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Margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden, Proclamation of the Abolition of Serfdom in Baden (July 23, 1783)

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Within Our own territories, on the other hand, We desire to abolish those prior duties which were paid to Us when passing between the territories of Durlach and Baden-Baden and also those collected for other movement from one district into another. Our subjects, including Anabaptists and Jews, provided they are under Our sole jurisdiction and sovereignty, are accordingly completely and totally freed from the following fees: 1. from estate taxes, with the exception of the so-called Lacherbengeldes1; 2. from toll-fees upon moving within Our territories]; 3. from taxes for manumission and export; 4. from the so-called Landschaftsgeld 2 in Our territory of Baden-Baden. Furthermore, 5. from the Leibschilling [annual tax on serfs]; 6. from the livestock levy (“head right” or “best head”3) to the extent that this obligation applies to individuals and not to certain properties and except in the case of such inheritance known as Güterfall, or however else it is called, with the sole exception of those towns which receive a percentage of the duties. The residents of these towns shall be granted the liberties outlined above only when said towns declare their intention to likewise abolish such fees. Until this time subjects who move into these towns shall also incur such obligations.

[ . . . ]

And with the rescinding of these burdens it is Our sole purpose to foster the good fortune of Our subjects and to demonstrate anew Our unchanging desire to fulfill Our duty as regent, to evidence Our benevolent and paternal [landesväterlich] attitudes towards Our subjects, and thus to display love, mercy, and grace. We are certain that our subjects will rouse themselves to be loyal, trusting, and devoted to Us and Our princely house and will redouble their efforts to increase the prosperity of the land.

1 A type of estate tax incurred when distant relatives inherited property. “Lacherben” means “laughing heirs,” i.e., those more likely to rejoice at their good fortune in inheriting than to truly mourn the deceased’s passing.
2 A reference to a local tax imposed by the Baden estates.
3 A reference to the customary right of a seigneurial lord to the best head of livestock among the deceased person’s holdings.

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