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Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff, Excerpts from Teutscher Fürsten-Staat (1656)

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Chap. V. Of the administration and governance of the secular regime, in accordance with previously established rules, how this is the duty of the territorial lord and how he is to use councils and servants to that end

In the previous chapters we have explained how the nature of the government of the territorial prince in secular matters consists of four main points, and how these are moderated and circumscribed on account of various perspectives; it now remains to report how such a government is conducted in all its points.

§ 1. This much must be shown in the present chapter, first, that the territorial lord should administer the main work of his government mostly through his own person, to which he is obliged not merely by the divine order, by force of which he lives in the status of authority, but also by the praiseworthy custom, law, and authority of his land and people, and of the entire German land, provided that he is not compelled by necessity, because he also has land and people elsewhere, or because of a high campaign in matters of war and the Empire and the like, to be absent temporarily or regularly, in which case he must nevertheless place a reputable governor, and councils assigned to him, at the head of the state, and at least sometimes be present himself. For the history of the most praiseworthy German regents shows how they, from time immemorial, proved themselves brave, conscientious, loyal, and diligent in their high calling of superior office, that the subjects can notice and sense that their born, natural hereditary lord carries not only the name and title, but also the exercise and burden of governing.

By contrast, the examples of other lands, in cases where the territorial lords did not carry out their governing, but devoted themselves to other, unnecessary matters, and left everything to their servants or even spent too much time outside the land, show that as a result of such neglect of their calling, all kinds of disorder, injustice, and great ruin afflicted their land and people, and the subjects often also became rebellious and demanded a different and better regime.

§ 2. Now, this personal exertion, or proper exercise of the office, is demonstrated above all in that the territorial lord strives, first, to know in detail the true makeup of his land and become acquainted with it; which is done through an exhaustive description of everything in the land that belongs to him or his territorial estates, in terms of land, cities and villages, people, subjects and servants, courts and justice, or because he knows these things from long experience and inspection, and thus knows how far and over what his power and government extends, and how he must keep measure therein toward the Empire, his friends, and the subjects themselves, on account of common decrees, treaties, and other authorizations, as we have so far laid out in the immediately preceding chapter.

Source: Hn. Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff, Teutscher Fürsten-Staat. . . . Die neueste Auflage [German Princely State. . . . The Newest Edition]. Jena: Meyerische Buchhandlung, 1737, pp. 31-78.

Reprinted in Helmut Neuhaus, ed., Zeitalter des Absolutismus 1648-1789 [The Era of Absolutism, 1648-1789]. Deutsche Geschichte in Quellen und Darstellung, edited by Rainer A. Müller, volume 5. Stuttgart: P. Reclam, 1997, pp. 152-68.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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