THE QUESTION OF REPRESENTATION IN PRUSSIA UNDER THE GRAND MASTER HEINRICH VON PLAUEN (NOVEMBER 9, 1410 - OCTOBER 9, 1413)

MARKIAN PELECH, Fordham University

Abstract

The relations of Heinrich von Plauen with the subjects of the Teutonic Order in Prussia were primarily influenced by his obligation to pay a large ransom for those of the Order's army captured by the Poles at the Battle of Tannenberg (July 15, 1410). Since the Order was unable to pay this from its own resources, for the first time it needed extraordinary taxes from the subjects. In 1411 Plauen obtained their consent to three taxes. In this year and early in 1412 he also included the subjects in discussions relating to the use of these taxes. In late 1412, when he needed further taxes, he was able to obtain consent to these only by appointing knights and burghers who were sworn into his Council (October 28, 1412).^ In historiography the predominant view is that Plauen intended to introduce a reform of the Order's government, by giving the subjects a wider and permanent participation in administration and in foreign affairs. The conclusion reached by this study is that Plauen did not introduce, nor did he intend to introduce, any such reform. His actions were motivated solely by the desire to obtain consent to taxes. He limited the participation of the subjects to a small number of topics of interest to himself. Once he had obtained the taxes, he returned to the Order's hitherto unilateral methods of government.^ One can not speak of direct representation of the knights before 1411, for those who attended assemblies were not elected by their districts, but rather were designated by the lordship. Only six towns took part in assemblies before 1411. There was no institutional entity which might be said to have represented the greater part of the population, nor did the subjects have a constitutional competence to make decisions concerning any matter. By 1411, therefore, one can not speak of the Prussian Estates in the parliamentary sense, nor can Plauen be said to have introduced changes in this state of affairs.^ The previously-known sources show that the Councillors were sent to their localities, to persuade the local knights and village elders to pay additional taxes. It has been assumed that these assemblies took place in the Komturei districts (commanderies). From the districts under which the Councillors are listed one may conclude that the assemblies took place in the land-court districts. Whether, and how, the towns were assembled is unknown. The Councillors are known to have helped collect the tax. Some were present at the final payment to the Poles on January 18, 1413. Although no further information about them is available, it has usually been claimed that their competence was wider and ceased only with Plauen's deposition in October 1413. However, those who appear in documents not relating to the tax between their appointment and January, 1413, are not called Councillors. Hitherto unutilized archival sources show that those of the former Councillors who appear in documents after January 18, are not called Councillors, nor are they distinguished in any way from other knights and burghers who appear in the same documents. Their activity was therefore limited to the tax and ended in January 1413. The biographical information available about some three-quarters of them shows that most of them can be shown to have been on intimate terms with the Order, or prominent before their appointment, which previously has been merely hypothesized.^ The sources for the later Prussian assemblies show a total absence of any mention of Plauen's parliamentary practices. This reinforces the view that the intended and introduced no reform in representative institutions. ^

Subject Area

Medieval history

Recommended Citation

PELECH, MARKIAN, "THE QUESTION OF REPRESENTATION IN PRUSSIA UNDER THE GRAND MASTER HEINRICH VON PLAUEN (NOVEMBER 9, 1410 - OCTOBER 9, 1413)" (1980). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8020079.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8020079

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