1745-1777 1799-1815

Bavaria, 1777-1799

Max III. Joseph had no children; when he died in 1777, Bavaria became the object of yet another succession conflict. Both Emperor Joseph II. and Duke of Kurpfalz, Charles Theodor claimed the inheritance. Joseph II. had the larger part of Bavaria occupied by Austrian troops; Charles Theodor offered to swap his claim for Bavaria against the Austrian Netherlands. For the time being, Joseph II. and chancellor Kaunitz declined; Prussia then stated that it would not tolerate an Austrian acquisition of Bavaria. Saxony openly sided with Prussia; the War of Bavarian Succession ensued (1777-1778). Austria gave in, annexing only the Innviertel; Charles Theodor was generally recognized as the legitimate Duke of Bavaria. In 1785 the plan to swap Bavaria for the Austrian Netherlands was secretly negotiated again, this time Emperor Joseph II. in favour of the deal, although Bavaria provided considerably lower revenues than the Austrian Netherlands. Yet Prussia threatened with war when Frederick the Great heard of the project, Saxony, Hannover, Mainz sided with Prussia; the plan was not realized.
Since 1756, France and Austria were allied; this alliance had bereaved Bavaria of an option - in the preceding century, Bavaria's foreign policy had been based on allying at times with France, at times with Austria. At the begin of the First War of the Coalition (1792-1797), Bavaria remained neutral; only in 1793, (Jülich and most of the Kurpfalz, despite Charles Theodor's neutrality, were already occupied by French forces) when a French force threatened Mannheim (Kurpfalz), Charles Theodor allied himself with Austria. In 1795, Bavaria concluded a treaty of neutrality with France, permitting a French force to occupy the fortress of Mannheim. In 1796 a French army under Jourdan invaded the Oberpfalz, another army under Moreau invaded southern Bavaria; now the Bavarian Diet concluded a truce with the French, which foresaw hefty conttributions paid to the French. At that moment, Archduke Charles' victory over Jourdan caused Moreau to withdraw his troops. The fate of Bavaria had been fought over between French and Austrian troops; Bavaria herself had been largely passive.

Charles Theodor simultaneously was Duke-Elector of Bavaria and Kurpfalz, Duke of Pfalz-Neuburg, Pfalz-Sulzbach, Jülich and Berg. These territories remained separate entities, with separate institutions; they had in common the person of the Duke, a common government (the Geheime Konferenz (secret conference) and a common army, in 1788 30,000 strong.

Charles Theodor in 1778 moved his residence from Mannheim to München. As numerous men in the Bavarian administration rejected his plans to swap Bavaria for the Austrian Netherlands, he replaced them, a measure which contributed to his unpopularity. During Charles Theodor's rule, the Illuminates, a branch of the Masonic movement, founded in Ingolstadt/Bavaria in 1776, spread; the Illuminates opposed Charles Theodor, who in turn banned the movement in 1785.
Charles Theodor introduced an administrative reform which remodelled the Bavarian administration after that of Kurpfalz. The government attempted to improve agriculture and forestry, for instance by transfering ducal land rented to peasant farmers into inheritable land owned by the peasants, regarded to be more productive. Bavarian economic policy followed the ideas of French Physiocrats and Austrian Cameralists; the English school of Free Trade had practically no impact on the country.
Charles Theodor implemented reforms interfering in the organization of the church in Bavaria, by creating a Bavarian section of the Order of St. John (1781), by creating the Diocesis of München (1789), by dissolving a number of monasteries. His policy toward the church is described as a partial secularization.

Bavarian History, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914 edition
Geschichte der Illuminaten (History of the Illuminates), from Denkmal Nach in German; from java-farm, in German
Article Karl Theodor von Pfalz-Bayern, from BBKL, in German
Karlheinz Scherr Bayern im Zeitalter des Fürstlichen Absolutismus (17./18. Jahrhundert) (Bavaria in the Era of Ducal Absolutism) in : Politische Geschichte Bayerns (Political History of Bavaria), posted by HDBG
DOCUMENTS Fr. X. Zwack, Geschichte des Illuminaten-Ordens (1787), from Bibliothek Alexandrias, in German
REFERENCE Territorien-Ploetz : Geschichte der Deutschen Länder (History of the German Territories), Vol.1, Würzburg 1964, in German
Andreas Kraus, Geschichte Bayerns von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (History of Bavaria, from the origins to the present day), München : Beck (1983) 2nd edition 1988, in German

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First posted on November 8th 2003, last revised on November 11th 2004

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