1786-1807 1815-1847






Prussia, 1807-1815

Administration . Foreign Policy . Domestic Policy . The Economy . Demography . Cultural History





Administration . King Frederick William III. ruled from 1797 to 1840. The office of Chief Minister was held by Christian Heinrich Kurt von Haugwitz (1806), Karl Friedrich von Beyme (1806-1807), Karl August von Hardenberg (1807), Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom Stein (1807-1808), Karl Friedrich Ferdinand Alexander von Dohna-Schlobitten (1808-1810), Karl August von Hardenberg (1810-1822).

Foreign Policy . The disaster of 1806/1807 had reduced Prussia to about half her size (although many of the ceded territories only briefly had belonged to Prussia, had not been fully integrated into the state). Prussia had to accept a limitation of her army to 40,000 men; Prussia was occupied by French forces, Prussia's fortresses were held by French garrisons, and Prussia had to oblige herself to pay massive reparations, the full amount of which was still a matter of negotiation; in addition it had to pay contributions to pay for the occupying troops.
Military defeat and the financial burden arising from it - French occupation troops would only withdraw upon payment of the exorbitant sum required drastic reforms. France demanded the dismissal of minister Hardenberg, and, soon after, the dismissal of prime minister Freiherr vom Stein, who, one year in office, signed responsible for a reform packet which was to shape the modern Prussian state. While King Friedrich Wilhelm III. gave in on both occasions, the successors of Hardenberg and vom Stein continued to implement their reform policies.
When Emperor Francis called upon the Germans to rise against Napoleon's oppression, elements in Prussia's army (Dörnberg, Freicorps Schill, the Black Duke of Braunschweig) joined in, but Prussia's government and army remained loyal to their French "alliance".
In 1812 Napoleon launched his Invasion of Russia. A Prussian army under General Yorck von Wartenberg was to protect the French left flank. When late in 1812 the remnants of the French army returned to Poland, pursued by a fully intact Russian army, General Yorck von Wartenberg, overstepping his authority, and moving across the Russian border into Lithuania, he signed the Convention of Tauroggen (Dec. 30th 1812), in which he declared the Prussian Army under his command (18,000 men) to be neutral. Militarily an act of minor importance, it had much greater political significance. King Friedrich Wilhelm III. in Berlin realized that the French could take him to France or depose him any time; he regarded the action of Yorck von Wartenberg as a case of disobedience.
The military situation required the French to evacuate Prussia east of the Vistula; the East Prussian estates established a new administration and placed General Yorck von Wartenberg in charge. He introduced mandatory military service and established a Landwehr (20,000 men, plus a reserve of 10,000 men). King Friedrich Wilhelm III. left Berlin and moved to Breslau (Jan. 22nd 1813), where Russian troops arrived to protect him. On January 28th, Prussia and Russia signed an alliance (Treaty of Kalisch); Prussia formally entered the war against Napoleon (War of Liberation); Prussia to the west of the Oder River still was held by French troops, as were individual Prussian fortresses to the east of that river. Further Free Corps were formed, many of volunteers, among them Lützow's Freicorps, celebrated by poet Theodor Körner. On March 17th 1813 King Friedrich Wilhelm, in an address an mein Volk (to my people) introduced mandatory military service and called them to arms. General Yorck von Wartenberg had been declared free of any reproach. The Landwehr grew to a force of 120,000 men; Scharnhorst and Gneisenau signed responsible for the reorganization of the Prussian army. The war, fought in Brandenburg and Saxony, failed to produce a decision; Napoleon won a number of engagements; on June 4th an armistice was signed, which was to last until August 10th.
During the last months, Austria had remained neutral; in August, after the expiration of the truce, Austria and Sweden joined the coalition against France. Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Leipzig October 16th to 19th 1813. The Confederation of the Rhine disintegrated, a number of Napoleonic allies switched sides. On April 6th 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated. Negotiations on the future political order of Europe began, briefly interrupted by Napoleon's return to France (the Hundred Days). In the last campaign against Napoleon, only the British and Prussian forces were actively involved, and both share in the credit for the victory at Waterloo (the Prussian forces commanded by General von Blücher).
At the Vienna Congress, Prussia was represented by Karl August von Hardenberg (who in 1810 had been recalled and appointed prime minister). Prussia was widely perceived as under Russian influence; Russia and Prussia proposed to partition France, while Austria (Metternich) and Britain strove for and pushed through a lenient treatment of France, in order to prevent a Russian domination of post-war Europe. In territorial terms, Prussia wanted all of Saxony; Metternich wanted Saxony as a buffer state; Britain wanted Prussia to take charge of the protection of the Rhineland (before the Hundred Days, even of Belgium). Finally, Prussia regained the Province of Posen; it regained the territories of the Altmark, Magdeburg, Halberstadt, Neuchatel, Kleve, Mark, Minden-Ravensberg, the latter expanded into the Rhineprovince and the Province of Westphalia. And it gained half of Saxony, which, with Lusatia, the Altmark, Magdeburg, Quedlinburg and Prussia's territory in Thuringia was merged to form the Prussian Province of Saxony. Prussia again consisted of two large complexes of territory separated from each other by a stretch of foreign territory.

