Part 2 out of 7
as to the succession of Juliers. This duchy was still ruled conjointly
by the Electoral House of Brandenburg and the Palatine of Neuburg;
and a marriage between the Prince of Neuburg and a Princess of Brandenburg
was to have inseparably united the interests of the two houses.
But the whole scheme was upset by a box on the ear, which,
in a drunken brawl, the Elector of Brandenburg unfortunately inflicted
upon his intended son-in-law. From this moment the good understanding
between the two houses was at an end. The Prince of Neuburg embraced popery.
The hand of a princess of Bavaria rewarded his apostacy,
and the strong support of Bavaria and Spain was the natural result of both.
To secure to the Palatine the exclusive possession of Juliers,
the Spanish troops from the Netherlands were marched into the Palatinate.
To rid himself of these guests, the Elector of Brandenburg
called the Flemings to his assistance, whom he sought to propitiate
by embracing the Calvinist religion. Both Spanish and Dutch armies appeared,
but, as it seemed, only to make conquests for themselves.
The neighbouring war of the Netherlands seemed now about to be decided
on German ground; and what an inexhaustible mine of combustibles
lay here ready for it! The Protestants saw with consternation
the Spaniards establishing themselves upon the Lower Rhine;
with still greater anxiety did the Roman Catholics see the Hollanders
bursting through the frontiers of the empire. It was in the west
that the mine was expected to explode which had long been dug
under the whole of Germany. To the west, apprehension and anxiety turned;
but the spark which kindled the flame came unexpectedly from the east.
The tranquillity which Rodolph II.'s `Letter of Majesty' had established
in Bohemia lasted for some time, under the administration of Matthias,
till the nomination of a new heir to this kingdom in the person of
Ferdinand of Gratz.
This prince, whom we shall afterwards become better acquainted with
under the title of Ferdinand II., Emperor of Germany, had,
by the violent extirpation of the Protestant religion within his
hereditary dominions, announced himself as an inexorable zealot for popery,
and was consequently looked upon by the Roman Catholic part of Bohemia
as the future pillar of their church. The declining health of the Emperor
brought on this hour rapidly; and, relying on so powerful a supporter,
the Bohemian Papists began to treat the Protestants with little moderation.
The Protestant vassals of Roman Catholic nobles, in particular,
experienced the harshest treatment. At length several of the former
were incautious enough to speak somewhat loudly of their hopes,
and by threatening hints to awaken among the Protestants
a suspicion of their future sovereign. But this mistrust would never have
broken out into actual violence, had the Roman Catholics confined themselves
to general expressions, and not by attacks on individuals
furnished the discontent of the people with enterprising leaders.
Henry Matthias, Count Thurn, not a native of Bohemia, but proprietor
of some estates in that kingdom, had, by his zeal for the Protestant cause,
and an enthusiastic attachment to his newly adopted country,
gained the entire confidence of the Utraquists, which opened him the way to
the most important posts. He had fought with great glory against the Turks,
and won by a flattering address the hearts of the multitude.
Of a hot and impetuous disposition, which loved tumult because his talents
shone in it -- rash and thoughtless enough to undertake things
which cold prudence and a calmer temper would not have ventured upon --
unscrupulous enough, where the gratification of his passions was concerned,
to sport with the fate of thousands, and at the same time politic enough
to hold in leading-strings such a people as the Bohemians then were.
He had already taken an active part in the troubles
under Rodolph's administration; and the Letter of Majesty which the States
had extorted from that Emperor, was chiefly to be laid to his merit.
The court had intrusted to him, as burgrave or castellan of Calstein,
the custody of the Bohemian crown, and of the national charter.
But the nation had placed in his hands something far more important --
ITSELF -- with the office of defender or protector of the faith.
The aristocracy by which the Emperor was ruled, imprudently deprived him
of this harmless guardianship of the dead, to leave him his full influence
over the living. They took from him his office of burgrave,
or constable of the castle, which had rendered him dependent on the court,
thereby opening his eyes to the importance of the other which remained,
and wounded his vanity, which yet was the thing that made
his ambition harmless. From this moment he was actuated solely
by a desire of revenge; and the opportunity of gratifying it
was not long wanting.
In the Royal Letter which the Bohemians had extorted from Rodolph II.,
as well as in the German religious treaty, one material article
remained undetermined. All the privileges granted by the latter to
the Protestants, were conceived in favour of the Estates or governing bodies,
not of the subjects; for only to those of the ecclesiastical states
had a toleration, and that precarious, been conceded.
The Bohemian Letter of Majesty, in the same manner, spoke only of the Estates
and imperial towns, the magistrates of which had contrived to obtain
equal privileges with the former. These alone were free to erect
churches and schools, and openly to celebrate their Protestant worship;
in all other towns, it was left entirely to the government
to which they belonged, to determine the religion of the inhabitants.
The Estates of the Empire had availed themselves of this privilege
in its fullest extent; the secular indeed without opposition;
while the ecclesiastical, in whose case the declaration of Ferdinand
had limited this privilege, disputed, not without reason,
the validity of that limitation. What was a disputed point in
the religious treaty, was left still more doubtful in the Letter of Majesty;
in the former, the construction was not doubtful, but it was a question
how far obedience might be compulsory; in the latter, the interpretation
was left to the states. The subjects of the ecclesiastical Estates in Bohemia
thought themselves entitled to the same rights which the declaration
of Ferdinand secured to the subjects of German bishops,
they considered themselves on an equality with the subjects of imperial towns,
because they looked upon the ecclesiastical property as part of
the royal demesnes. In the little town of Klostergrab,
subject to the Archbishop of Prague; and in Braunau, which belonged to
the abbot of that monastery, churches were founded by the Protestants,
and completed notwithstanding the opposition of their superiors,
and the disapprobation of the Emperor.
In the meantime, the vigilance of the defenders had somewhat relaxed,
and the court thought it might venture on a decisive step.
By the Emperor's orders, the church at Klostergrab was pulled down;
that at Braunau forcibly shut up, and the most turbulent of the citizens
thrown into prison. A general commotion among the Protestants
was the consequence of this measure; a loud outcry was everywhere raised
at this violation of the Letter of Majesty; and Count Thurn,
animated by revenge, and particularly called upon by his office of defender,
showed himself not a little busy in inflaming the minds of the people.
At his instigation deputies were summoned to Prague from every circle
in the empire, to concert the necessary measures against the common danger.
It was resolved to petition the Emperor to press for
the liberation of the prisoners. The answer of the Emperor,
already offensive to the states, from its being addressed, not to them,
but to his viceroy, denounced their conduct as illegal and rebellious,
justified what had been done at Klostergrab and Braunau as the result
of an imperial mandate, and contained some passages that might be construed
Count Thurn did not fail to augment the unfavourable impression
which this imperial edict made upon the assembled Estates.
He pointed out to them the danger in which all who had signed the petition
were involved, and sought by working on their resentment and fears
to hurry them into violent resolutions. To have caused
their immediate revolt against the Emperor, would have been, as yet,
too bold a measure. It was only step by step that he would lead them on
to this unavoidable result. He held it, therefore, advisable first to direct
their indignation against the Emperor's counsellors; and for that purpose
circulated a report, that the imperial proclamation had been drawn up
by the government at Prague, and only signed in Vienna.
Among the imperial delegates, the chief objects of the popular hatred,
were the President of the Chamber, Slawata, and Baron Martinitz,
who had been elected in place of Count Thurn, Burgrave of Calstein.
Both had long before evinced pretty openly their hostile feelings
towards the Protestants, by alone refusing to be present at the sitting
at which the Letter of Majesty had been inserted in the Bohemian constitution.
A threat was made at the time to make them responsible
for every violation of the Letter of Majesty; and from this moment,
whatever evil befell the Protestants was set down, and not without reason,
to their account. Of all the Roman Catholic nobles,
these two had treated their Protestant vassals with the greatest harshness.
They were accused of hunting them with dogs to the mass,
and of endeavouring to drive them to popery by a denial of the rites
of baptism, marriage, and burial. Against two characters so unpopular
the public indignation was easily excited, and they were marked out
for a sacrifice to the general indignation.
On the 23rd of May, 1618, the deputies appeared armed, and in great numbers,
at the royal palace, and forced their way into the hall where
the Commissioners Sternberg, Martinitz, Lobkowitz, and Slawata were assembled.
In a threatening tone they demanded to know from each of them,
whether he had taken any part, or had consented to, the imperial proclamation.
Sternberg received them with composure, Martinitz and Slawata with defiance.
This decided their fate; Sternberg and Lobkowitz, less hated, and more feared,
were led by the arm out of the room; Martinitz and Slawata were seized,
dragged to a window, and precipitated from a height of eighty feet,
into the castle trench. Their creature, the secretary Fabricius,
was thrown after them. This singular mode of execution naturally
excited the surprise of civilized nations. The Bohemians justified it
as a national custom, and saw nothing remarkable in the whole affair,
excepting that any one should have got up again safe and sound
after such a fall. A dunghill, on which the imperial commissioners
chanced to be deposited, had saved them from injury.
It was not to be expected that this summary mode of proceeding
would much increase the favour of the parties with the Emperor,
but this was the very position to which Count Thurn wished to bring them.
If, from the fear of uncertain danger, they had permitted themselves
such an act of violence, the certain expectation of punishment,
and the now urgent necessity of making themselves secure, would plunge them
still deeper into guilt. By this brutal act of self-redress,
no room was left for irresolution or repentance, and it seemed as if
a single crime could be absolved only by a series of violences.
As the deed itself could not be undone, nothing was left
but to disarm the hand of punishment. Thirty directors were appointed
to organise a regular insurrection. They seized upon
all the offices of state, and all the imperial revenues,
took into their own service the royal functionaries and the soldiers,
and summoned the whole Bohemian nation to avenge the common cause.
The Jesuits, whom the common hatred accused as the instigators
of every previous oppression, were banished the kingdom,
and this harsh measure the Estates found it necessary to justify
in a formal manifesto. These various steps were taken for the preservation
of the royal authority and the laws -- the language of all rebels
till fortune has decided in their favour.
The emotion which the news of the Bohemian insurrection excited
at the imperial court, was much less lively than such intelligence deserved.
The Emperor Matthias was no longer the resolute spirit that formerly
sought out his king and master in the very bosom of his people,
and hurled him from three thrones. The confidence and courage which
had animated him in an usurpation, deserted him in a legitimate self-defence.
The Bohemian rebels had first taken up arms, and the nature of circumstances
drove him to join them. But he could not hope to confine such a war
to Bohemia. In all the territories under his dominion,
the Protestants were united by a dangerous sympathy --
the common danger of their religion might suddenly combine them all
into a formidable republic. What could he oppose to such an enemy,
if the Protestant portion of his subjects deserted him?
And would not both parties exhaust themselves in so ruinous a civil war?
How much was at stake if he lost; and if he won, whom else would he destroy
but his own subjects?
Considerations such as these inclined the Emperor and his council
to concessions and pacific measures, but it was in this very spirit
of concession that, as others would have it, lay the origin of the evil.
The Archduke Ferdinand of Gratz congratulated the Emperor upon an event,
which would justify in the eyes of all Europe the severest measures
against the Bohemian Protestants. "Disobedience, lawlessness,
and insurrection," he said, "went always hand-in-hand with Protestantism.
Every privilege which had been conceded to the Estates by himself
and his predecessor, had had no other effect than to raise their demands.
All the measures of the heretics were aimed against the imperial authority.
Step by step had they advanced from defiance to defiance
up to this last aggression; in a short time they would assail
all that remained to be assailed, in the person of the Emperor. In arms alone
was there any safety against such an enemy -- peace and subordination
could be only established upon the ruins of their dangerous privileges;
security for the Catholic belief was to be found only in the total destruction
of this sect. Uncertain, it was true, might be the event of the war,
but inevitable was the ruin if it were pretermitted.
The confiscation of the lands of the rebels would richly indemnify them
for its expenses, while the terror of punishment would teach the other states
the wisdom of a prompt obedience in future." Were the Bohemian Protestants
to blame, if they armed themselves in time against the enforcement
of such maxims? The insurrection in Bohemia, besides,
was directed only against the successor of the Emperor, not against himself,
who had done nothing to justify the alarm of the Protestants.
To exclude this prince from the Bohemian throne, arms had before been taken up
under Matthias, though as long as this Emperor lived, his subjects had kept
within the bounds of an apparent submission.
But Bohemia was in arms, and unarmed, the Emperor dared not even
offer them peace. For this purpose, Spain supplied gold,
and promised to send troops from Italy and the Netherlands.
Count Bucquoi, a native of the Netherlands, was named generalissimo,
because no native could be trusted, and Count Dampierre, another foreigner,
commanded under him. Before the army took the field,
the Emperor endeavoured to bring about an amicable arrangement,
by the publication of a manifesto. In this he assured the Bohemians,
"that he held sacred the Letter of Majesty -- that he had not formed
any resolutions inimical to their religion or their privileges,
and that his present preparations were forced upon him by their own.
