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The Prussian estates (German : Preußischer Landtag, Polish : Stany pruskie) were representative bodies of Prussia, first created by the Monastic state of Teutonic Prussia in the 14th century (around the 1370s) but later becoming a devolved legislature for Royal Prussia within the Kingdom of Poland. They were at first composed of officials of six big cities of the region; Braunsberg (Braniewo), Culm (Chełmno), Elbing (Elbląg), Danzig (Gdańsk), Königsberg (Królewiec) and Thorn (Toruń). Later, representatives of other towns as well as nobility were also included. The estates met on average four times per year, and discussed issues such as commerce and foreign relations.
Originally, the Teutonic Order created the Estate to appease the local citizens, but over time the relations between the Order and the Estates grew strained, as the Order of knights treated the local population with contempt.
Different Prussian holders of the privilege of coinage (among them the Order and some cities), actually committed to issue a Prussian currency of standardised quality, had debased the coins and expanded their circulation in order to finance the wars between Poland and Teutonic Prussia. However, this expansion disturbed the equilibrium of coins circulated to the volume of contractual obligations, only coming down to a harsh depreciation of all existing nominally fixed contractual obligations by inflating all other non-fixed prices measured by these coins, ending only once the purchasing power of every extra issued coin equalled its material and production costs.
"Obligations would be retroactively changed if new coins, too plentifully issued, would be counted as equal to the old ones (1526, lines 307-310)." Thus a law was "passed by the Diet of Teutonic Prussia in 1418 (cf. Max Toeppen, 1878, 320seqq. ), smartly regulating the fulfilment of old debts fixed in old currency by adding an agio when repaid by new coins." Thus creditors and recipients of nominally fixed revenues were not to lose by debasement-induced inflation.
As Prussia became increasingly tied economically and politically with Poland, and the wars became more and more devastating to the borderlands, and as the policies and attitude of the King of Poland were more liberal towards the Prussian burghers and nobility than that of the Order, the rift between the Teutonic Knights and their subjects widened.
The Estates drifted towards the Kingdom of Poland in their political alignment.Norman Housley noted that "The alienation of the Prussian Estates represented a massive political failure on the part of the Order".
At first, the estates opposed the Order passively, by denying requests for additional taxes and support in Order wars with Poland; by the 1440s Prussian estates acted openly in defiance of the Teutonic Order, rebelling against the knights and siding with Poland militarily (see Lizard Union, Prussian Confederation and the Thirteen Years' War).
The estates eventually became governed by the Kingdom of Poland. First the western part of Prussia, which became known as Royal Prussia after the Second Peace of Thorn ended the Thirteen Years' War in 1466, and later the eastern lands, known as Ducal Prussia, after the Prussian Homage in 1525, became part of the kingdom.On 10 December 1525 at their session in Königsberg the Prussian estates established the Lutheran Church in Ducal Prussia by deciding the Church Order.
Nicolaus Copernicus, then canon of the Prince-Bishopric of Warmia, addressed the Prussian estates with three memoranda, in fact little essays,on currency reform. Debasements continued to ruin Prussian finances, the groat had been debased by 1/5 to 1/6 of its prior bullion content. In 1517, 1519 and again in 1526 he suggested to return to the law passed in 1418. However, especially the cities refused that. They had raised most of the funds for the warfares, and now lightened their debt burden by debasing their coins, thus passing on part of the burden to receivers of nominally fixed revenues, such as civic and ecclesiastical creditors and civic, feudal and ecclesiastical collectors of nominally fixed monetarised dues. So Copernicus' effort failed. At least the estates refused to peg the Prussian currency to the Polish (as proposed by Ludwig Dietz), which even suffered a worse debasement than the Prussian.
Under Polish sovereignty, Prussians, particularly those from Royal Prussia, saw their liberties confirmed and expanded; local cities prospered economically (Gdańsk become the largest and richest city in the Commonwealth), and local nobility participated in the benefits of Golden Liberty, such as the right to elect the king.Royal Prussia, as a direct part of the Kingdom of Poland (and later Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) had more influence on Polish politics and more privileges than Ducal Prussia, which remained a fief (for example, while nobles from the Royal Prussia had their own sejmiks, Sejm and Senate representatives, those from the Duchy did not). Royal Prussia also had its own parliament, the Prussian Landesrat , although it was partially incorporated into the Commonwealth Sejm after the Union of Lublin, it retained distinct features of Royal Prussia.
With the power of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth waning from the mid-17th century onwards, the Prussian Estates drifted under the influence of the Hohenzollern Electors of Brandenburg, who ruled Ducal Prussia in personal union with Brandenburg from 1618 (first the eastern Duchy of Prussia, sovereign after the Treaty of Wehlau in 1657 and upgraded to the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701; then the western Royal Prussia, annexed to the former after the First Partition of Poland in 1772). Under the Hohenzollerns' absolutist rule the power of the Estates increasingly diminished.
