Page images
PDF
EPUB

superficial knowledge which ihe incidental owners maintained, that Charles I. had instituted the of hereditary estates might have of the christian secret tribunals in the same form, both external religion, rendered them incoinpetent to decide and internal, which it had in the 13th and 14th on the heinousness of the crime; hence, trans centuries, and conferred upon them that astoactions of this nature were not finally decided nishing extent of jurisdiction, which was grain public session, and seven judges (schoffen) i dually wrested fro:n the enfeebled executive aus were selected froin the community, to inquire, i thorities. in a secret meeting, into the criminality of such The Westphalian secret tribunals are first mentransactions, and to pronounce sentence of death, i tioned as generally known in the year 1211, and or decree the payment of a fine, as circumstauces recorded as having still been in force in the year might require. In the secret meeiings also the il 1659. They never were formally abrogated; judges gave informations of crimes privately com- but only lost their influence by degrees, when the mitted, and which were reported to them by their sword of justice was again wielded by vigorous spies,

hands. When the criminal, after having been sun These Westphalian secret tribunals, at first, moned, appeared, and was incap..ble of making || were only designed for Westphalia, and had no a satisfactory defence, he was condemned either jurisdiction over any other province. The exto pay a mulct, or else was sentenced to suffer || tent of their jurisdiction was limited in the west death. The latter punishment, however, was by the Rhine, in the east by the Weser, in the remited, if he had previously confessed his crime north by Friesland and the territory of Utrecht, to a priest, and atoned for it as required by the and in the south by the Westerwald (western ecclesiasticallaw; whilst, in such cases, neither li forest) and Hessia. Tribunals of these secret the priest nor judges were permitted to divulge Westphalian judges ( Freystühle) were to be found it. The interest of Christianity, which it was only in the duchies of Guelders, Cleves, and the Emperor's wish to recommended, rendered Westphalia, in the principalities of Corvey and this indulgence necessary to the Saxons. If, Minden, and the Landgraviate of Hessen; in the however, the accused did not appear, he was counties of Benthiem, Limburg, Lippe, Mark, pat-lawed, and this sentence was comin unicated Ravensberg, Rechlinhausen, Rietsberg, Sayn, to the neighbouring counts, who were called to Waldeck, and Steinfurt; in the signories of assist in giving it effect.

Gehmen, Neustadt, and Rheda, and in the terAnnually a public diet was holden by the ritory of Dortmund, a free imperial town. Emperor's delegate, in Saxony, to inquire into | The Emperor, being supreme judge of all se. the state of the Christian religion, and in what l cular courts of judicature in Germany, was also manner the magistrates had discharged their the sole creator and chief of all free tribunals. duty; as well as to compel the counts and Free counties were certain districts, comprejudges to administer justice with impartiality, || hending several parishes, where the judges and and to give information of such illegal acts of counsellors of the secret ban administered justice, their countrymen, as had occurred to their know. conformably to the territorial statutes. A free ledge. Besides this diet, he also held special county generally contained several tribunals sub(gebotene) sessions, in which judgment was given ject 10 the controul of one master of the chair in matters of appeal, and against such persons as (stuhlherr). There masters of the chair, who could not properly be prosecuted before the re commonly were secular or ecclesiastical galar judges. The decrees pronounced in these princes, held their appointment by the will of sessions affected the life of the accused. Those the Emperor, and forfeited it on deciding in mat. who refused to appear, were declared to be out ters not coming under their jurisdiction, or delayed (vervehmt), whence, afterwards, arose the viating in their decrees from the laws of the free denomination of uehmgericht, i.e. the tribunal tribunals. They appointed the free counts by which the criminal was separated from those (freygrafen), who were presidents of individual who enjoyed the ordinary protection of the tribuuals of the secret ban. They were presented laws,

to the Emperor for confirmation by the masters If a conclusion may be drawn from a similarity of their chair, who were made responsible for of procedure and tendency in two criminal in them, upon which they were invested with the stitutions, it may be concluded, that these two royal ban, and obliged to swear fealty and obehad both a common origin, and that the secret dience to the head of the empire. The latter tribunals of Westphalia were continuations of also could punish the free counts, or deprive these secret criminal sessions, gradually changed them of their office, occupy the seat of a free and new-moulded in conformity to circumstances count in the tribunals, decide in matters of apand the wants of the times; although the free peal brought before him, inspect and reform the knights, actuated by family pride, unanimously || tribunals, and appoint the free knights (fray

