GHDI logo

Emperor Joseph II's Taxation and Urbarial Patent (1789)

This drastic ruling, ideologically justified by the Enlightenment’s criticism of the surviving remnants of “feudalism,” aimed to replace the subject villagers’ non-monetary rents (labor services, deliveries in kind) with cash payments to their seigneurial lords. It sought to limit the landlords’ share of the peasant farm surplus while increasing the taxes paid by both noble estate owners and village cultivators alike. In his respect, the ruling went a step beyond the higher direct taxes imposed on the landed nobility since 1749. This 1789 patent, which Joseph II threatened to introduce even in the Kingdom of Hungary, ignited deep protest from the seigneurial class, and was never effectively implemented. Leopold II withdrew it after Joseph’s 1790 death, in exchange for the privileged elites’ acceptance of Joseph II’s other reforms.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 3

The Taxation and Urbarial Patent of 1789

[ . . . ]

The final objective of the State – to establish equality through a proportionate allocation of the land taxes, and thus enable the owners of land to carry out their civic duties without hardship, and not only be capable of maintaining their diligence but also to have an incentive to increase it – could never be attained unless at the same time alleviations were granted to those subjects on whom the burden or demands of their landlords, magistrates, or recipients of tithe weigh too heavily.

10. Far as it be from Us to intervene arbitrarily in the property rights of the manorial lords or to enquire into the causes, customs, or contracts from which the present obligations in service, cash, and kind, and the so-called subjects’ dues sometimes levied on death or change of tenure, derive; yet the duty by which We are bound to watch over the preservation of the whole requires, that where the manorial dues exceed the resources which the subject can draw from his land, equitable limits and definitive bounds shall be set. With this object, and considering that under the above dispositions the definition of gross yield has been raised, no deduction being made either for seed or for cultivation, and further that the cultivator, after providing for himself and his family, has also to bear separately the communal expenses and the payments to the minister of religion and the schoolmaster, We lay down as a general rule that the subject shall be allowed to retain, on an average, a minimum of 70 per cent of his gross yield, as declared and controlled, to provide for these demands, and only the remaining 30 per cent shall be devoted to covering the Provincial land tax and the manorial dues, 12 florins, 13 1/2 kreuzer, for the former and 17 florins, 46 2/3 kreuzer, for the latter, this 17 florins, 46 2/3 kreuzer, to include everything due from the subject to his landlord and manorial authority, whether in cash, in kind (value converted into cash), or in haulage or hand service, and also the taxes, death duties, and duties on change of tenure customary in some Provinces, which last, insofar–but only insofar–as they affect real property and industries, are to be assessed on a twenty years’ average and converted into a fixed annual payment.

first page < previous   |   next > last page