Edict of Potsdam (October 29, 1685)

We, Frederick William, by Grace of God Margrave of Brandenburg, High Chamberlain of the Holy
Roman Empire and Elector, Duke in Prussia, Magdeburg, Jülich, Cleves, Berg, Stettin, Pomerania, of
the Cassubians and Wends, also in Silesia, of Crossen and Jägerndorf, Burgrave of Nuremberg, Prince
of Halberstadt, Minden, and Camin, Count of Hohenzollern, the Mark and Ravensberg, Lord of
Ravenstein and the Land of Lauenburg and Bülow, etc.,
Do hereby proclaim and make known to all and sundry that since the cruel persecutions and rigorous
ill-treatment in which Our co-religionists of the Evangelical-Reformed faith have for some time past
been subjected in the Kingdom of France, have caused many families to remove themselves and to
betake themselves out of the said Kingdom into other lands, We now, out of the righteous sympathy
which We must in justice feel toward these, Our co-religionists, who are oppressed and assailed for
the sake of the Holy Gospel and its pure doctrine, have been moved graciously to offer them through
this Edict signed by Our own hand a secure and free refuge in all Our Lands and Provinces, and
further to announce to them what justice, liberties and prerogatives We are most graciously minded
to concede to them, in order to relieve in some measure and make more tolerable the great need
and tribulation with which it has pleased the Almighty, according to His only wise and inscrutable
counsel, to afflict so important a part of His Church.
1. In order to make it easier for all those who may resolve to settle in Our Lands to reach and move
there, We have commanded Our Envoy Extraordinary to the States General of the United
Netherlands, von Diest, and Our Commissioner in Amsterdam, Romswinckel, to procure for all
Frenchmen of the religion reporting to them ships and other necessaries, and to transport them and
theirs from the Netherlands to Hamburg, where Our Aulic Councillor and Resident in the Circle of
Lower Saxony, von Gericke, will give them all further facilities and help needed by them, that they
may be conveyed to the place in which they have chosen to establish themselves in Our Lands.
2. In respect of those who wish to proceed to Our Lands via Sedan, from Champagne, Lorraine,
Burgundy, and the southern provinces of France, without going through the Netherlands– such
persons are to travel to Frankfurt am Main and there to report to Our Councillor and Resident,
Merian, or to Our agent Lely in Cologne on the Rhine, and We have instructed both to provide them
with money, passports, and ships and to send them down the Rhine to Our Duchy of Cleves, where
Our Government will see to it that they are either established in Our Lands of Cleves and Mark or, if
they wish to go further into others of Our Provinces, are provided with all necessaries therefor.
3. Since Our Lands are not only well and amply endowed with all things necessary to support life, but
also very well-suited to the establishment of all kinds of manufactures and trade and traffic by land
and water, We permit, indeed, to those settling therein free choice to establish themselves where it
is most convenient for their profession and way of living, in Our Duchy of Cleves, in the Counties of
Mark and Ravensberg, the Principalities of Halberstadt and Minden, or in the Duchy of Magdeburg,
the Electoral Mark of Brandenburg and the Duchies of Pomerania and Prussia; but since We consider
that in Our said Electoral Mark of Brandenburg the towns of Stendal, Werben, Rathenow,
Brandenburg, and Frankfurt, and in the Duchy of Magdeburg the cities of Magdeburg, Halle, and
Calbe, and in Prussia the town of Königsberg, will be the most convenient for them, both because
they can live there very cheaply and on account of the facilities they will find there for living and
practicing a trade, We have made provision and do hereby announce Our command that so soon as
any of the said Evangelical-Reformed Frenchmen arrive there, they are to be well received and
helped in all possible ways to establish themselves. Whereby We leave it to their free choice to
choose for their place of settlement any other place in Our Provinces outside the towns enumerated
above, wherever they find it most convenient to practice their professions and trades.
4. The personal property which they bring with them, including merchandise and other wares, is to
be totally exempt from any taxes, customs dues, licenses, or other imposts of any description, and
not detained in any way.