As soon as the nation laid down their arms, he also would disband his army."
But this gracious letter failed of its effect, because the leaders
of the insurrection contrived to hide from the people
the Emperor's good intentions. Instead of this, they circulated
the most alarming reports from the pulpit, and by pamphlets,
and terrified the deluded populace with threatened horrors
of another Saint Bartholomew's that existed only in their own imagination.
All Bohemia, with the exception of three towns, Budweiss, Krummau, and Pilsen,
took part in this insurrection. These three towns, inhabited principally
by Roman Catholics, alone had the courage, in this general revolt,
to hold out for the Emperor, who promised them assistance.
But it could not escape Count Thurn, how dangerous it was
to leave in hostile hands three places of such importance,
which would at all times keep open for the imperial troops
an entrance into the kingdom. With prompt determination
he appeared before Budweiss and Krummau, in the hope of terrifying them
into a surrender. Krummau surrendered, but all his attacks
were steadfastly repulsed by Budweiss.
And now, too, the Emperor began to show more earnestness and energy.
Bucquoi and Dampierre, with two armies, fell upon the Bohemian territories,
which they treated as a hostile country. But the imperial generals
found the march to Prague more difficult than they had expected. Every pass,
every position that was the least tenable, must be opened by the sword,
and resistance increased at each fresh step they took, for the outrages
of their troops, chiefly consisting of Hungarians and Walloons,
drove their friends to revolt and their enemies to despair.
But even now that his troops had penetrated into Bohemia,
the Emperor continued to offer the Estates peace, and to show himself ready
for an amicable adjustment. But the new prospects which opened upon them,
raised the courage of the revolters. Moravia espoused their party;
and from Germany appeared to them a defender equally intrepid and unexpected,
in the person of Count Mansfeld.
The heads of the Evangelic Union had been silent but not inactive spectators
of the movements in Bohemia. Both were contending for the same cause,
and against the same enemy. In the fate of the Bohemians,
their confederates in the faith might read their own;
and the cause of this people was represented as of solemn concern
to the whole German union. True to these principles, the Unionists supported
the courage of the insurgents by promises of assistance;
and a fortunate accident now enabled them, beyond their hopes, to fulfil them.
The instrument by which the House of Austria was humbled in Germany,
was Peter Ernest, Count Mansfeld, the son of a distinguished Austrian officer,
Ernest von Mansfeld, who for some time had commanded with repute
the Spanish army in the Netherlands. His first campaigns
in Juliers and Alsace had been made in the service of this house,
and under the banner of the Archduke Leopold, against the Protestant religion
and the liberties of Germany. But insensibly won by the principles
of this religion, he abandoned a leader whose selfishness denied him
the reimbursement of the monies expended in his cause,
and he transferred his zeal and a victorious sword to the Evangelic Union.
It happened just then that the Duke of Savoy, an ally of the Union,
demanded assistance in a war against Spain. They assigned to him
their newly acquired servant, and Mansfeld received instructions to raise
an army of 4000 men in Germany, in the cause and in the pay of the duke.
The army was ready to march at the very moment when the flames of war
burst out in Bohemia, and the duke, who at the time did not stand in need
of its services, placed it at the disposal of the Union.
Nothing could be more welcome to these troops than the prospect of aiding
their confederates in Bohemia, at the cost of a third party.
Mansfeld received orders forthwith to march with these 4000 men
into that kingdom; and a pretended Bohemian commission was given
to blind the public as to the true author of this levy.
This Mansfeld now appeared in Bohemia, and, by the occupation of Pilsen,
strongly fortified and favourable to the Emperor, obtained a firm footing
in the country. The courage of the rebels was farther increased
by succours which the Silesian States despatched to their assistance.
Between these and the Imperialists, several battles were fought,
far indeed from decisive, but only on that account the more destructive,
which served as the prelude to a more serious war. To check the vigour
of his military operations, a negotiation was entered into with the Emperor,
and a disposition was shown to accept the proffered mediation of Saxony.
But before the event could prove how little sincerity there was
in these proposals, the Emperor was removed from the scene by death.
What now had Matthias done to justify the expectations which he had excited
by the overthrow of his predecessor? Was it worth while to ascend
a brother's throne through guilt, and then maintain it with so little dignity,
and leave it with so little renown? As long as Matthias sat on the throne,
he had to atone for the imprudence by which he had gained it.
To enjoy the regal dignity a few years sooner, he had shackled
the free exercise of its prerogatives. The slender portion of independence
left him by the growing power of the Estates, was still farther lessened
by the encroachments of his relations. Sickly and childless
he saw the attention of the world turned to an ambitious heir
who was impatiently anticipating his fate; and who, by his interference
with the closing administration, was already opening his own.
With Matthias, the reigning line of the German House of Austria
was in a manner extinct; for of all the sons of Maximilian,
one only was now alive, the weak and childless Archduke Albert,
in the Netherlands, who had already renounced his claims to the inheritance
in favour of the line of Gratz. The Spanish House had also,
in a secret bond, resigned its pretensions to the Austrian possessions
in behalf of the Archduke Ferdinand of Styria, in whom the branch of Hapsburg
was about to put forth new shoots, and the former greatness of Austria
to experience a revival.
The father of Ferdinand was the Archduke Charles of Carniola, Carinthia,
and Styria, the youngest brother of the Emperor Maximilian II.; his mother
a princess of Bavaria. Having lost his father at twelve years of age,
he was intrusted by the archduchess to the guardianship
of her brother William, Duke of Bavaria, under whose eyes
he was instructed and educated by Jesuits at the Academy of Ingolstadt.
What principles he was likely to imbibe by his intercourse with a prince,
who from motives of devotion had abdicated his government,
may be easily conceived. Care was taken to point out to him, on the one hand,
the weak indulgence of Maximilian's house towards the adherents
of the new doctrines, and the consequent troubles of their dominions;
on the other, the blessings of Bavaria, and the inflexible religious zeal
of its rulers; between these two examples he was left to choose for himself.
Formed in this school to be a stout champion of the faith,
and a prompt instrument of the church, he left Bavaria,
after a residence of five years, to assume the government
of his hereditary dominions. The Estates of Carniola, Carinthia, and Styria,
who, before doing homage, demanded a guarantee for freedom of religion,
were told that religious liberty has nothing to do with their allegiance.
The oath was put to them without conditions, and unconditionally taken.
Many years, however, elapsed, ere the designs which had been
planned at Ingolstadt were ripe for execution. Before attempting
to carry them into effect, he sought in person at Loretto
the favour of the Virgin, and received the apostolic benediction in Rome
at the feet of Clement VIII.
These designs were nothing less than the expulsion of Protestantism
from a country where it had the advantage of numbers, and had been
legally recognized by a formal act of toleration, granted by his father
to the noble and knightly estates of the land. A grant so formally ratified
could not be revoked without danger; but no difficulties could deter
the pious pupil of the Jesuits. The example of other states,
both Roman Catholic and Protestant, which within their own territories
had exercised unquestioned a right of reformation,
and the abuse which the Estates of Styria made of their religious liberties,
would serve as a justification of this violent procedure. Under the shelter
of an absurd positive law, those of equity and prudence might, it was thought,
be safely despised. In the execution of these unrighteous designs,
Ferdinand did, it must be owned, display no common courage and perseverance.
Without tumult, and we may add, without cruelty,
he suppressed the Protestant service in one town after another,
and in a few years, to the astonishment of Germany,
this dangerous work was brought to a successful end.
But, while the Roman Catholics admired him as a hero,
and the champion of the church, the Protestants began to combine against him
as against their most dangerous enemy. And yet Matthias's intention
to bequeath to him the succession, met with little or no opposition
in the elective states of Austria. Even the Bohemians agreed
to receive him as their future king, on very favourable conditions.
It was not until afterwards, when they had experienced
the pernicious influence of his councils on the administration of the Emperor,
that their anxiety was first excited; and then several projects,
in his handwriting, which an unlucky chance threw into their hands,
as they plainly evinced his disposition towards them,
carried their apprehension to the utmost pitch. In particular,
they were alarmed by a secret family compact with Spain, by which,
in default of heirs-male of his own body, Ferdinand bequeathed to that crown
the kingdom of Bohemia, without first consulting the wishes of that nation,
and without regard to its right of free election. The many enemies, too,
which by his reforms in Styria that prince had provoked among the Protestants,
were very prejudicial to his interests in Bohemia; and some Styrian emigrants,
who had taken refuge there, bringing with them into their adopted country
hearts overflowing with a desire of revenge, were particularly active
in exciting the flame of revolt. Thus ill-affected did Ferdinand find
the Bohemians, when he succeeded Matthias.
So bad an understanding between the nation and the candidate for the throne,
would have raised a storm even in the most peaceable succession;
how much more so at the present moment, before the ardour of insurrection
had cooled; when the nation had just recovered its dignity,
and reasserted its rights; when they still held arms in their hands,
and the consciousness of unity had awakened an enthusiastic reliance
on their own strength; when by past success, by the promises
of foreign assistance, and by visionary expectations of the future,
their courage had been raised to an undoubting confidence.
Disregarding the rights already conferred on Ferdinand,
the Estates declared the throne vacant, and their right of election
entirely unfettered. All hopes of their peaceful submission were at an end,
and if Ferdinand wished still to wear the crown of Bohemia,
he must choose between purchasing it at the sacrifice of all
that would make a crown desirable, or winning it sword in hand.
But with what means was it to be won? Turn his eyes where he would,
the fire of revolt was burning. Silesia had already joined the insurgents
in Bohemia; Moravia was on the point of following its example.
In Upper and Lower Austria the spirit of liberty was awake,
as it had been under Rodolph, and the Estates refused to do homage.
Hungary was menaced with an inroad by Prince Bethlen Gabor,
on the side of Transylvania; a secret arming among the Turks
spread consternation among the provinces to the eastward;
and, to complete his perplexities, the Protestants also,
in his hereditary dominions, stimulated by the general example,
were again raising their heads. In that quarter,
their numbers were overwhelming; in most places they had possession
of the revenues which Ferdinand would need for the maintenance of the war.
The neutral began to waver, the faithful to be discouraged,
the turbulent alone to be animated and confident. One half of Germany
encouraged the rebels, the other inactively awaited the issue;
Spanish assistance was still very remote. The moment which
had brought him every thing, threatened also to deprive him of all.
And when he now, yielding to the stern law of necessity,
made overtures to the Bohemian rebels, all his proposals for peace
were insolently rejected. Count Thurn, at the head of an army,
entered Moravia to bring this province, which alone continued to waver,
to a decision. The appearance of their friends is the signal of revolt
for the Moravian Protestants. Bruenn is taken, the remainder of the country
yields with free will, throughout the province government and religion
are changed. Swelling as it flows, the torrent of rebellion pours down
upon Austria, where a party, holding similar sentiments,
receives it with a joyful concurrence. Henceforth, there should be
no more distinctions of religion; equality of rights should be guaranteed
to all Christian churches. They hear that a foreign force has been
invited into the country to oppress the Bohemians. Let them be sought out,
and the enemies of liberty pursued to the ends of the earth.
Not an arm is raised in defence of the Archduke, and the rebels, at length,
encamp before Vienna to besiege their sovereign.
Ferdinand had sent his children from Gratz, where they were no longer safe,
to the Tyrol; he himself awaited the insurgents in his capital.
A handful of soldiers was all he could oppose to the enraged multitude;
these few were without pay or provisions, and therefore
little to be depended on. Vienna was unprepared for a long siege.
The party of the Protestants, ready at any moment to join the Bohemians,
had the preponderance in the city; those in the country had already begun
to levy troops against him. Already, in imagination, the Protestant populace
saw the Emperor shut up in a monastery, his territories divided,
and his children educated as Protestants. Confiding in secret,
and surrounded by public enemies, he saw the chasm every moment widening
to engulf his hopes and even himself. The Bohemian bullets were already
falling upon the imperial palace, when sixteen Austrian barons
forcibly entered his chamber, and inveighing against him
with loud and bitter reproaches, endeavoured to force him into a confederation
with the Bohemians. One of them, seizing him by the button of his doublet,
demanded, in a tone of menace, "Ferdinand, wilt thou sign it?"
Who would not be pardoned had he wavered in this frightful situation?
Yet Ferdinand still remembered the dignity of a Roman emperor.
No alternative seemed left to him but an immediate flight or submission;
laymen urged him to the one, priests to the other. If he abandoned the city,
it would fall into the enemy's hands; with Vienna, Austria was lost;
with Austria, the imperial throne. Ferdinand abandoned not his capital,
and as little would he hear of conditions.
The Archduke is still engaged in altercation with the deputed barons,
when all at once a sound of trumpets is heard in the palace square.
Terror and astonishment take possession of all present;
a fearful report pervades the palace; one deputy after another disappears.