Domestic Policy . The disaster of 1806/1807 had reduced Prussia to about half her size (although many of the ceded territories only briefly had belonged to Prussia, had not neen fully integrated into the state). Prussia had to accept a limitation of her army to 40,000 men; Prussia was occupied by French forces, Prussia's fortresses were held by French garrisons, and Prussia had to oblige herself to pay massive reparations, the full amount of which was still a matter of negotiation; in addition it had to pay contributions to pay for the occupying troops.
Military defeat and the financial burden arising from it - French occupation troops would only withdraw upon payment of the exorbitant sum required drastic reforms. France demanded the dismissal of minister Hardenberg, and, soon after, the dismissal of prime minister Freiherr vom Stein, who, one year in office, signed responsible for a reform packet which was to shape the modern Prussian state. While King Friedrich Wilhelm III. gave in on both occasions, the successors of Hardenberg and vom Stein continued to implement their reform policies.
The policies initiated by Freiherr vom Stein included the Bauernbefreiung (liberation of the serfs, Oct. 9th 1807 decreed); burghers were permitted to purchase noble estates; an administrative reform, which turned councillors into ministers, which established provincial governments, a new Städteordnung (ordinnance for cities) which foresaw self-administration. Prussia also was to get a representative assembly. Under Prime Minister Karl August von Hardenberg (recalled, appointed in 1810), freedom of trade was introduced (1811), the Jews were emancipated (1812). Scharnhorst was the driving force behind the reform of the army (introduction of mandatory military service 1813); in 1810 the Allgemeine Kriegsschule (military academy) was established. Wilhelm von Humboldt was responsible for the reform of Prussian higher education; the Friedrich Wilhelm-University of Berlin (now Humboldt-Univ.) was founded in 1810, the University of Frankfurt/Oder relocated to Breslau in 1812. The university was given the tasks of research and education, and the freedom of both was proclaimed.

The Economy . In 1806/1807, Prussia was not only forced to cede about half her territory (much of the ceded territory had only recently been acquired and not fully been integrated), but also faced a French occupation, financed by contributions Prussia had to pay, and by French demands for the payment of indemnities the amount of which was still negotiated.
The desparate situation caused a thorough reform policy, among which the Gewerbefreiheit (often translated as freedom of trade; the freedom of the choice of a trade) in effect abolished the privileges of the guilds.
The liberation of the serfs and the abolition of restrictions on the sale of noble estates (previously, burghers could not purchase them) permitted social mobility (serfs no longer tied to the land) and the development of the modern banking industry (land as security for bank loans). Feudal dues were to be paid off. Numerous noble estates, neglected for years and in the state of ruins, were sold off - the land for farming, the buildings to serve as quarries for stone.
In order to raise revenue to pay for both contributions and indemnity, the Prussian state abolished a regulation (from 1717) barring the sale of state domains; they were sold off large scale. Friedrich Harkort would purchase the castle in Wetter (Ruhr), and turn it into a machinery factory (1819).
A 1793 law stipulated the King of Prussia having the right to protect inventions; in 1815 a Technical Disputation was established, which was charged with granting patents; the procedure was slow and only a few patents were granted in the early years.

