Part 1 out of 7
The History of the Thirty Years' War
by Friedrich Schiller, Translated by the Rev. A. J. W. Morrison, M.A.
[Johann Cristoph Friedrich von Schiller: German Writer -- 1759-1805.]
[This is Volume I. Hopefully the rest will follow.]
The History of the Thirty Years' War
by Frederick Schiller
Translated from the German by the Rev. A. J. W. Morrison, M.A.
The present is the only collected edition of the principal works of Schiller
which is accessible to English readers. Detached poems or dramas have been
translated at various times, and sometimes by men of eminence,
since the first publication of the original works;
and in several instances these versions have been incorporated,
after some revision or necessary correction, into the following collection;
but on the other hand a large proportion of the contents have been
specially translated for this edition, in which category are
the historical works which occupy this volume and a portion of the next.
Schiller was not less efficiently qualified by nature for an historian
than for a dramatist. He was formed to excel in all departments
of literature, and the admirable lucidity of style and soundness
and impartiality of judgment displayed in his historical writings
will not easily by surpassed, and will always recommend them
as popular expositions of the periods of which they treat.
Since the first publication of this edition many corrections and improvements
have been made, with a view to rendering it as acceptable as possible
to English readers.
History of the Thirty Years' War
Introduction. -- General effects of the Reformation. -- Revolt of Matthias. --
The Emperor cedes Austria and Hungary to him. -- Matthias acknowledged
King of Bohemia. -- The Elector of Cologne abjures the Catholic Religion. --
Consequences. -- The Elector Palatine. -- Dispute respecting the Succession
of Juliers. -- Designs of Henry IV. of France. -- Formation of the Union. --
The League. -- Death of the Emperor Rodolph. -- Matthias succeeds him. --
Troubles in Bohemia. -- Civil War. -- Ferdinand extirpates
the Protestant Religion from Styria. -- The Elector Palatine, Frederick V.,
is chosen King by the Bohemians. -- He accepts the Crown of Bohemia. --
Bethlen Gabor, Prince of Transylvania, invades Austria. -- The Duke of Bavaria
and the Princes of the League embrace the cause of Ferdinand. -- The Union arm
for Frederick. -- The Battle of Prague and total subjection of Bohemia.
State of the Empire. -- Of Europe. -- Mansfeld. -- Christian,
Duke of Brunswick. -- Wallenstein raises an Imperial Army at his own expense.
-- The King of Denmark defeated. -- Death of Mansfeld. -- Edict of Restitution
in 1628. -- Diet at Ratisbon. -- Negociations. -- Wallenstein deprived
of the Command. -- Gustavus Adolphus. -- Swedish Army. -- Gustavus Adolphus
takes his leave of the States at Stockholm. -- Invasion by the Swedes. --
Their progress in Germany. -- Count Tilly takes the Command
of the Imperial Troops. -- Treaty with France. -- Congress at Leipzig. --
Siege and cruel fate of Magdeburg. -- Firmness of the Landgrave of Cassel. --
Junction of the Saxons with the Swedes. -- Battle of Leipzig. --
Consequences of that Victory.
Situation of Gustavus Adolphus after the Battle of Leipzig. --
Progress of Gustavus Adolphus. -- The French invade Lorraine. --
Frankfort taken. -- Capitulation of Mentz. -- Tilly ordered by Maximilian
to protect Bavaria. -- Gustavus Adolphus passes the Lech. --
Defeat and Death of Tilly. -- Gustavus takes Munich. -- The Saxon Army
invades Bohemia, and takes Prague. -- Distress of the Emperor. --
Secret Triumph of Wallenstein. -- He offers to Join Gustavus Adolphus. --
Wallenstein re-assumes the Command. -- Junction of Wallenstein
with the Bavarians. -- Gustavus Adolphus defends Nuremberg. --
Attacks Wallenstein's Intrenchments. -- Enters Saxony. --
Goes to the succour of the Elector of Saxony. -- Marches against Wallenstein.
-- Battle of Lutzen. -- Death of Gustavus Adolphus. -- Situation of Germany
after the Battle of Lutzen.
Closer Alliance between France and Sweden. -- Oxenstiern takes
the Direction of Affairs. -- Death of the Elector Palatine. --
Revolt of the Swedish Officers. -- Duke Bernhard takes Ratisbon. --
Wallenstein enters Silesia. -- Forms Treasonable Designs. --
Forsaken by the Army. -- Retires to Egra. -- His associates put to death. --
Wallenstein's death. -- His Character.
Battle of Nordlingen. -- France enters into an Alliance against Austria. --
Treaty of Prague. -- Saxony joins the Emperor. -- Battle of Wistock gained
by the Swedes. -- Battle of Rheinfeld gained by Bernhard, Duke of Weimar. --
He takes Brisach. -- His death. -- Death of Ferdinand II. --
Ferdinand III. succeeds him. -- Celebrated Retreat of Banner in Pomerania. --
His Successes. -- Death. -- Torstensohn takes the Command. --
Death of Richelieu and Louis XIII. -- Swedish Victory at Jankowitz. --
French defeated at Freyburg. -- Battle of Nordlingen gained by Turenne
and Conde. -- Wrangel takes the Command of the Swedish Army. --
Melander made Commander of the Emperor's Army. -- The Elector of Bavaria
breaks the Armistice. -- He adopts the same Policy towards the Emperor
as France towards the Swedes. -- The Weimerian Cavalry go over to the Swedes.
-- Conquest of New Prague by Koenigsmark, and Termination of
the Thirty Years' War.
History of the Thirty Years' War in Germany.
From the beginning of the religious wars in Germany, to the peace of Munster,
scarcely any thing great or remarkable occurred in the political world
of Europe in which the Reformation had not an important share.
All the events of this period, if they did not originate in,
soon became mixed up with, the question of religion,
and no state was either too great or too little to feel directly
or indirectly more or less of its influence.
Against the reformed doctrine and its adherents, the House of Austria
directed, almost exclusively, the whole of its immense political power.
In France, the Reformation had enkindled a civil war which,
under four stormy reigns, shook the kingdom to its foundations,
brought foreign armies into the heart of the country,
and for half a century rendered it the scene of the most mournful disorders.
It was the Reformation, too, that rendered the Spanish yoke intolerable
to the Flemings, and awakened in them both the desire and the courage
to throw off its fetters, while it also principally furnished them
with the means of their emancipation. And as to England, all the evils
with which Philip the Second threatened Elizabeth, were mainly intended
in revenge for her having taken his Protestant subjects under her protection,
and placing herself at the head of a religious party which it was his aim
and endeavour to extirpate. In Germany, the schisms in the church
produced also a lasting political schism, which made that country
for more than a century the theatre of confusion, but at the same time
threw up a firm barrier against political oppression. It was, too,
the Reformation principally that first drew the northern powers,
Denmark and Sweden, into the political system of Europe; and while on
the one hand the Protestant League was strengthened by their adhesion,
it on the other was indispensable to their interests. States which hitherto
scarcely concerned themselves with one another's existence,
acquired through the Reformation an attractive centre of interest,
and began to be united by new political sympathies. And as through
its influence new relations sprang up between citizen and citizen,
and between rulers and subjects, so also entire states were forced by it
into new relative positions. Thus, by a strange course of events,
religious disputes were the means of cementing a closer union
among the nations of Europe.
Fearful indeed, and destructive, was the first movement in which this
general political sympathy announced itself; a desolating war of thirty years,
which, from the interior of Bohemia to the mouth of the Scheldt,
and from the banks of the Po to the coasts of the Baltic,
devastated whole countries, destroyed harvests, and reduced towns and villages
to ashes; which opened a grave for many thousand combatants,
and for half a century smothered the glimmering sparks of civilization
in Germany, and threw back the improving manners of the country
into their pristine barbarity and wildness. Yet out of this fearful war
Europe came forth free and independent. In it she first learned
to recognize herself as a community of nations; and this intercommunion
of states, which originated in the thirty years' war, may alone be sufficient
to reconcile the philosopher to its horrors. The hand of industry
has slowly but gradually effaced the traces of its ravages,
while its beneficent influence still survives; and this general sympathy
among the states of Europe, which grew out of the troubles in Bohemia,
is our guarantee for the continuance of that peace which was the result
of the war. As the sparks of destruction found their way
from the interior of Bohemia, Moravia, and Austria, to kindle Germany,
France, and the half of Europe, so also will the torch of civilization
make a path for itself from the latter to enlighten the former countries.
All this was effected by religion. Religion alone could have
rendered possible all that was accomplished, but it was far from being
the SOLE motive of the war. Had not private advantages and state interests
been closely connected with it, vain and powerless would have been
the arguments of theologians; and the cry of the people would never have met
with princes so willing to espouse their cause, nor the new doctrines
have found such numerous, brave, and persevering champions. The Reformation
is undoubtedly owing in a great measure to the invincible power of truth,
or of opinions which were held as such. The abuses in the old church,
the absurdity of many of its dogmas, the extravagance of its requisitions,
necessarily revolted the tempers of men, already half-won with the promise
of a better light, and favourably disposed them towards the new doctrines.
The charm of independence, the rich plunder of monastic institutions,
made the Reformation attractive in the eyes of princes,
and tended not a little to strengthen their inward convictions. Nothing,
however, but political considerations could have driven them to espouse it.
Had not Charles the Fifth, in the intoxication of success,
made an attempt on the independence of the German States, a Protestant league
would scarcely have rushed to arms in defence of freedom of belief;
but for the ambition of the Guises, the Calvinists in France
would never have beheld a Conde or a Coligny at their head.
Without the exaction of the tenth and the twentieth penny, the See of Rome
had never lost the United Netherlands. Princes fought in self-defence
or for aggrandizement, while religious enthusiasm recruited their armies,
and opened to them the treasures of their subjects. Of the multitude
who flocked to their standards, such as were not lured by the hope of plunder
imagined they were fighting for the truth, while in fact
they were shedding their blood for the personal objects of their princes.
And well was it for the people that, on this occasion, their interests
coincided with those of their princes. To this coincidence alone
were they indebted for their deliverance from popery. Well was it also
for the rulers, that the subject contended too for his own cause,
while he was fighting their battles. Fortunately at this date
no European sovereign was so absolute as to be able, in the pursuit
of his political designs, to dispense with the goodwill of his subjects.
Yet how difficult was it to gain and to set to work this goodwill!
The most impressive arguments drawn from reasons of state
fall powerless on the ear of the subject, who seldom understands,
and still more rarely is interested in them. In such circumstances,
the only course open to a prudent prince is to connect the interests
of the cabinet with some one that sits nearer to the people's heart,
if such exists, or if not, to create it.
In such a position stood the greater part of those princes who embraced
the cause of the Reformation. By a strange concatenation of events,
the divisions of the Church were associated with two circumstances,
without which, in all probability, they would have had
a very different conclusion. These were, the increasing power
of the House of Austria, which threatened the liberties of Europe,
and its active zeal for the old religion. The first aroused the princes,
while the second armed the people.
The abolition of a foreign jurisdiction within their own territories,
the supremacy in ecclesiastical matters, the stopping of the treasure
which had so long flowed to Rome, the rich plunder of religious foundations,
were tempting advantages to every sovereign. Why, then, it may be asked,
did they not operate with equal force upon the princes of the House
of Austria? What prevented this house, particularly in its German branch,
from yielding to the pressing demands of so many of its subjects, and,
after the example of other princes, enriching itself at the expense
of a defenceless clergy? It is difficult to credit that a belief
in the infallibility of the Romish Church had any greater influence
on the pious adherence of this house, than the opposite conviction had
on the revolt of the Protestant princes. In fact, several circumstances
combined to make the Austrian princes zealous supporters of popery.
Spain and Italy, from which Austria derived its principal strength,
were still devoted to the See of Rome with that blind obedience which,
ever since the days of the Gothic dynasty, had been
the peculiar characteristic of the Spaniard. The slightest approximation,
in a Spanish prince, to the obnoxious tenets of Luther and Calvin,
would have alienated for ever the affections of his subjects,
and a defection from the Pope would have cost him the kingdom.
A Spanish prince had no alternative but orthodoxy or abdication.
The same restraint was imposed upon Austria by her Italian dominions,
which she was obliged to treat, if possible, with even greater indulgence;
impatient as they naturally were of a foreign yoke, and possessing also
ready means of shaking it off. In regard to the latter provinces, moreover,
the rival pretensions of France, and the neighbourhood of the Pope,
were motives sufficient to prevent the Emperor from declaring in favour
of a party which strove to annihilate the papal see, and also to induce him
to show the most active zeal in behalf of the old religion.
