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  • R

    style='font-size:31.5pt;font-family:ATClassicRoman;color:black'>ISE OF BRANDENBURG-PRUSSIA

    THE GREAT ELECTOR

    It was during the reign of Frederick William, the Great Elector, that Brandenburg

    was recognized as a leader among the German states. Brandenburg

    was a small, open territory that was impoverished and misgoverned when

    Frederick William began his reign. The misery and suffering of the Thirty

    Years War had affected the peasants and townsmen the most, while the

    Junker aristocracy had become more powerful. Going back to the Reformation

    the Junkers had seized the common lands and forced the peasants to

    work on their estates in an increasingly commercialized agricultural economy.

    In order to get the financial and military support of the aristocracy the Great

    Elector granted the aristocracy almost complete control over their estates and

    the peasantry, including police, legal, and economic power. These powers

    were not lessened until the reform initiated by Baron von Stein during the

    Napoleonic Wars. Frederick William also inherited a disorganized and undependable

    force of about 3,000 mercenary soldiers, and in its place he began

    to organize a disciplined paid professional army. Initially he had difficulties

    recruiting from native manpower and the peasantry, having to rely on

    vagabonds and servants. Gradually the officers came from the landed aristocracy

    attracted by the financial benefits that could be had. By the last decade

    of his reign Frederick William had built up his army to the fourth-largest in

    Europe with 45,000 men, which had defeated the Swedes and established

    Brandenburg as a military power. The army was financed and was placed

    under the jurisdiction of a new agency called the General War Commissariat.

    Gradually the Commissariat became a bureaucracy and the basis for a civil

    administration.

    The Great Elector laid the foundations for economic progress. He reformed

    the system of land tenure and introduced improved methods of cultivation,

    50

    which helped make agriculture profitable for peasants. Encouraging trade and

    industry, he built roads and canals, introduced a postal service, and established

    schools. State-financed factories were established, often run by foreigners. After

    the repeal of religious toleration in the French Edict of Nantes, thousands of

    skilled Huguenots immigrated to Prussia and contributed to its industrial development.

    Frederick William even promoted trade with the Indies and established

    the first German colony on the west coast of Africa. A man of vision, the Great

    Elector can be said to have laid the foundation for the patriarchal state in Prussia,

    enabling it to unify Germany in the 19th century.

    The religious mixture of Lutherans and Calvinists was undoubtedly a leading

    factor in making Prussia one of the most tolerant of the German states, although

    in the tradition of absolutism, decreed by the ruler. It is thought that when in

    the early 17th century the elector at that time, Johann Sigismund, converted

    to Calvinism, he found himself obliged to respect the rights of the Lutheran

    Church. The country was divided between a Lutheran aristocracy and a minority

    Calvinist urban middle class. Later in 1685 the Great Elector issued the Edict

    of Potsdam (1685), welcoming to Prussia the French Calvinist Huguenots who

    were expelled from France when the Edict of Nantes was revoked. These French

    Calvinists went on to make outstanding economic and educational contributions.

    In education, for example, they established the College Royal, which for

    generations educated many of Prussias elite. The Academy of Sciences in Berlin

    also claimed a sizable minority of French Calvinists as its members.

    were   GERMANC   Germany   Party   their   Prussians   army   state   government   became   they   during   Austrian   CHURCHES   French   political   Frederick   Nazis   Social   Hitler   after   against   economic   some   republican