schöffen), though in the territory of Westphalia | resident in the free coun'y, and natives of Westalone. He could, indeed, exercise these prero | phaly. The number of these free-koights begatives only when himself was initiated; this, longing to each tribunal, never was less than however, was generally done by the master of seven, nor did it amount to more than eleven. the chair of the Imperial Chamber of Dortmund, Seven free-knights, at least, were required to on the coronation of the Emperor at Aix-la compose a plenary-court (Voltgericht), in which Ch pelle. lf, however, the Emperor was not the final sentence was pronounced. Knights of initiated in the mysteries of the secret tribunals, other tribunals were indeed permitted to be prehe could demand of the judges of the secret sent on these occasions as visitori, but were not ban no other answer to his inquiries but yes reckoned, nor allowed to vote. On their recepand no.

tion they promised on oath : to be faithful in disThe Dake of Saxony was supreme governor charging their functions as free-knights; to give and administrator of the Westphalian secret tri- || information to the secret tribunal of every thing bunals, and after the partition of the Duchy of coining under its jurisdiction, perceived by theme Saxony, was superseded in this function by the selves or reported to them by creditable persons, archbishop of Cologne. To him also the mem and not to suffer any thing created betwixt bers of the secret tribunals were obliged to swear || heaven and earih, to divert them from the execuobedience. The free-counts, whom he nominated tion of their duty. They also bound themselves for the duchies of Engern and Westphaly, were to promote the interest of the sacred Roman subjected to his examination and instruction, and empire, and to invade the possessions of the after being invested by the Emperor with the masters of the chair and of the free-courts only royal ban, were not only installed by him, but on legal grounds. After having taken this oath, made liable to be deprived of their function, at ll they were not permitted to reveal even to their his pleasure, without being permitted to appeal. confessors the secrets of the tribunal, and on

Every master of the chair was authorized to transgressing this law, though only in the most prohibit the free-counts of his tribunals, to decide trilling point, were hanged without mercy. They in certain cases, and to grant letters of protection pronounced judgment according to the statutes against the proceedings of the latter. He re of the Westphalian secret tribunal, and executed ceived of every free-judge, admitted as a member it conformably to the decrees of the free-courts. of the tribunals subject to his jurisdiction, one They knew each other by certain secret signals. mark of gold, if the candidate was of noble The free-bailiffs ( Freyfrohnen) performed the descent, if not, a mark of silver. Beside this; office of messengers, and also were required to he also enjoyed other perquisites, amounting to be freemen, begotten in legal wedlock, and of an a considerablesum.

unim peached character. The free-counts (vehmgrafen) - were required The original constitution of the secret tribunals te be begotten in legal wedlock, born in West did, however, not long continue in force, bastards phaly, and distinguished as free, unblemished, and wretches of the most abandoned character and respectable men in their community. They being adınitted. The number of free-knights promised on oath, at their nomination, to be | allowed to every tribunal, was originally limited obedient to the Emperor, the governor and the to eleven, but in a short time in many amounted riaster of the chair, to discharge the duties in- || to fifty and more, who possessed not an inch of cumbent on them as free-counts, to take cogni | landed estate in Westphaly, and were induced Zince of no cause not comicg under the jurisdic by self-interest, ambition, thirst after vengeance, tion of the secret ban; to give to the accused or other disgraceful motives, to join the associaevery opportunity of defending himself; to ini tion. The meeting places of the members of the tiate no one whose free and legal birth and un secret tribunals degenerated into haunts of sanblemished life were not warranted as the statutes guinary banditti, who indiscriminately assassinated required; to promote the good of the sacred the innocent with the guilly. The masters of Roman empire; not to injure the countries and the chair being actuated by the most sordid subjects of their superiors, unless they had lawful || avarice, divided the free-countries into nuauthority to do it, and never to oppose the re merous smaller scats of justice, whereby the formation of the secret tribunals. They were number of spies and secret informers naturally intitled to receive thirty guilders of every free was encreased to a most alarming degree, and judge admitted as a member of their tribunal, and numberless opportunities for fraud, imposition, one-third of all perquisites. Their persons were and extortion were presented. Although they sacred and inviolable.