These general considerations, which must have been equally weighty
with every Spanish monarch, were, in the particular case of Charles V.,
still further enforced by peculiar and personal motives.
In Italy this monarch had a formidable rival in the King of France,
under whose protection that country might throw itself the instant
that Charles should incur the slightest suspicion of heresy.
Distrust on the part of the Roman Catholics, and a rupture with the church,
would have been fatal also to many of his most cherished designs.
Moreover, when Charles was first called upon to make his election
between the two parties, the new doctrine had not yet attained
to a full and commanding influence, and there still subsisted a prospect
of its reconciliation with the old. In his son and successor,
Philip the Second, a monastic education combined with
a gloomy and despotic disposition to generate an unmitigated hostility
to all innovations in religion; a feeling which the thought that
his most formidable political opponents were also the enemies of his faith
was not calculated to weaken. As his European possessions,
scattered as they were over so many countries, were on all sides exposed
to the seductions of foreign opinions, the progress of the Reformation
in other quarters could not well be a matter of indifference to him.
His immediate interests, therefore, urged him to attach himself devotedly to
the old church, in order to close up the sources of the heretical contagion.
Thus, circumstances naturally placed this prince at the head of the league
which the Roman Catholics formed against the Reformers.
The principles which had actuated the long and active reigns
of Charles V. and Philip the Second, remained a law for their successors;
and the more the breach in the church widened, the firmer became
the attachment of the Spaniards to Roman Catholicism.
The German line of the House of Austria was apparently more unfettered;
but, in reality, though free from many of these restraints,
it was yet confined by others. The possession of the imperial throne --
a dignity it was impossible for a Protestant to hold,
(for with what consistency could an apostate from the Romish Church
wear the crown of a Roman emperor?) bound the successors of Ferdinand I.
to the See of Rome. Ferdinand himself was, from conscientious motives,
heartily attached to it. Besides, the German princes of the House of Austria
were not powerful enough to dispense with the support of Spain, which,
however, they would have forfeited by the least show of leaning towards
the new doctrines. The imperial dignity, also, required them to preserve
the existing political system of Germany, with which the maintenance
of their own authority was closely bound up, but which it was the aim
of the Protestant League to destroy. If to these grounds we add
the indifference of the Protestants to the Emperor's necessities
and to the common dangers of the empire, their encroachments on
the temporalities of the church, and their aggressive violence
when they became conscious of their own power, we can easily conceive
how so many concurring motives must have determined the emperors
to the side of popery, and how their own interests came to be
intimately interwoven with those of the Roman Church. As its fate seemed
to depend altogether on the part taken by Austria, the princes of this house
came to be regarded by all Europe as the pillars of popery. The hatred,
therefore, which the Protestants bore against the latter,
was turned exclusively upon Austria; and the cause became gradually confounded
with its protector.
But this irreconcileable enemy of the Reformation -- the House of Austria --
by its ambitious projects and the overwhelming force which it could bring
to their support, endangered, in no small degree, the freedom of Europe,
and more especially of the German States. This circumstance could not fail
to rouse the latter from their security, and to render them vigilant
in self-defence. Their ordinary resources were quite insufficient
to resist so formidable a power. Extraordinary exertions were required
from their subjects; and when even these proved far from adequate,
they had recourse to foreign assistance; and, by means of a common league,
they endeavoured to oppose a power which, singly, they were unable
But the strong political inducements which the German princes had
to resist the pretensions of the House of Austria, naturally did not extend
to their subjects. It is only immediate advantages or immediate evils
that set the people in action, and for these a sound policy cannot wait.
Ill then would it have fared with these princes, if by good fortune
another effectual motive had not offered itself, which roused the passions
of the people, and kindled in them an enthusiasm which might be directed
against the political danger, as having with it a common cause of alarm.
This motive was their avowed hatred of the religion which Austria protected,
and their enthusiastic attachment to a doctrine which that House
was endeavouring to extirpate by fire and sword. Their attachment was ardent,
their hatred invincible. Religious fanaticism anticipates
even the remotest dangers. Enthusiasm never calculates its sacrifices.
What the most pressing danger of the state could not gain from the citizens,
was effected by religious zeal. For the state, or for the prince,
few would have drawn the sword; but for religion, the merchant, the artist,
the peasant, all cheerfully flew to arms. For the state, or for the prince,
even the smallest additional impost would have been avoided; but for religion
the people readily staked at once life, fortune, and all earthly hopes.
It trebled the contributions which flowed into the exchequer of the princes,
and the armies which marched to the field; and, in the ardent excitement
produced in all minds by the peril to which their faith was exposed,
the subject felt not the pressure of those burdens and privations under which,
in cooler moments, he would have sunk exhausted. The terrors of
the Spanish Inquisition, and the massacre of St. Bartholomew's, procured for
the Prince of Orange, the Admiral Coligny, the British Queen Elizabeth,
and the Protestant princes of Germany, supplies of men and money
from their subjects, to a degree which at present is inconceivable.
But, with all their exertions, they would have effected little against a power
which was an overmatch for any single adversary, however powerful.
At this period of imperfect policy, accidental circumstances alone
could determine distant states to afford one another a mutual support.
The differences of government, of laws, of language, of manners,
and of character, which hitherto had kept whole nations and countries
as it were insulated, and raised a lasting barrier between them,
rendered one state insensible to the distresses of another,
save where national jealousy could indulge a malicious joy at the reverses
of a rival. This barrier the Reformation destroyed. An interest
more intense and more immediate than national aggrandizement or patriotism,
and entirely independent of private utility, began to animate
whole states and individual citizens; an interest capable of uniting
numerous and distant nations, even while it frequently lost its force
among the subjects of the same government. With the inhabitants of Geneva,
for instance, of England, of Germany, or of Holland, the French Calvinist
possessed a common point of union which he had not with his own countrymen.
Thus, in one important particular, he ceased to be the citizen
of a single state, and to confine his views and sympathies
to his own country alone. The sphere of his views became enlarged.
He began to calculate his own fate from that of other nations of the same
religious profession, and to make their cause his own. Now for the first time
did princes venture to bring the affairs of other countries
before their own councils; for the first time could they hope
for a willing ear to their own necessities, and prompt assistance from others.
Foreign affairs had now become a matter of domestic policy,
and that aid was readily granted to the religious confederate which would have
been denied to the mere neighbour, and still more to the distant stranger.
The inhabitant of the Palatinate leaves his native fields to fight
side by side with his religious associate of France, against the common enemy
of their faith. The Huguenot draws his sword against the country which
persecutes him, and sheds his blood in defence of the liberties of Holland.
Swiss is arrayed against Swiss; German against German, to determine,
on the banks of the Loire and the Seine, the succession of the French crown.
The Dane crosses the Eider, and the Swede the Baltic, to break the chains
which are forged for Germany.
It is difficult to say what would have been the fate of the Reformation,
and the liberties of the Empire, had not the formidable power of Austria
declared against them. This, however, appears certain,
that nothing so completely damped the Austrian hopes of universal monarchy,
as the obstinate war which they had to wage against
the new religious opinions. Under no other circumstances could
the weaker princes have roused their subjects to such extraordinary exertions
against the ambition of Austria, or the States themselves
have united so closely against the common enemy.
The power of Austria never stood higher than after the victory
which Charles V. gained over the Germans at Muehlberg.
With the treaty of Smalcalde the freedom of Germany lay, as it seemed,
prostrate for ever; but it revived under Maurice of Saxony,
once its most formidable enemy. All the fruits of the victory of Muehlberg
were lost again in the congress of Passau, and the diet of Augsburg;
and every scheme for civil and religious oppression terminated in
the concessions of an equitable peace.
The diet of Augsburg divided Germany into two religious
and two political parties, by recognizing the independent rights and existence
of both. Hitherto the Protestants had been looked on as rebels;
they were henceforth to be regarded as brethren -- not indeed
through affection, but necessity. By the Interim*, the Confession of Augsburg
was allowed temporarily to take a sisterly place alongside of
the olden religion, though only as a tolerated neighbour.
To every secular state was conceded the right of establishing the religion
it acknowledged as supreme and exclusive within its own territories,
and of forbidding the open profession of its rival. Subjects were to be free
to quit a country where their own religion was not tolerated.
The doctrines of Luther for the first time received a positive sanction;
and if they were trampled under foot in Bavaria and Austria,
they predominated in Saxony and Thuringia. But the sovereigns alone were
to determine what form of religion should prevail within their territories;
the feelings of subjects who had no representatives in the diet were
little attended to in the pacification. In the ecclesiastical territories,
indeed, where the unreformed religion enjoyed an undisputed supremacy,
the free exercise of their religion was obtained for all who had previously
embraced the Protestant doctrines; but this indulgence rested only
on the personal guarantee of Ferdinand, King of the Romans,
by whose endeavours chiefly this peace was effected; a guarantee, which,
being rejected by the Roman Catholic members of the Diet,
and only inserted in the treaty under their protest,
could not of course have the force of law.
* A system of Theology so called, prepared by order of the Emperor Charles V.
for the use of Germany, to reconcile the differences between
the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans, which, however, was rejected
by both parties -- Ed.
If it had been opinions only that thus divided the minds of men,
with what indifference would all have regarded the division!
But on these opinions depended riches, dignities, and rights;
and it was this which so deeply aggravated the evils of division.
Of two brothers, as it were, who had hitherto enjoyed a paternal inheritance
in common, one now remained, while the other was compelled to leave
his father's house, and hence arose the necessity of dividing the patrimony.
For this separation, which he could not have foreseen,
the father had made no provision. By the beneficent donations
of pious ancestors the riches of the church had been accumulating
through a thousand years, and these benefactors were as much the progenitors
of the departing brother as of him who remained. Was the right of inheritance
then to be limited to the paternal house, or to be extended to blood?
The gifts had been made to the church in communion with Rome,
because at that time no other existed, -- to the first-born, as it were,
because he was as yet the only son. Was then a right of primogeniture
to be admitted in the church, as in noble families? Were the pretensions
of one party to be favoured by a prescription from times when the claims
of the other could not have come into existence? Could the Lutherans
be justly excluded from these possessions, to which the benevolence
of their forefathers had contributed, merely on the ground that,
at the date of their foundation, the differences between Lutheranism
and Romanism were unknown? Both parties have disputed, and still dispute,
with equal plausibility, on these points. Both alike have found it difficult
to prove their right. Law can be applied only to conceivable cases,
and perhaps spiritual foundations are not among the number of these,
and still less where the conditions of the founders generally extended
to a system of doctrines; for how is it conceivable that a permanent endowment
should be made of opinions left open to change?
What law cannot decide, is usually determined by might,
and such was the case here. The one party held firmly all that could
no longer be wrested from it -- the other defended what it still possessed.
All the bishoprics and abbeys which had been secularized BEFORE the peace,
remained with the Protestants; but, by an express clause,
the unreformed Catholics provided that none should thereafter be secularized.
Every impropriator of an ecclesiastical foundation,
who held immediately of the Empire, whether elector, bishop, or abbot,
forfeited his benefice and dignity the moment he embraced
the Protestant belief; he was obliged in that event instantly
to resign its emoluments, and the chapter was to proceed to a new election,
exactly as if his place had been vacated by death. By this sacred anchor
of the Ecclesiastical Reservation, (`Reservatum Ecclesiasticum',)
which makes the temporal existence of a spiritual prince entirely dependent
on his fidelity to the olden religion, the Roman Catholic Church in Germany
is still held fast; and precarious, indeed, would be its situation
were this anchor to give way. The principle of the Ecclesiastical Reservation
was strongly opposed by the Protestants; and though it was at last adopted
into the treaty of peace, its insertion was qualified with the declaration,
that parties had come to no final determination on the point.
Could it then be more binding on the Protestants than Ferdinand's guarantee
in favour of Protestant subjects of ecclesiastical states was upon
the Roman Catholics? Thus were two important subjects of dispute
left unsettled in the treaty of peace, and by them the war was rekindled.
Such was the position of things with regard to religious toleration and
ecclesiastical property: it was the same with regard to rights and dignities.
