Brother Dirk and Other Stories

Introduction: The Decree

IntroductionFrom the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles the Fifth:

To our beloved and faithful commanders in chief, to the members of our Privy-Council, and all other judges and officers of our kingdoms and cities, and all our subjects, or their governors, to whom this decree shall come, happiness and favor.

In order to guard against and correct the errors which many heretics and upstarts, with their followers, have dared for some time to sow and spread in our kingdom against our Christian faith and the commandments of our mother church, we have proclaimed many decrees so that the common, simple people may beware of these errors and offenses, and that the chief teachers and dissenters may be punished and corrected, as an example to others.

And since it has come to our knowledge that, in spite of our decrees, many and various upstarts, especially some who call themselves Anabaptists, have continued, and still daily continue, to spread, sow and secretly preach their aforesaid errors, in order to attract a great number of men and women to their false teachings and rebellious sect, to entice them and rebaptize some, to the great dishonor of our mother church and of our edicts, decrees and laws.

Therefore, we command you to proclaim in every place under your rule, that of all those who are found stained by the accursed sect of the Anabaptists, whether rich or poor, noble or common, their chief leaders shall lose their lives and property, and be brought to the most extreme punishment without delay; namely, those who remain obstinate and stubborn in their evil beliefs, or who have attracted and rebaptized any into their sect, also any who have been called prophets, apostles or bishops... these shall be punished most severely. All other persons who have been rebaptized, or who secretly and purposely have protected any of the aforesaid Anabaptists from arrest, but who turn away from their evil beliefs, and are truly sorry and repentant for having been rebaptized... these shall also lose their lives, but otherwise shall be shown mercy.

And in order to better catch these Anabaptists, their followers and supporters, we command all our subjects to report them to the officers of the place where they live. And any one who knows of persons of this sect but does not report them, he will be punished as a supporter of the sect of the Anabaptists. But if he reports them, he shall have one third of their property, if the accused is convicted.

Moreover, we forbid all our subjects from asking for mercy for the aforesaid Anabaptists, for because of their evil teachings, we will not permit any Anabaptists to have any mercy shown them. And we give each and all of you full power and special command to do this.

Given at Brussels, under our seal, on the tenth day of June. Signed by the Emperor and his council.

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