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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #210 on: February 04, 2009, 01:27:28 pm »

private sign, and he took on him to make frei-schöppen, contrary to the law, out of Westphalia. These schöppen of the emperor's making did not, however, meet with much respect from the genuine ones, as the answer given to the Emperor Rupert by the Westphalian tribunals evinces. On his asking how they acted with regard to such schöppen, their reply was, "We ask them at what court they were made schöppen. Should it appear that they were made schöppen at courts which had no right so to do, we hang them, in case of their being met in Westphalia, on the instant, without any mercy." Wenceslaus, little as he cared about Germany in general, occasionally employed the Fehm-courts for the furtherance of his plans, and, in the year 1389, he had Count Henry of Wernengerode tried and hanged for treason by Westphalian schöppen. The reign of Wenceslaus is particularly distinguished by its being the period in which the Archbishop of Cologne arrived at the important office of lieutenant of the emperor over all the Westphalian tribunals.

The reign of Rupert was, with respect to the Westphalian Fehm-courts, chiefly remarkable by the reformation of them named front him. This reformation, which is the earliest publicly-accredited source from which a knowledge of the Fehm-law can be derived, was made in the year 1404. It is a collection of decisions by which the rights and privileges of a king of the Romans are ascertained with respect to these tribunals.

The Rupertian reformation, and the establishment of the office of lieutenant in the person of the Archbishop of Cologne, which was completed by either Rupert or his successor Sigismund, form together an epoch in the history of the Fehm-gerichte. Hitherto Westphalia alone was the scene of their operations, and their authority was of evident advantage to the

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« Reply #211 on: February 04, 2009, 01:27:41 pm »

empire. Their power had now attained its zenith; confidence in their strength led them to abuse it; and, during the century which elapsed between the Rupertian reformation and the establishment of the Perpetual Public Peace and the Imperial Chamber by the Emperor Maximilian, we shall have to contemplate chiefly their abuses and assumptions.

The right of citation was what was chiefly abused by the Free-courts. Now that they were so formally acknowledged to act under the imperial authority, they began to regard Westphalia as too narrow a theatre for the display of their activity and their power. As imperial commissioners, they maintained that their jurisdiction extended to every place which acknowledged that of the emperor's, and there was hardly a corner of Germany free from the visits of their messengers; nay, even beyond the limits of the empire men trembled at their citations.

It was chiefly the towns which were harassed by these citations, which were frequently issued at the instance of persons whom they had punished or expelled for their misdeeds. Their power and consequence did not protect even the greatest: we find, during the fifteenth century, some of the principal cities of the empire summoned before the tribunals of Westphalian counts. Thus in the records of those times we read of citations served on Bremen, Lübeck, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Erfurt, Görlitz, and Dantzig. Even Prussia and Livonia, then belonging to the order of the Teutonic knights, were annoyed by their interference.

One of the most remarkable cases which this period presents is that of the uneasiness, caused to the town of Görlitz by means of one of its inhabitants named Nickel Weller. This man, who was a Westphalian schöppe, was accused of having disinterred an unchristened child, and of having made

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« Reply #212 on: February 04, 2009, 01:27:53 pm »

a candle of the bone of its arm, which he had filled with the wax of an Easter-taper and with incense, and of having employed it in a barn in presence of his mother, his wife, and an old peasant, for magical purposes. As he could not deny the fact, he was, according to the law of those times, liable to be hanged; but the high-bailiff of Stein, and some other persons of consequence, interfering in his favour, the magistrates contented themselves with expelling him the town and confiscating his goods. As it afterwards proved, they would have acted more wisely had they condemned him to perpetual imprisonment.

Weller immediately repaired to Bresslau, and besought the council, the Bishop of Waradein, and the imperial chancellor, to advocate his cause. They acceded to his desire; but the magistrates of Görlitz perfectly justified their conduct. Weller, still indisposed to rest, applied to the pope, Innocent VIII., asserting that he could not to any purpose bring an accusation against the council of Görlitz within the town of the diocese of Meissen, and that he had no chance of justice there. The pope forthwith named John de' Medici and Dr. Nicholas Tauchen of Bresslau spiritual commissioners in this affair, and these desired the high-bailiff of Stein to do his best that Weller should recover his rights within the space of a month, on his taking his oath to the truth of his statements, otherwise they should be obliged themselves to take measures for that purpose.

