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Karl Baron vom und zum Stein, Nassau Memorandum on Administrative Reform in Prussia (June 1807)

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In light of this great diversity of provincial constitutions, the question arises as to which of them is preferable.

The Landes-Kollegia are made up of salaried officials and are easily and typically infiltrated by a hireling spirit, a life of formality and mechanistic service, an ignorance of the district they are administering, an indifference, often a ridiculous aversion to the same, a fear of changes and innovations that add to the amount of work, with which the better members are overburdened and from which the lesser ones shrink. If the property owner is excluded from all participation in the provincial administration, the bond that ties him to his fatherland remains unused, the knowledge he acquired through his relationship to his estates and his fellow citizens remains fruitless; his wishes to attain the improvements that he recognizes as necessary and to remedy the abuses that oppress him go unheard or are suppressed, and his free time and energy, which he would like to devote to the state under certain conditions, are squandered in pleasures of every kind or in idleness. It makes no sense whatsoever to see the owner of landed or other property worth several tons of gold deprived of his influence on the affairs of his province, which is held by an outside civil servant who is ignorant of the land and not bound to it in any way.

Thus, by removing the owner from all participation in the administration, one kills the spirit of community and the spirit of monarchy, one nourishes dislike for the government, one multiplies the number of civil service posts and increases the costs of the administration, because now one must set the salaries at a level appropriate to the needs and status of the officials, who want to live solely on their pay. Experience demonstrates the truth of this observation, and if one wishes, for example, to transfer the important institutions of the Landräte to salaried officials from the class of non-owners, the administrative branch entrusted to the Landräte would surely become more expensive. [ . . . ]

My professional experience also convinces me fervently and vigorously of the excellence of suitably formed estates, and I see them as a robust means of strengthening the government through the knowledge and prestige of all educated classes, of binding all of them to the state through conviction, participation, and involvement in national affairs, of giving the forces of the nation free rein and an orientation toward the common good, of diverting them from idle sensual pleasure or from the empty phantasms of metaphysics or the pursuit of merely self-serving goals, and of obtaining a well-educated organ of public opinion, which one now endeavors in vain to divine from the utterances of individual men or individual organizations.

If one has convinced oneself of this truth that the participation of property owners in the provincial administration would have the most beneficial consequences, one must now direct one’s attention to identifying the affairs that should be assigned to them, and to the organizational form of both the communal and the provincial authorities.

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