The West and East Prussian Estates, separately (the latter gathering after 1772 representatives of newly formed East Prussia, comprising the former Duchy of Prussia and the parts of former Royal Prussia west of the Vistula), again played a role in the transformation from feudal traditional agriculture to agricultural business. The Silesian Wars of 1740-1763 had required high taxes, such that many Prussian tax-payers went into debt. Feudal manor estates were not free property sellable at the will of their holders or – in case of over-indebtedness – by way of execution prompted by the creditors of the holders. So the holders of feudal manor estates found it difficult to borrow against their estates. Therefore, in 1787 the West Prussian estates, and a year later the East Prussian estates, each took on the task of forming credit corporations: the Westpreussische Landschaft and the Ostpreussische Landschaft, respectively.
Members of the Estates, then by status mostly noble landed manor holders, and the circle of potential debtors were literally the same. In order to overcome the restrictions on selling manor estates to fulfil outstanding debts, the manor estate holders formed a corporation of mutually liable debtors. So solvent manor estate holders had to step in for over-indebted borrowers, thus transforming the manor estate holders into a corporation of collective liability. Covering over-indebted borrowers imposed hardship for the solvent manor-estate holders. This affected many opinions and even aroused appeals to abolish the feudal system of manor estate holding, while others demanded the re-establishment of pure feudalism without borrowing at all.
In the Napoleonic era (ca 1799-1815) the East Prussian Estates gained some political influence again. King Frederick William III of Prussia needed to raise funds in order to pay the enormous French war contributions of thaler 140 million imposed after Prussia's defeat of 1806, and making up about an annual pre-war budget of the government.In 1807 the East Prussian Estates made a political bargain on accepting the king as a member within their credit corporation with his royal East Prussian demesnes, to be encumbered as security for the Pfandbriefe to be issued in his favour, which he was to sell to investors, thus raising credit funds.
In return the Estates reached a wider representation of further parts of the population. The reformed body included two new groups:
With representation in the estates the newly represented groups were also entitled to eventually raise credits, obliged to liability for credits of others, but simultaneously gained a say in the Estates assembly.
On 9 October 1807 the reforming Prussian minister Heinrich vom und zum Stein prompted Frederick William III to decree the October Edict (Edict concerning the relieved possession and the free usage of real estate [landed property] as well as the personal relations of the rural population) which generally transformed all kind of landholdings into free allodial property.This act enormously increased the amount of alienable real estate in Prussia apt to be pledged as security for credits, needed so much to pay the higher taxes in order to finance Napoléon's warfare through the compulsory war contributions to France. Serfdom was thus also abolished. Most remaining legal differences between the estates (classes) were abolished in 1810, when almost all Prussian subjects – former feudal lords, serfs, burghers (city dwellers), free peasants, Huguenots etc., turned into citizens of Prussia. The last excepted group - the Jews - became citizens in 1812.
When in 1813 the defeated and intimidated King Frederick William III, forced into a coalition with France from 1812,refrained to take his chance to shake off the French supremacy in the wake of Napoleon's defeats in Russia, the East Prussian estates stole a march on the king. On 23 January Count Friedrich Ferdinand Alexander zu Dohna-Schlobitten, president of the Estates assembly, called its members for 5 February 1813.
After debating the appeal of Ludwig Yorck, illoyal and – therefore by Berlin – outlawed general of the Prussian auxiliary corps within Napoléon's army, to form a liberation army, which was widely agreed,on February 7 the East Prussian estates unanimously voted for financing, recruiting and equipping a militia army (Landwehr) of 20,000 men, plus 10,000 in reserve, out of their funds - following a proposal designed by Yorck, Clausewitz and Stein. The hesitant king could not stop this anymore, but only approve it (17 March 1813).
However, this civic act of initiating Prussia's participation in the liberation wars did not meet with the gratitude of the monarch, who again and again procrastinated over his promise to introduce a parliament of genuine legislative competence for all the monarchy. Only in the wake of the Revolutions of 1848 did Prussia receive its first constitution providing for the Prussian Landtag as the parliament of the kingdom. It consisted of two chambers, the Herrenhaus (Prussian House of Lords) and the Abgeordnetenhaus (House of Representatives).
In 1899, the Prussian Landtag moved into a new building consisting of a complex of two structures, one for the House of Lords (as of 2015 [update] used by the Bundesrat) in Leipziger Straße and one for the House of Representatives in Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, today's Niederkirchnerstraße.