From some unassigned cause, however, nothing came of this, and Weller once more addressed himself to the pope, with whom the Bishop of Ostia became his advocate, He was re-admitted into the bosom of the Church; but the decree of the magistracy of Görlitz still remained in force, and the new commissioners appointed by the pope even confirmed it.

Finding that he had nothing to expect from papal

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« Reply #213 on: February 04, 2009, 01:28:03 pm »

interference, Weller had at last recourse to the Fehm-tribunals, and on the 3d May, 1490, John of Hulschede, count of the tribunal at Brackel, cited the burgomasters, council, and all the lay inhabitants of Görlitz above the age of eighteen years, before his tribunal. This summons was served in rather a remarkable manner, for it was found fastened to a twig on a hedge, on a farm belonging to a man named Wenzel Emmerich, a little distance from the town.

As by the Golden Bull of the Emperor Charles IV., and moreover by a special privilege granted by Sigismund, Görlitz was exempted from all foreign jurisdiction, the magistracy informed Vladislaus, King of Bohemia, of this citation, and implored his mediation. The Bohemian monarch accordingly addressed himself to the tribunal at Brackel, but George Hackenberg, who was at that time the free-count of that court, Hulschede being dead, did not even deign to give him an answer.

Meanwhile the appointed period had elapsed without the people of Görlitz having appeared to the summons, and Weller, charging them with disobedience and contempt of court, prayed that they might be condemned in all the costs and penalties thereby incurred, and that he might be himself permitted to proceed with his complaint. To this end he estimated the losses and injuries which he had sustained at 500 Rhenish florins, and made a declaration to that effect on oath, with two joint-swearers. He was accordingly authorised by the court to indemnify himself in any manner he could at the expense of the people of Görlitz. It was farther added that, if any one should impede Weller in the prosecution of his rights, that person should ipso facto fall under the heavy displeasure of the empire and the pains and penalties of the tribunal at Brackel, and be moreover obliged to pay all the costs of the accuser.

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« Reply #214 on: February 04, 2009, 01:28:14 pm »

On the 16th August of the same year, the count set a new peremptory term for the people of Görlitz, assuring them that, in case of disobedience, "he should he obliged, though greatly against his inclination, to pass the heaviest and most rigorous sentence on their persons, their lives, and their honour." The citation was this time found on the floor of the convent church. The council in consternation applied to the Archbishop of Cologne and to the free-count himself, to be relieved from this condition, but in vain; the count did not condescend to take any notice of their application, and when they did not appear at the set time, declared the town of Görlitz outlawed for contumacy.

It appears that Weller had, for some cause or other, brought an accusation against the city of Bresslau also; for in the published decree of outlawry against Görlitz it was included. By this act it was prohibited to every person, under penalty of similar outlawry, to harbour any inhabitant of either of these towns; to eat or drink, or hold any intercourse with them, till they had reconciled themselves to the Fehm-tribunals, and given satisfaction to the complainant. Weller himself stuck up a copy of this decree on a market-day at Leipzig; but it was instantly torn down by some of the people of Görlitz who happened to be there.

The two towns of Görlitz and Bresslau held a consultation at Liegnitz, to devise what measures it were best to adopt in order to relieve themselves from this system of persecution. They resolved that they would jointly and separately defend themselves and their proceedings by a public declaration, which should be posted up in Görlitz, Bresslau, Leipzig, and other places. They also resolved to lay their griefs before the Diet at Prague, and pray for its intercession with the Archbishop of Cologne and the Landgraf

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« Reply #215 on: February 04, 2009, 01:28:25 pm »

of Hessen. They accordingly did so, and the Diet assented to their desire; but their good offices were of no avail, and the answer of the landgraf clearly showed, either that he had no authority over his count, or that he was secretly pleased with what he had done.

