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Count Johann Anton Pergen's Memorandum to Austrian Co-Regent Joseph II on "the Value of the Imperial Crown" to the House of Austria (1766)

Johann Anton Pergen, a seasoned diplomat and high official in the Austrian service, responds to Joseph II’s canvassing of his chief ministers on ways to strengthen the value of the Imperial office to the Habsburg monarchy. Though Pergen acknowledges the limits of the emperor’s power and the weaknesses of the Empire, he regards possession of the Imperial office as a tangible advantage to Austria in its diplomacy and military campaigns. The Imperial office enabled Austria, for example, to allocate vacated fiefs to itself or its clients, and to legally recruit troops throughout the Empire, not only in its own provinces.

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1mo: Whether the possession of the Imperial crown has value, and [if so, then] what kind of value?

Ad 1mum: That the Imperial crown is the most excellent prize of any in the empire, and that the attainment thereof is fortunate, will be doubted by no one, when he considers the tremendous eminence and authority attached to the Imperial dignity in his capacity as the highest judge and head of so many powerful princes and estates, some of whom are attached to foreign crowns, and the kind of overwhelming advantages that the Holy Roman emperor, as the first leader of Christendom, has over other foreign crowns, to say nothing of the essential advantages that are known to flow from such eminence and which will be given extensive verification here. If the answer to this first question rests on truths all too obvious for us to dwell upon, then:

2do: whether, and for what reasons the Imperial crown must be seen as having inestimable value for the Most Serene Arch-Ducal House [of Austria]?

Ad 2dum: The most important reasons whereby it can be convincingly shown that the Imperial crown is the original source of the flowering and the ascension of the Most Serene Arch-Ducal House, the foundation of its greatness, power, and eminence, and that the retention thereof has become crucial. History teaches everyone how the power of the Most Serene Arch-Ducal House has grown step-by-step, and it shows that this power has been secured by the radiance of the Imperial crown from time to time. The inestimably valuable privileges, liberties, and precedence, with which Austria outshines all other states of the empire, have freed this princely house from the greatest difficulties of the German social federation, and at the same time made it easier for it to enjoy the resulting advantages. The more important the distinction that gives the Most Serene Arch-Ducal House precedence before all other powerful German ruling houses, the more certain the conclusion that these privileges could not be claimed without possession of the Imperial throne, and therefore its retention has become crucial. The brief period of the reign of Carl VII is still all too fresh a memory for anyone not to be convinced by the aforementioned argument.

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