Many of the nobility and the citizens hastily take refuge
in the camp of Thurn. This sudden change is effected by a regiment
of Dampierre's cuirassiers, who at that moment marched into the city
to defend the Archduke. A body of infantry soon followed;
reassured by their appearance, several of the Roman Catholic citizens,
and even the students themselves, take up arms. A report which arrived
just at the same time from Bohemia made his deliverance complete.
The Flemish general, Bucquoi, had totally defeated Count Mansfeld at Budweiss,
and was marching upon Prague. The Bohemians hastily broke up
their camp before Vienna to protect their own capital.
And now also the passes were free which the enemy had taken possession of,
in order to obstruct Ferdinand's progress to his coronation at Frankfort.
If the accession to the imperial throne was important for the plans
of the King of Hungary, it was of still greater consequence
at the present moment, when his nomination as Emperor would afford
the most unsuspicious and decisive proof of the dignity of his person,
and of the justice of his cause, while, at the same time,
it would give him a hope of support from the Empire. But the same cabal
which opposed him in his hereditary dominions, laboured also to counteract him
in his canvass for the imperial dignity. No Austrian prince, they maintained,
ought to ascend the throne; least of all Ferdinand, the bigoted persecutor
of their religion, the slave of Spain and of the Jesuits. To prevent this,
the crown had been offered, even during the lifetime of Matthias,
to the Duke of Bavaria, and on his refusal, to the Duke of Savoy.
As some difficulty was experienced in settling with the latter
the conditions of acceptance, it was sought, at all events,
to delay the election till some decisive blow in Austria or Bohemia
should annihilate all the hopes of Ferdinand, and incapacitate him
from any competition for this dignity. The members of the Union
left no stone unturned to gain over from Ferdinand the Electorate of Saxony,
which was bound to Austrian interests; they represented to this court
the dangers with which the Protestant religion, and even the constitution
of the empire, were threatened by the principles of this prince and
his Spanish alliance. By the elevation of Ferdinand to the imperial throne,
Germany, they further asserted, would be involved in the private quarrels
of this prince, and bring upon itself the arms of Bohemia.
But in spite of all opposing influences, the day of election was fixed,
Ferdinand summoned to it as lawful king of Bohemia, and his electoral vote,
after a fruitless resistance on the part of the Bohemian Estates,
acknowledged to be good. The votes of the three ecclesiastical electorates
were for him, Saxony was favourable to him, Brandenburg made no opposition,
and a decided majority declared him Emperor in 1619.
Thus he saw the most doubtful of his crowns placed first of all on his head;
but a few days after he lost that which he had reckoned among the most certain
of his possessions. While he was thus elected Emperor in Frankfort,
he was in Prague deprived of the Bohemian throne.
Almost all of his German hereditary dominions had in the meantime
entered into a formidable league with the Bohemians, whose insolence now
exceeded all bounds. In a general Diet, the latter, on the 17th of August,
1619, proclaimed the Emperor an enemy to the Bohemian religion and liberties,
who by his pernicious counsels had alienated from them the affections
of the late Emperor, had furnished troops to oppress them,
had given their country as a prey to foreigners, and finally,
in contravention of the national rights, had bequeathed the crown,
by a secret compact, to Spain: they therefore declared
that he had forfeited whatever title he might otherwise have had to the crown,
and immediately proceeded to a new election. As this sentence was pronounced
by Protestants, their choice could not well fall upon a Roman Catholic prince,
though, to save appearances, some voices were raised for Bavaria and Savoy.
But the violent religious animosities which divided
the evangelical and the reformed parties among the Protestants,
impeded for some time the election even of a Protestant king;
till at last the address and activity of the Calvinists carried the day
from the numerical superiority of the Lutherans.
Among all the princes who were competitors for this dignity,
the Elector Palatine Frederick V. had the best grounded claims
on the confidence and gratitude of the Bohemians; and among them all,
there was no one in whose case the private interests of particular Estates,
and the attachment of the people, seemed to be justified by so many
considerations of state. Frederick V. was of a free and lively spirit,
of great goodness of heart, and regal liberality. He was the head
of the Calvinistic party in Germany, the leader of the Union,
whose resources were at his disposal, a near relation of the Duke of Bavaria,
and a son-in-law of the King of Great Britain,
who might lend him his powerful support. All these considerations
were prominently and successfully brought forward by the Calvinists,
and Frederick V. was chosen king by the Assembly at Prague,
amidst prayers and tears of joy.
The whole proceedings of the Diet at Prague had been premeditated,
and Frederick himself had taken too active a share in the matter
to feel at all surprised at the offer made to him by the Bohemians.
But now the immediate glitter of this throne dazzled him,
and the magnitude both of his elevation and his delinquency made
his weak mind to tremble. After the usual manner of pusillanimous spirits,
he sought to confirm himself in his purpose by the opinions of others;
but these opinions had no weight with him when they ran counter to
his own cherished wishes. Saxony and Bavaria, of whom he sought advice,
all his brother electors, all who compared the magnitude of the design
with his capacities and resources, warned him of the danger
into which he was about to rush. Even King James of England preferred to see
his son-in-law deprived of this crown, than that the sacred majesty of kings
should be outraged by so dangerous a precedent. But of what avail
was the voice of prudence against the seductive glitter of a crown?
In the moment of boldest determination, when they are indignantly rejecting
the consecrated branch of a race which had governed them for two centuries,
a free people throws itself into his arms. Confiding in his courage,
they choose him as their leader in the dangerous career of glory and liberty.
To him, as to its born champion, an oppressed religion looks for shelter
and support against its persecutors. Could he have the weakness
to listen to his fears, and to betray the cause of religion and liberty?
This religion proclaims to him its own preponderance,
and the weakness of its rival, -- two-thirds of the power of Austria
are now in arms against Austria itself, while a formidable confederacy,
already formed in Transylvania, would, by a hostile attack,
further distract even the weak remnant of its power.
Could inducements such as these fail to awaken his ambition,
or such hopes to animate and inflame his resolution?
A few moments of calm consideration would have sufficed to show
the danger of the undertaking, and the comparative worthlessness of the prize.
But the temptation spoke to his feelings; the warning only to his reason.
It was his misfortune that his nearest and most influential counsellors
espoused the side of his passions. The aggrandizement of their master's power
opened to the ambition and avarice of his Palatine servants an unlimited field
for their gratification; this anticipated triumph of their church
kindled the ardour of the Calvinistic fanatic. Could a mind so weak
as that of Ferdinand resist the delusions of his counsellors,
who exaggerated his resources and his strength, as much as they underrated
those of his enemies; or the exhortations of his preachers, who announced
the effusions of their fanatical zeal as the immediate inspiration of heaven?
The dreams of astrology filled his mind with visionary hopes;
even love conspired, with its irresistible fascination,
to complete the seduction. "Had you," demanded the Electress,
"confidence enough in yourself to accept the hand of a king's daughter,
and have you misgivings about taking a crown which is voluntarily offered you?
I would rather eat bread at thy kingly table, than feast
at thy electoral board."
Frederick accepted the Bohemian crown. The coronation was celebrated
with unexampled pomp at Prague, for the nation displayed all its riches
in honour of its own work. Silesia and Moravia, the adjoining provinces
to Bohemia, followed their example, and did homage to Frederick.
The reformed faith was enthroned in all the churches of the kingdom;
the rejoicings were unbounded, their attachment to their new king
bordered on adoration. Denmark and Sweden, Holland and Venice,
and several of the Dutch states, acknowledged him as lawful sovereign,
and Frederick now prepared to maintain his new acquisition.
His principal hopes rested on Prince Bethlen Gabor of Transylvania.
This formidable enemy of Austria, and of the Roman Catholic church,
not content with the principality which, with the assistance of the Turks,
he had wrested from his legitimate prince, Gabriel Bathori, gladly seized
this opportunity of aggrandizing himself at the expense of Austria,
which had hesitated to acknowledge him as sovereign of Transylvania.
An attack upon Hungary and Austria was concerted with the Bohemian rebels,
and both armies were to unite before the capital. Meantime, Bethlen Gabor,
under the mask of friendship, disguised the true object
of his warlike preparations, artfully promising the Emperor
to lure the Bohemians into the toils, by a pretended offer of assistance,
and to deliver up to him alive the leaders of the insurrection.
All at once, however, he appeared in a hostile attitude in Upper Hungary.
Before him went terror, and devastation behind; all opposition yielded,
and at Presburg he received the Hungarian crown. The Emperor's brother,
who governed in Vienna, trembled for the capital. He hastily summoned
General Bucquoi to his assistance, and the retreat of the Imperialists
drew the Bohemians, a second time, before the walls of Vienna.
Reinforced by twelve thousand Transylvanians, and soon after joined
by the victorious army of Bethlen Gabor, they again menaced the capital
with assault; all the country round Vienna was laid waste,
the navigation of the Danube closed, all supplies cut off,
and the horrors of famine were threatened. Ferdinand,
hastily recalled to his capital by this urgent danger,
saw himself a second time on the brink of ruin. But want of provisions,
and the inclement weather, finally compelled the Bohemians
to go into quarters, a defeat in Hungary recalled Bethlen Gabor,
and thus once more had fortune rescued the Emperor.
In a few weeks the scene was changed, and by his prudence and activity
Ferdinand improved his position as rapidly as Frederick,
by indolence and impolicy, ruined his. The Estates of Lower Austria
were regained to their allegiance by a confirmation of their privileges;
and the few who still held out were declared guilty of `lese-majeste'
and high treason. During the election of Frankfort, he had contrived,
by personal representations, to win over to his cause
the ecclesiastical electors, and also Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, at Munich.
The whole issue of the war, the fate of Frederick and the Emperor,
were now dependent on the part which the Union and the League should take
in the troubles of Bohemia. It was evidently of importance to all
the Protestants of Germany that the King of Bohemia should be supported,
while it was equally the interest of the Roman Catholics to prevent
the ruin of the Emperor. If the Protestants succeeded in Bohemia,
all the Roman Catholic princes in Germany might tremble for their possessions;
if they failed, the Emperor would give laws to Protestant Germany.
Thus Ferdinand put the League, Frederick the Union, in motion.
The ties of relationship and a personal attachment to the Emperor,
his brother-in-law, with whom he had been educated at Ingolstadt,
zeal for the Roman Catholic religion, which seemed to be
in the most imminent peril, and the suggestions of the Jesuits,
combined with the suspicious movements of the Union,
moved the Duke of Bavaria, and all the princes of the League,
to make the cause of Ferdinand their own.
According to the terms of a treaty with the Emperor,
which assured to the Duke of Bavaria compensation for all the expenses
of the war, or the losses he might sustain, Maximilian took, with full powers,
the command of the troops of the League, which were ordered to march
to the assistance of the Emperor against the Bohemian rebels.
The leaders of the Union, instead of delaying by every means
this dangerous coalition of the League with the Emperor,
did every thing in their power to accelerate it. Could they,
they thought, but once drive the Roman Catholic League
to take an open part in the Bohemian war, they might reckon
on similar measures from all the members and allies of the Union.
Without some open step taken by the Roman Catholics against the Union,
no effectual confederacy of the Protestant powers was to be looked for.
They seized, therefore, the present emergency of the troubles in Bohemia
to demand from the Roman Catholics the abolition of their past grievances,
and full security for the future exercise of their religion. They addressed
this demand, which was moreover couched in threatening language,
to the Duke of Bavaria, as the head of the Roman Catholics,
and they insisted on an immediate and categorical answer.
Maximilian might decide for or against them, still their point was gained;
his concession, if he yielded, would deprive the Roman Catholic party of its
most powerful protector; his refusal would arm the whole Protestant party,
and render inevitable a war in which they hoped to be the conquerors.
Maximilian, firmly attached to the opposite party from so many
other considerations, took the demands of the Union as a formal declaration
of hostilities, and quickened his preparations. While Bavaria and the League
were thus arming in the Emperor's cause, negotiations for a subsidy
were opened with the Spanish court. All the difficulties with which
the indolent policy of that ministry met this demand were happily surmounted
by the imperial ambassador at Madrid, Count Khevenhuller.
In addition to a subsidy of a million of florins, which from time to time
were doled out by this court, an attack upon the Lower Palatinate,
from the side of the Spanish Netherlands, was at the same time agreed upon.
During these attempts to draw all the Roman Catholic powers into the League,
every exertion was made against the counter-league of the Protestants.
To this end, it was important to alarm the Elector of Saxony
and the other Evangelical powers, and accordingly the Union were diligent in
propagating a rumour that the preparations of the League had for their object
to deprive them of the ecclesiastical foundations they had secularized.
A written assurance to the contrary calmed the fears of the Duke of Saxony,
whom moreover private jealousy of the Palatine, and the insinuations of
his chaplain, who was in the pay of Austria, and mortification at having been
passed over by the Bohemians in the election to the throne,
strongly inclined to the side of Austria. The fanaticism of the Lutherans
could never forgive the reformed party for having drawn,
as they expressed it, so many fair provinces into the gulf of Calvinism,
and rejecting the Roman Antichrist only to make way for an Helvetian one.
