Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

brought me down stairs, into what I found myself once more in my

native suppose was called a parlour, where element, the air. Mounting into the her master and mistress were sitting. sky, I thought no more of the earth At the moment I was brought in they and all its busy scenes, but giving a were at high words: the lady had the loose to delight, danced about to the superiority over her husband in voice great admiration of a crowd of chiland Auency, but which had the bet- dren which was assembled in Moorter argument I could not discover; fields to see me. for the husband declared he would At one time I went up so very high, not stay to be stunned to death by her that I could tell philosophers some poise, but would go where he could things they little dream of, if I did have good company and good humour. not think it better for them to be still Saying this, he took me and his hat, groping in the dark. At last stretchand marehed off to a neighbouring ing myself out as far as I could, the ale-house.

better to examine the crystallization of Imagine me, compassionate reader, some hailstones which was going on in this new scene: imagine what I in a neighbouring cloud, the string must have felt in a place where there that fastened me to the kite gave way, were above thirty of the most horrible and I found myself, without the least looking fellows you can suppose sit- power to assist myself, utterly abanting round a table. On that table I doned to the inercy of the wind. was thrown, and one of them taking Where I went, and what I saw, I me up, said,

cannot explain, for I was hurled about “Why, what's here? the Morning with too much rapidity, and was too Post, indeed! Let me tell you, my much frightened, to be able to attend friends, there is not a more wicked to the objects around me. At length aristocratical paper in all the world I found myself caught fast by somethan that same Morning Post. The thing, and perceived I had got entangPope's bull is a fool to it. Here, give led in one of the top branches of a us the Black Dwarf and the Republi- tree in St James's Park. Here any can! That's the only good stuff for body that has the curiosity may see honest men !”

me, by climbing the thirteenth tree “ That it is,” said a little dirty on the left hand sidle as he enters into cobler, who might have been the the Park from Spring Gardens. All Black Dwarf himself: “ for my part, I have to request is, that no busy next to kings and lords, I thinks ma- hands will attempt to disturb me; gistrates the biggest rogues in the for I am now enjoying that rus in urbe land. When I and Dr Watson gets which most men so much desire, and into Parliament, we'll see and make a which they so seldom obtain ; never, change among 'em : a poor man can certainly, in the same perfection in hardly go about his business now, for which I enjoy it. I am free from all their ineddling." And he said true fear of molestation from living creaenough, for the chief business of the tures, the very crows being scared apresent company appeared to be the way from my tree by seeing me in it. passing forged notes, and picking I look down from my high but peacepockets; and I must say I was very ful station on the busy crowds below, thankful when I found myself tossed and enjoy what with truth may be into a distant corner of the room. called a bird's eye view of this noble

Here I lay a long time out of sight, city. The glory of the heavens is al(would I could also have been out of so open to me, and I would not exhearing !) till some of the party went change my observatory for that of off at midnight to go prowling among Greenwich. The morning breeze and their usual haunts. Some lingered the glow of the mid-day sun are equalto a late hour in the morning. I was ly agreeable to my sensations, and I first spied, after it became broad day, dread nothing but a shower of rain. by a little boy, who seized upon me The only person who has bestowed as lawful plunder, and tore me up to any notice on me since I have been make the tail of his kite. I cannot an inhabitant of the tree on which I say that I entirely enjoyed this deli am perched, is a young man who freberate dissection at the time, but I quently sits in an upper window of was afterwards amply repaid for the one of those houses that look into the temporary pain it caused me, when I Park, and whom, by the shape of his

3 11

VOL. VII.

PLE AGES,

head, for I know something of cra- tion, and some other offences, which nioscopy, I judge to be of a kindred he declared could not be compensated, spirit with my own. He probably sees like other crimes among the Saxons, something congenial in my appear- by paying a sum of money. It is an ance, and we find means, accordingly, historical fact, that he, or his deputy, of communicating with each other; the Duke of Saxony, sent certain perand it is to him, gentle reader, that sons yearly through this country to you are now indebted for this history administer justice, and to redress any of the Morning Post.

