GHDI logo

The Imperial Diet’s Response to the Peasants’ War, Speyer (August 1526)

page 3 of 5    print version    return to list previous document      next document

The 13th Article concerning heriot* is considered under the point on serfdom.

Now [it must be discussed] whether it seems good that the personal heriot be abolished and the property-associated heriot or other appropriate mitigation maintained or, because the heriot is dealt with differently from place to place, that each [imperial] circle be ordered to formulate and implement an appropriate ordinance on this matter.

Also the poor in many places are forced to pay their lords for their fiefs again when the owner dies, so that it can happen that a fief is purchased three or four times within a single year. On this point it is considered that it must indeed be seen as burdensome that a fief and the improvements made by the late occupant should be repurchased every time by his children as the heirs. On the other hand it was found that such properties are conferred with these contracts and stipulations and for low interest, so that the properties might under certain circumstances be more profitable. In order that no one has cause to complain on grounds of fairness it is considered good that the authorities in those places where this is custom and habit should raise the rents somewhat on their fiefs, setting the rents and tithes as appropriate to the property, and to discontinue the [other] stipulations or contracts which constantly require the heirs to pay. For the maintenance of their property they should be satisfied with an appropriate hereditary tax of the 20th or 30th pence** when the heir takes over a tenured property. Or the rents on these fiefs should remain at their traditional, old levels and the feudal lord should take this opportunity to name an appropriate, known, fixed amount which is to be paid whenever an heir takes over the fief from the deceased and no more. And this amount should be set so that it does not exceed a fifth or sixth of the value of the fief.

And because there are all kinds of burdensome practices in many places regarding inheritances and property such as bachelors, divisions of property, and others, whatever they may be called, it is considered fair that there be an appropriate investigation so that the common man should not be overly burdened in this way.

Also, many authorities fine or penalize their subjects based solely on accusations or their reputations, and even if a subject is of the opinion that he can be exonerated before the law, this right is denied him. It is considered fitting that whoever wishes to settle with the authorities shall be permitted to do so, but anyone who wishes a legal appeal, to appear before a court, or to legally exonerate himself shall be tried and not burdened contrary to or outside the law.

Also many authorities mete out and impose penalties which are much too harsh or serious, including corporal punishment for minor infractions like trapping game, fishing in forbidden waters, and speaking carelessly or imprudently, and, [furthermore] they do so without any legal justification. On this article a similar conclusion was reached to the next point, [namely,] that no one who wants to appeal to the law shall be burdened contrary to it. On this point it is considered fair that every authority set an appropriate civil penalty for the trapping of game, fishing, and other similar poaching. And, if an authority desires to impose corporal punishment or even the death penalty, it shall always happen according to due process of law, and no one shall be punished in this way outside the law.

* A sort of death tax to be paid from the estate of the deceased to his lord.
** i.e. every twentieth or thirtieth penny which equals 3-5%

first page < previous   |   next > last page