Die Weinkaufsprotokolle des Amtes Esens von 1554 bis 1811

Heyko Heyken
Upstalsboom-Gesellschaft Aurich, 1998
Bearbeitet von Heyko Heyken nach grundlegenden Vorarbeiten von Dr. Heino Mammen

Teile I & II


Der Weinkauf im Harlingerland:
The Weinkauf in the Harlingerland

(translation by Doug Bradley)

The oldest farm census [Bauernregister] of the Amt Esens, the Sielgeldregister from the year 1556, contains detailed data on the local patterns of land holdings. [Rep. 4 B II p 99 Nr. 2] It shows that most of the land is designated as “Heuerland” (rented fields); for example, of the 2,666 Diemat listed in the Werdumer Vogtei, only 5.2% is classified as “Eigenland” (occupant-owned land). The vast majority of the country was in the so-called “Obereigentum” [fee title, eminent domain, “overtitle”] of the sovereign [Landesherr]. [The sovereign was the Obereigentümer, the titleholder or “top owner,” the so-called “Dominus directus” or direct lord.] The householders [Hausleute] are always referred to in the register as “renters” [Heuerleute], the land as “rental land” [Heuerland]. These designations are however misleading. These householders were not renters or tenants in the modern sense. In effect they were land owners, albeit with some restrictions. The land was inheritable, and could be sold, traded, or mortgaged. Between the “renter” [Heuermann] and the sovereign was a special relationship, roughly equivalent to the current leasehold law. The sovereign was the titleholder, and the renter was the “sub-owner” [Untereigentümer]. [See Göttrup, The Constitution and Administration of the Harlingerland, 1581-1744 (Die Verfassung und Verwaltung des Harlingerlandes 1581 bis 1744), 1962, p. 78.] But also, where in most cases the titleholder was the sovereign, in some locations “other householders” or the Church for example were titleholders. Specific lists of private titleholders do not exist.

The sub-owner had in particular the obligation to pay the titleholder the “base pay,” according to the current ground rent. Furthermore, upon death or sale, he had to pay a tax. This was the “Weinkauf.” Only in those points was the title of the “renter” restricted. [Detail for this: Johann Conrad Freese, Geschichte der Renteigefälle (History of Rent-Own-Cases), 1848, pp. 533 ff., 541; also Heyken, Die Einwohner des alten Amtes Wittmund (The Inhabitants of the Old Wittmund Amt), pp. 556 ff.]

But the house that the “renter” lived in was his absolute property. Besides the land rent, other normal charges still had to be paid; in addition, other services were expected [?]. If a tenant had to be evicted from his farm because he could not pay the Weinkauf, his building was appraised by masons and carpenters, and he was compensated.

The Weinkauf was to be paid to the sovereign if the land passed into new hands, usually by inheritance, but also by sale or trade. The name comes from the custom in ancient times that when land was sold, the buyer had to invite the seller for a drink, and only then was the purchase made legal. [Meyer’s Enzyklopädisches Lexikon, 9th edition, “Weinkauf.” Further detail: Franz Beyerle, Weinkauf und Gottespfennig an Hand westdeutscher Quellen (Weinkauf and God’s Penny in Hand: West German Sources), in: Festschrift für Alfred Schulze zum 70. Geburtstag, Weimar 1934.] This custom gradually gave way to a cash distribution to the titleholder. In Ostfriesland, the toast was still customary as well, at least into the 16th century, as we see in the Court and Policy Orders of Countess Anna in 1545. [Brenneysen, Ost-Friesische Historie und Landesverfassung, Aurich 1720, Tom. II, Lib. I, p. 181]

How the term “Weinkauf” came to the Harlingerland is unclear. It is striking that the Weinkauf is not used in the rest of Ostfriesland—where the Harlingerland always took a somewhat exceptional place legally. It is conceivable that the Rietbergers “brought” the term from Westphalia in 1540.

[See also Der Genealogische Abend for a somewhat different explanation of the Weinkauf custom and where its name came from. Rietberg, in East Westphalia, is adjacent to Grafschaft Lippe, whence comes this alternate Weinkauf explanation. Both, incidentally, are adjacent to the Teutoberger Wald, where the Romans in 9 A.D. near Osnabrück were dealt one of their most embarrassing military defeats ever, principally ending their attempts to exert direct dominion over German tribes, and thereby establishing the Rhine as the border at which the Roman Empire ended. Lippe and Rietberg are not Frisian, and the area today called Ostfriesland was probably not Frisian at the time, but through the centuries the inhabitants of these areas, linked by the Ems River, have intermingled for various enterprises.]

