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Karl August Baron von Hardenberg, "On the Reorganization of the Prussian State" (September 12, 1807)

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As far as I can see, Prussia should follow these principles:

1. Above all else, it must gather the strength to bring its domestic affairs into good order in all respects and to coordinate them in a planned fashion; also, it must arm itself for battle once again without delay, to the extent that the means allow, especially for defense. War can return quickly, and it probably will, and therefore preparation is urgently necessary. The obstacles herein are evident and great, but one must not be deterred, one must be unceasingly active and push forward as far as one can, for everything depends on this.

2. One must not nurture the delusion that one can remain neutral, and one must beware of establishing and announcing a system of neutrality. It does not accord with Prussia’s geographical location; it has done a great deal of harm, and is in no way applicable under the current circumstances. Only a large and strong state with a favorable geographical situation can assert neutrality and avoid the entanglements that put an end to it. [ . . . ]

III. Basic constitution of domestic affairs.

[ . . . ] Let us not shrink from what he [Altenstein] called for as the main principle, the highest possible degree of freedom and equality. – Not the lawless and rightly denounced principles: those that needed the bloody monstrosities of the French Revolution as a cover for their crimes, or those that, with fanatical rage, seized not the true principles, but those possible in the developed social condition, but only those that accord with the wise laws of a monarchical state and do not restrict the natural freedom and equality of the citizens more than the stage of their culture and their own welfare demand. [ . . . ]

1. The nobility.

[ . . . ]

a) Every position in the state, without exception, should be open, not to this or that caste, but to people of merit and ability from all estates. Every post shall be the object of general emulation, and no one, no matter how small or insignificant, should ever have his ambition killed by the thought: you can never achieve that, despite the most heightened zeal, despite your greatest efforts to make yourself qualified. Let no power be impeded in its striving for good! [ . . . ]

b) The sole prerogative of the nobility to possess the so-called knightly estates is, as Herr von Altenstein correctly spelled out, so harmful and so little suited to our times and forms that the abolition of this prerogative is entirely necessary, as is the abolition of all other prerogatives which the laws have hitherto accorded only to the nobleman as an estate owner.

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