Cultural History . When facing the consequences of the military defeat at the hands of France, King Friedrich Wilhelm III. of Prussia stated, Prussia would have to replace lost physical strength by spiritual strength. Pressed into action by very unfavourable circumstances, an elite of loyal Prussian state servants implemented a series of reforms which thoroughly reorganized state, society and economy. The reforms of 1807-1815, as much as the rule of the Soldier King Friedrich Wilhelm I. (1713-1740) and his son Friedrich II. (1740-1786) contributed to shaping the Prussian esprit du corps which inspirited both Prussian officers and state officials.
Of great importance was the education reform implemented by Wilhelm von Humboldt, redefining the university as a center of education and research, and proclaiming the freedom of the latter. The Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin, founded 1810 (now the Humboldt-Univ.) was to become the model university (herself modelled after the Univ. of Göttingen). In 1812 the university of Frankfurt/Oder was moved to Breslau, transformed into a state institution and reorganized. The Univ. of Duisburg was to be taken over by the state, modernized and relocated to Bonn in 1816; the University of Erfurt closed down in 1813, as teachers outnumbered students and the university was unable to pay her bills.
The French occupation was regarded humiliating by many; intellectuals such as Fichte, Ernst Moritz Arndt, Theodor Körner wrote dramas, speeches, poems or tracts which called on the German nation to resist the oppressor. Especially Ernst Moritz Arndt emphasized German identity over Prussian identity, and he labelled France as the archenemy of the Germans. When Friedrich Wilhelm III. called on his people to take up arms against Napoleon (1813), his call was answered, not merely by Prussians, but also by young men from beyond Prussia's borders. These volunteers expected to be rewarded by their services; they hoped for German unification and for a liberal constitution.
In Prussia, next to a traditional, more practical, more clearly defined Prussian identity, among the German population spread a new, more emotional-romantic, less clearly defined German identity. Both were not necessarily contradicting each other, as it was possible to feel both Prussian and German.






