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Archduke Joseph II, "Political Daydreams" [Rêveries politiques] (1763)

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Private citizens will invest their money in commerce and in agriculture in order to profit from the greater return from their capital. [ . . . ]

Through these measures, the monarchy would find itself in a splendid situation, some individuals and above all the powerful would suffer under them, but the very bad state of affairs demands drastic measures. I still view these measures as the simplest way to accomplish the great goal of supporting the monarchy in the present and maintaining it in the future. I cannot believe that one would be found guilty of having committed misconduct by God or man in following these principles and intentions, but these are only preliminary ideas, and only the fundamental principles that one should have in mind in all matters. Now is the right moment. Everyone expects to be charged, credit is beginning to disappear, and no one will complain, or not very much, about these taxes that I suggest, because one recognizes their sense and the hope that they give.

To demotion of the great ones, which I find most useful and most necessary, is an objective that one should hardly admit to having, but an objective that one must always have in mind in all his dealings. Even the privy council must know nothing of this, the decisions made by the ruler must come from this. [ . . . ]

Reward the good, dismiss the incompetent, punish the bad — I believe that with this concept the state would be happy and respected in the present as well as in the future. Once the decision is made, then one must hold fast to all points against all opposition, because if one part is excluded, then the entirety is flawed.

Source of the original French text: Derek Beales: Joseph II’s »Rêveries«, in Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs, vol. 33, Vienna/Horn: 1980, pp. 155-60.

Source of German translation: Der Josephinismus. Ausgewählte Quellen zur Geschichte der theresianischen Reformen [Der Josephinismus. Selected Sources on the History of Reform in the Era of Maria Theresa], edited by Harm Klueting. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1995, pp. 78-84.

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. 213-22.

Translation from German into English: Benjamin Marschke

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