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the kingdom of Prussia anew out of the wreck of serfdom and feudality. But, we have no wish to push the parallel to the length to which the revelations of recent historians might invite

* We cannot, however, forbear remarking upon it as a singular coincidence, that it should have been reserved for Niebuhr, himself a colleague of the modern reformers, to be the first to vindicate the memory of the illustrious Roman brothers from the undeserved obloquy of twenty centuries ;—and that, by elucidating the real nature of the ager publicus, he should have stripped the very term agrarian of its factious historical import.

The particular measures which have given an especial prominence, of late, to the names of Stein and Hardenberg, are comprised in a series of royal edicts, promulgated at their instance, affecting the proprietary rights of an important section of the Prussian peasantry.

The majority of these enactments appeared during that.eventful period in the annals of Germany, which intervened between the conclusion of the humiliating treaty of Tilsit, in 1807, and the outbreak of the war of Liberation in 1812; and they bear very visibly on their front the impress of the stirring times in which they originated.

By the fourth article of this Tilsit treaty, the world is somewhat ostentatiously informed: “That a portion of his late domin• ions is hereby restored to the King of Prussia, merely as a proof

of the affection which his Imperial Majesty of France entertains ' for his new ally, the Emperor of Russia. In the face of such a declaration, of which the generosity might be more easily questioned than the truth, any attempt on the part of Prussian statesmen to disguise the utter prostration of the monarchy, would have been as idle as it would have been impolitic. The only judicious course, in such a case, was that which we find pursued in the first of the series of edicts to which we have alluded. In the opening words of the enactment of 9th Oct. 1807, Stein declares: That • what Prussia has lost in extentshe must seek to regain in inten

sity.' External aid could, under the circumstances, have availed but little ; and the minister felt that the only hope of national regeneration lay in a full development of the internal resources of

* It was exactly such a state of things as this, which presented itself to Tiberius Gracchus. While the number of Roman citizens was increasing every year by Italian allies wbo obtained the Roman franchise, and more especially by freedmen, the number of landed proprietors de creased. The numerous small estates of former times were no more.' Niebuhr, Rome, vol. iv. p. 329.



the provinces, flung back rather than restored under this haughty imperial donation.

At the time, nothing short of miraculous power can have seemed capable of elevating Prussia out of the depths of moral and political degradation into which the monarchy had been gradually, but steadily, sinking from the death of Frederick the Great. Of his Prussia nothing further now remained than the worst effects of his worst measures. It was a favourite paradox of the sagacious Börne, that it was Frederick who lost the battle of Jena, and there is much point in the anachronism.

It was his system of finance, borrowed from that of Louis XIV., which dried up every spring of commercial wealth. It was his maxim, that the noble alone possessed a feeling of

honour,' which limited the matériel of the army of his successors to an agglomerate of the lowest creatures from the dregs of society. No person of ignoble birth, be his military talents what they might, could hope for advancement or could ever rise to the rank of officer. This limitation, and the brutality which privilege so frequently begets, rendered the great body of the soldiery indifferent to success. The greater number were mercenaries, generally criminals, and much less likely to be formidable to a foreign enemy by their valour, than to their own country by their rapacity.

Under Frederick the same men had been, through his genius, more than a match for the equally degraded soldiery with whom they had to cope. But now, when opposed to the fiery patriotism of the small propriétaires who composed the army of Napoleon, they gladly joined

, their officers in admitting the utter futility of a struggle. But even had the Prussian army exhibited ordinary valour-had those in command, from the highest to the lowest, abstained from a display of cowardice and treachery without a parallel in the annals of any kingdom-it still would seem almost impossible that Prussia should have been able to maintain a place among the great powers of Europe, as long as her internal economy continued unaltered. Although a purely agricultural country, and relying altogether for her strength on the resources of the soil, her system of rural policy might have been supposed cunningly devised with a view to bafile the enterprise and mar the skill of the husbandman.

We shall immediately explain the peculiar nature of these laws and their fatal consequences. But it needed not the adtional horror of that rural fanaticism, which usually disgraces, if it does not defeat, all attempts at reforming agrarian evils, to fill the mind of a minister with dismay on contemplating the debris of the Prussian monarchy after the battles of Jena and Auerstadt. With its King and court fugitives in Memel-half its territo


ries and its capital in the permanent possession of the enemy-its fields desolated by war and pestilence—its commerce shackled by foreign restrictions and domestic monopolies—its treasury drained to the last thaler-its military strength jealously limited to but one fourth of its former number its resources crushed under the burthen of an overwhelming contribution-Prussia must have presented a disheartening spectacle to the eye of a statesman, however sanguine. Niebuhr had just before entered the service of the state, but now withdrew to his native Denmark in disgust. In one of the historian's letters to a friend, we find the following allusion to the general posture of affairs. The dissolution of all socialities and forms is now complete! Either entire decomposition-or a new life—is setting in !' Fortunately for Prussia, the latter alternative of the historian's prophecy proved the correct prediction.

