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Fehm-gericht

or Vehmgericht (3 syl.). The secret tribunals of Westphalia, for the preservation of public peace, suppression of crime, and maintenance of the “Catholic” religion. The judges were enveloped in profound mystery; they had their secret spies through all Germany; their judgments were certain, but no one could discover the executioner. These tribunals rose in the twelfth century, and disappeared in the sixteenth. Sir Walter Scott, in Anne of Gierstein, has given an account of the Westphalian Fehmgericht. (Old German, fehmen, to condemn; Gericht, a tribunal.)

“This Vigilance Committee [of Denver city] is a modern reproduction of the famous Vehmgerict” —The Times.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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