In 1722 serfdom was abolished in the case of all peasants in the royal estates born after his accession.
The lay subjects of the Order consisted of two classes; on the one hand there were the conquered Prussians, in a position of serfdom, bound in time of war to serve with the brethren in foreign expeditions; on the other hand there were the German immigrants, both urban and rural, along with the free Prussians who had voluntarily submitted and remained faithful.
For the developments of the Middle Ages See Serfdom and Villenage.
Not very long after the disappearance of serfdom in the most advanced communities comes into sight the new system of colonial slavery, which, instead of being the spontaneous outgrowth of social necessities and subserving a temporary need of human development, was politically as well as morally a monstrous aberration.
The object he and his associates had then in view was gradual abolition by establishing something like a system of serfdom for existing slaves, and passing at the same time a measure emancipating all their children born after a certain day.