Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Frederick the Great and the Celebrated Case of the Millers Arnold (1770–1779): A Reappraisal

  • David M. Luebke (a1)
Abstract

What did it mean when an teenth-century monarch intervened in a legal struggle between social unequals, and decided on behalf of the weaker party? How do historians interpret such an event? In the example under examination here—the cause célèbre of the millers Christian and Rosine Arnold in Brandenburg-Prussia (1770–1779)—the dominant opinion of two centuries has been that King Frederick II's intervention violated justice and the rule of law. Explaining this remarkable continuity of historical attention is easy, for the affair's effects on state-formation in Prussia were far–reaching. On the very day that Frederick ruled in the millers' favor, the king also sacked his chancellor (Grosskanzler), Carl Joseph von Fürst, as well as three members of Brandenburg's supreme tribunal, the Chamber Court (Kammergericht), all for ruling against the millers. In Fürst's place as chancellor, Frederick installed Johann Heinrich Casimir von Carmer, under whom began the process of legal reforms that resulted in the provisional Corpus Juris Fridericianum (1781) and ultimately the General Prussian Code (Allgemeines Preussisches Landrecht, or ALR) of 1794. To some extent, then, Frederick's intervention was the founding act of codification. But it is more difficult to explain the unanimity: with few exceptions, historians and biographers have pronounced the intervention a “judicial catastrophe” (Justizkatastrophe) and declared the millers mere “troublemakers.” This essay will argue that such conclusions are misguided: by framing their questions within the parameters of legal and administrative history, most historians have focused on the legal merits of the Arnolds' suit. In so doing, they have operated on the assumption that a unitary definition of justice prevailed in eighteenth-century Prussia; as a result, most historical appraisals reflect highly partisan contemporary interpretations of the case. But there were at least three distinct “discourses” on justice at work as the case unfolded, each of them corresponding to one of the principal sets of actors in the drama.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

David M. Luebke , “‘Naive Monarchism’ and Marian Veneration in Early Modern Germany,” Past and Present 154 (021997): 71106

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Central European History
  • ISSN: 0008-9389
  • EISSN: 1569-1616
  • URL: /core/journals/central-european-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 24 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 79 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 28th March 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.