GHDI logo

The Prussian Finance Edict of 1810, signed by State Chancellor Hardenberg and King Frederick William III (October 27, 1810)

Proclaimed together with an edict embodying Hardenberg’s plan to reorganize the Prussian government through the introduction of a centralized ministry of state, this “Finance Edict” laid bare Prussia’s dire fiscal straits – the result of the defeat of 1806 and the French indemnity imposed in the Peace of Tilsit in 1807. Though the edict announced the end of the landed nobility’s privileged exemption from all but token land taxes, the policy succumbed to conservative opposition, and it was not until 1861 that a halfway realistic land tax was imposed on large estates. Notable here are both the liberal rhetoric of equality before the law and freedom of trade, as well as arguments aimed at persuading the landed nobility to shoulder their share of the state’s misfortunes.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 3

Edict on State Finances and the New Establishment of Taxes

We Friedrich Wilhelm, by the Grace of God King of Prussia, etc. etc.

Until now, we have been tirelessly preoccupied with ascertaining the best means for restoring the prosperity of our state, which declined through the last war, for elevating the credit, and for fulfilling the obligations the state has toward its creditors; in particular, through very great exertions we have reduced, as much as was possible, the war indemnity of 120 million Franks payable to His Majesty, the Emperor of France, such that half will have been paid off by the end of the current year. With emotion, we have noted evidence of the attachment of all classes of our loyal subjects to our person, our house, and our government; in particular, we have also recognized the help that was rendered to us in securing the abovementioned contribution and in raising the funds otherwise necessary by our faithful estates and by the trade estate with their utmost willingness. The difficulties we still have to overcome are considerable, and they still demand no small sacrifices, to our sorrow. [ . . . ]

We see ourselves compelled to demand from our loyal subjects the payment of higher taxes, chiefly on consumption and luxury items, although they shall be simplified, restricted to a few articles, combined with the abolition of arrears and gate excises, as well as several onerous dues, and borne by all classes of the nation relatively equally, and they shall be reduced as soon as the need they are intended to meet comes to an end. In areas that have suffered especially from the war, especially in the Kingdom of Prussia, we shall take care to ease, with extraordinary remedies, the burden that will arise from these new consumption taxes.

first page < previous   |   next > last page