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a type of judicial and administrative official in the northern cities of feudal France. Depending on the degree of autonomy enjoyed by a given city, its échevins were either appointed by the seigneur or elected by the citizens; the elections were sometimes rigged, however. As a rule, the council of échevins was composed of members of the patriciate, headed by important merchants.
The functions of the échevins varied from place to place. In some cities, they managed trade, set prices for goods, and supervised the markets, and in some cities they had the additional duty of collecting city taxes. In other places, however, their functions were strictly judicial.
The institution of the échevins was abolished during the French Revolution by a decree dated Dec. 14, 1789.