The existing German system provided only for one church, because one only
was in existence when that system was framed. The church had now divided;
the Diet had broken into two religious parties; was the whole system
of the Empire still exclusively to follow the one? The emperors had hitherto
been members of the Romish Church, because till now that religion
had no rival. But was it his connexion with Rome which constituted
a German emperor, or was it not rather Germany which was to be represented
in its head? The Protestants were now spread over the whole Empire,
and how could they justly still be represented by an unbroken line
of Roman Catholic emperors? In the Imperial Chamber the German States
judge themselves, for they elect the judges; it was the very end
of its institution that they should do so, in order that equal justice
should be dispensed to all; but would this be still possible,
if the representatives of both professions were not equally admissible
to a seat in the Chamber? That one religion only existed in Germany
at the time of its establishment, was accidental; that no one estate
should have the means of legally oppressing another, was the essential purpose
of the institution. Now this object would be entirely frustrated
if one religious party were to have the exclusive power of deciding
for the other. Must, then, the design be sacrificed, because that which
was merely accidental had changed? With great difficulty the Protestants,
at last, obtained for the representatives of their religion
a place in the Supreme Council, but still there was far from being
a perfect equality of voices. To this day no Protestant prince
has been raised to the imperial throne.
Whatever may be said of the equality which the peace of Augsburg
was to have established between the two German churches,
the Roman Catholic had unquestionably still the advantage.
All that the Lutheran Church gained by it was toleration;
all that the Romish Church conceded, was a sacrifice to necessity,
not an offering to justice. Very far was it from being a peace between
two equal powers, but a truce between a sovereign and unconquered rebels.
From this principle all the proceedings of the Roman Catholics
against the Protestants seemed to flow, and still continue to do so.
To join the reformed faith was still a crime, since it was to be visited with
so severe a penalty as that which the Ecclesiastical Reservation
held suspended over the apostacy of the spiritual princes.
Even to the last, the Romish Church preferred to risk to loss of every thing
by force, than voluntarily to yield the smallest matter to justice.
The loss was accidental and might be repaired; but the abandonment
of its pretensions, the concession of a single point to the Protestants,
would shake the foundations of the church itself. Even in the treaty of peace
this principle was not lost sight of. Whatever in this peace was yielded
to the Protestants was always under condition. It was expressly declared,
that affairs were to remain on the stipulated footing only till
the next general council, which was to be called with the view of effecting
an union between the two confessions. Then only, when this last attempt
should have failed, was the religious treaty to become valid and conclusive.
However little hope there might be of such a reconciliation,
however little perhaps the Romanists themselves were in earnest with it,
still it was something to have clogged the peace with these stipulations.
Thus this religious treaty, which was to extinguish for ever
the flames of civil war, was, in fact, but a temporary truce,
extorted by force and necessity; not dictated by justice,
nor emanating from just notions either of religion or toleration.
A religious treaty of this kind the Roman Catholics were as incapable
of granting, to be candid, as in truth the Lutherans were unqualified
to receive. Far from evincing a tolerant spirit towards the Roman Catholics,
when it was in their power, they even oppressed the Calvinists;
who indeed just as little deserved toleration, since they were unwilling
to practise it. For such a peace the times were not yet ripe --
the minds of men not yet sufficiently enlightened. How could one party
expect from another what itself was incapable of performing?
What each side saved or gained by the treaty of Augsburg,
it owed to the imposing attitude of strength which it maintained
at the time of its negociation. What was won by force was to be
maintained also by force; if the peace was to be permanent,
the two parties to it must preserve the same relative positions.
The boundaries of the two churches had been marked out with the sword;
with the sword they must be preserved, or woe to that party
which should be first disarmed! A sad and fearful prospect for
the tranquillity of Germany, when peace itself bore so threatening an aspect.
A momentary lull now pervaded the empire; a transitory bond of concord
appeared to unite its scattered limbs into one body, so that for a time
a feeling also for the common weal returned. But the division had penetrated
its inmost being, and to restore its original harmony was impossible.
Carefully as the treaty of peace appeared to have defined the rights
of both parties, its interpretation was nevertheless the subject
of many disputes. In the heat of conflict it had produced
a cessation of hostilities; it covered, not extinguished, the fire,
and unsatisfied claims remained on either side. The Romanists imagined
they had lost too much, the Protestants that they had gained too little;
and the treaty which neither party could venture to violate,
was interpreted by each in its own favour.
The seizure of the ecclesiastical benefices, the motive which had
so strongly tempted the majority of the Protestant princes to embrace
the doctrines of Luther, was not less powerful after than before the peace;
of those whose founders had not held their fiefs immediately of the empire,
such as were not already in their possession would it was evident soon be so.
The whole of Lower Germany was already secularized; and if it were otherwise
in Upper Germany, it was owing to the vehement resistance of the Catholics,
who had there the preponderance. Each party, where it was the most powerful,
oppressed the adherents of the other; the ecclesiastical princes
in particular, as the most defenceless members of the empire,
were incessantly tormented by the ambition of their Protestant neighbours.
Those who were too weak to repel force by force, took refuge
under the wings of justice; and the complaints of spoliation
were heaped up against the Protestants in the Imperial Chamber,
which was ready enough to pursue the accused with judgments,
but found too little support to carry them into effect.
The peace which stipulated for complete religious toleration for
the dignitaries of the Empire, had provided also for the subject,
by enabling him, without interruption, to leave the country in which
the exercise of his religion was prohibited. But from the wrongs
which the violence of a sovereign might inflict on an obnoxious subject;
from the nameless oppressions by which he might harass and annoy the emigrant;
from the artful snares in which subtilty combined with power might enmesh him
-- from these, the dead letter of the treaty could afford him no protection.
The Catholic subject of Protestant princes complained loudly of violations
of the religious peace -- the Lutherans still more loudly of the oppression
they experienced under their Romanist suzerains. The rancour and animosities
of theologians infused a poison into every occurrence, however inconsiderable,
and inflamed the minds of the people. Happy would it have been
had this theological hatred exhausted its zeal upon the common enemy,
instead of venting its virus on the adherents of a kindred faith!
Unanimity amongst the Protestants might, by preserving the balance
between the contending parties, have prolonged the peace;
but as if to complete the confusion, all concord was quickly broken.
The doctrines which had been propagated by Zuingli in Zurich,
and by Calvin in Geneva, soon spread to Germany, and divided the Protestants
among themselves, with little in unison save their common hatred to popery.
The Protestants of this date bore but slight resemblance to those who,
fifty years before, drew up the Confession of Augsburg;
and the cause of the change is to be sought in that Confession itself.
It had prescribed a positive boundary to the Protestant faith,
before the newly awakened spirit of inquiry had satisfied itself as to
the limits it ought to set; and the Protestants seemed unwittingly to have
thrown away much of the advantage acquired by their rejection of popery.
Common complaints of the Romish hierarchy, and of ecclesiastical abuses,
and a common disapprobation of its dogmas, formed a sufficient centre of union
for the Protestants; but not content with this, they sought a rallying point
in the promulgation of a new and positive creed, in which they sought
to embody the distinctions, the privileges, and the essence of the church,
and to this they referred the convention entered into with their opponents.
It was as professors of this creed that they had acceded to the treaty;
and in the benefits of this peace the advocates of the confession
were alone entitled to participate. In any case, therefore,
the situation of its adherents was embarrassing. If a blind obedience
were yielded to the dicta of the Confession, a lasting bound would be set
to the spirit of inquiry; if, on the other hand, they dissented from
the formulae agreed upon, the point of union would be lost.
Unfortunately both incidents occurred, and the evil results of both were
quickly felt. One party rigorously adhered to the original symbol of faith,
and the other abandoned it, only to adopt another with equal exclusiveness.
Nothing could have furnished the common enemy a more plausible defence
of his cause than this dissension; no spectacle could have been
more gratifying to him than the rancour with which the Protestants alternately
persecuted each other. Who could condemn the Roman Catholics,
if they laughed at the audacity with which the Reformers had presumed
to announce the only true belief? -- if from Protestants they borrowed
the weapons against Protestants? -- if, in the midst of this
clashing of opinions, they held fast to the authority of their own church,
for which, in part, there spoke an honourable antiquity,
and a yet more honourable plurality of voices. But this division
placed the Protestants in still more serious embarrassments.
As the covenants of the treaty applied only to the partisans
of the Confession, their opponents, with some reason, called upon them
to explain who were to be recognized as the adherents of that creed.
The Lutherans could not, without offending conscience,
include the Calvinists in their communion, except at the risk of converting
a useful friend into a dangerous enemy, could they exclude them.
This unfortunate difference opened a way for the machinations of the Jesuits
to sow distrust between both parties, and to destroy the unity
of their measures. Fettered by the double fear of their direct adversaries,
and of their opponents among themselves, the Protestants lost for ever
the opportunity of placing their church on a perfect equality
with the Catholic. All these difficulties would have been avoided,
and the defection of the Calvinists would not have prejudiced
the common cause, if the point of union had been placed simply
in the abandonment of Romanism, instead of in the Confession of Augsburg.
But however divided on other points, they concurred in this --
that the security which had resulted from equality of power
could only be maintained by the preservation of that balance.
In the meanwhile, the continual reforms of one party,
and the opposing measures of the other, kept both upon the watch,
while the interpretation of the religious treaty was a never-ending
subject of dispute. Each party maintained that every step taken
by its opponent was an infraction of the peace, while of every movement
of its own it was asserted that it was essential to its maintenance.
Yet all the measures of the Catholics did not, as their opponents alleged,
proceed from a spirit of encroachment -- many of them were
the necessary precautions of self-defence. The Protestants had shown
unequivocally enough what the Romanists might expect if they were
unfortunate enough to become the weaker party. The greediness of the former
for the property of the church, gave no reason to expect indulgence; --
their bitter hatred left no hope of magnanimity or forbearance.
But the Protestants, likewise, were excusable if they too
placed little confidence in the sincerity of the Roman Catholics.
By the treacherous and inhuman treatment which their brethren in Spain,
France, and the Netherlands, had suffered; by the disgraceful subterfuge
of the Romish princes, who held that the Pope had power to relieve them
from the obligation of the most solemn oaths; and above all,
by the detestable maxim, that faith was not to be kept with heretics,
the Roman Church, in the eyes of all honest men, had lost its honour.
No engagement, no oath, however sacred, from a Roman Catholic, could satisfy
a Protestant. What security then could the religious peace afford, when,
throughout Germany, the Jesuits represented it as a measure of
mere temporary convenience, and in Rome itself it was solemnly repudiated.
The General Council, to which reference had been made in the treaty,
had already been held in the city of Trent; but, as might have been foreseen,
without accommodating the religious differences, or taking a single step to
effect such accommodation, and even without being attended by the Protestants.
The latter, indeed, were now solemnly excommunicated by it in the name
of the church, whose representative the Council gave itself out to be.
Could, then, a secular treaty, extorted moreover by force of arms,
afford them adequate protection against the ban of the church; a treaty, too,
based on a condition which the decision of the Council seemed entirely
to abolish? There was then a show of right for violating the peace,
if only the Romanists possessed the power; and henceforward the Protestants
were protected by nothing but the respect for their formidable array.
Other circumstances combined to augment this distrust. Spain,
on whose support the Romanists in Germany chiefly relied, was engaged in
a bloody conflict with the Flemings. By it, the flower of the Spanish troops
were drawn to the confines of Germany. With what ease might they be
introduced within the empire, if a decisive stroke should render
their presence necessary? Germany was at that time a magazine of war
for nearly all the powers of Europe. The religious war had crowded it
with soldiers, whom the peace left destitute; its many independent princes
found it easy to assemble armies, and afterwards, for the sake of gain,
or the interests of party, hire them out to other powers. With German troops,
Philip the Second waged war against the Netherlands, and with German troops
they defended themselves. Every such levy in Germany was a subject of alarm
to the one party or the other, since it might be intended
for their oppression. The arrival of an ambassador, an extraordinary legate
of the Pope, a conference of princes, every unusual incident, must,
it was thought, be pregnant with destruction to some party. Thus,
for nearly half a century, stood Germany, her hand upon the sword;
every rustle of a leaf alarmed her.
Ferdinand the First, King of Hungary, and his excellent son,
Maximilian the Second, held at this memorable epoch the reins of government.
With a heart full of sincerity, with a truly heroic patience,
had Ferdinand brought about the religious peace of Augsburg, and afterwards,
in the Council of Trent, laboured assiduously, though vainly,
at the ungrateful task of reconciling the two religions.