were originally authorized to pronounce sentence The free-knights ( Freyschöffin, Vehmschöffen, only in criminal cases, they interfered in private Wissende) were required to be begotten in legal and domestic affairs, in order to encrease their wedlock, freeborn, of an unimpeachred character, fees, and contrived to lay even Counts and Princes

No. XX. Vol. III.

under contribution to their avarice. They vowed, || Duke Williain of Brunswick is reported to have on their adinission, in the inost solemn and awful | said: I must order the Duke Adolphus, of manner, to judge with incorruptible imparciality, ll Shleswic, to be hanged, if be should come to see tó regard no perso11, and even to be deaf to the me, lest the free-knights should hang me. It feelings of the heart, in framing their decrees; }| was difficult to elude the proceedings of the but, on the contrary, they were swayed by selfish free knights, as they at all times contrived to ness, accessible to corruption, partial to their steal at night, unknown and unseen, to the gates friends, and prosecuted their enemies with the of castles, palaces and towns, and to affix the must rancoruus malice, and prostituted their summons of the secret tribunal. When this had function by rendering their authority subservienti been done three times, and the accused did not to the gratification of the most brutallust. They l appear; he was condemned by the secret ban, were deaf to the lamentations of calumniated and summoned once more to submit to the exe. innocence, assassinated their relations to wherit cution of the sentence, and in case of non-aptheir estates, and were more dreadful to the l.pearance, solemnly out-lawed, when the invisible virtuous than the midnight ruffian. A free bands of free-knights watched all his steps til! count frequently acted at once as witness and as they found an opportunity of taking away his judge; the spy, informer, witness, and judge, i life. When a free-knight thought himself too were, in many instances, united in the same per il weak to seize and liang the culprit, he was son; in short, ihe abuses which disgraced the bound to pursue him till he met with some of secret tribunals, rendered them a real curse to his colleagues, who assisted him in hanging hinx mankind. Towards the close of the 14th, and to a tree, near the high road, and not to a gibbet, in the beginning of the 15th century, their power to signify thereby that they exercised a free imin Germany rose lo a most alarming degree; and I perial judicature throughout the whole en pire, we may safely maintain that the German empire independent of all territorial tribunals. If the at that time contained more than an hundred devoted victim made resistance, so as to compel thousand free-knights, who without either pre them to poignard him; they tied the dead body vious notice or trial executed every one who was to a tree, fixing the dagger over his head, to show condemned by the secret ban. Bavarians, Aus that he had not been murdered, but executed trians, Franconians and Suabians, having a de by a free-knight. mand on any one whom they could not bring to Their transactions were shrouded in the most justice before the regular courts of his country, profound concealinent; and the signal by which applied to the Westphalian secret tribunal, where the initiated, or knowing ones, as they called they obtained a summons, and in case of non themselves, recognized each other, never coul appearance, a sentence, which was imniediately be discovered. Their secret proceedings were communicated to the whole fraternity of free not permitted to be disclosed to the Emperor knights, a step by which were put in motion | himself, although he was supreme master of the zhose hundred thousand executioners bound by chair. Only when he asked, bas N. N. been ahe most dreadful oath to spare neither father condemned ? the free-knights were allowed to nor mother, nor to regard the sacred ties of friend. reply in the affirmative or negative; but when he ship and inatrimonial love. If a free-knight met enquired who had been condemned by the secret a friend condemned by the secret ban, and gave | ban? they were not permitted to mention any him' only the slightest hint to save his life by name. Night, all the other free-knights were bound to The Emperor, or his delegate, could create hang him seven feet higher than any other cri free-knights no where but on the red soid, i. e, in minal! * The sentence being pronounced in the Westphaly, with the assistance of three or four serret ban, they were obliged to put it into imme free-knights who acted as witnesses. In this diate execution, and not permitted to make the l they likewise resembled the free-masons; and if lea t'remonstrance, though they were perfectly l we consider every tribunal as a lodge, and the convinced that the devoted victim was the best | supreme master of the chair, as the grand-masterof men, and innocent of the crime alledged l of all Westphalian lodges, this comparison is. against him. This induced almost every man of | rendered still more striking. The real significar rank and power to become a member of that I tion of the term red soil, and the reason why it dreadful association, in order to be more able to was applied to Westphaly, has not yet been be on his gvard. Every Prince had some free-l traced out. The King Wenzeslaus, had created knights aniongst his counsellors, and the majority Il free-kuights out of Westphaly, and when the of the German nobility belonged to that secret Emperor, Ruprecht, asked how they were treated arder Even Princes; for instance, the Duke of || by the regular free-knights, he received the Bavaria, and the Margrave of Brandenbourgh || answer, they are hanged without mercy. were inembers of the Secret Tribunal. The il The Emperor alone, and no other German

