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1782 Edict of Tolerance

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The Edict of Tolerance of 1781

Background information Edit

The Edict of Tolerance was a religious reform of Joseph II, during the time he was emperor of the Habsburg Monarchy. His religious reform known as the Edict of Tolerance was composed of two separate laws one was enacted in 1781 and the second in 1782[1] Both of the edicts were aimed at different groups, but the main goal for both of them was to bring about religious unity. When Joseph II enacted both edicts, he was also inspired by economic motives [2]. The slow emigration of the Protestant population out of Austria would have eventually lead up to an economic slump, this is the second purpose for enacting religious tolerance.

Austria has had a long history on the subject of religious tolerance. This can be traced back to the sixteenth century when Martin Luther’s writings first appeared in the Habsburg monarchy in Austria. The appearance of Luther’s writings was threatening since they encouraged religious dissent of the Catholic faith, and its ecclesiastical system[3]. During this time the Holy Roman Empire was engaged in several other wars, and the Habsburg dynasty had no resources to use against the dissenters, who had been reading Luther’s papers. Therefore, since they had no army to persecute the rebels who opposed the Catholic faith, the dynasty had to resort to working toward religious unity, meaning that those of the Catholic faith would have to be tolerant to those of other religions if they did not want create more tension.

Joseph II, and Maria Theresa, his mother, ruled together for a few years. During this time, when Joseph II wanted to create and implement laws calling for religious tolerance his mother’s conservative attitude would not allow him. During the time that Joseph II was the single ruler of Austria, he issued a series of Edicts of Toleration. The first one was the Edict of Toleration of 1781 which granted religious freedom to the Lutherans, Calvinists, and Greek Orthodox[4]. The Jewish population was not included in the edict of 1781, and it wasn’t until the 1782 Edict of Tolerance that Joseph II decided to extend religious freedom to them.

Vysoka-tolerancni kostel

Tolerance church in Vysoká (Bohemia) - without entrance from the street and without tower

1781 Edict of Tolerance Edit

Once the first edict was put into effect in October 1781, it came under scrutiny from both the Protestant and Catholic populations. What occurred was that this law only allowed certain rights and recognized the existence of other non-Catholic religions in Austria. There was a good and bad side to the Edict of Tolerance. It was good because Protestants from other countries such as Germany, where religious tolerance was not enforced were able to immigrate to Austria and hold jobs such as pharmacists, carpenters and blacksmiths[5]. It was bad because the tolerated religions were allowed to have congregations no larger than 100 people in a private home. If a certain sect had more than 100 families living in an area, they were allowed to build a church only if the church did not have a direct entrance from the street and had no visible appearance of being a church. When it came to the case of mixed marriages there were also laws that had to be followed. If a Catholic man had children with a non-Catholic woman all the children would be raised Catholic. In the case of a Catholic woman with a non-Catholic man the girls would be raised Catholic while the boys would be non-Catholic like the father[4].

Scrutiny from Catholic officials occurred in places like Bohemia where the officials attempted to preserve religious unity. In order to do this they had printed out all the pamphlets that described this edict in German. This was a problem because the population whom this would affect only spoke Czech[6].

Jewish community before the 1782 Edict of Tolerance Edit

Long before the Jews had been granted religious freedom by Joseph II, they were treated rather harshly by his mother, Maria Theresa and had been ostracized by others. During the Middle Ages, Austrian Jews had lived apart from the Orthodox communities and had not been allowed by the government to own immovable property. Although this was not the case for the more affluent Jews, those who were wealthy and were able to establish factories were recipients of preferential treatment by Maria Theresa, but otherwise there were restrictions on the rest of the Jewish population. Joseph II was the first one who made an attempt to eliminate these attitudes and sanctions that were toward the majority of the Jewish population.

1782 Edict of Tolerance Edit

The 1782 Edict of Tolerance was issued on January 2, 1782. The Edict was initially put into effect in lower Austria. The prologue to the resolution stated “This policy paper aims at making the Jewish population useful to the state."[7]. There were advantages and disadvantages to this second edict. The upside to the 1782 Edict of Tolerance is that it allowed Jewish children to attend schools and universities. For the adults it allowed them to engage in jobs such as being merchants or to open factories. It also eliminated previous humiliating restrictions, which had forced the Jews to wear gold stars or to pay a tax that was only levied on the Jews and cattle[8]. The negative side to this edict was that the Jewish languages - the Holy written langue Hebrew and the spoken language Yiddish - were to be replaced by the national language of the country. Official document and school textbooks could not be printed in Hebrew[9]. Another thing was that when a Jewish man wanted to establish a school it would be strictly observed by government officials. The concluding article exhorted the Jews to be thankful and not to misuse their privileges, particularly not to offend Christianity in public, an offense which would result in expulsion.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Blitz, C. Rudolph. The Religious Reforms of Joseph II (1780-1790) and their Economic Significance.Pg. 583
  2. O'Brien, H.C. Ideas of Religious Toleration at the time of Joseph II. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society Retrieved 02-2008
  3. O'Brien, H.C. Ideas of Religious Toleration at the time of Joseph II.Transactions of the American Philosophical Society pg.7 Retrieved 02-2008
  4. 4.0 4.1 Blitz, C. Rudolph. The Religious Reforms of Joseph II (1780-1790) and their Economic Significance.Pg.585
  5. Blitz, C. Rudolph. The Religious Reforms of Joseph II (1780-1790) and their Economic Significance.Pg.584
  6. O'Brien, H.C. Ideas of Religious Toleration at the time of Joseph II.Transactions of the American Philosophical Society pg.24 Retrieved 02-2008
  7. O'Brien, H.C. Ideas of Religious Toleration at the time of Joseph II.Transactions of the American Philosophical Society pg.29 Retrieved 02-2008
  8. Ingrao, W. Charles. The Habsburg Monarchy 1618-1815Great Britain:Cambridge University Press, 1994. pg 199
  9. O'Brien, H.C. Ideas of Religious Toleration at the time of Joseph II.Transactions of the American Philosophical Society pg.30 Retrieved 02-2008

"The Religious Reforms of Joseph II (1780-1790) and their Economic Significance". Jouranal of European Economic History 18: 583–586. 1989. 

Ingrao, Charles W. (1994). The Habsburg Monarchy 1618-1815. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press. p. 199. 

O'Brien, Charles H. (1969). "The Ideas of Religious Toleration at the time of Joseph II. A Study of the Enlightenment among Catholics in Austria." (PDF). American Philosophical Society 59 (7): 5–80. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0065-9746%281969%292%3A59%3A7%3C1%3AIORTAT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-1. Retrieved 2008-02-10. cs:Toleranční patentro:Edictele iozefine de toleranţă religioasă sk:Tolerančný patent sl:Tolerančni patent

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