Abandoned by his nephew, Philip of Spain, and hard pressed
both in Hungary and Transylvania by the victorious armies of the Turks,
it was not likely that this emperor would entertain the idea
of violating the religious peace, and thereby destroying his own painful work.
The heavy expenses of the perpetually recurring war with Turkey
could not be defrayed by the meagre contributions of his exhausted
hereditary dominions. He stood, therefore, in need of the assistance
of the whole empire; and the religious peace alone preserved in one body
the otherwise divided empire. Financial necessities made the Protestant
as needful to him as the Romanist, and imposed upon him the obligation
of treating both parties with equal justice, which, amidst so many
contradictory claims, was truly a colossal task. Very far, however,
was the result from answering his expectations. His indulgence of
the Protestants served only to bring upon his successors a war,
which death saved himself the mortification of witnessing.
Scarcely more fortunate was his son Maximilian, with whom perhaps
the pressure of circumstances was the only obstacle, and a longer life
perhaps the only want, to his establishing the new religion
upon the imperial throne. Necessity had taught the father
forbearance towards the Protestants -- necessity and justice dictated
the same course to the son. The grandson had reason to repent
that he neither listened to justice, nor yielded to necessity.
Maximilian left six sons, of whom the eldest, the Archduke Rodolph,
inherited his dominions, and ascended the imperial throne.
The other brothers were put off with petty appanages. A few mesne fiefs
were held by a collateral branch, which had their uncle, Charles of Styria,
at its head; and even these were afterwards, under his son,
Ferdinand the Second, incorporated with the rest of the family dominions.
With this exception, the whole of the imposing power of Austria
was now wielded by a single, but unfortunately weak hand.
Rodolph the Second was not devoid of those virtues which might have gained him
the esteem of mankind, had the lot of a private station fallen to him.
His character was mild, he loved peace and the sciences,
particularly astronomy, natural history, chemistry, and the study
of antiquities. To these he applied with a passionate zeal, which,
at the very time when the critical posture of affairs demanded
all his attention, and his exhausted finances the most rigid economy,
diverted his attention from state affairs, and involved him in
pernicious expenses. His taste for astronomy soon lost itself in those
astrological reveries to which timid and melancholy temperaments like his
are but too disposed. This, together with a youth passed in Spain,
opened his ears to the evil counsels of the Jesuits, and the influence
of the Spanish court, by which at last he was wholly governed.
Ruled by tastes so little in accordance with the dignity of his station,
and alarmed by ridiculous prophecies, he withdrew, after the Spanish custom,
from the eyes of his subjects, to bury himself amidst his gems and antiques,
or to make experiments in his laboratory, while the most fatal discords
loosened all the bands of the empire, and the flames of rebellion
began to burst out at the very footsteps of his throne.
All access to his person was denied, the most urgent matters were neglected.
The prospect of the rich inheritance of Spain was closed against him,
while he was trying to make up his mind to offer his hand
to the Infanta Isabella. A fearful anarchy threatened the Empire,
for though without an heir of his own body, he could not be persuaded
to allow the election of a King of the Romans. The Austrian States
renounced their allegiance, Hungary and Transylvania threw off his supremacy,
and Bohemia was not slow in following their example. The descendant of
the once so formidable Charles the Fifth was in perpetual danger,
either of losing one part of his possessions to the Turks,
or another to the Protestants, and of sinking, beyond redemption,
under the formidable coalition which a great monarch of Europe had formed
against him. The events which now took place in the interior of Germany
were such as usually happened when either the throne was without an emperor,
or the Emperor without a sense of his imperial dignity. Outraged or abandoned
by their head, the States of the Empire were left to help themselves;
and alliances among themselves must supply the defective authority
of the Emperor. Germany was divided into two leagues,
which stood in arms arrayed against each other: between both, Rodolph,
the despised opponent of the one, and the impotent protector of the other,
remained irresolute and useless, equally unable to destroy the former
or to command the latter. What had the Empire to look for
from a prince incapable even of defending his hereditary dominions against
its domestic enemies? To prevent the utter ruin of the House of Austria,
his own family combined against him; and a powerful party threw itself
into the arms of his brother. Driven from his hereditary dominions,
nothing was now left him to lose but the imperial dignity;
and he was only spared this last disgrace by a timely death.
At this critical moment, when only a supple policy, united with
a vigorous arm, could have maintained the tranquillity of the Empire,
its evil genius gave it a Rodolph for Emperor. At a more peaceful period
the Germanic Union would have managed its own interests, and Rodolph,
like so many others of his rank, might have hidden his deficiencies
in a mysterious obscurity. But the urgent demand for the qualities
in which he was most deficient revealed his incapacity.
The position of Germany called for an emperor who, by his known energies,
could give weight to his resolves; and the hereditary dominions of Rodolph,
considerable as they were, were at present in a situation to occasion
the greatest embarrassment to the governors.
The Austrian princes, it is true were Roman Catholics, and in addition
to that, the supporters of Popery, but their countries were far from being so.
The reformed opinions had penetrated even these, and favoured by
Ferdinand's necessities and Maximilian's mildness, had met with
a rapid success. The Austrian provinces exhibited in miniature
what Germany did on a larger scale. The great nobles and the ritter class
or knights were chiefly evangelical, and in the cities the Protestants had
a decided preponderance. If they succeeded in bringing a few of their party
into the country, they contrived imperceptibly to fill all places of trust
and the magistracy with their own adherents, and to exclude the Catholics.
Against the numerous order of the nobles and knights,
and the deputies from the towns, the voice of a few prelates was powerless;
and the unseemly ridicule and offensive contempt of the former soon drove them
entirely from the provincial diets. Thus the whole of the Austrian Diet had
imperceptibly become Protestant, and the Reformation was making rapid strides
towards its public recognition. The prince was dependent on the Estates,
who had it in their power to grant or refuse supplies. Accordingly,
they availed themselves of the financial necessities of Ferdinand and his son
to extort one religious concession after another. To the nobles and knights,
Maximilian at last conceded the free exercise of their religion,
but only within their own territories and castles. The intemperate enthusiasm
of the Protestant preachers overstepped the boundaries which prudence
had prescribed. In defiance of the express prohibition, several of them
ventured to preach publicly, not only in the towns, but in Vienna itself,
and the people flocked in crowds to this new doctrine,
the best seasoning of which was personality and abuse. Thus continued food
was supplied to fanaticism, and the hatred of two churches,
that were such near neighbours, was farther envenomed by the sting
of an impure zeal.
Among the hereditary dominions of the House of Austria,
Hungary and Transylvania were the most unstable, and the most difficult
to retain. The impossibility of holding these two countries
against the neighbouring and overwhelming power of the Turks,
had already driven Ferdinand to the inglorious expedient of recognizing,
by an annual tribute, the Porte's supremacy over Transylvania;
a shameful confession of weakness, and a still more dangerous temptation
to the turbulent nobility, when they fancied they had any reason to complain
of their master. Not without conditions had the Hungarians submitted
to the House of Austria. They asserted the elective freedom of their crown,
and boldly contended for all those prerogatives of their order
which are inseparable from this freedom of election. The near neighbourhood
of Turkey, the facility of changing masters with impunity,
encouraged the magnates still more in their presumption; discontented with
the Austrian government they threw themselves into the arms of the Turks;
dissatisfied with these, they returned again to their German sovereigns.
The frequency and rapidity of these transitions from one government
to another, had communicated its influences also to their mode of thinking;
and as their country wavered between the Turkish and Austrian rule,
so their minds vacillated between revolt and submission.
The more unfortunate each nation felt itself in being degraded into a province
of a foreign kingdom, the stronger desire did they feel to obey
a monarch chosen from amongst themselves, and thus it was always easy
for an enterprising noble to obtain their support. The nearest Turkish pasha
was always ready to bestow the Hungarian sceptre and crown on a rebel
against Austria; just as ready was Austria to confirm to any adventurer
the possession of provinces which he had wrested from the Porte,
satisfied with preserving thereby the shadow of authority,
and with erecting at the same time a barrier against the Turks.
In this way several of these magnates, Batbori, Boschkai, Ragoczi, and Bethlen
succeeded in establishing themselves, one after another,
as tributary sovereigns in Transylvania and Hungary;
and they maintained their ground by no deeper policy
than that of occasionally joining the enemy, in order to render themselves
more formidable to their own prince.
Ferdinand, Maximilian, and Rodolph, who were all sovereigns
of Hungary and Transylvania, exhausted their other territories
in endeavouring to defend these from the hostile inroads of the Turks,
and to put down intestine rebellion. In this quarter
destructive wars were succeeded but by brief truces,
which were scarcely less hurtful: far and wide the land lay waste,
while the injured serf had to complain equally of his enemy and his protector.
Into these countries also the Reformation had penetrated;
and protected by the freedom of the States, and under the cover
of the internal disorders, had made a noticeable progress.
Here too it was incautiously attacked, and party spirit thus became
yet more dangerous from religious enthusiasm. Headed by a bold rebel,
Boschkai, the nobles of Hungary and Transylvania raised the standard
of rebellion. The Hungarian insurgents were upon the point of making
common cause with the discontented Protestants in Austria, Moravia,
and Bohemia, and uniting all those countries in one fearful revolt.
The downfall of popery in these lands would then have been inevitable.
Long had the Austrian archdukes, the brothers of the Emperor,
beheld with silent indignation the impending ruin of their house;
this last event hastened their decision. The Archduke Matthias,
Maximilian's second son, Viceroy in Hungary, and Rodolph's presumptive heir,
now came forward as the stay of the falling house of Hapsburg. In his youth,
misled by a false ambition, this prince, disregarding the interests
of his family, had listened to the overtures of the Flemish insurgents,
who invited him into the Netherlands to conduct the defence of their liberties
against the oppression of his own relative, Philip the Second.
Mistaking the voice of an insulated faction for that of the entire nation,
Matthias obeyed the call. But the event answered the expectations
of the men of Brabant as little as his own, and from this imprudent enterprise
he retired with little credit.
Far more honourable was his second appearance in the political world.
Perceiving that his repeated remonstrances with the Emperor were unavailing,
he assembled the archdukes, his brothers and cousins, at Presburg,
and consulted with them on the growing perils of their house,
when they unanimously assigned to him, as the oldest,
the duty of defending that patrimony which a feeble brother was endangering.
In his hands they placed all their powers and rights,
and vested him with sovereign authority, to act at his discretion
for the common good. Matthias immediately opened a communication with
the Porte and the Hungarian rebels, and through his skilful management
succeeded in saving, by a peace with the Turks, the remainder of Hungary,
and by a treaty with the rebels, preserved the claims of Austria
to the lost provinces. But Rodolph, as jealous as he had hitherto
been careless of his sovereign authority, refused to ratify this treaty,
which he regarded as a criminal encroachment on his sovereign rights.
He accused the Archduke of keeping up a secret understanding with the enemy,
and of cherishing treasonable designs on the crown of Hungary.
The activity of Matthias was, in truth, anything but disinterested;
the conduct of the Emperor only accelerated the execution
of his ambitious views. Secure, from motives of gratitude,
of the devotion of the Hungarians, for whom he had so lately obtained
the blessings of peace; assured by his agents of the favourable disposition
of the nobles, and certain of the support of a large party, even in Austria,
he now ventured to assume a bolder attitude, and, sword in hand,
to discuss his grievances with the Emperor. The Protestants
in Austria and Moravia, long ripe for revolt, and now won over to the Archduke
by his promises of toleration, loudly and openly espoused his cause,
and their long-menaced alliance with the Hungarian rebels
was actually effected. Almost at once a formidable conspiracy
was planned and matured against the Emperor. Too late did he resolve
to amend his past errors; in vain did he attempt to break up
this fatal alliance. Already the whole empire was in arms;
Hungary, Austria, and Moravia had done homage to Matthias,
who was already on his march to Bohemia to seize the Emperor in his palace,
and to cut at once the sinews of his power.
Bohemia was not a more peaceable possession for Austria than Hungary;
with this difference only, that, in the latter, political considerations,
in the former, religious dissensions, fomented disorders.
In Bohemia, a century before the days of Luther, the first spark
of the religious war had been kindled; a century after Luther,
the first flames of the thirty years' war burst out in Bohemia.
