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Cities that adopted the Lübeck and Magdeburg laws often applied to the councils of these cities for juridical guidance and to settle cases that were unclear to the local justices. In this letter, the council of Magdeburg provides legal clarification to the council of Culm.

SOURCE: “The Schoeffen of Magdeburg give Decisions for Culm.” In Thatcher, Oliver & Edgar McNeal, eds. A Source Book for Medieval History. New York & Chicago: Charles Schribner’s Sons, 1905. pp. 602-604.

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1. May aldermen be deposed? To the honorable aldermen of Culm, we the Schoeffen of Magdeburg, your obedient servants [send greetings]. You have asked us in your letter whether aldermen may choose other aldermen, and whether they may choose from among themselves burgomasters and Schoeffen without the consent of the burggrave. And also whether the burggrave may depose some of the aldermen and appoint others in their place. We answer, that the aldermen may choose other aldermen for a year, and one or two burgomasters from their own number also for a year. But the burggrave has no right to depose aldermen and put others in their place.

2. Who shall choose other Schoeffen? The Schoeffen shall elect other Schoeffen, and those elected shall remain Schoeffen as long as they live. The aldermen have no right to elect Schoeffen. The burggrave shall confirm the Schoeffen who are elected.

3. May the aldermen make laws? You have also asked us whether the aldermen with the consent of their citizens may make laws among themselves and fix the penalties for

offenses against them, without the consent of the burggrave, and whether the aldermen have the right to collect such penalties and retain them, or shall the burggrave and the Schultheiss have a share in them. And you have also asked if a man breaks the laws and refuses to pay the fine, how it is to be collected from him. We answer, that the aldermen may make laws and fix their penalties provided these laws do not conflict with the laws of the city. And they may do this without the consent of the burggrave. And they have the right to demand the payment of fines, and they may keep them for the benefit of the city; the burggrave and the Schultheiss shall have no part in them.

4. What if a man refuses to pay a fine? If a man refuses to pay a fine but admits that he owes it, the aldermen may seize and imprison him until he pays it. If he says he does not owe the fine, he shall prove it by taking an oath by the saints.

5. About false measures. You have further asked whether the aldermen have jurisdiction over weights and measures, false measures, and the sale of provisions, and if a man refuses to pay a fine how it shall be collected. We answer, that aldermen have jurisdiction over the said things, and that if a man refuses to pay his fine, they may seize and imprison him until he pays it as written above.

6. About damage done to a forest. You asked us if a man cuts wood in a forest, how he shall pay the damage. We answer, if a man cuts down trees in another's forest, or cuts his grass, or fishes in his streams, he shall pay for the damage and fine besides.

7. How far shall a guest live from the city? You also asked us how far a man must live from court if he wishes to have the right of a guest. We answer, if a guest is accused before the court, if he swears by the saints that he lives more than twelve miles from the court, he shall have his trial at once. If a guest enters suit against a citizens in the same

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court, the citizen shall answer in court that same day if the guest demands it.

8. About attaching the property of a guest. You further asked us how you should proceed, if a man attaches the property of a guest from a far country, so that justice may be done to both. We answer, if a man attaches the property of a guest who lives so far away that you cannot get hold of him, the attachment is not to be put into execution until the guest is informed of it. If the guest does not then appear to defend his property, the attached property may be taken.

9. About taxes. You further asked us, if the citizens have property outside of the territory of the city which they hold from some lord and from which they receive an income, are they bound to pay the tax which may be assessed on property outside the city, just the same as they do on their ordinary property? We answer, that according to the law and practice of our city, every man must pay taxes on his property out side as well as inside the city, no matter where it is, and he must take an oath to its value and pay a tax accordingly.