Prince, could grant a safe conduct to a person secret tribunal, in his service, in order to save his who was outlawed by the secret ban, which was . life. But the free counts continued to prosecute a privilege which Charles the Great had reserved him, till he at last appealed to the ecclesiastical to himself in the Saxon capitulars.' 'The free 1 council at Basle. knights, however, maintained, it was more he || Reformations of the numerous abuses which coming the Einperor not io grant such letters of gradually had crept into the secret tribunals, protection at all, as he was more interested in l were repeatedly altempted, especially in the years strengthening than in weakening the power of 1404, 1419, 1429, 1455, and 1437 ; but the the secret tribunals : and in this they were righi, corruption had alreadly spread 10o far, and was as the free counts defended the imperial juthority ronied too deeply to be removed. They were against the encroachments of territorial jurisdic-never form.lly abolished, and only expired by tion. The Emperor Sigismund took a certain || degrees. Conrail of Langer, who was out-lawed by the II

AN ESSAY ON THE EFFECTS OF A WELL-REGULATED TIIEATRE.

BY F. SCHILLER.

SULZER observes, in his Theory of the Fine | The person who first observed that religion is Arts and Sciences, that an universal and irre- || the strongest pillar of the state, and that it alone sistible inclination to povel and extraordinary || renders the laws effectual, has by this ass-rlion, scenes, a desire of feeling ourselves in a state of perhaps without intending or being sensible of mental commotion, has given rise to dramatic it, defended the stage in the strongest manner. exhibitions, Being exhausted by a too strenuous || That very insufficiency and instability of positive exertion of the mental faculties, enfeebled by laws, which render religion indispensably neces. the sameness and pressure of his professional oc- sary for the state, determines also the whole incupations, and satiated by sensuality, man could | Auence the stage can produce. The laws connot but feel a vacancy in his soul totally repug. fine themselves merely lo negative duries, whereas nant to the unremitting impulse to activity in- || religion extends its precepts to real actions. The herent in human nature. Our nature, equally || laws counteract only those effects that dissolve incapable of enduring for any length of time a the social bonds by which mankind, is united, state of mere animal existence, as of continuing whilst religion pre;cribes such actions as render the exertions of the higher faculties without in- | these bonds stronger. The laws decide only upon termission, panted after an intermediate state, the visible effects of the will; deeds alone are uniting these two opposite extremes, relaxing the subject to their exertion, whilst religion extends mind frem a too intense bent of its powers, and

its jurisdiction to the inmost recesses of the heart, facilitating the alternate transition from one state pursuing the thoughts of man to their primary to the other. This advantage is invariably pro- sources. The laws are plian', and as changeable duced by a susceptibility of the impressions of as the humours and passions of man, whreas beauty. But as a wise legislator should exert the bonds of religion are strong and eternal. Suphimself, above all things, to select from two li pose i hat religion actually did exercise this power. effects that which is most efficacious, he will not || ful sway over every human heart, will and can it be satisfied with having only disarmed the in- complete the entire refinement of man? Reliclinations of his people, but, if possible, render ll gion (which I distinguish here between its polithem instrumental to the accomplishment of rical and divine pari) religiou, in the aggregale, doble designs, and endeavour to convert them operates chiefly upon the sensual part of the into sources of happiness, Actualed by these people; but its efficacy would be los', were we motives, legislators gave the preference to the to purify it entirely from whatever strikes The stag, which opens a spacious field to a mind senses, — And wha! else is i That renders the stage eager for exertion, afford: nourishment to all the efficacious? Religion.ceases to operate upon the faculties of the soul, without overstraining any majorisy of the human race, if we divesç it of its one of them, and unites the refinement of the awful pic ures, and probleing, of heaven and hell, understanding and the heart with the most inno which operate alone by the influence they exereen kind of amusement.