The indefatigable Weller now endeavoured to seize some of the people of Bresslau and Görlitz, in Hein and other places in Meissen. But they frustrated his plans by obtaining a promise of protection and safe-conduct from the Duke George. Weller, however, did not desist, and when Duke Albert came from the Netherlands to Meissen, he sought and obtained his protection. But here again he was foiled; for, when the high-bailiff and council of Görlitz had informed that prince of the real state of the case, he withdrew his countenance from him. Wearied out by this ceaseless teasing, the towns applied, through the king of Bohemia, to the Emperor Frederic III. for a mandate to all the subjects of the empire, and an inhibition to the tribunal at Brackel and all the free-counts and schöppen. These, when obtained, they took care to have secretly served on the council of Dortmund and the free-count of Brackel. By these means they appear to have put an end to their annoyances for the remainder of Weller's life. But, in the year 1502, his son and his son-in-law revived his claims on Görlitz. Count Ernest of Hohenstein interceded for them; but the council adhered firmly to their previous resolution, and declared that it was only to their own or to higher tribunals that they must look for relief. The matter then lay over for ten years, when it was again stirred by one Guy of Taubenheim, and was eventually settled by an amicable arrangement.

As we have said, the Fehm-tribunals extended their claims of jurisdiction even to the Baltic. We

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« Reply #216 on: February 04, 2009, 01:28:37 pm »

find that a citizen of the town of Dantzig, named Hans Holloger, who was a free schöppe, was cited to appear before the tribunal of Elleringhausen, under the hawthorn, "because he had spoken what he ought not to have spoken about the Secret Tribunal." This might seem just enough, as he belonged to the society; but the town-council were commanded, under a penalty of fifty pounds of fine gold, to cast the accused into prison till he had given security for standing his trial.

Even the powerful order of the Teutonic Knights, who were the masters of Prussia and Livonia, did not escape being annoyed by the Fehm-tribunals. How little their power availed against that formidable jurisdiction is evinced by the answer made by the Grand Master to the towns which sued to him for protection. "Beloved liegemen! you have besought us to protect you therefrom; we would cheerfully do it knew we but ways and means thereto." And when he wrote to Mangolt, the count of the tribunal at Freyenhagen, warning him against summoning before him the subjects of the order, the latter haughtily replied, You have your rights from the empire, and I have power to judge over all who hold of the empire."

The following very curious case occurred in the first half of the fifteenth century:--

A shopkeeper at Liebstadt died very much indebted to the two officers of the Teutonic order, whose business it was to keep the small towns in Prussia supplied with mercantile goods, and they accordingly seized on the effects which he had left behind him. These, however, were not sufficient to satisfy even the demands of one of them, much less of both, and they had made up their minds to rest content with the loss, when, to their surprise, Hans David, the son of the deceased, came forward with

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an account against the order of such amount, that, as it was observed, if all the houses in the town were sold, and all the townsmen taxed to the utmost, the produce would not discharge the one-half of it. He however produced a document purporting to be a bond of the order. This instrument bore all the marks of falsification; it was full of erasures and insertions; among the witnesses to it, some were set down as priors who were only simple brethren of the order; there were the names of others who had never seen it; it was asserted to have been attested and verified by the tribunal at Passnar, but in the records of that court there were not the slightest traces of it; the seal of the Grand Master, which was appended to every document of any importance, was wanting Of course payment was resisted, but Hans David was told to pursue his claim, if he pleased, before the emperor and the pope, whom the order recognised as their superiors.

As Hans David was under the protection of the king of Poland, he had recourse to that prince; but he declined interfering any farther than to apply for a safe-conduct for him that he might apply for a new inquiry. The Grand Master, on application being made to him, swore on his honour that he owed to the complainant nothing, and that the bond was a forgery; he moreover promised to answer the charge in any fit place that the complainant might select; nay, even in Prussia, and he granted him a safe-conduct as before.