grievances the conquered people might have against the officers of Charle

magne. These judges were called HISTORICAL NOTICE ON THE VEHM, Send, or Frey-grafen, and to assist OR FREY-GERICHTE, (FREE TRIBU

them in the execution of their office, NAL,) OF GERMANY, IN THE MID two or more of the most trust-worthy,

and distinguished inhabitants of each

district, were appointed to give inforOur attention was lately attract- mation of crimes, to testify against ed, by the account given in the last criminals, and to assist in bringing (47th) Number of the Quarterly Re- them to justice. They were called view, to what is there called the Schöppen, or assessors, and to preserve Holy Vehm, or Bloody League ; * them from revenge, they were never and as our reading has made us a publicly known. The Vehm-gericht little acquainted with this famous tri- is not regularly mentioned in history bunal, we mean to lay before our under this name before the thirteenth readers the information concerning it century. The first on record was held we possess. The description given in 1211, and then spoken of as a well of it in the work from which the pas- known thing. And it is chiefly from sage of the review is quoted, is un some points of resemblance between supported by authorities, and looks it and these courts of Charlemagne, more like a piece of romance, than of that it is supposed to be derived from real history. Nothing is, however, them. For example, the Vehm, or more certain, than that there existed Frey-grafen, were appointed, like the in Germany, from the beginning of justices, by the Emperor, or some the thirteenth to the middle of the Prince to whom he had conceded the fifteenth century, a number of courts

privilege. They administered justice of justice known by the name of in his name, and subsequent EmpeVehm, or Frey-Gerichte, and that the rors attributed the origin of these members of these tribunals, united in- courts to Charlemagne. The Schöpto a formidable league, made them

pen

had in both the same name, were selves, in the fourteenth century, ter in the same manner unknown, and rible to all Germany.

the crimes taken cognizance of by the Their origin is involved in doubt Vehm were principally those which and obscurity. The most general opi- Charlemagne had reserved to himself nion is, + that they are as old as the the right of punishing. The reason time of Charlemagne, and were de- assigned for the Vehm Gericht not rived from the itinerant justices or being mentioned in history under this commissioners, (missis per tempora name before the thirteenth century, discurrentibus) which that sovereign is, that it had always before formed dispatched yearly to administer jus- part of the regular administration of tice through his Saxon dominions. justice, and was no more noticed than In the conquered dukedom of Lower many of the other institutions of that Saxony, including what is now called early period. Then, however, Henry Westphalia, he had reserved to him- the Lion fell under the ban of the self the right of punishing heresy, sa- empire, and his territories were dicrilege, witchcraft, secret assassina- vided among several princes. Much

confusion ensued, which augmented * See the article on the State of Society the power of the Vehm, and made it in Germany.

remarkably conspicuous. During his + See Patriotische Phantasien of Justus government, it passed, as a customary Mæser “ Eine kurze Nachricht von den thing, unobserved, like the daily rise Westphälischen Frey-Gerichten,”—from ing of the sun. Under his successors, which much of this information is taken. however, its extraordinary power made

der.

it be regarded as 'something anomal- riage, be of good reputation, and neous like a comet, or an eclipse, and it ver accused of a crime. They were was recorded with every mark of won also known by the name of Wissen

den, or initiated. Other authors, however, ascribe a The number of Frey-grafen is not very different origin to the Vehm. known, but it is supposed, that in the Spittler, in his Geschichte des Furs- fourteenth century, the Schöppen 2tenthums Hannover, says it was an mounted to one hundred thousand. invention of the magistrates of towns, They knew one another by means of a and particularly intended for the dis- secret sign, like the Free-masons, which covery and punishment of theft. There remains undiscovered to this day. It is is, however, one circumstance con- supposed to have consisted in fourwords, neeted with it, which, as it is unac- the initials of which, S. S. G. G. were counted for, disposes us to believe that engraved on their daggers. The it had an origin different from both Schöppen were the executioners, and these. It is certain that it was first they were bound by an oath to spare known in Westphalia among the half no persons who had incurred the conchristianized Saxons, and it always demnation of the Vehm, though they continued to be a rule, that indivi- might be parents, friends, or relations. duals could only be made Schöppen If any of them even hinted to a friend in the province of Westphalia, which that he was in danger, by saying, was known under the symbolical " there is as good bread to be eaten name of the red earth. * This single elsewhere as here," the rest of the fact tempts us to suppose, that this Schöppen were bound by their oath tribunal had its origin in some super to hang the traitors seven feet higher stition of our Saxon ancestors, which than they hung any other persons. has not, to our knowledge, been pre- They had no right to reason or deliserved.