While Ferdinand used every effort to improve the unfavourable situation
of his affairs, Frederick was daily injuring his good cause.
By his close and questionable connexion with the Prince of Transylvania,
the open ally of the Porte, he gave offence to weak minds;
and a general rumour accused him of furthering his own ambition at the expense
of Christendom, and arming the Turks against Germany. His inconsiderate zeal
for the Calvinistic scheme irritated the Lutherans of Bohemia,
his attacks on image-worship incensed the Papists of this kingdom against him.
New and oppressive imposts alienated the affections of all his subjects.
The disappointed hopes of the Bohemian nobles cooled their zeal;
the absence of foreign succours abated their confidence. Instead of
devoting himself with untiring energies to the affairs of his kingdom,
Frederick wasted his time in amusements; instead of filling his treasury
by a wise economy, he squandered his revenues by a needless theatrical pomp,
and a misplaced munificence. With a light-minded carelessness,
he did but gaze at himself in his new dignity, and in the ill-timed desire to
enjoy his crown, he forgot the more pressing duty of securing it on his head.
But greatly as men had erred in their opinion of him,
Frederick himself had not less miscalculated his foreign resources.
Most of the members of the Union considered the affairs of Bohemia
as foreign to the real object of their confederacy; others,
who were devoted to him, were overawed by fear of the Emperor.
Saxony and Hesse Darmstadt had already been gained over by Ferdinand;
Lower Austria, on which side a powerful diversion had been looked for,
had made its submission to the Emperor; and Bethlen Gabor had concluded
a truce with him. By its embassies, the court of Vienna had induced Denmark
to remain inactive, and to occupy Sweden in a war with the Poles.
The republic of Holland had enough to do to defend itself against
the arms of the Spaniards; Venice and Saxony remained inactive;
King James of England was overreached by the artifice of Spain.
One friend after another withdrew; one hope vanished after another --
so rapidly in a few months was every thing changed.
In the mean time, the leaders of the Union assembled an army; --
the Emperor and the League did the same. The troops of the latter
were assembled under the banners of Maximilian at Donauwerth,
those of the Union at Ulm, under the Margrave of Anspach.
The decisive moment seemed at length to have arrived which was to end
these long dissensions by a vigorous blow, and irrevocably to settle
the relation of the two churches in Germany. Anxiously on the stretch
was the expectation of both parties. How great then was their astonishment
when suddenly the intelligence of peace arrived, and both armies separated
without striking a blow!
The intervention of France effected this peace, which was equally acceptable
to both parties. The French cabinet, no longer swayed by the counsels
of Henry the Great, and whose maxims of state were perhaps not applicable
to the present condition of that kingdom, was now far less alarmed
at the preponderance of Austria, than of the increase which would accrue
to the strength of the Calvinists, if the Palatine house should be able
to retain the throne of Bohemia. Involved at the time in a dangerous conflict
with its own Calvinistic subjects, it was of the utmost importance to France
that the Protestant faction in Bohemia should be suppressed
before the Huguenots could copy their dangerous example. In order therefore
to facilitate the Emperor's operations against the Bohemians,
she offered her mediation to the Union and the League,
and effected this unexpected treaty, of which the main article was,
"That the Union should abandon all interference in the affairs of Bohemia,
and confine the aid which they might afford to Frederick the Fifth,
to his Palatine territories." To this disgraceful treaty,
the Union were moved by the firmness of Maximilian,
and the fear of being pressed at once by the troops of the League,
and a new Imperial army which was on its march from the Netherlands.
The whole force of Bavaria and the League was now at the disposal
of the Emperor to be employed against the Bohemians,
who by the pacification of Ulm were abandoned to their fate.
With a rapid movement, and before a rumour of the proceedings at Ulm
could reach there, Maximilian appeared in Upper Austria,
when the Estates, surprised and unprepared for an enemy,
purchased the Emperor's pardon by an immediate and unconditional submission.
In Lower Austria, the duke formed a junction with the troops
from the Low Countries under Bucquoi, and without loss of time
the united Imperial and Bavarian forces, amounting to 50,000 men,
entered Bohemia. All the Bohemian troops, which were dispersed
over Lower Austria and Moravia, were driven before them;
every town which attempted resistance was quickly taken by storm;
others, terrified by the report of the punishment inflicted on these,
voluntarily opened their gates; nothing in short interrupted
the impetuous career of Maximilian. The Bohemian army,
commanded by the brave Prince Christian of Anhalt,
retreated to the neighbourhood of Prague; where, under the walls of the city,
Maximilian offered him battle.
The wretched condition in which he hoped to surprise the insurgents,
justified the rapidity of the duke's movements, and secured him the victory.
Frederick's army did not amount to 30,000 men. Eight thousand of these
were furnished by the Prince of Anhalt; 10,000 were Hungarians,
whom Bethlen Gabor had despatched to his assistance.
An inroad of the Elector of Saxony upon Lusatia, had cut off all succours
from that country, and from Silesia; the pacification of Austria
put an end to all his expectations from that quarter; Bethlen Gabor,
his most powerful ally, remained inactive in Transylvania;
the Union had betrayed his cause to the Emperor. Nothing remained to him
but his Bohemians; and they were without goodwill to his cause,
and without unity and courage. The Bohemian magnates were indignant
that German generals should be put over their heads;
Count Mansfeld remained in Pilsen, at a distance from the camp,
to avoid the mortification of serving under Anhalt and Hohenlohe.
The soldiers, in want of necessaries, became dispirited;
and the little discipline that was observed, gave occasion to
bitter complaints from the peasantry. It was in vain that Frederick made
his appearance in the camp, in the hope of reviving the courage
of the soldiers by his presence, and of kindling the emulation of the nobles
by his example.
The Bohemians had begun to entrench themselves on the White Mountain
near Prague, when they were attacked by the Imperial and Bavarian armies,
on the 8th November, 1620. In the beginning of the action,
some advantages were gained by the cavalry of the Prince of Anhalt;
but the superior numbers of the enemy soon neutralized them.
The charge of the Bavarians and Walloons was irresistible.
The Hungarian cavalry was the first to retreat. The Bohemian infantry
soon followed their example; and the Germans were at last
carried along with them in the general flight. Ten cannons,
composing the whole of Frederick's artillery, were taken by the enemy;
four thousand Bohemians fell in the flight and on the field;
while of the Imperialists and soldiers of the League only a few hundred
were killed. In less than an hour this decisive action was over.
Frederick was seated at table in Prague, while his army was thus
cut to pieces. It is probable that he had not expected the attack
on this day, since he had ordered an entertainment for it.
A messenger summoned him from table, to show him from the walls
the whole frightful scene. He requested a cessation of hostilities
for twenty-four hours for deliberation; but eight was all the Duke of Bavaria
would allow him. Frederick availed himself of these to fly by night
from the capital, with his wife, and the chief officers of his army.
This flight was so hurried, that the Prince of Anhalt left behind him
his most private papers, and Frederick his crown. "I know now what I am,"
said this unfortunate prince to those who endeavoured to comfort him;
"there are virtues which misfortune only can teach us,
and it is in adversity alone that princes learn to know themselves."
Prague was not irretrievably lost when Frederick's pusillanimity abandoned it.
The light troops of Mansfeld were still in Pilsen, and were not engaged
in the action. Bethlen Gabor might at any moment have assumed
an offensive attitude, and drawn off the Emperor's army
to the Hungarian frontier. The defeated Bohemians might rally.
Sickness, famine, and the inclement weather, might wear out the enemy;
but all these hopes disappeared before the immediate alarm.
Frederick dreaded the fickleness of the Bohemians, who might probably yield
to the temptation to purchase, by the surrender of his person,
the pardon of the Emperor.
Thurn, and those of this party who were in the same condemnation with him,
found it equally inexpedient to await their destiny within the walls
of Prague. They retired towards Moravia, with a view of seeking refuge
in Transylvania. Frederick fled to Breslau, where, however,
he only remained a short time. He removed from thence to the court
of the Elector of Brandenburg, and finally took shelter in Holland.
The battle of Prague had decided the fate of Bohemia.
Prague surrendered the next day to the victors; the other towns followed
the example of the capital. The Estates did homage without conditions,
and the same was done by those of Silesia and Moravia. The Emperor allowed
three months to elapse, before instituting any inquiry into the past.
Reassured by this apparent clemency, many who, at first, had fled in terror
appeared again in the capital. All at once, however, the storm burst forth;
forty-eight of the most active among the insurgents were arrested
on the same day and hour, and tried by an extraordinary commission,
composed of native Bohemians and Austrians. Of these, twenty-seven,
and of the common people an immense number, expired on the scaffold.
The absenting offenders were summoned to appear to their trial,
and failing to do so, condemned to death, as traitors and offenders
against his Catholic Majesty, their estates confiscated,
and their names affixed to the gallows. The property also of the rebels
who had fallen in the field was seized. This tyranny might have been borne,
as it affected individuals only, and while the ruin of one enriched another;
but more intolerable was the oppression which extended to the whole kingdom,
without exception. All the Protestant preachers were banished
from the country; the Bohemians first, and afterwards those of Germany.
The `Letter of Majesty', Ferdinand tore with his own hand, and burnt the seal.
Seven years after the battle of Prague, the toleration
of the Protestant religion within the kingdom was entirely revoked.
But whatever violence the Emperor allowed himself against
the religious privileges of his subjects, he carefully abstained from
interfering with their political constitution; and while he deprived them
of the liberty of thought, he magnanimously left them the prerogative
of taxing themselves.
The victory of the White Mountain put Ferdinand in possession
of all his dominions. It even invested him with greater authority over them
than his predecessors enjoyed, since their allegiance had been
unconditionally pledged to him, and no Letter of Majesty now existed
to limit his sovereignty. All his wishes were now gratified,
to a degree surpassing his most sanguine expectations.
It was now in his power to dismiss his allies, and disband his army.
If he was just, there was an end of the war -- if he was both
magnanimous and just, punishment was also at an end. The fate of Germany
was in his hands; the happiness and misery of millions depended on
the resolution he should take. Never was so great a decision resting
on a single mind; never did the blindness of one man produce so much ruin.
The resolution which Ferdinand now adopted, gave to the war a new direction,
a new scene, and new actors. From a rebellion in Bohemia,
and the chastisement of rebels, a war extended first to Germany,
and afterwards to Europe. It is, therefore, necessary to take
a general survey of the state of affairs both in Germany
and the rest of Europe.
Unequally as the territory of Germany and the privileges of its members
were divided among the Roman Catholics and the Protestants,
neither party could hope to maintain itself against the encroachments
of its adversary otherwise than by a prudent use of its peculiar advantages,
and by a politic union among themselves. If the Roman Catholics were
the more numerous party, and more favoured by the constitution of the empire,
the Protestants, on the other hand, had the advantage of possessing
a more compact and populous line of territories, valiant princes,
a warlike nobility, numerous armies, flourishing free towns,
the command of the sea, and even at the worst, certainty of support
from Roman Catholic states. If the Catholics could arm Spain and Italy
in their favour, the republics of Venice, Holland, and England,
opened their treasures to the Protestants, while the states of the North
and the formidable power of Turkey, stood ready to afford them
prompt assistance. Brandenburg, Saxony, and the Palatinate,
opposed three Protestant to three Ecclesiastical votes
in the Electoral College; while to the Elector of Bohemia,
as to the Archduke of Austria, the possession of the Imperial dignity
was an important check, if the Protestants properly availed themselves of it.
The sword of the Union might keep within its sheath the sword of the League;
or if matters actually came to a war, might make the issue of it doubtful.
But, unfortunately, private interests dissolved the band of union
which should have held together the Protestant members of the empire.
This critical conjuncture found none but second-rate actors
on the political stage, and the decisive moment was neglected because
the courageous were deficient in power, and the powerful in sagacity,
courage, and resolution.
The Elector of Saxony was placed at the head of the German Protestants,
by the services of his ancestor Maurice, by the extent of his territories,
and by the influence of his electoral vote. Upon the resolution
he might adopt, the fate of the contending parties seemed to depend;
and John George was not insensible to the advantages which
this important situation procured him. Equally valuable as an ally,
both to the Emperor and to the Protestant Union, he cautiously avoided
committing himself to either party; neither trusting himself
by any irrevocable declaration entirely to the gratitude of the Emperor,
nor renouncing the advantages which were to be gained from his fears.
Uninfected by the contagion of religious and romantic enthusiasm
which hurried sovereign after sovereign to risk both crown and life
on the hazard of war, John George aspired to the more solid renown
of improving and advancing the interests of his territories.
