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Friedrich Weigandt’s Draft of an Imperial Reformation (May 18, 1525)

Drafted in May 1525, this imperial reform program was based on an anonymous tract, The Needs of the German Nation [Teutscher Nation notturfft] (1523). Like Wendel Hipler’s agenda, it was intended for discussion at the “Peasant Parliament” in Heilbronn. The putative author is Friedrich Weigandt, a territorial official of the elector of Mainz. The program presents a detailed plan for legal, commercial, and monetary reform. Behind it lies the concept of a federated Empire in which every social group had a voice. In this respect, the program pushed the idea of participatory governance (which was commonly advocated at the territorial level) up to the Imperial level. Imperial reform had been an ongoing subject of discussion since the time of Emperor Sigismund (b. 1368, r. 1433-37) and the Councils of Constance and Basel.

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What form the new order or reformation for the use and piety of all Christian brothers should be take and be given:

1. All those who have taken clerical vows shall be reformed and forced to comply as God commands and orders in Matthew 28, regardless of their birth or origins, whether of high or low estate.

On this point there are four declarations: The first concerns the “big men” [literally here, the “big Hans” (pl.), as the name Hans was so common as to be used synonymously with “man”] like bishops, provosts, deans, cathedral canons, and the like.

Also, that all regularly ordained clergy like monks, nuns, lay brothers, cathedral canons and their like, who are, despite their spiritual appearance, seen by the light of day to be ravenous wolves, should be reformed as God commanded and as written in Genesis and the nineteenth chapter of Matthew.

Also, that every congregation should be allowed to appoint or dismiss their good shepherd, who herds his sheep and encourages them with the Word of God as set down in Scripture.

Further, that all priests or those appointed to serve God should deal with people the way Christ, our Savior, did. They should also receive honest and fitting recompense [for their services and not more,] so that the excess can be used for the needy and the common good.

2. The secular princes, counts, lords, knights, and nobles should also be reformed so that the common man is not burdened excessively, contrary to Christian liberty.

On this point there are also four declarations:

First, that those of low standing should be helped quickly and profitably to [ensure] equal rights against the princes and lords, the poor against the wealthy.

Further, that everyone, from princes to the nobles enfeoffed in the Holy Roman Empire and its vassals, should be honestly supplied according to his birth. In return they should faithfully serve the Holy Roman Empire, protect their law-abiding subjects, the pious, widows, and orphans, and punish the criminals and evil-doers.

Further that all vassals of the Roman Empire, including other lords, such as the Empire’s secular princes, should, as prescribed by Holy Scripture, protect the poor subjects without further complaints and generally assist and advise them according to their rights, so that no one can allege injustice, [thus] fostering Christian peace and the honest and fair expansion of the Empire.

Also that all princes, counts, knights, nobles, and vassals, whether enfeoffed by the Empire or the same princes or not, shall conduct themselves in a godly, Christian, brotherly, and honest manner, so as not to unreasonably burden anyone. They shall also do everything within their power to help faithfully protect of the divine Scripture and order, so that this shall not be destroyed through violence, as has happened in the past.

3. All towns, communes, and communities in the Holy Empire, with no exceptions, shall be reformed and configured according to Godly, natural rights in accord with Christian liberty. Furthermore, no one shall introduce old or new fabrications to his own advantage, rather the poor man and the rich shall be helped, and brotherly union preserved. Also, the ground rent shall be reduced from 1 penny to 20 pence (1) everywhere. Also, the merchants should be guaranteed safe passage and given orders about how [i.e. for how much] they should sell their wares, in order to further and increase the common good.

4. No doctors [i.e. scholars with a doctoral degree], clerical or secular, shall be permitted to sit, speak, advise, or negotiate in any prince’s council or court; rather, they shall be completely dismissed and shift their focus from man's laws to the divine Scripture and as gifted persons called to preach; for many people have been led astray by their interpretations.

(1) The German text uses the term “mog” here – trans.

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