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Prussian "Soldier King" Frederick William I Instructs his Officials on Peasant Colonization in East Prussia (July 2, 1718)

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6. You are to see that the agents are attentive to their duties, and carry through the settlement of the peasants as speedily as possible, but you must never treat them otherwise than fairly, nor differently from how they are treated by other Chambers. If one of them is slack, he should be fined or, if the circumstances require it, and after report to Me, dismissed, and another put in his place.

7. And whereas the colonists so far established have, owing to a series of misfortunes, fallen into difficulties and the “free years” they have been granted can be little or no help to them, We are not disinclined graciously to remit what they owe at present and are unable to pay without ruin, if this is sufficiently attested by the priests, village mayors, Captains, and agents and also, for a few years, to allow you to accept half rents from those in real distress, again if this is sufficiently well attested, but you must first send in an exact calculation of how much this will cost; We shall then decide.

8. And although We do not doubt that so much grace will attract new men to Lithuania and also deter persons already there from emigrating to Poland, where they are, We hear, being promised extensive liberties, yet it is absolutely indispensable that the agents, while they must be instructed to supervise the peasants’ work closely and see that they deliver what is due from them, without shortage, must yet be most expressly enjoined not to treat the newly arrived settlers roughly in any way, and especially not to harry them at once – as they have been doing – by ruthless executions, which only cost a lot in fees and thereby impoverish the peasants, but first to let them strike their roots, and keep them under control and alive to their obligations in kindly fashion, by unhostile supervision and regular visits and, if all else fails, to follow no other procedure than that of official distraint. You must order the agents, in Our name, to observe these instructions exactly, and you must set them a good example.

9. And whereas it has been reported to Us that Our peasant subjects are at present, under Our previous orders, required to pay for half the timber used by them, and We plainly see that as conditions now stand in Lithuania this will not always be practicable and will result in the peasants’ letting their buildings fall into disrepair, We have graciously resolved that peasants of small means shall be given their timber altogether free of charge. But their houses are not, as hitherto, to be built of timber alone, but half-timbered; you are to take the necessary steps.

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