EXTERNAL
FILES
Articles Frederick William III. of Prussia, Prime Minister of Prussia, Christian Graf von Haugwitz, Karl August von Hardenberg, Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom Stein, Convention of Tauroggen, Hans David Ludwig Graf Yorck von Wartenburg, Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Ernst Moritz Arndt, Theodor Körner, Wilhelm von Humboldt, University of Berlin, Gerhard von Scharnhorst, August Neidhardt von Gneisenau, from Wikipedia
Biographies of August Wilhelm Antonius Neidhardt von Gneisenau, Gerhard Johann David von Scharnhorst, Friedrich Wilhelm III., from Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, posted by Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, in German, Gothic font
Friedrich Wilhelm III., from Preussen.de, in German; from SPSG, in German, illustrated
Karl August von Hardenberg, from Columbia Encyclopedia; from EB 1911, scroll down
Geschichte, from Freicorps von Lützow Remscheid, in German
Völkerschlacht 1813
Wilhelm von Humboldt, from Humboldt Univ. Berlin, in English; from Europas Historie by Tor Førde, in Danish, extensive
Reformen in Preussen durch Stein und Hardenberg, from LSG München, in German
Freiherr vom Stein, from Königin Luise Website, in German
Biography Freiherr (Baron) Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom und zum Stein, from Meyers Taschenlexikon, trsl. and posted by Freiherr vom Stein Gymnasium Luenen; from Bezirk Spandau, from Columbia Encyclopedia
Portraits of Louise Augusta, Queen of Prussia, from Art Pages : Vigee Le Brun; biography of Queen Louise, from Prof. Pavlac's Women's History Site; extensive biography from Ursula's History Web
Reform, Liberation and Romanticism in Prussia, by G. Rempel
Prussian Infantry Tactics of the Napoleonic Wars : Reforms and Reorganizations, 1807-1815, from The Russian and Prussian Armies in the Napoleonic Wars
Prussian Generals, from The Russian and Prussian Armies in the Napoleonic Wars
Count Neithardt von Gneisenau, from The Russian and Prussian Armies in the Napoleonic Wars
Prussia : the Army, from Histofig
The Prussian Army : Reforms and Reorganization, 1807-1815, from napoleonicwars.com
Delegates to the Congress of Vienna 1815 : Prussia, from Killeen Connections
Robert Mantle, Prussian Reserve Infantry 1813-1815, from Napoleon Series
Armies : Prussia, from Napoleon Online
The Prussian Army 1789-1815, from Histofig, an extensive file, in French
Classical Berlin 1786-1815, from Berlin-Brandenburg, Akademie der Wissenschaften
DOCUMENTS Rulers of Prussia, from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon
1807 - 1810 Reformen Preussen , posted by LSG München, in German; on freedom of trade, liberation of the serfs
Edikt den erleichterten Besitz und den freien Gebrauch des Grundeigentums so wie die personlichen Verhältnisse der Land-Bewohner betreffend vom 9. Oktober 1807 (Edict facilitating the property and free use of land as well as the personal conditions of its inhabitants), from verfassungen.de, in German
Kabinettsorder betreffend die Aufhebung der Erb-Unterthänigkeit auf sämmtlichen preussischen Domainen vom 28. Oktober 1807 (Cabinet Order concerning the liberation of the serfs on all Prussian domains), from verfassungen.de, in German
Publikandum, betreffend die veränderte Verfassung der obersten Staatsbehörden der Preussischen Monarchie vom 16. Dezember 1808 (Publication concerning the altered constitution of the upper levels of the administration within the Prussian monarchy), from verfassungen.de, in German
Verordnung über die veränderte Verfassung aller obersten Staatsbehörden in der Preussischen Monarchie vom 27. Oktober 1810 (Edict concerning the altered constitution of the upper levels of the administration within the Prussian monarchy), from verfassungen.de, in German
Edikt über die Finanzen des Staats und die neuen Einrichtungen wegen der Abgaben vom 27. Oktober 1810 (Edict on the state finances and new institutions established because of the tax of Oct. 27th 1810) from verfassungen.de, in German
Edikt über die Einziehung sämmtlicher geistlicher Güter in der Monarchie vom 30. Oktober 1810 (Edict concerning the confiscation of church property within the monarchy), from verfassungen.de, in German
Edikt betreffend die bürgerlichen Verhältnisse der Juden in dem Preussischen Staate, vom 11. Marz 1812 (Edict concerning the civil status of the Jews in the Prussian State), from verfassungen.de, in German
Gesetz über die Verpflichtung zum Kriegsdienste vom 3. September 1814 (Law concerning the obligation to serve in the military), from verfassungen.de, in German
Letter of Citizenship, ggranted to Carl Ludwig Wildenow, 1809, from DHM, facsimile, English comment, no transcription
The Convention of Tauroggen, from Napoleon Series, Engl. translation
Proklamation von Kalisch, 25. 3. 1813, from Document Archiv, in German
Aufruf an mein Volk, 17. 3. 1813, from Freicorps von Lützow Remscheid, in German
Lützow's Wilde Verwegene Jagd, from ingeb/org, text of song by Theodor Körner
1812 - Corps Prussien au service de la France 1812, from Histofig
Prussian Army 04/1813, posted by Thomas Hemmann
Complete Prussian Army, 10th August 1813, from Thomas Hemmann
Medal : Bluecher, from Blackwatch
Medal : Gneisenau, from Blackwatch
Medal : Tauentzien, from Blackwatch
Medal : York von Wartenberg, from Blackwatch
Medal : Le roi Frederic-Guillaume visite la Monnaie des medailles. 1814, from Blackwatch
Kingdom of Prussia, from warflags.com
Treaty Concluded Between France and Prussia, Sept. 8th 1808, from Napoleon Series
Ernst Moritz Arndt, The German Fatherland, from Modern History Sourcebook; also from Napoleonic Wars by Mikael Andersson
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Address to the German Nation, 1807, from Modern History Sourcebook
Chronologische Geschichte oder Tagebuch vom Deutschen Freiheits-Kriege (Chronological history or diary of the German War of Liberation), anon., 1814, facsimile, posted by Napoleon Online
Protokoll der ausserordentlichen Reichsdeputation zu Regensburg, 1803, posted by Univ. Würzburg, in German
Declaration of Pillnitz, Aug. 27th 1791, from Napoleon Series
Documents upon the Peace of Tilsit, 1807, from napoleonseries.org
A Cursory View of Prussia from the Death of Frederick II. to the Peace of Tilsit .., (1809), posted by Napoleon Series
Documents upon the Peace of Tilsit, 1807, from napoleonseries.org
Prussian army unit standards, from Histofig
Prussian uniforms, from Histofig
Battle Orders :
1793 - Prussian Corps for the War in the Netherlands, 20th January 1793, posted by Thomas Hemmann
1806 - Prussian Avant Guard Division, October 1806, posted by Thomas Hemmann
Napoleonic Medals : The Prussian Campaign, 1807, from Fortiter, many medals on Prussia
Peace of Tilsit, July 7th 1807, from Napoleon Series
REFERENCE Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Preussen, Geschichte eines Staates, Berlin : Propyläen 1966, in German [G]
Institut für Geschichte der Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, ed., Deutsche Geschichte in Daten, Berlin (Ost) : Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften 1967 [G]
Harold Nicolson, The Revival of Prussia, pp.17-31 in The Congress of Vienna, a Study in Allied Unity, 1812-1822, NY : Grove (1946) 2001, 320 pp. [G]



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First posted on May 5th 2004, last revised on October 28th 2007

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