Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Perpetual Peace of the Land Proclaimed by Maximilian I, 1495

As found in A Source Book for Mediaeval History: Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Ages, by Oliver J Thatcher, Ph.D. and Edgar H. McNeal, Ph.D., pgs 427-430 (1905).

249. The Perpetual Peace of the Land Proclaimed by Maximilian I, 1495. (German.)

Altmann und Bernheim, no. 110.

For various reasons the government had found it impossible to secure the peace of the land. One reason was that there was no effective and satisfactory machinery for punishing offenders, administering justice, and settling disputes. Maximilian not only forbade all private warfare, but also created a supreme court to try all offenders and to make it unnecessary for a man to take the law into his own hands.

We, Maximilian, etc. (1) From the time of the publication of this peace, no one, no matter of what rank or position, shall carry on a feud against another, or make war on him, or rob, seize, attack, or besiege him, or aid anyone else to do so. And no one shall attack, seize, burn, or in any other way damage any castle, city, market town, fortress, village, farmhouse, or group of houses, or in any way aid others to do such things. No one shall receive those who do such things into his house, or protect them, or give them to eat or drink. But if anyone has a ground for complaint against another, he shall summon him before the court. For the command is now given that all such matters must hereafter be tried before the supreme court.

(2) We hereby forbid all feuds and private wars throughout the whole empire.

(3) All, of whatever rank or position, who disobey this command, shall, in addition to other punishments, be put under the imperial ban, and anyone may attack their person or their property without thereby breaking the peace. All their charters and rights shall be revoked, and their fiefs shall be forfeited to their lord. And so long as the guilty one lives, the said lord shall not be bound to restore it to him or to his heirs.

(4) In case this peace is broken and violence is done to anyone, whether elector, prince, prelate, count, lord, knight, city, or anyone else, no matter of what rank or position, secular or ecclesiastical, and the guilty ones are not known, but suspicion rests on anyone, those who were injured may make complaint against the suspected ones, and summon them, and compel them to clear themselves by oath of the crimes of which they are suspected. If any of the suspected ones refuse to clear themselves in this way, or refuse to come at the appointed time, they shall be considered guilty of having broken the peace, and they shall be proceeded against in accordance with the terms of this document. But the one who summons them shall give them a safe-conduct to come and to return to their homes. If it is impossible to deliver the summons to them in person, it shall be posted in a few places which they are known to frequent. If, contrary to this peace, anyone is attacked or robbed, all those who are present and see it, or learn of it in any way, shall take action against the offender with as much earnestness and promptness as if it concerned them alone.

(5) No one shall in any way aid or protect such peace-breakers, or permit them to remain in his territory or lands, but he shall seize them and begin proceedings against them and give aid to anyone who makes complaint against them....

(6) If such peace-breakers have such protection or are so strong that the state must interfere and make a campaign against them, or if anyone who is not a member of the peace breaks the peace or aids those who have broken it, charges shall be made by the injured, or by the presiding judge of the supreme court, to us or to our representatives and to the annual diet, and aid shall be sent at once to those who have been attacked. If through war or anything else it is impossible to hold the diet, we give the presiding judge of the supreme court the authority to call us and the members of the diet together in any place where we, or our representatives, can meet and take whatever measures are necessary. But nevertheless the presiding judge and the whole court shall not cease to prosecute all such peace-breakers with all the legal means possible.

(7) There are many mercenaries in the land who are not in the service of anyone, or who do not long remain in the service of those who hire them, or their masters do not control them as they should, but they go riding about the country seeking to take advantage of people and to rob. We therefore decree that such men shall no longer be tolerated in the empire, and wherever they are found they shall be seized and examined and severely punished for their evil deeds, and all that they have shall be taken from them, and they shall give security for their good conduct by oath and bondsmen.

(8) If any clergyman breaks this peace, the bishop who has jurisdiction over him shall compel him to make good the damage which he has done, and his property shall be taken for this purpose. If the bishops are negligent in this matter, we put them as well as the peace-breakers under the ban, and deprive them of the protection of the empire, and we will in no way defend them or protect them in their evil-doing. But they may clear themselves of suspicion in the same way as laymen.

(9) During this peace no one shall make an agreement or treaty with another which shall in any way conflict with this peace.  We hereby annul all the articles of such agreements or treaties which are contrary to this peace, but the rest of such agreements or treaties shall remain in force. This peace is not intended to interfere in any way with existing treaties. Without the consent of those who have been injured we will not free from the ban anyone who has through an offence against the peace been proscribed, unless he clears himself in a legal way.

(10) We command you ... to observe this peace in all points, and to compel all your officials and subjects to observe it, if you wish to avoid the punishments of the imperial law and our heavy disfavor.

(11) We hereby annul all grants, privileges, etc., which have been granted by us or our predecessors, which in any way conflict with this peace.

(12) This peace is not intended to annul any of the laws of the empire or commands which have already been issued, but rather to strengthen them and to command that all men shall hereafter observe them.

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