The sect which owed its rise to John Huss, still existed in that country; --
it agreed with the Romish Church in ceremonies and doctrines,
with the single exception of the administration of the Communion,
in which the Hussites communicated in both kinds. This privilege
had been conceded to the followers of Huss by the Council of Basle,
in an express treaty, (the Bohemian Compact); and though it was afterwards
disavowed by the popes, they nevertheless continued to profit by it
under the sanction of the government. As the use of the cup
formed the only important distinction of their body,
they were usually designated by the name of Utraquists;
and they readily adopted an appellation which reminded them
of their dearly valued privilege. But under this title lurked also
the far stricter sects of the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren,
who differed from the predominant church in more important particulars,
and bore, in fact, a great resemblance to the German Protestants.
Among them both, the German and Swiss opinions on religion
made rapid progress; while the name of Utraquists, under which they managed
to disguise the change of their principles, shielded them from persecution.
In truth, they had nothing in common with the Utraquists but the name;
essentially, they were altogether Protestant. Confident in the strength
of their party, and the Emperor's toleration under Maximilian,
they had openly avowed their tenets. After the example of the Germans,
they drew up a Confession of their own, in which Lutherans
as well as Calvinists recognized their own doctrines, and they sought
to transfer to the new Confession the privileges of the original Utraquists.
In this they were opposed by their Roman Catholic countrymen,
and forced to rest content with the Emperor's verbal assurance of protection.
As long as Maximilian lived, they enjoyed complete toleration, even under
the new form they had taken. Under his successor the scene changed.
An imperial edict appeared, which deprived the Bohemian Brethren
of their religious freedom. Now these differed in nothing
from the other Utraquists. The sentence, therefore, of their condemnation,
obviously included all the partisans of the Bohemian Confession.
Accordingly, they all combined to oppose the imperial mandate in the Diet,
but without being able to procure its revocation.
The Emperor and the Roman Catholic Estates took their ground
on the Compact and the Bohemian Constitution; in which nothing appeared
in favour of a religion which had not then obtained the voice of the country.
Since that time, how completely had affairs changed!
What then formed but an inconsiderable opinion, had now become
the predominant religion of the country. And what was it then,
but a subterfuge to limit a newly spreading religion by the terms
of obsolete treaties? The Bohemian Protestants appealed to
the verbal guarantee of Maximilian, and the religious freedom of the Germans,
with whom they argued they ought to be on a footing of equality.
It was in vain -- their appeal was dismissed.
Such was the posture of affairs in Bohemia, when Matthias,
already master of Hungary, Austria, and Moravia, appeared in Kolin,
to raise the Bohemian Estates also against the Emperor.
The embarrassment of the latter was now at its height. Abandoned by
all his other subjects, he placed his last hopes on the Bohemians,
who, it might be foreseen, would take advantage of his necessities
to enforce their own demands. After an interval of many years,
he once more appeared publicly in the Diet at Prague;
and to convince the people that he was really still in existence,
orders were given that all the windows should be opened in the streets
through which he was to pass -- proof enough how far things had gone with him.
The event justified his fears. The Estates, conscious of their own power,
refused to take a single step until their privileges were confirmed,
and religious toleration fully assured to them. It was in vain
to have recourse now to the old system of evasion. The Emperor's fate
was in their hands, and he must yield to necessity. At present, however,
he only granted their other demands -- religious matters he reserved
for consideration at the next Diet.
The Bohemians now took up arms in defence of the Emperor, and a bloody war
between the two brothers was on the point of breaking out. But Rodolph,
who feared nothing so much as remaining in this slavish dependence
on the Estates, waited not for a warlike issue, but hastened to effect
a reconciliation with his brother by more peaceable means.
By a formal act of abdication he resigned to Matthias, what indeed
he had no chance of wresting from him, Austria and the kingdom of Hungary,
and acknowledged him as his successor to the crown of Bohemia.
Dearly enough had the Emperor extricated himself from one difficulty,
only to get immediately involved in another. The settlement of
the religious affairs of Bohemia had been referred to the next Diet,
which was held in 1609. The reformed Bohemians demanded the free exercise
of their faith, as under the former emperors; a Consistory of their own;
the cession of the University of Prague; and the right of electing
`Defenders', or `Protectors' of `Liberty', from their own body.
The answer was the same as before; for the timid Emperor was now
entirely fettered by the unreformed party. However often,
and in however threatening language the Estates renewed their remonstrances,
the Emperor persisted in his first declaration of granting nothing
beyond the old compact. The Diet broke up without coming to a decision;
and the Estates, exasperated against the Emperor, arranged a general meeting
at Prague, upon their own authority, to right themselves.
They appeared at Prague in great force. In defiance of
the imperial prohibition, they carried on their deliberations
almost under the very eyes of the Emperor. The yielding compliance
which he began to show, only proved how much they were feared,
and increased their audacity. Yet on the main point he remained inflexible.
They fulfilled their threats, and at last resolved to establish,
by their own power, the free and universal exercise of their religion,
and to abandon the Emperor to his necessities until he should confirm
this resolution. They even went farther, and elected for themselves
the DEFENDERS which the Emperor had refused them. Ten were nominated
by each of the three Estates; they also determined to raise,
as soon as possible, an armed force, at the head of which Count Thurn,
the chief organizer of the revolt, should be placed as general defender
of the liberties of Bohemia. Their determination brought the Emperor
to submission, to which he was now counselled even by the Spaniards.
Apprehensive lest the exasperated Estates should throw themselves
into the arms of the King of Hungary, he signed the memorable
Letter of Majesty for Bohemia, by which, under the successors of the Emperor,
that people justified their rebellion.
The Bohemian Confession, which the States had laid before
the Emperor Maximilian, was, by the Letter of Majesty,
placed on a footing of equality with the olden profession. The Utraquists,
for by this title the Bohemian Protestants continued to designate themselves,
were put in possession of the University of Prague, and allowed a Consistory
of their own, entirely independent of the archiepiscopal see of that city.
All the churches in the cities, villages, and market towns,
which they held at the date of the letter, were secured to them;
and if in addition they wished to erect others, it was permitted
to the nobles, and knights, and the free cities to do so. This last clause
in the Letter of Majesty gave rise to the unfortunate disputes
which subsequently rekindled the flames of war in Europe.
The Letter of Majesty erected the Protestant part of Bohemia
into a kind of republic. The Estates had learned to feel the power
which they gained by perseverance, unity, and harmony in their measures.
The Emperor now retained little more than the shadow of
his sovereign authority; while by the new dignity of the so-called
defenders of liberty, a dangerous stimulus was given to the spirit of revolt.
The example and success of Bohemia afforded a tempting seduction
to the other hereditary dominions of Austria, and all attempted
by similar means to extort similar privileges. The spirit of liberty spread
from one province to another; and as it was chiefly the disunion
among the Austrian princes that had enabled the Protestants so materially
to improve their advantages, they now hastened to effect a reconciliation
between the Emperor and the King of Hungary.
But the reconciliation could not be sincere. The wrong was too great
to be forgiven, and Rodolph continued to nourish at heart
an unextinguishable hatred of Matthias. With grief and indignation
he brooded over the thought, that the Bohemian sceptre was finally to descend
into the hands of his enemy; and the prospect was not more consoling,
even if Matthias should die without issue. In that case, Ferdinand,
Archduke of Graetz, whom he equally disliked, was the head of the family.
To exclude the latter as well as Matthias from the succession to the throne
of Bohemia, he fell upon the project of diverting that inheritance
to Ferdinand's brother, the Archduke Leopold, Bishop of Passau,
who among all his relatives had ever been the dearest and most deserving.
The prejudices of the Bohemians in favour of the elective freedom
of their crown, and their attachment to Leopold's person,
seemed to favour this scheme, in which Rodolph consulted rather
his own partiality and vindictiveness than the good of his house.
But to carry out this project, a military force was requisite,
and Rodolph actually assembled an army in the bishopric of Passau.
The object of this force was hidden from all. An inroad, however,
which, for want of pay it made suddenly and without the Emperor's knowledge
into Bohemia, and the outrages which it there committed,
stirred up the whole kingdom against him. In vain he asserted his innocence
to the Bohemian Estates; they would not believe his protestations;
vainly did he attempt to restrain the violence of his soldiery;
they disregarded his orders. Persuaded that the Emperor's object
was to annul the Letter of Majesty, the Protectors of Liberty
armed the whole of Protestant Bohemia, and invited Matthias into the country.
After the dispersion of the force he had collected at Passau, the Emperor
remained helpless at Prague, where he was kept shut up like a prisoner
in his palace, and separated from all his councillors. In the meantime,
Matthias entered Prague amidst universal rejoicings, where Rodolph
was soon afterwards weak enough to acknowledge him King of Bohemia.
So hard a fate befell this Emperor; he was compelled, during his life,
to abdicate in favour of his enemy that very throne, of which he had been
endeavouring to deprive him after his own death. To complete his degradation,
he was obliged, by a personal act of renunciation, to release his subjects
in Bohemia, Silesia, and Lusatia from their allegiance, and he did it
with a broken heart. All, even those he thought he had most attached
to his person, had abandoned him. When he had signed the instrument,
he threw his hat upon the ground, and gnawed the pen which had rendered
so shameful a service.
While Rodolph thus lost one hereditary dominion after another,
the imperial dignity was not much better maintained by him.
Each of the religious parties into which Germany was divided,
continued its efforts to advance itself at the expense of the other,
or to guard against its attacks. The weaker the hand that held the sceptre,
and the more the Protestants and Roman Catholics felt they were left
to themselves, the more vigilant necessarily became their watchfulness,
and the greater their distrust of each other. It was enough that the Emperor
was ruled by Jesuits, and was guided by Spanish counsels, to excite
the apprehension of the Protestants, and to afford a pretext for hostility.
The rash zeal of the Jesuits, which in the pulpit and by the press
disputed the validity of the religious peace, increased this distrust,
and caused their adversaries to see a dangerous design
in the most indifferent measures of the Roman Catholics.
Every step taken in the hereditary dominions of the Emperor,
for the repression of the reformed religion, was sure to draw the attention
of all the Protestants of Germany; and this powerful support
which the reformed subjects of Austria met, or expected to meet with
from their religious confederates in the rest of Germany,
was no small cause of their confidence, and of the rapid success of Matthias.
It was the general belief of the Empire, that they owed
the long enjoyment of the religious peace merely to the difficulties
in which the Emperor was placed by the internal troubles in his dominions,
and consequently they were in no haste to relieve him from them.
Almost all the affairs of the Diet were neglected,
either through the procrastination of the Emperor, or through the fault
of the Protestant Estates, who had determined to make no provision
for the common wants of the Empire till their own grievances were removed.
These grievances related principally to the misgovernment of the Emperor;
the violation of the religious treaty, and the presumptuous usurpations
of the Aulic Council, which in the present reign had begun to extend
its jurisdiction at the expense of the Imperial Chamber. Formerly,
in all disputes between the Estates, which could not be settled by club law,
the Emperors had in the last resort decided of themselves,
if the case were trifling, and in conjunction with the princes,
if it were important; or they determined them by the advice of imperial judges
who followed the court. This superior jurisdiction they had, in the end
of the fifteenth century, assigned to a regular and permanent tribunal,
the Imperial Chamber of Spires, in which the Estates of the Empire,
that they might not be oppressed by the arbitrary appointment of the Emperor,
had reserved to themselves the right of electing the assessors,
and of periodically reviewing its decrees. By the religious peace,
these rights of the Estates, (called the rights of presentation
and visitation,) were extended also to the Lutherans,
so that Protestant judges had a voice in Protestant causes,
and a seeming equality obtained for both religions in this supreme tribunal.
But the enemies of the Reformation and of the freedom of the Estates,
vigilant to take advantage of every incident that favoured their views,
soon found means to neutralize the beneficial effects of this institution.
A supreme jurisdiction over the Imperial States was gradually and skilfully
usurped by a private imperial tribunal, the Aulic Council in Vienna,
a court at first intended merely to advise the Emperor in the exercise
of his undoubted, imperial, and personal prerogatives; a court,
whose members being appointed and paid by him, had no law but the interest
of their master, and no standard of equity but the advancement of
the unreformed religion of which they were partisans.
