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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 2205 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #180 on: February 04, 2009, 01:21:19 pm »

in this business, that the word Fehmen at last began to signify simply to hang, as execution has come to do in English. It is more probable, however, that this, or something very near it, was the original signification of the word from which the tribunals took their name. Should the malefactor resist, his captors were authorised to knock him down and kill him. In this case they bound the dead body to a tree, and stuck their knives beside it, to intimate that he had not been slain by robbers, but had been executed in the name of the emperor.

Were the person who was forfehmed uninitiated, he had no means whatever of knowing his danger till the halter was actually about his neck; for the severe penalty which awaited any one who divulged the secrets of the Fehm-courts was such as utterly to preclude the chance of a friendly hint or warning to be on his guard. Should he, however, by any casualty, such, for instance, as making his escape from those who attempted to seize him, become aware of how he stood, he might, if he thought he could clear himself, seek the protection and aid of the Stuhlherr, or of the emperor.

If any one knowingly associated with or entertained a person who was forfehmed, he became involved in his danger. It was necessary, however, to prove that he had done so knowingly--a point which was to be determined by the emperor, or by the judge of the district in which the accused resided. This rule originally had extended only to Westphalia, but the Fehm-judges afterwards assumed a right of punishing in any part of the empire the person who entertained one who was forfehmed.

Nothing can appear more harsh and unjust than this mode of procedure to those who would apply the ideas and maxims of the present to former times. But violent evils require violent remedies; and the disorganized state of Europe in general, and of Germany

p. 359

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