It is not known what course Hans David now adopted; but nine years afterwards (1441) we find him addressing himself to the Free-tribunal at Freyenhagen, whose count, the notorious Mangolt, forthwith issued his citations, "because, as he expressed himself, the order judges with the sword and gentle murder and burning." The Grand Master,

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« Reply #217 on: February 04, 2009, 01:28:48 pm »

indignant at this piece of arrogance, immediately brought the matter before the assembly of the free-counts at Coblentz, who declared the proceedings null, and Mangolt liable to punishment, as the knights were spiritual persons. He moreover applied to the emperor, who, to gratify him, issued a mandate, addressed to all princes of the empire, declaring the act of Mangolt to be a piece of iniquity, and null and void.

Hans David was now cast into prison at Cologne, and, notwithstanding a prohibition of the Free-tribunal, was detained there for two years. Existing documents attest (though the fact is inexplicable) that the emperor directed the Archbishop of Cologne and the Margraf of Baden to examine anew into the affair, and to send the acts into the imperial chancery, and, finally, to set the complainant free on his oath, or on his giving bail to appear at Nuremberg. As this proceeding can only be ascribed to the influence of the Secret Tribunals, bent on annoying the order, it serves to show what their power and consequence must have been at that time.

Two years afterwards it was clearly proved at Vienna that the bond had beer}, forged, at the desire of Hans David, by a scholar of Elbingen, named Rothofé. As the case against the former was now so plain, it might be supposed that he would be punished at once. Instead of that, the emperor referred the parties to the pope, as Hans David had struck a prior of the order, and this last was not content with the satisfaction accorded by the emperor.

The cause of the-'order was triumphant in Rome also, yet still Hans David found means to keep off the execution of the sentence already passed on him at Vienna. It was -not till after the death of the then Grand Master that final judgment was formally delivered by Cardinal Jossi, and Hans David, his comrade

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« Reply #218 on: February 04, 2009, 01:29:01 pm »

[paragraph continues] Paul Frankleuen, and the Count Mangolt, were condemned to perpetual silence, and to payment of the sum of 6,000 Rhenish florins to the order, and, in case of disobedience, they were declared to be outlawed. All this, however, did not yet avail, and two years afterwards Jossi was obliged to apply to the emperor for the aid of the temporal arm for the execution of the sentence. The chaplain of the order at Vienna also found that Hans David had still the art to deceive many and gain them over to his cause, and he accordingly took care to have the whole account of his conduct posted up on the church-doors.

Still the unwearied Hans David did not rest. He now went to the Free-tribunal at Waldeck, and had the art to deceive the count by his false representations. He assured him that the order had offered him no less than 15,000 florins and an annuity, if he would let his action drop; that they would have been extremely well content if he had escaped out of prison at Cologne, but that he preferred justice and truth to liberty. The order however succeeded here again in detecting and exposing his arts, and the count honestly confessed that he had been deceived by him. He cast him off forthwith, and Hans David, ceasing to annoy the order, devoted himself to astrology and conjuring for the rest of his days *.

He had, however, caused the order abundance of


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uneasiness and expense. Existing documents prove that this affair cost them no less than upwards of 1580 ducats, and 7000 florins, which must be in a great measure ascribed to the secret machinations of the Free-tribunals, anxious to depress the Teutonic Knights, who stood in their way.

In 1410 the Wild and Rhein Graf was summoned before the tribunal at Nordernau, and, in 1454, the Duke of Saxony before that at Limburg. The Elector-Palatine found it difficult, in 1448, to defend himself against a sentence passed on him by one of the Fehm-courts. Duke Henry of Bavaria found it necessary on the following occasion, actually to become a frei-schöppe in order to save himself. One Gaspar, of Torringen, had accused him before the tribunal of Waldeck of "having taken from him his hereditary office of Chief Huntsman; of having seized and beaten his huntsmen and servants, taken his hounds, battered down his castle of Torringen, and taken from his wife her property and jewels, in despite of God, honour, and ancient right." The free-count forthwith cited the duke, who applied to the emperor Sigismund, and procured an inhibition to the count. The duke found it necessary, notwithstanding, to appear before the court; but he adopted the expedient of getting himself made a frei-schöppe, and then, probably in consequence of his rank and influence, procured a sentence to be passed in accordance with his wishes. Gaspar, who was probably an injured man, appealed to the emperor, who referred the matter to the Archbishop of Cologne, and. we are not informed how it ended.