I ciie over the imagination. Wbat addition of strength must religion and the laws acquire by a | mercy on the stage; and numerous virtues, of close alliance with the stage, where all is intui. | which the legislature is silent, are recommended tion, where vice and virtue, happiness and misery, from the stage. In this it faithfully follows the folly and wisdom, are represented to man in a directions of wisdom and religion. It derives its variety of comprehensive and faithful pictures ; || principles and examples from this pure source, where providence unfolds its riddles, and solves and enrobes rigorous duty with a charming and the mysterious knots' of fate before our eyes; enticing garment. How noble are the sentiments, where the human heart, stretched on the rack of resolutions, and passions, with which it swells passion, confesses its inmost emotions; where all | our soul, how heavenly the ideas which it exhi. masks are stript off, every gloss is wiped away, bits for imitation. When the benevolent Auand incorruptible truth is awfully sitting in judg. || gustos, great as a god, offers his hand to the perment.

fidious Cinna, who imagines to read the sentence The jurisdiction of the stage begins where the of death on his lips, and utters the generous redominion of the civil law terminales. When I quest, “ Cinna, let us be friends !" who among justice is blinded by the charms of gold, and riots the spectators would in that moment not be in in the pay of vice, when the crimes of those that clined to shake his mortal enemy kindly by the are in power laugh at its impotence, and fear of hand, in order to resemble the great Roman ? man fetters the arm of the magistrates, then the When Francis Sickingen, going to chastise an stage takes up the sword and balance of justice, oppressive prince, and to defend the rights of a and drags vice before its dread tribunal. The fellow-man, on the road chances to look round, spacious regions of fancy and history, the tiines and descries the smoke of his burning castle, past and future, are obedient to its nod. Dar where he left his wife and child unprotected, and ing criminals, long mouldered in dust, are now proceeds on his road, in order to be faithful to summoned by the omnipotent voice of poetry, his word, how great must man appear in such a and repeat an ignominious life for the awful in moment, and how contemptible the dread uf instruction of posterity. Wretches, once the

vincible fate! terror of their cotemporaries, pass before our Useful as the stage proves itself by representing eyes, impotent like the phantoms produced by a virtue in the most amiable manner, it produces magic mirror, and we curse their memory with a effects no less salutary by exhibiring the devoluptuous horror. Though morality should be formity of vice in its dreadful mirror. When taught no longer, religion lose all credit, and the helpless and childish Lear, in a nocturnal the power of the law be dissolved, yet man would tempest, knocks in vain at the house of his continue to be seized with awful dread on seeing daughters, scattering his white locks into the Medea stagger down the steps of her palace, and air, and tells the furious eleinents how unnatural be agitated with powerful emotions when the his reign had been; when he at last vents his murder of her children is accomplished. A sa furious pangs in the dreadful words, “ I gave Jutary tremor will seize the beholder, and he will you all I had to give !" how abominable then rejoice at having preserved his conscience pure, must ingratitude appear to us, and how sowhen Lady Macbeth, a dreadful night walker, lemnly do we vow to love and to revere our washes her hands, and calls in vain for all the parents! perfumes of Arabia to dispel the odious scent of But the effects which the stage can produce murder? " It is no exaggeration if we maintain extend still farther. It is active for our improvethat these pictures, exhibited on the stage, ment, when religion and the law deem it beneath finally incorporate themselves with the morals their dignity to bestow their fostering care upon of the multilude, and in individual cases influ.

de and in individual cases influ- | human sentiments. Social happiness is as much ence their sentiments. The impressions, pro. annoyed by folly as by crimes and vices. Expeduced by such exhibitions, are indelible, and the rience teaches us, that in the texture of human

auch is sufficient to resuscitate, as it affairs the greatest weights are frequently suswere, the whole terrifying picture in the heart of pendeil by the smallest and niost tender threads, man. Certain as it is that intuitive representa and that we, on tr.cing human actions to their tion operates more powerfully than dead letters primary sources, must smile ten times, before we and cold recitation, it is equally certain that the are once struck with horror. The more I ad. stage produces a more powerful and lasting l vance in years, the smaller grows my catalogue effect than all systems of morality and the of villains, whilst my register of fouls grows more written law

complete and numerous. If all the mortal transBut the stage in this does not merely aid the actions of one sex arise from one source, if all law-it has a much more spacious field to act the enormous extremes of vice, which ever have upon. Thousands of vices, suffered by the law branded individuals, are only altered forms, only to remain unpunished, are chastised without higher degrees of one quality, which we at last

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »