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Maximilian von Montgelas, "Ansbach Memorandum." Proposal for a Program of State Reforms (September 30, 1796)

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One of the great ways of accelerating this beneficial revolution in people's minds, of drawing them out of the lethargy in which they are mired, and of rapidly spreading enlightenment would be to free the book trade from the almost puerile restrictions to which it has been subjected under this reign [that of Elector Karl Theodor], to completely abolish the college of censorship, to allow a reasonable freedom of the press by defining offenses with precision and by forcing authors and printers to put their names on every new creation, making both of them responsible to the magistrates for whatever their creations may contain that is reprehensible. The law regarding this subject would have to be carefully thought through and discussed in detail. The great problem of determining where freedom stops and license begins has not yet been properly resolved in any state. It is even possible that it will prove necessary to take the time to prepare people's minds to enjoy this benefit, and that this improvement may be the last that it will be reasonable to introduce. I shall not linger on the objections that many people will be tempted to make concerning the very essence of the project [i.e., the lifting of press censorship]. Today we know that it is peoples' crude ignorance that sparks revolutions and overthrows empires, not the education they receive, which is sensible and suitable to each person’s standing. The more enlightened they are, the more they cherish their duties, and the more attached they are to a government that is truly concerned with their happiness.

[ . . . ]

Source: Eberhard Weis, “Montgelas’ innenpolitisches Reformprogramm. Das Ansbacher Mémoire für den Herzog vom 30. 9. 1796” [“Montgelas’ Domestic Reform Program. The Ansbach Memorandum for the Duke from 30. September 1796”], in Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte 33 (1970) pp. 219-56. [The Ansbach Memorandum was reproduced in the original French, pp. 244-54].

Translation from French to English: Steven Rendall

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