose horizon, of course, did not go beyond their area of circulation and, as shown above, could not do so. To characterise such local discussions, we shall quote a few extracts from the Bernkastel Gemeinnütziges Wochenblatt of different years. In 1835 it stated:
“In the autumn of 1833 in Erden, a person from another place made 5 ohms [500-750 litres] of wine. In order to fill the barrel (fuder), this person bought an additional 2 ohm at a price of 30 talers. The barrel cost 9 talers, the grape-pressing tax amounted to 7 talers 5 silver groschen, the harvesting of the grapes 4 talers, cellar rent 1 taler 3 silver groschen, payment for the cooper 16 silver groschen. Therefore, without counting cultivation costs, the total expenditure was 51 talers 24 silver groschen. On May 10, the barrel of wine was sold for 41 talers. It should be noted also that this wine was of good quality and was not sold from sheer necessity, not did it fall into the hands of usurers” (p. 87). “On November 21 in the Bemkastel market, 514 ohm of 1835 wine was sold for 14 silver groschen — fourken silver groschen — and on the 27th of the same month 4 ohms together with the barrel were sold for 11 talers; moreover, it should be noted that on the previous Michaelmas the barrel had been bought for 11 talers” (p. 267, ibid.).
On April 12, 1836, there was a similar item.
We should like to quote also some extracts from 1837:
“On the first of this month in Kinheim in the presence of a notary there was sold by public auction a young, four-year-old vineyard containing about 20Q vine-stocks, correctly trained on stakes. It cost the buyer 1 1/2 pfennigs per stock, under the usual conditions of payment. In 1828, the same vine-stock there cost 5 silver groschen” (p. 47). “In Graach, a widow surrendered her ungathered grape harvest for half of the wine yield and she received for her share one ohm of wine, which she exchanged for 2 lbs. of butter, 2 lbs. of bread and 112 lb. of onions’ (No. 37, ibid.). “On the 20th of this month there was a forced sale by auction here of 8 fuders of 1836 wine from Graach and Bernkastel, part of it from the best sites, and 1 fuder of 1835 wine from Graach. The sale (barrels included) yielded a total sum of 135 talers 15 silver groschen, so that the wine cost the buyer about 15 talers per fuder. The barrel alone could have cost 10-12 talers. What is left for the poor vine-grower to pay for the cost of cultivation? Is it then impossible to remedy this terrible distress!! (Letter to the Editor)” (No. 4, p. 30).
We have here, therefore, merely a simple relation of facts, sometimes accompanied by a brief elegiac epilogue. Precisely because of their artless simplicity they can produce a shattering effect, but they could hardly even claim to be a frank and public discussion of conditions in the Mosel region.
If then an individual or even a considerable part of a population falls victim to a striking and terrifying misfortune and no one discusses this calamity, if no one treats it as a phenomenon worthy of being thought about and discussed, the unfortunate victims are bound to conclude either that the others are not allowed to speak about it, or that they do not want to do so because they consider the importance attached to the matter illusory. Even for the most uneducated vine-grower, however, the recognition of his misfortune by others, this spiritual participation in it, is an urgent need, if only because he can conclude that when all give thought to it and many speak of it, soon some will do something about it. Even if a free and open discussion of the Mosel conditions had been :permitted, no such discussion took place, and it is clear that people believe only in what actually exists; they do not believe in a free press which might exist, but only in a free press that actually exists. The Mosel inhabitants, of course, had felt their distress before the appearance of the royal Cabinet Order, and indeed had heard doubts expressed about this distress, only they did not see any discussion of it by a public and frank press. After the appearance of the Cabinet Order, on the other hand, they saw such a press spring up, as it were, out of nothing. Thus their conclusion that the royal Cabinet Order was the sole cause of this movement of the press, in which, for the reasons mentioned above, they took such an exceptional interest, owing directly to their actual need, this conclusion seems to have been at least a very popular one. Finally, it seems that, apart from the popularity of this opinion, a critical examination would lead also to the same result. The introduction to the censorship instruction of December 24, 1841, states.
“His Majesty the King has been pleased to disapprove expressly of any undue constraint on the activity of writers and, recognising the value and need of frank and decent publicly ... etc”.
This introductory statement assures the press of a special royal recognition, hence a recognition of its state significance. That a single word from the King could have such an important effect and was welcomed by the Mosel inhabitants as a word of magical power, as a panacea against all their tabulations, seems only to testify to the genuinely royalist disposition of the Mosel population and to their thankfulness expressed in no niggardly fashion, but in overflowing measure.
