Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff
Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff or von Seckendorf[a] (December 20, 1626 – December 18, 1692), German statesman and scholar, was a member of the Seckendorff family, which took its name from the village of Seckendorf between Nuremberg and Langenzenn. The family was divided into eleven distinct lines, widely distributed throughout Prussia, Württemberg and Bavaria. Seckendorf, son of Joachim Ludwig von Seckendorf, was born at Herzogenaurach, near Erlangen.
In 1639, the reigning Swedish duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Ernest the Pious, made him his protegé. Entering the university of Strassburg in 1642, Seckendorf devoted himself to history and jurisprudence. The means for his higher education came from Swedish officers, former comrades of his father, who had been actively engaged in the Thirty Years' War and who was executed at Salzwedel on February 3, 1642, for his dealings with the Imperialists. After Seckendorf finished his university course, Duke Ernest gave him an appointment as hofjunker in his court at Gotha, where he laid the foundation of his great collection of historical materials and mastered the principal modern languages.
In 1652, Seckendorf was appointed to important judicial positions and sent on weighty embassages. In 1656, he was made judge in the ducal court at Jena, and took the leading part in the numerous beneficent reforms of the duke. In 1664, he resigned office under Duke Ernest, who had just made him chancellor and with whom he continued on excellent terms, and entered the service of Duke Maurice of Zeitz (Altenburg), with the view of lightening his official duties.
After the death of Maurice in 1681, Seckendorf retired to his estate, Meuselwitz in Altenburg, resigning nearly all his public offices. Although living in retirement, he kept up a correspondence with the principal learned men of the day. He was especially interested in the endeavours of the pietist Philipp Jakob Spener to effect a practical reform of the German church, although he was hardly himself a pietist. In 1692, he was appointed chancellor of the new University of Halle, but he died a few weeks afterwards.
Seckendorf's principal works were the following:
- Teutscher Fürstenstaat (1656 and 1678), a handbook of German public law
- Der Christen Stat (1685), partly an apology for Christianity and partly suggestions for the reformation of the church, founded on Pascal's Pensées and embodying the fundamental ideas of Spener
- Commentarius Historicus et apologeticus de Lutheranismo sive de Reformatione (3 vols., Leipzig, 1692), occasioned by the Jesuit Maimbourg's Histoire du Luthéranisme (Paris, 1680), his most important work, and still indispensable to the historian of the Reformation as a rich storehouse of authentic materials.
Seckendorff is widely regarded as the "founder" of early economics in Germany, of Cameralism. Having survived the horrors of the Thirty Years' War and the resulting economic, political and moral breakdown of society, Seckendorff conceived of a holistic science of public administration fit to reconstruct the more than 300 independent German principalities recognized by the Peace of Westphalia. The science he envisioned was both theoretical and practical, covering all the needs of a small principality. The same union of active and contemplative characterizes Seckendorff’s own life, as he devoted himself both to administrating the Court of Gotha and the University of Halle, both to write an "owner’s handbook" (Teutscher Fürstenstaat, "The German Principality") to small principalities and one of the most celebrated defenses of Lutheranism.
- His surname is variously spelled in different sources. Early printings of his own Teutscher Fürstenstaat (1687) and Der Christen Stat (1693) have Seckendorff, while Commentarius Historicus (1688) has Seckendorf. Later reference sources also differ. Pahner (1892) has Seckendorff, while both Kolde (1906) and Chisholm (1911) have Seckendorf.
- Richard Pahner, Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff und seine Gedanken über Erziehung und Unterricht (Leipzig, 1892), the best sketch of Seckendorff's life, based upon original sources.
- Theodor Kolde, "Seckendorf", in Herzog-Hauck's Realencyklopädie (1906).
- Erik S. Reinert, "A Brief Introduction to Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff (1626–1692)", European Journal of Law and Economics, May 2005, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 221–230.