Bruges (14-36). Patched up by the grant of two new charters, it burst forth again in the insurrection known as the Terrible Whit-Wednesday (1438); and after meeting the Duke's forces in the open field, the city, which was suffering from the devastations of a pestilence, was in the end forced to give way. Bruges was only saved from destruction by the intervention of the foreign merchants; but, while the new charters were revoked or modified, the trades were deprived of their cherished right of unfurling their banners without waiting for the display of the Duke's-in other words of the right of taking up arms without his summons-and the sinews of future resistance were cut by the abolition of the communal contribution to the trades (mcendtgelt).
The turn of Ghent came a little later. On her refusal to pay a salt-tax to which Bruges and Ypres had submitted, a conflict began which lasted for four years (1449). After the Duke had twice stopped the ordinary administration of justice, the whole body of the people took the power into its hands, appointed three captains (hooftmannen), and at the sound of the bell assembled under arms on the Vrydags-markt. The Duke retorted by a decree of blockade and outlawry against Ghent. Bruges and the other towns jealously held aloof; and, though the Ghenters appealed both to the French suzerain and to the government of Henry VI of England, they had to fight out the contest virtually alone. In the city a ruthless terrorism maintained an unreasoning enthusiasm, till a long and sanguinary campaign ended, within sight of her towers, by the carnage of Gavre (1453). The settlement which ensued established the ducal authority as paramount in every important function of the administration of the city, abolished the most cherished guarantees of its previous independence, and among other humiliations inflicted on its representatives that of confessing the guilt of the suppressed rebellion in the French tongue. Some of the privileges of the prostrate city were indeed renewed in a new charter, the powers of the royal bailiff were restricted, and no mention was made of the obnoxious salt-tax. But the victory was not the less complete, and was followed by the revocation of the charters of other towns, although they had abstained from supporting Ghent.
The overthrow of the greatness of the Flemish communes was due in part to the anarchical spirit which more and more took possession of them as their public life passed into the ochlocratic stage, and which could not but impair their military discipline and defensive strength. What had here-and the state of things was not very different in Brabant-remained of the authority of the territorial prince was confined to the influence exercised by his bailli upon the administration of justice, and when possible upon the choice of magistrates and upon legislation. The patriciate-the poorters at Bruges and Ghent, to which the lignages corresponded in Brabant-still ordinarily determined the choice of the magistrates or aldermen; but in any season