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The Prussian Regulation Edict of 1811, signed by King Frederick William III, State Chancellor Hardenberg, and Justice Minister Kircheisen (September 14, 1811)

This fundamental law governed the transformation of the (now, since 1807-1808, personally free) former subject villagers’ landholdings into freehold farms and the compensation they were obliged to pay to their former seigneurial overlords for the acquisition of such property rights. Those with hereditary tenurial rights owed their former landlords one third of their lands or the equivalent in cash or other payments. Those with legally non-hereditary (though often de facto hereditary) tenures owed one-half of their lands or the equivalent. These arrangements were importantly modified by the Prussian government’s declaration of 1816, amending this 1811 edict, as the next document in this chapter shows. The text below sets forth procedures governing the dissolution of the previously complex landlord-village farmer economic nexus.

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Edict of Regulation Regarding the Relationship between Manorial Lordships and Subject Farmers

September 14, 1811

§1. All peasant farms not yet held as personal property shall be converted into hereditary freehold property according to the rules and conditions outlined in this edict, and the labor services and other claims resting on them dissolved through mutually just compensation. To avoid all misinterpretation and abuse, however, we expressly declare that no owner of these rural livelihoods shall be authorized to take possession of such property of his own accord, nor refuse preexisting obligations to render dues and labor services, until a settlement has taken place in accordance with the following rules, either by mutual agreement or [through the mediation of] the responsible agencies. Failure to comply will result in the punishments legally mandated for impermissible unilateral action [“self-help”]. [ . . . ]

First section concerning previously hereditary tenures

[ . . . ] §4. All current inhabitants of hereditary farms and holdings—whether they be full-holdings, half-holdings, or cottager-holdings, or bear another local name, and whether they belong under ecclesiastical, royal, or private seigneurial lordship—shall have property rights to their farms transferred to them and be obligated to compensate their former landlords according to the stipulations which follow here.

On the same condition, labor services, with the sole exception of auxiliary services outlined in §16, shall be abolished in exchange for compensation.

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