5. And whereas the towns and villages in which numbers of the said Protestants will be settling and
establishing themselves contain certain disrepaired, abandoned, and ruinous houses, whose owners
have not the means to repair them and restore them to good condition, We do confer and assign the
same in freehold to Our said French co-religionists, their children, and their children’s children, and
also provide that the former proprietors shall be compensated to the value of the said houses, and
the same shall be totally released and made free from all liens, mortgages, arrears of taxation, and all
other similar debts. We further order that they be supplied gratis with timber, lime, and other
materials necessary for the repair of the said houses and grant them six years’ exemption from all
taxation, billeting, and other public charges of any description and further ordain that for the said six
years the occupants shall not be required to pay any taxation except the normal excise tax on
6. We similarly provide that in towns and other places in which there are certain empty places and
sites, these shall not only be assigned, with all gardens, fields, meadows, and pastures appertaining
thereto, to Our said Protestant co-religionists of French nationality in perpetual freehold, but also
that the same shall be totally released and liberated from all charges and servitudes attaching to
them, and further, they are to be provided gratis with all materials required by them for the
cultivation of these sites, and the new houses built by them and their inhabitants are not to be liable
to any charges except the said excise, for the first ten years. And since We are also graciously minded
to provide all possible facilities for the reception and establishment of the said people in Our Lands,
We have had orders conveyed to the magistrates and other officials in these Our Provinces to hire
certain houses in each town in which the said Frenchmen may be received on their arrival, and the
rent thereof for them and their families is to be paid for four years, on condition, however, that they
be required in due course to bring under cultivation the sites made available to them, as above.
7. As soon as these Our French co-religionists of the Evangelical-Reformed faith have settled in any
town or village, they shall be admitted to the domiciliary rights and craft freedoms customary there,
gratis and without payment of any fee; and shall be entitled to the benefits, rights, and privileges
enjoyed by Our other, native, subjects, residing there. We also declare them totally exempt from the
so-called droit d’aubaine and other similar charges commonly imposed on foreigners in other
Kingdoms, Lands, and Republics and, in general, wish them to be regarded and treated on the same
footing as Our own native subjects.
8. Not only are those who wish to establish manufacture of cloth, stuffs, hats, or other objects in
which they are skilled to enjoy all necessary freedoms, privileges and facilities, but also provision is to
be made for them to be assisted and helped as far as possible with money and anything else which
they need to realize their intention.
9. Those who settle in the country and wish to maintain themselves by agriculture are to be given a
certain plot of land to bring under cultivation and provided with whatever they need to establish
themselves initially, and in other respects helped as has previously been done with sundry Swiss
families who have entered Our Land and settled there.
10. In respect of jurisdiction and settlement of suits and disputes arising between the said French
families, We graciously consent and hereby concede that in towns where there are several French
families they shall elect one of their own number who shall be competent to bring about amicable
settlements of such differences, in summary fashion. But should such disputes arise between
Germans on the one side and Frenchmen on the other, they shall be investigated jointly and in
common by the magistrate of each locality and by the person chosen by the French to be their
spokesman, and a summary judgment delivered, which shall also be done when the differences
arising between Frenchmen among themselves cannot be settled by the above procedure of
11. Our said French co-religionists in each town shall be provided with their own pastor, and Divine
Service shall be conducted in the French language with the same rites and ceremonies as have
hitherto been customary in the Evangelical-Reformed Churches in France.
12. And just as those French nobles who have previously sought admission to Our protection and Our
service enjoy the same honors, dignities, and prerogatives as Our other noble subjects, and We have
also in fact employed sundry of them in the highest offices and posts of honor at Our Court, and also
in Our armed forces, so We graciously consent to confer the same grace and promotion on French
noblemen settling in Our Land in the future, and to admit them to all charges, services, and dignities
for which they are qualified; similarly, if they buy and acquire fiefs and other noble estates in Our
Lands, they shall also in like manner enjoy the rights, privileges, freedoms and immunities enjoyed by
Our subjects born.
13. All rights, privileges and other benefits mentioned in the above points and articles accrue not
only to those who arrive hereafter in Our Lands, but also to those who escaped from France before
publication of this Edict and took refuge in these Our Lands, before previous religious persecutions;
but those who are devoted to the Roman Catholic faith have in no way to presume to like favor.
14. We propose to set up Commissions in each and every one of Our Lands and Provinces to which
the said Frenchmen may apply both on their arrival and afterward, and receive from them counsel
and assistance; whereby We most graciously and earnestly enjoin all Our Governors, Governments,
and other Servants and Commanders in towns and in the country, in all Our Provinces, through this
public Edict and also through special orders, to take Our said French Evangelical-Reformed coreligionists,
all and sundry, as many of them as shall come to Our country, under their special care
and protection, to maintain and keep them expressly in all the Privileges hereby graciously conceded
them, and in no wise to suffer that the least harm, injustice, or vexation be done them, but rather
that they be shown all help, friendship, and good treatment. We have signed this Edict for record
with Our own hand and have had Our Seal of Grace imprinted on it.
Given at Potsdam, October 29, 1685
Frederick William