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Monarch, nobles, burghers, and sefs as debtors and creditors

All revenues from the overhead economy and hereditary taxes coming from inhabitants of the estate were meant to flow to the hands of the ruler. Originally, treasuries of the estates were supposed to finance the court of the monarch and his family as well as administration of estates and his lands. In fact, a large majority of resources was used to redeem his debt to other people and subjects - to representatives of aristocracy as well as ‘lower’ nobility royal and patrimonial towns and its burghers, serfs or Jewish communities (Volf 1947/1948, pp. 110-71). The amount of the debts (as well as amounts of unpaid interests) was still increasing during the early modern period, and even members of Habsburg family sometimes used the phrase ‘forests of debts’ for describing the situation (Kohler 2003, pp. 72an). House of Habsburg was even sometimes forced to pawn some estate (or rather its profits) to their creditors, mostly to merchant houses like Fugger, Weiser, Henckel, and others (Volf 1947/1948, pp. 119-27). Monarchs therefore constantly demanded from both chambers, visitation commissioners as well as hetmans and other officers to find ways how to increase revenues of the dominion. They also - again and again (and with the same, virtually zero result) - forbade loans from both patrimonial treasury and orphan’s treasury. It was very common praxis (especially with regard to orphan’s money) that different subject were granted loans from treasuries and rulers repetitious prohibitions issued in the course of 16th, 17th and 18th centuries had not change that. After all, even the ruler himself did not keep his own commands and he was often the one who owed large (or even the largest) sums of money to orphan’s treasuries - both dominical as municipal (Chocholac 2003, pp. 43-8).

Orphan’s treasuries were a great temptation for representatives of different groups within the estates, not only as orphan’s book, but also as other records (testaments, patrimonial accounts, records of municipal courts, etc.) prove. Manorial officers or town council (existed only in towns entitled to have their own treasury and evidence of town orphans and their property) provided a great amount of loans with interests, (based on cash deposited in treasuries) and remarkably wide clientele took advantage of it. Not only the Habsburg sovereign and some of his patrimonial officers themselves, but also local noblemen, usually representatives of ‘lower’ nobility, burghers (or burghers with coat of arms), and serfs were among them. Orphans were promised to gain some extra sum to the amount of their funds and those who obtained a loan could use it to his (or even her) profit. In case the debtor would not be able to repay the debt (during his life or by his family members after his death), there should be some person (or persons, rukojmi) who were able to guarantee (usually with their property) that they could possibly repay it themselves. Unfortunately, despite all of these arrangements, large amount of loans remained unpaid for a very long time, some of them even for eternity. That was a big problem which sometimes escalated to complaints, pauperism, and even escape of newly adult orphans (NA, SM, karton 1646, b. f.).

Not only orphan books, but also other documents of central, patrimonial as well as ‘local’ (town and village) authorities, presented us with different types of credit operations. Trade with homestead money and different other aspects visible within the rural space and small towns are described in detail in other chapters of this monography. Yet, it would be useful to point out some general information about debts and claims and its manifestations within the estates in question. Firstly, it is obvious that loans served specifically to cover the basic needs of debtors - in the case of serfs for buying food or other basic needs, investment into equipment or staff needed for agriculture or craft, for paying different taxes, in the case of burghers and noblemen, furthermore also for representation, extending their property, and (especially in the families of patrimonial and town officers) for paying for the education of their children. Thanks to a variety of records, we could assume it was more common to take/provide loans among people who had history - they usually knew each other and trusted each other (Siglova 2016, pp. 42, 47). Therefore, it is quite likely that our knowledge about debts in the area is not complete because some of them were never recorded. We know exactly only about those that are specified in sources like the aforementioned orphans book, testaments or court protocols (in case a creditor or debtor ask the authorities to judge their dispute regarding some aspect of the debt). The next point worth mentioning is that debt and claims were one of those aspects that crossed the borders - both physical and social. It meant that we could see a burgher as a creditor and a noble person as a debtor and vice versa. They both had the same duties which should lead to one conclusion - to pay their debt. It should happen (just as with orphan’s money) personally (in money or by other ways), by members of family or by his guarantors. Last but not least, in case of a deceased debtor, all instructions and ordinance required payment firstly of all arrears to patrimonial (and then town) treasuries, then came debts to other creditors. The remainder of property was preserved for heirs (as transcripts of testaments as well as orders of hetmans prove, e.g. NA, SM, karton 1646, b.f., et al.).

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