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Friedrich Cotta, "On the Good Life the People of the Rhine and the Mosel Can Now Have" (November 30, 1792)

Here, Friedrich Cotta appeals to the material self-interest of the “common people” among the German population of the Mainz Republic, stressing the advantages of the democratic regime, which, among other things, abolished oppressive rents and feudal dues. Granting that material want has not entirely disappeared, Cotta argues for a closer bond with France in order to derive full benefit from the new order.

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On the Good Life the People of the Rhine and the Mosel Can Now Have

Dear People,

You have recently learned from a large-scale broadsheet, which has been posted and read everywhere, about the new state constitution [Staatsverfassung] in France. Without a doubt you have seen that it intends only the best for the people, and it will markedly improve your condition, if you, too, would live according to it. Yet I do not believe that you have considered all the evils which you will escape when you commit to this constitution.

Hear me, dear people! From the heart I mean well, and I have long strained with you under the same yoke and wish now that you may also be happy, as I myself am. Let us go through the hindrances, which hitherto have kept you from being fully prosperous in your craft, your trade, your farming, so that you cannot support yourself and your families as well as you might expect from your hard work. Let us just look at some of them and see whether they are present in the French constitution as well.

The existing obstacles to your greater prosperity are:

1. Serfdom. They regard our Lord God's free people as livestock, who have no will of their own, and do not even let people die without paying, but instead take away some money from the widow or widower and the orphans, because their father or mother has died. The poor orphaned children must also become serfs, and even if they want to move to a community that is not enserfed, then they must leave behind fifteen percent of their assets. With the new arrangements in France all of that falls away. There no person is enserfed. There everyone is born free and may die for free. There he can move from one area to another and become a citizen without paying anything.

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