In the Harlingerland, the Weinkauf by 1554/56 was already a fiscal tax. In that day, incidentally, this was quite high. So it was that Hero, the son of Johan Hermans, in 1572 had to pay 450 Reichstaler when he took over a leased property of 91 1/2 Diemat of Marschland in the Werdumer Vogtei [Werdum Herd 4a]. When he died a year later, his brother had to add another 250 Rt. In 1577, from the same place, again a Weinkauf of 150 Rt was payable. Thus in this short period over 800 Rt were paid in Weinkauf, and indeed that had to be paid in good Reichstaler coins. It must be remembered that in 1573, a milk cow cost 16 Rt. This, however, is an extreme case. In the Vogteien with lower-grade land, the Weinkauf was naturally lower; thus the son of Frederich Remmers of Thunum in 1599 paid a 60 Rt Weinkauf for a farm with 30 1/2 Diemat of Marsch and 17 Dt of Geest [Thunum Herd 6].

When the man of a house died, his death had to be reported at the Rentei [?] within 24 hours. When the Weinkauf obligation was not reported, a fine was threatened, often higher than the payable Weinkauf. In some cases, even the loss of the entire Herd was announced. Although this “Weinkaufsverhandlungen” was often mentioned, it is very doubtful that such penalties really took place. Again and again it is written in the logs: “Required: . . . Rt. Paid: . . . Rt.” Even here, most of the time there was a difference. But ultimately the sovereign decided, and almost always above that: “Shall give . . . ”

By the end of the 17th century, it is finally over with this “negotiation” for a new Weinkauf. Christian Eberhard on 15 November 1697 adopted a Weinkauf rule for the Harlingerland. Thenceforth the Weinkauf was raised in such a way that for 1 Dt of Marsch, 1 Rt would be paid. Lower-quality land was converted to the Marsch rate, in a kind of scoring system. Undoubtedly, this system was more fair than the previous determinations.

In addition to the Weinkauf, a “management fee” was always payable, the “worship” or “gift.” The money went partly to the sovereign, and partly to the senior officials as part of their salary. Originally this was also a negotiable amount and therefore was also variable. By the end of the 17th century, this had been standardized at 4 Rt for a full farm, 2 Rt for a half farm, and 1 Rt for a quarter farm or a “Warfstätte” [a minor property]. [For this reason, in the property evaluations the records from about this time generally refrained from specifying the amount of the Weinkauf and the fees.] Moreover, even a non-insignificant recording fee had to be paid. Therefore, for example, Hinrich Becker in the Werdumer Vogtei [Werdum Herd 81] on 21 January 1683 gave for “the men who served 9 1/2 Rt and for the writing of the name 2 Rt.” In this context, one occasionally finds in the records the remark “Cons.” or “Archig.” [Ehrentraut, II Band, p. 105: “Consentgeld auch Verehrung”; Tiefenbach, Glossarium, Frankfurt a.M., 1857, p. 46: “Archigrammateus oberster cantzler.”] These are likely to involve similar costs, but they are still occasionally observed in addition to the “worship” or “gift.”

As shown above, the Weinkauf was a right of the titleholder over his sub-owner. Thus the sovereign with the greatest share of ownership rights had this right. Regardless, over time the government has assumed the right, one can assume retroactively [?], to raise the Weinkauf not only from the sub-owners, but to demand the Weinkauf on all farms, no matter who the titleholder was. This type of management has been apparent from a very early stage, so it appears in the records from the early 17th century. One could describe this as the “eminent Weinkauf law.”

The result was that those farmers whose “rental land” had a different titleholder [other than the sovereign] had to pay a double Weinkauf. The rulers were very much aware of this. The aforementioned Weinkauf Regulation of 13 November 1697 did not establish new law, but essentially repeated and summarized existing law, observing namely in the manner of a “Hardship Clause” that

“those places and farms, which give Weinkauf to noble owners, or to other private owners, for ground or Meyer [?] rent, shall still be charged the Weinkauf for his highness, but only in an equitable fashion with due moderation.”

