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MARX, Karl.

Autograph letter signed to Lucien-Léopold Jottrand.

Brussels: 2 October [1847] Stock Code: 132140
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To the president of the Democratic Association in Brussels, shortly before Marx's election to vice president

An unpublished autograph letter signed in French, Marx's earliest known missive to the Belgian radical journalist and politician Lucien-Léopold Jottrand, president of the Democratic Association in Brussels, of which Marx became vice president. Under the influence of Marx and Engels, the Democratic Association would become one of the principal hubs of the international democratic movement, and the present letter constitutes Marx's formal introduction to its president.

In the letter Marx states his intention of sending Jottrand the manuscript of a piece he had written for Engels's Northern Star and his recently published Misère de la philosophie: "Monsieur! J'ai l'honneur de vous faire parvenir l'original de mon petit discours inséré au Northern-Star. Je me fais un plaisir d'y ajouter un exemplaire de mon livre contre M. Proudhon." Misère de la philosophie, Marx's attack on Proudon's philosophy of poverty, was a pivotal work in Marx's thinking. In it he memorably described his opponent as "petit bourgeois" - an epithet which resounded in all later Communist literature. Not only that, but Misère de la philosophie paved the way for the Communist Manifesto, written between December 1847 and January 1848. Marx has dated the letter to Jottrand "2 octobre" from his Brussels address in the rue d'Orléans, though the letter has been erroneously docketed "1848" in another hand.

Five days prior to the writing of this letter, at the "Workers' Banquet" held in Brussels on 27 September 1847 and led by Engels and Jottrand, it had been decided to found a "Democratic Association". Though Engels was elected to its organising committee, he had warned Jottrand that he might have to leave Belgium and thus would be unable to serve; his suggested replacement was Marx. He sent written confirmation to Jottrand of his change in circumstance on 30 September 1847: "I therefore request you to call on a German democrat resident in Brussels to participate in the work of the committee charged with organising a universal democratic society. I would take the liberty of proposing to you one of the German democrats in Brussels whom the meeting, had he been able to attend it, would have nominated for the office which, in his absence, it honoured me by conferring upon myself. I mean Mr Marx, who, I am firmly convinced, has the best claim to represent German democracy on the committee. Hence it would not be Mr Marx who would be replacing me there, but rather I who, at the meeting, replaced Mr Marx" (MEGA III/2, p. 110). On the same day, he wrote to Marx describing the complex intrigues of the Association and its members, adding: "I had in fact already agreed with Jottrand that I would advise him in writing of my departure and propose you for the committee. Jottrand is also away and will be back in a fortnight. If, as I believe, nothing comes of the whole affair, it will be Heilberg's proposal that falls through; if something does come of it, then it will be we who have brought the thing about. Either way we have succeeded in getting you and, after you, myself, recognised as representatives of the German democrats in Brussels, besides the whole plot having been brought to a dreadfully ignominious end" (ibid., p. 105). Marx was elected vice president on 15 November 1847, and the list of the founders and active participants in the Association includes "the best names of democratic Europe at the time" (Haenisch, pp. 86-7).

A veteran and leader of the Belgian Revolution of 1830, the lawyer Lucien-Léopold Jottrand (1804-1877) is remembered for designing what would become the national flag of Belgium. President of the Democratic Association from 1847 to 1848, he was also one of the founders of the Brussels newspaper Le Débat Social alongside fellow radicals Adolphe Bartels, the brothers Félix and Alexandre Delhasse, and Jacob Kats. His and Marx's views were not always compatible, and they had several public disputes, mostly enacted through a number of warring articles published in Le Débat Social and the Deutsche Brüsseler Zeitung. After an argument (the topic of which is unknown) between the two leaders at an Association meeting on 22 February Marx resigned, before a conciliatory letter from Jottrand convinced him to stay. Despite these disagreements, their working relationship and friendship survived - Jottrand was one of the principal figures who attempted to negotiate a delay of Marx's expulsion from Belgium on 3 March 1848, and he made a number of vehement speeches on his exiled friend's behalf. In Marx's second known letter to Jottrand, dated 13 March 1860, he genially offers to send Jottrand the first part of his Kritik (letter published in full in Marx & Engels Collected Works, Vol. 41, Letters 1860-64, pp. 107-8).

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Octavo. Single bifolium (sheet size 214 x 138 mm) of plain paper, blindstamped "Angouleme" at top left, the content comprising approximately 6 lines of text in Marx's hand (47 words total), with the integral address leaf present, addressed by Marx to "M. Jottrand avocat. 66. rue royale exterieure".


Small oval ownership stamp with the initials "SSP" inked in dark blue below Marx's signature. Folded for mailing with subsequent vertical and horizontal folds, some light browning, one tiny puncture to bottom left corner of bifolium not affecting any text and a short nick to fore edge of second leaf; in all a well preserved letter in very good condition.


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