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Territorial Government by the Prince with Estates – The Parliament of Electoral Saxony (Second Half of the 16th Century)

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[11] Finally, when they have agreed, the draft is presented to the entire parliament. They formulate their opinion, which is conveyed by some of them orally and briefly to the Small Committee. This opinion is then, if necessary, deliberated on by the Small Committee, and, finally, a unanimous opinion is composed. They send this via two nobles from the Small Committee to the counts, barons, and universities. The latter give their opinion in writing, saying nothing more than whether they confirm the Small Committee in its findings. The upper estates do not debate the matter but each of them confirms the opinion drafted by the committee.

[12] All of this, including what advice and aid is to be offered, is now written up in true copies and presented to the prince by some nobles from the Small Committee and about four persons from the most prestigious cities.

[13] When the councilors conduct the envoys to the prince, he hears them in the presence of his chamberlains [cammerräthe] in a specially designated place, receives the document from them, and dismisses them with the request that they allow him a brief time to consider it. Then he presents the document to his privy council [in geheimen rath] and asks whether he should accept it. If they decide that what is offered is too little to serve the purpose, he shall demand that they offer more, stipulate what is owed from each unit of land, and when it shall be paid, and this is framed in proper form in a written reply. Then the envoys of the estates are recalled and given this reply. And the prince tells them, as forcefully as the situation permits, why he cannot be satisfied by their offer, for which reason he graciously asks them to exert themselves to see that neither he nor they are caused unnecessary delays and that the matter is resolved in a spirit of good will.

[14] The Small Committee receives this reply and considers it, reaches a new agreement and finally offers an explanation and their compliance in such a way as will satisfy the prince.

[15] The prelates, counts, barons, knights, and towns, plus the Ambtsassen and Schriftsassen also present their grievances, each estate separately, with the earnest request that these be redressed before any aid is approved by the estates. The prince responds to them in writing to say to what degree he can and will redress them.

[16] When the estates are satisfied, they give their approval to the prince's requests. Matthias Hanisch is their parliamentary secretary.

[17] On the day after the parliament's act of consent, the estates are thanked. Then the recess is read aloud, plus the names of those to whom the prince's receivers-general are to render account for the previous tax.

[18] According to ancient custom and practice, the estates and envoys are provided with fodder and meals. In addition, they receive 1 groschen toward stabling costs, plus half a gulden per horse for those who have to take lodgings on the way to and from the parliament.

[19] At its request, the parliament receives a document, signed and sealed by the prince, that the estates' grant does not establish a precedent. When this document is completed, it is put into and kept in the parliamentary archive, of which one of the most distinguished nobles has custody. The draft from which the original document is prepared, however, is deposited by the Small Committee in the prince's chancellery.

[20] Further, at the end, approximately six nobles are selected from all the circles and one person from each of the principal towns. The prince's receivers-general present them with a summary of the accounts for the receipts and outlays from the hearth tax and the beverage tax, which were consented to by past parliaments and have now expired. The representative examines the accounts as needed, and, finding them just, signs off on them. They are also reminded to keep these matters secret.

[21] Then, parliament's grant is printed and publicly announced at parliament's expense. And so the whole thing comes to an end, having once again taken its due course.

Source of original German text: Paul Sander and Hans Spangenberg, eds., Urkunden zur Geschichte der Territorialverfassung. Reprint, Stuttgart, 1965, pp. 68-72, no. 182.

Translation: Thomas A. Brady Jr.

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