But the audacity of the free-counts went so far as even to cite the head of the empire himself before their tribunals. The imperial chancery having, for just and good cause, declared several free-counts and their Tribunal-lord, Walrabe of Waldeck, to be outlawed,

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three free-counts had the hardihood, in 1470, to cite the emperor Frederic III., with his chancellor, the Bishop of Passau, and the assessors of the chancery-court, to appear before the free-tribunal between the gates of Wünnenberg in the diocese of Paderborn, "there to defend his person and highest honour under penalty of being held to be a disobedient emperor;" and on his not appearing, they had the impudence to cite him again, declaring that, if he did not appear, justice should take its course. Feeble, however, as was the character of the emperor, he did not give way to such assumptions.

Even robbery and spoliation could find a defence with the Fehm-courts. Towards the end of the thirteenth century a count of Teckenburg plundered and ravaged the diocese of Münster. The bishop assembled his own people and called on his allies to aid him, and they took two castles belonging to the count and pushed him to extremity. To extricate himself he accused the bishop, and all those who were with him, before his Fehm-court, and though there were among them the Bishop of Paderborn, three counts, and several knights, the free-count had the boldness to cite them all to appear and defend their 'honour. The affair was eventually amicably arranged and the citation recalled.

These instances may suffice to show how far the Fehm-tribunals had departed from the original object of their institution, and how corrupt and iniquitous they were become.


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Footnotes
393:* The following is one of his predictions, delivered by him, under the name of Master Von Dolete, in the year 1457: "In the ensuing month, September, the sun will appear like a black dragon; cruel winds will blow, the sea will roar, and men will be knocked to pieces by the wind. The sun will then be turned to blood; that betokeneth war in the East and West. A mighty emperor will die; the earth will quake, and few men will remain alive. Wherefore secure your houses and chambers; lay up provisions for thirty days in caverns," &e., &c. The arts of knaves and the language of impostors are the same in all ages and countries.



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« Reply #219 on: February 04, 2009, 01:29:41 pm »

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CHAPTER VII.
Cause of the degeneracy of the Fehm-courts--Attempts at reformation--Causes of their high reputation--Case of the Duke of Würtemberg--Of Kerstian Kerkerink--Causes of the decline of the Fehm-jurisdiction.

THE chief cause of the degeneracy of the Fehm-courts was the admission of improper persons into the society. Originally, as we have seen, no man was admitted to become a schöppe without producing satisfactory evidence as to the correctness of his character; but now, in the case of either count or schöppe, a sufficient sum of money availed to supersede inquiry, and the consequence was that men of the most disgraceful characters frequently presided at the tribunals and wielded the formidable powers of the society. A writer in the reign of Sigismund says, "that those who had gotten authority to hang men were hardly deserving enough to keep pigs; that they were themselves well worthy of the gallows if one cast a glance over their course of life; that they left not unobserved the mote in their brother's eye, but overlooked the beam in their own, &c." And it required no small courage in the writer thus to express himself; for, according to his own testimony, people then hardly ventured even to speak of the Secret Tribunals, so great was the awe in which they were held.

The consequence was that justice was not to be had at any tribunal which was presided over by corrupt judges, as they selected assessors, and even bystanders,

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« Reply #220 on: February 04, 2009, 01:29:52 pm »

of the same character with themselves, and whatever verdict they pleased was found. The tribunal-lord generally winked at their proceedings, while the right of appeal to the emperor was treated with little respect; for these monarchs had generally affairs of more immediate importance to themselves to occupy their attention. The right of exemption was also trampled on; sovereign princes were, as we have seen, cited before the tribunals; so also were the Jews. Purely civil matters were now maintained to belong to the Fehm-jurisdiction, and parties in such cases were cited before the tribunals, and forfehmed in case of disobedience. In short, the Fehm-jurisdiction was now become a positive evil instead of being, as heretofore, a benefit to the country.