His cotemporaries accused him of forsaking the Protestant cause
in the very midst of the storm; of preferring the aggrandizement of his house
to the emancipation of his country; of exposing the whole Evangelical
or Lutheran church of Germany to ruin, rather than raise an arm in defence
of the Reformed or Calvinists; of injuring the common cause
by his suspicious friendship more seriously than the open enmity
of its avowed opponents. But it would have been well if his accusers had
imitated the wise policy of the Elector. If, despite of the prudent policy,
the Saxons, like all others, groaned at the cruelties
which marked the Emperor's progress; if all Germany was a witness
how Ferdinand deceived his confederates and trifled with his engagements;
if even the Elector himself at last perceived this -- the more shame
to the Emperor who could so basely betray such implicit confidence.
If an excessive reliance on the Emperor, and the hope of enlarging
his territories, tied the hands of the Elector of Saxony,
the weak George William, Elector of Brandenburg, was still more shamefully
fettered by fear of Austria, and of the loss of his dominions.
What was made a reproach against these princes would have preserved
to the Elector Palatine his fame and his kingdom. A rash confidence
in his untried strength, the influence of French counsels,
and the temptation of a crown, had seduced that unfortunate prince into
an enterprise for which he had neither adequate genius nor political capacity.
The partition of his territories among discordant princes,
enfeebled the Palatinate, which, united, might have made a longer resistance.
This partition of territory was equally injurious to the House of Hesse,
in which, between Darmstadt and Cassel, religious dissensions
had occasioned a fatal division. The line of Darmstadt, adhering to
the Confession of Augsburg, had placed itself under the Emperor's protection,
who favoured it at the expense of the Calvinists of Cassel.
While his religious confederates were shedding their blood
for their faith and their liberties, the Landgrave of Darmstadt
was won over by the Emperor's gold. But William of Cassel,
every way worthy of his ancestor who, a century before,
had defended the freedom of Germany against the formidable Charles V.,
espoused the cause of danger and of honour. Superior to that pusillanimity
which made far more powerful princes bow before Ferdinand's might,
the Landgrave William was the first to join the hero of Sweden,
and to set an example to the princes of Germany which all had hesitated
to begin. The boldness of his resolve was equalled by the steadfastness
of his perseverance and the valour of his exploits. He placed himself
with unshrinking resolution before his bleeding country,
and boldly confronted the fearful enemy, whose hands were still reeking
from the carnage of Magdeburg.
The Landgrave William deserves to descend to immortality
with the heroic race of Ernest. Thy day of vengeance was long delayed,
unfortunate John Frederick! Noble! never-to-be-forgotten prince!
Slowly but brightly it broke. Thy times returned, and thy heroic spirit
descended on thy grandson. An intrepid race of princes issues from
the Thuringian forests, to shame, by immortal deeds, the unjust sentence
which robbed thee of the electoral crown -- to avenge thy offended shade
by heaps of bloody sacrifice. The sentence of the conqueror
could deprive thee of thy territories, but not that spirit of patriotism
which staked them, nor that chivalrous courage which, a century afterwards,
was destined to shake the throne of his descendant.
Thy vengeance and that of Germany whetted the sacred sword,
and one heroic hand after the other wielded the irresistible steel.
As men, they achieved what as sovereigns they dared not undertake;
they met in a glorious cause as the valiant soldiers of liberty.
Too weak in territory to attack the enemy with their own forces,
they directed foreign artillery against them, and led foreign banners
The liberties of Germany, abandoned by the more powerful states,
who, however, enjoyed most of the prosperity accruing from them,
were defended by a few princes for whom they were almost without value.
The possession of territories and dignities deadened courage;
the want of both made heroes. While Saxony, Brandenburg, and the rest
drew back in terror, Anhalt, Mansfeld, the Prince of Weimar and others
were shedding their blood in the field. The Dukes of Pomerania,
Mecklenburg, Luneburg, and Wirtemberg, and the free cities of Upper Germany,
to whom the name of EMPEROR was of course a formidable one,
anxiously avoided a contest with such an opponent, and crouched murmuring
beneath his mighty arm.
Austria and Roman Catholic Germany possessed in Maximilian of Bavaria
a champion as prudent as he was powerful. Adhering throughout the war
to one fixed plan, never divided between his religion
and his political interests; not the slavish dependent of Austria,
who was labouring for HIS advancement, and trembled before
her powerful protector, Maximilian earned the territories and dignities
that rewarded his exertions. The other Roman Catholic states,
which were chiefly Ecclesiastical, too unwarlike to resist
the multitudes whom the prosperity of their territories allured,
became the victims of the war one after another, and were contented
to persecute in the cabinet and in the pulpit, the enemy whom
they could not openly oppose in the field. All of them,
slaves either to Austria or Bavaria, sunk into insignificance
by the side of Maximilian; in his hand alone their united power
could be rendered available.
The formidable monarchy which Charles V. and his son
had unnaturally constructed of the Netherlands, Milan, and the two Sicilies,
and their distant possessions in the East and West Indies,
was under Philip III. and Philip IV. fast verging to decay.
Swollen to a sudden greatness by unfruitful gold, this power was now sinking
under a visible decline, neglecting, as it did, agriculture,
the natural support of states. The conquests in the West Indies
had reduced Spain itself to poverty, while they enriched
the markets of Europe; the bankers of Antwerp, Venice, and Genoa,
were making profit on the gold which was still buried in the mines of Peru.
For the sake of India, Spain had been depopulated, while the treasures
drawn from thence were wasted in the re-conquest of Holland,
in the chimerical project of changing the succession to the crown of France,
and in an unfortunate attack upon England. But the pride of this court
had survived its greatness, as the hate of its enemies
had outlived its power. Distrust of the Protestants suggested to
the ministry of Philip III. the dangerous policy of his father;
and the reliance of the Roman Catholics in Germany on Spanish assistance,
was as firm as their belief in the wonder-working bones of the martyrs.
External splendour concealed the inward wounds at which the life-blood
of this monarchy was oozing; and the belief of its strength survived,
because it still maintained the lofty tone of its golden days.
Slaves in their palaces, and strangers even upon their own thrones,
the Spanish nominal kings still gave laws to their German relations;
though it is very doubtful if the support they afforded was worth
the dependence by which the emperors purchased it. The fate of Europe
was decided behind the Pyrenees by ignorant monks or vindictive favourites.
Yet, even in its debasement, a power must always be formidable,
which yields to none in extent; which, from custom, if not from
the steadfastness of its views, adhered faithfully to one system of policy;
which possessed well-disciplined armies and consummate generals; which,
where the sword failed, did not scruple to employ the dagger;
and converted even its ambassadors into incendiaries and assassins.
What it had lost in three quarters of the globe, it now sought to regain
to the eastward, and all Europe was at its mercy, if it could succeed in
its long cherished design of uniting with the hereditary dominions of Austria
all that lay between the Alps and the Adriatic.
To the great alarm of the native states, this formidable power
had gained a footing in Italy, where its continual encroachments
made the neighbouring sovereigns to tremble for their own possessions.
The Pope himself was in the most dangerous situation;
hemmed in on both sides by the Spanish Viceroys of Naples on the one side,
and that of Milan upon the other. Venice was confined between
the Austrian Tyrol and the Spanish territories in Milan.
Savoy was surrounded by the latter and France. Hence the wavering
and equivocal policy, which from the time of Charles V. had been pursued
by the Italian States. The double character which pertained to the Popes
made them perpetually vacillate between two contradictory systems of policy.
If the successors of St. Peter found in the Spanish princes
their most obedient disciples, and the most steadfast supporters
of the Papal See, yet the princes of the States of the Church
had in these monarchs their most dangerous neighbours,
and most formidable opponents. If, in the one capacity, their dearest wish
was the destruction of the Protestants, and the triumph of Austria,
in the other, they had reason to bless the arms of the Protestants,
which disabled a dangerous enemy. The one or the other sentiment prevailed,
according as the love of temporal dominion, or zeal for spiritual supremacy,
predominated in the mind of the Pope. But the policy of Rome was,
on the whole, directed to immediate dangers; and it is well known
how far more powerful is the apprehension of losing a present good,
than anxiety to recover a long lost possession. And thus
it becomes intelligible how the Pope should first combine with Austria
for the destruction of heresy, and then conspire with these very heretics
for the destruction of Austria. Strangely blended are the threads
of human affairs! What would have become of the Reformation,
and of the liberties of Germany, if the Bishop of Rome and the Prince of Rome
had had but one interest?
France had lost with its great Henry all its importance and all its weight
in the political balance of Europe. A turbulent minority had destroyed
all the benefits of the able administration of Henry. Incapable ministers,
the creatures of court intrigue, squandered in a few years
the treasures which Sully's economy and Henry's frugality had amassed.
Scarce able to maintain their ground against internal factions,
they were compelled to resign to other hands the helm of European affairs.
The same civil war which armed Germany against itself,
excited a similar commotion in France; and Louis XIII. attained majority
only to wage a war with his own mother and his Protestant subjects.
This party, which had been kept quiet by Henry's enlightened policy,
now seized the opportunity to take up arms, and, under the command
of some adventurous leaders, began to form themselves into a party
within the state, and to fix on the strong and powerful town of Rochelle
as the capital of their intended kingdom. Too little of a statesman
to suppress, by a prudent toleration, this civil commotion in its birth,
and too little master of the resources of his kingdom
to direct them with energy, Louis XIII. was reduced
to the degradation of purchasing the submission of the rebels
by large sums of money. Though policy might incline him,
in one point of view, to assist the Bohemian insurgents against Austria,
the son of Henry the Fourth was now compelled to be an inactive spectator
of their destruction, happy enough if the Calvinists in his own dominions
did not unseasonably bethink them of their confederates beyond the Rhine.
A great mind at the helm of state would have reduced
the Protestants in France to obedience, while it employed them to fight
for the independence of their German brethren. But Henry IV. was no more,
and Richelieu had not yet revived his system of policy.
While the glory of France was thus upon the wane, the emancipated
republic of Holland was completing the fabric of its greatness.
The enthusiastic courage had not yet died away which,
enkindled by the House of Orange, had converted this mercantile people
into a nation of heroes, and had enabled them to maintain their independence
in a bloody war against the Spanish monarchy. Aware how much they owed
their own liberty to foreign support, these republicans were ready
to assist their German brethren in a similar cause, and the more so,
as both were opposed to the same enemy, and the liberty of Germany
was the best warrant for that of Holland. But a republic which had still
to battle for its very existence, which, with all its wonderful exertions,
was scarce a match for the formidable enemy within its own territories,
could not be expected to withdraw its troops from the necessary work
of self-defence to employ them with a magnanimous policy
in protecting foreign states.
England too, though now united with Scotland, no longer possessed,
under the weak James, that influence in the affairs of Europe
which the governing mind of Elizabeth had procured for it. Convinced that
the welfare of her dominions depended on the security of the Protestants,
this politic princess had never swerved from the principle of promoting every
enterprise which had for its object the diminution of the Austrian power.
Her successor was no less devoid of capacity to comprehend,
than of vigour to execute, her views. While the economical Elizabeth
spared not her treasures to support the Flemings against Spain,
and Henry IV. against the League, James abandoned his daughter,
his son-in-law, and his grandchild, to the fury of their enemies.
While he exhausted his learning to establish the divine right of kings,
he allowed his own dignity to sink into the dust;
while he exerted his rhetoric to prove the absolute authority of kings,
he reminded the people of theirs; and by a useless profusion,
sacrificed the chief of his sovereign rights -- that of dispensing with
his parliament, and thus depriving liberty of its organ. An innate horror
at the sight of a naked sword averted him from the most just of wars;
while his favourite Buckingham practised on his weakness,
and his own complacent vanity rendered him an easy dupe of Spanish artifice.
While his son-in-law was ruined, and the inheritance of his grandson
given to others, this weak prince was imbibing, with satisfaction,
the incense which was offered to him by Austria and Spain.
To divert his attention from the German war, he was amused with the proposal
of a Spanish marriage for his son, and the ridiculous parent
encouraged the romantic youth in the foolish project of paying his addresses
in person to the Spanish princess. But his son lost his bride,
as his son-in-law lost the crown of Bohemia and the Palatine Electorate;
and death alone saved him from the danger of closing his pacific reign
by a war at home, which he never had courage to maintain, even at a distance.
The domestic disturbances which his misgovernment had gradually excited
burst forth under his unfortunate son, and forced him, after some
unimportant attempts, to renounce all further participation in the German war,
in order to stem within his own kingdom the rage of faction.
Two illustrious monarchs, far unequal in personal reputation,
but equal in power and desire of fame, made the North at this time
to be respected. Under the long and active reign of Christian IV.,
Denmark had risen into importance. The personal qualifications
of this prince, an excellent navy, a formidable army, well-ordered finances,
and prudent alliances, had combined to give her prosperity at home
and influence abroad. Gustavus Vasa had rescued Sweden from vassalage,
reformed it by wise laws, and had introduced, for the first time,
this newly-organized state into the field of European politics.
What this great prince had merely sketched in rude outline,
was filled up by Gustavus Adolphus, his still greater grandson.
These two kingdoms, once unnaturally united and enfeebled by their union,
had been violently separated at the time of the Reformation,
and this separation was the epoch of their prosperity.