It was at a crisis so disastrous, and under circumstances so discouraging, that Baron von Stein was summoned to take charge of the helm of state. His very elevation to this office was a concession to the enemy, and an act of obedience to the dictation of Napoleon. Prenez M. Stein, c'est un homme d'es“prit,' was the brief formula of his installation. The same fiat that removed Count Hardenberg, his predecessor in office, and fellow-labourer in the cause of reform, sufficed for his elevation. It would, however, be much more easy to assign satisfactory grounds for Napoleon's distaste for Hardenberg, than for his fatuitous recommendation of Stein. Like Hardenberg, Blücher, Scharnhorst, Niebuhr, and most of the great names that adorn the Prussian annals of this period, Stein had only . adopted Prussia as his fatherland. This is a circumstance which we have not seen elsewhere noticed, but it is very significant of the dearth of native talent, which misgovernment produces. Charles Baron von Stein, born 8th May 1757, was a native of the duchy of Nassau, and was descended from an old and distinguished family. Having married a lady of large fortune, a native of Prussia, he was induced to enter the civil service of the latter state. His eminent administrative talents were speedily recognised, and his advancement, despite the natural impetuosity of his temper, was comparatively rapid. The peculiar qualities of his mind were shown to great advantage in the management of certain branches of the commissariat department which had been entrusted to him, and he soon established his reputation as a firm and clear-headed man. While on a visit in England, he had ample opportunities of contrasting the vigour of freedom with the apathy of slavery. The strong and permanent attachment for Britain and British institutions, which he then acquired, frequently inspired his measures, and swayed

his conduct during his subsequent career. We can readily conceive with what a sense of disgust, and shame, such a mind as that of Stein must have turned from the contemplation of the sturdy yeomanry of England to the miserable bondsmen of Prussia. The contrast soon led him to recognise the primary cause of much of the misery he saw around him on his return. It needed far less sagacity than he possessed, to perceive that the chief seat of the manifold evils for which he was invited to suggest a remedy, lay in those semi-barbarous agronomic relations, which, however favourable during the transition from a nomadic to an agricultural state of society, interpose an insuperable bar in the way of all social progress in its later stages. But in order to comprehend the peculiar nature of the inveterate prejudices against which the minister had to contend, and that we may duly appreciate the scope and policy of his measures, it is necessary to understand the agricultural constitution of Prussia, as it existed prior to the emanation of these memorable edicts.

The agrarian legislation of Prussia may be conveniently divided into two grand periods. The elder, or feudal period, may be said to date from the 18th of April 1417, the day on which Frederic IV., burggrave of Nuremberg, obtained the electoral principality of Mark Brandenburg from the Emperor Sigismund, in consideration of the payment of a sum of 400,000 gold florins. The modern, or allodial period, dates from the publication of Stein's first edict of 9th October 1807, abolishing serfdom, and overturning entirely the ancient system by which agricultural labour had been regulated and restrained.

When the first of the Hohenzollerns entered upon his newlyacquired territory, he found his immediate vassals rioting in all the license of uncontrolled feudalism. His attention, and that of his successors, during three successive centuries, was, however, far too fully occupied in curbing the more general pretensions of the nobles, to leave then much time or inclination for bold agrarian reforms. The enactments of these three centuries laid the foundation, however, of the reforms which our own age has witnessed ; although their only tendency was to foster a certain class of peasant fiefs, or Bauerhöfe, * for which feudal

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We prefer retaining the original German term · Bauer,' peasant, to hazarding a synonyme.

The German Bauer, and the bure or gebure of Domesday, are the same words, only different dialects. Their Latin synonyme was Colibertus. This appears, by a section de Geburi Consuetudine in a curious glossary upon ancient services among the Cottonian MSS.; old enongh for an Anglo-Saxon version of it to be found in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambriilge.'-Ellis's sovereigns have generally exhibited an especial tenderness. This class of peasant fiefs is peculiar in its incidents, and has no exact counterpart among ourselves. On this account, and because the modern edicts have been generally misinterpreted, from its having been overlooked that they refer almost exclusively to these tenures, it will be necessary to describe their nature and origin somewhat fully.

În accordance with a fundamental maxim of the Lehnrecht, or Feudal Code, as it prevailed throughout Germany, and still prevails in Hungary, the noble was wholly exempt from direct taxation. He held his lands by knight service, and his estates were ritterfrei-knight-free from all ordinary taxes and imposts. When, in the course of time, the modifications of the feudal system, consequent on the introduction of standing armies, rendered it necessary to impose permanent burdens on seigneurial lands, these burdens were thrown by the nobles upon a certain class of their immediate vassals, to whom land had been already assigned and stock advanced, somewhat on the métayer system of France. Thenceforward it became one of the characteristic liabilities of these bauers, to satisfy the fiscal obligations of the lords. This compromise, which left the principle of the noble's immunity from taxation ostensibly intact, received the acquiescence of the government; subject to the proviso, that, in the event of such bauers being, by accident or otherwise, incapacitated from meeting the just demands of the Exchequer, the lords were bound to make good the deficiency. It followed as a necessary corollary from this arrangement, that these peasant fiefs, on which the crown had acquired a lien for its taxes, should not be furtively withdrawn from liability by being incorporated with the knight-free lands of the lords. According to the terms of the Bauer Ordnung, or Peasant Code of 1570, the noble was debarred from regaining possession of peasant fiefs, except on satisfactory proof of his requiring

Introduction to Domesday, vol. ii. 425. Serjeant Heywood, in his Anglo-Saxon Ranks, goes almost as much out of his way, in deriving it from the bovarius, or neat-herd, of Domesday-book, as a grave philologist, whom we have heard insist that coward must come from cowherd: because the tenure of the original English boor resembled in many points that of the German bauer, and is a much more likely origin of our copyholders than Villenage. Lord Loughborough had been led, by considering the German tenures, to doubt the villain pedigree of copyholds as reported by Sir Edward Coke; and on reference to the Geburi Consuetudines, we think Mr Serjeant Stephen will no longer be of opinion, that it is a pedigree too firmly settled to be shaken.

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