The Peasants War in Germany

Ernest Bax - The Peasants War in Germany
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It was the Hörige who were the backbone of all the agrarian uprisings. This middle-class peasant, living in a semi-independent community near the estate of the lord, became aware that the increase of dues and services was transforming him into a state of practical serfdom, and the village common into a part of the lord’s manor. There were two kinds of dues, produce or money, and Fronen or bodily services.

The peasant had to give to his lord a definite percentage twice a year, at spring and harvest, of all his field, garden, forest and animal products. Besides, there were special demands at feasts, births, baptisms, marriages and deaths.

The lord demanded Easter chickens, Christmas chickens, Shrovetide hens, etc. There was a constant succession of dues, taxes and services, squeezed from the peasant on every pretext. Should a storm, frost or flood injure the crop, it made no difference in the collection of the amount due.

The peasants of Furstenberg complain that “it often happens when hail or wind does harm to our crops or when there is a bad season, our lords refuse to reduce their demands and require as much as in a good year”. The peasants of Brunnen declare that “when fire, flood or hail afflicts us, the lord as well as we should suffer”.

Most irksome of all were the Fronen or unrewarded services in the chase, fishing and labor on the personal estate of the lord. The peasant had to drop work on his own farm, no matter how urgent, in order to perform these services.

The number of days required varied with the locality. In the duchy of Austria it was twelve days a year; in other parts of Germany the peasant had to work for the lord all of April and May. Generally the number of Fronen days varied with the occupations on the farm, as one day’s haying, one day’s harvesting, corning, etc.

The peasants of Stühlingen complain :
“One day we must cut wheat, another day bind, on others plow, sow, thresh, cut hay and cart it to the bam, make fences and help in the chase. We must provide wood, not only for fire but for building, and pile it in heaps. Often when we can least spare the time, we must dig roots and pick berries for the lord.

Our wives or helpers must also prepare the flax till it is ready for spinning. We are forced to drain the creeks, which, as we need the water, does us harm. We must cart his corn, mow, and clean the stables three times a year. We must take care of the cattle of the castle-warden also and then help in the hunt”...

Curator Comments
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Author/Contributor(s)
Ernest Belfort Bax
Ernest Belfort Bax
Bax was a passionate advocate for the social and legal rights of men, which he saw as lacking in comparison to the legal rights of women. His first major article on the subject was Some Bourgeois Idols; Or Ideals, Reals...

Occupations: Philosopher, Social Critic
Specialties: Men's Rights, Feminism, Free Speech / Free Thought Advocate
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