||Privilige issued under the name of Josephus II, described as Dei Gratia electus Romanorum Imperator, Temper Augustus, Germaniae, Hungarie, & Bohemiae Rex, by Giovanni Giuseppe, the Emperor’s representative in Lombardy, Italy. The decree, issued in Milan, effects Leon Jacob Franchetti of Mantua. Franchetti was one of the two Jewish presidents on the Chamber of Commerce, there were eight in total. The body of the text of this fascinating commercial document is in Italian in a fine script. It bears, in the lower left hand corner, the imperial seal.
Joseph II (1741–1790), king of Germany (1764–90) and Holy Roman emperor (1765–90) was educated in the spirit of the Enlightenment. Strongly influenced by the ideas of Joseph von Sonnenfels, his rule was based on a system of "benevolent despotism"; his paramount belief was in the power of the state when directed by reason and his main aims religious toleration, unrestricted trade and education, and a reduction in the power of the Church. These views were reflected in his policy toward the Jews, first outlined in his "Judenreformen" of May 1781. Intending to end the long-standing isolation of the Jews and integrate them into the general social fabric, he wished to increase their means of gaining a livelihood and enable them to aquire general education, "thus rendering them more useful to the state." Like many of his other ideas, his Jewish reforms were only partially realizable and had to contend with the opposition of his provincial civil servants. Joseph abolished the most humiliating measures, the yellow badge and the body tax (Leibmaut see Leibzoll) in 1781, and on Jan. 2, 1782 issued the first of the Edicts of Tolerance (Toleranzpatent). Although enthusiastically hailed by the enlightened and well-to-do, they were considered a gezerah ("oppressive decree") by the broader strata of Jewry, who wished to pursue their traditional way of life. Joseph's decrees imposed all the duties of a citizen on the Jews but did not grant them all the rights. Nevertheless, the bulk of Jewry in Hapsburg lands was thankful for the alleviations he had introduced. In the modified form of the Systemalpatent of 1797, his legislation remained the basis for the status of the Jews until the revolution of 1848.