Before the Aulic Council were now brought several suits originating between
Estates differing in religion, and which, therefore, properly belonged to
the Imperial Chamber. It was not surprising if the decrees of this tribunal
bore traces of their origin; if the interests of the Roman Church
and of the Emperor were preferred to justice by Roman Catholic judges,
and the creatures of the Emperor. Although all the Estates of Germany
seemed to have equal cause for resisting so perilous an abuse,
the Protestants alone, who most sensibly felt it, and even these not all
at once and in a body, came forward as the defenders of German liberty,
which the establishment of so arbitrary a tribunal had outraged
in its most sacred point, the administration of justice. In fact,
Germany would have had little cause to congratulate itself upon
the abolition of club-law, and in the institution of the Imperial Chamber,
if an arbitrary tribunal of the Emperor was allowed to interfere with
the latter. The Estates of the German Empire would indeed
have improved little upon the days of barbarism, if the Chamber of Justice
in which they sat along with the Emperor as judges, and for which
they had abandoned their original princely prerogative, should cease to be
a court of the last resort. But the strangest contradictions
were at this date to be found in the minds of men. The name of Emperor,
a remnant of Roman despotism, was still associated with an idea of autocracy,
which, though it formed a ridiculous inconsistency with
the privileges of the Estates, was nevertheless argued for by jurists,
diffused by the partisans of despotism, and believed by the ignorant.
To these general grievances was gradually added a chain of singular incidents,
which at length converted the anxiety of the Protestants into utter distrust.
During the Spanish persecutions in the Netherlands,
several Protestant families had taken refuge in Aix-la-Chapelle,
an imperial city, and attached to the Roman Catholic faith,
where they settled and insensibly extended their adherents.
Having succeeded by stratagem in introducing some of their members
into the municipal council, they demanded a church and the public exercise
of their worship, and the demand being unfavourably received, they succeeded
by violence in enforcing it, and also in usurping the entire government
of the city. To see so important a city in Protestant hands
was too heavy a blow for the Emperor and the Roman Catholics.
After all the Emperor's requests and commands for the restoration
of the olden government had proved ineffectual, the Aulic Council
proclaimed the city under the ban of the Empire, which, however,
was not put in force till the following reign.
Of yet greater importance were two other attempts of the Protestants
to extend their influence and their power. The Elector Gebhard, of Cologne,
(born Truchsess* of Waldburg,) conceived for the young Countess Agnes,
of Mansfield, Canoness of Gerresheim, a passion which was not unreturned.
As the eyes of all Germany were directed to this intercourse,
the brothers of the Countess, two zealous Calvinists,
demanded satisfaction for the injured honour of their house, which,
as long as the elector remained a Roman Catholic prelate,
could not be repaired by marriage. They threatened the elector
they would wash out this stain in his blood and their sister's,
unless he either abandoned all further connexion with the countess,
or consented to re-establish her reputation at the altar.
The elector, indifferent to all the consequences of this step,
listened to nothing but the voice of love. Whether it was
in consequence of his previous inclination to the reformed doctrines,
or that the charms of his mistress alone effected this wonder, he renounced
the Roman Catholic faith, and led the beautiful Agnes to the altar.
* Grand-master of the kitchen.
This event was of the greatest importance. By the letter of the clause
reserving the ecclesiastical states from the general operation
of the religious peace, the elector had, by his apostacy,
forfeited all right to the temporalities of his bishopric;
and if, in any case, it was important for the Catholics to enforce the clause,
it was so especially in the case of electorates. On the other hand,
the relinquishment of so high a dignity was a severe sacrifice,
and peculiarly so in the case of a tender husband, who had wished to enhance
the value of his heart and hand by the gift of a principality.
Moreover, the Reservatum Ecclesiasticum was a disputed article
of the treaty of Augsburg; and all the German Protestants were aware
of the extreme importance of wresting this fourth* electorate
from the opponents of their faith. The example had already been set
in several of the ecclesiastical benefices of Lower Germany,
and attended with success. Several canons of Cologne had also
already embraced the Protestant confession, and were on the elector's side,
while, in the city itself, he could depend upon the support
of a numerous Protestant party. All these considerations,
greatly strengthened by the persuasions of his friends and relations,
and the promises of several German courts, determined the elector
to retain his dominions, while he changed his religion.
* Saxony, Brandenburg, and the Palatinate were already Protestant.
But it was soon apparent that he had entered upon a contest which he
could not carry through. Even the free toleration of the Protestant service
within the territories of Cologne, had already occasioned a violent opposition
on the part of the canons and Roman Catholic `Estates' of that province.
The intervention of the Emperor, and a papal ban from Rome,
which anathematized the elector as an apostate, and deprived him of all
his dignities, temporal and spiritual, armed his own subjects and chapter
against him. The Elector assembled a military force;
the chapter did the same. To ensure also the aid of a strong arm,
they proceeded forthwith to a new election, and chose the Bishop of Liege,
a prince of Bavaria.
A civil war now commenced, which, from the strong interest
which both religious parties in Germany necessarily felt in the conjuncture,
was likely to terminate in a general breaking up of the religious peace.
What most made the Protestants indignant, was that the Pope
should have presumed, by a pretended apostolic power, to deprive
a prince of the empire of his imperial dignities. Even in the golden days
of their spiritual domination, this prerogative of the Pope had been disputed;
how much more likely was it to be questioned at a period when his authority
was entirely disowned by one party, while even with the other it rested
on a tottering foundation. All the Protestant princes took up the affair
warmly against the Emperor; and Henry IV. of France, then King of Navarre,
left no means of negotiation untried to urge the German princes
to the vigorous assertion of their rights. The issue would decide for ever
the liberties of Germany. Four Protestant against three Roman Catholic voices
in the Electoral College must at once have given the preponderance
to the former, and for ever excluded the House of Austria
from the imperial throne.
But the Elector Gebhard had embraced the Calvinist, not the Lutheran religion;
and this circumstance alone was his ruin. The mutual rancour
of these two churches would not permit the Lutheran Estates
to regard the Elector as one of their party, and as such to lend him their
effectual support. All indeed had encouraged, and promised him assistance;
but only one appanaged prince of the Palatine House,
the Palsgrave John Casimir, a zealous Calvinist, kept his word.
Despite of the imperial prohibition, he hastened with his little army
into the territories of Cologne; but without being able to effect any thing,
because the Elector, who was destitute even of the first necessaries,
left him totally without help. So much the more rapid was the progress
of the newly-chosen elector, whom his Bavarian relations and the Spaniards
from the Netherlands supported with the utmost vigour. The troops of Gebhard,
left by their master without pay, abandoned one place after another
to the enemy; by whom others were compelled to surrender.
In his Westphalian territories, Gebhard held out for some time longer,
till here, too, he was at last obliged to yield to superior force.
After several vain attempts in Holland and England to obtain means
for his restoration, he retired into the Chapter of Strasburg, and died dean
of that cathedral; the first sacrifice to the Ecclesiastical Reservation,
or rather to the want of harmony among the German Protestants.
To this dispute in Cologne was soon added another in Strasburg.
Several Protestant canons of Cologne, who had been included in
the same papal ban with the elector, had taken refuge within this bishopric,
where they likewise held prebends. As the Roman Catholic canons of Strasburg
hesitated to allow them, as being under the ban, the enjoyment
of their prebends, they took violent possession of their benefices,
and the support of a powerful Protestant party among the citizens
soon gave them the preponderance in the chapter. The other canons thereupon
retired to Alsace-Saverne, where, under the protection of the bishop,
they established themselves as the only lawful chapter,
and denounced that which remained in Strasburg as illegal. The latter,
in the meantime, had so strengthened themselves by the reception
of several Protestant colleagues of high rank, that they could venture,
upon the death of the bishop, to nominate a new Protestant bishop
in the person of John George of Brandenburg. The Roman Catholic canons,
far from allowing this election, nominated the Bishop of Metz,
a prince of Lorraine, to that dignity, who announced his promotion
by immediately commencing hostilities against the territories of Strasburg.
That city now took up arms in defence of its Protestant chapter
and the Prince of Brandenburg, while the other party, with the assistance
of the troops of Lorraine, endeavoured to possess themselves
of the temporalities of the chapter. A tedious war was the consequence,
which, according to the spirit of the times, was attended with
barbarous devastations. In vain did the Emperor interpose with
his supreme authority to terminate the dispute; the ecclesiastical property
remained for a long time divided between the two parties,
till at last the Protestant prince, for a moderate pecuniary equivalent,
renounced his claims; and thus, in this dispute also, the Roman Church
came off victorious.
An occurrence which, soon after the adjustment of this dispute,
took place in Donauwerth, a free city of Suabia, was still more critical
for the whole of Protestant Germany. In this once Roman Catholic city,
the Protestants, during the reigns of Ferdinand and his son,
had, in the usual way, become so completely predominant,
that the Roman Catholics were obliged to content themselves with a church
in the Monastery of the Holy Cross, and for fear of offending the Protestants,
were even forced to suppress the greater part of their religious rites.
At length a fanatical abbot of this monastery ventured to defy
the popular prejudices, and to arrange a public procession,
preceded by the cross and banners flying; but he was soon compelled
to desist from the attempt. When, a year afterwards,
encouraged by a favourable imperial proclamation, the same abbot
attempted to renew this procession, the citizens proceeded to open violence.
The inhabitants shut the gates against the monks on their return,
trampled their colours under foot, and followed them home
with clamour and abuse. An imperial citation was the consequence of this act
of violence; and as the exasperated populace even threatened to assault
the imperial commissaries, and all attempts at an amicable adjustment
were frustrated by the fanaticism of the multitude, the city was at last
formally placed under the ban of the Empire, the execution of which was
intrusted to Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria. The citizens, formerly so insolent,
were seized with terror at the approach of the Bavarian army;
pusillanimity now possessed them, though once so full of defiance,
and they laid down their arms without striking a blow.
The total abolition of the Protestant religion within the walls of the city
was the punishment of their rebellion; it was deprived of its privileges,
and, from a free city of Suabia, converted into a municipal town of Bavaria.
Two circumstances connected with this proceeding must have strongly excited
the attention of the Protestants, even if the interests of religion had been
less powerful on their minds. First of all, the sentence had been pronounced
by the Aulic Council, an arbitrary and exclusively Roman Catholic tribunal,
whose jurisdiction besides had been so warmly disputed by them;
and secondly, its execution had been intrusted to the Duke of Bavaria,
the head of another circle. These unconstitutional steps seemed to be
the harbingers of further violent measures on the Roman Catholic side,
the result, probably, of secret conferences and dangerous designs,
which might perhaps end in the entire subversion of their religious liberty.
In circumstances where the law of force prevails, and security depends
upon power alone, the weakest party is naturally the most busy to place itself
in a posture of defence. This was now the case in Germany.
If the Roman Catholics really meditated any evil against the Protestants
in Germany, the probability was that the blow would fall on the south
rather than the north, because, in Lower Germany, the Protestants
were connected together through a long unbroken tract of country,
and could therefore easily combine for their mutual support;
while those in the south, detached from each other,
and surrounded on all sides by Roman Catholic states,
were exposed to every inroad. If, moreover, as was to be expected,
the Catholics availed themselves of the divisions amongst the Protestants,
and levelled their attack against one of the religious parties,
it was the Calvinists who, as the weaker, and as being besides
excluded from the religious treaty, were apparently in the greatest danger,
and upon them would probably fall the first attack.
Both these circumstances took place in the dominions of the Elector Palatine,
which possessed, in the Duke of Bavaria, a formidable neighbour, and which,
by reason of their defection to Calvinism, received no protection from
the Religious Peace, and had little hope of succour from the Lutheran states.
No country in Germany had experienced so many revolutions in religion
in so short a time as the Palatinate. In the space of sixty years
this country, an unfortunate toy in the hands of its rulers, had twice adopted
the doctrines of Luther, and twice relinquished them for Calvinism.
The Elector Frederick III. first abandoned the confession of Augsburg,
which his eldest son and successor, Lewis, immediately re-established.
The Calvinists throughout the whole country were deprived of their churches,
their preachers and even their teachers banished beyond the frontiers;
while the prince, in his Lutheran zeal, persecuted them even in his will,
by appointing none but strict and orthodox Lutherans as the guardians
of his son, a minor. But this illegal testament was disregarded
by his brother the Count Palatine, John Casimir, who, by the regulations
of the Golden Bull, assumed the guardianship and administration of the state.
Calvinistic teachers were given to the Elector Frederick IV.,
then only nine years of age, who were ordered, if necessary,
to drive the Lutheran heresy out of the soul of their pupil with blows.
If such was the treatment of the sovereign, that of the subjects
may be easily conceived.
