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