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Lassalle Ferdinand

Lassalle, Ferdinand (1825-64), the founder of German social democracy, was born at Breslau of Jewish parentage. He refused to enter upon a commercial career like that of his father, and studied law, political economy, and history at Breslau and Berlin. In 1846 he took up the cause of the Countess Hatzfeldt, and, after eight years' litigation, succeeded in obtaining from her husband advantageous terms. In 1848 he was imprisoned for six months at Dusseldorf for the part he had taken in the revolutionary movement. Ten years later he came to live in Berlin. In 1861 he laid the foundation of his social and political system by his System of Acquired Rights. Lassalle's Arbeiter-programm, or Labour Programme, called for a revolution against the capitalist system for the advantage of the large body of workers. There was no appeal to violence, but Lassalle was, nevertheless, prosecuted on this charge and, in spite of an eloquent defence, sentenced to four months' imprisonment. After his release he immediately set to work to show that German Liberalism was incapable of finding a solution for the political and economical situation, and to realise the aims of social democracy he founded in May, 1863, at Leipzig, the Universal German Working Men's Association, whose programme was universal suffrage and reform of the financial system. Having in vain tried to convert Berlin to his views, he now undertook a second campaign in the Rhine country, after the labours of which he sought rest in Switzerland. Here he met Helene von Donniges, and a passionate attachment sprang up between them. The lady, however, was betrothed to a Roumanian nobleman, the Count Racowitza, whom she was compelled by her relations to marry. Lassalle, on receiving from her a letter of dismissal, challenged her father and the Count, and fell in a duel by the hand of the latter near Geneva.