Letters: Marx-Engels Correspondence 1869

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Marx-Engels Correspondence 1869

Engels to Marx
In Manchester


The election in Tipperary [of O'Donovan Rossa, a Fenian prisoner] is an event. It forces the Fenians out of empty conspiracy and the fabrication of small coups into a path of action which, even if legal in appearance, is still far more revolutionary than what they have been doing since the failure of their insurrection. In fact, they are adopting the methods of the French workers and that is an enormous advance. If only the thing is carried on as intended. The terror which this new turn has produced among the philistines, and which is now being screeched throughout the whole Liberal press, is the best proof that this time the nail has been hit on the head. Typical is the Solicitors' Journal, which remarks with horror that the election of a political prisoner is without precedent in the realm of Britain! So much the worse--where is there a country except England in which such a case is not a common event! The worthy Gladstone must be horribly annoyed.

But you really ought to look at the Times now. Three leaders in eight days in which either it is demanded of the Government or the Government itself demands that an end be put to the excesses of the Irish Nationalist press.

I am very eager to hear about your debate to-morrow evening and its result, about which there can be no doubt. It would be very fine to get Odger into a hole. I hope Bradlaugh will stand for Southwark as well as he, and it would be much better if Bradlaugh were elected. For the rest, if the English workers cannot take an example from the peasants of Tipperary they are in a bad way....

Last week I waded through the tracts by old Sir John Davies (Attorney-General for Ireland under James). I do not know if you have read them, they are the main source; at any rate you have seen them quoted a hundred times. It is a real shame that one cannot have the original sources for everything; one can see infinitely more from them than from the second-hand versions which reduce everything that is clear and simple in the original to confusion and complexity.

From these tracts it is clear that communal property in land still existed in full force in Ireland in the year 1600, and this was brought forward by Mr. Davies in the pleas regarding the confiscation of the alienated lands in Ulster, as a proof that the land did not belong to the individual owners (peasants) and therefore either belonged to the lord, who had forfeited it, or from the beginning to the Crown. I have never read anything finer than this plea. The division took place afresh every two to three years. In another pamphlet he gives an exact description of the income, etc., of the chief of the clan. These things I have never seen quoted and if you can use them I will send them you in detail. At the same time I have nicely caught Monsieur Goldwin smith. This person has never read Davies and so puts up the most absurd assertions in extenuation of the English. But I shall get the fellow.....