It was under this Frederick that the Palatine Court exerted itself
so vigorously to unite the Protestant states of Germany in joint measures
against the House of Austria, and, if possible, bring about the formation
of a general confederacy. Besides that this court had always been guided
by the counsels of France, with whom hatred of the House of Austria
was the ruling principle, a regard for his own safety urged him
to secure in time the doubtful assistance of the Lutherans
against a near and overwhelming enemy. Great difficulties, however,
opposed this union, because the Lutherans' dislike of the Reformed
was scarcely less than the common aversion of both to the Romanists.
An attempt was first made to reconcile the two professions,
in order to facilitate a political union; but all these attempts failed,
and generally ended in both parties adhering the more strongly
to their respective opinions. Nothing then remained but to increase
the fear and the distrust of the Evangelicals, and in this way
to impress upon them the necessity of this alliance.
The power of the Roman Catholics and the magnitude of the danger
were exaggerated, accidental incidents were ascribed to deliberate plans,
innocent actions misrepresented by invidious constructions,
and the whole conduct of the professors of the olden religion
was interpreted as the result of a well-weighed and systematic plan, which,
in all probability, they were very far from having concerted.
The Diet of Ratisbon, to which the Protestants had looked forward
with the hope of obtaining a renewal of the Religious Peace,
had broken up without coming to a decision, and to the former grievances
of the Protestant party was now added the late oppression of Donauwerth.
With incredible speed, the union, so long attempted, was now brought to bear.
A conference took place at Anhausen, in Franconia,
at which were present the Elector Frederick IV., from the Palatinate,
the Palsgrave of Neuburg, two Margraves of Brandenburg,
the Margrave of Baden, and the Duke John Frederick of Wirtemburg, --
Lutherans as well as Calvinists, -- who for themselves and their heirs
entered into a close confederacy under the title of the Evangelical Union.
The purport of this union was, that the allied princes should,
in all matters relating to religion and their civil rights,
support each other with arms and counsel against every aggressor,
and should all stand as one man; that in case any member of the alliance
should be attacked, he should be assisted by the rest with an armed force;
that, if necessary, the territories, towns, and castles of the allied states
should be open to his troops; and that, whatever conquests were made,
should be divided among all the confederates, in proportion to
the contingent furnished by each.
The direction of the whole confederacy in time of peace
was conferred upon the Elector Palatine, but with a limited power.
To meet the necessary expenses, subsidies were demanded,
and a common fund established. Differences of religion
(betwixt the Lutherans and the Calvinists) were to have no effect
on this alliance, which was to subsist for ten years, every member
of the union engaged at the same time to procure new members to it.
The Electorate of Brandenburg adopted the alliance,
that of Saxony rejected it. Hesse-Cashel could not be prevailed upon
to declare itself, the Dukes of Brunswick and Luneburg also hesitated.
But the three cities of the Empire, Strasburg, Nuremburg, and Ulm,
were no unimportant acquisition for the league, which was in great want
of their money, while their example, besides, might be followed
by other imperial cities.
After the formation of this alliance, the confederate states,
dispirited, and singly, little feared, adopted a bolder language.
Through Prince Christian of Anhalt, they laid their common
grievances and demands before the Emperor; among which the principal were
the restoration of Donauwerth, the abolition of the Imperial Court,
the reformation of the Emperor's own administration and that
of his counsellors. For these remonstrances, they chose the moment
when the Emperor had scarcely recovered breath from the troubles
in his hereditary dominions, -- when he had lost Hungary and Austria
to Matthias, and had barely preserved his Bohemian throne
by the concession of the Letter of Majesty, and finally,
when through the succession of Juliers he was already threatened
with the distant prospect of a new war. No wonder, then,
that this dilatory prince was more irresolute than ever in his decision,
and that the confederates took up arms before he could bethink himself.
The Roman Catholics regarded this confederacy with a jealous eye;
the Union viewed them and the Emperor with the like distrust;
the Emperor was equally suspicious of both; and thus, on all sides,
alarm and animosity had reached their climax. And, as if to crown the whole,
at this critical conjuncture by the death of the Duke John William of Juliers,
a highly disputable succession became vacant in the territories
of Juliers and Cleves.
Eight competitors laid claim to this territory, the indivisibility of which
had been guaranteed by solemn treaties; and the Emperor, who seemed disposed
to enter upon it as a vacant fief, might be considered as the ninth.
Four of these, the Elector of Brandenburg, the Count Palatine of Neuburg,
the Count Palatine of Deux Ponts, and the Margrave of Burgau,
an Austrian prince, claimed it as a female fief in name of four princesses,
sisters of the late duke. Two others, the Elector of Saxony,
of the line of Albert, and the Duke of Saxony, of the line of Ernest,
laid claim to it under a prior right of reversion granted to them
by the Emperor Frederick III., and confirmed to both Saxon houses by
Maximilian I. The pretensions of some foreign princes were little regarded.
The best right was perhaps on the side of Brandenburg and Neuburg,
and between the claims of these two it was not easy to decide. Both courts,
as soon as the succession was vacant, proceeded to take possession;
Brandenburg beginning, and Neuburg following the example. Both commenced
their dispute with the pen, and would probably have ended it with the sword;
but the interference of the Emperor, by proceeding to bring the cause
before his own cognizance, and, during the progress of the suit,
sequestrating the disputed countries, soon brought the contending parties
to an agreement, in order to avert the common danger.
They agreed to govern the duchy conjointly. In vain did the Emperor
prohibit the Estates from doing homage to their new masters;
in vain did he send his own relation, the Archduke Leopold,
Bishop of Passau and Strasburg, into the territory of Juliers, in order,
by his presence, to strengthen the imperial party. The whole country,
with the exception of Juliers itself, had submitted to the Protestant princes,
and in that capital the imperialists were besieged.
The dispute about the succession of Juliers was an important one
to the whole German empire, and also attracted the attention
of several European courts. It was not so much the question,
who was or was not to possess the Duchy of Juliers; -- the real question was,
which of the two religious parties in Germany, the Roman Catholic
or the Protestant, was to be strengthened by so important an accession --
for which of the two RELIGIONS this territory was to be lost or won.
The question in short was, whether Austria was to be allowed to persevere
in her usurpations, and to gratify her lust of dominion by another robbery;
or whether the liberties of Germany, and the balance of power,
were to be maintained against her encroachments. The disputed succession
of Juliers, therefore, was matter which interested all who were favourable
to liberty, and hostile to Austria. The Evangelical Union, Holland, England,
and particularly Henry IV. of France, were drawn into the strife.
This monarch, the flower of whose life had been spent in opposing
the House of Austria and Spain, and by persevering heroism alone
had surmounted the obstacles which this house had thrown between him
and the French throne, had been no idle spectator of the troubles in Germany.
This contest of the Estates with the Emperor was the means of giving
and securing peace to France. The Protestants and the Turks
were the two salutary weights which kept down the Austrian power
in the East and West; but it would rise again in all its terrors,
if once it were allowed to remove this pressure. Henry the Fourth
had before his eyes for half a lifetime, the uninterrupted spectacle
of Austrian ambition and Austrian lust of dominion, which neither adversity
nor poverty of talents, though generally they check all human passions,
could extinguish in a bosom wherein flowed one drop of the blood
of Ferdinand of Arragon. Austrian ambition had destroyed for a century
the peace of Europe, and effected the most violent changes in the heart
of its most considerable states. It had deprived the fields of husbandmen,
the workshops of artisans, to fill the land with enormous armies,
and to cover the commercial sea with hostile fleets.
It had imposed upon the princes of Europe the necessity
of fettering the industry of their subjects by unheard-of imposts;
and of wasting in self-defence the best strength of their states,
which was thus lost to the prosperity of their inhabitants.
For Europe there was no peace, for its states no welfare,
for the people's happiness no security or permanence,
so long as this dangerous house was permitted to disturb at pleasure
the repose of the world.
Such considerations clouded the mind of Henry at the close
of his glorious career. What had it not cost him to reduce to order
the troubled chaos into which France had been plunged
by the tumult of civil war, fomented and supported by this very Austria!
Every great mind labours for eternity; and what security had Henry
for the endurance of that prosperity which he had gained for France,
so long as Austria and Spain formed a single power, which did indeed
lie exhausted for the present, but which required only one lucky chance
to be speedily re-united, and to spring up again as formidable as ever.
If he would bequeath to his successors a firmly established throne,
and a durable prosperity to his subjects, this dangerous power
must be for ever disarmed. This was the source of that irreconcileable enmity
which Henry had sworn to the House of Austria, a hatred unextinguishable,
ardent, and well-founded as that of Hannibal against the people of Romulus,
but ennobled by a purer origin.
The other European powers had the same inducements to action as Henry,
but all of them had not that enlightened policy, nor that disinterested
courage to act upon the impulse. All men, without distinction,
are allured by immediate advantages; great minds alone are excited
by distant good. So long as wisdom in its projects calculates upon wisdom,
or relies upon its own strength, it forms none but chimerical schemes,
and runs a risk of making itself the laughter of the world;
but it is certain of success, and may reckon upon aid and admiration
when it finds a place in its intellectual plans for barbarism, rapacity,
and superstition, and can render the selfish passions of mankind
the executors of its purposes.
In the first point of view, Henry's well-known project of expelling
the House of Austria from all its possessions, and dividing the spoil
among the European powers, deserves the title of a chimera,
which men have so liberally bestowed upon it; but did it merit
that appellation in the second? It had never entered into the head
of that excellent monarch, in the choice of those who must be
the instruments of his designs, to reckon on the sufficiency of such motives
as animated himself and Sully to the enterprise. All the states
whose co-operation was necessary, were to be persuaded to the work
by the strongest motives that can set a political power in action.
From the Protestants in Germany nothing more was required than that which,
on other grounds, had been long their object, -- their throwing off
the Austrian yoke; from the Flemings, a similar revolt from the Spaniards.
To the Pope and all the Italian republics no inducement could be more powerful
than the hope of driving the Spaniards for ever from their peninsula;
for England, nothing more desirable than a revolution which should free it
from its bitterest enemy. By this division of the Austrian conquests,
every power gained either land or freedom, new possessions or security
for the old; and as all gained, the balance of power remained undisturbed.
France might magnanimously decline a share in the spoil,
because by the ruin of Austria it doubly profited, and was most powerful
if it did not become more powerful. Finally, upon condition of ridding Europe
of their presence, the posterity of Hapsburg were to be allowed
the liberty of augmenting her territories in all the other known
or yet undiscovered portions of the globe. But the dagger of Ravaillac
delivered Austria from her danger, to postpone for some centuries longer
the tranquillity of Europe.
With his view directed to this project, Henry felt the necessity of taking
a prompt and active part in the important events of the Evangelical Union,
and the disputed succession of Juliers. His emissaries were busy
in all the courts of Germany, and the little which they published
or allowed to escape of the great political secrets of their master,
was sufficient to win over minds inflamed by so ardent a hatred to Austria,
and by so strong a desire of aggrandizement. The prudent policy of Henry
cemented the Union still more closely, and the powerful aid
which he bound himself to furnish, raised the courage of the confederates
into the firmest confidence. A numerous French army,
led by the king in person, was to meet the troops of the Union
on the banks of the Rhine, and to assist in effecting the conquest
of Juliers and Cleves; then, in conjunction with the Germans,
it was to march into Italy, (where Savoy, Venice, and the Pope were even now
ready with a powerful reinforcement,) and to overthrow the Spanish dominion
in that quarter. This victorious army was then to penetrate by Lombardy
into the hereditary dominions of Hapsburg; and there, favoured by
a general insurrection of the Protestants, destroy the power of Austria
in all its German territories, in Bohemia, Hungary, and Transylvania.
The Brabanters and Hollanders, supported by French auxiliaries,
would in the meantime shake off the Spanish tyranny in the Netherlands;
and thus the mighty stream which, only a short time before,
had so fearfully overflowed its banks, threatening to overwhelm
in its troubled waters the liberties of Europe, would then roll
silent and forgotten behind the Pyrenean mountains.
At other times, the French had boasted of their rapidity of action,
but upon this occasion they were outstripped by the Germans.
An army of the confederates entered Alsace before Henry made
his appearance there, and an Austrian army, which the Bishop
of Strasburg and Passau had assembled in that quarter for an expedition
against Juliers, was dispersed. Henry IV. had formed his plan
as a statesman and a king, but he had intrusted its execution to plunderers.