Rheinische Zeitung No. 20, January 20, 1843
As regards 3. We have tried to show that the need for a free press necessarily arose from the specific character of the conditions in the Mosel region. We have shown further that prior to the appearance of the royal Cabinet Order this need could not be satisfied, if not because of special constraints imposed on the press, at any rate owing to the general state of the Prussian daily press. Lastly we shall show that as a matter of fact special circumstances have been hostile to a frank and public discussion of conditions in the Mosel region. Here, too, we must in the first place stress the point of view by which we have been guided in our exposition and recognise the powerful influence of general conditions on the will of the acting persons. In the special circumstances which prevented a frank and public discussion of the state of affairs in the Mosel region we ought not to see anything but the factual embodiment and obvious manifestation of the above-mentioned general conditions, namely, the specific position of the administration in regard to the Mosel region, the general state of the daily press and of public opinion, and, finally, the prevailing political spirit and its system. If these conditions were, as seems to be the case, the general, invisible and compelling forces of that period, it hardly needs to be shown that they had to take effect as such, and were bound to be manifested in facts and expressed in separate actions which had the semblance of being arbitrary. Anyone who abandons this objective standpoint falls victim to one-sided, bitter feelings against individual personalities in whom he sees embodied all the harshness of the contemporary conditions confronting him.
Among the special obstacles to the press we must include not only individual difficulties due to censorship, but equally the special circumstances which made censorship itself superfluous because they did not allow the object of censorship to come into being at all, even tentatively. When the censorship comes into obvious, persistent and sharp conflict with the press, it can be concluded with a fair certainty that the press has achieved vitality, character and self-assurance, for only a perceptible action produces a perceptible reaction. When, on the other hand, there is no censorship because there is no press, although the need for a free and therefore censurable press exists, one must expect to find a pre-censorship in circumstances which have suppressed by fear the expression of thought even in its more unpretentious forms.
We cannot aim at giving a full description of these special circumstances even in an approximate form. It would mean describing the whole history of the period since 1830 insofar as it concerns the Mosel region. We believe we shall have fulfilled our task if we prove that the frank and public word in all its forms — in spoken form, in written form, and in printed form, print not yet censored as well as that already censored — has encountered special obstacles.
Depression and despondency, which in any case shatter the moral strength required by a distressed population for public and frank discussion, were especially aroused by the court sentences imposed “for insult to an official in the performance of his duty or in connection with his duty”, which necessarily followed numerous denunciations.
This kind of procedure is still fresh in the memory of many Mosel vine-growers. One citizen, particularly liked because of his good nature, jokingly remarked to the maidservant of a district president who the evening before had busily applied himself to the bottle when celebrating the King’s birthday in joyful company: “Your master was a bit tiddly last night”. For this innocent remark he was publicly brought before the police court at Trier, but, as n-fight have been expected, he was acquitted.
We have chosen this particular example because a simple conclusion necessarily follows from it. Each district president is the censor in the chief town of his district. The district president’s administration, however, together with that of the official bodies subordinated to him, will provide the principal subject-matter for the local press, because it is the latter’s immediate concern. If in general it is difficult to be the judge in one’s own case, incidents of the kind mentioned above, which testify to a pathologically sensitive notion of the inviolability attaching to an official position, make the mere existence of the district president’s censorship a sufficient reason for the non-existence of a frank local press.
If, therefore, we see that an ingenuous and innocent utterance can lead to an appearance before police court, a written form of free speech, a petition which is still a long way from publicity by the press, has the same police-court result. In the former case, frank speaking is prevented by the inviolability attaching to an official position in the latter case by the inviolability of the laws of the land.
Following a “Cabinet Order” of July 6, 1936, which stated, among other things, that the King [Frederick William III]was sending his son to the Rhine Province to acquaint himself with the conditions prevailing there, some cultivators in the Trier administrative district were inspired to request their “deputy to the Provincial Assembly” to draw up a petition to the Crown Prince [who became Frederick William IV in 1840] on their behalf. At the same time they indicated the various items of their complaint. In order to increase the importance of the petition by a larger number of signatures, the deputy to the Provincial Assembly [Valdenaire] sent to the environs a messenger who obtained the signatures of 160 peasants. The petition read as follows:
“We, the undersigned inhabitants of the circuit ... of the Trier administrative district, being informed that our gracious King is sending us His Royal Highness the Crown Prince to acquaint himself with our position, and in order to spare His Royal Highness the trouble of hearing complaints from a number of separate persons, herewith authorise our deputy to the Provincial Assembly, Herr .... most humbly to submit to His Royal Highness, His most gracious Majesty’s son, the Crown Prince of Prussia, that:
“1. When we are unable to sell our surplus products, especially as regards cattle and wine, it is impossible for us to pay the taxes, which in all circumstances are too high; for which reason we desire a considerable reduction of the same, since otherwise we have to give the tax-collectors our goods and chattels, as shown by the attached (it contains an order from a tax-collector to pay 1 reichstaler 25 silver groschen 5 pfennigs).
“2. That His Royal Highness should not judge our situation from the evidence of innumerable, much too highly paid, officials, pensioners, persons with special remuneration, d~ and military personnel, rentiers and industrialists, who, owing to the fall in the price of our products, are able to live in the towns cheaply in a luxury such as is not to be found, on the other hand, in the poor hut of the cultivator, who is overwhelmed by debts, and this contrast arouses his indignation. Whereas previously there were 27 officials receiving 29,000 talers, there are now 63 officials, excluding those on pension, who are paid a total of 105,000 talers.
