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"Police Minister" Johann Anton Pergen Briefs Emperor Leopold II on "the Most Important Activities of the Secret Police" (March 2, 1790)

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4. if Your Majesty wishes to prepare the public for one or the other decree to be followed, the secret police, headed continuously by us through Police Director General, Hofrat von Beer, a man practically experienced in all aspects of this business, honest, and modest, has to bring this about unnoticed by secret means. Finally, however,

5. one of the most important responsibilities of the secret police, to expose, as far as possible, any harmful attempts against Your Majesty’s sacrosanct person and family, incessantly keeping watch over them. Additionally, anno Domini 1786, each governor of the crown territories was immediately sent by His Majesty the secret instruction enclosed here together with a report and accompanied by His Majesty’s handwritten letter and orders that this is to be disclosed to no one, no matter what that person may say, except to the police directors assigned to them. It was impossible to go any further in the provinces. In the royal seat here, however, the police have various highly important matters in process, about which I may only report to Your Majesty verbally. Since among all of these cases there are so many on which, due to their urgency, I feel obliged to seek Your Majesty’s expression of will and orders, I must request in advance, as long as I am still capable of directing this extensive and delicate business as a minister of state, Your Majesty’s privy hearing anytime and anywhere, just as was permitted to me most graciously by His Majesty the Emperor Joseph, so as to foster Your Majesty’s highest service. And in conclusion I would only like to add that, since most persons offering their services as spies right here aim only at money-spinning without rendering real services, the secret police is also hindered by such people in the cases it processes and the best precautions are often entirely thwarted, Your Majesty deign to refer all of such individuals to me, or in my absence, to Hofrat and Police Director von Beer. For otherwise the service would have to suffer and Your Majesty would surely be deceived many times, such as happened recently to His Majesty the Emperor Joseph with a certain Lohner, about which I will report to Your Majesty in detail.

Source: August Fournier: “Kaiser Josef II. und der ‘geheime Dienst’. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der österreichischen Polizei” [“Emperor Joseph II and the ‘Secret Service’: An Article on the History of the Austrian Police”], in A. F.: Historische Studien und Skizzen [Historical Studies and Sketches]. 3rd series. Vienna: F. Tempsky/ Leipzig: G. Freytag, 1912, pp. 5-7.

Reprinted in Walter Demel and Uwe Puschner, eds., Von der Französischen Revolution bis zum Wiener Kongreß 1789-1815 [From the French Revolution to the Congress of Vienna, 1789-1815], Deutsche Geschichte in Quellen und Darstellung, edited by Rainer A. Müller, vol. 6. Stuttgart: P. Reclam, 1995, pp. 248-52.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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