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King Frederick William I’s Handwritten Instructions to the East Prussian Land-Tax Commission [Generalhufenschoß-Kommission] (April 23, 1716)

In this famous statement, the Prussian “soldier king” (r. 1713-40) bluntly expresses his determination to break aristocratic opposition in East Prussia to his fiscal and other administrative innovations (though he consents to the convocation of the noble-dominated provincial estates, where the airing of discontent could be expected).

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You should read this to the lords and the notes I have made. You should write me with your opinion, whether it is not solely to my disadvantage that I have the estates [Landtdahge] called and also give 4,000 [taler] fees. However, the land commission [hubencomis, i.e., Generalhufenschoß-Kommission] should continue. I come to my purpose and stabilize the sovereignty and establish the crown firmly like a rock of bronze [Rocher von Bronse] and allow the lord Junkers the hot air [windt] of the estates. One allows the people [to blow] hot air when one comes to the purpose. I await your thoughts.

F William

Source: Die Behördenorganisation und die allgemeine Staatsverwaltung Preußens im 18. Jahrhundert [The Organization of the Authorities and the General State Administration of Prussia in the 18th Century]. Volume 2: Akten vom Juli 1714 bis Ende 1717 [Documents from July 1774 to the End of 1717], edited by G. Schmoller, D. Krauske and V. Loewe. Berlin: Parey, 1898. (Acta Borussica) p. 352 (no. 175).

Reprinted in Helmut Neuhaus, ed., Zeitalter des Absolutismus 1648-1789 [The Era of Absolutism, 1648-1789]. Deutsche Geschichte in Quellen und Darstellung, edited by Rainer A. Müller. Volume 5. Stuttgart: P. Reclam, 1997, pp. 337-38.

Translation: Ben Marschke

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