In october 1541, a letter left the city of Innsbruck, in which the government, or Regiment, sharply admonished the mayor and councilors of the city of Belfort in the Sundgau. With all seriousness, the government reminded them that they were obliged to submit to the Lord von Mörsperg, their God-given authority, and if they did not, they would lose their freedom and risk further punishment.1 It is easy enough to identify the petitioner and petitioned in this document: the seigniorial family of Mörsberg/Morimont on one side, and the mayor and city council of Belfort/Beffort on the other. But there was also a third, superior authority involved: the Habsburg regime in Innsbruck and its subordinate, regional representatives who administered the Vorlande from nearby Ensisheim, which had admonished the city to remain “obedient” to the Herrn von Mörsberg. This instruction was, in fact, part of a long series of disputes between mortgagee lord (Pfandherr) and city. This article examines this type of conflict in more detail to present a model for analyzing structural changes through the historical development of three cities on the western edges of the Holy Roman Empire: Belfort, Rheinfelden, and Laufenberg.