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Emperor Joseph II, Instructions to all State Officials on the Principles Governing the Fulfillment of their Duties (December 13, 1783)

Celebrated in public opinion as Joseph’s “Pastoral Letter” [Hirtenbrief], this long-winded statement demanded of the state servant, in a religion-suffused discourse, “a warm soul for the best interest of the state and the complete renunciation of himself and all leisure.” In these instructions, Joseph also commanded an end to favoritism based on “religion or nation.” But as a reward to competent and upright officials, he held out the promise of much-improved terms of service, retirement, and widows’ and orphans’ benefits.

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Three years have now passed since I had to take over the state administration. Throughout that same period, I have abundantly displayed, in all parts of the administration, my principles, my views, and my intentions, with no small effort, conscientiousness, and forbearance. I was not content to simply order something, I worked it out and developed it; I remedied conditions that had arisen from prejudice and ingrained old habits through education and challenged them with facts. I have sought to instill in every servant of the state the love I feel for the general welfare and the zeal for service to it. It necessarily follows from this that, beginning with oneself, one must have no other intention in one’s actions than the utility and welfare of the greater number. I placed trust in the heads and granted them power, so that they might exert their effect both on the mindset and actions of their subordinates. Choosing personnel was left entirely to their discretion. Ideas and adduced causes, and the ever-valued truth [were things that] I always welcomed from the heads, as well as from everyone: every day and hour, my door was open to them, in part to listen to their ideas, in part to clear up their doubts. Now, in accordance with my duty and the loyalty that I have devoted to the state in all my actions throughout my life, I most earnestly look to the fulfillment and implementation, without exception, of all orders and principles issued by me, which I have until now seen so sorely neglected, not without sorrow. That much is ordered and dispatched, but that no attention of any kind is paid to observance and implementation, gives rise to the fact that so many repeat orders must be given, and still one has no certainty about anything; indeed, most perform their affairs in a workmanlike fashion, in that they go about their business not with the intent of bringing about the good and instructing the people about it, but only do what is absolutely necessary to avoid getting embroiled in a lawsuit and being subject to dismissal.

In this mechanical-slavish manner, it is impossible to perform one’s business in a useful way. Anyone who, in a court position or a state, wishes to be or remain a head, vice president or chancellor, councilor, district chief, Obergespann or Vicegespann, of whatever type of clerical, temporal, or military estate, must

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