Desktop version

Home arrow Business & Finance

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font


<<   CONTENTS   >>

Arrears (‘rest’) of the patrimonial officers as neuralgic part of the administration

References to different type of arrears (‘rests') are often found in the archival sources recording (not only) administration of chamber estates. Rest essentially meant the difference between the expected profit, specified by comparing all incomes and expenses recorded in the accounting books, and the real amount of money deposited in patrimonial treasuries at the time of comparison (Stejskal 1995, pp. 6-8). The largest arrears were usually detected during biannual controls of accounts and revenues or thanks to inspections and visitations conducted by the Bohemian chamber. Sometimes, one of the officials pointed to the unfair practices of other members and that launched an investigation. It can be tempting to assume that all of these amounts of money (attributed to individual officials and in particular to the ‘main’ scribe, dùchodni pisaf) can be clearly identified as embezzlement. However, references in accounting books, correspondence or visitation reports prove that it is not that simple because different items were included among ‘rests' (at least at the beginning of the control). Firstly, all sums that (according to the proclamations of the scribe or other officer in question) were given to the Chamber officer, commissioners, envoies of ruler, merchant houses or Habsburg creditors but cannot be proven with quittance (kvitance) were counted in. The fact that the Bohemian Chamber did not withdraw money only twice a year, but sometimes also during visitation or control of other persons authorized by Bohemian as well as Court Chamber, did not help to clarify the situation. All expenses that exceeded the limits of financial and natural resources earmarked for manorial office (députât) and were not approved by the Bohemian chamber beforehand were also classified as arrears (discussions about députât NA, SM, karton 2261, pp. 1 or karton 1707, pp. 37an). Last but not least, Chamber officers counted in also the debts of merchants and other persons who did not pay for the goods purchased from chamber estates - for example, Pardubice and Podëbrady provided great amounts of fish for Prague burghers (Maur 1975, pp. 53-114).

Only when the Chamber’s ‘accounting department’ deducted these sums, the remaining arrears was considered as a personal debt of the officer and he was obliged to foot the amount in arrears. Czech historian Vaclav Cerny once wrote that after revelation of any machinations of the manorial officer, ‘the person in question was punished and replaced by a new officer who usually received a new instruction’ (Cerny 1930, p. 14). However, the reality, as archive sources show, was different. It is clear that disproportions between accounts and cash (or quittances) did not have to lead to immediate punishment. Firstly, the official had been given a certain period of time during which he had to justify the deficiencies. And even if he did not manage to prove that he was not the one who should have been blamed, the penalties were in most cases limited to (sometimes only temporary) deposing the person from his position and pay the arrears. The officer was not forbidden to continue with his ‘career’ in the future and his honor was not questioned. Nevertheless, the ruler and both his Chambers did not turn a blind eye to this problem and tried repeatedly to prevent such behavior by fixing salaries and fulfilling material needs of manorial staff, by emphasising permanent vertical and horizontal control, by ordering hetmen and other officers to lead parallel accounts (beside those who were recorded by scribes) and checking them periodically, etc. Yet, large amounts of arrears appeared continuously throughout the period as well as complaints of officers that their services were not sufficiently appreciated (more about this topic Vlasakova 2019, pp. 37-59).

It can be assumed that all of the circumstances mentioned above together with the disorderliness of officers, often criticised in correspondence and other sources, contributed to the confusion in both accounts and treasuries. But they could also create some space for the conscious machinations of officials and for what we can actually define as embezzlement (even with our contemporary terminology).

Conclusion

The purpose of this chapter was to present the chamber estates as the place where debts and claims were an indisputable part of day-to-day life of almost every inhabitant of the dominion including serfs, burghers, local nobility, manorial officers and, last but not least, Habsburg’s ruler himself. Firstly, genesis of Bohemian chamber dominium and structure and hierarchy of the administration were presented because, without this step, it would be difficult to understand the financial flows, credit operations, and relationship within the estates and its inhabitants. Then, it is focused on different manifestation of debts and claims, how representatives of various social groups dealt with credit operations, and whether it is possible to track some patterns in their behavior, in the mechanism of giving loans, treating money lent at interest or repaying debts. The last part deals with the topic of officers’ arrears and warns against marking them automatically as embezzlement, without closer examination and analysis of wider archival sources, as such an approach proved itself incorrect in the past research.

 
<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics