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The Golden Bull (1356)

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Chapter 16
On the Pfahlbürger (external citizens)

Many complaints have been brought before us, that some citizens and subjects of princes, free lords and other people have sought to shake off the yoke of original subjection, or in truth to despise it contemptuously, by allowing themselves to be accepted as citizens of some other town. Even though they then live in person in the lands, towns, hamlets and villages of their former lords, whom they have sought to escape, they claim the privileges of those towns to which they have attached themselves, and seek to be protected by them. Such people are generally called “Pfahlbürger” in the German lands. Now since no one should benefit from treachery and slyness, we ordain by our Imperial power, with the considered support of all the spiritual and secular electors, and confirm by the following immutable law, that the aforementioned citizens and subjects, who evade their lords in this fashion, shall henceforth no longer enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship of those cities in which they have by fraud allowed themselves to become citizens, unless they actually and physically move to these cities, settle there permanently, and take on the burdens and obligations of citizenship. And if any Pfahlbürger should be accepted against this statute, their citizenship shall have no validity, and the new citizens, whatever their rank or estate, shall by no means and under no circumstances enjoy the rights and privileges of the city that accepts them, (no matter what other rights or privileges, no matter how old, say the contrary, and we hereby recall and cancel any such rights and privileges from the plenitude of our Imperial power). And in any case the princes, lords and other people, shall retain undiminished their rights over such people who have abandoned them, or who might abandon them in this way in the future. Furthermore, we declare that anyone who seeks or has sought to take in such Pfahlbürger against our older laws, if they do not release such citizens within one month of this law, shall pay a fine of 100 £ in gold for each such violation in the future, of which half is to go to the Imperial treasure, the other half to the damaged lord, without any remission.

Chapter 17
On feuds

We declare than anyone who henceforth uses the pretense of having just cause for a feud against someone in order to attack that person in places where he does not have a residence or normally resides, or who declares an untimely feud [i.e., without sufficient advance notice], shall be considered dishonorable for any damages caused on account of arson, robbery or plundering. Now since no one should benefit from treachery and slyness, we ordain by our Imperial power, and confirm by the following immutable law, that declarations of feud of this kind against some lord or person with whom one had a connection or with whom one was trustfully engaged or with whom one had honorable friendship, shall not be valid. It shall be forbidden to attack anyone with arson, robbery or plundering under the pretense of feud, unless the feud is declared publicly three natural days in advance to the victim in person at that place where he usually resides; and unless the declaration is heard by trustworthy witnesses. Anyone who should conduct a feud against another in any other way shall incur the penalty of dishonor, as if he had not declared feud at all; and he should be punished as a traitor by any judge with the ordained penalties.

We also forbid and condemn all and every unjust war and campaign; every unjust arson, robbery and plundering; inappropriate or uncustomary tolls and passage rights and safe-conduct fees which may be extorted, on the pain of the penalties prescribed by the holy laws.

[ . . . ]

Source of original Latin text and modern German translation: Lorenz Weinrich, ed., Quellen zur Verfassungsgeschichte des Römisch-Deutschen Reiches im Spätmittelalter (1250-1500). Darmstadt: WBG, 1983, pp. 315-21, 337, 341, 357-59, 361-67.

English translation and summary: Thomas A. Brady Jr. and Randolph C. Head

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