Joseph ii

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Joseph II
Holy Roman emperor, eldest son of the empress Maria Theresa and her husband Francis I; He was a friend to religious toleration, anxious to reduce the power of the church, to relieve thepeasantry of feudal burdens, and to remove restrictions on trade and on knowledge. So far he did not differ from Frederick, Catherine the Great of Russia or his own brother and successor Leopold II,all enlightened rulers of the 18th-century stamp. Where Joseph differed from great contemporary rulers, and where he was very close akin to the Jacobins, Also he had inherited from his mother all thebelief of the house of Austria in its "august" quality, and its claim to acquire whatever it found desirable for its power or its profit. He was unable to understand that his philosophical plans for themoulding of mankind could meet with pardonable opposition. Until the death of his mother in 1780 Joseph was never quite free to follow his own instincts. After the death of his father in 1765 hebecame emperor and was made co-regent by his mother in the Austrian dominions. As emperor he had no real power, and his mother was resolved that neither husband nor son should ever deprive her ofsovereign control in her hereditary dominions. Joseph, by threatening to resign his place as co-regent, could induce his mother to abate her dislike to religious toleration.
The death of Maria Theresa on the27th of November 1780 left Joseph free. He immediately directed his government on a new course, full speed ahead. He proceeded to attempt to realize his ideal of wise despotism acting on a definitesystem for the good of all. The measures of emancipation of the peasantry which his mother had begun were carried on by him with feverish activity. The spread of education, the secularization of churchlands, the reduction of the religious orders and the clergy in general to complete submission to the lay state, the promotion of unity by the compulsory use of the German language, everything which...
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