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The Modern Ku Klux Klan   By:

The Modern Ku Klux Klan by Henry Peck Fry

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Printed in the United States of America



It seems strange that, in narrating events and analyzing an organization existing in the United States of America in the year 1921, the most appropriate introduction to the subject consists of a few pages from the history of Germany during the Middle Ages. There existed in mediƦval Germany a secret organization, which, in its highest stage of development is said to have numbered over 200,000 members the Vehmgericht , or secret tribunal. Its origin is clouded in obscurity, some authorities claiming that the system was first founded by Charlemagne, while others say that it was handed down from the most remote pre historic Germans, but is understood generally to have first appeared in the year 1180 in Westphalia, after which it scattered all over Germany.

Its head was the Emperor, assisted by the nobles of his court, and with them men of all ranks, associated together for the formation of "free courts," to try persons accused of crimes against persons and property. The members of the organization were known as " Wissende ," or initiated ones. They were bound by solemn oaths not to reveal the circumstances of a trial or the sentence imposed on the offender if found guilty; and in order to become one of the brotherhood the applicant was required to be of good character, and have two sureties who were already "free judges." A ceremony of initiation, usually held in some out of the way place, inducted the outsider into the organization, and thereafter, he was required under his solemn oath never to reveal the fact that he was a member of the brotherhood. The initiated ones recognized each other by signs.

The Vehmgericht could be summoned at any time and place, in private buildings, in the forests, in caves, or in the open fields; they were occasionally held publicly, but usually they were closed against all but the initiated and the accused person. The Emperor, or, in his absence, the count or noble of highest dignity presided, and if any uninitiated person intruded, he was immediately put to death. The secret tribunal met when necessary and received complaints, to answer which they assumed the right to summon any one in Germany. Ordinarily, the accused was arrested and held by his captors for the secret trial, but if he had not been arrested, he was summoned to appear by fastening on his door or gateway the summons of the dreaded court, which usually had enclosed in it a small coin. If he failed to appear or send a messenger, he was condemned, as despising the jurisdiction of the Holy Vehmgericht , and once condemned there was little chance of his life while he remained in Germany.

The condemnation of an offender by a Vehmic Court was known to the whole brotherhood in a short time; and even if it were the father, brother, or son of one of the initiated who was condemned, he not only might not warn him of his danger, but was bound to aid in putting him to death under penalty of losing his own life.

The death penalty, the usual decree of the court, was generally inflicted by hanging. When executed the victim was hanged to the nearest tree, nothing of value which he might have about him being removed, and a knife was thrust into the ground as a token that the deed had been committed by order of the brotherhood.

The Vehmgericht , although an irresponsible tribunal possessing this extensive and dreadful authority, became a power so formidable that Charles IV, in 1371, stipulated for its official recognition. Exercising its despotic dominion under such obligations of severity, the brotherhood, however, in 1461, incurred the hostility of those who feared to become its victims, as well as those who saw in it an engine capable of terrible oppression, and an association was formed to resist it... Continue reading book >>

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