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Village Violence, Imperial Justice – Wolfisheim (Alsace) (1524/25)

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Following the charge and the response, the speech and the counter-speech, the discovery and the truth, the Honorable Schaffeltzheim Lenz, the mayor, Diebolt Bruscher, Martins Thengen, Hessels Eden, Lienhart Karcher, and Jacop Linser sat in judgment on the matter in Wolffsheim. Since they were not cognizant of the affair, which was too difficult for them, they referred it further to the Grave, Judicious, Honorable, and Wise Master and Council of the city of Strasbourg, who are competent to discover what really happened. This was done on Monday after the Birth of St. John the Baptist [June 27, 1524].* Next, our Gracious Lords, the praiseworthy council of the city of Strasbourg, sent us their judgment in written form; and this was read in an open session of the village court, as is the custom here at Wolfisheim. It said that, after hearing the above-mentioned witnesses and arguments by representatives of each party, we, the mayor and the council of the city of Strasbourg have rendered judgment as follows. Since the witnesses’ testimony shows that the accused, Linsers Hans, harmed the plaintiff, Arbogasts Hans, he should bear recompense for the latter’s lost pay, the court costs, and pay a fine for the crime involved.** As to the bodily damages and the lost pay, we refer this for calculation and determination to the mayor and the court of Wolfisheim, which, having more knowledge of these two matters, will be better able to recognize and determine what is fair compensation. Given on Friday after St. Dionysius [October 14], 1524.

TESTIMONIES OF THE WITNESSES. Hearings of Arbogasts Hans’s witnesses in the suit against Linsers Hans, as heard by the mayor and the court of Wolfisheim.

[1] First, Hanns von Wiherssheim, who testifies under oath without fear or favor but only in the interests of justice. On the seventh day of this year, while he was drinking in Bruscher’s house, Arbogasts Jacob put up for sale a field, for which Lentz Biebel and Linsers Lentz offered him money.*** And as they were settling the sale, Schlucken Jerg, who was also present, said to Arbogasts Jacob that he should not sell the property but keep it. If he were in need of money, Schlucken Jerg would lend him some. Then Lentz Biebel said his piece about the sale, to which Schlucken Jerg replied that he should not object to a friend doing this. He [Schlucken Jerg] added that if Arbogasts Jacob will keep the property, he will lend him twenty gulden. Thereupon Lentz Biebel said that Arbogasts Jacob should sooner sell the property for twenty gulden than borrow the sum [from Schlucken Jerg]. At this Lentz Biebel grabbed Schlucken Jerg. At this the fellows gathered around, and he doesn’t know whether they intended to separate the two. Then Arbogasts Hans seized Linsers Hans, and grabbed him from behind but didn’t warn him to keep the peace. Then Linsers Hans held a knife in his hand, though Arbogasts Hans intended him no harm. Then Linsers Hans himself stabbed Arbogasts Hans. The witness does not know how deeply or in what manner he stuck the latter. Then Linsers Hans the Younger joined the group and pulled his knife. If the tavern-keeper and the other witnesses had not been present, Arbogasts Hans would have died. The fellows took Arbogasts Hans away, and when the fellows were ready for some supper, Linsers Hans came up with his brother, Linsers Lentz. The former came into the room, fork in hand; the latter carried an old backsword. When the meal was finished and the fellows made to leave, Martzolfs Hans and Claus Schnider arrived and wanted to enter the tavern. Linsers Hans and his brother, Lentz, were standing in the doorway, and the latter offered to cut them up. He said, “Are you here for good or evil?” Martzolfs Hans replied, “For good,” and he added, “Are you going to stop us?” The two men entered. Linsers Hans the Elder also went in, while Linsers Lentz remained by the door. This is all the witness knows.

* That is, the village court found that the matter was too serious to be settled locally, so it referred it to the court of next instance, which happened to be the city council of Strasbourg – trans.
** This is the criminal judgment. What follows is a civil judgment by the court of Wolfisheim – trans.
*** That is, a piece of property from which he drew an annual income – trans.

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