Karl August Hardenberg, Fürst von

Hardenberg, Karl August, Fürst von (kärl ouˈgŏst fürst fən härˈdənbĕrk) [key], 1750–1822, Prussian administrator and diplomat, b. Hanover. After service for Hanover and Brunswick, he entered the Prussian service. As Prussian delegate he signed the Treaty of Basel (1795) with France (see French Revolutionary Wars). He became chief minister in charge of foreign affairs (1804–6), but was dismissed upon pressure from Napoleon I. After war had broken out against France a few months later, Hardenberg was recalled (1807) to the ministry, only to be ousted again after Prussia's defeat and the disastrous Treaty of Tilsit. In 1810 he was made prime minister with the title of state chancellor. His immediate task was to restore state finances so that Prussia would be able to pay the huge indemnity imposed by Napoleon at Tilsit. He introduced a general tax system, and, continuing the reform program begun by Karl vom und zum Stein, abolished trade monopolies, secularized remaining church property, turned feudal lands into freeholds, and extended legal equality to the Jews. His reforms helped modernize the Prussian state, preparing it for the final struggle against Napoleon I. In 1813 he persuaded the vacillating Frederick William III to join the coalition against Napoleon. Following Napoleon's defeat he was delegate to the Congress of Vienna. He remained in office until his death, but from 1815 he was forced to cooperate with the Prussian reactionaries.

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