The House of Lords was reorganised and renamed into the Staatsrat (state council) of the Free State of Prussia after the abolition of the monarchy in 1918. Its members were representatives of the Provinces of Prussia. Konrad Adenauer served as its president from 1921 to 1933.
Since 1993 the former House of Representatives building has served as the seat of the Abgeordnetenhaus von Berlin (House of Representatives of Berlin), and similar to the Reichstag, among Berliners it is still sometimes referred to colloquially as Preußischer Landtag.
Warmia is a historical region in northern Poland.
Christoph Hartknoch (1644–1687) was a Prussian historian and educator.
Frombork is a town in northern Poland, on the Vistula Lagoon, in Braniewo County, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. It had a population of 2,528 as of 2005.
Royal Prussia or Polish Prussia was an autonomous state ruled in personal union by the King of Poland. It was established after the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), from territory in western Prussia which seceded from the despotic State of the Teutonic Order seeking protection as a dependency of the King of Poland. Royal Prussia did not become a part of Poland, but retained autonomy, governing itself and maintaining its own citizenship, laws, customs, and rights as well as its own administrative usage of the German language. Its political status was similar to the Bailiwick of Jersey, reflected in the title “Royal Prussia” or “the King’s Prussia”. As a royal dependency, it could participate in the election of its titular monarch, but not being a part of the Commonwealth, it could not participate in the Sejm, the Polish-Lithuanian parliament.
The Duchy of Prussia or Ducal Prussia was a duchy in the region of Prussia established as a result of secularization of the State of the Teutonic Order during the Protestant Reformation in 1525.
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship or Warmia-Masuria Province or Warmia-Mazury Province is a voivodeship (province) in northeastern Poland. Its capital and largest city is Olsztyn. The voivodeship has an area of 24,192 km2 (9,341 sq mi) and a population of 1,427,091.
Brandenburg-Prussia is the historiographic denomination for the Early Modern realm of the Brandenburgian Hohenzollerns between 1618 and 1701. Based in the Electorate of Brandenburg, the main branch of the Hohenzollern intermarried with the branch ruling the Duchy of Prussia, and secured succession upon the latter's extinction in the male line in 1618. Another consequence of the intermarriage was the incorporation of the lower Rhenish principalities of Cleves, Mark and Ravensberg after the Treaty of Xanten in 1614.
Tuchola ; German: Tuchel; Kashubian: Tëchòlô) is a town in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship in northern Poland. The Pomeranian town, which is the seat of Tuchola County, had a population of 13,418 as of 2013.
Danzig law was the official set of records of the laws of city of Danzig (Gdańsk).
Lucas Watzenrode was the maternal grandfather of Nicolaus Copernicus.
Kneiphof was a quarter of central Königsberg, Germany. During the Middle Ages it was one of the three towns that composed the city of Königsberg, the others being Altstadt and Löbenicht. The town was located on a 10-hectare (25-acre) island of the same name in the Pregel River and included Königsberg Cathedral and the original campus of the University of Königsberg. Its territory is now part of the Moskovsky District of Kaliningrad, Russia.
Dzierzgoń is a town in the Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland. It is located in Sztum County east of Malbork and south of Elbląg on the river Dzierzgoń. Dzierzgoń has a population of 5,800, while the city and its environs have a combined population of 10,000.
Hans von Baysen or Jan Bażyński was a Prussian knight and statesman, leader of the Prussian Confederation and the first Polish governor of Royal Prussia.
The Polish–Teutonic War of 1519–1521 was fought between the Kingdom of Poland and the Teutonic Knights, ending with an armistice in April 1521. Four years later, under the Treaty of Kraków, part of the Catholic Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights became secularized as the Duchy of Prussia. The reigning Grand Master Albert of Hohenzollern-Brandenburg-Ansbach became the first Duke of Prussia by paying the Prussian Homage as vassal to his uncle, Polish king Sigismund I the Old.
Ius indigenatus is a right which was from the 15th to the 18th century a requirement for people to hold office in Prussia. It limited offices and land ownership to local Prussian natives, i.e. persons from the Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights as of 1453.
The Nicolaus Copernicus Monument in the home town of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) was erected in 1853 by a "monument committee" of the city's residents.
The Siege of Allenstein or the Siege of Olsztyn took place from January 1521 to February 1521, during the Polish–Teutonic War (1519–21).
Marian Biskup was a Polish historian, author and academic, who specialized in the history of the Baltics, Pomerelia, Teutonic Order, Prussia, Toruń and Copernicus. He was a member of the International Commission for the study of the Teutonic Order.
Max Pollux Toeppen, surname sometimes spelled Töppen was a German historian and educator.
Landmeister of Prussia was a high office in the Teutonic Order. The Landmeister administered the land of Prussia of the Teutonic Order. It was in existence from 1230 to 1309.