According to his design, no Roman Catholic state was to have cause to think
this preparation aimed against itself, or to make the quarrel of Austria
its own. Religion was in nowise to be mixed up with the matter.
But how could the German princes forget their own purposes
in furthering the plans of Henry? Actuated as they were
by the desire of aggrandizement and by religious hatred, was it to be supposed
that they would not gratify, in every passing opportunity,
their ruling passions to the utmost? Like vultures,
they stooped upon the territories of the ecclesiastical princes,
and always chose those rich countries for their quarters, though to reach them
they must make ever so wide a detour from their direct route.
They levied contributions as in an enemy's country, seized upon the revenues,
and exacted, by violence, what they could not obtain of free-will.
Not to leave the Roman Catholics in doubt as to the true objects
of their expedition, they announced, openly and intelligibly enough,
the fate that awaited the property of the church. So little had Henry IV.
and the German princes understood each other in their plan of operations,
so much had the excellent king been mistaken in his instruments.
It is an unfailing maxim, that, if policy enjoins an act of violence,
its execution ought never to be entrusted to the violent;
and that he only ought to be trusted with the violation of order
by whom order is held sacred.
Both the past conduct of the Union, which was condemned even by several
of the evangelical states, and the apprehension of even worse treatment,
aroused the Roman Catholics to something beyond mere inactive indignation.
As to the Emperor, his authority had sunk too low to afford them any security
against such an enemy. It was their Union that rendered the confederates
so formidable and so insolent; and another union must now be opposed to them.
The Bishop of Wurtzburg formed the plan of the Catholic union,
which was distinguished from the evangelical by the title of the League.
The objects agreed upon were nearly the same as those which constituted
the groundwork of the Union. Bishops formed its principal members,
and at its head was placed Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria.
As the only influential secular member of the confederacy,
he was entrusted with far more extensive powers than the Protestants
had committed to their chief. In addition to the duke's being
the sole head of the League's military power, whereby their operations
acquired a speed and weight unattainable by the Union,
they had also the advantage that supplies flowed in much more regularly
from the rich prelates, than the latter could obtain them from
the poor evangelical states. Without offering to the Emperor,
as the sovereign of a Roman Catholic state, any share in their confederacy,
without even communicating its existence to him as emperor,
the League arose at once formidable and threatening; with strength sufficient
to crush the Protestant Union and to maintain itself under three emperors.
It contended, indeed, for Austria, in so far as it fought against
the Protestant princes; but Austria herself had soon cause
to tremble before it.
The arms of the Union had, in the meantime, been tolerably successful
in Juliers and in Alsace; Juliers was closely blockaded,
and the whole bishopric of Strasburg was in their power.
But here their splendid achievements came to an end. No French army
appeared upon the Rhine; for he who was to be its leader,
he who was the animating soul of the whole enterprize, Henry IV., was no more!
Their supplies were on the wane; the Estates refused to grant new subsidies;
and the confederate free cities were offended that their money
should be liberally, but their advice so sparingly called for.
Especially were they displeased at being put to expense
for the expedition against Juliers, which had been expressly excluded from
the affairs of the Union -- at the united princes appropriating to themselves
large pensions out of the common treasure -- and, above all,
at their refusing to give any account of its expenditure.
The Union was thus verging to its fall, at the moment when the League
started to oppose it in the vigour of its strength. Want of supplies
disabled the confederates from any longer keeping the field.
And yet it was dangerous to lay down their weapons in the sight
of an armed enemy. To secure themselves at least on one side,
they hastened to conclude a peace with their old enemy, the Archduke Leopold;
and both parties agreed to withdraw their troops from Alsace,
to exchange prisoners, and to bury all that had been done in oblivion.
Thus ended in nothing all these promising preparations.
The same imperious tone with which the Union, in the confidence
of its strength, had menaced the Roman Catholics of Germany,
was now retorted by the League upon themselves and their troops.
The traces of their march were pointed out to them, and plainly branded
with the hard epithets they had deserved. The chapters of Wurtzburg,
Bamberg, Strasburg, Mentz, Treves, Cologne, and several others,
had experienced their destructive presence; to all these the damage done
was to be made good, the free passage by land and by water restored,
(for the Protestants had even seized on the navigation of the Rhine,)
and everything replaced on its former footing. Above all,
the parties to the Union were called on to declare expressly and unequivocally
its intentions. It was now their turn to yield to superior strength.
They had not calculated on so formidable an opponent; but they themselves
had taught the Roman Catholics the secret of their strength.
It was humiliating to their pride to sue for peace,
but they might think themselves fortunate in obtaining it.
The one party promised restitution, the other forgiveness.
All laid down their arms. The storm of war once more rolled by,
and a temporary calm succeeded. The insurrection in Bohemia then broke out,
which deprived the Emperor of the last of his hereditary dominions,
but in this dispute neither the Union nor the League took any share.
At length the Emperor died in 1612, as little regretted in his coffin
as noticed on the throne. Long afterwards, when the miseries
of succeeding reigns had made the misfortunes of his reign forgotten,
a halo spread about his memory, and so fearful a night set in upon Germany,
that, with tears of blood, people prayed for the return of such an emperor.
Rodolph never could be prevailed upon to choose a successor in the empire,
and all awaited with anxiety the approaching vacancy of the throne;
but, beyond all hope, Matthias at once ascended it, and without opposition.
The Roman Catholics gave him their voices, because they hoped the best
from his vigour and activity; the Protestants gave him theirs,
because they hoped every thing from his weakness. It is not difficult
to reconcile this contradiction. The one relied on what he had once appeared;
the other judged him by what he seemed at present.
The moment of a new accession is always a day of hope; and the first Diet
of a king in elective monarchies is usually his severest trial.
Every old grievance is brought forward, and new ones are sought out,
that they may be included in the expected reform; quite a new world
is expected to commence with the new reign. The important services which,
in his insurrection, their religious confederates in Austria had rendered
to Matthias, were still fresh in the minds of the Protestant free cities,
and, above all, the price which they had exacted for their services
seemed now to serve them also as a model.
It was by the favour of the Protestant Estates in Austria and Moravia
that Matthias had sought and really found the way to his brother's throne;
but, hurried on by his ambitious views, he never reflected
that a way was thus opened for the States to give laws to their sovereign.
This discovery soon awoke him from the intoxication of success.
Scarcely had he shown himself in triumph to his Austrian subjects,
after his victorious expedition to Bohemia, when a humble petition awaited him
which was quite sufficient to poison his whole triumph.
They required, before doing homage, unlimited religious toleration
in the cities and market towns, perfect equality of rights
between Roman Catholics and Protestants, and a full and equal admissibility
of the latter to all offices of state. In several places,
they of themselves assumed these privileges, and, reckoning on a change
of administration, restored the Protestant religion where the late Emperor
had suppressed it. Matthias, it is true, had not scrupled to make use
of the grievances of the Protestants for his own ends against the Emperor;
but it was far from being his intention to relieve them.
By a firm and resolute tone he hoped to check, at once,
these presumptuous demands. He spoke of his hereditary title
to these territories, and would hear of no stipulations
before the act of homage. A like unconditional submission
had been rendered by their neighbours, the inhabitants of Styria,
to the Archduke Ferdinand, who, however, had soon reason to repent of it.
Warned by this example, the Austrian States persisted in their refusal;
and, to avoid being compelled by force to do homage, their deputies
(after urging their Roman Catholic colleagues to a similar resistance)
immediately left the capital, and began to levy troops.
They took steps to renew their old alliance with Hungary,
drew the Protestant princes into their interests, and set themselves
seriously to work to accomplish their object by force of arms.
With the more exorbitant demands of the Hungarians
Matthias had not hesitated to comply. For Hungary was an elective monarchy,
and the republican constitution of the country justified to himself
their demands, and to the Roman Catholic world his concessions. In Austria,
on the contrary, his predecessors had exercised far higher prerogatives,
which he could not relinquish at the demand of the Estates without incurring
the scorn of Roman Catholic Europe, the enmity of Spain and Rome,
and the contempt of his own Roman Catholic subjects. His exclusively
Romish council, among which the Bishop of Vienna, Melchio Kiesel,
had the chief influence, exhorted him to see all the churches
extorted from him by the Protestants, rather than to concede one to them
as a matter of right.
But by ill luck this difficulty occurred at a time when the Emperor Rodolph
was yet alive, and a spectator of this scene, and who might easily
have been tempted to employ against his brother the same weapons
which the latter had successfully directed against him -- namely,
an understanding with his rebellious subjects. To avoid this blow,
Matthias willingly availed himself of the offer made by Moravia,
to act as mediator between him and the Estates of Austria.
Representatives of both parties met in Vienna, when the Austrian deputies held
language which would have excited surprise even in the English Parliament.
"The Protestants," they said, "are determined to be not worse treated
in their native country than the handful of Romanists. By the help
of his Protestant nobles had Matthias reduced the Emperor to submission;
where 80 Papists were to be found, 300 Protestant barons might be counted.
The example of Rodolph should be a warning to Matthias. He should take care
that he did not lose the terrestrial, in attempting to make conquests
for the celestial." As the Moravian States, instead of using their powers
as mediators for the Emperor's advantage, finally adopted the cause
of their co-religionists of Austria; as the Union in Germany came forward
to afford them its most active support, and as Matthias dreaded reprisals
on the part of the Emperor, he was at length compelled to make
the desired declaration in favour of the Evangelical Church.
This behaviour of the Austrian Estates towards their Archduke was now imitated
by the Protestant Estates of the Empire towards their Emperor,
and they promised themselves the same favourable results. At his first Diet
at Ratisbon in 1613, when the most pressing affairs were waiting for decision
-- when a general contribution was indispensable for a war against Turkey,
and against Bethlem Gabor in Transylvania, who by Turkish aid had
forcibly usurped the sovereignty of that land, and even threatened Hungary --
they surprised him with an entirely new demand. The Roman Catholic votes
were still the most numerous in the Diet; and as every thing was decided
by a plurality of voices, the Protestant party, however closely united,
were entirely without consideration. The advantage of this majority
the Roman Catholics were now called on to relinquish;
henceforward no one religious party was to be permitted to dictate
to the other by means of its invariable superiority. And in truth,
if the evangelical religion was really to be represented in the Diet,
it was self-evident that it must not be shut out from the possibility of
making use of that privilege, merely from the constitution of the Diet itself.
Complaints of the judicial usurpations of the Aulic Council,
and of the oppression of the Protestants, accompanied this demand,
and the deputies of the Estates were instructed to take no part
in any general deliberations till a favourable answer should be given
on this preliminary point.
The Diet was torn asunder by this dangerous division,
which threatened to destroy for ever the unity of its deliberations.
Sincerely as the Emperor might have wished, after the example
of his father Maximilian, to preserve a prudent balance
between the two religions, the present conduct of the Protestants
seemed to leave him nothing but a critical choice between the two.
In his present necessities a general contribution from the Estates
was indispensable to him; and yet he could not conciliate the one party
without sacrificing the support of the other. Insecure as he felt
his situation to be in his own hereditary dominions, he could not but tremble
at the idea, however remote, of an open war with the Protestants.
But the eyes of the whole Roman Catholic world, which were attentively
regarding his conduct, the remonstrances of the Roman Catholic Estates,
and of the Courts of Rome and Spain, as little permitted him
to favour the Protestant at the expense of the Romish religion.
So critical a situation would have paralysed a greater mind than Matthias;
and his own prudence would scarcely have extricated him from his dilemma.
But the interests of the Roman Catholics were closely interwoven
with the imperial authority; if they suffered this to fall,
the ecclesiastical princes in particular would be without a bulwark
against the attacks of the Protestants. Now, then, that they saw
the Emperor wavering, they thought it high time to reassure
his sinking courage. They imparted to him the secret of their League,
and acquainted him with its whole constitution, resources and power.
Little comforting as such a revelation must have been to the Emperor,
the prospect of so powerful a support gave him greater boldness
to oppose the Protestants. Their demands were rejected, and the Diet broke up
without coming to a decision. But Matthias was the victim of this dispute.
The Protestants refused him their supplies, and made him alone suffer
for the inflexibility of the Roman Catholics.
The Turks, however, appeared willing to prolong the cessation of hostilities,
and Bethlem Gabor was left in peaceable possession of Transylvania.
The empire was now free from foreign enemies; and even at home,
in the midst of all these fearful disputes, peace still reigned.
An unexpected accident had given a singular turn to the dispute