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Law on the Introduction of Universal Military Service in Prussia, signed by King Frederick William III, Hardenberg, and Minister of War von Boyen, among Others (September 3, 1814)

The desire to mobilize the people [das Volk] to overthrow Napoleonic hegemony in Germany lay at the heart of the post-1806 Prussian state reformers’ program. By this law, anticipated in the general call to arms of 1813 which led to Napoleon’s decisive defeat at the battle of Leipzig, the Prussian government permanently abolished the eighteenth-century recruitment system, which drew soldiers mainly from the villages and also relied on foreign mercenaries. This system was replaced by universal military service, which was obligatory for all able-bodied men. Still, when it came to service requirements, distinctions were drawn between the educated classes and the common people.

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Law on the Responsibility to Serve in War, 3 September 1814

The common effort of our loyal people, without exception or distinction among them, has brought about, in the just now so happily ended war, the liberation of the [Prussian] Fatherland. Only by such means will it be possible to sustain this freedom and the honorable status that Prussia has attained.

The arrangements that yielded this happy success, whose continuation the whole [Prussian] nation desires, shall shape the basic laws of the state’s military structure and underlie all military formations. For the arming of the nation under law is the most secure guarantee of a lasting peace. The older existing laws on conscription into the army are therefore now repealed and instead it is decreed that:

1. Every native-born man, upon completion of his twentieth year, is obliged to defend the fatherland. To ensure that fulfillment of this general obligation, especially in peacetime, does not hinder the progress of science and industry, the following distinctions will apply regarding character and term of service.

2. The armed forces will consist

a) of the standing army
b) the reserves of first call
c) the reserves of second call
d) the inactive reserve [Landsturm].

3. The numbers of the standing army and the reserves will be determined by prevailing circumstances of the state.

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