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Maria Theresa's Political Testament (1749-50)

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And as the system closely restricts the old excessive authority of the Ministers and higher officials, it may easily be appreciated that most of them, and also the great figures in the Provinces, regard these measures as intolerable and will only gradually learn to admit the truth; meanwhile, they try to incite public feeling against the system, and launch stupid and angry attacks against it – which ought, indeed, to be severely censured. But thinking that these grumblings would gradually die away and the people be brought to a better frame of mind by seeing that the measures are all for their good, I generally disregarded and ignored such offensive utterances, even at the time; but it may well be necessary in the future to put some check on them, because I have observed only too plainly that they exercise a most harmful influence on the public and may therefore gradually lead to harmful consequences.

The military, on which this new system imposed orderly and proper restrictions, at first complained against it especially bitterly, because the officers found their opportunities of taking bribes in the Provinces cut off, yet every reasonable officer must admit that they have no cause to complain now that they receive their pay regularly every month. My chief worry was that the malpractices which had taken root among the troops would be very hard to eradicate, and I had decided to proceed here with the utmost severity. To my extreme relief, however, I managed things so that the Provinces made no complaints of excesses by the troops, but rather begged for more regiments to be quartered on them, who would buy what they had to sell.

I was also, indeed, at pains to introduce a uniform drill and proper military discipline everywhere among my troops. To that end they were to be concentrated in camps for two months each year. Who would believe that no sort of rule was in force among my troops? Each unit had a different order of marching, a different drill, etc. One practiced rapid fire, another slow. The same words of command were differently interpreted in each unit, and it is really no wonder that ten years before my accession the Emperor was defeated every time, and the subsequent state of the army beggars description.

In order to show my successors with what real care and motherly love I applied my whole heart to their welfare, allowing no difficulties to daunt me and overcoming every obstacle with patience and resolution [ . . . ] [sentence incomplete]


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