Rétablissement and agricultural policy in Electoral Saxony 1763-1773

Christoph OELMANN's paper seeks to understand ideas of economic (and respective legal) reforms in Electoral Saxony in the wake of the Seven Years’ War in the context of a wider European debate about grain trade and the agriculture. Given the number of significant reform failures in eighteenth-century Europe, the so called Rétablissement in Saxony was a fairly successful yet little studied example of state reform. One of my key questions is what ideas did inform the policies implemented by new generation of Saxon government officials from an often bourgeois and landowners background? As is well known, the reform of state finance and state economy as a means to increase the happiness of the subjects and the political power of the state was a cen-tral unifying concern in the late Enlightenment debate. After the Seven Years' War, whose cause many Enlightenment thinkers attributed to misguided power politics and aggressive trade policies, the focus of the political economic discourse shifted away from a manufactur-ing system geared to long-distance trade and luxury goods to agriculture and the individual landowner(s) endowed with natural rights. Many economic and political theorists identified agriculture as the actual basis of a social model following the natural order that focused on sustainable growth and minimized destructive military conflicts. Contrary to the restrictions of traditional agricultural policy, they increasingly focused on the self-interest of economic entities, in particular greater freedom for producers with as little feudal ties as possible. They also debated whether free trade is the basis for wealth, economic growth and peace. Following Montesquieu, Justus Möser and Isaak Iselin emphasized the role of trade, while Jean-Jacques Rousseau rejected it. Friedrich Nicolai critisized the free trade of grains citing Electoral Saxo-ny as an example for failed economic reforms. Instead he defended the protectionist trade policy of Frederick II in Prussia.

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