Injurious as this compulsory union had proved to both kingdoms,
equally necessary to each apart were neighbourly friendship and harmony.
On both the evangelical church leaned; both had the same seas to protect;
a common interest ought to unite them against the same enemy.
But the hatred which had dissolved the union of these monarchies
continued long after their separation to divide the two nations.
The Danish kings could not abandon their pretensions to the Swedish crown,
nor the Swedes banish the remembrance of Danish oppression.
The contiguous boundaries of the two kingdoms constantly furnished materials
for international quarrels, while the watchful jealousy of both kings,
and the unavoidable collision of their commercial interests in the North Seas,
were inexhaustible sources of dispute.
Among the means of which Gustavus Vasa, the founder of the Swedish monarchy,
availed himself to strengthen his new edifice, the Reformation had been
one of the principal. A fundamental law of the kingdom
excluded the adherents of popery from all offices of the state,
and prohibited every future sovereign of Sweden from altering
the religious constitution of the kingdom. But the second son
and second successor of Gustavus had relapsed into popery,
and his son Sigismund, also king of Poland, had been guilty of measures
which menaced both the constitution and the established church.
Headed by Charles, Duke of Sudermania, the third son of Gustavus,
the Estates made a courageous resistance, which terminated, at last,
in an open civil war between the uncle and nephew,
and between the King and the people. Duke Charles,
administrator of the kingdom during the absence of the king,
had availed himself of Sigismund's long residence in Poland,
and the just displeasure of the states, to ingratiate himself
with the nation, and gradually to prepare his way to the throne.
His views were not a little forwarded by Sigismund's imprudence.
A general Diet ventured to abolish, in favour of the Protector,
the rule of primogeniture which Gustavus had established in the succession,
and placed the Duke of Sudermania on the throne, from which Sigismund,
with his whole posterity, were solemnly excluded. The son of the new king
(who reigned under the name of Charles IX.) was Gustavus Adolphus, whom,
as the son of a usurper, the adherents of Sigismund refused to recognize.
But if the obligations between monarchy and subjects are reciprocal,
and states are not to be transmitted, like a lifeless heirloom,
from hand to hand, a nation acting with unanimity must have the power
of renouncing their allegiance to a sovereign who has violated
his obligations to them, and of filling his place by a worthier object.
Gustavus Adolphus had not completed his seventeenth year,
when the Swedish throne became vacant by the death of his father.
But the early maturity of his genius enabled the Estates
to abridge in his favour the legal period of minority.
With a glorious conquest over himself he commenced a reign
which was to have victory for its constant attendant,
a career which was to begin and end in success. The young Countess of Brahe,
the daughter of a subject, had gained his early affections,
and he had resolved to share with her the Swedish throne. But,
constrained by time and circumstances, he made his attachment yield
to the higher duties of a king, and heroism again took exclusive possession
of a heart which was not destined by nature to confine itself
within the limits of quiet domestic happiness.
Christian IV. of Denmark, who had ascended the throne before the birth
of Gustavus, in an inroad upon Sweden, had gained some considerable advantages
over the father of that hero. Gustavus Adolphus hastened to put an end
to this destructive war, and by prudent sacrifices obtained a peace,
in order to turn his arms against the Czar of Muscovy.
The questionable fame of a conqueror never tempted him to spend
the blood of his subjects in unjust wars; but he never shrunk from a just one.
His arms were successful against Russia, and Sweden was augmented
by several important provinces on the east.
In the meantime, Sigismund of Poland retained against the son
the same sentiments of hostility which the father had provoked,
and left no artifice untried to shake the allegiance of his subjects,
to cool the ardour of his friends, and to embitter his enemies.
Neither the great qualities of his rival, nor the repeated proofs of devotion
which Sweden gave to her loved monarch, could extinguish
in this infatuated prince the foolish hope of regaining his lost throne.
All Gustavus's overtures were haughtily rejected. Unwillingly was this
really peaceful king involved in a tedious war with Poland,
in which the whole of Livonia and Polish Prussia were successively conquered.
Though constantly victorious, Gustavus Adolphus was always the first
to hold out the hand of peace.
This contest between Sweden and Poland falls somewhere about the beginning of
the Thirty Years' War in Germany, with which it is in some measure connected.
It was enough that Sigismund, himself a Roman Catholic, was disputing
the Swedish crown with a Protestant prince, to assure him the active support
of Spain and Austria; while a double relationship to the Emperor
gave him a still stronger claim to his protection. It was his reliance
on this powerful assistance that chiefly encouraged the King of Poland
to continue the war, which had hitherto turned out so unfavourably for him,
and the courts of Madrid and Vienna failed not to encourage him
by high-sounding promises. While Sigismund lost one place after another
in Livonia, Courland, and Prussia, he saw his ally in Germany
advancing from conquest after conquest to unlimited power.
No wonder then if his aversion to peace kept pace with his losses.
The vehemence with which he nourished his chimerical hopes blinded him to
the artful policy of his confederates, who at his expense were keeping
the Swedish hero employed, in order to overturn, without opposition,
the liberties of Germany, and then to seize on the exhausted North
as an easy conquest. One circumstance which had not been calculated on --
the magnanimity of Gustavus -- overthrew this deceitful policy.
An eight years' war in Poland, so far from exhausting the power of Sweden,
had only served to mature the military genius of Gustavus, to inure
the Swedish army to warfare, and insensibly to perfect that system of tactics
by which they were afterwards to perform such wonders in Germany.
After this necessary digression on the existing circumstances of Europe,
I now resume the thread of my history.
Ferdinand had regained his dominions, but had not indemnified himself
for the expenses of recovering them. A sum of forty millions of florins,
which the confiscations in Bohemia and Moravia had produced,
would have sufficed to reimburse both himself and his allies;
but the Jesuits and his favourites soon squandered this sum, large as it was.
Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, to whose victorious arm, principally,
the Emperor owed the recovery of his dominions; who, in the service
of religion and the Emperor, had sacrificed his near relation,
had the strongest claims on his gratitude; and moreover,
in a treaty which, before the war, the duke had concluded with the Emperor,
he had expressly stipulated for the reimbursement of all expenses.
Ferdinand felt the full weight of the obligation imposed upon him
by this treaty and by these services, but he was not disposed to discharge it
at his own cost. His purpose was to bestow a brilliant reward upon the duke,
but without detriment to himself. How could this be done better
than at the expense of the unfortunate prince who, by his revolt,
had given the Emperor a right to punish him, and whose offences
might be painted in colours strong enough to justify the most violent measures
under the appearance of law. That, then, Maximilian may be rewarded,
Frederick must be further persecuted and totally ruined;
and to defray the expenses of the old war, a new one must be commenced.
But a still stronger motive combined to enforce the first.
Hitherto Ferdinand had been contending for existence alone;
he had been fulfilling no other duty than that of self-defence.
But now, when victory gave him freedom to act, a higher duty
occurred to him, and he remembered the vow which he had made
at Loretto and at Rome, to his generalissima, the Holy Virgin,
to extend her worship even at the risk of his crown and life.
With this object, the oppression of the Protestants was inseparably connected.
More favourable circumstances for its accomplishment could not offer
than those which presented themselves at the close of the Bohemian war.
Neither the power, nor a pretext of right, were now wanting
to enable him to place the Palatinate in the hands of the Catholics,
and the importance of this change to the Catholic interests in Germany
would be incalculable. Thus, in rewarding the Duke of Bavaria
with the spoils of his relation, he at once gratified his meanest passions
and fulfilled his most exalted duties; he crushed an enemy whom he hated,
and spared his avarice a painful sacrifice, while he believed he was winning
a heavenly crown.
In the Emperor's cabinet, the ruin of Frederick had been resolved upon
long before fortune had decided against him; but it was only after this event
that they ventured to direct against him the thunders of arbitrary power.
A decree of the Emperor, destitute of all the formalities required
on such occasions by the laws of the Empire, pronounced the Elector,
and three other princes who had borne arms for him at Silesia and Bohemia,
as offenders against the imperial majesty, and disturbers of the public peace,
under the ban of the empire, and deprived them of their titles
and territories. The execution of this sentence against Frederick,
namely the seizure of his lands, was, in further contempt of law,
committed to Spain as Sovereign of the circle of Burgundy,
to the Duke of Bavaria, and the League. Had the Evangelic Union been worthy
of the name it bore, and of the cause which it pretended to defend,
insuperable obstacles might have prevented the execution of the sentence;
but it was hopeless for a power which was far from a match
even for the Spanish troops in the Lower Palatinate, to contend against
the united strength of the Emperor, Bavaria, and the League.
The sentence of proscription pronounced upon the Elector
soon detached the free cities from the Union; and the princes quickly followed
their example. Fortunate in preserving their own dominions,
they abandoned the Elector, their former chief, to the Emperor's mercy,
renounced the Union, and vowed never to revive it again.
But while thus ingloriously the German princes deserted
the unfortunate Frederick, and while Bohemia, Silesia, and Moravia
submitted to the Emperor, a single man, a soldier of fortune,
whose only treasure was his sword, Ernest Count Mansfeld, dared,
in the Bohemian town of Pilsen, to defy the whole power of Austria.
Left without assistance after the battle of Prague by the Elector,
to whose service he had devoted himself, and even uncertain
whether Frederick would thank him for his perseverance,
he alone for some time held out against the imperialists,
till the garrison, mutinying for want of pay, sold the town to the Emperor.
Undismayed by this reverse, he immediately commenced new levies
in the Upper Palatinate, and enlisted the disbanded troops of the Union.
A new army of 20,000 men was soon assembled under his banners,
the more formidable to the provinces which might be the object of its attack,
because it must subsist by plunder. Uncertain where this swarm might light,
the neighbouring bishops trembled for their rich possessions, which offered
a tempting prey to its ravages. But, pressed by the Duke of Bavaria,
who now entered the Upper Palatinate, Mansfeld was compelled to retire.
Eluding, by a successful stratagem, the Bavarian general, Tilly,
who was in pursuit of him, he suddenly appeared in the Lower Palatinate,
and there wreaked upon the bishoprics of the Rhine the severities he had
designed for those of Franconia. While the imperial and Bavarian allies
thus overran Bohemia, the Spanish general, Spinola, had penetrated
with a numerous army from the Netherlands into the Lower Palatinate,
which, however, the pacification of Ulm permitted the Union to defend.
But their measures were so badly concerted, that one place after another
fell into the hands of the Spaniards; and at last, when the Union broke up,
the greater part of the country was in the possession of Spain.
The Spanish general, Corduba, who commanded these troops after the recall
of Spinola, hastily raised the siege of Frankenthal, when Mansfeld entered
the Lower Palatinate. But instead of driving the Spaniards out
of this province, he hastened across the Rhine to secure for his needy troops
shelter and subsistence in Alsace. The open countries on which this
swarm of maurauders threw themselves were converted into frightful deserts,
and only by enormous contributions could the cities purchase
an exemption from plunder. Reinforced by this expedition,
Mansfeld again appeared on the Rhine to cover the Lower Palatinate.
So long as such an arm fought for him, the cause of the Elector Frederick
was not irretrievably lost. New prospects began to open,
and misfortune raised up friends who had been silent during his prosperity.
King James of England, who had looked on with indifference while
his son-in-law lost the Bohemian crown, was aroused from his insensibility
when the very existence of his daughter and grandson was at stake,
and the victorious enemy ventured an attack upon the Electorate.
Late enough, he at last opened his treasures, and hastened to afford supplies
of money and troops, first to the Union, which at that time was defending
the Lower Palatinate, and afterwards, when they retired, to Count Mansfeld.
By his means his near relation, Christian, King of Denmark,
was induced to afford his active support. At the same time,
the approaching expiration of the truce between Spain and Holland
deprived the Emperor of all the supplies which otherwise he might expect
from the side of the Netherlands. More important still was the assistance
which the Palatinate received from Transylvania and Hungary.
The cessation of hostilities between Gabor and the Emperor
was scarcely at an end, when this old and formidable enemy of Austria
overran Hungary anew, and caused himself to be crowned king in Presburg.
So rapid was his progress that, to protect Austria and Hungary,
Boucquoi was obliged to evacuate Bohemia. This brave general met his death
at the siege of Neuhausel, as, shortly before, the no less valiant Dampierre
had fallen before Presburg. Gabor's march into the Austrian territory
was irresistible; the old Count Thurn, and several other
distinguished Bohemians, had united their hatred and their strength
with this irreconcileable enemy of Austria. A vigorous attack
on the side of Germany, while Gabor pressed the Emperor on that of Hungary,
might have retrieved the fortunes of Frederick; but, unfortunately,
the Bohemians and Germans had always laid down their arms
when Gabor took the field; and the latter was always exhausted
at the very moment that the former began to recover their vigour.
Meanwhile Frederick had not delayed to join his protector Mansfeld.
In disguise he entered the Lower Palatinate, of which the possession
was at that time disputed between Mansfeld and the Bavarian general, Tilly,
the Upper Palatinate having been long conquered. A ray of hope
shone upon him as, from the wreck of the Union, new friends came forward.
