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The Childhood and Youth of a Prussian Nobleman in the Late 18th Century. From the Memoirs of Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitz (Retrospective Account)

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On the education of my sons

As far as the education of my sons is concerned, they shall not receive a so called academic education which only skewers and paralyzes reasonable judgment and the energy which the creator has given Man; instead they shall study mathematics, languages, history, and geography properly, they shall be encouraged to think and act for themselves, their bodies shall be exercised and strengthened and they shall be led to invariably have God, who is higher than all human knowledge and reason, in their minds and hearts. [ . . . ]

Both of my sons should first become officers, the second one should later become a farmer. The army will give him a much better education, also for any other government employment (should he have to seek it), than classroom exams and the learning by heart of constantly changing and ominous theories. [ . . . ]

I hope my sons will never attach themselves to a thing as unsteady and fluctuating as money. This idol will devour everyone who sacrifices to it. The usury and speculation with it are an undignified trick by which one seeks to transfer one’s neighbor’s earnings to oneself or at least a lazy way of getting through the world.

In contrast to that I hope that they will maintain and take care of their landed property, not like fearful and isolated farmers but simultaneously as fathers, providers, and examples to their subjects, and strive to protect them from ruin and keep them loyal to their property, industrious and servants to their fatherland. Therefore, I hope they will also take charge of schools, the church, courts, and police matters and lead them insofar as the law still permits it; that they will not shy away from any tasks and efforts concerning the province, for the towns can only prosper in connection with the province. Finally, I hope they will defend the fatherland as often as is necessary. [ . . . ]

Source: Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitz, Ein märkischer Edelmann im Zeitalter der Befreiungskriege [A Nobleman from Mark Brandenburg in the Era of the Wars of Liberation]. Edited by Friedrich Meusel. 3 vols. Berlin, 1908. Volume 1, pp. 3-143, 716f.

Reprinted in Jürgen Schlumbohm, ed., Kinderstuben, Wie Kinder zu Bauern, Bürgern, Aristokraten wurden 1700-1850 [Upbringing, How Children Became Farmers, Middle-Class Citizens, and Aristocrats 1700-1850]. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1983, pp. 188-208.

Translation: Insa Kummer

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