Various attempts were doubtless made to reform the Fehm-law and tribunals, such as the Arensberg reformation, the Osnaburgh regulation, and others, but to little purpose. The system, in fact, was at variance with the spirit which was now beginning to prevail, and could not be brought to accord with it.

Before we proceed to the decline of the society, we will pause a moment to consider the causes of the great reputation and influence which it obtained and exercised during the period in which it flourished.

The first and chief cause was the advantage which it was found to be of for the maintenance of social order and tranquillity. In the very worst and most turbulent times a portion of mankind will always be found desirous of peace and justice, even independently of any private interest; another portion, feeling themselves the victims of oppression, will gladly catch at any hope of protection; even the mighty and the oppressive themselves will at times view with satisfaction any institution which may avail to shield them against power superior to their own, or which they conceive may be made the instrument of extending

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and strengthening their consequence. The Fehm-jurisdiction was calculated to suit all these orders of persons. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were the most anarchic periods of Germany; the imperial power was feeble to control; and the characters of most of the emperors were such as to render still more unavailing the little authority which, as heads of the empire, they possessed. Sensible of their weakness, these monarchs generally favoured the Fehm-tribunals, which so freely, and even ostentatiously, recognised the imperial superiority, as long as it did not seek to control them or impede them in their proceedings. The knowledge which, if initiated, they could derive of the crimes and misdemeanors committed in the empire, and the power of directing the arms of the society against evil-doers, were also of no small importance, and they gradually became of opinion that their own existence was involved in that of the Fehm-courts. The nobles of Westphalia, in like manner, found their advantage in belonging to the society, and the office of tribunal-lord was, as we have seen, one of influence and emolument.

But it was the more helpless and oppressed classes of society, more especially the unhappy serfs, that most rejoiced in the existence of the Fehm-tribunals; for there only could they hope to meet with sure redress when aggrieved, and frequently was a cause, when other courts had been appealed to in vain, brought before the Secret Tribunal, which judged without respect of persons. The accuser had farther not to fear the vengeance of the evil-doer, or his friends and dependents; for his name was kept a profound secret if the proofs which he could furnish were sufficient to justify the inquisitorial process already described, and thus the robber-noble, or the feudal tyrant, often met his merited punishment at

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« Reply #221 on: February 04, 2009, 01:30:08 pm »

a time when he perhaps least dreaded it, and when he held his victim, whose cries to justice had brought it on him, in the greatest contempt; for, like the Nemesis, or the "gloom-roaming" Erinnys of antiquity, the retributive justice of the Fehm-tribunals moved to vengeance with stealthy pace, and caught its victim in the midst of his security.

A second cause was the opinion of these courts having been instituted by Charles the Great, a monarch whose memory was held in such high estimation and such just veneration during the middle ages. Emperors thought themselves bound to treat with respect the institution of him from whom they derived their authority; and the clergy themselves, exempt from its jurisdiction, were disposed to view with favour an institution established by the monarch to whom the Church was so deeply indebted, and of whose objects the punishment of heretics was one of the most prominent.

A third, and not the least important cause, was the excellent organization of the society, which enabled it to give such effect to its decrees, and to which nothing in those times presented any parallel. The veil of secrecy which enveloped all its proceedings, and the number of agents ready to execute its mandates, inspired awe; the strict inquiry which was known to be made into the character of a man before he was admitted into it gained it respect. Its sentences were, though the proofs were unknown, believed to have emanated from justice; and bad men trembled, and good men rejoiced, as they beheld the body of a criminal suspended from a tree, and the schöppe's knife stuck beside it to intimate by whom he had been judged and condemned.

The reign of the Emperor Maximilian was a period of great reform in Germany, and his establishment of the Perpetual Public Peace, and of

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« Reply #222 on: February 04, 2009, 01:30:19 pm »

the Imperial Chamber, joined with other measures, tended considerably to alter and improve the condition of the empire. The Fehm-tribunals should, as a matter of prudence, have endeavoured to accommodate themselves to the new order of things; but this is a part of wisdom of which societies and corporate bodies are rarely found capable; and, instead of relaxing in their pretensions, they even sought to extend them farther than before. Under their usual pretext--the denial of justice--they extended their citations to persons and places over which they had no jurisdiction, and thereby provoked the enmity and excited the active hostility of cities and powerful territorial lords.