A former member of the Union, George Frederick, Margrave of Baden,
had for some time been engaged in assembling a military force,
which soon amounted to a considerable army. Its destination
was kept a secret till he suddenly took the field and joined Mansfeld.
Before commencing the war, he resigned his Margraviate to his son,
in the hope of eluding, by this precaution, the Emperor's revenge,
if his enterprize should be unsuccessful. His neighbour,
the Duke of Wirtemberg, likewise began to augment his military force.
The courage of the Palatine revived, and he laboured assiduously
to renew the Protestant Union. It was now time for Tilly to consult
for his own safety, and he hastily summoned the Spanish troops, under Corduba,
to his assistance. But while the enemy was uniting his strength,
Mansfeld and the Margrave separated, and the latter was defeated
by the Bavarian general near Wimpfen (1622).
To defend a king whom his nearest relation persecuted,
and who was deserted even by his own father-in-law, there had come forward
an adventurer without money, and whose very legitimacy was questioned.
A sovereign had resigned possessions over which he reigned in peace,
to hazard the uncertain fortune of war in behalf of a stranger.
And now another soldier of fortune, poor in territorial possessions,
but rich in illustrious ancestry, undertook the defence of a cause
which the former despaired of. Christian, Duke of Brunswick,
administrator of Halberstadt, seemed to have learnt from Count Mansfeld
the secret of keeping in the field an army of 20,000 men without money.
Impelled by youthful presumption, and influenced partly by the wish of
establishing his reputation at the expense of the Roman Catholic priesthood,
whom he cordially detested, and partly by a thirst for plunder,
he assembled a considerable army in Lower Saxony, under the pretext
of espousing the defence of Frederick, and of the liberties of Germany.
"God's Friend, Priest's Foe", was the motto he chose for his coinage,
which was struck out of church plate; and his conduct belied one half at least
of the device.
The progress of these banditti was, as usual, marked by
the most frightful devastation. Enriched by the spoils of the chapters
of Lower Saxony and Westphalia, they gathered strength
to plunder the bishoprics upon the Upper Rhine. Driven from thence,
both by friends and foes, the Administrator approached
the town of Hoechst on the Maine, which he crossed after a murderous action
with Tilly, who disputed with him the passage of the river.
With the loss of half his army he reached the opposite bank, where he
quickly collected his shattered troops, and formed a junction with Mansfeld.
Pursued by Tilly, this united host threw itself again into Alsace,
to repeat their former ravages. While the Elector Frederick followed,
almost like a fugitive mendicant, this swarm of plunderers
which acknowledged him as its lord, and dignified itself with his name,
his friends were busily endeavouring to effect a reconciliation
between him and the Emperor. Ferdinand took care not to deprive them
of all hope of seeing the Palatine restored to his dominion.
Full of artifice and dissimulation, he pretended to be willing to enter
into a negotiation, hoping thereby to cool their ardour in the field,
and to prevent them from driving matters to extremity. James I.,
ever the dupe of Spanish cunning, contributed not a little,
by his foolish intermeddling, to promote the Emperor's schemes.
Ferdinand insisted that Frederick, if he would appeal to his clemency,
should, first of all, lay down his arms, and James considered this demand
extremely reasonable. At his instigation, the Elector dismissed
his only real defenders, Count Mansfeld and the Administrator,
and in Holland awaited his own fate from the mercy of the Emperor.
Mansfeld and Duke Christian were now at a loss for some new name;
the cause of the Elector had not set them in motion, so his dismissal
could not disarm them. War was their object; it was all the same to them
in whose cause or name it was waged. After some vain attempts
on the part of Mansfeld to be received into the Emperor's service,
both marched into Lorraine, where the excesses of their troops
spread terror even to the heart of France. Here they long waited in vain
for a master willing to purchase their services; till the Dutch,
pressed by the Spanish General Spinola, offered to take them into pay.
After a bloody fight at Fleurus with the Spaniards,
who attempted to intercept them, they reached Holland,
where their appearance compelled the Spanish general forthwith
to raise the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom. But even Holland was soon weary
of these dangerous guests, and availed herself of the first moment
to get rid of their unwelcome assistance. Mansfeld allowed his troops
to recruit themselves for new enterprises in the fertile province
of East Friezeland. Duke Christian, passionately enamoured
of the Electress Palatine, with whom he had become acquainted in Holland,
and more disposed for war than ever, led back his army into Lower Saxony,
bearing that princess's glove in his hat, and on his standards the motto
"All for God and Her". Neither of these adventurers had as yet run
their career in this war.
All the imperial territories were now free from the enemy;
the Union was dissolved; the Margrave of Baden, Duke Christian, and Mansfeld,
driven from the field, and the Palatinate overrun by the executive troops
of the empire. Manheim and Heidelberg were in possession of Bavaria,
and Frankenthal was shortly afterwards ceded to the Spaniards. The Palatine,
in a distant corner of Holland, awaited the disgraceful permission to appease,
by abject submission, the vengeance of the Emperor; and an Electoral Diet
was at last summoned to decide his fate. That fate, however,
had been long before decided at the court of the Emperor; though now,
for the first time, were circumstances favourable for giving publicity
to the decision. After his past measures towards the Elector,
Ferdinand believed that a sincere reconciliation was not to be hoped for.
The violent course he had once begun, must be completed successfully,
or recoil upon himself. What was already lost was irrecoverable;
Frederick could never hope to regain his dominions;
and a prince without territory and without subjects had little chance
of retaining the electoral crown. Deeply as the Palatine had offended
against the House of Austria, the services of the Duke of Bavaria were
no less meritorious. If the House of Austria and the Roman Catholic church
had much to dread from the resentment and religious rancour
of the Palatine family, they had as much to hope from
the gratitude and religious zeal of the Bavarian. Lastly,
by the cession of the Palatine Electorate to Bavaria,
the Roman Catholic religion would obtain a decisive preponderance
in the Electoral College, and secure a permanent triumph in Germany.
The last circumstance was sufficient to win the support
of the three Ecclesiastical Electors to this innovation;
and among the Protestants the vote of Saxony was alone of any importance.
But could John George be expected to dispute with the Emperor a right,
without which he would expose to question his own title
to the electoral dignity? To a prince whom descent, dignity,
and political power placed at the head of the Protestant church in Germany,
nothing, it is true, ought to be more sacred than the defence of the rights
of that church against all the encroachments of the Roman Catholics.
But the question here was not whether the interests of the Protestants
were to be supported against the Roman Catholics, but which of
two religions equally detested, the Calvinistic and the Popish,
was to triumph over the other; to which of the two enemies,
equally dangerous, the Palatinate was to be assigned; and in this clashing
of opposite duties, it was natural that private hate and private gain
should determine the event. The born protector of the liberties of Germany,
and of the Protestant religion, encouraged the Emperor
to dispose of the Palatinate by his imperial prerogative;
and to apprehend no resistance on the part of Saxony to his measures
on the mere ground of form. If the Elector was afterwards disposed to
retract this consent, Ferdinand himself, by driving the Evangelical preachers
from Bohemia, was the cause of this change of opinion; and, in the eyes
of the Elector, the transference of the Palatine Electorate to Bavaria
ceased to be illegal, as soon as Ferdinand was prevailed upon
to cede Lusatia to Saxony, in consideration of six millions of dollars,
as the expenses of the war.
Thus, in defiance of all Protestant Germany, and in mockery of
the fundamental laws of the empire, which, as his election,
he had sworn to maintain, Ferdinand at Ratisbon solemnly invested
the Duke of Bavaria with the Palatinate, without prejudice, as the form ran,
to the rights which the relations or descendants of Frederick
might afterwards establish. That unfortunate prince thus saw himself
irrevocably driven from his possessions, without having been even heard
before the tribunal which condemned him -- a privilege which the law allows
to the meanest subject, and even to the most atrocious criminal.
This violent step at last opened the eyes of the King of England;
and as the negociations for the marriage of his son with the Infanta of Spain
were now broken off, James began seriously to espouse the cause
of his son-in-law. A change in the French ministry had placed
Cardinal Richelieu at the head of affairs, and this fallen kingdom
soon began to feel that a great mind was at the helm of state. The attempts
of the Spanish Viceroy in Milan to gain possession of the Valtelline,
and thus to form a junction with the Austrian hereditary dominions,
revived the olden dread of this power, and with it the policy
of Henry the Great. The marriage of the Prince of Wales
with Henrietta of France, established a close union between the two crowns;
and to this alliance, Holland, Denmark, and some of the Italian states
presently acceded. Its object was to expel, by force of arms,
Spain from the Valtelline, and to compel Austria to reinstate Frederick;
but only the first of these designs was prosecuted with vigour.
James I. died, and Charles I., involved in disputes with his Parliament,
could not bestow attention on the affairs of Germany. Savoy and Venice
withheld their assistance; and the French minister thought it necessary
to subdue the Huguenots at home, before he supported the German Protestants
against the Emperor. Great as were the hopes which had been formed from
this alliance, they were yet equalled by the disappointment of the event.
Mansfeld, deprived of all support, remained inactive on the Lower Rhine;
and Duke Christian of Brunswick, after an unsuccessful campaign,
was a second time driven out of Germany. A fresh irruption of Bethlen Gabor
into Moravia, frustrated by the want of support from the Germans,
terminated, like all the rest, in a formal peace with the Emperor.
The Union was no more; no Protestant prince was in arms;
and on the frontiers of Lower Germany, the Bavarian General Tilly,
at the head of a victorious army, encamped in the Protestant territory.
The movements of the Duke of Brunswick had drawn him into this quarter,
and even into the circle of Lower Saxony, when he made himself
master of the Administrator's magazines at Lippstadt. The necessity
of observing this enemy, and preventing him from new inroads,
was the pretext assigned for continuing Tilly's stay in the country.
But, in truth, both Mansfeld and Duke Christian had, from want of money,
disbanded their armies, and Count Tilly had no enemy to dread. Why, then,
still burden the country with his presence?
It is difficult, amidst the uproar of contending parties,
to distinguish the voice of truth; but certainly it was matter for alarm
that the League did not lay down its arms. The premature rejoicings
of the Roman Catholics, too, were calculated to increase apprehension.
The Emperor and the League stood armed and victorious in Germany
without a power to oppose them, should they venture to attack
the Protestant states and to annul the religious treaty.
Had Ferdinand been in reality far from disposed to abuse his conquests,
still the defenceless position of the Protestants was most likely to suggest
the temptation. Obsolete conventions could not bind a prince who thought
that he owed all to religion, and believed that a religious creed would
sanctify any deed, however violent. Upper Germany was already overpowered.
Lower Germany alone could check his despotic authority. Here the Protestants
still predominated; the church had been forcibly deprived of most
of its endowments; and the present appeared a favourable moment
for recovering these lost possessions. A great part of the strength
of the Lower German princes consisted in these Chapters,
and the plea of restoring its own to the church, afforded an excellent pretext
for weakening these princes.
Unpardonable would have been their negligence, had they remained inactive
in this danger. The remembrance of the ravages which Tilly's army
had committed in Lower Saxony was too recent not to arouse the Estates
to measures of defence. With all haste, the circle of Lower Saxony began
to arm itself. Extraordinary contributions were levied, troops collected,
and magazines filled. Negociations for subsidies were set on foot
with Venice, Holland, and England. They deliberated, too,
what power should be placed at the head of the confederacy.
The kings of the Sound and the Baltic, the natural allies of this circle,
would not see with indifference the Emperor treating it as a conqueror,
and establishing himself as their neighbour on the shores of the North Sea.
The twofold interests of religion and policy urged them to put a stop
to his progress in Lower Germany. Christian IV. of Denmark,
as Duke of Holstein, was himself a prince of this circle,
and by considerations equally powerful, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
was induced to join the confederacy.
These two kings vied with each other for the honour of defending Lower Saxony,
and of opposing the formidable power of Austria. Each offered to raise
a well-disciplined army, and to lead it in person. His victorious campaigns
against Moscow and Poland gave weight to the promises of the King of Sweden.
The shores of the Baltic were full of the name of Gustavus.
But the fame of his rival excited the envy of the Danish monarch;
and the more success he promised himself in this campaign,
the less disposed was he to show any favour to his envied neighbour.
Both laid their conditions and plans before the English ministry,
and Christian IV. finally succeeded in outbidding his rival.
Gustavus Adolphus, for his own security, had demanded the cession
of some places of strength in Germany, where he himself had no territories,
to afford, in case of need, a place of refuge for his troops.
Christian IV. possessed Holstein and Jutland, through which,
in the event of a defeat, he could always secure a retreat.
Eager to get the start of his competitor, the King of Denmark hastened
to take the field. Appointed generalissimo of the circle of Lower Saxony,
he soon had an army of 60,000 men in motion; the administrator of Magdeburg,
and the Dukes of Brunswick and Mecklenburgh, entered into an alliance
with him. Encouraged by the hope of assistance from England,
and the possession of so large a force, he flattered himself
he should be able to terminate the war in a single campaign.
