{2-610.} 'Certain Points'

Finally, note must be taken of the first experiment in regulating socage, initiated by the government in 1769. Of limited scope, the measure had scarcely begun to be implemented at the end of the period under consideration.

Prior to 1750, the central government had made little attempt to influence relations between Transylvania's landowners and villeins. Between 1750 and 1770, its priorities were tax reform (including, tangentially, the settlement of Saxon problems) and consolidation of the country's defences by means of the frontier guard. A forceful reform of socage was already under way in Hungary when the government turned to address the issue in Transylvania. To be sure, one of the principal tasks of the regular county courts established in 1763 was to investigate and remedy the villeins' grievances, and it was possible to appeal against the judgment of these courts. However, only around 1767–68 did the issue gain serious consideration.

In 1767, the Gubernium, acting on the queen's orders, requested local governments to report on the practice of corvée. After some procrastination, the Gubernium gave in to the insistence of Bruckenthal (who, as provincial chancellor, was a member of the body) and proceeded in early 1768 to examine the reports. Bruckenthal instructed István Halmágyi, clerk to the Gubernium, to draft a plan for the regulation of socage, and he argued that if the Gubernium refused to submit it to the central government, the latter would take the matter into its own hands, as was done with respect to Hungary. The plan proposed that the area of fields, pastures, and woodlands making up a full, half, and quarter plot be calculated on the basis of the benefices enjoyed by villeins. It further proposed the abrogation of practices that not only appeared abusive (week-long corvée, demands for pigs and wine, special levies) but were also in clear contravention of the law.

{2-611.} In his memorandum on Transylvanian agriculture, András Hadik, the military commander and chairman of the Gubernium, had criticized the excessive levels of socage. Hadik maintained that this was the main reason for the backwardness of Transylvania's agriculture, and why villeins often left sowing to a late date. He also criticized the operation of the tithe: villeins were not allowed to bring in their crops until the tithe had been levied. However, implementation of the reform was left to his successor, General O'Donel, and to Bruckenthal. In 1769, the Hungarian and Székely landowner-councillors on the Gubernium made a pact with their Saxon counterparts: the latter would back the other two 'nations'' demand that the question of socage be referred to the diet, while the former would support the Saxons' efforts to defend their interests in the Királyföld against the Treasury. O'Donel and Bishop Bajtay managed to break up this coalition, for only four councillors persisted in demanding referral to the diet; but O'Donel failed to impose his view that socage be limited to two days a week with, and three days without draught oxen. Bruckenthal launched a decisive counter-attack, arguing in his petition to the sovereign that O'Donel's proposal required legal amendments that could only be enacted by the diet. It was therefore the Gubernium's view that prevailed in Transylvania's first attempt at regulating socage, enshrined, in fall 1769, in a decree entitled Bizonyos punctumok ('Certain Points').

'Certain Points' was, in essence, little more than a confirmation of the laws passed in 1714 (as amended in 1742) and 1747. Regarding the villein's plots, it provided, instead of concrete regulation, only a general injunction that landowners should give their villeins and cotters 'convenient accommodation suited to their status' as well as arable land and hayfields 'in keeping with the particularities of the hinterland'. This fell short of the Hungarian socage reform, which required that villein's plots be allocated in accordance with size specifications and local environmental conditions. {2-612.} The decree did confirm the villagers' rights to commonly used woodlands (without thereby qualifying the landowner's legal title). With regard to corvée, the decree followed earlier guidelines: for villeins, a weekly maximum of four days' manual labour, or three days with draught oxen (unless this was done collectively, in which case the limit was four days); for cotters who had a plot in the hinterland, two days a week with or without draught oxen, and for those who did not, one day a week. Cotters' contracts that provided more favourable terms were to remain in force. If the landowner's farm was more than half a day's walk from villeins' home, the latter should perform the corvée in continuous stretches of no more than three weeks' duration, after which they must be given the same length of time to work on their own plots. The time spent going to and from work should be counted in the corvée. The villeins' obligation to pay tenths or ninths (to the extent that the latter remained customary) was maintained, as was their duty to make contributions to the landowners' kitchen.

Thus the 'Certain Points' decree brought little alteration in the land-entitlement and service obligations of villeins. What is more, it remained, for the most part, a dead letter. Over the next few decades, the circumstances of villeins and cotters would be governed by local factors, much as they had been between 1711 and 1770.