Joseph Ii


Joseph Ii Essay, Research Paper

My name is Joseph II, King of Astria and Holy Roman Emperor, the year is 1790 and I am lying here dieing. I have had 49 years of life, 10 years of rule and +after all my trouble, I have made but few happy, and many ungrateful.+ I had attempted to institute the ideal government but despite my good intentions I failed. I iimproved the conditions of the serfs and instituted a free education. I saw the problems with the social classes, so I took power form the lords and the church. I centralized the government and attempted to unify it in the process. All of these actions looked good on paper but when they were instituted there were may problems.

Although I did accomplish many things, much credit should be given to my mother, Marie Theresa, for her brave conduct in defense of our hereditary lands and against the unscrupulous ambition of Frederick the Great. She did so much for the Habsburg realms but in many cases she did not go far enough. She assembled an army by the vote of provincial assemblies and stated that German would be the official language of the officers. This was great, but I enforced that the official language of the state would be German thereby uniting such a diverse realm. My mother was a great leader but she was not an enlightened despot. She was political rather than philosophical and she did not force reform but simply introduced moderate measures in order to remedy evils. In this way I was different form my mother. I epitomized the role of an enlightened Emperor. +I have made Philosophy the legislator of my Empire; her logical principles shall transform Austria.+

It was my duty as Holy Roman Emperor to do away with all injustices, to relieve the oppressed, and to lift up those who had been trampled under foot. I wanted to make Austria a strong, united and a prosperous kingdom. I made sure that no law or order were to be passed without my consent. I wanted more control over the church and nominated the bishops as well as confiscating church lands. I also ensured that a more substantial share of the burden of taxation fell upon the Church. All clergy were to be trained in school controlled directly by me. I introduced the policy that heretics and Jews were to be not only tolerated but given the same rights as orthodox Catholics. These were all good policy but they were not accepted by the people possibly due to the fact that they were all instituted at one time.

Another policy that I wished to institute was the consolidation of the government. I desired to rid all provincial assemblies and all traces of other local independence. I wanted all of the territories governed uniformly by subjects appointed by me. My mother had taken steps in this direction but had allowed Hungary, Lombardy and the Netherlands to preserve certain of the traditions of self government that they had. It was a mistake for her to stop there. I continued on her path by abolishing the privileges of the Hungarian Diet and with a stroke of my pen I established a new system of government. After my state had been consolidated I divided it into thirteen provinces with each being controlled by a military commander. Each province was divided into districts , and these again into townships. Individual government was no more, and everything was governed from Vienna, my capital. The official language throughout the Habsburg realm was made German. Although this plan had been thoroughly worked out, there were several problems in executing it. The Austrian Netherlands rose in revolt and the Tyrol did the same. Protests as well came from Hungary. It seems that local liberties and traditions cannot by abolished by an imperial decree.

I saw the treatment of the poor serfs who had no rights and were forced to work on their lords+ land. I wanted to uplift these lower class people and put down the proud nobles so that they should all be equal and all alike under myself, a benevolent but all-powerful ruler. I decreed that all serfs should become free men who were able to marry without the consent of their lord. They would have the power to sell their land and to pay a fixed rent instead of bing compelled to labor for their lords some times for an indefinite time. Both nobles and peasants alike were to share in the burdens of taxation, all paying 13% on their landlord or serf. +I could never bring myself to skin two hundred good peasants to pay one do-nothing lord more than he ought to have.+ I wanted each commune to pay for the support of the old labourer and retired soldier who had usefully served the community. I wanted to give everyone a free elementary education as well as to encourage industry and to make all of my subjects prosperous and happy. Although, like so many of my other plans, when it came to real life many of my people were unhappy and misconceived my attempts for improvement. The nobles weren+t willing to give up their feudal rights and the bourgeoisie was irritated with my slow attempts to encourage industry. The clergy in many cases preached against my religious policies.

My time is over on this earth. I have had the best intentions but met with the greatest of defeat in executing them. If I could only by judged by my intentions and not by the outcome of my actions.

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