Responses to Protestant and Jewish Toleration in the Habsburg Empire During the Reign of Joseph II Open Access

Howell, Elizabeth Lee (2015)

Permanent URL:


When Joseph II became the Habsburg Emperor in 1780, he passed many radical reforms, including the toleration of Protestants in 1781.While maintaining Catholicism as the state religion, he granted religious toleration to non-Catholic Christians, including Calvinists, Lutherans, and Orthodox Christians. In 1782, he also extended toleration to Jews. Additionally, Joseph lifted censorship from 1781 to 1789. During this time, a number of authors inside and outside of these religious minorities took advantage of this freedom from censorship to publish works in response to toleration. This thesis examines some of these responses concerning the toleration of both Protestants and Jews. Religious toleration was controversial within these religious communities. While some religious authors welcomed toleration as an enlightened reform, arguing for the compatibility of faith and reason, other authors viewed toleration as a threat, as it resulted in the loss of identity and autonomy. Although Joseph made it clear he saw toleration as means by which to make religious minorities "more useful to the State," voices within religious communities justified or condemned religious toleration using not only utility arguments but also arguments rooted in scripture and religious thought. The thesis provides a close analysis of arguments for and against Protestant and Jewish toleration, arguing that, in both cases, authors of varying positions on toleration engaged with similar themes in their arguments. Even when taking vastly different approaches, authors on all sides of the debate were able to agree on what was at stake: the similarities among all Christians within the Protestant debate, and the usefulness of Jews to the state among authors writing on Jewish toleration. In putting competing voices in conversation with one another, this project explores the rhetoric and discourse surrounding religious toleration and ultimately provides insight into the changes taking place within Habsburg religious communities and beyond during this time.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter One: "A true union and the bond of love:" Christian Kinship in Arguments Regarding Protestant Toleration 11

Chapter Two: "To make the Jewish nation useful and serviceable to the State:" Utilitarian Arguments in Response to Jewish Toleration 44

Conclusion 75

Bibliography 82

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files