The reign of the rulers of this Prussian royal house (1701-1918) was of essential significance to the development of Mennonitism in East and West Prussia in the 18th and 19th centuries. In general, the Mennonites enjoyed toleration under them, particularly on the principle of nonresistance and the appreciation of their agricultural capability.
This friendly attitude found expression in the intervention in 1710 of the first Prussian king, Friedrich I (1701-1713), with the Swiss government in behalf of the persecuted Swiss Mennonites and in settling a number of them in Lithuania, together with some Mennonites from the Elbing and Culm marshes. The achievements of the Mennonites in cultivating and draining the land, in cattle raising and cheese manufacturing were, in return, of benefit to the state. If the Mennonites suffered under Friedrich Wilhelm I for their maintenance of nonresistance, they were so much the more benefitted by the religious tolerance of the reign of Friedrich the Great. Of greatest value to the Mennonitism of East and West Prussia was the Gnadenprivilegium (charter of favor) of 29 March 1780, with the assurance of freedom of religion and conscience and of protection in the exercise of their former crafts. Under his successor, Friedrich Wilhelm II, to be sure, the Mennonites were limited in their acquisition of land to that which had already been in Mennonite hands or was not subject to military duty. This limitation of land ownership was the chief cause of the immigration of a number of West Prussian Mennonite families to South Russia from 1789 on.
In spite of the fact that Friedrich Wilhelm III and Friedrich Wilhelm IV renewed the charter of privileges, since they wished to keep these economically capable citizens in the country, the principle of complete religious freedom collapsed in Prussia in the middle of the 19th century. It was no longer tenable when universal military service was introduced in the interest of nationalism, and the absolute power of the king was restricted by popular representation. In 1868 the Mennonites living in the jurisdiction of the North German League were obliged to accept some form of military service (see Prussia). Since this fact also eliminated the basis for the restriction of civil rights for the Mennonites, the law of 12 June 1874 regulating the legal status of the Mennonites removed these restrictions and opened to the Mennonites the possibility of acquiring corporation rights.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 338.
Cite This Article
Goetz, Ewald. "Hohenzollern, House of." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 1 Oct 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hohenzollern,_House_of&oldid=82152.
Goetz, Ewald. (1956). Hohenzollern, House of. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 October 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hohenzollern,_House_of&oldid=82152.
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