berate after a sentence was promulWhatever might have been the ori- gated, but were required to pay the gin of these courts, they always acted most rigid obedience, so that they in the name and authority of the Em- might be compelled to hang a man peror of Germany. He alone ap- they deemed honest and respectable. pointed the Stuhlherren, or presidents, When a Schöppe found himself too who were generally Princes, both spi- weak to master a condemned person, ritual and temporal, though some few he followed him till he obtained the Counts, or Grafen, were included. assistance of other Schöppen, and the These again elected the Frey-grafen criminal was then hung with a withy in their respective districts, but they to a tree on the road side. The galcould only make the election on the lows is always considered as the prored earth. The Frey-grafen were the perty of the State, and as the Schöpjudges possessing power over life : pen held their office by virtue of authothey pronounced sentence, and issued rity from the Emperor, they used a those summonses to appear before tree as a gallows, to shew they were them, which, to the guilty, were pro- not the servants, nor limited by the bably more terrible than death. Ori- territories of any of the petty Soveginally the Duke of Lower Saxony is reigns of Germany. If they were resupposed to have had alone the power sisted in their office, and their opponof electing the Frey-grafen ; but af ent was slain, the murdered body was ter the fall of Henry the Lion, it was then bound to a tree, and a knife acquired by the different petty Sove- stuck by it, pointed out that it was a reigns. The Archbishop of Cologne victim of the Frey-gerichte. possessed it through the whole of The proceedings of the Frey-grafen Westphalia, and thus many of the were not without an appearance of Frey-grafen were elected by bim. justice. Sentence was never passed

The third class of persons compos- without hearing the accused, unless ing these courts were called Frey- he was contumacious, though it seems shöppen, and they ere elected

the frequently to have been the case, that Frey-grafen also on the red earth, an accusation had to be answered as and with the knowledge of the Stuhl soon as made. After a person had herren. They must be born in mar been three times summoned, and had

[blocks in formation]

neglected or refused to obey, he was were now required to name the thief, outlawed, and every schöppe might or swear that he was unknown to put him to death. The summonses them. were chiefly directed to persons of “ If any person was named he was rank; the common people were more called forward, and must confess the summarily dealt with. The sittings deed or purify himself by an oath. of these courts were both secret and If he was accused a second time, his public; what passed in the former is own oath was not sufficient, but he involved in impenetrable obscurity, must bring seven other men to swear the latter were held in the open air, to his innocence. If he were a third and all the inhabitants of the town or time accused!, he must submit to the district in which it was held were re- fiery ordeal. Usually at the left side quired to be present. When indivi- of the judges pieces of iron were kept duals were summoned before the Frey- heated 'red' hot, the hand of the acgrafen, the manner of proceeding cused was washed with cold water, does not appear so well known. and he was obliged to carry the red Writers of novels have described the hot iron a certain distance. This deschöppen, wrapped up in their long cided his guilt or innocence. cloaks, meeting the accused at some “ The last trace of a vehm-gericht place where two roads crossed, and being held, is found in the middle of conducting him in secret to some de- the sixteenth century, which is thus solate spot, where he found his un- described by the famous Franz Alknown judges veiled in all the hor- germann, in his Life of Julius Duke rors of mystery. The historians, how- of Wolfenbüttle. “When the vehm. ever, have preserved no record of such gericht is to be formed, all the inhaterrific scenes, and we shall transcribe bitants of the district, above twelve from them what they have recorded. years of age, must assemble on some The following is Spittler's account of known heath or open place, and seat the manner of proceeding, but it is themselves on the earth. Tables are obviously taken from an early part of placed in the middle, at which the their history, and seems intended to prince, his councillors, and ministers, support his view of their origin. assemble. The secret judges then

" When theft, or any other crime, announce the crimes and the crimihad been frequently committed, it nals, and walking round strike the was resolved to detect and seize the latter on the legs with a white staff. criminals. The magistrates spoke in Whoever is conscious of guilt is persecret with the schöppen or wissenden, mitted to get up, and to depart from and a vehm-gericht was ordered for the country in a day and a night. He the next day.