The most remarkable cases which this period presents of the perversion of the rights and powers of the Fehm-tribunals are the two following:--

Duke Ulrich of Würtemberg lived unhappily with his duchess Sabina. There was at his court a young nobleman named Hans Hutten, a member of an honourable and powerful family, to whose wife the duke was more particular in his attentions than could be agreeable to a husband. The duchess, on her side, testified a particular esteem for Hans Hutten, and the intimacy between them was such as the duke could not forgive. Hutten was either so vain or so inconsiderate as to wear publicly on his finger a valuable ring which had been given to him by the duchess. This filled up the measure of the jealousy and rage of the duke, and one day, at a hunting-party in the wood of Bebling, he contrived to draw Hutten away from the rest of the train, and, taking him at unawares, ran him through with his sword; he then took off his girdle, and with it suspended him from one of the oak-trees in the wood. When the murder was discovered he did not deny it, but asserted that he was a free schöppe, and had performed the deed

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« Reply #223 on: February 04, 2009, 01:30:35 pm »

in obedience to a mandate of the Secret Tribunal, to which he was bound to yield obedience. This tale, however, did not satisfy the family of Hutten, and they were as little content with the proposal made by the murderer of giving them satisfaction before a Westphalian tribunal. They loudly appealed to the emperor for justice, and the masculine eloquence of Ulrich von Hutten interested the public so strongly in their favour, that the emperor found himself obliged to issue a sentence of outlawry against the Duke of Würtemberg. At length, through the mediation of Cardinal Lang, an accommodation both with the Hutten family and the duchess was effected; but the enmity of the former was not appeased, and they some time afterwards lent their aid to effect the deposition of the duke and the confiscation of his property.

It would seem that the Fehm-tribunals would have justified the assassination committed by the duke, at least that all confidence in their justice was now gone; and, at this period, even those writers who are most lavish in their praises of the schöppen of the olden time can find no language sufficiently strong to describe the iniquity of those of their own days. It was now become a common saying that the course of a Fehm-court was first to hang the accused and then to examine into the charges against him. By a solemn recess of the Diet at Triers, in 1512, it was declared "that by the Westphalian tribunals many an honest man had lost his honour, body, life, and property;'' and the Archbishop of Cologne, who must have known them well, shortly afterwards asserted, among other charges, in a capitulation which he issued, that "by very many they were shunned and regarded as seminaries of villains."

The second ease to which we alluded affords a still stronger proof of their degeneracy.

p. 404

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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #224 on: February 04, 2009, 01:30:47 pm »

A man named Kerstian Kerkerink, who lived near the town of Münster, was accused, and probably with truth, of having committed repeated acts of adultery. The Free-tribunal of Münster determined to take cognizance of the affair, and they sent and had him taken out of his bed in the dead of the night. In order to prevent his making any noise and resistance, the persons who were employed assured him that he was to be brought before the tribunal of a respectable councillor of the city of Münster, and prevailed on him to put on his best clothes. They took him to a place named Beckman's-bush, where they kept him concealed while one of them conveyed intelligence of their success to the town-council.

At break of day the tribunal-lords, free-count, and schöppen, taking with them a monk and a common hangman, proceeded to Beckman's-bush, and had the prisoner summoned before them. When he appeared he prayed to be allowed to have an advocate; but this request was refused, and the court proceeded forthwith to pass sentence of death. The unfortunate man now implored for the delay of but one single day to settle his affairs and make his peace with God; but this request also was strongly refused, and it was signified to him that he must die forthwith, and that if he wished he might make his confession, to which end a confessor had been brought to the place. When the unhappy wretch sued once more for favour, it was replied to him that he should find favour and be beheaded, not hung. The monk was then called forward, to hear his confession; when that was over the executioner (who had previously been sworn never to reveal what he saw) advanced and struck off the head of the delinquent.

Meantime, information of what was going on had reached the town, and old and young came forth to witness the last act of the tragedy, or perhaps to

p. 905

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