GHDI logo

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

page 4 of 5    print version    return to list previous document      next document

Recess of the Imperial Diet of Speyer, August 27, 1526.

5.) Second: in the past year a terrible, unprecedented, and unchristian insurrection of the subjects in almost all parts of the Upper German Nation against the authorities and establishment emerged and surged, leading to significant Christian bloodshed as well as the degradation and spoilage of many places and people. Because of this, his Imperial Majesty desired and ordered with clear words in the instructions given for this imperial diet that a thorough investigation be made so that in the future such rebellion and insurrection might be anticipated and avoided [. . . ].

6.) Although the common man and subjects rather badly forgot themselves and acted offensively against their authorities, they should nevertheless sense that the mercy and graciousness of their superiors is greater and milder than their unreasonable action and deeds. Thus every authority should have the right and power to restore to their former honorable estate as they desire and see fit those subjects who have unconditionally surrendered and been punished, and to deem them qualified and capable of sitting on councils and courts, bearing witness, and holding office. Furthermore, they should graciously hear the petitions and complaints of these and other [subjects] and rule graciously and timely according to the matter, and [they] should not unfairly burden them [i.e., the subjects] either directly or indirectly via their officials, baliffs, or other servants, but rather let all who want to submit to the law.

7.) If subjects of any authority insult or cause damages to anyone and have not on this account been pardoned and settled the claims [for compensation], then they should compensate those who have been thus injured as the authority responsible for their place of residence or the Imperial Chamber Court, according to the imperial ordinances, deems appropriate. And that which the responsible authorities deem appropriate according to the guidelines here shall be sufficient, and the injured party should desist from all further claims or attacks against those who injured them, whether legal or otherwise. Should it happen that anyone is of the opinion that the sentence or decision of the appointed judge is unfair, he shall not be refrained from appealing up to the Imperial Chamber Court. This [ordinance] shall in no way impede upon or interrupt those treaties and ordinances which the Swabian League made during the peasants’ insurrection.

8.) Every authority shall also proceed individually according to the situation against those who fled because of the peasants’ rebellion so that the subjects who are willing to surrender experience and feel more mercy and favor than harshness and ruthlessness. However, unless there is an exceptionally good reason or motivation [for doing so], which shall be within the discretion and power or each authority, those who were the leaders, inciters, important players, or otherwise exceptional supporters of the rebellion shall not be granted mercy, and no one shall be allowed to grant them lodging, shelter, or protection, rather wherever they are to be found they shall be properly and seriously dealt with and punished according to their infraction. And from now on the subjects shall be obedient, faithful, peaceful toward their authorities, both of the ecclesiastical and secular estates; behave as they are bound by duty and their oath; and offer no cause for their destruction and ruin.

9.) Hereupon we, the electors, princes, prelates, counts, and the estates of his Imperial Majesty, united in service, agreed that should the subjects of any authority, be it secular or ecclesiastical, come together in an attempt to incite rebellion and insurgency despite the demonstrated mercy and clemency described above, then the nearest electors, princes, counts, and other authorities to this authority in whose territory the rebellion occurs should immediately come at their request by horse and by foot as quickly as possible to aid and help [them]. And should this help which is sought prove to be too weak for the rebellion, then the other nearby electors, princes, and estates should respond to their appeals in similar manner as described above, with as much strength as possible, to contain the disobedient rebels, to subjugate them, and to punish them appropriately. And we shall each respond and act against the others as though such rebellion and unrest had occurred and arisen in our principality, territory, or dominion, and to the extent that each would like to have and become [should one be in need of aid].

first page < previous   |   next > last page