may even submit to be twice struck. Is “Before day-break the gates of the he'struck the third time, however, city were shut, the bells rung an a the executioner is ready, a priest allarm three times, and on this signal, ministers the socrament, and the acthe whole magistracy and all the citi- cused is hung at the next tree. To zens were obliged to repair to a cer- be once or twice struck was considertain spot. While the magistrates so- ed as a paternal warning, and a hint lemnly placed themselves in an ap- to improve." pointed situation, the schöppen or “ T'he last time such a court was wissenden mixed with the people, and held was about 1570. The place was inquired and examined into the cha- near Zelle, and the Duke of Lüneracter of every one. They remember- burg was present." ed what they had heard of individuals, In other places the proceeding seems they knew each man's occupation, and to have been milder.” In the counthis, with all that they could collect, try,” says Venturini, " when the was reported to the secretary of the schöppen knew a man of bad reputacourt.' The wissenden seated them- tion, or who was suspected of any selves to form the court, under the crime, they caused a particular signal guidance of the vehm-graf, and the to be made at his door in the night; secretary laid all the information he or at feasts, the jug and the glass never had received before the magistrates, reached his lips. This was a sign that who examined it before submitting it to the vehm. The persons from Handbuch der Varterländischen Ge. whom any thing had been stolen schichte

he was not wanted there. If he did schöppen, and William Duke of Bruns. not then quit the district, or if he wick, a schöppe, said, “ If Adolphus continued his misdeeds, a Vehm-ge- of Schleswig comes to me, I must richt was held, judges and schöppen hang him, or the rest of the schöpwent round among the collected peo- pen will hang me.” ple, with ropes in their hands, re It can hardly be expected that a peating the words, He who is an tribunal thus composed, carrying on honest man sit still. If the suspecte its operations in secret, and having ed person got up, he was allowed to obtained the greater part of its power go away unmolested, but he lost his during a period of confusion, should property. If he remained sitting, the not at times have been made subserrope was thrown over his neck, and vient to the ambition, revenge, or mahe was hung on the nearest tree.” lice of individuals. All the historians

In the thirteenth and fourteenth who mention it, mention, at the same centuries, Germany was in a sad state time, its assumption of power, and in of confusion. Commerce was change general terms, the cruelty of its proing the relations which had before ceedings. The conduct of the schopexisted between the different ranks of pen, says Mæser, was that of banditti society. The nobles were envious of and assassins. History has preserved the growing wealth of the citizens, the name of Conrad of Langen, who and jealous of that power which was was condemned, probably unjustly, before undividedly their own. No on an accusation of murder; but the other law was known but force, and Emperor Sigismund, to protect him, there was no other way to settle dis- took him into his service. He appealputes but by arms. The people were ed from the judgment, and he apseparating from the patriarchal go- pears to have escaped the vengeance vernments to which they had before of the Vehm. To condemn a man on been subjected, and the complicated the secret accusations of unknown administration of justice, which the persons, or to require him, at the mo, sovereigns afterwards introduced, was ment an accusation was made, to jusnot then established. Codes of laws tify himself, in the midst of circumwere nearly unknown, and the frey- stances terrific enongh to shake the gerichte had almost exclusively, in the stoutest heart, was undoubtedly a senorth of Germany, the power of in vere and cruel proceeding, but such was inflicting exemplary, punishments.- the character of every action in that rude Though the justice they administered age. If we examine the proceedings of was rude, it seems to have been some this tribunal without paying attention restraint on evil doers, and they thus to the general manner of former times, acquired considerable power. They nothing can appear more arbitrary and were numerous and united, and at one barbarous. if, however, we reflect on tinie appeared likely to become mas the cruelties committed at that period ters of Germany. Austrians, Barba- by every class of society, when it had rians, and Swabians, when any per- power, or was enraged, we may, person had offended them, whom they haps, conclude that the conduct of the could not bring otherwise to account, Vehm did not surpass in atrocity that complained to a frey-gericht in West- of many individuals. The manner of phalia, and procured a sentence from execution was secret and murderous; it, which this army of one hundred but sentence was never passed, unless thousand schöppen were bound to exe- for contumacy, without hearing the cute. Such a tremendous power in- criminal. The executioners, or Freyduced almost every man of distinction schöppen, were all taken from the

upto join their ranks. Every prince per ranks, and among them were some had schöppen among his councillors, of the most distinguished men of the and every magistracy numbered them time; so that we may conclude that among its members. When the ci- the sentences of the Frey-grafen did ty of Osnabrück disputed with Con- not exceed in cruelty and injustice rad of Langen, above three hun- the general character of the age. They drei Frey-schöppen fell with him are said to have declared to one of the under the secret condemnation of emperors, that they would hang withthe Vehm. Princes even, the Duke out mercy some Frey-schöppen who of Bavaria, and the Margrave of Bran- had been made by one of his prededenburg, for example, were frey.. cessors without the customary forma

« ElőzőTovább »