In fact, this restriction was hardly used. From about 1700, generally the Weinkauf was reduced 1 florin from the 1 Rt rate for each Diemat [?]. Apparently no consideration was taken of Weinkauf commitments to third parties.

The Weinkauf was also required for land that was fully owned and not simply held in a perpetual lease. Previously, these properties were free; they had no “top owner” above the occupant. [But now,] even when the titleholder took back his own farm from his “renters” or “sub-owners,” the Weinkauf was due. [See a case in Buttford, in: Heyken, Die Einwohner des alten Amtes Wittmund (The Inhabitants of the Old Wittmund Amt), p. 189.]

From about 1700, the estates of the gentry—not to be confused with titleholders’ land—were given increasingly long leaseholds. Here, too, a Weinkauf was regularly specified in the lease contract in the case of death or sale. There were in some cases a provision that the Weinkauf would be paid at specified intervals, usually every 20 years. For leases on inns and almshouses in particular this was always the case, but also for mills. [See however the case of a mill exchange, “bei Esens” Herd 6 (Heyken p. 536) and Seriem Herd 58 (Heyken p. 159), where the leasehold contract specifies that it is to be paid on arrival and departure.]

Noble estates were exempt from payment of the Weinkauf, including specifically the cited regulation from 1697. But even if only a small duty had to be paid regularly, e.g. the price of one cow, even those places were also subject to the Weinkauf law of the sovereign.

Pastoral land, as the land of the Church, strikingly does not appear in the Weinkauf records, although it is not listed in the 1697 ordinance as exempt. Private land of pastors, however, is subject to the Weinkauf.

In connection with the Weinkauf, the sovereignty also originally assumed the right, under some circumstances, to reject an heir or purchaser who was unacceptable. The main reasoning was that if the new owner did not seem capable of managing the place, the payment of the tax could thus be jeopardized. In a Weinkauf negotiation from 9 October 1598, for a farm in Eggelingen [Heyken, Altes Amt Wittmund, pp. 433 ff.], it is determined explicitly that:

“without the consent of His Grace, neither contract nor last will”

is considered effective. [See also Seriem Herd 28, 26 September 1597.] There is no talk of this later. In contrast, in 1756 when a mother who demands the Weinkauf on a Warfstätte is denied, it is explained not by the previous rule, but by the right of succession: “ . . . inasmuch as the deceased left behind a son.”

Often the Weinkauf was required of the grandson, even if the son was still alive. In this way a family was “saved” from one Weinkauf payment. In the 18th century it was no longer allowed to be “contrary to the order.” But when an appropriate will of the deceased could be presented, it would be followed.

In 1752, mortgage books were set up, the forerunners of today’s ground books. In Division 5, the general taxes were entered as encumbrance [dingliche Belastung, “collateral load”], as was the “sub-owner,” the Freigeld, the Schweinegeld [?], etc., and additionally the Weinkauf, including ancillary costs. An example [Westeraccum Herd 16, Rep. 237 Nr. 788, Hypothekenbuch Westeraccum, Nr. 4, pp. 2274 ff.]:

Division 5
Then in the case of death or alienation
1) 40 Rt for Weinkauf and “gift” money
2) 19 Rt, 11 Schap, 5 Witt, for Weinkauf perquisites

In the 19th century in the kingdom of Hannover and Prussia, so-called separation laws [Ablösungsgesetzte] were enacted. (Ostfriesland from 1815-1866 was ruled under Hannover.) With a single payment, a constantly recurring charge could be replaced: I.e., the Weinkauf. This severance [Ablösung] was entered in the register of mortgages. In the previously cited Westeraccumer example, an 1848 entry includes:

“The Weinkauf with associated extra payments, according to the separation documents of 19 November 1845, which was confirmed on 16 May 1848 by the Ablösungs-Commission of Esens, is hereby commuted, with 27 Rt 31 Groschen of gold and 31 Rt 22 Gr in currency, and by decree of 20 May 1848, is deleted.”

In other cases, all that is written is (for example):

“Weinkauf deleted entirely on 14 Oct. 1874.”

This separation was drawn out over several decades, as it was left to the discretion of the individual payer whether and when he wished to exercise his redemption rights. All the Weinkauf commitments—as well as many other services, like for example inheritable leaseholds—were eventually retired in this way.

With that ends the history of the Weinkaufs in the Harlingerland.




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Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012

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