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Swiss Defenders of the Old Faith – Articles of the Nine Members’ Delegates (1525)

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[34.] First, concerning inheritance dues [Läss] – that is, when a servile person dies without heirs of his body, even though he may have sisters and brothers who should be his closest heirs in all fairness, but nevertheless his lord steps in and takes part of the moveable goods, whether little or much – in which each monastery or lordship has its own customs, for some take half of the moveable goods, some take a third part, and each differently from the next. On this matter, our ordinance and conviction is that from now on no death duties shall be given or taken.

[35.] ITEM, similarly there is a custom, the same as inheritance dues, which is called an "antragende hand" or a "hagstolz," or whatever name it may have, in which when a serf dies without bodily heirs (ignoring his sister, brother, or closest kin), the lord even undertakes to become the heir to the moveable goods, with some [lords] taking up to half and each different from the next. On this matter our ordinance and conviction is that this custom should not be followed anymore.

[36.] ITEM, regarding death duties [Fall],* monasteries and others should treat the common man modestly, and especially in the case of those who are house poor, should take the very least that they can, and be merciful with them. For if we should receive more complaints, as has often occurred in the past, then we will act further in this, so that the common man may be aided in various ways and discharged of such complaints.

[37.] ITEM, concerning ungenosamin, that is, when a serf takes a husband or wife from outside his or her own lord's serfs, and the lord undertakes to punish him for it, etc. Our ordinance and conviction is that no one should be punished for this, since marriage is a sacrament, and everyone should be free in this case. [ . . . ]

[38.] ITEM, when a serf desires to purchase his serfdom from his lord, and to be released from it, this should not be refused to him, but rather allowed for an appropriate amount of money. And if a lord were too harsh in this, it should be within the power of the high magistrates in the place where this occurs to mediate, and to moderate according to fitting standards.

[39.] ITEM, after we laypeople have been considerably burdened by the clerical princes, prelates, monasteries, cloisters, foundations, and other clerical persons, with regard to purchases, loans, and interest bearing properties in their hands, our statute and order now is that in the future, no monastery, cloister, or other clerical house, likewise other clerical lords, prelates, and persons, shall purchase into their own hands any real estate, however it is named, with no exceptions, unless it were the case that the secular authorities where they resided and the monastery was located, gave permission, and allowed it. Otherwise, this should not be allowed.

[40.] ITEM, likewise, that the monasteries, cloisters, foundations, and other clerical houses located in our Confederation shall not invest any sum of money for either perpetual or redeemable interest, either outside or inside our Confederation, without the approval, knowledge, and will of the authorities where that monastery or foundation is located.

[41.] ITEM, every monastery shall also be obliged to provide an annual accounting to the authorities where it is located, with all of the monastery's income, expenses, and assets, and all transactions.

[42.] ITEM, we also decree and order that any person, whether he be healthy, sick, or on his deathbed, who wants to transfer or give something, in God's name, to the monasteries, foundations, endowments, or clerical hands, which we do not wish to prevent, then in every case such gifts should be given freely from his hand,** and he should not lay any obligation or mortgage in any way on his real estate,*** whether perpetually or redeemably, nor burden the property in any way. And the goods that such a person gave should be transferred to the monastery's secular agent for investment for an annual income, and should the sum be redeemed, it should be invested again by the secular agent and managed for the best outcome.

* Typical death duties for an unfree person (a serf), known as Fall or Todesfall, consisted in the lord's right to claim the person's best animal [Besthaupt] or best piece of clothing [Bestgewand] upon the serf's death – trans.
** That is, out of movable goods or cash – trans.
*** That is, real property – trans.

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