“3. That our communal officials should be elected, as was previously the case, directly by members of the community.
“4. That the tax offices should not be closed for hours on end during the day, but should be open at all times, so that the cultivator who, through no fault of his own, arrives a few minutes late, does not have to wait five to six hours, even having to freeze all night in the street or stand in the burning sun all day, since the official should always be ready to serve the people.
“5. That the provision in §12 of the law of April 28, 1828, renewed by the official gazette of His Majesty’s Government of August 22 last, which makes it a punishable offence to plough within two feet of the ditch at the edge of roads going through cultivate land, should be annulled and the owners allowed to plough their whole land right up to the road ditch, so as to prevent this land from being stolen from them by the highway custodians.
“Your Royal Highness’ most humble subjects”.
This petition, which the deputy to the Provincial Assembly wanted to hand personally to the Crown Prince, was accepted by someone else with the express promise that it would be given to His Royal Highness. No reply to it was received, but court proceedings were instituted against the deputy to the Provincial Assembly as the initiator of a petition containing “insolent, dishonourable accusations against the laws of the province”. As a result of this charge, the deputy to the Provincial Assembly was sentenced in Trier to six months’ imprisonment with costs. This punishment, however, was amended by the appeal court so that only the part relating to costs was left in force, on the grounds that the conduct of the accused was not quite free from indiscretion and therefore he was responsible for the case being brought against him. The contents of the petition itself, on the other hand, were acknowledged to be not at all punishable.
Partly because of the aim of the Crown Prince’s journey, and partly because of the official position of the accused as a deputy to the Provincial Assembly, the petition in question was bound to be magnified in the eyes of the whole environs into a specially important and decisive event and to attract public attention in the highest degree. Taking this into account, the consequences cannot be said to have encouraged a public and frank discussion of the conditions in the Mosel region or to have made probable any wishes of the authorities on this subject.
We come now to the real obstacle to the press, to prohibitions imposed by the censorship. From what has been said above, it is evident that such prohibitions are bound to be rare, since attempts at a censurable discussion of the Mosel conditions have been a rarity.
The minutes of a council of elders, which, besides some eccentric statements, contained also some frank speaking, were not allowed to be printed owing to the censorship exercised by the district president. The discussion took place in the council of elders, but the minutes of the council were drawn up by the burgomaster. His introductory statement was as follows:
“Gentlemen! The Mosel region between Trier and Koblenz, between the Eifel and the Hundsrücken, is outwardly very poor because it is entirely dependent on viticulture, which has been dealt the death-blow by the trade agreements with Germany. The above-mentioned region is also spiritually poor”, etc.
Finally, yet another fact can be adduced to show. that when a public and frank discussion did overcome all the above-mentioned obstacles and by way of exception managed to get into the columns of a newspaper, it was treated as an exception and subsequently suppressed. Several years ago an article by Herr Kaufmann, professor of cameralistics at Bonn University, “on the distressed state of the vine-growers in the Mosel region, etc”. was printed in the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung. After three months, during which it had been reprinted in various newspapers, it was banned by order of the government and the ban is still in force.
I think I have now sufficiently replied to the question of the attitude of the Mosel region to the Cabinet Order of December 10, to the censorship instruction of December 24 based on this order, and to the subsequent freer movement of the press. It only remains for me to substantiate my assertion: “For a long time the desperate state of the vine-growers was doubted in higher quarters, and their cry of distress was regarded as an insolent shrieking”. The statement in question can be divided into two parts: “For a long time the desperate state of the vine-growers was doubted in higher quarters” and “Their cry of distress was regarded as an insolent shrieking”.
The first proposition, I think, requires no further proof. The second one: “Their cry of distress was regarded as an insolent shrieking”, cannot be deduced directly from the first, as the Herr Oberpräsident does by giving it the form: “Their cry of distress was regarded in higher quarters as an insolent shrieking”. Incidentally, this interpolation, too, holds good, insofar as “higher quarters” and “official quarters” can be taken as equivalent in meaning.
That one could speak of a “cry of distress” of the vine-growers, not in a metaphorical sense, but in the strict sense of the word, is evident from the information we have given above. That, on the one hand, this cry of distress was declared to be without justification and the description of the distress itself regarded as a glaring exaggeration prompted by bad, selfish motives; and that, on the other hand, the complaint and the petition of those suffering distress were regarded as “insolent, dishonourable accusations against the laws of the province” — these propositions have been proved by a government report and criminal proceedings. That, furthermore, an excessive outcry, which does not correspond to the true state of affairs and is exaggerated from bad motives, involving insolent accusations against the laws of the province — that such an outcry is identical with a “shrieking”, and indeed an “insolent shrieking”, cannot at least be regarded as a far-fetched or dishonest assertion. That finally, therefore, one side of the identity can be put in place of the other seems simply to follow as a logical consequence.