Friedrich II. von Preußen und die Schwenckfelder in Schlesien

in Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte
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Abstract

Frederick II neither tolerated the Schwenckfeldians in Silesia as an independent denomination nor recognized them, but, rather from a legal basis demanded that they be incorporated into the Lutheran Church. With the acknowledgement of the Schwenckfeldian movement as an independant denomination, he would have gone beyond article VII of the Instrumenta Pacis Osnabrigense, jeopardizing future peace negotiations with the House of Habsburg. However, he did promise the Schwenckfeldians that the government would respect their personal faith and conscience and would be willing to protect them from attack, though limited by the reason of state which would be endangered if the fundamental articles of the Christian religion were openly denied. For if these were negated one could not discount the possibility that not only Maria Theresea but also the Protestant and Catholic subjects would take offence, causing tension and diminishing the prosperity of the State. The philosopher of Sanssouci himself held freedom of faith and conscience highly, but felt it had to be subordinate to the welfare of the state. The actual reason for he gave this assurance to the Schwenckfeldians though, was not merely to give his subjects a relative amount of freedom, but, more important, to encourage further immigration into his lands. Frederick II, who saw himself as the first servant of his state, thereby hoped to raise the density of population in relatively depopulated areas, to promote manufacturing and trade, and with it the prosperity of the state. The positive impulse for the attitude of Frederic II against the Schwenckfeldians was therefore in the last analysis based on political motives. His concession of freedom of faith and conscience to the Schwenckfeldians was in principle possible only because he had granted such freedom to all his Silesian subjects - who had to belong to one of the three confessions recognized by the Peace of Westphalia- on the condition that they would not deny reverence to God or subservience to the State. In comparison to the intolerant attitude of many contemporary states which gave their subjects no liberty of faith or conscience, the position which the state of Frederic II hat taken vis-a-vis the Schwenckfeldians in Silesia therefore signifies a great step forward. This position, however, was considerably less than the religious freedom enjoyed by those Schwenckfeldians who emigrated to Pennsylvania.

Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte

Journal of Religious and Cultural Studies

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