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Introduction of the Brandenburg-Prussian Canton System of Military Recruitment [Kantonreglement], issued by Frederick William I ("the Soldier King"), as an Order to General Field Marshal Albrecht Konrad Finck von Finckenstein (May 1, 1733)

To avoid the high cost of foreign mercenaries, and to minimize desertions, the Prussian king decreed that the physically robust (and tall) sons of the Prussian common people, especially villagers, were to be recruited into his regiments. To this end, he divided his lands into recruitment districts or cantons. Recruited soldiers served relatively short terms of active peacetime duty, and otherwise pursued their livelihoods, except during off-season annual maneuvers. This practice anticipated Prussia’s nineteenth-century adoption of universal military service, followed by active and inactive reserve duties.

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My dear General Count von Finckenstein,

Because heretofore there has been so much disorder and no fairness [egalité] regarding the recruits that the regiments have, and because one regiment has recruited more than it can use, and some regiments have too few; so I have found it good for the conservation of the army and have resolved to make a proper disposition of what locales and hearths each regiment should have for recruiting. Therefore I am sending you the disposition of the hearths that your regiment receives, totaling 7,790, so that if it is divided into ten parts then it will be roughly 700 and several tens of hearths for each company. The guards company can pick one part, and the remaining companies can play [spielen] for the other nine parts.

The other regiments should make no claim to any of the recruits that your regiment receives through this disposition, except those men who during maneuvers really were in the rank-and-file, and the old soldiers who really have served five years in a regiment as soldiers and have been discharged, they should stay with the regiments who had them. All of the other passes, which have previously been issued, are hereby declared null and void. Rather, all new recruits of your regiment should be provided with new passes and all should take the oath of loyalty, that they are obligated to His Royal Majesty and the regiment and the company where they are placed.

The new hearths that each company receives are there so that they keep themselves full-strength and grow by taking the best of the young men. They must take as many laborers/peasants [Knechte] as they are to have according to the regulations when the regiment takes the field. They should also take as many men as they must give up to the new garrisons, for which they should use their old discharged peasants and then make up the shortage from the countryside.

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