The peasants wished their adviser a good morning, promised to bear his advice in mind, and departed, each one to his own farmstead. The Justice, who, dealing with all the people who had come to him in the course of an hour, had successfully handled everything undertaken, first took the newly-acquired document of recognition to the room where he kept the sword of Charles the Great, and then went with the servant to the granary to measure out oats for the horses.
“Westphalia formerly consisted of individual estates, each one of which had its own free possessor. Several such estates constituted a Bauerschaft (peasant community), which, as a rule, bore the name of the oldest estate. It lay in the original character of the peasant communities that the oldest estate should also stand first in rank and come to be the most aristocratic, and here from time to time the children, grandchildren and house-inmates, ceasing work for a few days, came together and feasted. The beginning, or else the end, of the summer was the usual time for this event, and then every estate-owner brought along with him for the feast some of the fruits which he himself had raised, and perhaps a calf or lamb as well. Then all sorts of matters were discussed, opinions were exchanged, marriages performed, deaths made known, and then the son, as the succeeding head of his father’s estate, was sure to make his first appearance in the company with fuller hands and a choicer animal. Disagreements were unavoidable on these days of joy, and in the event of one, the father, as the head of the oldest estate, stepped in and, with the approval of the rest, put an end to the quarrel. If during the previous year any of the estate-owners had disagreed about some matter, both of them brought forward their grievances before the next gathering, and both were satisfied with whatever decision their fellows deemed right and just. After all the eatables had been devoured, and the tree set aside for the occasion had been burned up, the feast, or the gathering, came to an end. Each one returned home, related the events of the occasion to the waiting members of his household, and came to be a living and continuing authority regarding all the happenings of their peasant community.
These gatherings were called Conferences, Peasant Conferences, because all the estate-owners of a peasant community came together to confer with one another, and also Peasant Tribunals, because here the conflicting claims of the men, already by tacit agreement combined in a union, were either settled or rejected. Inasmuch as the Peasant Conferences or Peasant Tribunals were held at the oldest and most aristocratic estate, such an estate was called Court Estate, and the Peasant Conferences and Peasant Tribunals were called Court Conferences and Court Tribunals; and the latter, even at the present day, have not entirely disappeared. The oldest estate, the Court Estate, was called by way of distinction simply the Estate, the name whereby the people designated the Main Estate or the Oberhof of the peasant community, and its owner as the head or chief of the rest.