At Vienna, it was officially notified that the only object
of these preparations was the protection of the circle,
and the maintenance of peace. But the negociations with Holland, England,
and even France, the extraordinary exertions of the circle, and the raising
of so formidable an army, seemed to have something more in view
than defensive operations, and to contemplate nothing less
than the complete restoration of the Elector Palatine,
and the humiliation of the dreaded power of Austria.
After negociations, exhortations, commands, and threats had in vain
been employed by the Emperor in order to induce the King of Denmark
and the circle of Lower Saxony to lay down their arms, hostilities commenced,
and Lower Germany became the theatre of war. Count Tilly,
marching along the left bank of the Weser, made himself master
of all the passes as far as Minden. After an unsuccessful attack on Nieuburg,
he crossed the river and overran the principality of Calemberg,
in which he quartered his troops. The king conducted his operations
on the right bank of the river, and spread his forces over
the territories of Brunswick, but having weakened his main body by
too powerful detachments, he could not engage in any enterprise of importance.
Aware of his opponent's superiority, he avoided a decisive action
as anxiously as the general of the League sought it.
With the exception of the troops from the Spanish Netherlands,
which had poured into the Lower Palatinate, the Emperor had hitherto
made use only of the arms of Bavaria and the League in Germany.
Maximilian conducted the war as executor of the ban of the empire,
and Tilly, who commanded the army of execution, was in the Bavarian service.
The Emperor owed superiority in the field to Bavaria and the League,
and his fortunes were in their hands. This dependence on their goodwill,
but ill accorded with the grand schemes, which the brilliant commencement
of the war had led the imperial cabinet to form.
However active the League had shown itself in the Emperor's defence,
while thereby it secured its own welfare, it could not be expected
that it would enter as readily into his views of conquest. Or,
if they still continued to lend their armies for that purpose,
it was too much to be feared that they would share with the Emperor
nothing but general odium, while they appropriated to themselves
all advantages. A strong army under his own orders could alone free him
from this debasing dependence upon Bavaria, and restore to him
his former pre-eminence in Germany. But the war had already exhausted
the imperial dominions, and they were unequal to the expense
of such an armament. In these circumstances, nothing could be
more welcome to the Emperor than the proposal with which
one of his officers surprised him.
This was Count Wallenstein, an experienced officer,
and the richest nobleman in Bohemia. From his earliest youth
he had been in the service of the House of Austria, and several campaigns
against the Turks, Venetians, Bohemians, Hungarians, and Transylvanians
had established his reputation. He was present as colonel
at the battle of Prague, and afterwards, as major-general,
had defeated a Hungarian force in Moravia. The Emperor's gratitude
was equal to his services, and a large share of the confiscated estates
of the Bohemian insurgents was their reward. Possessed of immense property,
excited by ambitious views, confident in his own good fortune,
and still more encouraged by the existing state of circumstances,
he offered, at his own expense and that of his friends,
to raise and clothe an army for the Emperor, and even undertook
the cost of maintaining it, if he were allowed to augment it to 50,000 men.
The project was universally ridiculed as the chimerical offspring
of a visionary brain; but the offer was highly valuable, if its promises
should be but partially fulfilled. Certain circles in Bohemia
were assigned to him as depots, with authority to appoint his own officers.
In a few months he had 20,000 men under arms, with which,
quitting the Austrian territories, he soon afterwards appeared
on the frontiers of Lower Saxony with 30,000. The Emperor
had lent this armament nothing but his name. The reputation of the general,
the prospect of rapid promotion, and the hope of plunder,
attracted to his standard adventurers from all quarters of Germany;
and even sovereign princes, stimulated by the desire of glory or of gain,
offered to raise regiments for the service of Austria.
Now, therefore, for the first time in this war, an imperial army
appeared in Germany; -- an event which if it was menacing to the Protestants,
was scarcely more acceptable to the Catholics. Wallenstein had orders
to unite his army with the troops of the League, and in conjunction
with the Bavarian general to attack the King of Denmark.
But long jealous of Tilly's fame, he showed no disposition to share with him
the laurels of the campaign, or in the splendour of his rival's achievements
to dim the lustre of his own. His plan of operations was
to support the latter, but to act entirely independent of him.
As he had not resources, like Tilly, for supplying the wants of his army,
he was obliged to march his troops into fertile countries
which had not as yet suffered from war. Disobeying, therefore,
the order to form a junction with the general of the League,
he marched into the territories of Halberstadt and Magdeburg,
and at Dessau made himself master of the Elbe. All the lands
on either bank of this river were at his command, and from them
he could either attack the King of Denmark in the rear, or, if prudent,
enter the territories of that prince.
Christian IV. was fully aware of the danger of his situation between
two such powerful armies. He had already been joined by the administrator
of Halberstadt, who had lately returned from Holland; he now also
acknowledged Mansfeld, whom previously he had refused to recognise,
and supported him to the best of his ability. Mansfeld amply requited
this service. He alone kept at bay the army of Wallenstein upon the Elbe,
and prevented its junction with that of Tilly, and a combined attack
on the King of Denmark. Notwithstanding the enemy's superiority,
this intrepid general even approached the bridge of Dessau,
and ventured to entrench himself in presence of the imperial lines.
But attacked in the rear by the whole force of the Imperialists,
he was obliged to yield to superior numbers, and to abandon his post
with the loss of 3,000 killed. After this defeat, Mansfeld withdrew
into Brandenburg, where he soon recruited and reinforced his army;
and suddenly turned into Silesia, with the view of marching from thence
into Hungary; and, in conjunction with Bethlen Gabor, carrying the war
into the heart of Austria. As the Austrian dominions in that quarter
were entirely defenceless, Wallenstein received immediate orders
to leave the King of Denmark, and if possible to intercept
Mansfeld's progress through Silesia.
The diversion which this movement of Mansfeld had made in the plans
of Wallenstein, enabled the king to detach a part of his force
into Westphalia, to seize the bishoprics of Munster and Osnaburg.
To check this movement, Tilly suddenly moved from the Weser;
but the operations of Duke Christian, who threatened the territories
of the League with an inroad in the direction of Hesse, and to remove thither
the seat of war, recalled him as rapidly from Westphalia.
In order to keep open his communication with these provinces,
and to prevent the junction of the enemy with the Landgrave of Hesse,
Tilly hastily seized all the tenable posts on the Werha and Fulda,
and took up a strong position in Minden, at the foot of the Hessian Mountains,
and at the confluence of these rivers with the Weser. He soon made himself
master of Goettingen, the key of Brunswick and Hesse, and was meditating
a similar attack upon Nordheim, when the king advanced upon him
with his whole army. After throwing into this place the necessary supplies
for a long siege, the latter attempted to open a new passage
through Eichsfeld and Thuringia, into the territories of the League.
He had already reached Duderstadt, when Tilly, by forced marches,
came up with him. As the army of Tilly, which had been reinforced
by some of Wallenstein's regiments, was superior in numbers to his own,
the king, to avoid a battle, retreated towards Brunswick.
But Tilly incessantly harassed his retreat, and after three days' skirmishing,
he was at length obliged to await the enemy near the village of Lutter
in Barenberg. The Danes began the attack with great bravery, and thrice did
their intrepid monarch lead them in person against the enemy; but at length
the superior numbers and discipline of the Imperialists prevailed,
and the general of the League obtained a complete victory.
The Danes lost sixty standards, and their whole artillery, baggage,
and ammunition. Several officers of distinction and about 4,000 men
were killed in the field of battle; and several companies of foot,
in the flight, who had thrown themselves into the town-house of Lutter,
laid down their arms and surrendered to the conqueror.
The king fled with his cavalry, and soon collected the wreck of his army
which had survived this serious defeat. Tilly pursued his victory,
made himself master of the Weser and Brunswick, and forced the king
to retire into Bremen. Rendered more cautious by defeat,
the latter now stood upon the defensive; and determined at all events
to prevent the enemy from crossing the Elbe. But while he threw garrisons
into every tenable place, he reduced his own diminished army to inactivity;
and one after another his scattered troops were either defeated or dispersed.
The forces of the League, in command of the Weser, spread themselves along
the Elbe and Havel, and everywhere drove the Danes before them.
Tilly himself crossing the Elbe penetrated with his victorious army
into Brandenburg, while Wallenstein entered Holstein to remove the seat of war
to the king's own dominions.
This general had just returned from Hungary whither he had pursued Mansfeld,
without being able to obstruct his march, or prevent his junction
with Bethlen Gabor. Constantly persecuted by fortune, but always superior
to his fate, Mansfeld had made his way against countless difficulties,
through Silesia and Hungary to Transylvania, where, after all,
he was not very welcome. Relying upon the assistance of England,
and a powerful diversion in Lower Saxony, Gabor had again broken the truce
with the Emperor. But in place of the expected diversion in his favour,
Mansfeld had drawn upon himself the whole strength of Wallenstein,
and instead of bringing, required, pecuniary assistance. The want of concert
in the Protestant counsels cooled Gabor's ardour; and he hastened, as usual,
to avert the coming storm by a speedy peace. Firmly determined, however,
to break it, with the first ray of hope, he directed Mansfeld in the mean time
to apply for assistance to Venice.
Cut off from Germany, and unable to support the weak remnant of his troops
in Hungary, Mansfeld sold his artillery and baggage train, and disbanded
his soldiers. With a few followers, he proceeded through Bosnia and Dalmatia,
towards Venice. New schemes swelled his bosom; but his career was ended.
Fate, which had so restlessly sported with him throughout,
now prepared for him a peaceful grave in Dalmatia. Death overtook him
in the vicinity of Zara in 1626, and a short time before him
died the faithful companion of his fortunes, Christian, Duke of Brunswick --
two men worthy of immortality, had they but been as superior to their times
as they were to their adversities.
The King of Denmark, with his whole army, was unable to cope with Tilly alone;
much less, therefore, with a shattered force could he hold his ground
against the two imperial generals. The Danes retired from all their posts
on the Weser, the Elbe, and the Havel, and the army of Wallenstein
poured like a torrent into Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Holstein and Sleswick.
That general, too proud to act in conjunction with another,
had dispatched Tilly across the Elbe, to watch, as he gave out,
the motions of the Dutch in that quarter; but in reality
that he might terminate the war against the king, and reap for himself
the fruits of Tilly's conquests. Christian had now lost
all his fortresses in the German States, with the exception of Gluckstadt;
his armies were defeated or dispersed; no assistance came from Germany;
from England, little consolation; while his confederates in Lower Saxony
were at the mercy of the conqueror. The Landgrave of Hesse Cassel
had been forced by Tilly, soon after the battle of Lutter,
to renounce the Danish alliance. Wallenstein's formidable appearance
before Berlin reduced the Elector of Brandenburgh to submission,
and compelled him to recognise, as legitimate, Maximilian's title
to the Palatine Electorate. The greater part of Mecklenburgh was now overrun
by imperial troops; and both dukes, as adherents of the King of Denmark,
placed under the ban of the empire, and driven from their dominions.
The defence of the German liberties against illegal encroachments,
was punished as a crime deserving the loss of all dignities and territories;
and yet this was but the prelude to the still more crying enormities
which shortly followed.
The secret how Wallenstein had purposed to fulfil his extravagant designs
was now manifest. He had learned the lesson from Count Mansfeld;
but the scholar surpassed his master. On the principle
that war must support war, Mansfeld and the Duke of Brunswick
had subsisted their troops by contributions levied indiscriminately
on friend and enemy; but this predatory life was attended with
all the inconvenience and insecurity which accompany robbery.
Like a fugitive banditti, they were obliged to steal through
exasperated and vigilant enemies; to roam from one end of Germany to another;
to watch their opportunity with anxiety; and to abandon
the most fertile territories whenever they were defended by a superior army.
If Mansfeld and Duke Christian had done such great things
in the face of these difficulties, what might not be expected
if the obstacles were removed; when the army raised was numerous enough
to overawe in itself the most powerful states of the empire;
when the name of the Emperor insured impunity to every outrage; and when,
under the highest authority, and at the head of an overwhelming force,
the same system of warfare was pursued, which these two adventurers
had hitherto adopted at their own risk, and with only an untrained multitude?
Wallenstein had all this in view when he made his bold offer to the Emperor,
which now seemed extravagant to no one. The more his army was augmented,
the less cause was there to fear for its subsistence, because it could
irresistibly bear down upon the refractory states; the more violent
its outrages, the more probable was impunity. Towards hostile states
it had the plea of right; towards the favourably disposed
it could allege necessity. The inequality, too, with which it dealt out
its oppressions, prevented any dangerous union among the states;
while the exhaustion of their territories deprived them of the power
of vengeance. Thus the whole of Germany became a kind of magazine
for the imperial army, and the Emperor was enabled to deal with
the other states as absolutely as with his own hereditary dominions.
Universal was the clamour for redress before the imperial throne;