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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)

In the 1790s, revolutionary France and Habsburg Austria pioneered, for differing purposes, the creation of modern, bureaucratized, and rationalized political police organs. The Austrian government felt itself menaced both by French-style anti-absolutists and potential insurrections among its non-German subjects, particularly the Hungarians. This excerpt illustrates the mixture of motives – some longstanding and others new – that prevailed at the birth of a secret police network for which the Austria of Francis II/I (1792-1835) became notorious.

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The most important activities of the secret police are:

1. With assistance by the police reporting system, which is part of the regular police and serves as proof (of the necessity) of the connection between these two police institutions, to detect all persons suspicious or dangerous to the state, either seizing them, if their crime was perpetrated, with approval by the supreme authority, taking down the summary statement, and submitting the latter to Your Majesty for deciding whether those persons ought to be transferred straight to the criminal justice system or should be investigated by police in secret – or, on the other hand, if only a reasonable suspicion exists, to have the suspects observed by informants everywhere, thus forestalling their possible escape;

2. to observe the connections among the embassies and their friendly dealings with the public servants, reporting, without interruption, the observations made from day to day to Your Majesty after eight or 14 days;

3. to detect any discontent creeping in, negative attitudes or even germinating mutiny, nipping such manifestations in the bud wherever possible, and reporting them to Your Majesty. In the other kingdoms and provinces, too, the secret correspondence introduced between the police directors posted in the capitals there and the directorate general here provides the most appropriate opportunity for such revelation, thus being of even greater use, considering that this correspondence sometimes also contains reports to the police, which, occurring quite frequently in the present course of time, have an influence on foreign affairs and military orders;

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